Trigger factor, a ribosome-associated chaperone and peptidyl-prolyl cis-trans isomerase (PPIase), is essential for the secretion and maturation of the cysteine protease of the pathogenic gram-positive bacterium Streptococcus pyogenes. In the absence of trigger factor, the nascent protease polypeptide is not targeted to the secretory pathway. Some partial-function mutations restore targeting. However, the secreted protease does not efficiently mature into an enzymatically active form, suggesting that trigger factor has an additional role in protease biogenesis. Here, we show that, while not required for targeting, the PPIase activity of trigger factor is essential for maturation of the protease following its secretion from the bacterial cell. Site-specific mutations introduced into ropA, the gene which encodes trigger factor in S. pyogenes, produced mutant proteins deficient in PPIase activity. When these mutant alleles were used to replace the wild-type gene on the streptococcal chromosome, analysis of protease biogenesis revealed that, although the protease was secreted normally, it did not efficiently mature to an active form. Furthermore, mutation of a single proline residue in the protease prodomain suppressed the requirement for PPIase activity, suggesting that this residue is the target of trigger factor. These data support a model in which trigger factor-mediated prolyl isomerization influences the conformation of the prodomain, which in turn directs the protease into one of several alternative folding pathways.
Interactions between salivary agglutinin and the adhesin P1 of Streptococcus mutans contribute to bacterial aggregation and mediate sucrose-independent adherence to tooth surfaces. We have examined biofilm formation by S. mutans UA159, and derivative strains carrying mutations affecting the localization or expression of P1, in the presence of fluid-phase or adsorbed saliva or salivary agglutinin preparations. Whole saliva- and salivary agglutinin-induced aggregation of S. mutans was adversely affected by the loss of P1 and sortase (SrtA) but not by the loss of trigger factor (RopA). Fluid-phase salivary agglutinin and, to a lesser extent, immobilized agglutinin inhibited biofilm development by S. mutans in the absence of sucrose, and whole saliva was more effective at decreasing biofilm formation than salivary agglutinin. Inhibition of biofilm development by salivary agglutinin was differently influenced by particular mutations, with the P1-deficient strain displaying a greater inhibition of biofilm development than the SrtA- or RopA-deficient strains. As expected, biofilm-forming capacities of all strains in the presence of salivary preparations were markedly enhanced in the presence of sucrose, although biofilm formation by the mutants was less efficient than that by the parental strain. Aeration strongly inhibited biofilm development, and the presence of salivary components did not restore biofilm formation in aerated conditions. The results disclose a potent ability of salivary constituents to moderate biofilm formation by S. mutans through P1-dependent and P1-independent pathways.
Metal ion availability in the human oral cavity plays a putative role in Streptococcus mutans virulence gene expression and in appropriate formation of the plaque biofilm. In this report, we present evidence that supports such a role for the DtxR-like SloR metalloregulator (called Dlg in our previous publications) in this oral pathogen. Specifically, the results of gel mobility shift assays revealed the sloABC, sloR, comDE, ropA, sod, and spaP promoters as targets of SloR binding. We confirmed differential expression of these genes in a GMS584 SloR-deficient mutant versus the UA159 wild-type progenitor by real-time semiquantitative reverse transcriptase PCR experiments. The results of additional expression studies support a role for SloR in S. mutans control of glucosyltransferases, glucan binding proteins, and genes relevant to antibiotic resistance. Phenotypic analysis of GMS584 revealed that it forms aberrant biofilms on an abiotic surface, is compromised for genetic competence, and demonstrates heightened incorporation of iron and manganese as well as resistance to oxidative stress compared to the wild type. Taken together, these findings support a role for SloR in S. mutans adherence, biofilm formation, genetic competence, metal ion homeostasis, oxidative stress tolerance, and antibiotic gene regulation, all of which contribute to S. mutans-induced disease.
