Hcp Proteins of the Type VI Secretion System Promote Avian Pathogenic E. coli DE205B (O2:K1) to Induce Meningitis in Rats

Xuhang Wang, Yu Sun, Dinesh Subedi, Qianwen Gong, Haosheng Huang, Jin Li, Yuxin Wang, Jianluan Ren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Avian pathogenic Escherichia coli (APEC) is an important extra-intestinal pathogenic E. coli (ExPEC), which often causes systemic infection in poultry and causes great economic loss to the breeding industry. In addition, as a major source of human ExPEC infection, the potential zoonotic risk of APEC has been an ongoing concern. Previous studies have pointed out that APEC is a potential zoonotic pathogen, which has high homology with human pathogenic E. coli such as uro-pathogenic E. coli (UPEC) and neonatal meningitis E. coli (NMEC), shares multiple virulence factors and can cause mammalian diseases. Previous studies have reported that O18 and O78 could cause different degrees of meningitis in neonatal rats, and different serotypes had different degrees of zoonotic risk. Here, we compared APEC DE205B (O2:K1) with NMEC RS218 (O18:K1:H7) by phylogenetic analysis and virulence gene identification to analyze the potential risk of DE205B in zoonotic diseases. We found that DE205B possessed a variety of virulence factors associated with meningitis and, through phylogenetic analysis, had high homology with RS218. DE205B could colonize the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of rats, and cause meningitis and nerve damage. Symptoms and pathological changes in the brain were similar to RS218. In addition, we found that DE205B had a complete T6SS, of which Hcp protein was its important structural protein. Hcp1 induced cytoskeleton rearrangement in human brain microvascular endothelial cells (HBMECs), and Hcp2 was mainly involved in the invasion of DE205B in vitro. In the meningitis model of rats, deletion of hcp2 gene reduced survival in the blood and the brain invasiveness of DE205B. Compared with WT group, Δhcp2 group induced lower inflammation and neutrophils infiltration in brain tissue, alleviating the process of meningitis. Together, these results suggested that APEC DE205B had close genetic similarities to NMEC RS218, and a similar mechanism in causing meningitis and being a risk for zoonosis. This APEC serotype provided a basis for zoonotic research.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1353
Number of pages20
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2022


  • APEC
  • brain microvascular endothelial cells
  • meningitis
  • pathogenicity
  • Type VI secretion system
  • zoonotic

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