Surface antigen variation in Mycoplasma agalactiae, the etiologic agent of contagious agalactia in sheep and goats, is governed by site-specific recombination within the vpma multigene locus encoding the Vpma family of variable surface lipoproteins. This high-frequency Vpma phase switching was previously shown to be mediated by a Xer1 recombinase encoded adjacent to the vpma locus. In this study, it was demonstrated in Escherichia coli that the Xer1 recombinase is responsible for catalyzing vpma gene inversions between recombination sites (RS) located in the 5′-untranslated region (UTR) in all six vpma genes, causing cleavage and strand exchange within a 21-bp conserved region that serves as a recognition sequence. It was further shown that the outcome of the site-specific recombination event depends on the orientation of the two vpma RS, as direct or inverted repeats. While recombination between inverted vpma RS led to inversions, recombination between direct repeat vpma RS led to excisions. Using a newly developed excision assay based on the lacZ reporter system, we were able to successfully demonstrate under native conditions that such Xer1-mediated excisions can indeed also occur in the M. agalactiae type strain PG2, whereas they were not observed in the control xer1-disrupted VpmaY phase-locked mutant (PLMY), which lacks Xer1 recombinase. Unless there are specific regulatory mechanisms preventing such excisions, this might be the cost that the pathogen has to render at the population level for maintaining this high-frequency phase variation machinery.
The ruminant pathogen Mycoplasma agalactiae possesses a family of abundantly expressed variable surface lipoproteins called Vpmas. Phenotypic switches between Vpma members have previously been correlated with DNA rearrangements within a locus of vpma genes and are proposed to play an important role in disease pathogenesis. In this study, six vpma genes were characterized in the M. agalactiae type strain PG2. All vpma genes clustered within an 8-kb region and shared highly conserved 5′ untranslated regions, lipoprotein signal sequences, and short N-terminal sequences. Analyses of the vpma loci from consecutive clonal isolates showed that vpma DNA rearrangements were site specific and that cleavage and strand exchange occurred within a minimal region of 21 bp located within the 5′ untranslated region of all vpma genes. This process controlled expression of vpma genes by effectively linking the open reading frame (ORF) of a silent gene to a unique active promoter sequence within the locus. An ORF (xer1) immediately adjacent to one end of the vpma locus did not undergo rearrangement and had significant homology to a distinct subset of genes belonging to the λ integrase family of site-specific xer recombinases. It is proposed that xer1 codes for a site-specific recombinase that is not involved in chromosome dimer resolution but rather is responsible for the observed vpma-specific recombination in M. agalactiae.
Mycoplasma agalactiae, an important pathogen of small ruminants, exhibits a very versatile surface architecture by switching multiple, related lipoproteins (Vpmas) on and off. In the type strain, PG2, Vpma phase variation is generated by a cluster of six vpma genes that undergo frequent DNA rearrangements via site-specific recombination. To further comprehend the degree of diversity that can be generated at the M. agalactiae surface, the vpma gene repertoire of a field strain, 5632, was analyzed and shown to contain an extended repertoire of 23 vpma genes distributed between two loci located 250 kbp apart. Loci I and II include 16 and 7 vpma genes, respectively, with all vpma genes of locus II being duplicated at locus I. Several Vpmas displayed a chimeric structure suggestive of homologous recombination, and a global proteomic analysis further indicated that at least 13 of the 16 Vpmas can be expressed by the 5632 strain. Because a single promoter is present in each vpma locus, concomitant Vpma expression can occur in a strain with duplicated loci. Consequently, the number of possible surface combinations is much higher for strain 5632 than for the type strain. Finally, our data suggested that insertion sequences are likely to be involved in 5632 vpma locus duplication at a remote chromosomal position. The role of such mobile genetic elements in chromosomal shuffling of genes encoding major surface components may have important evolutionary and epidemiological consequences for pathogens, such as mycoplasmas, that have a reduced genome and no cell wall.
A family of abundant surface proteins (Vpmas [variable proteins of Mycoplasma agalactiae]) undergoing phase variation in M. agalactiae has been characterized using monoclonal antibodies and specific polyclonal sera. Two expressed members of 39 kDa (Vpma39) and 34 kDa (Vpma34), which varied in expression between clones of a lineage, shared a common amino-terminal sequence but were immunologically distinct. An amino-terminal oligonucleotide probe identified multiple vpma genes which were clustered within a 14-kb ClaI genomic fragment. Rearrangements were found to have occurred within the vpma locus between clones which correlated with changes in their Vpma phenotype. Two neighboring vpma genes were cloned and sequenced from one M. agalactiae clonal variant expressing Vpma39. The two genes, vpmaX and vpmaY, were orientated divergently and shared highly homologous 5′ untranslated regions, 25-amino-acid (aa) lipoprotein leader sequences, and amino-terminal sequences. The vpmaY gene coded for 346 aa and 84% of the open reading frame, comprised of 1.5 units of a large repeat of 186 aa. Although the sequence for an entire second vpmaY repeat was present, it was prematurely terminated by insertion of two nucleotides. The vpmaX gene encoded 221 aa and possessed 102 aa of the 186-aa repeat of vpmaY. Many of the features in common between the vpma genes were also found to be shared by the vsp genes of M. bovis, which also undergo DNA rearrangements concomitant with phenotypic changes. Since M. bovis is the closest phylogenetic relative to M. agalactiae, the vpma and vsp gene families most probably represent homologous systems.
