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1.  Dimerization of VirD2 Binding Protein Is Essential for Agrobacterium Induced Tumor Formation in Plants 
PLoS Pathogens  2014;10(3):e1003948.
The Type IV Secretion System (T4SS) is the only bacterial secretion system known to translocate both DNA and protein substrates. The VirB/D4 system from Agrobacterium tumefaciens is a typical T4SS. It facilitates the bacteria to translocate the VirD2-T-DNA complex to the host cell cytoplasm. In addition to protein-DNA complexes, the VirB/D4 system is also involved in the translocation of several effector proteins, including VirE2, VirE3 and VirF into the host cell cytoplasm. These effector proteins aid in the proper integration of the translocated DNA into the host genome. The VirD2-binding protein (VBP) is a key cytoplasmic protein that recruits the VirD2–T-DNA complex to the VirD4-coupling protein (VirD4 CP) of the VirB/D4 T4SS apparatus. Here, we report the crystal structure and associated functional studies of the C-terminal domain of VBP. This domain mainly consists of α-helices, and the two monomers of the asymmetric unit form a tight dimer. The structural analysis of this domain confirms the presence of a HEPN (higher eukaryotes and prokaryotes nucleotide-binding) fold. Biophysical studies show that VBP is a dimer in solution and that the HEPN domain is the dimerization domain. Based on structural and mutagenesis analyses, we show that substitution of key residues at the interface disrupts the dimerization of both the HEPN domain and full-length VBP. In addition, pull-down analyses show that only dimeric VBP can interact with VirD2 and VirD4 CP. Finally, we show that only Agrobacterium harboring dimeric full-length VBP can induce tumors in plants. This study sheds light on the structural basis of the substrate recruiting function of VBP in the T4SS pathway of A. tumefaciens and in other pathogenic bacteria employing similar systems.
Author Summary
Agrobacterium tumefaciens causes crown gall disease (tumors) in agriculturally important plant species. It initiates infection through its Ti plasmid, which integrates a portion of its own DNA (T-DNA) into that of the host genome. The T-DNA is bound to VirD2 relaxase, and this complex is required for the efficient translocation and integration of the T-DNA into the plant genome for tumor formation. Two additional proteins, among others, are also required for Agrobacterium tumorigenesis: VirD4-coupling protein (CP) and VirD2-binding protein (VBP). VBP is responsible for recruiting VirD2–T-DNA to VirD4 CP to help localize T-DNA to the Type IV Secretion System apparatus for transfer. However, it is still unclear how VBP recruits the complex to VirD4 CP. Here, we report the crystal structure and associated functional studies of the C-terminal domain of VBP. We show that the C-terminal domain is the dimerization domain of VBP and only dimeric VBP is functional and essential for the induction of tumor in plants. This study enhances the understanding of the role of VBP in recruiting VirD2–T-DNA in A. tumefaciens prior to its transfer into the host plant. This mode of action can be extended to other pathogenic bacteria employing similar secretion systems.
PMCID: PMC3953389  PMID: 24626239
2.  Direct visualization of Agrobacterium-delivered VirE2 in recipient cells 
The Plant Journal  2014;77(3):487-495.
Agrobacterium tumefaciens is a natural genetic engineer widely used to deliver DNA into various recipients, including plant, yeast and fungal cells. The bacterium can transfer single-stranded DNA molecules (T–DNAs) and bacterial virulence proteins, including VirE2. However, neither the DNA nor the protein molecules have ever been directly visualized after the delivery. In this report, we adopted a split-GFP approach: the small GFP fragment (GFP11) was inserted into VirE2 at a permissive site to create the VirE2-GFP11 fusion, which was expressed in A. tumefaciens; and the large fragment (GFP1–10) was expressed in recipient cells. Upon delivery of VirE2-GFP11 into the recipient cells, GFP fluorescence signals were visualized. VirE2-GFP11 was functional like VirE2; the GFP fusion movement could indicate the trafficking of Agrobacterium-delivered VirE2. As the natural host, all plant cells seen under a microscope received the VirE2 protein in a leaf-infiltration assay; most of VirE2 moved at a speed of 1.3–3.1 μm sec−1 in a nearly linear direction, suggesting an active trafficking process. Inside plant cells, VirE2-GFP formed filamentous structures of different lengths, even in the absence of T-DNA. As a non-natural host recipient, 51% of yeast cells received VirE2, which did not move inside yeast. All plant cells seen under a microscope transiently expressed the Agrobacterium-delivered transgene, but only 0.2% yeast cells expressed the transgene. This indicates that Agrobacterium is a more efficient vector for protein delivery than T-DNA transformation for a non-natural host recipient: VirE2 trafficking is a limiting factor for the genetic transformation of a non-natural host recipient. The split-GFP approach could enable the real-time visualization of VirE2 trafficking inside recipient cells.
PMCID: PMC4282531  PMID: 24299048
Agrobacterium; protein delivery; T-DNA; VirE2; visualization; Nicotiana benthamiana; Saccharomyces cerevisiae; technical advance
3.  VirE2: A Unique ssDNA-Compacting Molecular Machine  
PLoS Biology  2008;6(2):e44.
The translocation of single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) across membranes of two cells is a fundamental biological process occurring in both bacterial conjugation and Agrobacterium pathogenesis. Whereas bacterial conjugation spreads antibiotic resistance, Agrobacterium facilitates efficient interkingdom transfer of ssDNA from its cytoplasm to the host plant cell nucleus. These processes rely on the Type IV secretion system (T4SS), an active multiprotein channel spanning the bacterial inner and outer membranes. T4SSs export specific proteins, among them relaxases, which covalently bind to the 5' end of the translocated ssDNA and mediate ssDNA export. In Agrobacterium tumefaciens, another exported protein—VirE2—enhances ssDNA transfer efficiency 2000-fold. VirE2 binds cooperatively to the transferred ssDNA (T-DNA) and forms a compact helical structure, mediating T-DNA import into the host cell nucleus. We demonstrated—using single-molecule techniques—that by cooperatively binding to ssDNA, VirE2 proteins act as a powerful molecular machine. VirE2 actively pulls ssDNA and is capable of working against 50-pN loads without the need for external energy sources. Combining biochemical and cell biology data, we suggest that, in vivo, VirE2 binding to ssDNA allows an efficient import and pulling of ssDNA into the host. These findings provide a new insight into the ssDNA translocation mechanism from the recipient cell perspective. Efficient translocation only relies on the presence of ssDNA binding proteins in the recipient cell that compacts ssDNA upon binding. This facilitated transfer could hence be a more general ssDNA import mechanism also occurring in bacterial conjugation and DNA uptake processes.
