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1.  Critical Role of Dispensable Genes in Mycoplasma agalactiae Interaction with Mammalian Cells▿  
Infection and Immunity  2010;78(4):1542-1551.
Mycoplasmas are minimal bacteria whose genomes barely exceed the smallest amount of information required to sustain autonomous life. Despite this apparent simplicity, several mycoplasmas are successful pathogens of humans and animals, in which they establish intimate interactions with epithelial cells at mucosal surfaces. To identify biological functions mediating mycoplasma interactions with mammalian cells, we produced a library of transposon knockout mutants in the ruminant pathogen Mycoplasma agalactiae and used this library to identify mutants displaying a growth-deficient pheonotype in cell culture. M. agalactiae mutants displaying a 3-fold reduction in CFU titers to nearly complete extinction in coculture with HeLa cells were identified. Mapping of transposon insertion sites revealed 18 genomic regions putatively involved in the interaction of M. agalactiae with HeLa cells. Several of these regions encode proteins with features of membrane lipoproteins and/or were involved in horizontal gene transfer with phylogenetically distant pathogenic mycoplasmas of ruminants. Two mutants with the most extreme phenotype carry a transposon in a genomic region designated the NIF locus which encodes homologues of SufS and SufU, two proteins presumably involved in [Fe-S] cluster biosynthesis in Gram-positive bacteria. Complementation studies confirmed the conditional essentiality of the NIF locus, which was found to be critical for proliferation in the presence of HeLa cells and several other mammalian cell lines but dispensable for axenic growth. While our results raised questions regarding essential functions in mycoplasmas, they also provide a means for studying the role of mycoplasmas as minimal pathogens.
doi:10.1128/IAI.01195-09
PMCID: PMC2849427  PMID: 20123713
2.  Being Pathogenic, Plastic, and Sexual while Living with a Nearly Minimal Bacterial Genome 
PLoS Genetics  2007;3(5):e75.
Mycoplasmas are commonly described as the simplest self-replicating organisms, whose evolution was mainly characterized by genome downsizing with a proposed evolutionary scenario similar to that of obligate intracellular bacteria such as insect endosymbionts. Thus far, analysis of mycoplasma genomes indicates a low level of horizontal gene transfer (HGT) implying that DNA acquisition is strongly limited in these minimal bacteria. In this study, the genome of the ruminant pathogen Mycoplasma agalactiae was sequenced. Comparative genomic data and phylogenetic tree reconstruction revealed that ∼18% of its small genome (877,438 bp) has undergone HGT with the phylogenetically distinct mycoides cluster, which is composed of significant ruminant pathogens. HGT involves genes often found as clusters, several of which encode lipoproteins that usually play an important role in mycoplasma–host interaction. A decayed form of a conjugative element also described in a member of the mycoides cluster was found in the M. agalactiae genome, suggesting that HGT may have occurred by mobilizing a related genetic element. The possibility of HGT events among other mycoplasmas was evaluated with the available sequenced genomes. Our data indicate marginal levels of HGT among Mycoplasma species except for those described above and, to a lesser extent, for those observed in between the two bird pathogens, M. gallisepticum and M. synoviae. This first description of large-scale HGT among mycoplasmas sharing the same ecological niche challenges the generally accepted evolutionary scenario in which gene loss is the main driving force of mycoplasma evolution. The latter clearly differs from that of other bacteria with small genomes, particularly obligate intracellular bacteria that are isolated within host cells. Consequently, mycoplasmas are not only able to subvert complex hosts but presumably have retained sexual competence, a trait that may prevent them from genome stasis and contribute to adaptation to new hosts.
Author Summary
Mycoplasmas are cell wall–lacking prokaryotes that evolved from ancestors common to Gram-positive bacteria by way of massive losses of genetic material. With their minimal genome, mycoplasmas are considered to be the simplest free-living organisms, yet several species are successful pathogens of man and animal. In this study, we challenged the commonly accepted view in which mycoplasma evolution is driven only by genome down-sizing. Indeed, we showed that a significant amount of genes underwent horizontal transfer among different mycoplasma species that share the same ruminant hosts. In these species, the occurrence of a genetic element that can promote DNA transfer via cell-to-cell contact suggests that some mycoplasmas may have retained or acquired sexual competence. Transferred genes were found to encode proteins that are likely to be associated with mycoplasma–host interactions. Sharing genetic resources via horizontal gene transfer may provide mycoplasmas with a means for adapting to new niches or to new hosts and for avoiding irreversible genome erosion.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.0030075
PMCID: PMC1868952  PMID: 17511520
3.  Being Pathogenic, Plastic, and Sexual while Living with a Nearly Minimal Bacterial Genome 
PLoS Genetics  2007;3(5):e75.
