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1.  Identification of Novel Virulence-Associated Genes via Genome Analysis of Hypothetical Genes  
Infection and Immunity  2004;72(3):1333-1340.
The sequencing of bacterial genomes has opened new perspectives for identification of targets for treatment of infectious diseases. We have identified a set of novel virulence-associated genes (vag genes) by comparing the genome sequences of six human pathogens that are known to cause persistent or chronic infections in humans: Yersinia pestis, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, Helicobacter pylori, Borrelia burgdorferi, Streptococcus pneumoniae, and Treponema pallidum. This comparison was limited to genes annotated as hypothetical in the T. pallidum genome project. Seventeen genes with unknown functions were found to be conserved among these pathogens. Insertional inactivation of 14 of these genes generated nine mutants that were attenuated for virulence in a mouse infection model. Out of these nine genes, five were found to be specifically associated with virulence in mice as demonstrated by infection with Yersinia pseudotuberculosis in-frame deletion mutants. In addition, these five vag genes were essential only in vivo, since all the mutants were able to grow in vitro. These genes are broadly conserved among bacteria. Therefore, we propose that the corresponding vag gene products may constitute novel targets for antimicrobial therapy and that some vag mutants could serve as carrier strains for live vaccines.
PMCID: PMC355990  PMID: 14977936
2.  Genomic characterization of the Yersinia genus 
Genome Biology  2010;11(1):R1.
Comparative Yersinia genomics identifies features responsible for the colonization of specific host habitats and the horizontal transfer of virulence determinants.
New DNA sequencing technologies have enabled detailed comparative genomic analyses of entire genera of bacterial pathogens. Prior to this study, three species of the enterobacterial genus Yersinia that cause invasive human diseases (Yersinia pestis, Yersinia pseudotuberculosis, and Yersinia enterocolitica) had been sequenced. However, there were no genomic data on the Yersinia species with more limited virulence potential, frequently found in soil and water environments.
We used high-throughput sequencing-by-synthesis instruments to obtain 25- to 42-fold average redundancy, whole-genome shotgun data from the type strains of eight species: Y. aldovae, Y. bercovieri, Y. frederiksenii, Y. kristensenii, Y. intermedia, Y. mollaretii, Y. rohdei, and Y. ruckeri. The deepest branching species in the genus, Y. ruckeri, causative agent of red mouth disease in fish, has the smallest genome (3.7 Mb), although it shares the same core set of approximately 2,500 genes as the other members of the species, whose genomes range in size from 4.3 to 4.8 Mb. Yersinia genomes had a similar global partition of protein functions, as measured by the distribution of Cluster of Orthologous Groups families. Genome to genome variation in islands with genes encoding functions such as ureases, hydrogeneases and B-12 cofactor metabolite reactions may reflect adaptations to colonizing specific host habitats.
Rapid high-quality draft sequencing was used successfully to compare pathogenic and non-pathogenic members of the Yersinia genus. This work underscores the importance of the acquisition of horizontally transferred genes in the evolution of Y. pestis and points to virulence determinants that have been gained and lost on multiple occasions in the history of the genus.
PMCID: PMC2847712  PMID: 20047673
3.  Molecular Recognition of Chymotrypsin by the Serine Protease Inhibitor Ecotin from Yersinia pestis* 
The Journal of Biological Chemistry  2011;286(27):24015-24022.
Resistance to antibiotics is a problem not only in terms of healthcare but also biodefense. Engineering of resistance into a human pathogen could create an untreatable biothreat pathogen. One such pathogen is Yersinia pestis, the causative agent of plague. Previously, we have used a bioinformatic approach to identify proteins that may be suitable targets for antimicrobial therapy and in particular for the treatment of plague. The serine protease inhibitor ecotin was identified as one such target. We have carried out mutational analyses in the closely related Yersinia pseudotuberculosis, validating that the ecotin gene is a virulence-associated gene in this bacterium. Y. pestis ecotin inhibits chymotrypsin. Here, we present the structure of ecotin in complex with chymotrypsin to 2.74 Å resolution. The structure features a biologically relevant tetramer whereby an ecotin dimer binds to two chymotrypsin molecules, similar to what was observed in related serine protease inhibitor structures. However, the vast majority of the interactions in the present structure are distinctive, indicating that the broad specificity of the inhibitor for these proteases is based largely on its capacity to recognize features unique to each of them. These findings will have implications for the development of small ecotin inhibitors for therapeutic use.
PMCID: PMC3129183  PMID: 21531711
Crystallography; Enzyme Structure; Protease; Protease Inhibitor; Protein-Protein Interactions; Molecular Recognition
4.  Yersinia outer protein YopE affects the actin cytoskeleton in Dictyostelium discoideum through targeting of multiple Rho family GTPases 
BMC Microbiology  2009;9:138.
All human pathogenic Yersinia species share a virulence-associated type III secretion system that translocates Yersinia effector proteins into host cells to counteract infection-induced signaling responses and prevent phagocytosis. Dictyostelium discoideum has been recently used to study the effects of bacterial virulence factors produced by internalized pathogens. In this study we explored the potential of Dictyostelium as model organism for analyzing the effects of ectopically expressed Yersinia outer proteins (Yops).