Mycoplasma bovis (M. bovis) is an important pathogen that causes various bovine diseases, such as mastitis in cows and pneumonia in calves. The surface proteins are generally thought to play a central role in the pathogenesis of this organism. We screened the entire genome of M. bovis Hubei-1 and discovered a gene named vpmaX that encodes the 25 kDa variable surface lipoprotein A (VpmaX). Sequence analysis revealed that VpmaX contains several repetitive units and a typical bacterial lipoprotein signal sequence. The vpmaX gene was cloned and expressed in E. coli to obtain recombinant VpmaX (rVpmaX). Western blot analysis using a rabbit antibody against rVpmaX demonstrated that VpmaX is a membrane protein. Immunostaining visualized via confocal laser scanning microscopy showed that rVpmaX was able to adhere to embryonic bovine lung cells (EBL), and this was also confirmed by a sandwich ELISA. In summary, a surface-localized adhesion protein was identified in M. bovis Hubei-1.
Mechanisms underlying pathogenic processes in mycoplasma infections are poorly understood, mainly because of limited sequence similarities with classical, bacterial virulence factors. Recently, large-scale transposon mutagenesis in the ruminant pathogen Mycoplasma agalactiae identified the NIF locus, including nifS and nifU, as essential for mycoplasma growth in cell culture, while dispensable in axenic media. To evaluate the importance of this locus in vivo, the infectivity of two knock-out mutants was tested upon experimental infection in the natural host. In this model, the parental PG2 strain was able to establish a systemic infection in lactating ewes, colonizing various body sites such as lymph nodes and the mammary gland, even when inoculated at low doses. In these PG2-infected ewes, we observed over the course of infection (i) the development of a specific antibody response and (ii) dynamic changes in expression of M. agalactiae surface variable proteins (Vpma), with multiple Vpma profiles co-existing in the same animal. In contrast and despite a sensitive model, none of the knock-out mutants were able to survive and colonize the host. The extreme avirulent phenotype of the two mutants was further supported by the absence of an IgG response in inoculated animals. The exact role of the NIF locus remains to be elucidated but these data demonstrate that it plays a key role in the infectious process of M. agalactiae and most likely of other pathogenic mycoplasma species as many carry closely related homologs.
The genetic diversity of Mycoplasma agalactiae (MA) isolates collected in Spain from goats in an area with contagious agalactia (CA) was assessed using a set of validated and new molecular typing methods. Validated methods included pulsed field gel electrophoresis (PFGE), variable number of tandem repeats (VNTR) typing, and Southern blot hybridization using a set of MA DNA probes, including those for typing the vpma genes repertoire. New approaches were based on PCR and targeted genomic regions that diverged between strains as defined by in silico genomic comparisons of sequenced MA genomes.
Overall, the data showed that all typing tools yielded consistent results, with the VNTR analyses being the most rapid method to differentiate the MA isolates with a discriminatory ability comparable to that of PFGE and of a set of new PCR assays. All molecular typing approaches indicated that the Spanish isolates from the endemic area in Murcia were very diverse, with different clonal isolates probably restricted to separate, but geographically close, local areas.
The important genetic diversity of MA observed in infected goats from Spain contrasts with the overall homogeneity of the genomic background encountered in MA from sheep with CA in Southern France or Italy, suggesting that assessment of the disease status in endemic areas may require different approaches in sheep and in goats. A number of congruent sub-typing tools are now available for the differentiation of caprine isolates with comparable discriminatory powers.
Mycoplasma agalactiae; Molecular typing; Contagious agalactia; Goats
Mycoplasma agalactiae, the etiological agent of contagious agalactia of small ruminants, has a family of related genes (avg genes) which encode surface lipoprotein antigens that undergo phase variation. A series of 13 M. agalactiae clonal isolates, obtained from one chronically infected animal over a period of 7 months, were found to undergo major rearrangement events within the avg genomic locus. We show that these rearrangements regulate the phase-variable expression of individual avg genes. Northern blot analysis and reverse transcription-PCR showed that only one avg gene is transcribed, while the other avg genes are transcriptionally silent. Sequence analysis and primer extension experiments with two M. agalactiae clonal isolates showed that a specific 182-bp avg 5′ upstream region (avg-B2) that is present as a single chromosomal copy serves as an active promoter and exhibits a high level of homology with the vsp promoter of the bovine pathogen Mycoplasma bovis. PCR analysis showed that each avg gene is associated with the avg-B2 promoter in a subpopulation of cells that is present in each subclone. Multiple sequence-specific sites for DNA recombination (vis-like), which are presumably recognized by site-specific recombinase, were identified within the conserved avg 5′ upstream regions of all avg genes and were found to be identical to the recombination sites of the M. bovis vsp locus. In addition, a gene encoding a member of the integrase family of tyrosine site-specific recombinases was identified adjacent to the variable avg locus. The molecular genetic basis for avg phase-variable expression appears to be mediated by site-specific DNA inversions occurring in vivo that allow activation of a silent avg gene by promoter addition. A model for the control of avg genes is proposed.
