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Moorthy, S;Byfield, FJ;Janmey, PA;Klein, EA;
Uropathogenic E. coli (UPEC) infection in vivo is characterized by invasion of bladder umbrella epithelial cells followed by endosomal escape and proliferation in the cytoplasm to form intracellular bacterial communities (IBCs). By contrast, UPEC infection in tissue culture models results in bacteria being trapped within Lamp1-positive endosomes where proliferation is limited. Pharmacological disruption of the actin cytoskeleton has been shown to facilitate UPEC endosomal escape in vitro and extracellular matrix stiffness is a well characterized physiological regulator of actin dynamics; therefore, we hypothesized that substrate stiffness may play a role in UPEC endosomal escape. Using functionalized polyacrylamide substrates, we found that at physiological stiffness, UPEC escaped the endosome and proliferated rapidly in the cytoplasm of bladder epithelial cells. Dissection of the cytoskeletal signaling pathway demonstrated that inhibition of the Rho GTPase RhoB or its effector PRK1 was sufficient to increase cytoplasmic bacterial growth and that RhoB protein level was significantly reduced at physiological stiffness. Our data suggest that tissue stiffness is a critical regulator of intracellular bacterial growth. Due to the ease of doing genetic and pharmacological manipulations in cell culture, this model system may provide a useful tool for performing mechanistic studies on the intracellular life cycle of uropathogens. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.