Send to

Choose Destination
BMC Genomics. 2019 Jun 17;20(1):504. doi: 10.1186/s12864-019-5892-x.

Carriage of Shiga toxin phage profoundly affects Escherichia coli gene expression and carbon source utilization.

Author information

Institute of Hygiene, University of Münster, Münster, Germany.
Institute of Hygiene, University of Münster, Münster, Germany.
Institute of Bioinformatics, University of Münster, Münster, Germany.
Department of Biological Sciences, University at Buffalo, Buffalo, USA.



Enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli (E. coli) are intestinal pathogenic bacteria that cause life-threatening disease in humans. Their cardinal virulence factor is Shiga toxin (Stx), which is encoded on lambdoid phages integrated in the chromosome. Stx phages can infect and lysogenize susceptible bacteria, thus either increasing the virulence of already pathogenic bacterial hosts or transforming commensal strains into potential pathogens. There is increasing evidence that Stx phage-encoded factors adaptively regulate bacterial host gene expression. Here, we investigated the effects of Stx phage carriage in E. coli K-12 strain MG1655. We compared the transcriptome and phenotype of naive MG1655 and two lysogens carrying closely related Stx2a phages: ϕO104 from the exceptionally pathogenic 2011 E. coli O104:H4 outbreak strain and ϕPA8 from an E. coli O157:H7 isolate.


Analysis of quantitative RNA sequencing results showed that, in comparison to naive MG1655, genes involved in mixed acid fermentation were upregulated, while genes encoding NADH dehydrogenase I, TCA cycle enzymes and proteins involved in the transport and assimilation of carbon sources were downregulated in MG1655::ϕO104 and MG1655::ϕPA8. The majority of the changes in gene expression were found associated with the corresponding phenotypes. Notably, the Stx2a phage lysogens displayed moderate to severe growth defects in minimal medium supplemented with single carbon sources, e.g. galactose, ribose, L-lactate. In addition, in phenotype microarray assays, the Stx2a phage lysogens were characterized by a significant decrease in the cell respiration with gluconeogenic substrates such as amino acids, nucleosides, carboxylic and dicarboxylic acids. In contrast, MG1655::ϕO104 and MG1655::ϕPA8 displayed enhanced respiration with several sugar components of the intestinal mucus, e.g. arabinose, fucose, N-acetyl-D-glucosamine. We also found that prophage-encoded factors distinct from CI and Cro were responsible for the carbon utilization phenotypes of the Stx2a phage lysogens.


Our study reveals a profound impact of the Stx phage carriage on E. coli carbon source utilization. The Stx2a prophage appears to reprogram the carbon metabolism of its bacterial host by turning down aerobic metabolism in favour of mixed acid fermentation.


Biolog phenotype microarrays; Carbon metabolism; Carbon source utilization; E. coli K-12 MG1655; E. coli O104:H4; E. coli O157:H7; RNA-seq; Stx2a phage

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for BioMed Central Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center