In the model organism E. coli, recombination mediated by the related XerC and XerD recombinases complexed with the FtsK translocase at specialized dif sites, resolves dimeric chromosomes into free monomers to allow efficient chromosome segregation at cell division. Computational genome analysis of Helicobacter pylori, a slow growing gastric pathogen, identified just one chromosomal xer gene (xerH) and its cognate dif site (difH). Here we show that recombination between directly repeated difH sites requires XerH, FtsK but not XerT, the TnPZ transposon associated recombinase. xerH inactivation was not lethal, but resulted in increased DNA per cell, suggesting defective chromosome segregation. The xerH mutant also failed to colonize mice, and was more susceptible to UV and ciprofloxacin, which induce DNA breakage, and thereby recombination and chromosome dimer formation. xerH inactivation and overexpression each led to a DNA segregation defect, suggesting a role for Xer recombination in regulation of replication. In addition to chromosome dimer resolution and based on the absence of genes for topoisomerase IV (parC, parE) in H. pylori, we speculate that XerH may contribute to chromosome decatenation, although possible involvement of H. pylori's DNA gyrase and topoisomerase III homologue are also considered. Further analyses of this system should contribute to general understanding of and possibly therapy development for H. pylori, which causes peptic ulcers and gastric cancer; for the closely related, diarrheagenic Campylobacter species; and for unrelated slow growing pathogens that lack topoisomerase IV, such as Mycobacterium tuberculosis.
Phase variation of two loci (‘mba locus’ and ‘UU172 phase-variable element’) in Ureaplasma parvum serovar 3 has been suggested as result of site-specific DNA inversion occurring at short inverted repeats. Three potential tyrosine recombinases (RipX, XerC, and CodV encoded by the genes UU145, UU222, and UU529) have been annotated in the genome of U. parvum serovar 3, which could be mediators in the proposed recombination event. We document that only orthologs of the gene xerC are present in all strains that show phase variation in the two loci. We demonstrate in vitro binding of recombinant maltose-binding protein fusions of XerC to the inverted repeats of the phase-variable loci, of RipX to a direct repeat that flanks a 20-kbp region, which has been proposed as putative pathogenicity island, and of CodV to a putative dif site. Co-transformation of the model organism Mycoplasma pneumoniae M129 with both the ‘mba locus’ and the recombinase gene xerC behind an active promoter region resulted in DNA inversion in the ‘mba locus’. Results suggest that XerC of U. parvum serovar 3 is a mediator in the proposed DNA inversion event of the two phase-variable loci.
Ureaplasma; tyrosine recombinase; protein–DNA interaction; electrophoretic mobility shift assay; phase variation; dif site
Homologous recombination (HR) is required for both genome maintenance and generation of diversity in eukaryotes and prokaryotes. This process initiates from single-stranded (ss) DNA and is driven by a universal recombinase, which promotes strand exchange between homologous sequences. The bacterial recombinase, RecA, is loaded onto ssDNA by recombinase loaders, RecBCD and RecFOR for genome maintenance. DprA was recently proposed as a third loader dedicated to genetic transformation. Here we assessed the role of RecFOR in transformation of the human pathogen Streptococcus pneumoniae. We firstly established that RecFOR proteins are not required for plasmid transformation, strongly suggesting that DprA ensures annealing of plasmid single-strands internalized in the process. We then observed no reduction in chromosomal transformation using a PCR fragment as donor, contrasting with the 10,000-fold drop in dprA- cells and demonstrating that RecFOR play no role in transformation. However, a ∼1.45-fold drop in transformation was observed with total chromosomal DNA in recFOR mutants. To account for this limited deficit, we hypothesized that transformation with chromosomal DNA stimulated unexpectedly high frequency (>30% of cells) formation of chromosome dimers as an intermediate in the generation of tandem duplications, and that RecFOR were crucial for dimer resolution. We validated this hypothesis, showing that the site-specific recombinase XerS was also crucial for dimer resolution. An even higher frequency of dimer formation (>80% of cells) was promoted by interspecies transformation with Streptococcus mitis chromosomal DNA, which contains numerous inversions compared to pneumococcal chromosome, each potentially promoting dimerization. In the absence of RecFOR and XerS, dimers persist, as confirmed by DAPI staining, and can limit the efficiency of transformation, since resulting in loss of transformant chromosome. These findings strengthen the view that different HR machineries exist for genome maintenance and transformation in pneumococci. These observations presumably apply to most naturally transformable species.
