Conserved FimK Truncation Coincides with Increased Expression of Type 3 Fimbriae and Cultured Bladder Epithelial Cell Association in Klebsiella quasipneumoniae

Sundharamani Venkitapathi, Yalini H. Wijesundara, Samuel A. Cornelius, Fabian C. Herbert, Jeremiah J. Gassensmith, Philippe E. Zimmern, Nicole J. De Nisco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Klebsiella spp. commonly cause both uncomplicated urinary tract infection (UTI) and recurrent UTI (rUTI). Klebsiella quasipneumoniae, a relatively newly defined species of Klebsiella, has been shown to be metabolically distinct from Klebsiella pneumoniae, but its type 1 and type 3 fimbriae have not been studied. K. pneumoniae uses both type 1 and type 3 fimbriae to attach to host epithelial cells. The type 1 fimbrial operon is well conserved between Escherichia coli and K. pneumoniae apart from fimK, which is unique to Klebsiella spp. FimK contains an N-terminal DNA binding domain and a C-terminal phosphodiesterase (PDE) domain that has been hypothesized to cross-regulate type 3 fimbriae expression via modulation of cellular levels of cyclic di-GMP. Here, we find that a conserved premature stop codon in K. quasipneumoniae fimK results in truncation of the C-terminal PDE domain and that K quasipneumoniae strain KqPF9 cultured bladder epithelial cell association and invasion are dependent on type 3 but not type 1 fimbriae. Further, we show that basal expression of both type 1 and type 3 fimbrial operons as well as cultured bladder epithelial cell association is elevated in KqPF9 relative to uropathogenic K. pneumoniae TOP52. Finally, we show that complementation of KqPF9ΔfimK with the TOP52 fimK allele reduced type 3 fimbrial expression and cultured bladder epithelial cell attachment. Taken together these data suggest that the C-terminal PDE of FimK can modulate type 3 fimbrial expression in K. pneumoniae and its absence in K. quasipneumoniae may lead to a loss of type 3 fimbrial cross-regulation. IMPORTANCEK. quasipneumoniae is often indicated as the cause of opportunistic infections, including urinary tract infection, which affects >50% of women worldwide. However, the virulence factors of K. quasipneumoniae remain uninvestigated. Prior to this work, K. quasipneumoniae and K. pneumoniae had only been distinguished phenotypically by metabolic differences. This work contributes to the understanding of K. quasipneumoniae by evaluating the contribution of type 1 and type 3 fimbriae, which are critical colonization factors encoded by all Klebsiella spp., to K. quasipneumoniae bladder epithelial cell attachment in vitro. We observe clear differences in bladder epithelial cell attachment and regulation of type 3 fimbriae between uropathogenic K. pneumoniae and K. quasipneumoniae that coincide with a structural difference in the fimbrial regulatory gene fimK.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e0017222
JournalJournal of bacteriology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 20 2022


  • fimbriae
  • Klebsiella
  • Klebsiella pneumoniae
  • Klebsiella quasipneumoniae
  • urinary tract infection
  • urothelium
  • virulence regulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology


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