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1.  Development of a Markerless Genetic Exchange Method for Methanosarcina acetivorans C2A and Its Use in Construction of New Genetic Tools for Methanogenic Archaea 
A new genetic technique for constructing mutants of Methanosarcina acetivorans C2A by using hpt as a counterselectable marker was developed. Mutants with lesions in the hpt gene, encoding hypoxanthine phosphoribosyltransferase, were shown to be >35-fold more resistant to the toxic base analog 8-aza-2,6-diaminopurine (8ADP) than was the wild type. Reintroduction of the hpt gene into a Δhpt host restored 8ADP sensitivity and provided the basis for a two-step strategy involving plasmid integration and excision for recombination of mutant alleles onto the M. acetivorans chromosome. We have designated this method markerless exchange because, although selectable markers are used during the process, they are removed in the final mutants. Thus, the method can be repeated many times in the same cell line. The method was validated by construction of ΔproC Δhpt mutants, which were recovered at a frequency of 22%. Additionally, a Methanosarcina-Escherichia shuttle vector, encoding the Escherichia coli proC gene as a new selectable marker, was constructed for use in proC hosts. Finally, the markerless exchange method was used to recombine a series of uidA reporter gene fusions into the M. acetivorans proC locus. In vitro assay of β-glucuronidase activity in extracts of these recombinants demonstrated, for the first time, the utility of uidA as a reporter gene in Methanosarcina. A >5,000-fold range of promoter activities could be measured by using uidA: the methyl-coenzyme M reductase operon fusion displayed ∼300-fold-higher activity than did the serC gene fusion, which in turn had 16-fold-higher activity than did a fusion to the unknown orf2 gene.
PMCID: PMC368415  PMID: 15006762
2.  Characterization of a Novel Two-Component Regulatory System, HptRS, the Regulator for the Hexose Phosphate Transport System in Staphylococcus aureus 
Infection and Immunity  2015;83(4):1620-1628.
Hexose phosphate is an important carbon source within the cytoplasm of host cells. Bacterial pathogens that invade, survive, and multiply within various host epithelial cells exploit hexose phosphates from the host cytoplasm through the hexose phosphate transport (HPT) system to gain energy and synthesize cellular components. In Escherichia coli, the HPT system consists of a two-component regulatory system (UhpAB) and a phosphate sensor protein (UhpC) that tightly regulate expression of a hexose phosphate transporter (UhpT). Although growing evidence suggests that Staphylococcus aureus also can invade, survive, and multiply within various host epithelial cells, the genetic elements involved in the HPT system in S. aureus have not been characterized yet. In this study, we identified and characterized the HPT system in S. aureus that includes the hptRS (a novel two-component regulatory system), the hptA (a putative phosphate sensor), and the uhpT (a hexose phosphate transporter) genes. The hptA, hptRS, and uhpT markerless deletion mutants were generated by an allelic replacement method using a modified pMAD-CM-GFPuv vector system. We demonstrated that both hptA and hptRS are required to positively regulate transcription of uhpT in response to extracellular phosphates, such as glycerol-3-phosphate (G3P), glucose-6-phosphate (G6P), and fosfomycin. Mutational studies revealed that disruption of the hptA, hptRS, or uhpT gene impaired the growth of bacteria when the available carbon source was limited to G6P, impaired survival/multiplication within various types of host cells, and increased resistance to fosfomycin. The results of this study suggest that the HPT system plays an important role in adaptation of S. aureus within the host cells and could be an important target for developing novel antistaphylococcal therapies.
PMCID: PMC4363416  PMID: 25644013
3.  Novel System for Efficient Isolation of Clostridium Double-Crossover Allelic Exchange Mutants Enabling Markerless Chromosomal Gene Deletions and DNA Integration 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2012;78(22):8112-8121.
Isolation of Clostridium mutants based on gene replacement via allelic exchange remains a major limitation for this important genus. Use of a heterologous counterselection marker can facilitate the identification of the generally rare allelic exchange events. We report on the development of an inducible counterselection marker and describe its utility and broad potential in quickly and efficiently generating markerless DNA deletions and integrations at any genomic locus without the need for auxotrophic mutants or the use of the mobile group II introns. This system is based on a codon-optimized mazF toxin gene from Escherichia coli under the control of a lactose-inducible promoter from Clostridium perfringens. This system is potentially applicable to almost all members of the genus Clostridium due to their similarly low genomic GC content and comparable codon usage. We isolated all allelic-exchange-based gene deletions (ca_p0167, sigF, and sigK) or disruptions (ca_p0157 and sigF) we attempted and integrated a 3.6-kb heterologous DNA sequence (made up of a Clostridium ljungdahlii 2.1-kb formate dehydrogenase [fdh] gene plus a FLP recombination target [FRT]-flanked thiamphenicol resistance marker) into the Clostridium acetobutylicum chromosome. Furthermore, we report on the development of a plasmid system with inducible segregational instability, thus enabling efficient deployment of the FLP-FRT system to generate markerless deletion or integration mutants. This enabled expeditious deletion of the thiamphenicol resistance marker from the fdh integrant strain as well as the sigK deletion strain. More generally, our system can potentially be applied to other organisms with underdeveloped genetic tools.