Homologous recombination (HR) is a widespread process which maintains genome integrity and promotes diversity. In bacteria, HR mends damaged DNA to ensure genome integrity and is also involved in transformation, a mechanism of horizontal gene transfer allowing acquisition of new genetic traits. HR is driven by recombinases, which are loaded onto single-stranded DNA by the recombinase loaders RecBCD and RecFOR for genome maintenance. DprA was recently proposed as another loader dedicated to transformation. During transformation, foreign DNA is taken up as single strands and integrated into the chromosome by HR. In this study, we show that RecFOR is not involved in transformation in Streptococcus pneumoniae. These results provide further support to the existence of different HR machineries dedicated to genetic transformation and genome maintenance in this pathogen. In addition, we show that transformation with chromosomal DNA generates chromosome dimers with unexpectedly high frequency, and that their resolution requires RecFOR and the site-specific recombinase XerS. In cells lacking these proteins, dimers persist and have a detrimental effect on the efficiency of transformation. Since the HR mechanisms leading to dimer formation are most likely conserved, this effect is presumably general to naturally transformable species.
Mycoplasmas are commonly described as the simplest self-replicating organisms, whose evolution was mainly characterized by genome downsizing with a proposed evolutionary scenario similar to that of obligate intracellular bacteria such as insect endosymbionts. Thus far, analysis of mycoplasma genomes indicates a low level of horizontal gene transfer (HGT) implying that DNA acquisition is strongly limited in these minimal bacteria. In this study, the genome of the ruminant pathogen Mycoplasma agalactiae was sequenced. Comparative genomic data and phylogenetic tree reconstruction revealed that ∼18% of its small genome (877,438 bp) has undergone HGT with the phylogenetically distinct mycoides cluster, which is composed of significant ruminant pathogens. HGT involves genes often found as clusters, several of which encode lipoproteins that usually play an important role in mycoplasma–host interaction. A decayed form of a conjugative element also described in a member of the mycoides cluster was found in the M. agalactiae genome, suggesting that HGT may have occurred by mobilizing a related genetic element. The possibility of HGT events among other mycoplasmas was evaluated with the available sequenced genomes. Our data indicate marginal levels of HGT among Mycoplasma species except for those described above and, to a lesser extent, for those observed in between the two bird pathogens, M. gallisepticum and M. synoviae. This first description of large-scale HGT among mycoplasmas sharing the same ecological niche challenges the generally accepted evolutionary scenario in which gene loss is the main driving force of mycoplasma evolution. The latter clearly differs from that of other bacteria with small genomes, particularly obligate intracellular bacteria that are isolated within host cells. Consequently, mycoplasmas are not only able to subvert complex hosts but presumably have retained sexual competence, a trait that may prevent them from genome stasis and contribute to adaptation to new hosts.
Mycoplasmas are cell wall–lacking prokaryotes that evolved from ancestors common to Gram-positive bacteria by way of massive losses of genetic material. With their minimal genome, mycoplasmas are considered to be the simplest free-living organisms, yet several species are successful pathogens of man and animal. In this study, we challenged the commonly accepted view in which mycoplasma evolution is driven only by genome down-sizing. Indeed, we showed that a significant amount of genes underwent horizontal transfer among different mycoplasma species that share the same ruminant hosts. In these species, the occurrence of a genetic element that can promote DNA transfer via cell-to-cell contact suggests that some mycoplasmas may have retained or acquired sexual competence. Transferred genes were found to encode proteins that are likely to be associated with mycoplasma–host interactions. Sharing genetic resources via horizontal gene transfer may provide mycoplasmas with a means for adapting to new niches or to new hosts and for avoiding irreversible genome erosion.
Mycoplasma agalactiae is an important pathogen of small ruminants, in which it causes contagious agalactia. It belongs to a large group of “minimal bacteria” with a small genome and reduced metabolic capacities that are dependent on their host for nutrients. Mycoplasma survival thus relies on intimate contact with host cells, but little is known about the factors involved in these interactions or in the more general infectious process. To address this issue, an assay based on goat epithelial and fibroblastic cells was used to screen a M. agalactiae knockout mutant library. Mutants with reduced growth capacities in cell culture were selected and 62 genomic loci were identified as contributing to this phenotype. As expected for minimal bacteria, “transport and metabolism” was the functional category most commonly implicated in this phenotype, but 50% of the selected mutants were disrupted in coding sequences (CDSs) with unknown functions, with surface lipoproteins being most commonly represented in this category. Since mycoplasmas lack a cell wall, lipoproteins are likely to be important in interactions with the host. A few intergenic regions were also identified that may act as regulatory sequences under co-culture conditions. Interestingly, some mutants mapped to gene clusters that are highly conserved across mycoplasma species but located in different positions. One of these clusters was found in a transcriptionally active region of the M. agalactiae chromosome, downstream of a cryptic promoter. A possible scenario for the evolution of these loci is discussed. Finally, several CDSs identified here are conserved in other important pathogenic mycoplasmas, and some were involved in horizontal gene transfer with phylogenetically distant species. These results provide a basis for further deciphering functions mediating mycoplasma-host interactions.