Mycoplasmas are commonly described as the simplest self-replicating organisms, whose evolution was mainly characterized by genome downsizing with a proposed evolutionary scenario similar to that of obligate intracellular bacteria such as insect endosymbionts. Thus far, analysis of mycoplasma genomes indicates a low level of horizontal gene transfer (HGT) implying that DNA acquisition is strongly limited in these minimal bacteria. In this study, the genome of the ruminant pathogen Mycoplasma agalactiae was sequenced. Comparative genomic data and phylogenetic tree reconstruction revealed that ∼18% of its small genome (877,438 bp) has undergone HGT with the phylogenetically distinct mycoides cluster, which is composed of significant ruminant pathogens. HGT involves genes often found as clusters, several of which encode lipoproteins that usually play an important role in mycoplasma–host interaction. A decayed form of a conjugative element also described in a member of the mycoides cluster was found in the M. agalactiae genome, suggesting that HGT may have occurred by mobilizing a related genetic element. The possibility of HGT events among other mycoplasmas was evaluated with the available sequenced genomes. Our data indicate marginal levels of HGT among Mycoplasma species except for those described above and, to a lesser extent, for those observed in between the two bird pathogens, M. gallisepticum and M. synoviae. This first description of large-scale HGT among mycoplasmas sharing the same ecological niche challenges the generally accepted evolutionary scenario in which gene loss is the main driving force of mycoplasma evolution. The latter clearly differs from that of other bacteria with small genomes, particularly obligate intracellular bacteria that are isolated within host cells. Consequently, mycoplasmas are not only able to subvert complex hosts but presumably have retained sexual competence, a trait that may prevent them from genome stasis and contribute to adaptation to new hosts.
Author Summary
Mycoplasmas are cell wall–lacking prokaryotes that evolved from ancestors common to Gram-positive bacteria by way of massive losses of genetic material. With their minimal genome, mycoplasmas are considered to be the simplest free-living organisms, yet several species are successful pathogens of man and animal. In this study, we challenged the commonly accepted view in which mycoplasma evolution is driven only by genome down-sizing. Indeed, we showed that a significant amount of genes underwent horizontal transfer among different mycoplasma species that share the same ruminant hosts. In these species, the occurrence of a genetic element that can promote DNA transfer via cell-to-cell contact suggests that some mycoplasmas may have retained or acquired sexual competence. Transferred genes were found to encode proteins that are likely to be associated with mycoplasma–host interactions. Sharing genetic resources via horizontal gene transfer may provide mycoplasmas with a means for adapting to new niches or to new hosts and for avoiding irreversible genome erosion.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.0030075
PMCID: PMC1868952  PMID: 17511520
4.  Emergence of Atypical Mycoplasma agalactiae Strains Harboring a New Prophage and Associated with an Alpine Wild Ungulate Mortality Episode 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2012;78(13):4659-4668.
The bacterium Mycoplasma agalactiae is responsible for contagious agalactia (CA) in small domestic ruminants, a syndrome listed by the World Organization for Animal Health and responsible for severe damage to the dairy industry. Recently, we frequently isolated this pathogen from lung lesions of ibexes during a mortality episode in the French Alps. This situation was unusual in terms of host specificity and tissue tropism, raising the question of M. agalactiae emergence in wildlife. To address this issue, the ibex isolates were characterized using a combination of approaches that included antigenic profiles, molecular typing, optical mapping, and whole-genome sequencing. Genome analyses showed the presence of a new, large prophage containing 35 coding sequences (CDS) that was detected in most but not all ibex strains and has a homolog in Mycoplasma conjunctivae, a species causing keratoconjunctivitis in wild ungulates. This and the presence in all strains of large integrated conjugative elements suggested highly dynamic genomes. Nevertheless, M. agalactiae strains circulating in the ibex population were shown to be highly related, most likely originating from a single parental clone that has also spread to another wild ungulate species of the same geographical area, the chamois. These strains clearly differ from strains described in Europe so far, including those found nearby, before CA eradication a few years ago. While M. agalactiae pathogenicity in ibexes remains unclear, our data showed the emergence of atypical strains in Alpine wild ungulates, raising the question of a role for the wild fauna as a potential reservoir of pathogenic mycoplasmas.
doi:10.1128/AEM.00332-12
PMCID: PMC3370481  PMID: 22522685
5.  The liposoluble proteome of Mycoplasma agalactiae: an insight into the minimal protein complement of a bacterial membrane 
BMC Microbiology  2010;10:225.
Background
Mycoplasmas are the simplest bacteria capable of autonomous replication. Their evolution proceeded from gram-positive bacteria, with the loss of many biosynthetic pathways and of the cell wall. In this work, the liposoluble protein complement of Mycoplasma agalactiae, a minimal bacterial pathogen causing mastitis, polyarthritis, keratoconjunctivitis, and abortion in small ruminants, was subjected to systematic characterization in order to gain insights into its membrane proteome composition.
Results
The selective enrichment for M. agalactiae PG2T liposoluble proteins was accomplished by means of Triton X-114 fractionation. Liposoluble proteins were subjected to 2-D PAGE-MS, leading to the identification of 40 unique proteins and to the generation of a reference 2D map of the M. agalactiae liposoluble proteome. Liposoluble proteins from the type strain PG2 and two field isolates were then compared by means of 2D DIGE, revealing reproducible differences in protein expression among isolates. An in-depth analysis was then performed by GeLC-MS/MS in order to achieve a higher coverage of the liposoluble proteome. Using this approach, a total of 194 unique proteins were identified, corresponding to 26% of all M. agalactiae PG2T genes. A gene ontology analysis and classification for localization and function was also carried out on all protein identifications. Interestingly, the 11.5% of expressed membrane proteins derived from putative horizontal gene transfer events.
Conclusions
This study led to the in-depth systematic characterization of the M. agalactiae liposoluble protein component, providing useful insights into its membrane organization.
doi:10.1186/1471-2180-10-225
PMCID: PMC2941501  PMID: 20738845
6.  Mapping Antigenic Sites of an Immunodominant Surface Lipoprotein of Mycoplasma agalactiae, AvgC, with the Use of Synthetic Peptides  
Infection and Immunity  2002;70(1):171-176.