PMCID: PMC3485963  PMID: 22983967
4.  Characterization of GlnK1 from Methanosarcina mazei Strain Gö1: Complementation of an Escherichia coli glnK Mutant Strain by GlnK1 
Journal of Bacteriology  2002;184(4):1028-1040.
Trimeric PII-like signal proteins are known to be involved in bacterial regulation of ammonium assimilation and nitrogen fixation. We report here the first biochemical characterization of an archaeal GlnK protein from the diazotrophic methanogenic archaeon Methanosarcina mazei strain Gö1 and show that M. mazei GlnK1 is able to functionally complement an Escherichia coli glnK mutant for growth on arginine. This indicates that the archaeal GlnK protein substitutes for the regulatory function of E. coli GlnK. M. mazei GlnK1 is encoded in the glnK1-amtB1 operon, which is transcriptionally regulated by the availability of combined nitrogen and is only transcribed in the absence of ammonium. The deduced amino acid sequence of the archaeal glnK1 shows 44% identity to the E. coli GlnK and contains the conserved tyrosine residue (Tyr-51) in the T-loop structure. M. mazei glnK1 was cloned and overexpressed in E. coli, and GlnK1 was purified to apparent homogeneity. A molecular mass of 42 kDa was observed under native conditions, indicating that its native form is a trimer. GlnK1-specific antibodies were raised and used to confirm the in vivo trimeric form by Western analysis. In vivo ammonium upshift experiments and analysis of purified GlnK1 indicated significant differences compared to E. coli GlnK. First, GlnK1 from M. mazei is not covalently modified by uridylylation under nitrogen limitation. Second, heterotrimers between M. mazei GlnK1 and Klebsiella pneumoniae GlnK are not formed. Because M. mazei GlnK1 was able to complement growth of an E. coli glnK mutant with arginine as the sole nitrogen source, it is likely that uridylylation is not required for its regulatory function.
PMCID: PMC134814  PMID: 11807063
5.  Small regulatory RNAs in Archaea 
RNA Biology  2014;11(5):484-493.
Small regulatory RNAs (sRNAs) are universally distributed in all three domains of life, Archaea, Bacteria, and Eukaryotes. In bacteria, sRNAs typically function by binding near the translation start site of their target mRNAs and thereby inhibit or activate translation. In eukaryotes, miRNAs and siRNAs typically bind to the 3′-untranslated region (3′-UTR) of their target mRNAs and influence translation efficiency and/or mRNA stability. In archaea, sRNAs have been identified in all species investigated using bioinformatic approaches, RNomics, and RNA-Seq. Their size can vary significantly between less than 50 to more than 500 nucleotides. Differential expression of sRNA genes has been studied using northern blot analysis, microarrays, and RNA-Seq. In addition, biological functions have been unraveled by genetic approaches, i.e., by characterization of designed mutants. As in bacteria, it was revealed that archaeal sRNAs are involved in many biological processes, including metabolic regulation, adaptation to extreme conditions, stress responses, and even in regulation of morphology and cellular behavior. Recently, the first target mRNAs were identified in archaea, including one sRNA that binds to the 5′-region of two mRNAs in Methanosarcina mazei Gö1 and a few sRNAs that bind to 3′-UTRs in Sulfolobus solfataricus, three Pyrobaculum species, and Haloferax volcanii, indicating that archaeal sRNAs appear to be able to target both the 5′-UTR or the 3′-UTRs of their respective target mRNAs. In addition, archaea contain tRNA-derived fragments (tRFs), and one tRF has been identified as a major ribosome-binding sRNA in H. volcanii, which downregulates translation in response to stress. Besides regulatory sRNAs, archaea contain further classes of sRNAs, e.g., CRISPR RNAs (crRNAs) and snoRNAs.
PMCID: PMC4152357  PMID: 24755959
archaea; small regulatory RNAs; tRNA-derived fragments; translation; Methanosarcina mazei; Haloferax volcanii; Sulfolobus solfataricus; Nanoarchaeum equitans
6.  Functional organization of a single nif cluster in the mesophilic archaeon Methanosarcina mazei strain Gö1 
Archaea  2002;1(2):143-150.
The mesophilic methanogenic archaeon Methanosarcina mazei strain Gö1 is able to utilize molecular nitrogen (N2) as its sole nitrogen source. We have identified and characterized a single nitrogen fixation (nif) gene cluster in M. mazei Gö1 with an approximate length of 9 kbp. Sequence analysis revealed seven genes with sequence similarities to nifH, nifI1, nifI2, nifD, nifK, nifE and nifN, similar to other diazotrophic methanogens and certain bacteria such as Clostridium acetobutylicum, with the two glnB-like genes (nifI1 and nifI2) located between nifH and nifD. Phylogenetic analysis of deduced amino acid sequences for the nitrogenase structural genes of M. mazei Gö1 showed that they are most closely related to Methanosarcina barkeri nif2 genes, and also closely resemble those for the corresponding nif products of the gram-positive bacterium C. acetobutylicum. Northern blot analysis and reverse transcription PCR analysis demonstrated that the M. mazei nif genes constitute an operon transcribed only under nitrogen starvation as a single 8 kb transcript. Sequence analysis revealed a palindromic sequence at the transcriptional start site in front of the M. mazei nifH gene, which may have a function in transcriptional regulation of the nif operon.