Homologous recombination between circular sister chromosomes during DNA replication in bacteria can generate chromosome dimers that must be resolved into monomers prior to cell division. In Escherichia coli, dimer resolution is achieved by site-specific recombination, Xer recombination, involving two paralogous tyrosine recombinases, XerC and XerD, and a 28-bp recombination site (dif) located at the junction of the two replication arms. Xer recombination is tightly controlled by the septal protein FtsK. XerCD recombinases and FtsK are found on most sequenced eubacterial genomes, suggesting that the Xer recombination system as described in E. coli is highly conserved among prokaryotes. We show here that Streptococci and Lactococci carry an alternative Xer recombination machinery, organized in a single recombination module. This corresponds to an atypical 31-bp recombination site (difSL) associated with a dedicated tyrosine recombinase (XerS). In contrast to the E. coli Xer system, only a single recombinase is required to recombine difSL, suggesting a different mechanism in the recombination process. Despite this important difference, XerS can only perform efficient recombination when difSL sites are located on chromosome dimers. Moreover, the XerS/difSL recombination requires the streptococcal protein FtsKSL, probably without the need for direct protein-protein interaction, which we demonstrated to be located at the division septum of Lactococcus lactis. Acquisition of the XerS recombination module can be considered as a landmark of the separation of Streptococci/Lactococci from other firmicutes and support the view that Xer recombination is a conserved cellular function in bacteria, but that can be achieved by functional analogs.
In bacteria, genetic information is mainly carried by a single circular chromosome. The replication of this circular molecule sometimes leads to the formation of a chromosome dimer unable to segregate in the daughter cells during the division process. In the bacterial model E. coli, chromosome dimers are resolved in monomers by site-specific recombination: two recombinases (XerC and XerD) cooperatively catalyze the recombination at a chromosomal site (dif), located at the junction of the two replication arms. This recombination is intimately coupled to cell division by the control of the septal protein FtsK. Xer recombination machinery as described in E. coli appears highly conserved among bacterial species. We show by comparative genomics and genetic studies that Streptococci use an alternative Xer recombination system, renamed XerS/difSL, which is composed of a single recombinase phylogenetically unrelated to XerCD proteins and a noncanonical dif site. We also demonstrate that the streptococcal FtsK protein localizes at the division septum and operates the XerS/difSL recombination. This is the first identification of an alternative Xer recombination system in prokaryotes to out knowledge, which might indicate that other unusual chromosome dimer resolution systems could exist in bacterial phyla where a canonical dif site is not detected.
Homologous recombination events between circular chromosomes, occurring during or after replication, can generate dimers that need to be converted to monomers prior to their segregation at cell division. In Escherichia coli, chromosome dimers are converted to monomers by two paralogous site-specific tyrosine recombinases of the Xer family (XerC/D). The Xer recombinases act at a specific dif site located in the replication termination region, assisted by the cell division protein FtsK. This chromosome resolution system has been predicted in most Bacteria and further characterized for some species. Archaea have circular chromosomes and an active homologous recombination system and should therefore resolve chromosome dimers. Most archaea harbour a single homologue of bacterial XerC/D proteins (XerA), but not of FtsK. Therefore, the role of XerA in chromosome resolution was unclear. Here, we have identified dif-like sites in archaeal genomes by using a combination of modeling and comparative genomics approaches. These sites are systematically located in replication termination regions. We validated our in silico prediction by showing that the XerA protein of Pyrococcus abyssi specifically recombines plasmids containing the predicted dif site in vitro. In contrast to the bacterial system, XerA can recombine dif sites in the absence of protein partners. Whereas Archaea and Bacteria use a completely different set of proteins for chromosome replication, our data strongly suggest that XerA is most likely used for chromosome resolution in Archaea.
Bacteria with circular chromosome and active homologous recombination systems have to resolve chromosomal dimers before segregation at cell division. In Escherichia coli, the Xer site-specific recombination system, composed of two recombinases and a specific chromosomal site (dif), is involved in the correct inheritance of the chromosome. The recombination event is tightly regulated by the chromosome translocase FtsK. This chromosome resolution system has been predicted in most bacteria and further characterized for some species. Intriguingly, most archaea possess a gene coding for a recombinase homologous to bacterial Xers, but none have homologues of the bacterial FtsK. We identified the specific target sites for archaeal Xer. This site, present in one copy per chromosome, is located in the replication termination region and shows sequence similarities with bacterial dif sites. In vitro, the archaeal Xer recombines this site in the absence of protein partner. It has been shown that DNA–related proteins from Archaea and Eukarya share a common origin, whereas their analogues in Bacteria have evolved independently. In this context, Eukarya and Archaea would represent sister groups. Therefore, the presence of a shared Xer-dif system between Bacteria and Archaea illustrates the complex origin of modern DNA genomes.