In this report, we define requirements for the successful translocation and functional maturation of the adhesin P1 of Streptococcus mutans. Conformational epitopes recognized by anti-P1 monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) were further characterized, thus facilitating the use of particular MAbs as tools to monitor the locations of various forms of the protein. We show that correct localization of P1 is dependent on structural features of the molecule itself, including a requisite A region-P region intramolecular interaction that occurs within the cell prior to secretion. P1 also was shown to be affected by several members of the protein-folding-secretion-turnover apparatus. It does not achieve a fully functional form in the absence of the trigger factor PPIase homolog RopA, and its translocation is delayed when DnaK levels are limited. In addition, dnaK message levels are differentially altered in the presence of P1 lacking the alanine-rich compared to the proline-rich repeat domains. Lastly, nonsecreted P1 lacking the P region accumulates within the cell in the absence of htrA, implying an intracellular HtrA protease function in the degradation and turnover of this particular internal-deletion polypeptide. However, the opposite effect is seen for full-length P1, suggesting a sensing mechanism and substrate-dependent alteration in HtrA's function and effect that is consistent with its known ability to switch between chaperone and protease, depending on environmental perturbations.
ropA encodes a 36-kDa outer membrane protein of Rhizobium leguminosarum bv. viciae strain 248 which constitutes the low-M(r) part of antigen group III (R.A. de Maagd, I.H.M. Mulders, H.C.J. Canter Cremers, B.J.J. Lugtenberg, J. Bacteriol. 174:214-221, 1992). We observed that genes homologous to ropA are present in strain 248 as well as in other R. leguminosarum strains, and we describe the cloning and characterization of two of these genes. Sequencing of a 2.2-kb Bg/II fragment from R. leguminosarum bv. viciae strain 248 that hybridizes with ropA revealed one large open reading frame of 1,074 bp encoding a mature protein of 38.096 kDa. Homology between this gene and ropA is 91.8% on the DNA level. Homology on the amino acid level is only 69.9% as a result of a frameshift. On the basis of homology and immunochemical characteristics, we conclude that this gene encodes the high-M(r) part of the outer membrane protein antigen group III that is repressed during symbiosis. We named this gene ropA2. The second gene that we cloned was the ropA homologous gene of R. leguminosarum bv. trifolii strain LPR5020. Except for amino acid 43, the N-terminal part of the corresponding protein appeared to be identical to the first 51 amino acids of RopA of strain 248. The transcription start sites of both genes were determined, and the promoter regions were compared with that of ropA of strain 248. No clear consensus sequence could be deduced. The relationship of ropA and ropA2 of R. leguminosarum bv. viciae strain 248 with two similar genes from Brucella abortus is discussed.
The symbiotic nitrogen-fixing bacterium Sinorhizobium meliloti harbors a gene, SMc02396, which encodes a predicted outer membrane porin that is conserved in many symbiotic and pathogenic bacteria in the order Rhizobiales. Here, this gene (renamed ropA1) is shown to be required for infection by two commonly utilized transducing bacteriophages (ΦM12 and N3). Mapping of S. meliloti mutations conferring resistance to ΦM12, N3, or both phages simultaneously revealed diverse mutations mapping within the ropA1 open reading frame. Subsequent tests determined that RopA1, lipopolysaccharide, or both are required for infection by all of a larger collection of Sinorhizobium-specific phages. Failed attempts to disrupt or delete ropA1 suggest that this gene is essential for viability. Phylogenetic analysis reveals that ropA1 homologs in many Rhizobiales species are often found as two genetically linked copies and that the intraspecies duplicates are always more closely related to each other than to homologs in other species, suggesting multiple independent duplication events.
In the smut fungus Ustilago maydis, the pheromone signal is transmitted via a mitogen-activated protein kinase module to the high-mobility-group (HMG) domain transcription factor Prf1, leading to its activation. This triggers sexual and pathogenic development since Prf1 binds to the PRE boxes located in the promoters of the a and b mating type genes. Here, we present the characterization of rop1 and hmg3, encoding two additional sequence-specific HMG domain proteins. While hmg3 mutants are slightly impaired in mating and do form conjugation hyphae, rop1 deletion strains display a severe mating and filamentation defect and do not respond to pheromone stimulation. In particular, rop1 is essential for pheromone-induced gene expression in axenic culture. Constitutive expression of prf1 fully complements the mating defect of rop1 mutants, indicating that rop1 is required for prf1 gene expression. Indeed, we could show that Rop1 binds directly to specific elements in the prf1 promoter. Surprisingly, on the plant surface, rop1 deletion strains do form conjugation hyphae and express sufficient amounts of prf1 to cause full pathogenicity. This indicates the involvement of additional components in the regulation of prf1 gene expression during pathogenic growth.