PMCID: PMC2685556  PMID: 15803652
GlnB-like proteins; nif genes; nitrogen fixation; nitrogen regulation
7.  Lysine-2,3-Aminomutase and β-Lysine Acetyltransferase Genes of Methanogenic Archaea Are Salt Induced and Are Essential for the Biosynthesis of Nɛ-Acetyl-β-Lysine and Growth at High Salinity 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2003;69(10):6047-6055.
The compatible solute Nɛ-acetyl-β-lysine is unique to methanogenic archaea and is produced under salt stress only. However, the molecular basis for the salt-dependent regulation of Nɛ-acetyl-β-lysine formation is unknown. Genes potentially encoding lysine-2,3-aminomutase (ablA) and β-lysine acetyltransferase (ablB), which are assumed to catalyze Nɛ-acetyl-β-lysine formation from α-lysine, were identified on the chromosomes of the methanogenic archaea Methanosarcina mazei Gö1, Methanosarcina acetivorans, Methanosarcina barkeri, Methanococcus jannaschii, and Methanococcus maripaludis. The order of the two genes was identical in the five organisms, and the deduced proteins were very similar, indicating a high degree of conservation of structure and function. Northern blot analysis revealed that the two genes are organized in an operon (termed the abl operon) in M. mazei Gö1. Expression of the abl operon was strictly salt dependent. The abl operon was deleted in the genetically tractable M. maripaludis. Δabl mutants of M. maripaludis no longer produced Nɛ-acetyl-β-lysine and were incapable of growth at high salt concentrations, indicating that the abl operon is essential for Nɛ-acetyl-β-lysine synthesis. These experiments revealed the first genes involved in the biosynthesis of compatible solutes in methanogens.
PMCID: PMC201229  PMID: 14532061
8.  Markerless Mutagenesis in Methanococcus maripaludis Demonstrates Roles for Alanine Dehydrogenase, Alanine Racemase, and Alanine Permease 
Journal of Bacteriology  2005;187(3):972-979.
Among the archaea, Methanococcus maripaludis has the unusual ability to use l- or d-alanine as a nitrogen source. To understand how this occurs, we tested the roles of three adjacent genes encoding homologs of alanine dehydrogenase, alanine racemase, and alanine permease. To produce mutations in these genes, we devised a method for markerless mutagenesis that builds on previously established genetic tools for M. maripaludis. The technique uses a negative selection strategy that takes advantage of the ability of the M. maripaludis hpt gene encoding hypoxanthine phosphoribosyltransferase to confer sensitivity to the base analog 8-azahypoxanthine. In addition, we developed a negative selection method to stably incorporate constructs into the genome at the site of the upt gene encoding uracil phosphoribosyltransferase. Mutants with in-frame deletion mutations in the genes for alanine dehydrogenase and alanine permease lost the ability to grow on either isomer of alanine, while a mutant with an in-frame deletion mutation in the gene for alanine racemase lost only the ability to grow on d-alanine. The wild-type gene for alanine dehydrogenase, incorporated into the upt site, complemented the alanine dehydrogenase mutation. Hence, the permease is required for the transport of either isomer, the dehydrogenase is specific for the l isomer, and the racemase converts the d isomer to the l isomer. Phylogenetic analysis indicated that all three genes had been acquired by lateral gene transfer from the low-moles-percent G+C gram-positive bacteria.
PMCID: PMC545699  PMID: 15659675
9.  Identification of the gene for disaggregatase from Methanosarcina mazei  
Archaea  2008;2(3):185-191.
The gene sequences encoding disaggregatase (Dag), the enzyme responsible for dispersion of cell aggregates of Methanosarcina mazei to single cells, were determined for three strains of M. mazei (S-6T, LYC and TMA). The dag genes of the three strains were 3234 bp in length and had almost the same sequences with 97% amino acid sequence identities. Dag was predicted to comprise 1077 amino acid residues and to have a molecular mass of 120 kDa containing three repeats of the DNRLRE domain in the C terminus, which is specific to the genus Methanosarcina and may be responsible for structural organization and cell wall function. Recombinant Dag was overexpressed in Escherichia coli and preparations of the expressed protein exhibited enzymatic activity. The RT-PCR analysis showed that dag was transcribed to mRNA in M. mazei LYC and indicated that the gene was expressed in vivo. This is the first time the gene involved in the morphological change of Methanosarcina spp. from aggregate to single cells has been identified.
PMCID: PMC2685598  PMID: 19054745
methanochondroitin; morphological change
10.  Development of a Method for Markerless Genetic Exchange in Enterococcus faecalis and Its Use in Construction of a srtA Mutant 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2005;71(10):5837-5849.