Mycoplasmas are minimal bacteria whose genomes barely exceed the smallest amount of information required to sustain autonomous life. Despite this apparent simplicity, several mycoplasmas are successful pathogens of humans and animals, in which they establish intimate interactions with epithelial cells at mucosal surfaces. To identify biological functions mediating mycoplasma interactions with mammalian cells, we produced a library of transposon knockout mutants in the ruminant pathogen Mycoplasma agalactiae and used this library to identify mutants displaying a growth-deficient pheonotype in cell culture. M. agalactiae mutants displaying a 3-fold reduction in CFU titers to nearly complete extinction in coculture with HeLa cells were identified. Mapping of transposon insertion sites revealed 18 genomic regions putatively involved in the interaction of M. agalactiae with HeLa cells. Several of these regions encode proteins with features of membrane lipoproteins and/or were involved in horizontal gene transfer with phylogenetically distant pathogenic mycoplasmas of ruminants. Two mutants with the most extreme phenotype carry a transposon in a genomic region designated the NIF locus which encodes homologues of SufS and SufU, two proteins presumably involved in [Fe-S] cluster biosynthesis in Gram-positive bacteria. Complementation studies confirmed the conditional essentiality of the NIF locus, which was found to be critical for proliferation in the presence of HeLa cells and several other mammalian cell lines but dispensable for axenic growth. While our results raised questions regarding essential functions in mycoplasmas, they also provide a means for studying the role of mycoplasmas as minimal pathogens.
Xer-mediated dimer resolution at the mwr site of the multiresistance plasmid pJHCMW1 is osmoregulated in Escherichia coli containing either the Escherichia coli Xer recombination machinery or Xer recombination elements from K. pneumoniae. In the presence of K. pneumoniae XerC (XerCKp), the efficiency of recombination is lower than that in the presence of the E. coli XerC (XerCEc) and the level of dimer resolution is insufficient to stabilize the plasmid, even at low osmolarity. This lower efficiency of recombination at mwr is observed in the presence of E. coli or K. pneumoniae XerD proteins. Mutagenesis experiments identified a region near the N terminus of XerCKp responsible for the lower level of recombination catalyzed by XerCKp at mwr. This region encompasses the second half of the predicted α-helix B and the beginning of the predicted α-helix C. The efficiencies of recombination at other sites such as dif or cer in the presence of XerCKp or XerCEc are comparable. Therefore, XerCKp is an active recombinase whose action is impaired on the mwr recombination site. This characteristic may result in restriction of the host range of plasmids carrying this site, a phenomenon that may have important implications in the dissemination of antibiotic resistance genes.
In this study the enzymatic activity of Mycoplasma agalactiae MAG_5040, a magnesium-dependent nuclease homologue to the staphylococcal SNase was characterized and its antigenicity during natural infections was established. A UGA corrected version of MAG_5040, lacking the region encoding the signal peptide, was expressed in Escherichia coli as a GST fusion protein. Recombinant GST-MAG_5040 exhibits nuclease activity similar to typical sugar-nonspecific endo- and exonucleases, with DNA as the preferred substrate and optimal activity in the presence of 20 mM MgCl2 at temperatures ranging from 37 to 45°C. According to in silico analyses, the position of the gene encoding MAG_5040 is consistently located upstream an ABC transporter, in most sequenced mycoplasmas belonging to the Mycoplasma hominis group. In M. agalactiae, MAG_5040 is transcribed in a polycistronic RNA together with the ABC transporter components and with MAG_5030, which is predicted to be a sugar solute binding protein by 3D modeling and homology search. In a natural model of sheep and goats infection, anti-MAG_5040 antibodies were detected up to 9 months post infection. Taking into account its enzymatic activity, MAG_5040 could play a key role in Mycoplasma agalactiae survival into the host, contributing to host pathogenicity. The identification of MAG_5040 opens new perspectives for the development of suitable tools for the control of contagious agalactia in small ruminants.
Mycoplasma bovis, an important pathogen of cattle, was recently shown to possess a family of phase- and size-variable membrane surface lipoprotein antigens (Vsps). These proteins spontaneously undergo noncoordinate phase variation between ON and OFF expression states, generating surface antigenic variation. In the present study, we show that the spontaneously high rate of Vsp phenotypic switching involves DNA rearrangements that occur at high frequency in the M. bovis chromosome. A 1.5-kb HindIII genomic fragment carrying the vspA gene from M. bovis PG45 was cloned and sequenced. The deduced VspA amino acid sequence revealed that 80% of the VspA molecule is composed of reiterated intragenic coding sequences, creating a periodic polypeptide structure. Four distinct internal regions of repetitive sequences in the form of in-tandem blocks extending from the N-terminal to the C-terminal portion of the Vsp product were identified. Southern blot analysis of phenotypically switched isogenic lineages representing ON or OFF phase states of Vsp products suggested that changes in the Vsp expression profile were associated with detectable changes at the DNA level. By using a synthetic oligonucleotide representing a sequence complementary to the repetitive vspA gene region as a probe, we could identify the vspA-bearing restriction fragment undergoing high-frequency reversible rearrangements during oscillating phase transition of vspA. The 1.5-kb HindIII fragment carrying the vspA gene (on state) rearranged and produced a 2.3-kb HindIII fragment (OFF state) and vice versa. Two newly discovered vsp genes (vspE and vspF) were localized on two HindIII fragments flanking the vsp gene upstream and downstream. Southern blot hybridization with vspE- and vspF-specific oligonucleotides as probes against genomic DNA of VspA phase variants showed that the organization and size of the fragments adjacent to the vspA gene remained unchanged during VspA ON-OFF switching. The mechanisms regulating the vsp genes are yet unknown; our findings suggest that a recombinative mechanism possibly involving DNA inversions, DNA insertion, or mobile genetic elements may play a role in generating the observed high-frequency DNA rearrangements.
