Cathelicidin (LL-37) and human β-defensin 1 (hBD-1) are important components of the innate defense in the urinary tract. The aim of this study was to characterize whether these peptides are important for developing uncomplicated Escherichia coli urinary tract infections (UTIs). This was investigated by comparing urinary peptide levels of UTI patients during and after infection to those of controls, as well as characterizing the fecal flora of participants with respect to susceptibility to LL-37 and in vivo virulence. Forty-seven UTI patients and 50 controls who had never had a UTI were included. Participants were otherwise healthy, premenopausal, adult women. LL-37 MIC levels were compared for fecal E. coli clones from patients and controls and were also compared based on phylotypes (A, B1, B2, and D). In vivo virulence was investigated in the murine UTI model by use of selected fecal isolates from patients and controls. On average, UTI patients had significantly more LL-37 in urine during infection than postinfection, and patient LL-37 levels postinfection were significantly lower than those of controls. hBD-1 showed similar urine levels for UTI patients and controls. Fecal E. coli isolates from controls had higher LL-37 susceptibility than fecal and UTI E. coli isolates from UTI patients. In vivo studies showed a high level of virulence of fecal E. coli isolates from both patients and controls and showed no difference in virulence correlated with the LL-37 MIC level. The results indicate that the concentration of LL-37 in the urinary tract and low susceptibility to LL-37 may increase the likelihood of UTI in a complex interplay between host and pathogen attributes.
Infection and Immunity, 2014, Vol 82, Issue 4, p. 1572-8