Frontiers in medicine. 2021-06-23; 8.667462.

Urethral Catheter Biofilms Reveal Plasticity in Bacterial Composition and Metabolism and Withstand Host Immune Defenses in Hypoxic Environment

Yu Y, Singh H, Tsitrin T, Bekele S, Lin YH, Sikorski P, Moncera KJ, Torralba MG, Morrow L, Wolcott R, Nelson KE, Pieper R

PMID: 34249966


Biofilms composed of multiple microorganisms colonize the surfaces of indwelling urethral catheters that are used serially by neurogenic bladder patients and cause chronic infections. Well-adapted pathogens in this niche are , and spp., species that cycle through adhesion and multilayered cell growth, trigger host immune responses, are starved off nutrients, and then disperse. Viable microbial foci retained in the urinary tract recolonize catheter surfaces. The molecular adaptations of bacteria in catheter biofilms (CBs) are not well-understood, promising new insights into this pathology based on host and microbial meta-omics analyses from clinical specimens. We examined catheters from nine neurogenic bladder patients longitudinally over up to 6 months. Taxonomic analyses from 16S rRNA gene sequencing and liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS)-based proteomics revealed that 95% of all catheter and corresponding urinary pellet (UP) samples contained bacteria. CB biomasses were dominated by spp. and often accompanied by lactic acid and anaerobic bacteria. Systemic antibiotic drug treatments of patients resulted in either transient or lasting microbial community perturbations. Neutrophil effector proteins were abundant not only in UP but also CB samples, indicating their penetration of biofilm surfaces. In the context of one patient who advanced to a kidney infection, proteomic data suggested a combination of factors associated with this disease complication: CB biomasses were high; the bacteria produced urease alkalinizing the pH and triggering urinary salt deposition on luminal catheter surfaces; utilized energy-producing respiratory systems more than in CBs from other patients. The NADH:quinone oxidoreductase II (Nqr), a Na translocating enzyme not operating as a proton pump, and the nitrate reductase A (Nar) equipped the pathogen with electron transport chains promoting growth under hypoxic conditions. Both and featured repertoires of transition metal ion acquisition systems in response to human host-mediated iron and zinc sequestration. We discovered a new drug target, the Nqr respiratory system, whose deactivation may compromise growth in a basic pH milieu. Animal models would not allow such molecular-level insights into polymicrobial biofilm metabolism and interactions because the complexity cannot be replicated.