Enterococcus faecalis is a gram-positive commensal bacterium of the gastrointestinal tract and an important opportunistic pathogen. Despite the increasing clinical significance of the enterococci, genetic analysis of these organisms has thus far been limited in scope due to the lack of advanced genetic tools. To broaden the repertoire of genetic tools available for manipulation of E.faecalis, we investigated the use of phosphoribosyl transferases as elements of a counterselection strategy. We report here the development of a counterselectable markerless genetic exchange system based on the upp-encoded uracil phosphoribosyl transferase of E. faecalis. Whereas wild-type E. faecalis is sensitive to growth inhibition by the toxic base analog 5-fluorouracil (5-FU), a mutant bearing an in-frame deletion of upp is resistant to 5-FU. When a cloned version of upp was ectopically introduced into the deletion mutant, sensitivity to 5-FU growth inhibition was restored, thereby providing the basis for a two-step integration and excision strategy for the transfer of mutant alleles to the enterococcal chromosome by recombination. This method was validated by the construction of a ΔsrtA mutant of E. faecalis and by the exchange of the surface protein Asc10, encoded on the pheromone-responsive conjugative plasmid pCF10, with a previously isolated mutant allele. Analysis of the ΔsrtA mutant indicated that SrtA anchors Asc10 to the enterococcal cell wall, facilitating the pheromone-induced aggregation of E. faecalis cells required for high-frequency conjugative plasmid transfer in liquid matings. The system of markerless exchange reported here will facilitate detailed genetic analysis of these important pathogens.
PMCID: PMC1265997  PMID: 16204495
11.  Cloning-Independent and Counterselectable Markerless Mutagenesis System in Streptococcus mutans▿ 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2011;77(22):8025-8033.
Insertion duplication mutagenesis and allelic replacement mutagenesis are among the most commonly utilized approaches for targeted mutagenesis in bacteria. However, both techniques are limited by a variety of factors that can complicate mutant phenotypic studies. To circumvent these limitations, multiple markerless mutagenesis techniques have been developed that utilize either temperature-sensitive plasmids or counterselectable suicide vectors containing both positive- and negative-selection markers. For many species, these techniques are not especially useful due to difficulties of cloning with Escherichia coli and/or a lack of functional negative-selection markers. In this study, we describe the development of a novel approach for the creation of markerless mutations. This system employs a cloning-independent methodology and should be easily adaptable to a wide array of Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacterial species. The entire process of creating both the counterselection cassette and mutation constructs can be completed using overlapping PCR protocols, which allows extremely quick assembly and eliminates the requirement for either temperature-sensitive replicons or suicide vectors. As a proof of principle, we used Streptococcus mutans reference strain UA159 to create markerless in-frame deletions of 3 separate bacteriocin genes as well as triple mutants containing all 3 deletions. Using a panel of 5 separate wild-type S. mutans strains, we further demonstrated that the procedure is nearly 100% efficient at generating clones with the desired markerless mutation, which is a considerable improvement in yield compared to existing approaches.
PMCID: PMC3208986  PMID: 21948849
12.  Development of a Markerless Genetic Exchange System for Desulfovibrio vulgaris Hildenborough and Its Use in Generating a Strain with Increased Transformation Efficiency▿ † 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2009;75(24):7682-7691.
In recent years, the genetic manipulation of the sulfate-reducing bacterium Desulfovibrio vulgaris Hildenborough has seen enormous progress. In spite of this progress, the current marker exchange deletion method does not allow for easy selection of multiple sequential gene deletions in a single strain because of the limited number of selectable markers available in D. vulgaris. To broaden the repertoire of genetic tools for manipulation, an in-frame, markerless deletion system has been developed. The counterselectable marker that makes this deletion system possible is the pyrimidine salvage enzyme, uracil phosphoribosyltransferase, encoded by upp. In wild-type D. vulgaris, growth was shown to be inhibited by the toxic pyrimidine analog 5-fluorouracil (5-FU), whereas a mutant bearing a deletion of the upp gene was resistant to 5-FU. When a plasmid containing the wild-type upp gene expressed constitutively from the aph(3′)-II promoter (promoter for the kanamycin resistance gene in Tn5) was introduced into the upp deletion strain, sensitivity to 5-FU was restored. This observation allowed us to develop a two-step integration and excision strategy for the deletion of genes of interest. Since this in-frame deletion strategy does not retain an antibiotic cassette, multiple deletions can be generated in a single strain without the accumulation of genes conferring antibiotic resistances. We used this strategy to generate a deletion strain lacking the endonuclease (hsdR, DVU1703) of a type I restriction-modification system that we designated JW7035. The transformation efficiency of the JW7035 strain was found to be 100 to 1,000 times greater than that of the wild-type strain when stable plasmids were introduced via electroporation.
PMCID: PMC2794091  PMID: 19837844
13.  Genetic Manipulations of the Hyperthermophilic Piezophilic Archaeon Thermococcus barophilus 
In this study, we developed a gene disruption system for Thermococcus barophilus using simvastatin for positive selection and 5-fluoroorotic acid (5-FOA) for negative selection or counterselection to obtain markerless deletion mutants using single- and double-crossover events. Disruption plasmids carrying flanking regions of each targeted gene were constructed and introduced by transformation into wild-type T. barophilus MP cells. Initially, a pyrF deletion mutant was obtained as a starting point for the construction of further markerless mutants. A deletion of the hisB gene was also constructed in the UBOCC-3256 (ΔpyrF) background, generating a strain (UBOCC-3260) that was auxotrophic for histidine. A functional pyrF or hisB allele from T. barophilus was inserted into the chromosome of UBOCC-3256 (ΔpyrF) or UBOCC-3260 (ΔpyrF ΔhisB), allowing homologous complementation of these mutants. The piezophilic genetic tools developed in this study provide a way to construct strains with multiple genetic backgrounds that will allow further genetic studies for hyperthermophilic piezophilic archaea.