Streptococcus mutans is considered one of the primary etiologic agents of dental caries. Previously, we characterized the VicRK two-component signal transduction system, which regulates multiple virulence factors of S. mutans. In this study, we focused on the vicX gene of the vicRKX tricistronic operon. To characterize vicX, we constructed a nonpolar deletion mutation in the vicX coding region in S. mutans UA159. The growth kinetics of the mutant (designated SmuvicX) showed that the doubling time was longer and that there was considerable sensitivity to paraquat-induced oxidative stress. Supplementing a culture of the wild-type UA159 strain with paraquat significantly increased the expression of vicX (P < 0.05, as determined by analysis of variance [ANOVA]), confirming the role of this gene in oxidative stress tolerance in S. mutans. Examination of mutant biofilms revealed architecturally altered cell clusters that were seemingly denser than the wild-type cell clusters. Interestingly, vicX-deficient cells grown in a glucose-supplemented medium exhibited significantly increased glucosyltransferase B/C (gtfB/C) expression compared with the expression in the wild type (P < 0.05, as determined by ANOVA). Moreover, a sucrose-dependent adhesion assay performed using an S. mutans GS5-derived vicX null mutant demonstrated that the adhesiveness of this mutant was enhanced compared with that of the parent strain and isogenic mutants of the parent strain lacking gtfB and/or gtfC. Also, disruption of vicX reduced the genetic transformability of the mutant approximately 10-fold compared with that of the parent strain (P < 0.05, as determined by ANOVA). Collectively, these findings provide insight into important phenotypes controlled by the vicX gene product that can impact S. mutans pathogenicity.
Genetic competence appears to be important in establishment of biofilms and tolerance of environmental insults. We report here that the development of competence is controlled at multiple levels in a complex network that includes two signal-transducing two-component systems (TCS). Using Streptococcus mutans strain UA159, we demonstrate that the histidine kinase CiaH, but not the response regulator CiaR, causes a dramatic decrease in biofilm formation and in transformation efficiency. Inactivation of comE or comD had no effect on stress tolerance, but transformability of the mutants was poor and was not restored by addition of competence-stimulating peptide (CSP). Horse serum (HS) or bovine serum albumin (BSA) had no impact on transformability of any strains. Interestingly, though, the presence of HS or BSA in combination with CSP was required for efficient induction of comD, comX, and comYA, and induction was dependent on ComDE and CiaH, but not CiaR. Inactivation of comC, encoding CSP, had no impact on transformation, and CiaH was shown to be required for optimal comC expression. This study reveals that S. mutans integrates multiple environmental signals through CiaHR and ComDE to coordinate induction of com genes and that CiaH can exert its influence through CiaR and as-yet-unidentified regulators. The results highlight critical differences in the role and regulation of CiaRH and com genes in different S. mutans isolates and between S. mutans and Streptococcus pneumoniae, indicating that substantial divergence in the role and regulation of TCS and competence genes has occurred in streptococci.
The oral biofilm organism Streptococcus mutans must face numerous environmental stresses to survive in its natural habitat. Under specific stresses, S. mutans expresses the competence-stimulating peptide (CSP) pheromone known to induce autolysis and facilitate the uptake and incorporation of exogenous DNA, a process called DNA transformation. We have previously demonstrated that the CSP-induced CipB bacteriocin (mutacin V) is a major factor involved in both cellular processes. Our objective in this work was to characterize the role of CipB bacteriocin during DNA transformation. Although other bacteriocin mutants were impaired in their ability to acquire DNA under CSP-induced conditions, the ΔcipB mutant was the only mutant showing a sharp decrease in transformation efficiency. The autolysis function of CipB bacteriocin does not participate in the DNA transformation process, as factors released via lysis of a subpopulation of cells did not contribute to the development of genetic competence in the surviving population. Moreover, CipB does not seem to participate in membrane depolarization to assist passage of DNA. Microarray-based expression profiling showed that under CSP-induced conditions, CipB regulated ∼130 genes, among which are the comDE locus and comR and comX genes, encoding critical factors that influence competency development in S. mutans. We also discovered that the CipI protein conferring immunity to CipB-induced autolysis also prevented the transcriptional regulatory activity of CipB. Our data suggest that besides its role in cell lysis, the S. mutans CipB bacteriocin also functions as a peptide regulator for the transcriptional control of the competence regulon.
