Oxidative ornithine metabolism supports non-inflammatory C. difficile colonization

Kali M. Pruss, Fatima Enam, Eric Battaglioli, Mary DeFeo, Oscar R. Diaz, Steven K. Higginbottom, Curt R. Fischer, Andrew J. Hryckowian, William Van Treuren, Dylan Dodd, Purna Kashyap, Justin L. Sonnenburg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The enteric pathogen Clostridioides difficile (Cd) is responsible for a toxin-mediated infection that causes more than 200,000 recorded hospitalizations and 13,000 deaths in the United States every year1. However, Cd can colonize the gut in the absence of disease symptoms. Prevalence of asymptomatic colonization by toxigenic Cd in healthy populations is high; asymptomatic carriers are at increased risk of infection compared to noncolonized individuals and may be a reservoir for transmission of Cd infection2,3. Elucidating the molecular mechanisms by which Cd persists in the absence of disease is necessary for understanding pathogenesis and developing refined therapeutic strategies. Here, we show with gut microbiome metatranscriptomic analysis that mice recalcitrant to Cd infection and inflammation exhibit increased community-wide expression of arginine and ornithine metabolic pathways. To query Cd metabolism specifically, we leverage RNA sequencing in gnotobiotic mice infected with two wild-type strains (630 and R20291) and isogenic toxin-deficient mutants of these strains to differentiate inflammation-dependent versus -independent transcriptional states. A single operon encoding oxidative ornithine degradation is consistently upregulated across non-toxigenic Cd strains. Combining untargeted and targeted metabolomics with bacterial and host genetics, we demonstrate that both diet- and host-derived sources of ornithine provide a competitive advantage to Cd, suggesting a mechanism for Cd persistence within a non-inflammatory, healthy gut.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)19-28
Number of pages10
JournalNature Metabolism
Volume4
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Cell Biology
  • Physiology (medical)

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