PMCID: PMC3993132  PMID: 24487541
14.  An archaeal sRNA targeting cis- and trans-encoded mRNAs via two distinct domains 
Nucleic Acids Research  2012;40(21):10964-10979.
We report on the characterization and target analysis of the small (s)RNA162 in the methanoarchaeon Methanosarcina mazei. Using a combination of genetic approaches, transcriptome analysis and computational predictions, the bicistronic MM2441-MM2440 mRNA encoding the transcription factor MM2441 and a protein of unknown function was identified as a potential target of this sRNA, which due to processing accumulates as three stabile 5′ fragments in late exponential growth. Mobility shift assays using various mutants verified that the non-structured single-stranded linker region of sRNA162 (SLR) base-pairs with the MM2440-MM2441 mRNA internally, thereby masking the predicted ribosome binding site of MM2441. This most likely leads to translational repression of the second cistron resulting in dis-coordinated operon expression. Analysis of mutant RNAs in vivo confirmed that the SLR of sRNA162 is crucial for target interactions. Furthermore, our results indicate that sRNA162-controlled MM2441 is involved in regulating the metabolic switch between the carbon sources methanol and methylamine. Moreover, biochemical studies demonstrated that the 5′ end of sRNA162 targets the 5′-untranslated region of the cis-encoded MM2442 mRNA. Overall, this first study of archaeal sRNA/mRNA-target interactions unraveled that sRNA162 acts as an antisense (as)RNA on cis- and trans-encoded mRNAs via two distinct domains, indicating that cis-encoded asRNAs can have larger target regulons than previously anticipated.
PMCID: PMC3510493  PMID: 22965121
15.  Identification of the Major Expressed S-Layer and Cell Surface-Layer-Related Proteins in the Model Methanogenic Archaea: Methanosarcina barkeri Fusaro and Methanosarcina acetivorans C2A 
Archaea  2012;2012:873589.
Many archaeal cell envelopes contain a protein coat or sheath composed of one or more surface exposed proteins. These surface layer (S-layer) proteins contribute structural integrity and protect the lipid membrane from environmental challenges. To explore the species diversity of these layers in the Methanosarcinaceae, the major S-layer protein in Methanosarcina barkeri strain Fusaro was identified using proteomics. The Mbar_A1758 gene product was present in multiple forms with apparent sizes of 130, 120, and 100 kDa, consistent with post-translational modifications including signal peptide excision and protein glycosylation. A protein with features related to the surface layer proteins found in Methanosarcina acetivorans C2A and Methanosarcina mazei Goel was identified in the M. barkeri genome. These data reveal a distinct conserved protein signature with features and implied cell surface architecture in the Methanosarcinaceae that is absent in other archaea. Paralogous gene expression patterns in two Methanosarcina species revealed abundant expression of a single S-layer paralog in each strain. Respective promoter elements were identified and shown to be conserved in mRNA coding and upstream untranslated regions. Prior M. acetivorans genome annotations assigned S-layer or surface layer associated roles of eighty genes: however, of 68 examined none was significantly expressed relative to the experimentally determined S-layer gene.
PMCID: PMC3361143  PMID: 22666082
16.  Allelic Exchange in Actinomyces oris with mCherry Fluorescence Counterselection ▿  
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2010;76(17):5987-5989.
Described here is a method for facile generation of markerless gene deletion mutants of Actinomyces oris. Homologous integration of a nonreplicative vector carrying a gene exchange cassette into the bacterial chromosome was selected for by using mCherry fluorescence and resistance to kanamycin. Completion of allelic replacement was counterselected for by using loss of fluorescence.
PMCID: PMC2935053  PMID: 20601506
17.  Genetic modification of substrate specificity of hypoxanthine phosphoribosyltransferase in Salmonella typhimurium. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1975;121(1):77-82.
Salmonella typhimurium strain GP660 (proAB-gpt deletion, purE) lacks guanine phosphoribosyltransferase and hence cannot utilize guanine as a purine source and is resistant to inhibition by 8-azaguanine. Strain GP660 was mutagenized and a derivative strain (GP36) was isolated for utilization of guanine and hypoxanthine, but not xanthine, as purine sources. This alteration was designated sug. The strain was then sensitive to inhibition by 8-azaguanine. Column chromatographic analysis revealed the altered phosphoribosyltransferase peaks for both hypoxanthine and guanine to be located together, in the same position as hypoxanthine phosphoribosyltransferase (hpt gene product) of the wild-type strain. Genetic analysis showed the sug mutation to be allelic with hpt. Therefore sug represented a modification of the substrate specificity of the hpt gene product.