High coverage, whole genome shotgun (WGS) sequencing of 57 geographically- and genetically-diverse isolates of Streptococcus mutans from individuals of known dental caries status was recently completed. Of the 57 sequenced strains, fifteen isolates, were selected based primarily on differences in gene content and phenotypic characteristics known to affect virulence and compared with the reference strain UA159. A high degree of variability in these properties was observed between strains, with a broad spectrum of sensitivities to low pH, oxidative stress (air and paraquat) and exposure to competence stimulating peptide (CSP). Significant differences in autolytic behavior and in biofilm development in glucose or sucrose were also observed. Natural genetic competence varied among isolates, and this was correlated to the presence or absence of competence genes, comCDE and comX, and to bacteriocins. In general strains that lacked the ability to become competent possessed fewer genes for bacteriocins and immunity proteins or contained polymorphic variants of these genes. WGS sequence analysis of the pan-genome revealed, for the first time, components of a Type VII secretion system in several S. mutans strains, as well as two putative ORFs that encode possible collagen binding proteins located upstream of the cnm gene, which is associated with host cell invasiveness. The virulence of these particular strains was assessed in a wax-worm model. This is the first study to combine a comprehensive analysis of key virulence-related phenotypes with extensive genomic analysis of a pathogen that evolved closely with humans. Our analysis highlights the phenotypic diversity of S. mutans isolates and indicates that the species has evolved a variety of adaptive strategies to persist in the human oral cavity and, when conditions are favorable, to initiate disease.
Streptococcus mutans is associated with the initiation and progression of human dental caries and is occasionally isolated from the blood of patients with bacteremia and infective endocarditis. For the pathogen to survive in the infected host, surface lipoproteins of S. mutans are likely to play important roles in interactions with the innate immune system. To clarify the role that a putative lipoprotein, peptidyl-prolyl cis/trans-isomerase (PpiA), of S. mutans plays in the macrophage response, we investigated the response of THP-1-derived macrophages to S. mutans challenge. The deletion of the gene encoding Lgt eliminated PpiA on the cell surface of S. mutans, which implies that PpiA is a lipoprotein that is lipid anchored in the cell membrane by Lgt. Human and murine peritoneal macrophages both showed higher phagocytic activities for the ppiA and lgt mutants than the wild type, which indicates that the presence of PpiA reduces S. mutans phagocytosis. In addition, infection with S. mutans markedly induced mRNAs of macrophage receptor with collagenous structure (MARCO) and scavenger receptor A (SR-A) in human macrophages. In particular, transcriptional and translational levels of MARCO in human macrophages infected with the ppiA mutant were higher than those in macrophages infected with the wild type. Phagocytosis of S. mutans by human macrophages markedly decreased after treatment with anti-MARCO IgG. These results demonstrate that the S. mutans lipoprotein PpiA contributes to suppression of MARCO-mediated phagocytosis of this bacterium by macrophages.
Streptococcus mutans is generally recognized as a causative agent of human dental caries. The production of mutacins (bacteriocins) by S. mutans is considered to be an important factor in the colonization and establishment of S. mutans in the dental biofilm. Two types of mutacins have been characterized: the lantibiotics and the non-lantibiotics. The lantibiotics generally have a wider spectrum of activity than the non-lantibiotics, which make them attractive targets for development into new antimicrobial modalities. The non-lantibiotics are much more prevalent among strains of S. mutans and play a significant role in both community and population level interactions in the dental biofilm. These interactions are directly mediated through the ComCDE two-component system and the newly characterized LytTR Regulation Systems HdrRM and BrsRM. These systems coordinate natural competence development and mutacin production as a means to acquire transforming DNA either by killing closely related streptococcal species in the vicinity of S. mutans, or through an altruistic suicide mechanism among a subpopulation of competent cells within the S. mutans community. As more S. mutans strains are sequenced, it is anticipated that additional mutacins with novel functions will be discovered, which may yield further insights into the ecological role of mutacins within the oral biofilm.