As a first step toward the design of an epitope vaccine to prevent contagious agalactia, the strongly immunogenic 55-kDa protein of Mycoplasma agalactiae was studied and found to correspond to the AvgC protein encoded by the avgC gene. The avg genes of M. agalactiae, which encode four variable surface lipoproteins, display a significant homology to the vsp (variable membrane surface lipoproteins) genes of the bovine pathogen Mycoplasma bovis at their promoter region as well as their N-terminus-encoding regions. Some members of the Vsp family are known to be involved in cytoadhesion to host cells. In order to localize immunogenic peptides in the AvgC antigen, the protein sequence was submitted to epitope prediction analysis, and five sets of overlapping peptides, corresponding to five selected regions, were synthesized by Spot synthesis. Reactive peptides were selected by immunobinding assay with sera from infected sheep. The three most immunogenic epitopes were shown to be surface exposed by immunoprecipitation assays, and one of these was specifically recognized by all tested sera. Our study indicates that selected epitopes of the AvgC lipoprotein may be used to develop a peptide-based vaccine which is effective against M. agalactiae infection.
doi:10.1128/IAI.70.1.171-176.2002
PMCID: PMC127643  PMID: 11748179
7.  Variable Lipoprotein Genes of Mycoplasma agalactiae Are Activated In Vivo by Promoter Addition via Site-Specific DNA Inversions  
Infection and Immunity  2003;71(7):3821-3830.
Mycoplasma agalactiae, the etiological agent of contagious agalactia of small ruminants, has a family of related genes (avg genes) which encode surface lipoprotein antigens that undergo phase variation. A series of 13 M. agalactiae clonal isolates, obtained from one chronically infected animal over a period of 7 months, were found to undergo major rearrangement events within the avg genomic locus. We show that these rearrangements regulate the phase-variable expression of individual avg genes. Northern blot analysis and reverse transcription-PCR showed that only one avg gene is transcribed, while the other avg genes are transcriptionally silent. Sequence analysis and primer extension experiments with two M. agalactiae clonal isolates showed that a specific 182-bp avg 5′ upstream region (avg-B2) that is present as a single chromosomal copy serves as an active promoter and exhibits a high level of homology with the vsp promoter of the bovine pathogen Mycoplasma bovis. PCR analysis showed that each avg gene is associated with the avg-B2 promoter in a subpopulation of cells that is present in each subclone. Multiple sequence-specific sites for DNA recombination (vis-like), which are presumably recognized by site-specific recombinase, were identified within the conserved avg 5′ upstream regions of all avg genes and were found to be identical to the recombination sites of the M. bovis vsp locus. In addition, a gene encoding a member of the integrase family of tyrosine site-specific recombinases was identified adjacent to the variable avg locus. The molecular genetic basis for avg phase-variable expression appears to be mediated by site-specific DNA inversions occurring in vivo that allow activation of a silent avg gene by promoter addition. A model for the control of avg genes is proposed.
doi:10.1128/IAI.71.7.3821-3830.2003
PMCID: PMC162021  PMID: 12819065
8.  Comparative assessment of two commonly used commercial ELISA tests for the serological diagnosis of contagious agalactia of small ruminants caused by Mycoplasma agalactiae 
Background
Contagious agalactia (CA) of sheep and goats caused by Mycoplasma agalactiae is a widely occurring economically important disease that is difficult to control. The ELISA is commonly used for the serological detection of CA but it has some limitations and the performance of the available tests have not been properly evaluated.
Two commercial ELISA kits are widely used, one involving a fusion protein as target antigen and the other a total antigen. The objectives were to compare these tests by evaluating:
i. Their diagnostic sensitivity and specificity, the relevance of the recommended cut-off points, the correlation between the two tests, and, the correlation between serology data and the milk shedding of M. agalatiae;
ii. The influence of extrinsic factors such as the targeted animal species, geographical origin of the samples, intra-specific variability of M. agalactiae and concurrent mycoplasma infections.
A sample of 5900 animals from 211 farms with continuous CA monitoring for 20 years and no prior vaccination history was used. The infection status was known from prior bacteriological, epidemiological and serological monitoring with a complementary immunoblotting test.
Results
The average diagnostic sensitivity was 56% [51.8–59.8] for the fusion protein ELISA and 84% [81.3–87.2] for the total antigen ELISA, with noteworthy flock-related variations. The average diagnostic specificity for the fusion protein ELISA was 100% [99.9–100], and for the total antigen ELISA differed significantly between goats and sheep: 99.3% [97.4–99.9] and 95.7% [93.8–97.2] respectively.
Experimental inoculations with different M. agalactiae strains revealed that the ELISA kits poorly detected the antibody response to certain strains. Furthermore, test performances varied according to the host species or geographical origin of the samples.
Finally, the correlation between milk shedding of M. agalactiae and the presence of detectable antibodies in the blood was poor.