Author Summary
The importation of genetic material into cells is a common and fundamental mechanism occurring in bacterial conjugation, DNA uptake, and Agrobacterium plant infection and is, for instance, responsible for antibiotic resistance spread. Previous studies suggested that this process relied only on the activity of complex molecular machines pumping the single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) into the recipient cell. Here, we show that proteins provided by the pathogenic organism and translocated prior to the arrival of ssDNA into the recipient cell also play a fundamental role. These proteins not only bind to ssDNA to protect it but also rearrange ssDNA into a compact helix, thus generating a contractile force that pulls the DNA into the host. Interestingly, the production of mechanical energy occurs solely through the free-energy gain during the binding of VirE2 to ssDNA without the need for an external source of energy, such as nucleotide hydrolysis.
Combining single-molecule techniques and biological assays, the authors show that VirE2 proteins could mediate the active translocation ofAgrobacterium's genetic material into plant cells.
PMCID: PMC2253637  PMID: 18303950
4.  Dimerization of the Agrobacterium tumefaciens VirB4 ATPase and the effect of ATP-binding cassette mutations on the assembly and function of the T-DNA transporter 
Molecular microbiology  1999;32(6):1239-1253.
The Agrobacterium tumefaciens VirB4 ATPase functions with other VirB proteins to export T-DNA to susceptible plant cells and other DNA substrates to a variety of prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells. Previous studies have demonstrated that VirB4 mutants with defects in the Walker A nucleotide-binding motif are non-functional and exert a dominant negative phenotype when synthesized in wild-type cells. This study characterized the oligomeric structure of VirB4 and examined the effects of Walker A sequence mutations on complex formation and transporter activity. VirB4 directed dimer formation when fused to the amino-terminal portion of cI repressor protein, as shown by immunity of Escherichia coli cells to λ phage infection. VirB4 also dimerized in Agrobacterium tumefaciens, as demonstrated by the recovery of a detergent-resistant complex of native protein and a functional, histidine-tagged derivative by precipitation with anti-His6 antibodies and by Co2+ affinity chromatography. Walker A sequence mutants directed repressor dimerization in E. coli and interacted with His-VirB4 in A. tumefaciens, indicating that ATP binding is not required for self-association. A dimerization domain was localized to a proposed N-terminal membrane-spanning region of VirB4, as shown by the dominance of an allele coding for the N-terminal 312 residues and phage immunity of host cells expressing cI repressor fusions to alleles for the first 237 or 312 residues. A recent study reported that the synthesis of a subset of VirB proteins, including VirB4, in agrobacterial recipients has a pronounced stimulatory effect on the virB-dependent conjugal transfer of plasmid RSF1010 by agrobacterial donors. VirB4′312 suppressed the stimulatory effect of VirB proteins for DNA uptake when synthesized in recipient cells. In striking contrast, Walker A sequence mutants contributed to the stimulatory effect of VirB proteins to the same extent as native VirB4. These findings indicate that the oligomeric structure of VirB4, but not its capacity to bind ATP, is important for the assembly of VirB proteins as a DNA uptake system. The results of these studies support a model in which VirB4 dimers or homomultimers contribute structural information for the assembly of a transenvelope channel competent for bidirectional DNA transfer, whereas an ATP-dependent activity is required for configuring this channel as a dedicated export machine.
PMCID: PMC3918219  PMID: 10383764
5.  A mutation in negative regulator of basal resistance WRKY17 of Arabidopsis increases susceptibility to Agrobacterium-mediated genetic transformation 
F1000Research  2013;2:33.
Agrobacterium is a phytopathogenic bacterium that induces crown gall disease in many plant species by transferring and integrating a segment of its own DNA (T-DNA) into its host genome. Whereas Agrobacterium usually does not trigger an extensive defense response in its host plants, it induces the expression of several defense-related genes and activates plant stress reactions. In the complex interplay between Agrobacterium and its host plant, Agrobacterium has evolved to take advantage of these plant defense pathways for its own purpose of advancement of the infection process. For example, Agrobacterium utilizes the host stress response transcriptional regulator VIP1 to facilitate nuclear import and proteasomal uncoating of its T-DNA during genetic transformation of the host cell. In Arabidopsis, the VIP1 gene expression is repressed by WRKY17, a negative regulator of basal resistance to Pseudomonas. Thus, we examined whether WRKY17 is also involved in plant susceptibility to genetic transformation by Agrobacterium. Using reverse genetics, we showed that a wrky17 mutant displays higher expression of the VIP1 gene in roots, but not in shoots. In a root infection assay, the wrky17 mutant plants were hyper-susceptible to Agrobacterium compared to wild type plants. WRKY17, therefore, may act as a positive regulator of Arabidopsis resistance to Agrobacterium. This notion is important for understanding the complex regulation of Agrobacterium-mediated genetic transformation; thus, although this paper reports a relatively small set of data that we do not plan to pursue further in our lab, we believe it might be useful for the broad community of plant pathologists and plant biotechnologists.
PMCID: PMC3799546  PMID: 24358874
6.  Ehrlichia chaffeensis Proliferation Begins with NtrY/NtrX and PutA/GlnA Upregulation and CtrA Degradation Induced by Proline and Glutamine Uptake 
mBio  2014;5(6):e02141-14.
How the obligatory intracellular bacterium Ehrlichia chaffeensis begins to replicate upon entry into human monocytes is poorly understood. Here, we examined the potential role of amino acids in initiating intracellular replication. PutA converts proline to glutamate, and GlnA converts glutamate to glutamine. E. chaffeensis PutA and GlnA complemented Escherichia coli putA and glnA mutants. Methionine sulfoximine, a glutamine synthetase inhibitor, inhibited E. chaffeensis GlnA activity and E. chaffeensis infection of human cells. Incubation of E. chaffeensis with human cells rapidly induced putA and glnA expression that peaked at 24 h postincubation. E. chaffeensis took up proline and glutamine but not glutamate. Pretreatment of E. chaffeensis with a proline transporter inhibitor (protamine), a glutamine transporter inhibitor (histidine), or proline analogs inhibited E. chaffeensis infection, whereas pretreatment with proline or glutamine enhanced infection and upregulated putA and glnA faster than no treatment or glutamate pretreatment. The temporal response of putA and glnA expression was similar to that of NtrY and NtrX, a two-component system, and electrophoretic mobility shift assays showed specific binding of recombinant E. chaffeensis NtrX (rNtrX) to the promoter regions of E. chaffeensis putA and glnA. Furthermore, rNtrX transactivated E. chaffeensis putA and glnA promoter-lacZ fusions in E. coli. Growth-promoting activities of proline and glutamine were also accompanied by rapid degradation of the DNA-binding protein CtrA. Our results suggest that proline and glutamine uptake regulates putA and glnA expression through NtrY/NtrX and facilitates degradation of CtrA to initiate a new cycle of E. chaffeensis growth.
