In the billion years that bacteriophage (or phage) have existed together with bacteria the phage have evolved systems that may be exploited for our benefit. One of these is the lytic system used by the phage to release their progeny from an infected bacterium. Endolysins (or lysins) are highly evolved enzymes in the lytic system produced to cleave essential bonds in the bacterial cell wall peptidoglycan for progeny release. Small quantities of purified recombinant lysin added externally to gram-positive bacteria results in immediate lysis causing log-fold death of the target bacterium. Lysins have now been used successfully in a variety of animal models to control pathogenic antibiotic resistant bacteria found on mucosal surfaces and in infected tissues. The advantages over antibiotics are their specificity for the pathogen without disturbing the normal flora, the low chance of bacterial resistance, and their ability to kill colonizing pathogens on mucosal surfaces, a capacity previously unavailable. Lysins therefore, may be a much-needed anti-infective (or enzybiotic) in an age of mounting antibiotic resistance.
bacteriophage; endolysin; gram-positive bacteria; lytic enzymes; mucosal colonization; phage; prophylaxis; therapeutic
Lysins are highly evolved enzymes produced by bacteriophage ( phage for short) to digest the bacterial cell wall for phage progeny release. In gram-positive bacteria, small quantities of purified recombinant lysin added externally results in immediate lysis causing log-fold death of the target bacterium. Lysins have been used successfully in a variety of animal models to control pathogenic antibiotic resistant bacteria found on mucosal surfaces and infected tissues. The advantages over antibiotics are their specificity for the pathogen without disturbing the normal flora, the low chance of bacterial resistance to lysins, and their ability to kill colonizing pathogens on mucosal surfaces, a capacity previously unavailable. Thus, lysins may be a much needed anti-infective in an age of mounting antibiotic resistance.
Phage; Bacteriophage; Cell wall; Gram-positive bacteria; Infection; Lysin; Lytic enzymes; Mucosal colonization; Pathogens; Peptidoglycan
Staphylococcus aureus is a food-borne pathogen and the most common cause of infections in hospitalized patients. The increase in the resistance of this pathogen to antibacterials has made necessary the development of new anti-staphylococcal agents. In this context, bacteriophage lytic enzymes such as endolysins and structural peptidoglycan (PG) hydrolases have received considerable attention as possible antimicrobials against gram-positive bacteria.
S. aureus bacteriophage vB_SauS-phiIPLA88 (phiIPLA88) contains a virion-associated muralytic enzyme (HydH5) encoded by orf58, which is located in the morphogenetic module. Comparative bioinformatic analysis revealed that HydH5 significantly resembled other peptidoglycan hydrolases encoded by staphylococcal phages. The protein consists of 634 amino acid residues. Two putative lytic domains were identified: an N-terminal CHAP (cysteine, histidine-dependent amidohydrolase/peptidase) domain (135 amino acid residues), and a C-terminal LYZ2 (lysozyme subfamily 2) domain (147 amino acid residues). These domains were also found when a predicted three-dimensional structure of HydH5 was made which provided the basis for deletion analysis. The complete HydH5 protein and truncated proteins containing only each catalytic domain were overproduced in E. coli and purified from inclusion bodies by subsequent refolding. Truncated and full-length HydH5 proteins were all able to bind and lyse S. aureus Sa9 cells as shown by binding assays, zymogram analyses and CFU reduction analysis. HydH5 demonstrated high antibiotic activity against early exponential cells, at 45°C and in the absence of divalent cations (Ca2+, Mg2+, Mn2+). Thermostability assays showed that HydH5 retained 72% of its activity after 5 min at 100°C.
The virion-associated PG hydrolase HydH5 has lytic activity against S. aureus, which makes it attractive as antimicrobial for food biopreservation and anti-staphylococcal therapy.
Bacteriophage endolysins (lysins) bind to a cell wall substrate and cleave peptidoglycan, resulting in hypotonic lysis of the phage-infected bacteria. When purified lysins are added externally to Gram-positive bacteria they mediate rapid death by the same mechanism. For this reason, novel therapeutic strategies have been developed using such enzybiotics. However, like other proteins introduced into mammalian organisms, they are quickly cleared from systemic circulation. PEGylation has been used successfully to increase the in vivo half-life of many biological molecules and was therefore applied to Cpl-1, a lysin specific for S. pneumoniae. Cysteine-specific PEGylation with either PEG 10K or 40K was achieved on Cpl-1 mutants, each containing an additional cysteine residue at different locations To the best of our knowledge, this is the first report of the PEGylation of bacteriophage lysin. Compared to the native enzyme, none of the PEGylated conjugates retained significant in vitro anti-pneumococcal lytic activity that would have justified further in vivo studies. Since the anti-microbial activity of the mutant enzymes used in this study was not affected by the introduction of the cysteine residue, our results implied that the presence of the PEG molecule was responsible for the inhibition. As most endolysins exhibit a similar modular structure, we believe that our work emphasizes the inability to improve the in vivo half-life of this class of enzybiotics using a cysteine-specific PEGylation strategy.