Conclusions
These serological tests are not interchangeable. The choice of a test will depend on the objectives (early detection of infection or disease control program), on the prevalence of infection and the control protocol used. Given the variety of factors that may influence performance, a preliminary assessment of the test in a given situation is recommended prior to widespread use.
doi:10.1186/1746-6148-8-109
PMCID: PMC3439703  PMID: 22776779
9.  Molecular mechanisms of pathogenicity of Mycoplasma mycoides subsp. mycoides SC 
Mycoplasma mycoides subsp. mycoides SC, the aetiological agent of contagious bovine pleuropneumonia (CBPP), is considered the most pathogenic of the Mycoplasma species. Its virulence is probably the result of a coordinated action of various components of an antigenically and functionally dynamic surface architecture. The different virulence attributes allow the pathogen to evade the host’s immune defence, adhere tightly to the host cell surface, persist and disseminate in the host causing mycoplasmaemia, efficiently import energetically valuable nutrients present in the environment, and release and simultaneously translocate toxic metabolic pathway products to the host cell where they cause cytotoxic effects that are known to induce inflammatory processes and disease. This strategy enables the mycoplasma to exploit the minimal genetic information in its small genome, not only to fulfil the basic functions for its replication but also to damage host cells in intimate proximity thereby acquiring the necessary bio-molecules, such as amino acids and nucleic acid precursors, for its own biosynthesis and survival.
doi:10.1016/j.tvjl.2006.10.016
PMCID: PMC2628566  PMID: 17157043
Mycoplasma mycoides subsp. mycoides SC; CBPP; Pathogenicity; Capsular polysaccharide; Lipoproteins; Adhesion factors; Variable surface proteins; Toxic metabolic pathway products; Catabolite repression
10.  Molecular mechanisms of pathogenicity of Mycoplasma mycoides subsp. mycoides SC 
Mycoplasma mycoides subsp. mycoides SC, the aetiological agent of contagious bovine pleuropneumonia (CBPP), is considered the most pathogenic of the Mycoplasma species. Its virulence is probably the result of a coordinated action of various components of an antigenically and functionally dynamic surface architecture. The different virulence attributes allow the pathogen to evade the host’s immune defence, adhere tightly to the host cell surface, persist and disseminate in the host causing mycoplasmaemia, efficiently import energetically valuable nutrients present in the environment, and release and simultaneously translocate toxic metabolic pathway products to the host cell where they cause cytotoxic effects that are known to induce inflammatory processes and disease. This strategy enables the mycoplasma to exploit the minimal genetic information in its small genome, not only to fulfil the basic functions for its replication but also to damage host cells in intimate proximity thereby acquiring the necessary bio-molecules, such as amino acids and nucleic acid precursors, for its own biosynthesis and survival.
doi:10.1016/j.tvjl.2006.10.016
PMCID: PMC2628566  PMID: 17157043
Mycoplasma mycoides subsp. mycoides SC; CBPP; Pathogenicity; Capsular polysaccharide; Lipoproteins; Adhesion factors; Variable surface proteins; Toxic metabolic pathway products; Catabolite repression
11.  Mycoplasma agalactiae p40 Gene, a Novel Marker for Diagnosis of Contagious Agalactia in Sheep by Real-Time PCR: Assessment of Analytical Performance and In-House Validation Using Naturally Contaminated Milk Samples▿ † 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2008;47(2):445-450.
We evaluated the capacity of the Mycoplasma agalactiae p40 gene as a diagnostic marker for contagious agalactia in sheep by quantitative real-time PCR. The p40 gene encodes an immunodominant adhesin that plays a key role in cytoadhesion of M. agalactiae. The assay was 100% specific, with an analytical sensitivity of 1 genome equivalent (GE), a quantification that is highly linear (R2 > 0.992) and efficient (PCR efficiency, >0.992) over a 6-log dynamic range, down to 10 GE. We evaluated the capacity of the assay to detect Mycoplasma agalactiae in 797 milk samples (373 raw sheep milk samples from refrigerated tanks of different farms and 424 milk samples from individual sheep of a flock positive for M. agalactiae). In parallel, we also tested the samples by using microbiological isolation coupled with microscopy identification and by a PCR method recommended by the World Organization for Animal Health. While our assay was able to detect 57 (15.28%) positive samples of the 373 milk samples from different farms, identification by microbiological isolation coupled with microscopy detected only 36 (9.65%) samples, and the conventional PCR detected 31 (8.31%) samples. These findings showed that our assay based on the p40 gene is more specific and sensitive for the detection of M. agalactiae in actual natural samples and, thus, can be a promising alternative tool for diagnosis and epidemiological studies of M. agalactiae infection.
doi:10.1128/JCM.01442-08
PMCID: PMC2643663  PMID: 19020058
12.  Phase-locked mutants of Mycoplasma agalactiae: defining the molecular switch of high-frequency Vpma antigenic variation 
Molecular Microbiology  2008;67(6):1196-1210.
Mycoplasma agalactiae, an important pathogen of small ruminants, exhibits antigenic diversity by switching the expression of multiple surface lipoproteins called Vpmas (Variable proteins of M. agalactiae). Although phase variation has been shown to play important roles in many host–pathogen interactions, the biological significance and the mechanism of Vpma oscillations remain largely unclear. Here, we demonstrate that all six Vpma proteins are expressed in the type strain PG2 and all undergo phase variation at an unusually high frequency. Furthermore, targeted gene disruption of the xer1 gene encoding a putative site-specific recombinase adjacent to the vpma locus was accomplished via homologous recombination using a replicon-based vector. Inactivation of xer1 abolished further Vpma switching and the ‘phase-locked’ mutants (PLMs) continued to steadily express only a single Vpma product. Complementation of the wild-type xer1 gene in PLMs restored Vpma phase variation thereby proving that Xer1 is essential for vpma inversions. The study is not only instrumental in enhancing our ability to understand the role of Vpmas in M. agalactiae infections but also provides useful molecular approaches to study potential disease factors in other ‘difficult-to-manipulate’ mycoplasmas.
doi:10.1111/j.1365-2958.2007.06103.x
PMCID: PMC2268961  PMID: 18248580
13.  The Novel Fibrinogen-Binding Protein FbsB Promotes Streptococcus agalactiae Invasion into Epithelial Cells  
Infection and Immunity  2004;72(6):3495-3504.