The Yersinia pseudotuberculosis virulence factors YopE, YopH, YopM and YopJ were expressed de novo within Dictyostelium and their effects on growth in axenic medium and on bacterial lawns were analyzed. No severe effect was observed for YopH, YopJ and YopM, but expression of YopE, which is a GTPase activating protein for Rho GTPases, was found to be highly detrimental. GFP-tagged YopE expressing cells had less conspicuous cortical actin accumulation and decreased amounts of F-actin. The actin polymerization response upon cAMP stimulation was impaired, although chemotaxis was unaffected. YopE also caused reduced uptake of yeast particles. These alterations are probably due to impaired Rac1 activation. We also found that YopE predominantly associates with intracellular membranes including the Golgi apparatus and inhibits the function of moderately overexpressed RacH.
The phenotype elicited by YopE in Dictyostelium can be explained, at least in part, by inactivation of one or more Rho family GTPases. It further demonstrates that the social amoeba Dictyostelium discoideum can be used as an efficient and easy-to-handle model organism in order to analyze the function of a translocated GAP protein of a human pathogen.
PMCID: PMC2724381  PMID: 19602247
5.  The complete genome sequence of Corynebacterium pseudotuberculosis FRC41 isolated from a 12-year-old girl with necrotizing lymphadenitis reveals insights into gene-regulatory networks contributing to virulence 
BMC Genomics  2010;11:728.
Corynebacterium pseudotuberculosis is generally regarded as an important animal pathogen that rarely infects humans. Clinical strains are occasionally recovered from human cases of lymphadenitis, such as C. pseudotuberculosis FRC41 that was isolated from the inguinal lymph node of a 12-year-old girl with necrotizing lymphadenitis. To detect potential virulence factors and corresponding gene-regulatory networks in this human isolate, the genome sequence of C. pseudotuberculosis FCR41 was determined by pyrosequencing and functionally annotated.
Sequencing and assembly of the C. pseudotuberculosis FRC41 genome yielded a circular chromosome with a size of 2,337,913 bp and a mean G+C content of 52.2%. Specific gene sets associated with iron and zinc homeostasis were detected among the 2,110 predicted protein-coding regions and integrated into a gene-regulatory network that is linked with both the central metabolism and the oxidative stress response of FRC41. Two gene clusters encode proteins involved in the sortase-mediated polymerization of adhesive pili that can probably mediate the adherence to host tissue to facilitate additional ligand-receptor interactions and the delivery of virulence factors. The prominent virulence factors phospholipase D (Pld) and corynebacterial protease CP40 are encoded in the genome of this human isolate. The genome annotation revealed additional serine proteases, neuraminidase H, nitric oxide reductase, an invasion-associated protein, and acyl-CoA carboxylase subunits involved in mycolic acid biosynthesis as potential virulence factors. The cAMP-sensing transcription regulator GlxR plays a key role in controlling the expression of several genes contributing to virulence.
The functional data deduced from the genome sequencing and the extended knowledge of virulence factors indicate that the human isolate C. pseudotuberculosis FRC41 is equipped with a distinct gene set promoting its survival under unfavorable environmental conditions encountered in the mammalian host.
PMCID: PMC3022926  PMID: 21192786
6.  Population Structure and Evolution of Pathogenicity of Yersinia pseudotuberculosis▿ †  
Yersinia pseudotuberculosis is an enteric human pathogen but is widespread in the environment. Pathogenicity is determined by a number of virulence factors, including the virulence plasmid pYV, the high-pathogenicity island (HPI), and the Y. pseudotuberculosis-derived mitogen (YPM), a superantigen. The presence of the 3 virulence factors varies among Y. pseudotuberculosis isolates. We developed a multilocus sequence typing (MLST) scheme to address the population structure of Y. pseudotuberculosis and the evolution of its pathogenicity. The seven housekeeping genes selected for MLST were mdh, recA, sucA, fumC, aroC, pgi, and gyrB. An MLST analysis of 83 isolates of Y. pseudotuberculosis, representing 19 different serotypes and six different genetic groups, identified 61 sequence types (STs) and 12 clonal complexes. Out of 26 allelic changes that occurred in the 12 clonal complexes, 13 were mutational events while 13 were recombinational events, indicating that recombination and mutation contributed equally to the diversification of the clonal complexes. The isolates were separated into 2 distinctive clusters, A and B. Cluster A is the major cluster, with 53 STs (including Y. pestis strains), and is distributed worldwide, while cluster B is restricted to the Far East. The YPM gene is widely distributed on the phylogenetic tree, with ypmA in cluster A and ypmB in cluster B. pYV is present in cluster A only but is sporadically absent in some cluster A isolates. In contrast, an HPI is present only in a limited number of lineages and must be gained by lateral transfer. Three STs carry all 3 virulence factors and can be regarded as high-pathogenicity clones. Isolates from the same ST may not carry all 3 virulence factors, indicating frequent gain or loss of these factors. The differences in pathogenicity among Y. pseudotuberculosis strains are likely due to the variable presence and instability of the virulence factors.
