Vaginal Inoculation of Uropathogenic Escherichia coli during Estrus Leads to Genital and Renal Colonization. Academic Article uri icon


  • Urinary tract infection (UTI) is one of the most prevalent bacterial infections, particularly in women, children, and the elderly. Uropathogenic Escherichia coli (UPEC) is the predominant etiological agent of UTI. Uropathogens are directly instilled in the urinary bladder, bypassing the lower urogenital tract, in the widely used murine model of UTI. We assessed whether vaginal inoculation of UPEC led to UTI and how stages of the estrous cycle would impact bacterial colonization in mice. Mice in proestrus, estrus, metestrus, and diestrus were identified by vaginal cytology and inoculated with UPEC in the vaginal tract. Mice were euthanized 1 day after infection, and bacterial loads in the urogenital tract, liver, and spleen were enumerated. Mice in estrus exhibited the highest and most consistent UPEC burdens in all organs, except the bladder. Vaginal inoculation resulted in bladder colonization in a UPEC strain-specific manner. In contrast, transurethral inoculation of UPEC led to bladder colonization. Importantly, inoculation by both routes led to vaginal and uterine colonization and concomitant systemic dissemination to the spleen and liver. The kinetics of bacterial colonization over 2weeks following vaginal inoculation was comparable in the urogenital tract. Tissue sections revealed the induction of vaginitis and cystitis upon the vaginal instillation of UPEC. In summary, vaginal inoculation of UPEC in mice during estrus represents a novel approach to investigate infection of the kidneys and genital tract and systemic dissemination from the urogenital tract. Our findings suggest that estrogen primes the urogenital tract to create a conducive milieu for UPEC colonization.

published proceedings

  • Infect Immun

altmetric score

  • 1

author list (cited authors)

  • Robinson, C. K., Saenkham-Huntsinger, P., Hanson, B. S., Adams, L. G., & Subashchandrabose, S.

citation count

  • 2

complete list of authors

  • Robinson, Christen K||Saenkham-Huntsinger, Panatda||Hanson, Braden S||Adams, L Garry||Subashchandrabose, Sargurunathan

editor list (cited editors)

  • Roy, C. R.

publication date

  • April 2022