PMCID: PMC285615  PMID: 1090579
18.  Co-occurrence of Methanosarcina mazei and Geobacteraceae in an iron (III)-reducing enrichment culture 
Methanosaeta harundinacea and Methanosarcina barkeri, known as classic acetoclastic methanogens, are capable of directly accepting electrons from Geobacter metallireducens for the reduction of carbon dioxide to methane, having been revealed as direct interspecies electron transfer (DIET) in the laboratory co-cultures. However, whether their co-occurrences are ubiquitous in the iron (III)-reducing environments and the other species of acetoclastic methanogens such as Methanosarcina mazei are capable of DIET are still unknown. Instead of initiating the co-cultures with pure cultures, two-step cultivation was employed to selectively enrich iron (III)-reducing microorganisms in a coastal gold mining river, Jiehe River, with rich iron content in the sediments. First, iron (III) reducers including Geobacteraceae were successfully enriched by 3-months successive culture on amorphous Fe(III) oxides as electron acceptor and acetate as electron donor. High-throughput Illumina sequencing, terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism (T-RFLP) and clone library analysis based on 16S rRNA genes revealed that the enrichment cultures actively contained the bacteria belong to Geobacteraceae and Bacilli, exclusively dominated by the archaea belong to Methanosarcinaceae. Second, the enrichment cultures including methanogens and Geobacteraceae were transferred with ethanol as alternative electron donor. Remarkably, aggregates were successively formed in the enrichments after three transfers. The results revealed by RNA-based analysis demonstrate that the co-occurrence of Methanosarcina mazei and Geobacteraceae in an iron (III)-reducing enrichment culture. Furthermore, the aggregates, as close physical contact, formed in the enrichment culture, indicate that DIET could be a possible option for interspecies electron transfer in the aggregates.
PMCID: PMC4562271  PMID: 26441876
co-occurrence; Methanosarcina mazei; Geobacteraceae; direct interspecies electron transfer (DIET); iron(III)-reducing microorganisms
19.  A Novel Inducible Protein Production System and Neomycin Resistance as Selection Marker for Methanosarcina mazei 
Archaea  2012;2012:973743.
Methanosarcina mazei is one of the model organisms for the methanogenic order Methanosarcinales whose metabolism has been studied in detail. However, the genetic toolbox is still limited. This study was aimed at widening the scope of utilizable methods in this group of organisms. (i) Proteins specific to methanogens are oftentimes difficult to produce in E. coli. However, a protein production system is not available for methanogens. Here we present an inducible system to produce Strep-tagged proteins in Ms. mazei. The promoter p1687, which directs the transcription of methyl transferases that demethylate methylamines, was cloned into plasmid pWM321 and its activity was determined by monitoring β-glucuronidase production. The promoter was inactive during growth on methanol but was rapidly activated when trimethylamine was added to the medium. The gene encoding the β-glucuronidase from E. coli was fused to a Strep-tag and was cloned downstream of the p1687 promoter. The protein was overproduced in Ms. mazei and was purified in an active form by affinity chromatography. (ii) Puromycin is currently the only antibiotic used as a selectable marker in Ms. mazei and its relatives. We established neomycin resistance as a second selectable marker by designing a plasmid that confers neomycin resistance in Ms. mazei.
PMCID: PMC3407599  PMID: 22851906
20.  Identification and functional characterization of small non-coding RNAs in Xanthomonas oryzae pathovar oryzae 
BMC Genomics  2011;12:87.
Small non-coding RNAs (sRNAs) are regarded as important regulators in prokaryotes and play essential roles in diverse cellular processes. Xanthomonas oryzae pathovar oryzae (Xoo) is an important plant pathogenic bacterium which causes serious bacterial blight of rice. However, little is known about the number, genomic distribution and biological functions of sRNAs in Xoo.
Here, we performed a systematic screen to identify sRNAs in the Xoo strain PXO99. A total of 850 putative non-coding RNA sequences originated from intergenic and gene antisense regions were identified by cloning, of which 63 were also identified as sRNA candidates by computational prediction, thus were considered as Xoo sRNA candidates. Northern blot hybridization confirmed the size and expression of 6 sRNA candidates and other 2 cloned small RNA sequences, which were then added to the sRNA candidate list. We further examined the expression profiles of the eight sRNAs in an hfq deletion mutant and found that two of them showed drastically decreased expression levels, and another exhibited an Hfq-dependent transcript processing pattern. Deletion mutants were obtained for seven of the Northern confirmed sRNAs, but none of them exhibited obvious phenotypes. Comparison of the proteomic differences between three of the ΔsRNA mutants and the wild-type strain by two-dimensional gel electrophoresis (2-DE) analysis showed that these sRNAs are involved in multiple physiological and biochemical processes.
We experimentally verified eight sRNAs in a genome-wide screen and uncovered three Hfq-dependent sRNAs in Xoo. Proteomics analysis revealed Xoo sRNAs may take part in various metabolic processes. Taken together, this work represents the first comprehensive screen and functional analysis of sRNAs in rice pathogenic bacteria and facilitates future studies on sRNA-mediated regulatory networks in this important phytopathogen.
PMCID: PMC3039613  PMID: 21276262
21.  Transcription of a cis-acting, Noncoding, Small RNA Is Required for Pilin Antigenic Variation in Neisseria gonorrhoeae 
PLoS Pathogens  2013;9(1):e1003074.