PMCID: PMC3028722  PMID: 21131531
7.  Identification and characterisation of a novel adhesin Ifp in Yersinia pseudotuberculosis 
BMC Microbiology  2011;11:85.
In order to identify new virulence determinants in Y. pseudotuberculosis a comparison between its genome and that of Yersinia pestis was undertaken. This reveals dozens of pseudogenes in Y. pestis, which are still putatively functional in Y. pseudotuberculosis and may be important in the enteric lifestyle. One such gene, YPTB1572 in the Y. pseudotuberculosis IP32953 genome sequence, encodes a protein with similarity to invasin, a classic adhesion/invasion protein, and to intimin, the attaching and effacing protein from enteropathogenic (EPEC) and enterohaemorraghic (EHEC) Escherichia coli.
We termed YPTB1572 Ifp (Intimin family protein) and show that it is able to bind directly to human HEp-2 epithelial cells. Cysteine and tryptophan residues in the C-terminal region of intimin that are essential for function in EPEC and EHEC are conserved in Ifp. Protein binding occurred at distinct foci on the HEp-2 cell surface and can be disrupted by mutation of a single cysteine residue at the C-terminus of the protein. Temporal expression analysis using lux reporter constructs revealed that ifp is expressed at late log phase at 37°C in contrast to invasin, suggesting that Ifp is a late stage adhesin. An ifp defined mutant showed a reduction in adhesion to HEp-2 cells and was attenuated in the Galleria mellonella infection model.
A new Y. pseudotuberculosis adhesin has been identified and characterised. This Ifp is a new member in the family of invasin/intimin outer membrane adhesins.
PMCID: PMC3102037  PMID: 21527009
8.  Structure and function of cytidine monophosphate kinase from Yersinia pseudotuberculosis, essential for virulence but not for survival 
Open Biology  2012;2(12):120142.
The need for new antibiotics has become pressing in light of the emergence of antibiotic-resistant strains of human pathogens. Yersinia pestis, the causative agent of plague, is a public health threat and also an agent of concern in biodefence. It is a recently emerged clonal derivative of the enteric pathogen Yersinia pseudotuberculosis. Previously, we developed a bioinformatic approach to identify proteins that may be suitable targets for antimicrobial therapy and in particular for the treatment of plague. One such target was cytidine monophosphate (CMP) kinase, which is an essential gene in some organisms. Previously, we had thought CMP kinase was essential for Y. pseudotuberculosis, but by modification of the mutagenesis approach, we report here the production and characterization of a Δcmk mutant. The isogenic mutant had a growth defect relative to the parental strain, and was highly attenuated in mice. We have also elucidated the structure of the CMP kinase to 2.32 Å, and identified three key residues in the active site that are essential for activity of the enzyme. These findings will have implications for the development of novel CMP kinase inhibitors for therapeutic use.
PMCID: PMC3603445  PMID: 23271832
cytidine monophosphate kinase; crystal structure; virulence; Yersinia
9.  Structural Organization of Virulence-Associated Plasmids of Yersinia pestis 
Journal of Bacteriology  1998;180(19):5192-5202.
The complete nucleotide sequence and gene organization of the three virulence plasmids from Yersinia pestis KIM5 were determined. Plasmid pPCP1 (9,610 bp) has a GC content of 45.3% and encodes two previously known virulence factors, an associated protein, and a single copy of IS100. Plasmid pCD1 (70,504 bp) has a GC content of 44.8%. It is known to encode a number of essential virulence determinants, regulatory functions, and a multiprotein secretory system comprising the low-calcium response stimulation that is shared with the other two Yersinia species pathogenic for humans (Y. pseudotuberculosis and Y. enterocolitica). A new pseudogene, which occurs as an intact gene in the Y. enterocolitica and Y. pseudotuberculosis-derived analogues, was found in pCD1. It corresponds to that encoding the lipoprotein YlpA. Several intact and partial insertion sequences and/or transposons were also found in pCD1, as well as six putative structural genes with high homology to proteins of unknown function in other yersiniae. The sequences of the genes involved in the replication of pCD1 are highly homologous to those of the cognate plasmids in Y. pseudotuberculosis and Y. enterocolitica, but their localization within the plasmid differs markedly from those of the latter. Plasmid pMT1 (100,984 bp) has a GC content of 50.2%. It possesses two copies of IS100, which are located 25 kb apart and in opposite orientations. Adjacent to one of these IS100 inserts is a partial copy of IS285. A single copy of an IS200-like element (recently named IS1541) was also located in pMT1. In addition to 5 previously described genes, such as murine toxin, capsule antigen, capsule anchoring protein, etc., 30 homologues to genes of several bacterial species were found in this plasmid, and another 44 open reading frames without homology to any known or hypothetical protein in the databases were predicted.
