Mobile contingency locus controlling Escherichia coli K1 polysialic acid capsule acetylation

Eric R. Vimr, Susan M. Steenbergen

Research output: Contribution to journalShort surveypeer-review


Escherichia coli K1 is part of a reservoir of adherent, invasive facultative pathogens responsible for a wide range of human and animal disease including sepsis, meningitis, urinary tract infection and inflammatory bowel syndrome. A prominent virulence factor in these diseases is the polysialic acid capsular polysaccharide (K1 antigen), which is encoded by the kps/neu accretion domain inserted near pheV at 67 map units. Some E. coli K1 strains undergo form (phase) variation involving loss or gain of O-acetyl esters at carbon positions 7 or 9 of the individual sialic acid residues of the polysialic acid chains. Acetylation is catalysed by the receptor-modifying acetyl coenzyme-A-dependent O-acetyltransferase encoded by neuO, a phase variable locus mapping near the integrase gene of the K1-specific prophage, CUS-3, which is inserted in argW at 53.1 map units. As the first E. coli contingency locus shown to operate by a translational switch, further investigation of neuO should provide a better understanding of the invasive K1 pathotype. Minimal estimates of morbidity and economic costs associated with human infections caused by extraintestinal pathogenic E. coli strains such as K1 indicate at least 6.5 million cases with attendant medical costs exceeding $2.5 billion annually in the United States alone.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)828-837
Number of pages10
JournalMolecular Microbiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'Mobile contingency locus controlling Escherichia coli K1 polysialic acid capsule acetylation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this