The strict human pathogen Neisseria gonorrhoeae can utilize homologous recombination to generate antigenic variability in targets of immune surveillance. To evade the host immune response, N. gonorrhoeae promotes high frequency gene conversion events between many silent pilin copies and the expressed pilin locus (pilE), resulting in the production of variant pilin proteins. Previously, we identified a guanine quartet (G4) structure localized near pilE that is required for the homologous recombination reactions leading to pilin antigenic variation (Av). In this work, we demonstrate that inactivating the promoter of a small non-coding RNA (sRNA) that initiates within the G4 forming sequence blocks pilin Av. The sRNA promoter is conserved in all sequenced gonococcal strains, and mutations in the predicted transcript downstream of the G4 forming sequence do not alter pilin Av. A mutation that produces a stronger promoter or substitution of the pilE G4-associated sRNA promoter with a phage promoter (when the phage polymerase was expressed) produced wild-type levels of pilin Av. Altering the direction and orientation of the pilE G4-associated sRNA disrupted pilin Av. In addition, expression of the sRNA at a distal site on the gonococcal chromosome in the context of a promoter mutant did not support pilin Av. We conclude that the DNA containing the G-rich sequence can only form the G4 structure during transcription of this sRNA, thus providing a unique molecular step for the initiation of programmed recombination events.
Author Summary
To evade the host immune response, pathogens have evolved mechanisms to provide genetic diversity in targets of immune surveillance. Organisms that express these diversification systems are under strong evolutionary pressure to provide subpopulations of preexisting variants and often rely on cellular recombination machinery to catalyze dedicated high-frequency reactions without disturbing genome integrity. Previously, we defined a guanine quartet (G4) structure in the strict human pathogen Neisseria gonorrhoeae that is required for initiating the homologous recombination reactions leading to pilin antigenic variation (Av). G4 structures have been implicated in many biological processes, however the mechanisms allowing their formation within a chromosome have not been elucidated. In this work, we show a direct link between transcription of a small RNA (sRNA) that initiates within the G4 structure forming sequence and pilin Av and conclude that the process of transcription is necessary for G4 structure formation. sRNAs have emerged as important regulatory molecules in both eukaryotes and prokaryotes, and this is a novel activity of a sRNA in a bacterium. We anticipate that the reliance of G4 structure formation on transcription is a mechanism used by other biological systems that rely on this alternative DNA structure.
PMCID: PMC3547852  PMID: 23349628
22.  Mechanism for Stabilizing mRNAs Involved in Methanol-Dependent Methanogenesis of Cold-Adaptive Methanosarcina mazei zm-15 
Methylotrophic methanogenesis predominates at low temperatures in the cold Zoige wetland in Tibet. To elucidate the basis of cold-adapted methanogenesis in these habitats, Methanosarcina mazei zm-15 was isolated, and the molecular basis of its cold activity was studied. For this strain, aceticlastic methanogenesis was reduced 7.7-fold during growth at 15°C versus 30°C. Methanol-derived methanogenesis decreased only 3-fold under the same conditions, suggesting that it is more cold adaptive. Reverse transcription-quantitative PCR (RT-qPCR) detected <2-fold difference in the transcript abundances of mtaA1, mtaB1, and mtaC1, the methanol methyltransferase (Mta) genes, in 30°C versus 15°C culture, while ackA and pta mRNAs, encoding acetate kinase (Ack) and phosphotransacetylase (Pta) in aceticlastic methanogenesis, were 4.5- and 6.8-fold higher in 30°C culture than in 15°C culture. The in vivo half-lives of mtaA1 and mtaC1B1 mRNAs were similar in 30°C and 15°C cultures. However, the pta-ackA mRNA half-life was significantly reduced in 15°C culture compared to 30°C culture. Using circularized RNA RT-PCR, large 5′ untranslated regions (UTRs) (270 nucleotides [nt] and 238 nt) were identified for mtaA1 and mtaC1B1 mRNAs, while only a 27-nt 5′ UTR was present in the pta-ackA transcript. Removal of the 5′ UTRs significantly reduced the in vitro half-lives of mtaA1 and mtaC1B1 mRNAs. Remarkably, fusion of the mtaA1 or mtaC1B1 5′ UTRs to pta-ackA mRNA increased its in vitro half-life at both 30°C and 15°C. These results demonstrate that the large 5′ UTRs significantly enhance the stability of the mRNAs involved in methanol-derived methanogenesis in the cold-adaptive M. mazei zm-15.
PMCID: PMC3911069  PMID: 24317083
23.  Improved and Versatile Transformation System Allowing Multiple Genetic Manipulations of the Hyperthermophilic Archaeon Thermococcus kodakaraensis 
We have recently developed a gene disruption system for the hyperthermophilic archaeon Thermococcus kodakaraensis by utilizing a pyrF-deficient mutant, KU25, as a host strain and the pyrF gene as a selectable marker. To achieve multiple genetic manipulations for more advanced functional analyses of genes in vivo, it is necessary to establish multiple host-marker systems or to develop a system in which repeated utilization of one marker gene is possible. In this study, we first constructed a new host strain, KU216 (ΔpyrF), by specific and almost complete deletion of endogenous pyrF through homologous recombination. In this refined host, there is no need to consider unknown mutations caused by random mutagenesis, and unlike in the previous host, KU25, there is little, if any, possibility that unintended recombination between the marker gene and the chromosomal allele occurs. Furthermore, a new host-marker combination of a trpE deletant, KW128 (ΔpyrF ΔtrpE::pyrF), and the trpE gene was developed. This system made it possible to isolate transformants through a more simple selection procedure as well as to deduce the transformation efficiency, overcoming practical disadvantages of the first system. The effects of the transformation conditions were also investigated using this system. Finally, we have also established a system in which repeated utilization of the counterselectable pyrF marker is possible through its excision by pop-out recombination. Both endogenous and exogenous sequences could be applied as tandem repeats flanking the marker pyrF for pop-out recombination. A double deletion mutant, KUW1 (ΔpyrF ΔtrpE), constructed with the pop-out strategy, was demonstrated to be a useful host for the dual markers pyrF and trpE. Likewise, a triple deletion mutant, KUWH1 (ΔpyrF ΔtrpE ΔhisD), could also be constructed. The transformation systems developed here now provide the means for extensive genetic studies in this hyperthermophilic archaeon.