PMCID: PMC107557  PMID: 9748454
10.  Yersinia pestis Ail: multiple roles of a single protein 
Yersinia pestis is one of the most virulent bacteria identified. It is the causative agent of plague—a systemic disease that has claimed millions of human lives throughout history. Y. pestis survival in insect and mammalian host species requires fine-tuning to sense and respond to varying environmental cues. Multiple Y. pestis attributes participate in this process and contribute to its pathogenicity and highly efficient transmission between hosts. These include factors inherited from its enteric predecessors; Y. enterocolitica and Y. pseudotuberculosis, as well as phenotypes acquired or lost during Y. pestis speciation. Representatives of a large Enterobacteriaceae Ail/OmpX/PagC/Lom family of outer membrane proteins (OMPs) are found in the genomes of all pathogenic Yersiniae. This review describes the current knowledge regarding the role of Ail in Y. pestis pathogenesis and virulence. The pronounced role of Ail in the following areas are discussed (1) inhibition of the bactericidal properties of complement, (2) attachment and Yersinia outer proteins (Yop) delivery to host tissue, (3) prevention of PMNL recruitment to the lymph nodes, and (4) inhibition of the inflammatory response. Finally, Ail homologs in Y. enterocolitica and Y. pseudotuberculosis are compared to illustrate differences that may have contributed to the drastic bacterial lifestyle change that shifted Y. pestis from an enteric to a vector-born systemic pathogen.
PMCID: PMC3417512  PMID: 22919692
Yersinia pestis; Ail; OmpX; serum resistance; virulence; adhesion; invasion; T3SS
11.  Hunger for iron: the alternative siderophore iron scavenging systems in highly virulent Yersinia 
Low molecular weight siderophores are used by many living organisms to scavenge scarcely available ferric iron. Presence of at least a single siderophore-based iron acquisition system is usually acknowledged as a virulence-associated trait and a pre-requisite to become an efficient and successful pathogen. Currently, it is assumed that yersiniabactin (Ybt) is the solely functional endogenous siderophore iron uptake system in highly virulent Yersinia (Yersinia pestis, Y. pseudotuberculosis, and Y. enterocolitica biotype 1B). Genes responsible for biosynthesis, transport, and regulation of the yersiniabactin (ybt) production are clustered on a mobile genetic element, the High-Pathogenicity Island (HPI) that is responsible for broad dissemination of the ybt genes in Enterobacteriaceae. However, the ybt gene cluster is absent from nearly half of Y. pseudotuberculosis O3 isolates and epidemic Y. pseudotuberculosis O1 isolates responsible for the Far East Scarlet-like Fever. Several potential siderophore-mediated iron uptake gene clusters are documented in Yersinia genomes, however, neither of them have been proven to be functional. It has been suggested that at least two siderophores alternative to Ybt may operate in the highly virulent Yersinia pestis/Y. pseudotuberculosis group, and are referred to as pseudochelin (Pch) and yersiniachelin (Ych). Furthermore, most sporadic Y. pseudotuberculosis O1 strains possess gene clusters encoding all three iron scavenging systems. Thus, the Ybt system appears not to be the sole endogenous siderophore iron uptake system in the highly virulent yersiniae and may be efficiently substituted and/or supplemented by alternative iron siderophore scavenging systems.
PMCID: PMC3510459  PMID: 23226687
highly virulent Yersinia; iron acquisition; siderophores; pathogenomics; epidemic Yersinia
12.  Reevaluation of the virulence phenotype of the inv yadA double mutants of Yersinia pseudotuberculosis. 
Infection and Immunity  1997;65(1):327-330.
Yersinia pseudotuberculosis and Yersinia enterocolitica are closely related human pathogens causing gastroenteritis. Invasin and YadA are two of the most extensively studied virulence factors of the Yersinia genus. Invasin is the primary invasion factor encoded by the inv gene on the chromosome and is required for the penetration of the epithelial cells. YadA is encoded by the yadA gene on the 70-kb virulence plasmid and has multiple functions. Previous studies indicate that an inv yadA double mutant of Y. enterocolitica is avirulent while an inv yadA mutant of Y. pseudotuberculosis is hypervirulent. In this study, we investigated this unexpected difference. New constructs of the inv yadA mutants of Y. pseudotuberculosis were made and tested in mice. These new constructs were not hypervirulent; rather, they maintained the same virulence as the wild-type strain. Further examination of the inv mutant used for the previous study revealed that it carries an aberrant inv phenotype and has an altered outer membrane profile and an altered colony morphology. Therefore, the mutants used previously were not isogenic to the parental wild-type strain, which may in part account for the difference in the results obtained.
PMCID: PMC174597  PMID: 8975933
13.  Defective Innate Cell Response and Lymph Node Infiltration Specify Yersinia pestis Infection 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(2):e1688.
