• Eschrichia coli O157;
  • environmental fitness;
  • stress;
  • metabolism


Although it is known that Escherichia coli O157 is capable of long-term soil survival, little is known about the mechanisms involved. This study investigated the role of the general stress response system RpoS in E. coli soil survival. The results showed that E. coli O157 isolates capable of long-term survival (longer than 200 days) in manure-amended soil were characterized by the absence of mutations in their rpoS gene. In contrast, the strains not capable of long-term survival all possessed mutations in their rpoS gene. In addition, the long-term surviving strains showed significantly higher levels of acid resistance in simulated gastric fluid (pH 2.5). Sequencing of the rpoS gene of bovine, food and clinical isolates revealed a skewed distribution of rpoS wild-type and mutant strains among the different sources. Bovine and food isolates had low numbers of mutants (< 1.4 and 6.9%, respectively), while a relatively high number of mutants was observed among human isolates (32.9%). The results indicate that a fully functional RpoS system is an advantage for survival in the manure-amended soil environment. Further deletion and complementation studies should provide more evidence on the role of RpoS in the long-term survival of E. coli O157 in diverse environments.