PMCID: PMC1169065  PMID: 16000802
24.  SagS Contributes to the Motile-Sessile Switch and Acts in Concert with BfiSR To Enable Pseudomonas aeruginosa Biofilm Formation▿† 
Journal of Bacteriology  2011;193(23):6614-6628.
The interaction of Pseudomonas aeruginosa with surfaces has been described as a two-stage process requiring distinct signaling events and the reciprocal modulation of small RNAs (sRNAs). However, little is known regarding the relationship between sRNA-modulating pathways active under planktonic or surface-associated growth conditions. Here, we demonstrate that SagS (PA2824), the cognate sensor of HptB, links sRNA-modulating activities via the Gac/HptB/Rsm system postattachment to the signal transduction network BfiSR, previously demonstrated to be required for the development of P. aeruginosa. Consistent with the role of SagS in the GacA-dependent HtpB signaling pathway, inactivation of sagS resulted in hyperattachment, an HptB-dependent increase in rsmYZ, increased Psl polysaccharide production, and increased virulence. Moreover, sagS inactivation rescued attachment but abrogated biofilm formation by the ΔgacA and ΔhptB mutant strains. The ΔsagS strain was impaired in biofilm formation at a stage similar to that of the previously described two-component system BfiSR. Expression of bfiR but not bfiS restored ΔsagS biofilm formation independently of rsmYZ. We demonstrate that SagS interacts directly with BfiS and only indirectly with BfiR, with the direct and specific interaction between these two membrane-bound sensors resulting in the modulation of the phosphorylation state of BfiS in a growth-mode-dependent manner. SagS plays an important role in P. aeruginosa virulence in a manner opposite to that of BfiS. Our findings indicate that SagS acts as a switch by linking the GacA-dependent sensory system under planktonic conditions to the suppression of sRNAs postattachment and to BfiSR, required for the development of P. aeruginosa biofilms, in a sequential and stage-specific manner.
PMCID: PMC3232883  PMID: 21949078
25.  Cloning of the HSP70 gene from Halobacterium marismortui: relatedness of archaebacterial HSP70 to its eubacterial homologs and a model for the evolution of the HSP70 gene. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1992;174(14):4594-4605.
Heat shock induces the synthesis of a set of proteins in Halobacterium marismortui whose molecular sizes correspond to the known major heat shock proteins. By using the polymerase chain reaction and degenerate oligonucleotide primers for conserved regions of the 70-kDa heat shock protein (HSP70) family, we have successfully cloned and sequenced a gene fragment containing the entire coding sequence for HSP70 from H. marismortui. HSP70 from H. marismortui shows between 44 and 47% amino acid identity with various eukaryotic HSP70s and between 51 and 58% identity with its eubacterial and archaebacterial homologs. On the basis of a comparison of all available HSP70 sequences, we have identified a number of unique sequence signatures in this protein family that provide a clear distinction between eukaryotic organisms and prokaryotic organisms (archaebacteria and eubacteria). The archaebacterial (viz., H. marismortui and Methanosarcina mazei) HSP70s have been found to contain all of the signature sequences characteristic of eubacteria (particularly the gram-positive bacteria), which suggests a close evolutionary relationship between these groups. In addition, detailed analyses of HSP70 sequences that we have carried out have revealed a number of additional novel features of the HSP70 protein family. These include (i) the presence of an insertion of about 25 to 27 amino acids in the N-terminal quadrants of all known eukaryotic and prokaryotic HSP70s except those from archaebacteria and the gram-positive group of bacteria, (ii) significant sequence similarity in HSP70 regions comprising its first and second quadrants from organisms lacking the above insertion, (iii) highly significant similarity between a protein, MreB, of Escherichia coli and the N-terminal half of HSP70s, (iv) significant sequence similarity between the N-terminal quadrant of HSP70 (from gram-positive bacteria and archaebacteria) and the m-type thioredoxin of plant chloroplasts. To account for these and other observations, a model for the evolution of HSP70 proteins involving gene duplication is proposed. The model proposes that HSP70 from archaebacteria (H. marismortui and M. mazei) and the gram-positive group of bacteria constitutes the ancestral form of the protein and that all other HSP70s (viz., other eubacteria as well as eukaryotes) containing the insert have evolved from this ancient protein.
PMCID: PMC206254  PMID: 1624448

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