Human monocytic ehrlichiosis (HME) is one of the most prevalent, life-threatening emerging infectious zoonoses in the United States. HME is caused by infection with E. chaffeensis, an obligatory intracellular bacterium in the order Rickettsiales, which includes several category B/C pathogens, such as those causing Rocky Mountain spotted fever and epidemic typhus. The limited understanding of the mechanisms that control bacterial growth within eukaryotic cells continues to impede the identification of new therapeutic targets against rickettsial diseases. Extracellular rickettsia cannot replicate, but rickettsial replication ensues upon entry into eukaryotic host cells. Our findings will provide insights into a novel mechanism of the two-component system that regulates E. chaffeensis growth initiation in human monocytes. The result is also important because little is known about the NtrY/NtrX two-component system in any bacteria, let alone obligatory intracellular bacteria. Our findings will advance the field’s current conceptual paradigm on regulation of obligatory intracellular nutrition, metabolism, and growth.
PMCID: PMC4251998  PMID: 25425236
7.  Agrobacterium: nature’s genetic engineer 
Agrobacterium was identified as the agent causing the plant tumor, crown gall over 100 years ago. Since then, studies have resulted in many surprising observations. Armin Braun demonstrated that Agrobacterium infected cells had unusual nutritional properties, and that the bacterium was necessary to start the infection but not for continued tumor development. He developed the concept of a tumor inducing principle (TIP), the factor that actually caused the disease. Thirty years later the TIP was shown to be a piece of a tumor inducing (Ti) plasmid excised by an endonuclease. In the next 20 years, most of the key features of the disease were described. The single-strand DNA (T-DNA) with the endonuclease attached is transferred through a type IV secretion system into the host cell where it is likely coated and protected from nucleases by a bacterial secreted protein to form the T-complex. A nuclear localization signal in the endonuclease guides the transferred strand (T-strand), into the nucleus where it is integrated randomly into the host chromosome. Other secreted proteins likely aid in uncoating the T-complex. The T-DNA encodes enzymes of auxin, cytokinin, and opine synthesis, the latter a food source for Agrobacterium. The genes associated with T-strand formation and transfer (vir) map to the Ti plasmid and are only expressed when the bacteria are in close association with a plant. Plant signals are recognized by a two-component regulatory system which activates vir genes. Chromosomal genes with pleiotropic functions also play important roles in plant transformation. The data now explain Braun’s old observations and also explain why Agrobacterium is nature’s genetic engineer. Any DNA inserted between the border sequences which define the T-DNA will be transferred and integrated into host cells. Thus, Agrobacterium has become the major vector in plant genetic engineering.
PMCID: PMC4285021  PMID: 25610442
Agrobacterium; crown gall; plant genetic engineering; plant disease; Agrobacterium-mediated transformation
8.  VirB2 is a processed pilin-like protein encoded by the Agrobacterium tumefaciens Ti plasmid. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1996;178(19):5706-5711.
The mechanism of DNA transmission between distinct organisms has remained a subject of long-standing interest. Agrobacterium tumefaciens mediates the transfer of plant oncogenes in the form of a 25-kb T-DNA sector of a resident Ti plasmid. A growing body of evidence leading to the elucidation of the mechanism involved in T-DNA transfer comes from studies on the vir genes contained in six major operons that are required for the T-DNA transfer process. Recent comparative amino acid sequence studies of the products of these vir genes have revealed interesting similarities between Tra proteins of Escherichia coli F factor, which are involved in the biosynthesis and assembly of a conjugative pilus, and VirB proteins encoded by genes of the virB operon of A. tumefaciens pTiC58. We have previously identified VirB2 as a pilin-like protein with processing features similar to those of TraA of the F plasmid and have shown that VirB2 is required for the biosynthesis of pilin on a flagella-free Agrobacterium strain. In the present work, VirB2 is found to be processed and localized primarily to the cytoplasmic membrane in E. coli. Cleavage of VirB2 was predicted previously to occur between alanine and glutamine in the sequence -Pro-Ala-Ala-Ala-Glu-Ser-. This peptidase cleavage sequence was mutated by an amino acid substitution for one of the alanine residues (D for A at position 45 [A45D]), by deletion of the three adjacent alanines, and by a frameshift mutation 22 bp upstream of the predicted Ala-Glu cleavage site. With the exception of the frameshift mutation, the alanine mutations do not prevent VirB2 processing in E. coli, while in A. tumefaciens they result in VirB2 instability, since no holo- or processed protein is detectable. All of the above mutations abolish virulence. The frameshift mutation abolishes processing in both organisms. These results indicate that VirB2 is processed into a 7.2-kDa structural protein. The cleavage site in E. coli appears to differ from that predicted in A. tumefaciens. Yet, the cleavage sites are relatively close to each other since the final cleavage products are similar in size and are produced irrespective of the length of the amino-terminal portion of the holoprotein. As we observed previously, the similarity between the processing of VirB2 in A. tumefaciens and the processing of the propilin TraA of the F plasmid now extends to E. coli.
PMCID: PMC178410  PMID: 8824616
9.  Extracellular VirB5 Enhances T-DNA Transfer from Agrobacterium to the Host Plant 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(10):e25578.
VirB5 is a type 4 secretion system protein of Agrobacterium located on the surface of the bacterial cell. This localization pattern suggests a function for VirB5 which is beyond its known role in biogenesis and/or stabilization of the T-pilus and which may involve early interactions between Agrobacterium and the host cell. Here, we identify VirB5 as the first Agrobacterium virulence protein that can enhance infectivity extracellularly. Specifically, we show that elevating the amounts of the extracellular VirB5—by exogenous addition of the purified protein, its overexpression in the bacterium, or transgenic expression in and secretion out of the host cell—enhances the efficiency the Agrobacterium-mediated T-DNA transfer, as measured by transient expression of genes contained on the transferred T-DNA molecule. Importantly, the exogenous VirB5 enhanced transient T-DNA expression in sugar beet, a major crop recalcitrant to genetic manipulation. Increasing the pool of the extracellular VirB5 did not complement an Agrobacterium virB5 mutant, suggesting a dual function for VirB5: in the bacterium and at the bacterium-host cell interface. Consistent with this idea, VirB5 expressed in the host cell, but not secreted, had no effect on the transformation efficiency. That the increase in T-DNA expression promoted by the exogenous VirB5 was not due to its effects on bacterial growth, virulence gene induction, bacterial attachment to plant tissue, or host cell defense response suggests that VirB5 participates in the early steps of the T-DNA transfer to the plant cell.
