Differences in internalization and growth of Escherichia coli O157:H7 within the apoplast of edible plants, spinach and lettuce, compared with the model species Nicotiana benthamiana

Kathryn M. Wright, Louise Crozier, Jacqueline Marshall, Bernhard Merget, Ashleigh Holmes, Nicola J. Holden (Lead / Corresponding author)

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26 Citations (Scopus)
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Internalization of food-borne bacteria into edible parts of fresh produce plants represents a serious health risk. Therefore, internalization of verocytotoxigenic E. coli O157:H7 isolate Sakai was assessed in two species associated with outbreaks, spinach (Spinacia oleracea) and lettuce (Lactuca sativa) and compared to the model species Nicotiana benthamiana. Internalization occurred in the leaves and roots of spinach and lettuce throughout a 10 day time-course. The plant species, tissue type and inoculum dose all impacted the outcome. A combination of low inoculum dose (~10(2) CFU) together with light microscopy imaging highlighted marked differences in the fate of endophytic E. coli O157:H7 Sakai. In the fresh produce species, bacterial growth was restricted but viable cells persisted over 20 days, whereas there was > 400-fold (~2.5 Log10 ) increase in growth in N. benthamiana. Colony formation occurred adjacent to epidermal cells and mesophyll cells or close to vascular bundles of N. benthamiana and contained components of a biofilm matrix, including curli expression and elicitation, extracellular DNA and a limited presence of cellulose. Together the data show that internalization is a relevant issue in crop production and that crop species and tissue need to be considered as food safety risk parameters.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)555-569
Number of pages15
JournalMicrobial Biotechnology
Issue number3
Early online date7 Feb 2017
Publication statusPublished - May 2017


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