mutacin; Streptococcus mutans; bacteriocin
Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), a retinal vascular disease of premature infants, continues to be a major cause of preventable childhood blindness all over the world. The incidence of ROP varies among countries, being influenced by the quality of the level of neonatal intensive care. Here, we discuss the potential treatments that are now available or will soon or probably be available for ROP. Although ablation of the avascular retina with laser photocoagulation remains the current gold standard and well established therapy for ROP, some new therapeutic options including angiostatic therapies are being explored based on our knowledge of the pathophysiology of the ROP and complications and efficacy of laser treatment. However, prevention of the development of severe ROP and screening for ROP seem to be the best strategy in avoiding visual impairment caused by ROP in premature infants. New therapeutic interventions including vascular endothelial growth factor antibody administration, gene therapy and supplemental therapies should be supported with evidence-based data for the treatment of ROP.
retinopathy of prematurity; laser; retina; vascular endothelial growth factor; propranolol
Streptococcus mutans normally colonizes dental biofilms and is regularly exposed to continual cycles of acidic pH during ingestion of fermentable dietary carbohydrates. The ability of S. mutans to survive at low pH is an important virulence factor in the pathogenesis of dental caries. Despite a few studies of the acid adaptation mechanism of this organism, little work has focused on the acid tolerance of S. mutans growing in high-cell-density biofilms. It is unknown whether biofilm growth mode or high cell density affects acid adaptation by S. mutans. This study was initiated to examine the acid tolerance response (ATR) of S. mutans biofilm cells and to determine the effect of cell density on the induction of acid adaptation. S. mutans BM71 cells were first grown in broth cultures to examine acid adaptation associated with growth phase, cell density, carbon starvation, and induction by culture filtrates. The cells were also grown in a chemostat-based biofilm fermentor for biofilm formation. Adaptation of biofilm cells to low pH was established in the chemostat by the acid generated from excess glucose metabolism, followed by a pH 3.5 acid shock for 3 h. Both biofilm and planktonic cells were removed to assay percentages of survival. The results showed that S. mutans BM71 exhibited a log-phase ATR induced by low pH and a stationary-phase acid resistance induced by carbon starvation. Cell density was found to modulate acid adaptation in S. mutans log-phase cells, since pre-adapted cells at a higher cell density or from a dense biofilm displayed significantly higher resistance to the killing pH than the cells at a lower cell density. The log-phase ATR could also be induced by a neutralized culture filtrate collected from a low-pH culture, suggesting that the culture filtrate contained an extracellular induction component(s) involved in acid adaptation in S. mutans. Heat or proteinase treatment abolished the induction by the culture filtrate. The results also showed that mutants defective in the comC, -D, or -E genes, which encode a quorum sensing system essential for cell density-dependent induction of genetic competence, had a diminished log-phase ATR. Addition of synthetic competence stimulating peptide (CSP) to the comC mutant restored the ATR. This study demonstrated that cell density and biofilm growth mode modulated acid adaptation in S. mutans, suggesting that optimal development of acid adaptation in this organism involves both low pH induction and cell-cell communication.
The VicRK two-component signaling system modulates biofilm formation, genetic competence, and stress tolerance in Streptococcus mutans. We show here that the VicRK modulates bacteriocin production and cell viability, in part by direct modulation of competence-stimulating peptide (CSP) production in S. mutans. Global transcriptome and real-time transcriptional analysis of the VicK-deficient mutant (SmuvicK) revealed significant modulation of several bacteriocin-related loci, including nlmAB, nlmC, and nlmD (P < 0.001), suggesting a role for the VicRK in producing mutacins IV, V, and VI. Bacteriocin overlay assays revealed an altered ability of the vic mutants to kill related species. Since a well-conserved VicR binding site (TGTWAH-N5-TGTWAH) was identified within the comC coding region, we confirmed VicR binding to this sequence using DNA footprinting. Overexpression of the vic operon caused growth-phase-dependent repression of comC, comDE, and comX. In the vic mutants, transcription of nlmC/cipB encoding mutacin V, previously linked to CSP-dependent cell lysis, as well as expression of its putative immunity factor encoded by immB, were significantly affected relative to the wild type (P < 0.05). In contrast to previous reports that proposed a hyper-resistant phenotype for the VicK mutant in cell viability, the release of extracellular genomic DNA was significantly enhanced in SmuvicK (P < 0.05), likely as a result of increased autolysis compared with the parent. The drastic influence of VicRK on cell viability was also demonstrated using vic mutant biofilms. Taken together, we have identified a novel regulatory link between the VicRK and ComDE systems to modulate bacteriocin production and cell viability of S. mutans.