Since its recent emergence from the enteropathogen Yersinia pseudotuberculosis, Y. pestis, the plague agent, has acquired an intradermal (id) route of entry and an extreme virulence. To identify pathophysiological events associated with the Y. pestis high degree of pathogenicity, we compared disease progression and evolution in mice after id inoculation of the two Yersinia species. Mortality studies showed that the id portal was not in itself sufficient to provide Y. pseudotuberculosis with the high virulence power of its descendant. Surprisingly, Y. pseudotuberculosis multiplied even more efficiently than Y. pestis in the dermis, and generated comparable histological lesions. Likewise, Y. pseudotuberculosis translocated to the draining lymph node (DLN) and similar numbers of the two bacterial species were found at 24 h post infection (pi) in this organ. However, on day 2 pi, bacterial loads were higher in Y. pestis-infected than in Y. pseudotuberculosis-infected DLNs. Clustering and multiple correspondence analyses showed that the DLN pathologies induced by the two species were statistically significantly different and identified the most discriminating elementary lesions. Y. pseudotuberculosis infection was accompanied by abscess-type polymorphonuclear cell infiltrates containing the infection, while Y. pestis-infected DLNs exhibited an altered tissue density and a vascular congestion, and were typified by an invasion of the tissue by free floating bacteria. Therefore, Y. pestis exceptional virulence is not due to its recently acquired portal of entry into the host, but is associated with a distinct ability to massively infiltrate the DLN, without inducing in this organ an organized polymorphonuclear cell reaction. These results shed light on pathophysiological processes that draw the line between a virulent and a hypervirulent pathogen.
PMCID: PMC2244809  PMID: 18301765
14.  Systematic Approaches towards the Development of Host-Directed Antiviral Therapeutics 
Since the onset of antiviral therapy, viral resistance has compromised the clinical value of small-molecule drugs targeting pathogen components. As intracellular parasites, viruses complete their life cycle by hijacking a multitude of host-factors. Aiming at the latter rather than the pathogen directly, host-directed antiviral therapy has emerged as a concept to counteract evolution of viral resistance and develop broad-spectrum drug classes. This approach is propelled by bioinformatics analysis of genome-wide screens that greatly enhance insights into the complex network of host-pathogen interactions and generate a shortlist of potential gene targets from a multitude of candidates, thus setting the stage for a new era of rational identification of drug targets for host-directed antiviral therapies. With particular emphasis on human immunodeficiency virus and influenza virus, two major human pathogens, we review screens employed to elucidate host-pathogen interactions and discuss the state of database ontology approaches applicable to defining a therapeutic endpoint. The value of this strategy for drug discovery is evaluated, and perspectives for bioinformatics-driven hit identification are outlined.
PMCID: PMC3131607  PMID: 21747723
genome-wide screening; pathway analysis; HIV; Influenza virus; bioinformatics; antiviral; target identification; RNAi; siRNA
15.  Virulence plasmid-encoded YopK is essential for Yersinia pseudotuberculosis to cause systemic infection in mice. 
Infection and Immunity  1995;63(6):2269-2276.
The virulence plasmid common to pathogenic Yersinia species encodes a number of secreted proteins denoted Yops (Yersinia outer proteins). Here, we identify and characterize a novel plasmid-encoded virulence determinant of Yersinia pseudotuberculosis, YopK. The yopK gene was found to be conserved among the three pathogenic Yersinia species and to be homologous to the previously described yopQ and yopK genes of Y. enterocolitica and Y. pestis, respectively. Similar to the other Yops, YopK expression and secretion were shown to be regulated by temperature and by the extracellular Ca2+ concentration; thus, yopK is part of the yop regulon. In addition, YopK secretion was mediated by the specific Yop secretion system. In Y. pseudotuberculosis, YopK was shown neither to have a role in this bacterium's ability to resist phagocytosis by macrophages nor to cause cytotoxicity in HeLa cells. YopK was, however, shown to be required for the bacterium to cause a systemic infection in both intraperitoneally and orally infected mice. Characterization of the infection kinetics showed that, similarly to the wild-type strain, the yopK mutant strain colonized and persisted in the Peyer's patches of orally infected mice. A yopE mutant which is impaired in cytotoxicity and in antiphagocytosis was, however, found to be rapidly cleared from these lymphoid organs. Neither the yopK nor the yopE mutant strain could overcome the primary host defense and reach the spleen. This finding implies that YopK acts at a different level during the infections process than the antiphagocytic YopE cytotoxin does.
PMCID: PMC173296  PMID: 7768608
16.  Genome Sequence of the Deep-Rooted Yersinia pestis Strain Angola Reveals New Insights into the Evolution and Pangenome of the Plague Bacterium▿ †  
Journal of Bacteriology  2010;192(6):1685-1699.
To gain insights into the origin and genome evolution of the plague bacterium Yersinia pestis, we have sequenced the deep-rooted strain Angola, a virulent Pestoides isolate. Its ancient nature makes this atypical isolate of particular importance in understanding the evolution of plague pathogenicity. Its chromosome features a unique genetic make-up intermediate between modern Y. pestis isolates and its evolutionary ancestor, Y. pseudotuberculosis. Our genotypic and phenotypic analyses led us to conclude that Angola belongs to one of the most ancient Y. pestis lineages thus far sequenced. The mobilome carries the first reported chimeric plasmid combining the two species-specific virulence plasmids. Genomic findings were validated in virulence assays demonstrating that its pathogenic potential is distinct from modern Y. pestis isolates. Human infection with this particular isolate would not be diagnosed by the standard clinical tests, as Angola lacks the plasmid-borne capsule, and a possible emergence of this genotype raises major public health concerns. To assess the genomic plasticity in Y. pestis, we investigated the global gene reservoir and estimated the pangenome at 4,844 unique protein-coding genes. As shown by the genomic analysis of this evolutionary key isolate, we found that the genomic plasticity within Y. pestis clearly was not as limited as previously thought, which is strengthened by the detection of the largest number of isolate-specific single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) currently reported in the species. This study identified numerous novel genetic signatures, some of which seem to be intimately associated with plague virulence. These markers are valuable in the development of a robust typing system critical for forensic, diagnostic, and epidemiological studies.
