The energy required for a bacterium to grow and colonize the host is generated by metabolic and respiratory functions of the cell. Proton motive force, produced by these processes, drives cellular mechanisms including redox balance, membrane potential, motility, acid resistance, and the import and export of substrates. Previously, disruption of succinate dehydrogenase (sdhB) and fumarate reductase (frdA) within the oxidative and reductive tricarboxylic acid (TCA) pathways in uropathogenic E. coli (UPEC) CFT073 indicated that the oxidative, but not the reductive TCA pathway, is required for fitness in the urinary tract. Those findings led to the hypothesis that fumA and fumC encoding fumarase enzymes of the oxidative TCA cycle would be required for UPEC colonization, while fumB of the reductive TCA pathway would be dispensable. However, only UPEC strains lacking fumC had a fitness defect during experimental urinary tract infection (UTI). To further characterize the role of respiration in UPEC during UTI, additional mutants disrupting both the oxidative and reductive TCA pathways were constructed. We found that knock-out of frdA in the sdhB mutant strain background ameliorated the fitness defect observed in the bladder and kidneys for the sdhB mutant strain and results in a fitness advantage in the bladder during experimental UTI. The fitness defect was restored in the sdhBfrdA double mutant by complementation with frdABCD. Taken together, we demonstrate that it is not the oxidative or reductive pathway that is important for UPEC fitness per se, but rather only the oxidative TCA enzyme FumC. This fumarase lacks an iron-sulfur cluster and is required for UPEC fitness during UTI, most likely acting as a counter measure against exogenous stressors, especially in the iron-limited bladder niche.
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