Maintaining cell envelope integrity is critical for bacterial survival, including bacteria living in a complex and dynamic environment such as the human oral cavity. Streptococcus mutans, a major etiological agent of dental caries, uses two-component signal transduction systems (TCSTSs) to monitor and respond to various environmental stimuli. Previous studies have shown that the LiaSR TCSTS in S. mutans regulates virulence traits such as acid tolerance and biofilm formation. Although not examined in streptococci, homologs of LiaSR are widely disseminated in Firmicutes and function as part of the cell envelope stress response network. We describe here liaSR and its upstream liaF gene in the cell envelope stress tolerance of S. mutans strain UA159. Transcriptional analysis established liaSR as part of the pentacistronic liaFSR-ppiB-pnpB operon. A survey of cell envelope antimicrobials revealed that mutants deficient in one or all of the liaFSR genes were susceptible to Lipid II cycle interfering antibiotics and to chemicals that perturbed the cell membrane integrity. These compounds induced liaR transcription in a concentration-dependent manner. Notably, under bacitracin stress conditions, the LiaFSR signaling system was shown to induce transcription of several genes involved in membrane protein synthesis, peptidoglycan biosynthesis, envelope chaperone/proteases, and transcriptional regulators. In the absence of an inducer such as bacitracin, LiaF repressed LiaR-regulated expression, whereas supplementing cultures with bacitracin resulted in derepression of liaSR. While LiaF appears to be an integral component of the LiaSR signaling cascade, taken collectively, we report a novel role for LiaFSR in sensing cell envelope stress and preserving envelope integrity in S. mutans.
Previous work has proposed rhoptry protein 2 (ROP2) as the physical link that tethers host mitochondria to the parasitophorous vacuole membrane (PVM) surrounding the intracellular parasite, Toxoplasma gondii. A recent analysis of the ROP2 structure, however, raised questions about this model. To determine whether ROP2 is necessary, we created a parasite line that lacks the entire ROP2 locus consisting of the three closely related genes, ROP2a, ROP2b and ROP8. We show that this knockout mutant retains the ability to recruit host mitochondria in a manner that is indistinguishable from the parental strain, re-opening the question of which molecules mediate this association.
Apicomplexa; ROP2; ROP8; Pseudokinase; Parasitophorous vacuole membrane; Mitochondria
Dental caries has been strongly associated with mutans streptococci, particularly Streptococcus mutans and S. sobrinus. Many studies have linked these organisms to the carious process and counts of mutans streptococci have been used to monitor caries risk. The high levels of caries generally found in Iceland have enabled several studies to be performed on the variation within strains of S. mutans.
This paper reports some studies showing phenotypic differences between strains of S. mutans that were related to whether the strain was isolated from an individual with active caries or from a caries-free subject.
Strains from individuals with active caries generally adhered better to apatite, were more vigorous in decalcifying apatite and had bacteriocin-like activity that was likely to help the strain compete successfully with other strains, for example in the dental plaque biofilm.
Phenotypic differences exist between strains of S. mutans depending on the caries activity of the individual from whom the strain was isolated.
Streptococcus mutans; dental caries; bacteriocin; decalcification; hydroxyapatite
The transcriptional repressor Rex has been implicated in regulation of energy metabolism and fermentative growth in response to redox potential. Streptococcus mutans, the primary causative agent of human dental caries, possesses a gene that encodes a protein with high similarity to members of the Rex family of proteins. In this study, we showed that Rex-deficiency compromised the ability of S. mutans to cope with oxidative stress and to form biofilms. The Rex-deficient mutant also accumulated less biofilm after 3-days than the wild-type strain, especially when grown in sucrose-containing medium, but produced more extracellular glucans than the parental strain. Rex-deficiency caused substantial alterations in gene transcription, including those involved in heterofermentative metabolism, NAD+ regeneration and oxidative stress. Among the up-regulated genes was gtfC, which encodes glucosyltransferase C, an enzyme primarily responsible for synthesis of water-insoluble glucans. These results reveal that Rex plays an important role in oxidative stress responses and biofilm formation by S. mutans.