Streptococcus agalactiae is a major cause of bacterial sepsis and meningitis in human newborns. The interaction of S. agalactiae with host proteins and the entry into host cells thereby represent important virulence traits of these bacteria. The present report describes the identification of the fbsB gene, encoding a novel fibrinogen-binding protein that plays a crucial role in the invasion of S. agalactiae into human cells. In Western blots and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) experiments, the FbsB protein was demonstrated to interact with soluble and immobilized fibrinogen. Binding studies showed the N-terminal 388 residues of FbsB and the Aα-subunit of human fibrinogen to recognize each other. By reverse transcription (RT)-PCR, the fbsB gene was shown to be cotranscribed with the gbs0851 gene in S. agalactiae. Deletion of the fbsB gene in the genome of S. agalactiae did not influence the binding of the bacteria to fibrinogen, suggesting that FbsB does not participate in the attachment of S. agalactiae to fibrinogen. In tissue culture experiments, however, the fbsB deletion mutant was severely impaired in its invasion into lung epithelial cells. Bacterial invasion could be reestablished by introducing the fbsB gene on a shuttle plasmid into the fbsB deletion mutant. Furthermore, treatment of lung epithelial cells with FbsB fusion protein blocked S. agalactiae invasion of epithelial cells in a dose-dependent fashion. These results suggest an important role of the FbsB protein in the overall process of host cell entry by S. agalactiae.
doi:10.1128/IAI.72.6.3495-3504.2004
PMCID: PMC415667  PMID: 15155657
14.  VNTR analysis reveals unexpected genetic diversity within Mycoplasma agalactiae, the main causative agent of contagious agalactia 
BMC Microbiology  2008;8:193.
Background
Mycoplasma agalactiae is the main cause of contagious agalactia, a serious disease of sheep and goats, which has major clinical and economic impacts. Previous studies of M. agalactiae have shown it to be unusually homogeneous and there are currently no available epidemiological techniques which enable a high degree of strain differentiation.
Results
We have developed variable number tandem repeat (VNTR) analysis using the sequenced genome of the M. agalactiae type strain PG2. The PG2 genome was found to be replete with tandem repeat sequences and 4 were chosen for further analysis. VNTR 5 was located within the hypothetical protein MAG6170 a predicted lipoprotein. VNTR 14 was intergenic between the hypothetical protein MAG3350 and the hypothetical protein MAG3340. VNTR 17 was intergenic between the hypothetical protein MAG4060 and the hypothetical protein MAG4070 and VNTR 19 spanned the 5' end of the pseudogene for a lipoprotein MAG4310 and the 3' end of the hypothetical lipoprotein MAG4320.
We have investigated the genetic diversity of 88 M. agalactiae isolates of wide geographic origin using VNTR analysis and compared it with pulsed field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) and random amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD) analysis. Simpson's index of diversity was calculated to be 0.324 for PFGE and 0.574 for VNTR analysis. VNTR analysis revealed unexpected diversity within M. agalactiae with 9 different VNTR types discovered. Some correlation was found between geographical origin and the VNTR type of the isolates.
Conclusion
VNTR analysis represents a useful, rapid first-line test for use in molecular epidemiological analysis of M. agalactiae for outbreak tracing and control.
doi:10.1186/1471-2180-8-193
PMCID: PMC2585094  PMID: 18992155
15.  Analysis of RogB-Controlled Virulence Mechanisms and Gene Expression in Streptococcus agalactiae  
Infection and Immunity  2003;71(9):5056-5064.
Streptococcus agalactiae is the leading cause of bacterial sepsis and meningitis in neonates and also the causative agent of different serious infections in immunocompromised adults. The wide range of diseases that are caused by S. agalactiae suggests regulatory mechanisms that control the formation of specific virulence factors in these bacteria. The present study describes a gene from S. agalactiae, designated rogB, encoding a protein with significant similarity to members of the RofA-like protein (RALP) family of transcriptional regulators. Disruption of the rogB gene in the genome of S. agalactiae resulted in mutant strain RGB1, which was impaired in its ability to bind to fibrinogen and fibronectin. Mutant RGB1 also exhibited a reduced adherence to human epithelial cells but did not show an altered invasion of eukaryotic cells. By real-time PCR analysis, mutant RGB1 revealed an increased expression of the cpsA gene, encoding a regulator of capsule gene expression. However, strain RGB1 exhibited a reduced expression of the rogB gene and of two adjacent genes, encoding putative virulence factors in S. agalactiae. Furthermore, mutant RGB1 was impaired in the expression of the fbsA gene, coding for a fibrinogen receptor from S. agalactiae. The altered gene expression in mutant RGB1 could be restored by plasmid-mediated expression of rogB, confirming a RogB deficiency as the cause for the observed changes in virulence gene expression in S. agalactiae. Reporter gene studies with a promotorless luciferase gene fused to fbsA allowed a growth-dependent analysis of fbsA expression in S. agalactiae. These reporter gene studies also suggest that RogB exerts a positive effect on fbsA expression in S. agalactiae.
