Enterohaemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC) O157:H7 can cause haemorrhagic diarrhoea and potentially fatal renal failure in humans. Ruminants are considered the primary reservoir for human infection. Studies investigating the response of cattle to colonization generally focus on humoral immunity, leaving the role of cellular immunity unclear. These bacteria colonise their host by tight attachment to the epithelium, using a type three secretion system to inject a cocktail of effectors into the host cell. Injected effectors manipulate the innate response in several ways to promote bacterial persistence. Transcriptional profiling of responses at the terminal rectum, the primary site of colonisation in cattle, reveals a bias towards a T-helper type 1 response, indicating that cellular immunity may be involved in bacterial clearance. Mathematical modelling also indicates that injected effectors have a reduced human MHC-I epitope density, whilst structural bacterial proteins do not. This implies that host cellular immune responses target injected effectors and have exerted selective pressure on their evolution. My on-going research is examining the expression of MHC-I on the surface of cultured bovine epithelial cells following infection with E. coli O157. Initial results demonstrate a decrease in MHC-I surface expression during EHEC O157 colonisation after three hours. The basis of this reduction is being investigated using defined mutants in type three secretion genes. The longer-term objective is to use peptide elution and mass spectrometry to examine the presentation of effector protein peptides and determine whether E. coli O157 has evolved to interfere with this process.


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