PMCID: PMC2832528  PMID: 20061468
17.  Yersinia V–Antigen Exploits Toll-like Receptor 2 and CD14 for Interleukin 10–mediated Immunosuppression 
The Journal of Experimental Medicine  2002;196(8):1017-1024.
A characteristic of the three human-pathogenic Yersinia spp. (the plague agent Yersinia pestis and the enteropathogenic Yersinia pseudotuberculosis and Yersinia enterocolitica) is the expression of the virulence (V)-antigen (LcrV). LcrV is a released protein which is involved in contact-induced secretion of yersinia antihost proteins and in evasion of the host's innate immune response. Here we report that recombinant LcrV signals in a CD14- and toll-like receptor 2 (TLR2)-dependent fashion leading to immunosuppression by interleukin 10 induction. The impact of this immunosuppressive effect for yersinia pathogenesis is underlined by the observation that TLR2-deficient mice are less susceptible to oral Y. enterocolitica infection than isogenic wild-type animals. In summary, these data demonstrate a new ligand specificity of TLR2, as LcrV is the first known secreted and nonlipidated virulence-associated protein of a Gram-negative bacterium using TLR2 for cell activation. We conclude that yersiniae might exploit host innate pattern recognition molecules and defense mechanisms to evade the host immune response.
PMCID: PMC2194041  PMID: 12391013
immunity; monocytes/macrophages; inflammation; bacterial proteins; immunosuppression
18.  CD8+ T Cells Restrict Yersinia pseudotuberculosis Infection: Bypass of Anti-Phagocytosis by Targeting Antigen-Presenting Cells 
PLoS Pathogens  2009;5(9):e1000573.
All Yersinia species target and bind to phagocytic cells, but uptake and destruction of bacteria are prevented by injection of anti-phagocytic Yop proteins into the host cell. Here we provide evidence that CD8+ T cells, which canonically eliminate intracellular pathogens, are important for restricting Yersinia, even though bacteria are primarily found in an extracellular locale during the course of disease. In a model of infection with attenuated Y. pseudotuberculosis, mice deficient for CD8+ T cells were more susceptible to infection than immunocompetent mice. Although exposure to attenuated Y. pseudotuberculosis generated TH1-type antibody responses and conferred protection against challenge with fully virulent bacteria, depletion of CD8+ T cells during challenge severely compromised protective immunity. Strikingly, mice lacking the T cell effector molecule perforin also succumbed to Y. pseudotuberculosis infection. Given that the function of perforin is to kill antigen-presenting cells, we reasoned that cell death marks bacteria-associated host cells for internalization by neighboring phagocytes, thus allowing ingestion and clearance of the attached bacteria. Supportive of this model, cytolytic T cell killing of Y. pseudotuberculosis–associated host cells results in engulfment by neighboring phagocytes of both bacteria and target cells, bypassing anti-phagocytosis. Our findings are consistent with a novel function for cell-mediated immune responses protecting against extracellular pathogens like Yersinia: perforin and CD8+ T cells are critical for hosts to overcome the anti-phagocytic action of Yops.
Author Summary
Pathogenic Yersinia are bacteria that cause diverse diseases such as gastroenteritis and plague. Yersinia binds to specialized immune cells called macrophages, which attempt to engulf and destroy the bacteria. The bacteria resist destruction by injecting proteins called Yops into macrophages, which stops the engulfment process. Yersinia thus survives as attached but extracellular bacteria to cause disease. Yersinia disease can be prevented by immunization. In this study, we identified one mechanism of protective immunity—that host cells called CD8+ T lymphocytes are important to restrict Yersinia infection. This observation is unusual because CD8+ T cells generally protect against intracellular pathogens: T cells destroy the host cell harboring the pathogen, thus preventing the pathogen's replication. We present data consistent with the model that CD8+ T cells can also restrict extracellular bacteria by showing that T cells target host cells with extracellularly attached Yersinia, thus allowing the host cells and associated bacteria to be engulfed and removed by neighboring macrophages.