Bacteriophage; S. pneumoniae; Cpl-1; PEGylation; Endolysin; Enzybiotic
Group B streptococci (GBS) are the leading cause of neonatal meningitis and sepsis worldwide. The current treatment strategy is limited to intrapartum antibiotic prophylaxis in pregnant women to prevent early-onset neonatal diseases, but considering the potential for antibiotic resistance, the risk of losing control over the disease is high. To approach this problem, we have developed a bacteriophage (phage) lytic enzyme to remove colonizing GBS. Bacteriophage muralytic enzymes, termed lysins, are highly evolved molecules designed to degrade the cell wall of host bacteria to release phage particles from the bacterial cytoplasm. Several different lysins have been developed to specifically kill bacterial pathogens both on mucosal surfaces and in blood and represent a novel approach to control infection. A lysin cloned from a phage infecting GBS was found to contain two putative catalytic domains and one putative binding domain, which is similar to the domain organization of some staphylococcal phage lysins. The lysin (named PlyGBS) was recombinantly expressed in Escherichia coli, and purified PlyGBS efficiently killed all tested GBS serotypes in vitro. In a mouse model, a single dose of PlyGBS significantly reduced bacterial colonization in both the vagina and oropharynx. As an alternative strategy for intrapartum antibiotic prophylaxis, this approach may be used to reduce vaginal GBS colonization in pregnant women before delivery or to decontaminate newborns, thus reducing the incidence of GBS-associated neonatal meningitis and sepsis.
Peptidoglycan lytic enzymes (endolysins) induce bacterial host cell lysis in the late phase of the lytic bacteriophage replication cycle. Endolysins OBPgp279 (from Pseudomonas fluorescens phage OBP), PVP-SE1gp146 (Salmonella enterica serovar Enteritidis phage PVP-SE1) and 201ϕ2-1gp229 (Pseudomonas chlororaphis phage 201ϕ2-1) all possess a modular structure with an N-terminal cell wall binding domain and a C-terminal catalytic domain, a unique property for endolysins with a Gram-negative background. All three modular endolysins showed strong muralytic activity on the peptidoglycan of a broad range of Gram-negative bacteria, partly due to the presence of the cell wall binding domain. In the case of PVP-SE1gp146, this domain shows a binding affinity for Salmonella peptidoglycan that falls within the range of typical cell adhesion molecules (Kaff = 1.26×106 M−1). Remarkably, PVP-SE1gp146 turns out to be thermoresistant up to temperatures of 90°C, making it a potential candidate as antibacterial component in hurdle technology for food preservation. OBPgp279, on the other hand, is suggested to intrinsically destabilize the outer membrane of Pseudomonas species, thereby gaining access to their peptidoglycan and exerts an antibacterial activity of 1 logarithmic unit reduction. Addition of 0.5 mM EDTA significantly increases the antibacterial activity of the three modular endolysins up to 2–3 logarithmic units reduction. This research work offers perspectives towards elucidation of the structural differences explaining the unique biochemical and antibacterial properties of OBPgp279, PVP-SE1gp146 and 201ϕ2-1gp229. Furthermore, these endolysins extensively enlarge the pool of potential antibacterial compounds used against multi-drug resistant Gram-negative bacterial infections.
Immobilization and magnetic separation for specific enrichment of microbial cells, such as the pathogen Listeria monocytogenes, depends on the availability of suitable affinity molecules. We report here a novel concept for the immobilization and separation of bacterial cells by replacing antibodies with cell wall-binding domains (CBDs) of bacteriophage-encoded peptidoglycan hydrolases (endolysins). These polypeptide modules very specifically recognize and bind to ligands on the gram-positive cell wall with high affinity. With paramagnetic beads coated with recombinant Listeria phage endolysin-derived CBD molecules, more than 90% of the viable L. monocytogenes cells could be immobilized and recovered from diluted suspensions within 20 to 40 min. Recovery rates were similar for different species and serovars of Listeria and were not affected by the presence of other microorganisms. The CBD-based magnetic separation (CBD-MS) procedure was evaluated for capture and detection of L. monocytogenes from artificially and naturally contaminated food samples. The CBD separation method was shown to be superior to the established standard procedures; it required less time (48 h versus 96 h) and was the more sensitive method. Furthermore, the generalizability of the CBD-MS approach was demonstrated by using specific phage-encoded CBDs specifically recognizing Bacillus cereus and Clostridium perfringens cells, respectively. Altogether, CBD polypeptides represent novel and innovative tools for the binding and capture of bacterial cells, with many possible applications in microbiology and diagnostics.