The bacterium Mycoplasma agalactiae is responsible for contagious agalactia (CA) in small domestic ruminants, a syndrome listed by the World Organization for Animal Health and responsible for severe damage to the dairy industry. Recently, we frequently isolated this pathogen from lung lesions of ibexes during a mortality episode in the French Alps. This situation was unusual in terms of host specificity and tissue tropism, raising the question of M. agalactiae emergence in wildlife. To address this issue, the ibex isolates were characterized using a combination of approaches that included antigenic profiles, molecular typing, optical mapping, and whole-genome sequencing. Genome analyses showed the presence of a new, large prophage containing 35 coding sequences (CDS) that was detected in most but not all ibex strains and has a homolog in Mycoplasma conjunctivae, a species causing keratoconjunctivitis in wild ungulates. This and the presence in all strains of large integrated conjugative elements suggested highly dynamic genomes. Nevertheless, M. agalactiae strains circulating in the ibex population were shown to be highly related, most likely originating from a single parental clone that has also spread to another wild ungulate species of the same geographical area, the chamois. These strains clearly differ from strains described in Europe so far, including those found nearby, before CA eradication a few years ago. While M. agalactiae pathogenicity in ibexes remains unclear, our data showed the emergence of atypical strains in Alpine wild ungulates, raising the question of a role for the wild fauna as a potential reservoir of pathogenic mycoplasmas.
Mycoplasmas are the simplest bacteria capable of autonomous replication. Their evolution proceeded from gram-positive bacteria, with the loss of many biosynthetic pathways and of the cell wall. In this work, the liposoluble protein complement of Mycoplasma agalactiae, a minimal bacterial pathogen causing mastitis, polyarthritis, keratoconjunctivitis, and abortion in small ruminants, was subjected to systematic characterization in order to gain insights into its membrane proteome composition.
The selective enrichment for M. agalactiae PG2T liposoluble proteins was accomplished by means of Triton X-114 fractionation. Liposoluble proteins were subjected to 2-D PAGE-MS, leading to the identification of 40 unique proteins and to the generation of a reference 2D map of the M. agalactiae liposoluble proteome. Liposoluble proteins from the type strain PG2 and two field isolates were then compared by means of 2D DIGE, revealing reproducible differences in protein expression among isolates. An in-depth analysis was then performed by GeLC-MS/MS in order to achieve a higher coverage of the liposoluble proteome. Using this approach, a total of 194 unique proteins were identified, corresponding to 26% of all M. agalactiae PG2T genes. A gene ontology analysis and classification for localization and function was also carried out on all protein identifications. Interestingly, the 11.5% of expressed membrane proteins derived from putative horizontal gene transfer events.
This study led to the in-depth systematic characterization of the M. agalactiae liposoluble protein component, providing useful insights into its membrane organization.
The Bacillus subtilis ripX gene encodes a protein that has 37 and 44% identity with the XerC and XerD site-specific recombinases of Escherichia coli. XerC and XerD are hypothesized to act in concert at the dif site to resolve dimeric chromosomes formed by recombination during replication. Cultures of ripX mutants contained a subpopulation of unequal-size cells held together in long chains. The chains included anucleate cells and cells with aberrantly dense or diffuse nucleoids, indicating a chromosome partitioning failure. This result is consistent with RipX having a role in the resolution of chromosome dimers in B. subtilis. Spores contain a single uninitiated chromosome, and analysis of germinated, outgrowing spores showed that the placement of FtsZ rings and septa is affected in ripX strains by the first division after the initiation of germination. The introduction of a recA mutation into ripX strains resulted in only slight modifications of the ripX phenotype, suggesting that chromosome dimers can form in a RecA-independent manner in B. subtilis. In addition to RipX, the CodV protein of B. subtilis shows extensive similarity to XerC and XerD. The RipX and CodV proteins were shown to bind in vitro to DNA containing the E. coli dif site. Together they functioned efficiently in vitro to catalyze site-specific cleavage of an artificial Holliday junction containing a dif site. Inactivation of codV alone did not cause a discernible change in phenotype, and it is speculated that RipX can substitute for CodV in vivo.