doi:10.1128/IAI.71.9.5056-5064.2003
PMCID: PMC187362  PMID: 12933848
16.  Unexpected genetic diversity of Mycoplasma agalactiae caprine isolates from an endemic geographically restricted area of Spain 
Background
The genetic diversity of Mycoplasma agalactiae (MA) isolates collected in Spain from goats in an area with contagious agalactia (CA) was assessed using a set of validated and new molecular typing methods. Validated methods included pulsed field gel electrophoresis (PFGE), variable number of tandem repeats (VNTR) typing, and Southern blot hybridization using a set of MA DNA probes, including those for typing the vpma genes repertoire. New approaches were based on PCR and targeted genomic regions that diverged between strains as defined by in silico genomic comparisons of sequenced MA genomes.
Results
Overall, the data showed that all typing tools yielded consistent results, with the VNTR analyses being the most rapid method to differentiate the MA isolates with a discriminatory ability comparable to that of PFGE and of a set of new PCR assays. All molecular typing approaches indicated that the Spanish isolates from the endemic area in Murcia were very diverse, with different clonal isolates probably restricted to separate, but geographically close, local areas.
Conclusions
The important genetic diversity of MA observed in infected goats from Spain contrasts with the overall homogeneity of the genomic background encountered in MA from sheep with CA in Southern France or Italy, suggesting that assessment of the disease status in endemic areas may require different approaches in sheep and in goats. A number of congruent sub-typing tools are now available for the differentiation of caprine isolates with comparable discriminatory powers.
doi:10.1186/1746-6148-8-146
PMCID: PMC3514313  PMID: 22920649
Mycoplasma agalactiae; Molecular typing; Contagious agalactia; Goats
17.  Surface Diversity in Mycoplasma agalactiae Is Driven by Site-Specific DNA Inversions within the vpma Multigene Locus 
Journal of Bacteriology  2002;184(21):5987-5998.
The ruminant pathogen Mycoplasma agalactiae possesses a family of abundantly expressed variable surface lipoproteins called Vpmas. Phenotypic switches between Vpma members have previously been correlated with DNA rearrangements within a locus of vpma genes and are proposed to play an important role in disease pathogenesis. In this study, six vpma genes were characterized in the M. agalactiae type strain PG2. All vpma genes clustered within an 8-kb region and shared highly conserved 5′ untranslated regions, lipoprotein signal sequences, and short N-terminal sequences. Analyses of the vpma loci from consecutive clonal isolates showed that vpma DNA rearrangements were site specific and that cleavage and strand exchange occurred within a minimal region of 21 bp located within the 5′ untranslated region of all vpma genes. This process controlled expression of vpma genes by effectively linking the open reading frame (ORF) of a silent gene to a unique active promoter sequence within the locus. An ORF (xer1) immediately adjacent to one end of the vpma locus did not undergo rearrangement and had significant homology to a distinct subset of genes belonging to the λ integrase family of site-specific xer recombinases. It is proposed that xer1 codes for a site-specific recombinase that is not involved in chromosome dimer resolution but rather is responsible for the observed vpma-specific recombination in M. agalactiae.
doi:10.1128/JB.184.21.5987-5998.2002
PMCID: PMC135373  PMID: 12374833
18.  A Metabolic Enzyme as a Primary Virulence Factor of Mycoplasma mycoides subsp. mycoides Small Colony 
Journal of Bacteriology  2005;187(19):6824-6831.
During evolution, pathogenic bacteria have developed complex interactions with their hosts. This has frequently involved the acquisition of virulence factors on pathogenicity islands, plasmids, transposons, or prophages, allowing them to colonize, survive, and replicate within the host. In contrast, Mycoplasma species, the smallest self-replicating organisms, have regressively evolved from gram-positive bacteria by reduction of the genome to a minimal size, with the consequence that they have economized their genetic resources. Hence, pathogenic Mycoplasma species lack typical primary virulence factors such as toxins, cytolysins, and invasins. Consequently, little is known how pathogenic Mycoplasma species cause host cell damage, inflammation, and disease. Here we identify a novel primary virulence determinant in Mycoplasma mycoides subsp. mycoides Small Colony (SC), which causes host cell injury. This virulence factor, released in significant amounts in the presence of glycerol in the growth medium, consists of toxic by-products such as H2O2 formed by l-α-glycerophosphate oxidase (GlpO), a membrane-located enzyme that is involved in the metabolism of glycerol. When embryonic calf nasal epithelial cells are infected with M. mycoides subsp. mycoides SC in the presence of physiological amounts of glycerol, H2O2 is released inside the cells prior to cell death. This process can be inhibited with monospecific anti-GlpO antibodies.
doi:10.1128/JB.187.19.6824-6831.2005
PMCID: PMC1251598  PMID: 16166545
19.  Distribution and diversity of mycoplasma plasmids: lessons from cryptic genetic elements 
BMC Microbiology  2012;12:257.
Background
The evolution of mycoplasmas from a common ancestor with Firmicutes has been characterized not only by genome down-sizing but also by horizontal gene transfer between mycoplasma species sharing a common host. The mechanisms of these gene transfers remain unclear because our knowledge of the mycoplasma mobile genetic elements is limited. In particular, only a few plasmids have been described within the Mycoplasma genus.