Interest in phage therapy has grown over the past decade due to the rapid emergence of antibiotic resistance in bacterial pathogens. However, the use of bacteriophages for therapeutic purposes has raised concerns over the potential for immune response, rapid toxin release by the lytic action of phages, and difficulty in dose determination in clinical situations. A phage that kills the target cell but is incapable of host cell lysis would alleviate these concerns without compromising efficacy.
We developed a recombinant lysis-deficient Staphylococcus aureus phage P954, in which the endolysin gene was rendered nonfunctional by insertional inactivation. P954, a temperate phage, was lysogenized in S. aureus strain RN4220. The native endolysin gene on the prophage was replaced with an endolysin gene disrupted by the chloramphenicol acetyl transferase (cat) gene through homologous recombination using a plasmid construct. Lysogens carrying the recombinant phage were detected by growth in presence of chloramphenicol. Induction of the recombinant prophage did not result in host cell lysis, and the phage progeny were released by cell lysis with glass beads. The recombinant phage retained the endolysin-deficient genotype and formed plaques only when endolysin was supplemented. The host range of the recombinant phage was the same as that of the parent phage. To test the in vivo efficacy of the recombinant endolysin-deficient phage, immunocompromised mice were challenged with pathogenic S. aureus at a dose that results in 80% mortality (LD80). Treatment with the endolysin-deficient phage rescued mice from the fatal S. aureus infection.
A recombinant endolysin-deficient staphylococcal phage has been developed that is lethal to methicillin-resistant S. aureus without causing bacterial cell lysis. The phage was able to multiply in lytic mode utilizing a heterologous endolysin expressed from a plasmid in the propagation host. The recombinant phage effectively rescued mice from fatal S. aureus infection. To our knowledge this is the first report of a lysis-deficient staphylococcal phage.
Bacteriophage lysins (Ply), or endolysins, are phage-encoded cell wall lytic enzymes which are synthesized late during virus multiplication and mediate the release of progeny virions. Bacteriophages of the pathogen Listeria monocytogenes encode endolysin enzymes which specifically hydrolyze the cross-linking peptide bridges in Listeria peptidoglycan. Ply118 is a 30.8-kDa l-alanoyl-d-glutamate peptidase and Ply511 (36.5 kDa) acts as N-acetylmuramoyl-l-alanine amidase. In order to establish dairy starter cultures with biopreservation properties against L. monocytogenes contaminations, we have introduced ply118 and ply511 into Lactococcus lactis MG1363 by using a pTRKH2 backbone. The genes were expressed under control of the lactococcal promoter P32, which proved superior to other promoters (P21 and P59) tested in this study. High levels of active enzymes were produced and accumulated in the cytoplasmic cell fractions but were not released from the cells at significant levels. Therefore, ply511 was genetically fused with the SPslpA nucleotide sequence encoding the Lactobacillus brevis S-layer protein signal peptide. Expression of SPslpA–ply511 from pSL-PL511 resulted in secretion of functional Ply511 enzyme from L. lactis cells. One clone expressed an unusually strong lytic activity, which was found to be due to a 115-bp deletion that occurred within the 3′-end coding sequence of SPslpA–ply511, which caused a frameshift mutation and generated a stop codon. Surprisingly, the resulting carboxy-terminal deletion of 80 amino acids in the truncated Ply511Δ(S262–K341) mutant polypeptide strongly increased its lytic activity. Proteolytic processing of the secretion competent SPSlpA-Ply511 propeptide following membrane translocation had no influence on enzyme activity. Immunoblotting experiments using both cytoplasmic and supernatant fractions indicated that the enzyme was quantitatively exported from the cells and secreted into the surrounding medium, where it caused rapid lysis of L. monocytogenes cells. Moreover, transformation of pSL-PL511ΔC into L. lactis Bu2-129, a lactose-utilizing strain that can be employed for fermentation of milk, also resulted in secretion of functional enzyme and showed that the vector is compatible with the native lactococcal plasmids.
Bacillus cereus is a foodborne pathogen that causes emetic or diarrheal types of food poisoning. The incidence of B. cereus food poisoning has been gradually increasing over the past few years, therefore, biocontrol agents effective against B. cereus need to be developed. Endolysins are phage-encoded bacterial peptidoglycan hydrolases and have received considerable attention as promising antibacterial agents.