PMCID: PMC3196495  PMID: 22028781
10.  HepatoNet1: a comprehensive metabolic reconstruction of the human hepatocyte for the analysis of liver physiology 
We present HepatoNet1, a manually curated large-scale metabolic network of the human hepatocyte that encompasses >2500 reactions in six intracellular and two extracellular compartments.Using constraint-based modeling techniques, the network has been validated to replicate numerous metabolic functions of hepatocytes corresponding to a reference set of diverse physiological liver functions.Taking the detoxification of ammonia and the formation of bile acids as examples, we show how these liver-specific metabolic objectives can be achieved by the variable interplay of various metabolic pathways under varying conditions of nutrients and oxygen availability.
The liver has a pivotal function in metabolic homeostasis of the human body. Hepatocytes are the principal site of the metabolic conversions that underlie diverse physiological functions of the liver. These functions include provision and homeostasis of carbohydrates, amino acids, lipids and lipoproteins in the systemic blood circulation, biotransformation, plasma protein synthesis and bile formation, to name a few. Accordingly, hepatocyte metabolism integrates a vast array of differentially regulated biochemical activities and is highly responsive to environmental perturbations such as changes in portal blood composition (Dardevet et al, 2006). The complexity of this metabolic network and the numerous physiological functions to be achieved within a highly variable physiological environment necessitate an integrated approach with the aim of understanding liver metabolism at a systems level. To this end, we present HepatoNet1, a stoichiometric network of human hepatocyte metabolism characterized by (i) comprehensive coverage of known biochemical activities of hepatocytes and (ii) due representation of the biochemical and physiological functions of hepatocytes as functional network states. The network comprises 777 metabolites in six intracellular (cytosol, endoplasmic reticulum and Golgi apparatus, lysosome, mitochondria, nucleus, and peroxisome) and two extracellular compartments (bile canaliculus and sinusoidal space) and 2539 reactions, including 1466 transport reactions. It is based on the manual evaluation of >1500 original scientific research publications to warrant a high-quality evidence-based model. The final network is the result of an iterative process of data compilation and rigorous computational testing of network functionality by means of constraint-based modeling techniques. We performed flux-balance analyses to validate whether for >300 different metabolic objectives a non-zero stationary flux distribution could be established in the network. Figure 1 shows one such functional flux mode associated with the synthesis of the bile acid glycochenodeoxycholate, one important hepatocyte-specific physiological liver function. Besides those pathways directly linked to the synthesis of the bile acid, the mevalonate pathway and the de novo synthesis of cholesterol, the flux mode comprises additional pathways such as gluconeogenesis, the pentose phosphate pathway or the ornithine cycle because the calculations were routinely performed on a minimal set of exchangeable metabolites, that is all reactants were forced to be balanced and all exportable intermediates had to be catabolized into non-degradable end products. This example shows how HepatoNet1 under the challenges of limited exchange across the network boundary can reveal numerous cross-links between metabolic pathways traditionally perceived as separate entities. For example, alanine is used as gluconeogenic substrate to form glucose-6-phosphate, which is used in the pentose phosphate pathway to generate NADPH. The glycine moiety for bile acid conjugation is derived from serine. Conversion of ammonia into non-toxic nitrogen compounds is one central homeostatic function of hepatocytes. Using the HepatoNet1 model, we investigated, as another example of a complex metabolic objective dependent on systemic physiological parameters, how the consumption of oxygen, glucose and palmitate is affected when an external nitrogen load is converted in varying proportions to the non-toxic nitrogen compounds: urea, glutamine and alanine. The results reveal strong dependencies between the available level of oxygen and the substrate demand of hepatocytes required for effective ammonia detoxification by the liver.
Oxygen demand is highest if nitrogen is exclusively transformed into urea. At lower fluxes into urea, an intriguing pattern for oxygen demand is predicted: oxygen demand attains a minimum if the nitrogen load is directed to urea, glutamine and alanine with relative fluxes of 0.17, 0.43 and 0.40, respectively (Figure 2A). Oxygen demand in this flux distribution is four times lower than for the maximum (100% urea) and still 77 and 33% lower than using alanine and glutamine as exclusive nitrogen compounds, respectively. This computationally predicted tendency is consistent with the notion that the zonation of ammonia detoxification, that is the preferential conversion of ammonia to urea in periportal hepatocytes and to glutamine in perivenous hepatocytes, is dictated by the availability of oxygen (Gebhardt, 1992; Jungermann and Kietzmann, 2000). The decreased oxygen demand in flux distributions using higher proportions of glutamine or alanine is accompanied by increased uptake of the substrates glucose and palmitate (Figure 2B). This is due to an increased demand of energy and carbon for the amidation and transamination of glutamate and pyruvate to discharge nitrogen in the form of glutamine and alanine, respectively. In terms of both scope and specificity, our model bridges the scale between models constructed specifically to examine distinct metabolic processes of the liver and modeling based on a global representation of human metabolism. The former include models for the interdependence of gluconeogenesis and fatty-acid catabolism (Chalhoub et al, 2007), impairment of glucose production in von Gierke's and Hers' diseases (Beard and Qian, 2005) and other processes (Calik and Akbay, 2000; Stucki and Urbanczik, 2005; Ohno et al, 2008). The hallmark of these models is that each of them focuses on a small number of reactions pertinent to the metabolic function of interest embedded in a customized representation of the principal pathways of central metabolism. HepatoNet1, currently, outperforms liver-specific models computationally predicted (Shlomi et al, 2008) on the basis of global reconstructions of human metabolism (Duarte et al, 2007; Ma and Goryanin, 2008). In contrast to either of the aforementioned modeling scales, HepatoNet1 provides the combination of a system-scale representation of metabolic activities and representation of the cell type-specific physical boundaries and their specific transport capacities. This allows for a highly versatile use of the model for the analysis of various liver-specific physiological functions. Conceptually, from a biological system perspective, this type of model offers a large degree of comprehensiveness, whereas retaining tissue specificity, a fundamental design principle of mammalian metabolism. HepatoNet1 is expected to provide a structural platform for computational studies on liver function. The results presented herein highlight how internal fluxes of hepatocyte metabolism and the interplay with systemic physiological parameters can be analyzed with constraint-based modeling techniques. At the same time, the framework may serve as a scaffold for complementation of kinetic and regulatory properties of enzymes and transporters for analysis of sub-networks with topological or kinetic modeling methods.
We present HepatoNet1, the first reconstruction of a comprehensive metabolic network of the human hepatocyte that is shown to accomplish a large canon of known metabolic liver functions. The network comprises 777 metabolites in six intracellular and two extracellular compartments and 2539 reactions, including 1466 transport reactions. It is based on the manual evaluation of >1500 original scientific research publications to warrant a high-quality evidence-based model. The final network is the result of an iterative process of data compilation and rigorous computational testing of network functionality by means of constraint-based modeling techniques. Taking the hepatic detoxification of ammonia as an example, we show how the availability of nutrients and oxygen may modulate the interplay of various metabolic pathways to allow an efficient response of the liver to perturbations of the homeostasis of blood compounds.