Results
We have shown that several species of ruminant mycoplasmas carry plasmids that are members of a large family of elements and replicate via a rolling-circle mechanism. All plasmids were isolated from species that either belonged or were closely related to the Mycoplasma mycoides cluster; none was from the Mycoplasma bovis-Mycoplasma agalactiae group. Twenty one plasmids were completely sequenced, named and compared with each other and with the five mycoplasma plasmids previously reported. All plasmids share similar size and genetic organization, and present a mosaic structure. A peculiar case is that of the plasmid pMyBK1 from M. yeatsii; it is larger in size and is predicted to be mobilizable. Its origin of replication and replication protein were identified. In addition, pMyBK1 derivatives were shown to replicate in various species of the M. mycoides cluster, and therefore hold considerable promise for developing gene vectors. The phylogenetic analysis of these plasmids confirms the uniqueness of pMyBK1 and indicates that the other mycoplasma plasmids cluster together, apart from the related replicons found in phytoplasmas and in species of the clade Firmicutes.
Conclusions
Our results unraveled a totally new picture of mycoplasma plasmids. Although they probably play a limited role in the gene exchanges that participate in mycoplasma evolution, they are abundant in some species. Evidence for the occurrence of frequent genetic recombination strongly suggests they are transmitted between species sharing a common host or niche.
doi:10.1186/1471-2180-12-257
PMCID: PMC3541243  PMID: 23145790
Mycoplasma,Plasmid,Replication,Rep protein,Gene transfer,Evolution,Expression vector,Mycoplasma mycoides,Mycoplasma capricolum,Mycoplasma yeatsii
20.  A survey of Mycoplasma agalactiae in dairy sheep farms in Spain 
Background
Contagious Agalactia (CA) is one of the major animal health problems in small ruminants because of its economic significance. Currently, four Mycoplasma spp. have been associated with this syndrome: M. agalactiae, M. mycoides subsp. capri, M. capricolum subsp. capricolum and M. putrefaciens. Their presence has been evaluated in several studies conducted in CA-endemic countries. However, previous Spanish studies have been focused on caprine CA, and there is a knowledge gap regarding which Mycoplasma species are present in sheep flocks from Spain, which has the second highest number of sheep amongst the 27 European Union member states. Consequently, we investigated the presence and geographic distribution of the four CA-causing mycoplasmas in Spanish dairy sheep farms. This is the first time such an investigation has been performed.
Results
Three hundred thirty nine out of 922 sheep flocks were positive for M. agalactiae by real time PCR (36.8%) and 85 by microbiological identification (9.2%). Interestingly, all 597 milk samples assessed for the presence of M. mycoides subsp. capri, M. capricolum subsp. capricolum and M. putrefaciens tested negative. To evaluate the intermittent excretion of the pathogen in milk, we sampled 391 additional farms from 2 to 5 times, resulting that in 26.3% of the cases a previously positive farm tested negative in a later sampling.
Conclusions
M. agalactiae was the only Mycoplasma species detected in the study area showing a high frequency of presence and wide distribution. Therefore, the establishment of a permanent surveillance network is advantageous, as well as the implementation of control and prevention measures to hinder the dissemination of M. agalactiae and to prevent the entrance of other Mycoplasma species.
doi:10.1186/1746-6148-8-171
PMCID: PMC3514350  PMID: 23006445
Mycoplasma agalactiae; Contagious agalactia; Real time PCR; Sheep; Dairy; Spain
21.  Experimental Infections with Mycoplasma agalactiae Identify Key Factors Involved in Host-Colonization 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e93970.
Mechanisms underlying pathogenic processes in mycoplasma infections are poorly understood, mainly because of limited sequence similarities with classical, bacterial virulence factors. Recently, large-scale transposon mutagenesis in the ruminant pathogen Mycoplasma agalactiae identified the NIF locus, including nifS and nifU, as essential for mycoplasma growth in cell culture, while dispensable in axenic media. To evaluate the importance of this locus in vivo, the infectivity of two knock-out mutants was tested upon experimental infection in the natural host. In this model, the parental PG2 strain was able to establish a systemic infection in lactating ewes, colonizing various body sites such as lymph nodes and the mammary gland, even when inoculated at low doses. In these PG2-infected ewes, we observed over the course of infection (i) the development of a specific antibody response and (ii) dynamic changes in expression of M. agalactiae surface variable proteins (Vpma), with multiple Vpma profiles co-existing in the same animal. In contrast and despite a sensitive model, none of the knock-out mutants were able to survive and colonize the host. The extreme avirulent phenotype of the two mutants was further supported by the absence of an IgG response in inoculated animals. The exact role of the NIF locus remains to be elucidated but these data demonstrate that it plays a key role in the infectious process of M. agalactiae and most likely of other pathogenic mycoplasma species as many carry closely related homologs.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0093970
PMCID: PMC3974822  PMID: 24699671
22.  Development of a Sensitive and Specific Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay Based on Recombinant Antigens for Rapid Detection of Antibodies against Mycoplasma agalactiae in Sheep▿ †  
Clinical and Vaccine Immunology  2007;14(4):420-425.
