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1.  Comparative analysis of the genomes of the bacteria Mycoplasma pneumoniae and Mycoplasma genitalium. 
Nucleic Acids Research  1997;25(4):701-712.
The sequenced genomes of the two closely related bacteria Mycoplasma genitalium and Mycoplasma pneumoniae were compared with emphasis on genome organization and coding capacity. All the 470 proposed open reading frames (ORFs) of the smaller M.genitalium genome (580 kb) were contained in the larger genome (816 kb) of M.pneumoniae. There were some discrepancies in annotation, but inspection of the DNA sequences showed that the corresponding DNA was always present in M. pneumoniae. The two genomes could be subdivided into six segments. The order of orthologous genes was well conserved within individual segments but the order of these segments in both bacteria was different. We explain the different organization of the segments by translocation via homologous recombination. The translocations did not disturb the continuous bidirectional course of transcription in both genomes, starting at the proposed origin of replication. The additional 236 kb in M.pneumoniae,compared with theM.genitalium genome, were coding for 209 proposed ORFs not identified in M.genitalium. Of these ORFs, 110 were specific to M.pneumoniae exhibiting no significant similarity to M.genitalium ORFs, while 76 ORFs were amplifications of ORFs existing mainly as single copies in M. genitalium. In addition, 23 ORFs containing a copy of either one of the three repetitive DNA sequences RepMP2/3, RepMP4 and RepMP5 were annotated in M.pneumoniae but not in M.genitalium,although similar DNA sequences were present. TheM.pneumoniae-specific genes included a restriction-modification system, two transport systems for carbohydrates, the complete set of three genes coding for the arginine dihydrolase pathway and 14 copies of the repetitive DNA sequence RepMP1 which were part of several different translated genes with unknown function.
PMCID: PMC146517  PMID: 9016618
2.  A Genome-Scale Metabolic Reconstruction of Mycoplasma genitalium, iPS189 
PLoS Computational Biology  2009;5(2):e1000285.
With a genome size of ∼580 kb and approximately 480 protein coding regions, Mycoplasma genitalium is one of the smallest known self-replicating organisms and, additionally, has extremely fastidious nutrient requirements. The reduced genomic content of M. genitalium has led researchers to suggest that the molecular assembly contained in this organism may be a close approximation to the minimal set of genes required for bacterial growth. Here, we introduce a systematic approach for the construction and curation of a genome-scale in silico metabolic model for M. genitalium. Key challenges included estimation of biomass composition, handling of enzymes with broad specificities, and the lack of a defined medium. Computational tools were subsequently employed to identify and resolve connectivity gaps in the model as well as growth prediction inconsistencies with gene essentiality experimental data. The curated model, M. genitalium iPS189 (262 reactions, 274 metabolites), is 87% accurate in recapitulating in vivo gene essentiality results for M. genitalium. Approaches and tools described herein provide a roadmap for the automated construction of in silico metabolic models of other organisms.
Author Summary
There is growing interest in elucidating the minimal number of genes needed for life. This challenge is important not just for fundamental but also practical considerations arising from the need to design microorganisms exquisitely tuned for particular applications. The genome of the pathogen Mycoplasma genitalium is believed to be a close approximation to the minimal set of genes required for bacterial growth. In this paper, we constructed a genome-scale metabolic model of M. genitalium that mathematically describes a unified characterization of its biochemical capabilities. The model accounts for 189 of the 482 genes listed in the latest genome annotation. We used computational tools during the process to bridge network gaps in the model and restore consistency with experimental data that determined which gene deletions led to cell death (i.e., are essential). We achieved 87% correct model predictions for essential genes and 89% for non-essential genes. We subsequently used the metabolic model to determine components that must be part of the growth medium. The approaches and tools described here provide a roadmap for the automated metabolic reconstruction of other organisms. This task is becoming increasingly critical as genome sequencing for new organisms is proceeding at an ever-accelerating pace.
PMCID: PMC2633051  PMID: 19214212
3.  Life on Arginine for Mycoplasma hominis: Clues from Its Minimal Genome and Comparison with Other Human Urogenital Mycoplasmas 
PLoS Genetics  2009;5(10):e1000677.
