Serratia marcescens is injurious to intestinal epithelial cells

John B. Ochieng, Nadia Boisen, Brianna Lindsay, Araceli Santiago, Collins Ouma, Maurice Ombok, Barry Fields, O. Colin Stine, James P. Nataro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Diarrhea causes substantial morbidity and mortality in children in low-income countries. Although numerous pathogens cause diarrhea, the etiology of many episodes remains unknown. Serratia marcescens is incriminated in hospital-associated infections, and HIV/AIDS associated diarrhea. We have recently found that Serratia spp. may be found more commonly in the stools of patients with diarrhea than in asymptomatic control children. We therefore investigated the possible enteric pathogenicity of S. marcescens in vitro employing a polarized human colonic epithelial cell (T84) monolayer. Infected monolayers were assayed for bacterial invasion, transepithelial electrical resistance (TEER), cytotoxicity, interleukin-8 (IL-8) release and morphological changes by scanning electron microscopy. We observed significantly greater epithelial cell invasion by S. marcescens compared to Escherichia coli strain HS (p D 0.0038 respectively). Cell invasion was accompanied by reduction in TEER and secretion of IL-8. Lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) extracellular concentration rapidly increased within a few hours of exposure of the monolayer to S. marcescens. Scanning electron microscopy of S. marcescens-infected monolayers demonstrated destruction of microvilli and vacuolization. Our results suggest that S. marcescens interacts with intestinal epithelial cells in culture and induces dramatic alterations similar to those produced by known enteric pathogens.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)729-736
Number of pages8
JournalGut Microbes
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jan 26 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Adhesion
  • Chemokine
  • Cytotoxicity
  • Invasion
  • Pathogenicity
  • Polarized monolayer
  • Serratia marcescens
  • T84 cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gastroenterology
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Microbiology
  • Medicine(all)


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