Redox sensing; oxidative stress; biofilm formation; Streptococcus mutans
Streptococcus mutans is a biofilm-forming bacterium that is adapted to tolerate rapid and dramatic fluctuations in nutrient availability, carbohydrate source, and pH in its natural environment, the human oral cavity. Dissecting the pathways used to form stable biofilms and to tolerate environmental stress is central to understanding the virulence of this organism. Here, we investigated the role of the S. mutans relA gene, which codes for a guanosine tetraphosphate and guanosine pentaphosphate [(p)ppGpp] synthetase/hydrolase, in biofilm formation and acid tolerance. Two mutants in which relA was insertionally inactivated or replaced by an antibiotic resistance determinant were constructed. Under normal growth and stress conditions, the mutants grew slower than the wild-type strain, although the final yields were similar. The mutants, which were still able to accumulate (p)ppGpp after the induction of a stringent response, showed significant reductions in biofilm formation on microtiter plates or hydroxylapatite disks. There was no difference in the sensitivities to acid killing of the parent and relA strains grown in planktonic cultures. However, when cells were grown in biofilms, the mutants became more acid resistant and could lower the pH through glycolysis faster and to a greater extent than the wild-type strain. Differences in acid resistance were not correlated with increases in F-ATPase activity, although bacterial sugar:phosphotransferase activity was elevated in the mutants. Expression of the luxS gene was increased as much as fivefold in the relA mutants, suggesting a link between AI-2 quorum sensing and the stringent response.
Streptococcus mutans has been strongly implicated as the principal etiological agent in dental caries. One of the important virulence properties of these organisms is their ability to form biofilms known as dental plaque on tooth surfaces. Since the roles of sucrose and glucosyltransferases in S. mutans biofilm formation have been well documented, we focused our attention on sucrose-independent factors. We have initially identified several mutants that appear to be defective in biofilm formation on abiotic surfaces by an insertional inactivation mutagenesis strategy applied to S. mutans. A total of 27 biofilm-defective mutants were isolated and analyzed in this study. From these mutants, three genes were identified. One of the mutants was defective in the Bacillus subtilis lytR homologue. Another of the biofilm-defective mutants isolated was a yulF homologue, which encodes a hypothetical protein of B. subtilis whose function in biofilm formation is unknown. The vast majority of the mutants were defective in the comB gene required for competence. We therefore have constructed and examined comACDE null mutants. These mutants were also found to be attenuated in biofilm formation. Biofilm formation by several other regulatory gene mutants were also characterized using an in vitro biofilm-forming assay. These results suggest that competence genes as well as the sgp and dgk genes may play important roles in S. mutans biofilm formation.
Streptococcus mutans has been recognized as an important etiological agent in human dental caries. Some strains of S. mutans also produce bacteriocins. In this study, we sought to demonstrate that bacteriocin production by S. mutans strains GS5 and BM71 was mediated by quorum sensing, which is dependent on a competence-stimulating peptide (CSP) signaling system encoded by the com genes. We also demonstrated that interactions with some other oral streptococci interfered with S. mutans bacteriocin production both in broth and in biofilms. The inhibition of S. mutans bacteriocin production by oral bacteria was stronger in biofilms than in broth. Using transposon Tn916 mutagenesis, we identified a gene (sgc; named for Streptococcus gordonii challisin) responsible for the inhibition of S. mutans bacteriocin production by S. gordonii Challis. Interruption of the sgc gene in S. gordonii Challis resulted in attenuated inhibition of S. mutans bacteriocin production. The supernatant fluids from the sgc mutant did not inactivate the exogenous S. mutans CSP as did those from the parent strain Challis. S. gordonii Challis did not inactivate bacteriocin produced by S. mutans GS5. Because S. mutans uses quorum sensing to regulate virulence, strategies designed to interfere with these signaling systems may have broad applicability for biological control of this caries-causing organism.