PMCID: PMC2964118  PMID: 20823849
computational biology; flux balance; liver; minimal flux
11.  Lactimidomycin, Iso-migrastatin and Related Glutarimide-containing 12-membered Macrolides are Extremely Potent Inhibitors of Cell Migration 
Migrastatin (1), iso-migrastatin (5) and lactimidomycin (7) are all glutarimide-containing polyketides known for their unique structures and cytotoxic activities against human cancer cell lines. Migrastatin, a strong inhibitor of tumor cell migration, has been an important lead in the development of antimetastatic agents. Yet studies of the related 12-membered macrolides iso-migrastatin, lactimidomycin and related analogs have been hampered by their limited availability. We report here the production, isolation, structural characterization and biological activities of iso-migrastatin, lactimidomycin, and 23 related congeners. Our studies showed that, as a family, the glutarimide-containing 12-membered macrolides are extremely potent cell migration inhibitors with some members displaying activity on par or superior to that of migrastatin as exemplified by compounds 5, 7, and 9–12. On the basis of these findings, the structures and activity of this family of compounds as cell migration inhibitors are discussed.
PMCID: PMC2651819  PMID: 19132897
12.  L-Glutamine inhibits beta-aminobutyric acid-induced stress resistance and priming in Arabidopsis 
Journal of Experimental Botany  2009;61(4):995-1002.
The non-protein amino acid beta-aminobutyric acid (BABA) enhances Arabidopsis resistance to microbial pathogens and abiotic stresses through potentiation of the Arabidopsis defence responses. In this study, it is shown that BABA induces the stress-induced morphogenic response (SIMR). SIMR is observed in plants exposed to sub-lethal stress conditions. Anthocyanin, a known modulator of stress signalling, was also found to accumulate in BABA-treated Arabidopsis. These data and a previous microarray study indicate that BABA induces a stress response in Arabidopsis. High concentrations of amino acids, except for L-glutamine, cause a general amino acid stress inhibition. General amino acid inhibition is prevented by the addition of L-glutamine. L-Glutamine was found to inhibit the BABA-mediated SIMR and anthocyanin accumulation, suggesting that the non-protein amino acid BABA causes a general amino acid stress inhibition in Arabidopsis. L-Glutamine also blocked BABA-induced resistance to heat stress and to the virulent bacterial pathogen Pseudomonas syringae pv. tomato DC3000. During bacterial infection, priming of the salicylic acid-dependent defence marker PR1 was abolished by L-glutamine treatment. These results indicate that L-glutamine removal of the BABA-mediated stress response is concomitant with L-glutamine inhibition of BABA priming and BABA-induced resistance.
PMCID: PMC2826644  PMID: 20007686
Acquired thermotolerance; Arabidopsis; beta-aminobutyric acid; priming; Pseudomonas syringae; stress; stress imprinting; stress-induced morphogenic response
13.  Plant defense pathways subverted by Agrobacterium for genetic transformation 
Plant Signaling & Behavior  2010;5(10):1245-1248.
The soil phytopathogen Agrobacterium has the unique ability to introduce single-stranded transferred DNA (T-DNA) from its tumor-inducing (Ti) plasmid into the host cell in a process known as horizontal gene transfer. Following its entry into the host cell cytoplasm, the T-DNA associates with the bacterial virulence (Vir) E2 protein, also exported from Agrobacterium, creating the T-DNA nucleoprotein complex (T-complex), which is then translocated into the nucleus where the DNA is integrated into the host chromatin. VirE2 protects the T-DNA from the host DNase activities, packages it into a helical filament and interacts with the host proteins, one of which, VIP1, facilitates nuclear import of the T-complex and its subsequent targeting to the host chromatin. Although the VirE2 and VIP1 protein components of the T-complex are vital for its intracellular transport, they must be removed to expose the T-DNA for integration. Our recent work demonstrated that this task is aided by an host defense-related F-box protein VBF that is induced by Agrobacterium infection and that recognizes and binds VIP1. VBF destabilizes VirE2 and VIP1 in yeast and plant cells, presumably via SCF-mediated proteasomal degradation. VBF expression in and export from the Agrobacterium cell lead to increased tumorigenesis. Here, we discuss these findings in the context of the “arms race” between Agrobacterium infectivity and plant defense.
PMCID: PMC3115358  PMID: 20890133
Arabidopsis; defense response; proteasomal degradation; bacterial infection; F-box protein
14.  Two-way chemical signaling in Agrobacterium-plant interactions. 
Microbiological Reviews  1992;56(1):12-31.
The discovery in 1977 that Agrobacterium species can transfer a discrete segment of oncogenic DNA (T-DNA) to the genome of host plant cells has stimulated an intense interest in the molecular biology underlying these plant-microbe associations. This attention in turn has resulted in a series of insights about the biology of these organisms that continue to accumulate at an ever-increasing rate. This excitement was due in part to the notion that this unprecedented interkingdom DNA transfer could be exploited to create transgenic plants containing foreign genes of scientific or commercial importance. In the course of these discoveries, Agrobacterium became one of the best available models for studying the molecular interactions between bacteria and higher organisms. One extensively studied aspect of this association concerns the exchange of chemical signals between Agrobacterium spp. and host plants. Agrobacterium spp. can recognize no fewer than five classes of low-molecular-weight compounds released from plants, and other classes probably await discovery. The most widely studied of these are phenolic compounds, which stimulate the transcription of the genes needed for infection. Other compounds include specific monosaccharides and acidic environments which potentiate vir gene induction, acidic polysaccharides which induce one or more chromosomal genes, and a family of compounds called opines which are released from tumorous plant cells to the bacteria as nutrient sources. Agrobacterium spp. in return release a variety of chemical compounds to plants. The best understood is the transferred DNA itself, which contains genes that in various ways upset the balance of phytohormones, ultimately causing neoplastic cell proliferation. In addition to transferring DNA, some Agrobacterium strains directly secrete phytohormones. Finally, at least some strains release a pectinase, which degrades a component of plant cell walls.