The endolysin from B. cereus phage B4, designated LysB4, was identified and characterized. In silico analysis revealed that this endolysin had the VanY domain at the N terminus as the catalytic domain, and the SH3_5 domain at the C terminus that appears to be the cell wall binding domain. Biochemical characterization of LysB4 enzymatic activity showed that it had optimal peptidoglycan hydrolase activity at pH 8.0-10.0 and 50°C. The lytic activity was dependent on divalent metal ions, especially Zn2+. The antimicrobial spectrum was relatively broad because LysB4 lysed Gram-positive bacteria such as B. cereus, Bacillus subtilis and Listeria monocytogenes and some Gram-negative bacteria when treated with EDTA. LC-MS analysis of the cell wall cleavage products showed that LysB4 was an L-alanoyl-D-glutamate endopeptidase, making LysB4 the first characterized endopeptidase of this type to target B. cereus.
LysB4 is believed to be the first reported L-alanoyl-D-glutamate endopeptidase from B. cereus-infecting bacteriophages. The properties of LysB4 showed that this endolysin has strong lytic activity against a broad range of pathogenic bacteria, which makes LysB4 a good candidate as a biocontrol agent against B. cereus and other pathogenic bacteria.
Mycobacteriophages encounter a unique problem among phages of Gram-positive bacteria, in that lysis must not only degrade the peptidoglycan layer but must also circumvent a mycolic acid-rich outer membrane covalently attached to the arabinogalactan-peptidoglycan complex. Mycobacteriophages accomplish this by producing two lysis enzymes, Lysin A that hydrolyzes peptidoglycan, and Lysin B, a novel mycolylarabinogalactan esterase, that cleaves the mycolylarabinogalactan bond to release free mycolic acids. The D29 LysB structure shows a α/β hydrolase organization with a catalytic triad common to cutinases, but which contains an additional four-helix domain implicated in the binding of lipid substrates. Whereas LysA is essential for mycobacterial lysis, a Giles ΔlysB mutant mycobacteriophage is viable, but defective in the normal timing, progression, and completion of host cell lysis. We propose that LysB facilitates lysis by compromising the integrity of the mycobacterial outer membrane linkage to the arabinogalactan-peptidoglycan layer.
The endolysin Lyb5, from Lactobacillus fermentum temperate bacteriophage φPYB5, showed a broad lytic spectrum against Gram-positive as well as Gram-negative bacteria. Sequence analysis revealed that the C terminus of the endolysin Lyb5 (Ly5C) contained three putative lysin motif (LysM) repeat regions, implying that Ly5C was involved in bacterial cell wall binding. To investigate the potential of Ly5C for surface display, green fluorescent protein (GFP) was fused to Ly5C at its N or C terminus and the resulting fusion proteins were expressed in Escherichia coli. After being mixed with various cells in vitro, GFP was successfully displayed on the surfaces of Lactococcus lactis, Lactobacillus casei, Lb. brevis, Lb. plantarum, Lb. fermentum, Lb. delbrueckii, Lb. helveticus, and Streptococcus thermophilus cells. Increases in the fluorescence intensities of chemically pretreated L. lactis and Lb. casei cells compared to those of nonpretreated cells suggested that the peptidoglycan was the binding ligand for Ly5C. Moreover, the pH and concentration of sodium chloride were optimized to enhance the binding capacity of GFP-Ly5C, and high-intensity fluorescence of cells was observed under optimal conditions. All results suggested that Ly5C was a novel anchor for constructing a surface display system for lactic acid bacteria (LAB). To demonstrate the applicability of the Ly5C-mediated surface display system, β-galactosidase (β-Gal) from Paenibacillus sp. strain K1, replacing GFP, was functionally displayed on the surfaces of LAB cells via Ly5C. The success in surface display of GFP and β-Gal opened up the feasibility of employing the cell wall anchor of bacteriophage endolysin for surface display in LAB.