An immunodominant protein, P40, of Mycoplasma agalactiae was analyzed genetically and functionally. The gene encoding P40 was cloned from type strain PG2, sequenced, submitted to point mutagenesis in order to convert mycoplasma-specific TGATrp codon to the universal TGGTrp codon, and subsequently expressed in Escherichia coli. Nucleotide sequence-derived amino acid sequence comparisons revealed a similarity of P40 to the adhesin P50 of Mycoplasma hominis and to protein P89 of Spiroplasma citri, which is expected to be involved in adhesion. The amino acid sequence of P40 revealed a recognition site for a signal peptidase and strong antigenic and hydrophilic motifs in the C-terminal domain. Triton X-114 phase partitioning confirmed that P40 is a membrane protein. Fab fragments of antibodies directed against recombinant purified P40 significantly inhibited adherence of M. agalactiae strains PG2 to lamb joint synovial cells LSM 192. Sera taken sequentially from sheep infected with PG2 revealed that P40 induced a strong and persistent immune response that gave strong signals on immunoblots containing recombinant P40 even 3 months after infection. The gene encoding P40 was present in a single copy in all of the 26 field strains of M. agalactiae analyzed and was not detected in closely related mycoplasma species. P40 was expressed as a protein with an apparent molecular mass of 37 kDa on sodium dodecyl sulfate-acrylamide gels by all M. agalactiae strains except for serotype C strains, which showed nonsense mutations in their p40 genes.
In E. coli, 10 to 15% of growing bacteria produce dimeric chromosomes during DNA replication. These dimers are resolved by XerC and XerD, two tyrosine recombinases that target the 28-nucleotide motif (dif) associated with the chromosome's replication terminus. In streptococci and lactococci, an alternative system is composed of a unique, Xer-like recombinase (XerS) genetically linked to a dif-like motif (difSL) located at the replication terminus. Preliminary observations have suggested that the dif/Xer system is commonly found in bacteria with circular chromosomes but that assumption has not been confirmed in an exhaustive analysis. The aim of the present study was to extensively characterize the dif/Xer system in the proteobacteria, since this taxon accounts for the majority of genomes sequenced to date. To that end, we analyzed 234 chromosomes from 156 proteobacterial species and showed that most species (87.8%) harbor XerC and XerD-like recombinases and a dif-related sequence which (i) is located in non-coding sequences, (ii) is close to the replication terminus (as defined by the cumulative GC skew) (iii) has a palindromic structure, (iv) is encoded by a low G+C content and (v) contains a highly conserved XerD binding site. However, not all proteobacteria display this dif/XerCD system. Indeed, a sub-group of pathogenic ε-proteobacteria (including Helicobacter sp and Campylobacter sp) harbors a different recombination system, composed of a single recombinase (XerH) which is phylogenetically distinct from the other Xer recombinases and a motif (difH) sharing homologies with difSL. Furthermore, no homologs to dif or Xer recombinases could be detected in small endosymbiont genomes or in certain bacteria with larger chromosomes like the Legionellales. This raises the question of the presence of other chromosomal deconcatenation systems in these species. Our study highlights the complexity of dif/Xer recombinase systems in proteobacteria and paves the way for systematic detection of these components in prokaryotes.
The gene for a 30-kDa immunodominant antigen, P30, of Mycoplasma agalactiae was cloned from type strain PG2 and expressed in Escherichia coli. P30 is encoded on a monocistronic operon determined by two −10 boxes and a possible −35 region constituting the potential promoter, and a transcription termination site. The gene for the 266-amino-acid protein is preceded by a polypurine-rich region designed as the consensus sequence for a ribosome-binding site. Analysis of the amino acid sequence of P30 revealed the presence of a recognition site for a prokaryotic signal peptidase II at amino acid (aa) 24, indicating that P30 is a transmembrane protein. Moreover, Triton X-114 phase partitioning of M. agalactiae PG2 total antigen revealed that P30 is strongly hydrophobic and hence a possible membrane component. Immunoblot analysis using the monospecific polyclonal anti-P30-His serum indicated that P30 is specific to M. agalactiae. Furthermore, PCR amplification with specific primers for p30 and Southern blot analysis revealed the presence of the gene in all M. agalactiae strains tested and its absence in the other mycoplasma species. Among 27 strains of M. agalactiae studied, 20 strains belonging to the common serotypes A to D, including PG2, expressed P30 or part of it as detected by the monospecific polyclonal anti-P30 antibodies. The other seven strains belonging to the rarely isolated serotypes E to H were negative for P30. The p30 gene was sequenced in 15 strains of M. agalactiae, 10 of which expressed P30 or at least part of it and 5 of which did not express P30. The negative strains carried mutations in both −10 boxes of the promoters. These mutations seem to be responsible for the lack of P30 expression in these strains. Analysis of sera from sheep that were experimentally infected with M. agalactiae revealed that P30 induced a strong and persistent immune response which was still very high two months after infection. In contrast, currently used enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay serology gave only low titers.