Pathogenomics of the virulence plasmids of Escherichia coli

Timothy J. Johnson, Lisa K. Nolan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

317 Scopus citations


Bacterial plasmids are self-replicating, extrachromosomal elements that are key agents of change in microbial populations. They promote the dissemination of a variety of traits, including virulence, enhanced fitness, resistance to antimicrobial agents, and metabolism of rare substances. Escherichia coli, perhaps the most studied of microorganisms, has been found to possess a variety of plasmid types. Included among these are plasmids associated with virulence. Several types of E. coli virulence plasmids exist, including those essential for the virulence of enterotoxigenic E. coli, enteroinvasive E. coli, enteropathogenic E. coli, enterohemorrhagic E. coli, enteroaggregative E. coli, and extraintestinal pathogenic E. coli. Despite their diversity, these plasmids belong to a few plasmid backbones that present themselves in a conserved and syntenic manner. Thanks to some recent research, including sequence analysis of several representative plasmid genomes and molecular pathogenesis studies, the evolution of these virulence plasmids and the implications of their acquisition by E. coli are now better understood and appreciated. Here, work involving each of the E. coli virulence plasmid types is summarized, with the available plasmid genomic sequences for several E. coli pathotypes being compared in an effort to understand the evolution of these plasmid types and define their core and accessory components.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)750-774
Number of pages25
JournalMicrobiology and Molecular Biology Reviews
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2009


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