PMCID: PMC372852  PMID: 1579105
15.  In planta transformation of pigeon pea: a method to overcome recalcitrancy of the crop to regeneration in vitro 
Development of transgenics in pigeon pea remains dogged by poor plant regeneration in vitro from transformed tissues and low frequency transformation protocols. This article presents a non-tissue culture-based method of generating transgenic pigeon pea (Cajanus cajan (L.) Millisp.) plants using Agrobacterium-Ti plasmid-mediated transformation system. The protocol involves raising of whole plant transformants (T0 plants) directly from Agrobacterium-infected young seedlings. The plumular and intercotyledonary meristems of the seedling axes are targeted for transformation. The transformation conditions optimized were, pricking of the apical and intercotyledonary region of the seedling axes of two-day old germinating seedlings with a sewing needle, infection with Agrobacterium (LBA4404/pKIWI105 carrying uid A and npt II genes) in Winans’ AB medium that was added with wounded tobacco leaf extract, co-cultivation in the same medium for 1h and transfer of seedlings to soilrite for further growth and hardening and subsequent transfer of seedlings to soil in pots in the greenhouse. Out of the 22–25 primary transformants that survived infection-hardening treatments from each of the three experiments, 15 plants on the average established on the soil under greenhouse conditions, showed slow growth initially, nevertheless grew as normal plants, and flowered and set seed eventually. Of the several seeds harvested from all the T0 plants, six hundred were sown to obtain progeny (T1) plants and 350 of these were randomly analysed to determine their transgenic nature. PCR was performed for both gus (uid A) and npt II genes. Forty eight of the 350 T1 plants amplified both transgenes. Southern blot analysis substantiated the integration and transmission of these genes. The protocol ensured generation of pigeon pea transgenic plants with considerable ease in a short time and is applicable across different genotypes/cultivars of the crop and offers immense potential as a supplemental or an alternative protocol for generating transgenic plants of difficult-to-regenerate pigeon pea. Further, the protocol offers the option of doing away with a selection step in the procedure and so facilitates transformation, which is free of marker genes.
PMCID: PMC3550634  PMID: 23572898
Cajanus cajan; Transformation; Tissue culture-independent plant regeneration
16.  Membrane and Core Periplasmic Agrobacterium tumefaciens Virulence Type IV Secretion System Components Localize to Multiple Sites around the Bacterial Perimeter during Lateral Attachment to Plant Cells 
mBio  2011;2(6):e00218-11.
Type IV secretion systems (T4SS) transfer DNA and/or proteins into recipient cells. Here we performed immunofluorescence deconvolution microscopy to localize the assembled T4SS by detection of its native components VirB1, VirB2, VirB4, VirB5, VirB7, VirB8, VirB9, VirB10, and VirB11 in the C58 nopaline strain of Agrobacterium tumefaciens, following induction of virulence (vir) gene expression. These different proteins represent T4SS components spanning the inner membrane, periplasm, or outer membrane. Native VirB2, VirB5, VirB7, and VirB8 were also localized in the A. tumefaciens octopine strain A348. Quantitative analyses of the localization of all the above Vir proteins in nopaline and octopine strains revealed multiple foci in single optical sections in over 80% and 70% of the bacterial cells, respectively. Green fluorescent protein (GFP)-VirB8 expression following vir induction was used to monitor bacterial binding to live host plant cells; bacteria bind predominantly along their lengths, with few bacteria binding via their poles or subpoles. vir-induced attachment-defective bacteria or bacteria without the Ti plasmid do not bind to plant cells. These data support a model where multiple vir-T4SS around the perimeter of the bacterium maximize effective contact with the host to facilitate efficient transfer of DNA and protein substrates.
Transfer of DNA and/or proteins to host cells through multiprotein type IV secretion system (T4SS) complexes that span the bacterial cell envelope is critical to bacterial pathogenesis. Early reports suggested that T4SS components localized at the cell poles. Now, higher-resolution deconvolution fluorescence microscopy reveals that all structural components of the Agrobacterium tumefaciens vir-T4SS, as well as its transported protein substrates, localize to multiple foci around the cell perimeter. These results lead to a new model of A. tumefaciens attachment to a plant cell, where A. tumefaciens takes advantage of the multiple vir-T4SS along its length to make intimate lateral contact with plant cells and thereby effectively transfer DNA and/or proteins through the vir-T4SS. The T4SS of A. tumefaciens is among the best-studied T4SS, and the majority of its components are highly conserved in different pathogenic bacterial species. Thus, the results presented can be applied to a broad range of pathogens that utilize T4SS.
PMCID: PMC3202754  PMID: 22027007
17.  Analysis of Vir protein translocation from Agrobacterium tumefaciens using Saccharomyces cerevisiae as a model: evidence for transport of a novel effector protein VirE3 
Nucleic Acids Research  2003;31(3):860-868.
Agrobacterium tumefaciens causes crown gall disease on a variety of plants. During the infection process Agrobacterium transfers a nucleoprotein complex, the VirD2 T-complex, and at least two Vir proteins, VirE2 and VirF, into the plant cell via the VirB/VirD4 type IV secretion system. Recently, we found that T-DNA could also be transferred from Agrobacterium to Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Here, we describe a novel method to also detect trans-kingdom Vir protein transfer from Agrobacterium to yeast, using the Cre/lox system. Protein fusions between Cre and VirE2 or VirF were expressed in Agrobacterium. Transfer of the Cre-Vir fusion proteins from Agrobacterium to yeast was monitored by a selectable excision event resulting from site-specific recombination mediated by Cre on a lox-flanked transgene in yeast. The VirE2 and VirF proteins were transported to yeast via the virB-encoded transfer system in the presence of coupling factor VirD4, analogous to translocation into plant cells. The yeast system therefore provides a suitable and fast model system to study basic aspects of trans-kingdom protein transport from Agrobacterium into host cells. Using this method we showed that VirE2 and VirF protein transfer was inhibited by the presence of the Osa protein. Besides, we found evidence for a novel third effector protein, VirE3, which has a similar C-terminal signature to VirE2 and VirF.
PMCID: PMC149200  PMID: 12560481
18.  Agrobacterium tumefaciens responses to plant-derived signaling molecules 
As a special phytopathogen, Agrobacterium tumefaciens infects a wide range of plant hosts and causes plant tumors also known as crown galls. The complexity of Agrobacterium–plant interaction has been studied for several decades. Agrobacterium pathogenicity is largely attributed to its evolved capabilities of precise recognition and response to plant-derived chemical signals. Agrobacterium perceives plant-derived signals to activate its virulence genes, which are responsible for transferring and integrating its Transferred DNA (T-DNA) from its Tumor-inducing (Ti) plasmid into the plant nucleus. The expression of T-DNA in plant hosts leads to the production of a large amount of indole-3-acetic acid (IAA), cytokinin (CK), and opines. IAA and CK stimulate plant growth, resulting in tumor formation. Agrobacterium utilizes opines as nutrient sources as well as signals in order to activate its quorum sensing (QS) to further promote virulence and opine metabolism. Intriguingly, Agrobacterium also recognizes plant-derived signals including γ-amino butyric acid and salicylic acid (SA) to activate quorum quenching that reduces the level of QS signals, thereby avoiding the elicitation of plant defense and preserving energy. In addition, Agrobacterium hijacks plant-derived signals including SA, IAA, and ethylene to down-regulate its virulence genes located on the Ti plasmid. Moreover, certain metabolites from corn (Zea mays) also inhibit the expression of Agrobacterium virulence genes. Here we outline the responses of Agrobacterium to major plant-derived signals that impact Agrobacterium–plant interactions.