Staphylococci cause bovine mastitis, with Staphylococcus aureus being responsible for the majority of the mastitis-based losses to the dairy industry (up to $2 billion/annum). Treatment is primarily with antibiotics, which are often ineffective and potentially contribute to resistance development. Bacteriophage endolysins (peptidoglycan hydrolases) present a promising source of alternative antimicrobials. Here we evaluated two fusion proteins consisting of the streptococcal λSA2 endolysin endopeptidase domain fused to staphylococcal cell wall binding domains from either lysostaphin (λSA2-E-Lyso-SH3b) or the staphylococcal phage K endolysin, LysK (λSA2-E-LysK-SH3b). We demonstrate killing of 16 different S. aureus mastitis isolates, including penicillin-resistant strains, by both constructs. At 100 μg/ml in processed cow milk, λSA2-E-Lyso-SH3b and λSA2-E-LysK-SH3b reduced the S. aureus bacterial load by 3 and 1 log units within 3 h, respectively, compared to a buffer control. In contrast to λSA2-E-Lyso-SH3b, however, λSA2-E-LysK-SH3b permitted regrowth of the pathogen after 1 h. In a mouse model of mastitis, infusion of 25 μg of λSA2-E-Lyso-SH3b or λSA2-E-LysK-SH3b into mammary glands reduced S. aureus CFU by 0.63 or 0.81 log units, compared to >2 log for lysostaphin. Both chimeras were synergistic with lysostaphin against S. aureus in plate lysis checkerboard assays. When tested in combination in mice, λSA2-E-LysK-SH3b and lysostaphin (12.5 μg each/gland) caused a 3.36-log decrease in CFU. Furthermore, most protein treatments reduced gland wet weights and intramammary tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) concentrations, which serve as indicators of inflammation. Overall, our animal model results demonstrate the potential of fusion peptidoglycan hydrolases as antimicrobials for the treatment of S. aureus-induced mastitis.
Directed evolution is defined as a method to harness natural selection in order to engineer proteins to acquire particular properties that are not associated with the protein in nature. Literature has provided numerous examples regarding the implementation of directed evolution to successfully alter molecular specificity and catalysis1. The primary advantage of utilizing directed evolution instead of more rational-based approaches for molecular engineering relates to the volume and diversity of variants that can be screened2. One possible application of directed evolution involves improving structural stability of bacteriolytic enzymes, such as endolysins. Bacteriophage encode and express endolysins to hydrolyze a critical covalent bond in the peptidoglycan (i.e. cell wall) of bacteria, resulting in host cell lysis and liberation of progeny virions. Notably, these enzymes possess the ability to extrinsically induce lysis to susceptible bacteria in the absence of phage and furthermore have been validated both in vitro and in vivo for their therapeutic potential3-5. The subject of our directed evolution study involves the PlyC endolysin, which is composed of PlyCA and PlyCB subunits6. When purified and added extrinsically, the PlyC holoenzyme lyses group A streptococci (GAS) as well as other streptococcal groups in a matter of seconds and furthermore has been validated in vivo against GAS7. Significantly, monitoring residual enzyme kinetics after elevated temperature incubation provides distinct evidence that PlyC loses lytic activity abruptly at 45 °C, suggesting a short therapeutic shelf life, which may limit additional development of this enzyme. Further studies reveal the lack of thermal stability is only observed for the PlyCA subunit, whereas the PlyCB subunit is stable up to ~90 °C (unpublished observation). In addition to PlyC, there are several examples in literature that describe the thermolabile nature of endolysins. For example, the Staphylococcus aureus endolysin LysK and Streptococcus pneumoniae endolysins Cpl-1 and Pal lose activity spontaneously at 42 °C, 43.5 °C and 50.2 °C, respectively8-10. According to the Arrhenius equation, which relates the rate of a chemical reaction to the temperature present in the particular system, an increase in thermostability will correlate with an increase in shelf life expectancy11. Toward this end, directed evolution has been shown to be a useful tool for altering the thermal activity of various molecules in nature, but never has this particular technology been exploited successfully for the study of bacteriolytic enzymes. Likewise, successful accounts of progressing the structural stability of this particular class of antimicrobials altogether are nonexistent. In this video, we employ a novel methodology that uses an error-prone DNA polymerase followed by an optimized screening process using a 96 well microtiter plate format to identify mutations to the PlyCA subunit of the PlyC streptococcal endolysin that correlate to an increase in enzyme kinetic stability (Figure 1). Results after just one round of random mutagenesis suggest the methodology is generating PlyC variants that retain more than twice the residual activity when compared to wild-type (WT) PlyC after elevated temperature treatment.