We developed a new recombinant enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (rELISA) for serodiagnosis of contagious agalactia (CA), a disease caused by Mycoplasma agalactiae in sheep and goats. The assay is based on two M. agalactiae surface proteins, namely, P80 and P55. Identification of these immunodominant and common antigens was accomplished by examining the antibody response elicited in sheep during experimental infection and comparing it to the protein expression profiles of 75 M. agalactiae field strains. Our rELISA was tested with 343 sera, collected from sheep with a laboratory-confirmed diagnosis of CA (n = 223) and from healthy animals (n = 120). All sera had previously been tested by Western blotting (WB) for reactivity against M. agalactiae. In addition, our rELISA was compared with a commercial routine ELISA based on inactivated antigens (CHEKiT). Among the 223 samples that were WB positive for M. agalactiae, 209 (93.7%) tested positive for rP80-P55 with our ELISA, whereas only 164 (73.8%) tested positive with the CHEKiT ELISA. Among the 120 samples tested that were WB negative for M. agalactiae, 96.7% were confirmed as negative with our rELISA, while only 75.8% were confirmed as negative with the CHEKiT ELISA. A comparison of the results with receiver operating characteristic curves indicated that the differences observed between our rELISA and the CHEKiT ELISA are statistically significant. The use of recombinant peptides instead of inactivated antigens could significantly improve the discrimination of positive and negative animals, bringing significant advantages in controlling the import/export of live animals and helping in eradication of this economically detrimental disease.
doi:10.1128/CVI.00439-06
PMCID: PMC1865618  PMID: 17287317
23.  Core Proteome of the Minimal Cell: Comparative Proteomics of Three Mollicute Species 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(7):e21964.
Mollicutes (mycoplasmas) have been recognized as highly evolved prokaryotes with an extremely small genome size and very limited coding capacity. Thus, they may serve as a model of a ‘minimal cell’: a cell with the lowest possible number of genes yet capable of autonomous self-replication. We present the results of a comparative analysis of proteomes of three mycoplasma species: A. laidlawii, M. gallisepticum, and M. mobile. The core proteome components found in the three mycoplasma species are involved in fundamental cellular processes which are necessary for the free living of cells. They include replication, transcription, translation, and minimal metabolism. The members of the proteome core seem to be tightly interconnected with a number of interactions forming core interactome whether or not additional species-specific proteins are located on the periphery. We also obtained a genome core of the respective organisms and compared it with the proteome core. It was found that the genome core encodes 73 more proteins than the proteome core. Apart of proteins which may not be identified due to technical limitations, there are 24 proteins that seem to not be expressed under the optimal conditions.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0021964
PMCID: PMC3139596  PMID: 21818284
24.  Mycoplasmas: sophisticated, reemerging, and burdened by their notoriety. 
Emerging Infectious Diseases  1997;3(1):21-32.
Mycoplasmas are most unusual self-replicating bacteria, possessing very small genomes, lacking cell wall components, requiring cholesterol for membrane function and growth, using UGA codon for tryptophan, passing through "bacterial-retaining" filters, and displaying genetic economy that requires a strict dependence on the host for nutrients and refuge. In addition, many of the mycoplasmas pathogenic for humans and animals possess extraordinary specialized tip organelles that mediate their intimate interaction with eucaryotic cells. This host-adapted survival is achieved through surface parasitism of target cells, acquisition of essential biosynthetic precursors, and in some cases, subsequent entry and survival intracellularly. Misconceptions concerning the role of mycoplasmas in disease pathogenesis can be directly attributed to their biological subtleties and to fundamental deficits in understanding their virulence capabilities. In this review, we highlight the biology and pathogenesis of these procaryotes and provide new evidence that may lead to increased appreciation of their role as human pathogens.
PMCID: PMC2627593  PMID: 9126441
25.  Suppression-Subtractive Hybridization as a Strategy To Identify Taxon-Specific Sequences within the Mycoplasma mycoides Cluster: Design and Validation of an M. capricolum subsp. capricolum-Specific PCR Assay▿  
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2008;46(4):1307-1316.
The phylogenetically related Mycoplasma capricolum subsp. capricolum and M. mycoides subsp. mycoides biotype Large Colony are two small-ruminant pathogens involved in contagious agalactia. Their respective contributions to clinical outbreaks are not well documented, because they are difficult to differentiate with the current diagnostic techniques. In order to identify DNA sequences specific to one taxon or the other, a suppression-subtractive hybridization approach was developed. DNA fragments resulting from the reciprocal subtraction of the type strains were used as probes on a panel of M. capricolum subsp. capricolum and M. mycoides subsp. mycoides biotype Large Colony strains to assess their intrataxon specificity. Due to a high intrataxon polymorphism and important cross-reactions between taxa, a single DNA fragment was shown to be specific for M. capricolum subsp. capricolum and to be present in all M. capricolum subsp. capricolum field isolates tested in this study. A PCR assay targeting the corresponding gene (simpA51) was designed that resulted in a 560-bp amplification only in M. capricolum subsp. capricolum and in M. capricolum subsp. capripneumoniae (the etiological agent of contagious caprine pleuropneumonia). simpA51 was further improved to generate a multiplex PCR (multA51) that allows the differentiation of M. capricolum subsp. capripneumoniae from M. capricolum subsp. capricolum. Both the simpA51 and multA51 assays accurately identify M. capricolum subsp. capricolum among other mycoplasmas, including all members of the M. mycoides cluster. simpA51 and multA51 PCRs are proposed as sensitive and robust tools for the specific identification of M. capricolum subsp. capricolum and M. capricolum subsp. capripneumoniae.
doi:10.1128/JCM.01617-07
PMCID: PMC2292954  PMID: 18234866

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