PMCID: PMC4086400  PMID: 25071805
Agrobacterium tumefaciens; virulence; signaling mechanism; gene regulation; quorum sensing
19.  Agrobacterium induces expression of a host F-box protein required for tumorigenicity 
Cell host & microbe  2010;7(3):197-209.
In plant-pathogen interactions, the host defends against the invading pathogen and the pathogen aims to suppress or subvert this defense. Whereas the defense suppression strategy is relatively well understood for many pathogens, the mechanisms by which pathogens can actively utilize the defense machinery of the host remain obscure. We report that Agrobacterium, a microorganism that elicits neoplastic growths on many plant species, induces expression of a plant defense-related F-box protein, VBF, which it incorporates into its own pathway for genetic transformation. Our data suggest that VBF may function to uncoat the bacterial transferred DNA from its associated virulence VirE2 and host VIP1 proteins via the SCFVBF pathway. Suppression of VBF elevates the intracellular content of VIP1, but renders the plant largely resistant to Agrobacterium, indicating that, in the infection pathway, VBF is functionally epistatic to VIP1. When expressed in Agrobacterium and exported into the plant cell, VBF facilitates tumor formation.
PMCID: PMC3427693  PMID: 20227663
20.  Agrobacterium Uses a Unique Ligand-Binding Mode for Trapping Opines and Acquiring A Competitive Advantage in the Niche Construction on Plant Host 
PLoS Pathogens  2014;10(10):e1004444.
By modifying the nuclear genome of its host, the plant pathogen Agrobacterium tumefaciens induces the development of plant tumours in which it proliferates. The transformed plant tissues accumulate uncommon low molecular weight compounds called opines that are growth substrates for A. tumefaciens. In the pathogen-induced niche (the plant tumour), a selective advantage conferred by opine assimilation has been hypothesized, but not experimentally demonstrated. Here, using genetics and structural biology, we deciphered how the pathogen is able to bind opines and use them to efficiently compete in the plant tumour. We report high resolution X-ray structures of the periplasmic binding protein (PBP) NocT unliganded and liganded with the opine nopaline (a condensation product of arginine and α-ketoglurate) and its lactam derivative pyronopaline. NocT exhibited an affinity for pyronopaline (KD of 0.6 µM) greater than that for nopaline (KD of 3.7 µM). Although the binding-mode of the arginine part of nopaline/pyronopaline in NocT resembled that of arginine in other PBPs, affinity measurement by two different techniques showed that NocT did not bind arginine. In contrast, NocT presented specific residues such as M117 to stabilize the bound opines. NocT relatives that exhibit the nopaline/pyronopaline-binding mode were only found in genomes of the genus Agrobacterium. Transcriptomics and reverse genetics revealed that A. tumefaciens uses the same pathway for assimilating nopaline and pyronopaline. Fitness measurements showed that NocT is required for a competitive colonization of the plant tumour by A. tumefaciens. Moreover, even though the Ti-plasmid conjugal transfer was not regulated by nopaline, the competitive advantage gained by the nopaline-assimilating Ti-plasmid donors led to a preferential horizontal propagation of this Ti-plasmid amongst the agrobacteria colonizing the plant-tumour niche. This work provided structural and genetic evidences to support the niche construction paradigm in bacterial pathogens.
Author Summary
An ecological niche is defined, in a given environment, by the availability of nutritive resources, which can be specifically assimilated by certain living organisms to promote their proliferation. The bacterial pathogen Agrobacterium tumefaciens is able to engineer an ecological niche in the infected host via the transformation of the plant genome and diversion of the plant metabolism towards production of the opine nutrients. In this work, we quantified the selective advantage conferred to a member of the phytopathogenic species A. tumefaciens which is able to assimilate the opine nopaline. This opine is a condensate of arginine and α-ketoglurate that is produced both under linear and cyclic forms in the plant tumour environment. We further determined at the molecular and atomistic levels how A. tumefaciens is able to sense the nopaline molecules, and which metabolic pathways are activated in response. Overall, this work deciphered some key molecular events in the niche construction of the pathogen A. tumefaciens that is unique among living organisms and used to develop bioengineering tools.
PMCID: PMC4192606  PMID: 25299655
21.  Amino acid digestibility of heat damaged distillers dried grains with solubles fed to pigs 
The primary objective of this experiment was to determine the effects of heat treatment on the standardized ileal digestibility (SID) of amino acids (AA) in corn distillers dried grains with solubles (DDGS) fed to growing pigs. The second objective was to develop regression equations that may be used to predict the concentration of SID AA in corn DDGS. A source of corn DDGS was divided into 4 batches that were either not autoclaved or autoclaved at 130°C for 10, 20, or 30 min. Four diets containing DDGS from each of the 4 batches were formulated with DDGS being the only source of AA and CP in the diets. A N-free diet also was formulated and used to determine the basal endogenous losses of CP and AA. Ten growing pigs (initial BW: 53.5 ± 3.9 kg) were surgically equipped with a T-cannula in the distal ileum and allotted to a replicated 5 × 4 Youden square design with 5 diets and 4 periods in each square. The SID of CP decreased linearly (P < 0.05) from 77.9% in non-autoclaved DDGS to 72.1, 66.1, and 68.5% in the DDGS samples that were autoclaved for 10, 20, or 30 min, respectively. The SID of lysine was quadratically reduced (P < 0.05) from 66.8% in the non-autoclaved DDGS to 54.9, 55.3, and 51.9% in the DDGS autoclaved for 10, 20, or 30 min, respectively. The concentrations of SID Arginine, Histidine, Leucine, Lysine, Methionine, Phenylalanine, or Threonine may be best predicted by equations that include the concentration of acid detergent insoluble N in the model (r2 = 0.76, 0.68, 0.67, 0.84, 0.76, 0.73, or 0.54, respectively). The concentrations of SID Isoleucine and Valine were predicted (r2 = 0.58 and 0.54, respectively) by the Lysine:CP ratio, whereas the concentration of SID Tryptophan was predicted (r2 = 0.70) by the analyzed concentration of Tryptophan in DDGS. In conclusion, the SID of AA is decreased as a result of heat damage and the concentration of SID AA in heat-damaged DDGS may be predicted by regression equations developed in this experiment.