Immunology; Issue 69; Molecular Biology; Genetics; Microbiology; directed evolution; thermal behavior; thermostability; endolysin; enzybiotic; bacteriolytic; antimicrobial; therapeutic; PlyC
The increased incidence of bacterial antibiotic resistance has led to a renewed search for novel antimicrobials. Avoiding the use of broad-range antimicrobials through the use of specific peptidoglycan hydrolases (endolysins) might reduce the incidence of antibiotic-resistant pathogens worldwide. Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus agalactiae are human pathogens and also cause mastitis in dairy cattle. The ultimate goal of this work is to create transgenic cattle that are resistant to mastitis through the expression of an antimicrobial protein(s) in their milk. Toward this end, two novel antimicrobials were produced. The (i) full-length and (ii) 182-amino-acid, C-terminally truncated S. agalactiae bacteriophage B30 endolysins were fused to the mature lysostaphin protein of Staphylococcus simulans. Both fusions display lytic specificity for streptococcal pathogens and S. aureus. The full lytic ability of the truncated B30 protein also suggests that the SH3b domain at the C terminus is dispensable. The fusions are active in a milk-like environment. They are also active against some lactic acid bacteria used to make cheese and yogurt, but their lytic activity is destroyed by pasteurization (63°C for 30 min). Immunohistochemical studies indicated that the fusion proteins can be expressed in cultured mammalian cells with no obvious deleterious effects on the cells, making it a strong candidate for use in future transgenic mice and cattle. Since the fusion peptidoglycan hydrolase also kills multiple human pathogens, it also may prove useful as a highly selective, multipathogen-targeting antimicrobial agent that could potentially reduce the use of broad-range antibiotics in fighting clinical infections.
In bacteriophage (phage) therapy against Gram-positive bacteria, such as Staphylococcus aureus, Listeria monocytogenes, and Enterococcus faecalis, members of a genus of SPO1-like viruses are typically employed because of their extreme virulence and broad host spectrum. Phage φEF24C, which is a SPO1-like virus infecting E. faecalis, has previously been characterized as a therapeutic phage candidate. In addition to the phage itself, phage endolysin is also recognized as an effective antimicrobial agent. In this study, a putative endolysin gene (orf9) of E. faecalis phage φEF24C was analyzed in silico, and its activity was characterized using the recombinant form. First, bioinformatics analysis predicted that the open reading frame 9 (ORF9) protein is N-acetylmuramoyl-l-alanine amidase. Second, bacteriolytic and bactericidal activities of ORF9 against E. faecalis were confirmed by zymography, decrease of peptidoglycan turbidity, decrease of the viable count, and morphological analysis of ORF9-treated cells. Third, ORF9 did not appear to require Zn2+ ions for its activity, contrary to the bioinformatics prediction of a Zn2+ ion requirement. Fourth, the lytic spectrum was from 97.1% (34 out of 35 strains, including vancomycin-resistant strains) of E. faecalis strains to 60% (6 out of 10 strains) of Enterococcus faecium strains. Fifth, N-acetylmuramoyl-l-alanine amidase activity of ORF9 was confirmed by matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization-time of flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF MS) and the subsequent MALDI-postsource decay (PSD) analyses. Finally, functional analysis using N- or C-terminally deleted ORF9 mutants suggested that a complete ORF9 molecule is essential for its activity. These results suggested that ORF9 is an endolysin of phage φEF24C and can be a therapeutic alternative to antibiotics.
In most bacteriophages of gram-negative bacteria, the phage endolysin is released to its murein substrate through a lesion in the inner membrane. The lesion is brought about by a second phage-encoded lysis function. For the first time, we present evidence that the same strategy is elaborated by a phage of a gram-positive bacterium. Thus, there appears to be an evolutionarily conserved lysis pathway for most phages whether their host bacterium is gram negative or gram positive. Phage phi 29 gene 14, the product of which is required for efficient lysis of Bacillus subtilis, was cloned in Escherichia coli. Production of protein 14 in E. coli resulted in cell death, whereas production of protein 14 concomitantly with the phi 29 lysozyme or unrelated murein-degrading enzymes led to lysis, suggesting that membrane-bound protein 14 induces a nonspecific lesion in the cytoplasmic membrane.
New antibacterial agents are urgently needed for the elimination of biofilm-forming bacteria that are highly resistant to traditional antimicrobial agents. Proliferation of such bacteria can lead to significant economic losses in the agri-food sector. This study demonstrates the potential of the bacteriophage-derived peptidase, CHAPK, as a biocidal agent for the rapid disruption of biofilm-forming staphylococci, commonly associated with bovine mastitis. Purified CHAPK applied to biofilms of Staphylococcus aureus DPC5246 completely eliminated the staphylococcal biofilms within 4 h. In addition, CHAPK was able to prevent biofilm formation by this strain. The CHAPK lysin also reduced S. aureus in a skin decolonization model. Our data demonstrates the potential of CHAPK as a biocidal agent for prevention and treatment of biofilm-associated staphylococcal infections or as a decontaminating agent in the food and healthcare sectors.