PMCID: PMC2731216  PMID: 19730693
19.  Yersinia infection tools—characterization of structure and function of adhesins 
Among the seventeen species of the Gram-negative genus Yersinia, three have been shown to be virulent and pathogenic to humans and animals—Y. enterocolitica, Y. pseudotuberculosis, and Y. pestis. In order to be so, they are armoured with various factors that help them adhere to tissues and organelles, cross the cellular barrier and escape the immune system during host invasion. The group of proteins that mediate pathogen–host interactions constitute adhesins. Invasin, Ail, YadA, YadB, YadC, Pla, and pH 6 antigen belong to the most prominent and best-known Yersinia adhesins. They act at different times and stages of infection complementing each other by their ability to bind a variety of host molecules such as collagen, fibronectin, laminin, β1 integrins, and complement regulators. All the proteins are anchored in the bacterial outer membrane (OM), often forming rod-like or fimbrial-like structures that protrude to the extracellular milieu. Structural studies have shown that the anchor region forms a β-barrel composed of 8, 10, or 12 antiparallel β-strands. Depending on the protein, the extracellular part can be composed of several domains belonging to the immunoglobulin fold superfamily, or form a coiled-coil structure with globular head domain at the end, or just constitute several loops connecting individual β-strands in the β-barrel. Those extracellular regions define the activity of each adhesin. This review focuses on the structure and function of these important molecules, and their role in pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3539135  PMID: 23316485
adhesins; bacterial; Yersinia enterocolitica; Yersinia pseudotuberculosis; Yersinia pestis; outer membrane proteins; X-ray structure; structure–function relationship
20.  Virulence and arsenic resistance in Yersiniae. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1997;179(3):612-619.
The genus Yersinia contains three pathogenic species: Yersinia pestis, Y. pseudotuberculosis, and Y. enterocolitica. Only a few biotypes and serotypes of Y. enterocolitica are pathogenic, and these form two distinct groups: some are of low virulence, and they are encountered worldwide; others, mainly encountered in North America, are markedly more virulent. All pathogenic yersiniae possess a 70-kb virulence plasmid called pYV which encodes secreted antihost proteins called Yops as well as a type III secretion machinery that is required for Yop secretion. Genes encoding Yop synthesis and secretion are tightly clustered in three quadrants of the pYV plasmid. We show here that in the low-virulence strains of Y. enterocolitica, the fourth quadrant of the plasmid contains a new class II transposon, Tn2502. This transposon encodes a defective transposase, but transposition can be complemented in trans by Tn2501, another class II transposon. Tn2502 was not detected in the pYV plasmids of the more virulent American strains of Y. enterocolitica, of Y. pseudotuberculosis, and of Y. pestis. Tn2502 confers arsenite and arsenate resistance. This resistance involves four genes; three are homologous to the arsRBC genes present on the Escherichia coli chromosome, but no homolog of the fourth one, arsH, has been found. The systematic presence of such a resistance operon on a virulence plasmid is unusual and could be related to the recent spread of low-virulence Y. enterocolitica strains. The presence of this ars operon also constitutes the first significant difference between the pYV plasmids from different Yersinia species.
PMCID: PMC178738  PMID: 9006011
21.  The Pan-Genome of the Animal Pathogen Corynebacterium pseudotuberculosis Reveals Differences in Genome Plasticity between the Biovar ovis and equi Strains 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e53818.
Corynebacterium pseudotuberculosis is a facultative intracellular pathogen and the causative agent of several infectious and contagious chronic diseases, including caseous lymphadenitis, ulcerative lymphangitis, mastitis, and edematous skin disease, in a broad spectrum of hosts. In addition, Corynebacterium pseudotuberculosis infections pose a rising worldwide economic problem in ruminants. The complete genome sequences of 15 C. pseudotuberculosis strains isolated from different hosts and countries were comparatively analyzed using a pan-genomic strategy. Phylogenomic, pan-genomic, core genomic, and singleton analyses revealed close relationships among pathogenic corynebacteria, the clonal-like behavior of C. pseudotuberculosis and slow increases in the sizes of pan-genomes. According to extrapolations based on the pan-genomes, core genomes and singletons, the C. pseudotuberculosis biovar ovis shows a more clonal-like behavior than the C. pseudotuberculosis biovar equi. Most of the variable genes of the biovar ovis strains were acquired in a block through horizontal gene transfer and are highly conserved, whereas the biovar equi strains contain great variability, both intra- and inter-biovar, in the 16 detected pathogenicity islands (PAIs). With respect to the gene content of the PAIs, the most interesting finding is the high similarity of the pilus genes in the biovar ovis strains compared with the great variability of these genes in the biovar equi strains. Concluding, the polymerization of complete pilus structures in biovar ovis could be responsible for a remarkable ability of these strains to spread throughout host tissues and penetrate cells to live intracellularly, in contrast with the biovar equi, which rarely attacks visceral organs. Intracellularly, the biovar ovis strains are expected to have less contact with other organisms than the biovar equi strains, thereby explaining the significant clonal-like behavior of the biovar ovis strains.
PMCID: PMC3544762  PMID: 23342011
22.  Lipoproteins of Bacterial Pathogens▿  
Infection and Immunity  2010;79(2):548-561.
