Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Bacteriocin synthesis in uropathogenic and commensal Escherichia coli: colicin E1 is a potential virulence factor

David Šmajs1*, Lenka Micenková1, Jan Šmarda1, Martin Vrba2, Alena Ševčíková2, Zuzana Vališová3 and Vladana Woznicová3

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Biology, Faculty of Medicine, Masaryk University, Kamenice 5, Building A6, 625 00 Brno, Czech Republic

2 Department of Clinical Microbiology, Faculty Hospital Brno, Jihlavská 20, 625 00 Brno, Czech Republic

3 Department of Medical Microbiology, Faculty of Medicine, Masaryk University, Pekařská 53, 656 91 Brno, Czech Republic

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Microbiology 2010, 10:288  doi:10.1186/1471-2180-10-288

Published: 15 November 2010



Bacteriocin production is an important characteristic of E. coli strains of human origin. To date, 26 colicin and 9 microcin types have been analyzed on a molecular level allowing molecular detection of the corresponding genes. The production incidence of 29 bacteriocin types and E. coli phylogroups were tested in a set of 361 E. coli strains isolated from human urinary tract infections (UTI) and in 411 control strains isolated from feces of patients without bacterial gut infection.


Production of 17 and 20 individual bacteriocin types was found in the UTI and control strains, respectively. Microcin H47 encoding determinants were found more often among UTI strains compared to controls (37.9% and 27.0% respectively, p = 0.02) and strains producing microcin H47 belonged predominantly to phylogroup B2 when compared to other bacteriocin producers (67.4% and 36.7%, respectively; p < 0.0001). Producers of 3 or more identified bacteriocin types were more common in the UTI group (20.0% compared to 12.4% in controls, p = 0.03). In the UTI strains, there was a markedly higher number of those producing colicin E1 compared to controls (22.1% to 10.2%, respectively, p = 0.0008). Moreover, colicin E1 production was more common in the UTI bacteriocinogenic strains with multi-producer capabilities. As shown by Southern blotting, pColE1 DNA was not recognized by the ColIa probe and vice versa suggesting that pColE1 was independently associated with pColIa in UTI strains.


E. coli strains isolated from human urinary tract infections showed increased incidence of microcin H47 and colicin E1 production, respectively. Moreover, colicin E1 itself appears to be a potentially important virulence factor of certain uropathogenic E. coli strains.