Endolysins comprise a novel class of selective antibacterials refractory to develop resistances. The Cpl-7 endolysin, encoded by the Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteriophage Cp-7, consists of a catalytic module (CM) with muramidase activity and a cell wall-binding module (CWBM) made of three fully conserved CW_7 repeats essential for activity. Firstly identified in the Cpl-7 endolysin, CW_7 motifs are also present in a great variety of cell wall hydrolases encoded, among others, by human and live-stock pathogens. However, the nature of CW_7 receptors on the bacterial envelope remains unknown. In the present study, the structural stability of Cpl-7 and the target recognized by CW_7 repeats, relevant for exploitation of Cpl-7 as antimicrobial, have been analyzed, and transitions from the CM and the CWBM assigned, using circular dichroism and differential scanning calorimetry. Cpl-7 stability is maximum around 6.0–6.5, near the optimal pH for activity. Above pH 8.0 the CM becomes extremely unstable, probably due to deprotonation of the N-terminal amino-group, whereas the CWBM is rather insensitive to pH variation and its structural stabilization by GlcNAc-MurNAc-l-Ala-d-isoGln points to the cell wall muropeptide as the cell wall target recognized by the CW_7 repeats. Denaturation data also revealed that Cpl-7 is organized into two essentially independent folding units, which will facilitate the recombination of the CM and the CWBM with other catalytic domains and/or cell wall-binding motifs to yield new tailored chimeric lysins with higher bactericidal activities or new pathogen specificities.
The mycobacterial cell wall presents significant challenges to mycobacteriophages – viruses that infect mycobacterial hosts – because of its unusual structure containing a mycolic acid-rich mycobacterial outer membrane attached to an arabinogalactan layer that is in turn linked to the peptidoglycan. Although little is known about how mycobacteriophages circumvent these barriers during the process of infection, destroying it for lysis at the end of their lytic cycles requires an unusual set of functions. These include Lysin B proteins that cleave the linkage of mycolic acids to the arabinogalactan layer, chaperones required for endolysin delivery to peptidoglycan, holins that regulate lysis timing, and the endolysins (Lysin As) that hydrolyze peptidoglycan. Because mycobacterial peptidoglycan contains atypical features including 3→3 interpeptide linkages, it is not surprising that the mycobacteriophage endolysins also have non-canonical features. We present here a bioinformatic dissection of these lysins and show that they are highly diverse and extensively modular, with an impressive number of domain organizations. Most contain three domains with a novel N-terminal predicted peptidase, a centrally located amidase, muramidase, or transglycosylase, and a C-terminal putative cell wall binding domain.
Bacteriophage infection of a mixed-strain Streptococcus thermophilus culture, one strain of which is phage sensitive and the other phage resistant, may induce lysis of both strains. Experiments were carried out with three different phage-resistant strains. One such strain lysed in penicillin-free growth medium and another needed penicillin G (0.005 IU/ml) for lysis, while the third strain continued to grow in the presence of this concentration of antibiotic. Growth of the latter strain was inhibited when the medium contained a relatively high concentration of phage lysin. The different penicillin concentrations required to induce “lysis from without” of these phage-resistant strains correlated with their individual sensitivities to the antibiotic. The apparent relationship between the sensitivities of these strains to penicillin and to phage lysin could be explained by a difference in the degree of polymerization of the cell wall peptidoglycan.
The bacterial peptidoglycan consists of glycan chains of repeating β-1,4-linked N-acetylglucosaminyl-N-acetylmuramyl units cross-linked through short peptide chains. The polymerization of the glycans, or glycosyltransfer (GT), and transpeptidation (TP) are catalyzed by bifunctional penicillin-binding proteins (PBPs). The β-lactam antibiotics inhibit the TP reaction, but their widespread use led to the development of drug resistance in pathogenic bacteria. In this context, the GT catalytic domain represents a potential target in the antibacterial fight. In this work, the in vitro polymerization of glycan chains by the extracellular region of recombinant Streptococcus pneumoniae PBP2a, namely, PBP2a* (the asterisk indicates the soluble form of the protein) is presented. Dansylated lipid II was used as the substrate, and the kinetic parameters Km and kcat/Km were measured at 40.6 μM (± 15.5) and 1 × 10−3 M−1 s−1, respectively. The GT reaction catalyzed by PBP2a* was inhibited by moenomycin and vancomycin. Furthermore, the sequence between Lys 78 and Ser 156 is required for enzymatic activity, whereas it is dispensable for lipid II binding. In addition, we confirmed that this region of the protein is also involved in membrane interaction, independently of the transmembrane anchor. The characterization of the catalytically active GT domain of S. pneumoniae PBP2a may contribute to the development of new inhibitors, which are urgently needed to renew the antibiotic arsenal.