Bacterial lipoproteins are a set of membrane proteins with many different functions. Due to this broad-ranging functionality, these proteins have a considerable significance in many phenomena, from cellular physiology through cell division and virulence. Here we give a general overview of lipoprotein biogenesis and highlight examples of the roles of lipoproteins in bacterial disease caused by a selection of medically relevant Gram-negative and Gram-positive pathogens: Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Streptococcus pneumoniae, Borrelia burgdorferi, and Neisseria meningitidis. Lipoproteins have been shown to play key roles in adhesion to host cells, modulation of inflammatory processes, and translocation of virulence factors into host cells. As such, a number of lipoproteins have been shown to be potential vaccines. This review provides a summary of some of the reported roles of lipoproteins and of how this knowledge has been exploited in some cases for the generation of novel countermeasures to bacterial diseases.
PMCID: PMC3028857  PMID: 20974828
23.  Cellular internalization in the absence of invasin expression is promoted by the Yersinia pseudotuberculosis yadA product. 
Infection and Immunity  1993;61(9):3907-3913.
The Yersinia pseudotuberculosis invasin protein is able to promote bacterial penetration into mammalian cells. Insertion mutations that eliminate production of this protein show residual internalization that is dependent on the presence of the Yersinia virulence plasmid. An enrichment procedure was used to isolate molecular clones containing regions of the virulence plasmid that confer this low-level uptake on Y. pseudotuberculosis inv mutants. All of the Y. pseudotuberculosis strains isolated from this procedure harbored plasmids containing a region encompassing the yadA gene, which encodes a previously identified adhesin associated with attachment to extracellular matrix proteins. All of the mutations isolated that affected internalization of one of the strains that survived the enrichment disrupted the yadA open reading frame. Furthermore, a strain that contained yadA sequences and no other region of the virulence plasmid was able to promote internalization of a Y. pseudotuberculosis inv mutant. Consistent with these results, an intact virulence plasmid containing an insertion mutation in yadA was as defective as a plasmid-cured strain at promoting uptake of Y. pseudotuberculosis inv mutants. These results indicate that the product of the yadA gene is responsible for the plasmid-dependent entry observed in Y. pseudotuberculosis inv mutants.
PMCID: PMC281093  PMID: 8359913
24.  Prevalence of the “High-Pathogenicity Island” of Yersinia Species among Escherichia coli Strains That Are Pathogenic to Humans 
Infection and Immunity  1998;66(2):480-485.
The fyuA-irp gene cluster contributes to the virulence of highly pathogenic Yersinia (Yersinia pestis, Yersinia pseudotuberculosis, and Yersinia enterocolitica 1B). The cluster encodes an iron uptake system mediated by the siderophore yersiniabactin and reveals features of a pathogenicity island. Two evolutionary lineages of this “high pathogenicity island” (HPI) can be distinguished on the basis of DNA sequence comparison: a Y. pestis group and a Y. enterocolitica group. In this study we demonstrate that the HPI of the Y. pestis evolutionary group is disseminated among species of the family Enterobacteriaceae which are pathogenic to humans. It prevails in enteroaggregative Escherichia coli and in E. coli blood culture isolates (93 and 80%, respectively), but is rarely found in enteropathogenic E. coli, enteroinvasive E. coli, and enterotoxigenic E. coli isolates. In contrast, the HPI was absent from enterohemorrhagic E. coli, Shigella, and Salmonella enterica strains investigated. Polypeptides encoded by the fyuA, irp1, and irp2 genes located on the HPI could be detected in E. coli strains pathogenic to humans. However, these E. coli strains showed a reduced sensitivity to the bacteriocin pesticin, whose uptake is mediated by the FyuA receptor. Escherichia strains do not possess the hms gene locus thought to be a part of the HPI of Y. pestis. Deletions of the fyuA-irp gene cluster affecting solely the fyuA part of the HPI were identified in 3% of the E. coli strains tested. These results suggest horizontal transfer of the HPI between Y. pestis and some pathogenic E. coli strains.
PMCID: PMC107931  PMID: 9453599
25.  Identification, Recombinant Expression, Immunolocalization in Macrophages, and T-Cell Responsiveness of the Major Extracellular Proteins of Francisella tularensis  
Infection and Immunity  2006;74(7):4002-4013.
A safer and more effective vaccine than the previously developed live attenuated vaccine is needed for combating Francisella tularensis, a highly infectious bacterial pathogen. To search for potential candidates for inclusion in a new vaccine, we characterized the proteins present in the culture filtrates of a virulent recent clinical isolate and the attenuated live vaccine strain of F. tularensis using a proteomic approach. We identified a total of 12 proteins; among these, catalase-peroxidase was much more abundant in the culture filtrate of the virulent clinical isolate, whereas bacterioferritin was more abundant in the culture filtrate of the live vaccine strain. Streptolysin O treatment of infected human macrophages indicated that catalase-peroxidase and the heat shock protein GroEL are released intracellularly by actively growing F. tularensis. Mice immunized with F. tularensis developed significant cell-mediated immune responses to catalase-peroxidase, the heat shock protein GroEL, and bacterioferritin as measured by splenic lymphocyte proliferation and gamma interferon production. Finally, we expressed the major culture filtrate proteins that are promising vaccine candidates in Escherichia coli at high levels in soluble form to facilitate study of their immunobiology and potential role in vaccines.
PMCID: PMC1489726  PMID: 16790773

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