The ROP16 kinase of Toxoplasma gondii is injected into the host cell cytosol where it activates signal transducer and activator of transcription (STAT)-3 and STAT6. Here, we generated a ROP16 deletion mutant on a Type I parasite strain background, as well as a control complementation mutant with restored ROP16 expression. We investigated the biological role of the ROP16 molecule during T. gondii infection. Infection of mouse bone marrow-derived macrophages with rop16-deleted (ΔROP16) parasites resulted in increased amounts of IL-12p40 production relative to the ROP16-positive RH parental strain. High level IL-12p40 production in ΔROP16 infection was dependent on the host cell adaptor molecule MyD88, but surprisingly was independent of any previously recognized T. gondii triggered pathway linking to MyD88 (TLR2, TLR4, TLR9, TLR11, IL-1ß and IL-18). In addition, ROP16 was found to mediate the suppressive effects of Toxoplasma on LPS-induced cytokine synthesis in macrophages and on IFN-γ-induced nitric oxide production by astrocytes and microglial cells. Furthermore, ROP16 triggered synthesis of host cell arginase-1 in a STAT6-dependent manner. In fibroblasts and macrophages, failure to induce arginase-1 by ΔROP16 tachyzoites resulted in resistance to starvation conditions of limiting arginine, an essential amino acid for replication and virulence of this parasite. ΔROP16 tachyzoites that failed to induce host cell arginase-1 displayed increased replication and dissemination during in vivo infection. We conclude that encounter between Toxoplasma ROP16 and the host cell STAT signaling cascade has pleiotropic downstream effects that act in multiple and complex ways to direct the course of infection.
Toxoplasma gondii is an extremely widespread intracellular protozoan parasite that establishes long-lasting infection in humans and animals. Because Toxoplasma infection is most often asymptomatic, it is evident that this parasite has developed sophisticated ways to manipulate host immunity. Recently, the parasite ROP16 kinase was identified as an important determinant of host cell signaling. During cell invasion, ROP16 is injected into the host cell cytoplasm and subsequently localizes to the nucleus. Here, we report the generation of ROP16 knockout parasites (ΔROP16) as well as ΔROP16 complementation mutants (ΔROP16:1) and we describe the biological effects of deleting and re-inserting this molecule. We find that ROP16 controls the ability to activate multiple host cell signaling pathways and simultaneously suppress macrophage proinflammatory responses. Deletion of ROP16 increases parasite ability to replicate and disseminate during in vivo infection. This increased growth response may arise from ROP16-dependent activation of host arginase-1. Induction of arginase-1 limits availability of arginine, an amino acid that is required for parasite growth and host-inducible nitric oxide production. Our results provide new insight into the complex interactions between an intracellular eukaryotic pathogen and its host cell.
Polarized growth of pollen tubes is a critical step for successful reproduction in angiosperms and is controlled by ROP GTPases. Spatiotemporal activation of ROP (Rho GTPases of plants) necessitates a complex and sophisticated regulatory system, in which guanine nucleotide exchange factors (RopGEFs) are key components. It was previously shown that a leucine-rich repeat receptor-like kinase, Arabidopsis pollen receptor kinase 2 (AtPRK2), interacted with RopGEF12 for its membrane recruitment. However, the mechanisms underlying AtPRK2-mediated ROP activation in vivo are yet to be defined. It is reported here that over-expression of AtPRK2 induced tube bulging that was accompanied by the ectopic localization of ROP-GTP and the ectopic distribution of actin microfilaments. Tube depolarization was also induced by a potentially kinase-dead mutant, AtPRK2K366R, suggesting that the over-expression effect of AtPRK2 did not require its kinase activity. By contrast, deletions of non-catalytic domains in AtPRK2, i.e. the juxtamembrane (JM) and carboxy-terminal (CT) domains, abolished its ability to affect tube polarization. Notably, AtPRK2K366R retained the ability to interact with RopGEF12, whereas AtPRK2 truncations of these non-catalytic domains did not. Lastly, it has been shown that the JM and CT domains of AtPRK2 were not only critical for its interaction with RopGEF12 but also critical for its distribution at the plasma membrane. These results thus provide further insight into pollen receptor kinase-mediated ROP activation during pollen tube growth.
Actin microfilaments; CRIB; polar growth; receptor kinase; ROP GTPases.