Bacteriophage lysis involves at least two fundamentally different strategies. Most phages elaborate at least two proteins, one of which is a murein hydrolase, or lysin, and the other is a membrane protein, which is given the designation holin in this review. The function of the holin is to create a lesion in the cytoplasmic membrane through which the murein hydrolase passes to gain access to the murein layer. This is necessary because phage-encoded lysins never have secretory signal sequences and are thus incapable of unassisted escape from the cytoplasm. The holins, whose prototype is the lambda S protein, share a common organization in terms of the arrangement of charged and hydrophobic residues, and they may all contain at least two transmembrane helical domains. The available evidence suggests that holins oligomerize to form nonspecific holes and that this hole-forming step is the regulated step in phage lysis. The correct scheduling of the lysis event is as much an essential feature of holin function as is the hole formation itself. In the second strategy of lysis, used by the small single-stranded DNA phage phi X174 and the single-stranded RNA phage MS2, no murein hydrolase activity is synthesized. Instead, there is a single species of small membrane protein, unlike the holins in primary structure, which somehow causes disruption of the envelope. These lysis proteins function by activation of cellular autolysins. A host locus is required for the lytic function of the phi X174 lysis gene E.
Most bacteriophages (phages) release their progeny through the action of holins that form lesions in the cytoplasmic membrane and lysins that degrade the bacterial peptidoglycan. Although the function of each protein is well established in phages infecting Streptococcus pneumoniae, the role—if any—of the powerful bacterial autolysin LytA in virion release is currently unknown. In this study, deletions of the bacterial and phage lysins were done in lysogenic S. pneumoniae strains, allowing the evaluation of the contribution of each lytic enzyme to phage release through the monitoring of bacterial-culture lysis and phage plaque assays. In addition, we assessed membrane integrity during phage-mediated lysis using flow cytometry to evaluate the regulatory role of holins over the lytic activities. Our data show that LytA is activated at the end of the lytic cycle and that its triggering results from holin-induced membrane permeabilization. In the absence of phage lysin, LytA is able to mediate bacterial lysis and phage release, although exclusive dependence on the autolysin results in reduced virion egress and altered kinetics that may impair phage fitness. Under normal conditions, activation of bacterial LytA, together with the phage lysin, leads to greater phage progeny release. Our findings demonstrate that S. pneumoniae phages use the ubiquitous host autolysin to accomplish an optimal phage exiting strategy.
The pathogenesis of Clostridium difficile, the major cause of antibiotic-associated diarrhea, is mainly associated with the production and activities of two major toxins. In many bacteria, toxins are released into the extracellular environment via the general secretion pathways. C. difficile toxins A and B have no export signature and their secretion is not explainable by cell lysis, suggesting that they might be secreted by an unusual mechanism. The TcdE protein encoded within the C. difficile pathogenicity locus (PaLoc) has predicted structural features similar to those of bacteriophage holin proteins. During many types of phage infection, host lysis is driven by an endolysin that crosses the cytoplasmic membrane through a pore formed by holin oligomerization. We demonstrated that TcdE has a holin-like activity by functionally complementing a λ phage deprived of its holin. Similar to λ holin, TcdE expressed in Escherichia coli and C. difficile formed oligomers in the cytoplamic membrane. A C. difficile tcdE mutant strain grew at the same rate as the wild-type strain, but accumulated a dramatically reduced amount of toxin proteins in the medium. However, the complemented tcdE mutant released the toxins efficiently. There was no difference in the abundance of tcdA and tcdB transcripts or of several cytoplasmic proteins in the mutant and the wild-type strains. In addition, TcdE did not overtly affect membrane integrity of C. difficile in the presence of TcdA/TcdB. Thus, TcdE acts as a holin-like protein to facilitate the release of C. difficile toxins to the extracellular environment, but, unlike the phage holins, does not cause the non-specific release of cytosolic contents. TcdE appears to be the first example of a bacterial protein that releases toxins into the environment by a phage-like system.
Clostridium difficile is the causative agent of antibiotic associated diarrhea and has become the most prevalent cause of infectious nosocomial diarrhea in North America and in several countries in Europe. Most virulent strains of C. difficile produce two high molecular weight toxins that are regarded as the primary virulence factors. The mechanism by which these large toxins are secreted from bacterial cells is not known. Unlike most clostridial toxins, they have no export signature and must be secreted by an unusual system. This work investigated the role of a C. difficile membrane protein TcdE in the release of toxins from the bacterial cell. We showed that C. difficile tcdE mutants were defective in toxin release and present evidence that C. difficile TcdE protein activity is similar to that of bacteriophage holin proteins required for lysis of host cells after intracellular phage development. These results suggest that TcdE helps efficient secretion of toxins by a phage type system. However, unlike phages, TcdE does not induce cell lysis. A detailed, mechanistic understanding of the holin-dependent system that mediates toxin secretion may helpful for the development of strategies for preventing and treating C. difficile infections.