PMCID: PMC3874649  PMID: 24229436
Amino acids; Digestibility; Distillers dried grains with solubles; Heat damage
22.  Global Analysis of Differentially Expressed Genes and Proteins in the Wheat Callus Infected by Agrobacterium tumefaciens 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e79390.
Agrobacterium-mediated plant transformation is an extremely complex and evolved process involving genetic determinants of both the bacteria and the host plant cells. However, the mechanism of the determinants remains obscure, especially in some cereal crops such as wheat, which is recalcitrant for Agrobacterium-mediated transformation. In this study, differentially expressed genes (DEGs) and differentially expressed proteins (DEPs) were analyzed in wheat callus cells co-cultured with Agrobacterium by using RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) and two-dimensional electrophoresis (2-DE) in conjunction with mass spectrometry (MS). A set of 4,889 DEGs and 90 DEPs were identified, respectively. Most of them are related to metabolism, chromatin assembly or disassembly and immune defense. After comparative analysis, 24 of the 90 DEPs were detected in RNA-seq and proteomics datasets simultaneously. In addition, real-time RT-PCR experiments were performed to check the differential expression of the 24 genes, and the results were consistent with the RNA-seq data. According to gene ontology (GO) analysis, we found that a big part of these differentially expressed genes were related to the process of stress or immunity response. Several putative determinants and candidate effectors responsive to Agrobacterium mediated transformation of wheat cells were discussed. We speculate that some of these genes are possibly related to Agrobacterium infection. Our results will help to understand the interaction between Agrobacterium and host cells, and may facilitate developing efficient transformation strategies in cereal crops.
PMCID: PMC3835833  PMID: 24278131
23.  Relative amount of symbionts in Bemisia tabaci (Gennadius) Q changes with host plant and establishing the method of analyzing free amino acid in B. tabaci 
The impact of symbionts on their insect hosts depends on their infection density. In the current study, we investigated the effects of host plants (cucumber, cabbage, and cotton) on the relative amount of symbionts Portiera and Hamiltonella in the whitefly Bemisia tabaci (Gennadius) Q. The relative amounts of symbionts in 3 host plant B. tabaci Q populations with the same genetic background were evaluated by quantitative PCR. The whiteflies of cabbage population harbored more Portiera than those of cucumber and cotton populations, and the relative amount of Portiera did not differ statistically between cotton and cucumber populations. The whiteflies of cucumber and cabbage populations harbored more Hamiltonella than that of cotton population, and the relative amount of Hamiltonella did not differ statistically between cabbage and cucumber populations, indicated that the relative amount of symbionts was significantly affected by host plant. In addition, the method of analyzing the composition of free amino acid in B. tabaci was established. Twenty-eight amino acids were detected in the B. tabaci Q population, the non-essential amino acids, such as glutamate, glutamine, alanine, proline and the essential amino acid arginine were the dominant amino acids in B. tabaci Q.
PMCID: PMC3609849  PMID: 23750302
Bemisia tabaci; symbiont; host plant; free amino acid
24.  A new Agrobacterium strain isolated from aerial tumors on Ficus benjamina L. 
Crown gall tumors, collected from branches of 1-year-old weeping fig (Ficus benjamina L.) trees, yielded both tumorigenic and nonpathogenic agrobacteria. On the basis of classical diagnostic tests, the nonpathogenic strains were identified as Agrobacterium tumefaciens, whereas the tumorigenic strains could not be assigned to any of the known terrestrial Agrobacterium spp. The tumorigenic strains also differed from other members of the genus by producing more acid from mannitol. According to cluster analysis of carbon substrate oxidation (GN Microplate; Biolog, Inc.) and fatty acid content, the tumorigenic fig strains were distinct from strains of A. tumefaciens, Agrobacterium rhizogenes, Agrobacterium vitis, and Agrobacterium rubi. Furthermore, they had unusual opine metabolism, inducing tumors that synthesized nopaline and three recently discovered opines: chrysopine (d-lactone of N-1-deoxy-D-fructosyl-L-glutamine, and N-1-deoxy-D-fructosyl-L-glutamine, and N-1-deoxy-D-fructosyl-5-oxo-L-proline. The nonpathogenic A. tumefaciens strains present in the same tumors were unable to degrade any of the opines tested. The phylogenetic position of the tumorigenic fig strain AF3.10 was inferred from comparing its rrs (i.e., 16S rRNA gene) sequence with those from the type strains of Agrobacterium and Rhizobium species. The analysis showed that strain AF3.10 clustered with A. tumefaciens and A. rubi but not with A. vitis and was far removed from A. rhizogenes. However, the sequence was significantly different from those of A. tumefaciens and A. rubi to suggest that the tumorigenic fig strain may be a new Agrobacterium species that is as different from A. tumefaciens and A. rubi as these two species are from one another.
PMCID: PMC167260  PMID: 7887626
25.  A Genome-Wide Survey of Highly Expressed Non-Coding RNAs and Biological Validation of Selected Candidates in Agrobacterium tumefaciens 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e70720.
Agrobacterium tumefaciens is a plant pathogen that has the natural ability of delivering and integrating a piece of its own DNA into plant genome. Although bacterial non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs) have been shown to regulate various biological processes including virulence, we have limited knowledge of how Agrobacterium ncRNAs regulate this unique inter-Kingdom gene transfer. Using whole transcriptome sequencing and an ncRNA search algorithm developed for this work, we identified 475 highly expressed candidate ncRNAs from A. tumefaciens C58, including 101 trans-encoded small RNAs (sRNAs), 354 antisense RNAs (asRNAs), 20 5′ untranslated region (UTR) leaders including a RNA thermosensor and 6 riboswitches. Moreover, transcription start site (TSS) mapping analysis revealed that about 51% of the mapped mRNAs have 5′ UTRs longer than 60 nt, suggesting that numerous cis-acting regulatory elements might be encoded in the A. tumefaciens genome. Eighteen asRNAs were found on the complementary strands of virA, virB, virC, virD, and virE operons. Fifteen ncRNAs were induced and 7 were suppressed by the Agrobacterium virulence (vir) gene inducer acetosyringone (AS), a phenolic compound secreted by the plants. Interestingly, fourteen of the AS-induced ncRNAs have putative vir box sequences in the upstream regions. We experimentally validated expression of 36 ncRNAs using Northern blot and Rapid Amplification of cDNA Ends analyses. We show functional relevance of two 5′ UTR elements: a RNA thermonsensor (C1_109596F) that may regulate translation of the major cold shock protein cspA, and a thi-box riboswitch (C1_2541934R) that may transcriptionally regulate a thiamine biosynthesis operon, thiCOGG. Further studies on ncRNAs functions in this bacterium may provide insights and strategies that can be used to better manage pathogenic bacteria for plants and to improve Agrobacterum-mediated plant transformation.
PMCID: PMC3738593  PMID: 23950988

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