Mycoplasma hominis is an opportunistic human mycoplasma. Two other pathogenic human species, M. genitalium and Ureaplasma parvum, reside within the same natural niche as M. hominis: the urogenital tract. These three species have overlapping, but distinct, pathogenic roles. They have minimal genomes and, thus, reduced metabolic capabilities characterized by distinct energy-generating pathways. Analysis of the M. hominis PG21 genome sequence revealed that it is the second smallest genome among self-replicating free living organisms (665,445 bp, 537 coding sequences (CDSs)). Five clusters of genes were predicted to have undergone horizontal gene transfer (HGT) between M. hominis and the phylogenetically distant U. parvum species. We reconstructed M. hominis metabolic pathways from the predicted genes, with particular emphasis on energy-generating pathways. The Embden–Meyerhoff–Parnas pathway was incomplete, with a single enzyme absent. We identified the three proteins constituting the arginine dihydrolase pathway. This pathway was found essential to promote growth in vivo. The predicted presence of dimethylarginine dimethylaminohydrolase suggested that arginine catabolism is more complex than initially described. This enzyme may have been acquired by HGT from non-mollicute bacteria. Comparison of the three minimal mollicute genomes showed that 247 CDSs were common to all three genomes, whereas 220 CDSs were specific to M. hominis, 172 CDSs were specific to M. genitalium, and 280 CDSs were specific to U. parvum. Within these species-specific genes, two major sets of genes could be identified: one including genes involved in various energy-generating pathways, depending on the energy source used (glucose, urea, or arginine) and another involved in cytadherence and virulence. Therefore, a minimal mycoplasma cell, not including cytadherence and virulence-related genes, could be envisaged containing a core genome (247 genes), plus a set of genes required for providing energy. For M. hominis, this set would include 247+9 genes, resulting in a theoretical minimal genome of 256 genes.
Author Summary
Mycoplasma hominis, M. genitalium, and Ureaplasma parvum are human pathogenic bacteria that colonize the urogenital tract. They have minimal genomes, and thus have a minimal metabolic capacity. However, they have distinct energy-generating pathways and distinct pathogenic roles. We compared the genomes of these three human pathogen minimal species, providing further insight into the composition of hypothetical minimal gene sets needed for life. To this end, we sequenced the whole M. hominis genome and reconstructed its energy-generating pathways from gene predictions. Its unusual major energy-producing pathway through arginine hydrolysis was confirmed in both genome analyses and in vivo assays. Our findings suggest that M. hominis and U. parvum underwent genetic exchange, probably while sharing a common host. We proposed a set of genes likely to represent a minimal genome. For M. hominis, this minimal genome, not including cytadherence and virulence-related genes, can be defined comprising the 247 genes shared by the three minimal genital mollicutes, combined with a set of nine genes needed for energy production for cell metabolism. This study provides insight for the synthesis of artificial genomes.
PMCID: PMC2751442  PMID: 19816563
4.  DNA and protein sequence homologies between the adhesins of Mycoplasma genitalium and Mycoplasma pneumoniae. 
Infection and Immunity  1989;57(4):1059-1065.
Mycoplasma genitalium and Mycoplasma pneumoniae are morphologically and serologically related pathogens that colonize the human host. Their successful parasitism appears to be dependent on the product, an adhesin protein, of a gene that is carried by each of these mycoplasmas. Here we describe the cloning and determine the sequence of the structural gene for the putative adhesin of M. genitalium and compare its sequence to the counterpart P1 gene of M. pneumoniae. Regions of homology that were consistent with the observed serological cross-reactivity between these adhesins were detected at both DNA and protein levels. However, the degree of homology between these two genes and their products was much higher than anticipated. Interestingly, the A + T content of the M. genitalium adhesin gene was calculated as 60.1%, which is substantially higher tham that of the P1 gene (46.5%). Comparisons of codon usage between the two organisms revealed that M. genitalium preferentially used A- and T-rich codons. A total of 65% of positions 3 and 56% of positions 1 in M. genitalium codons were either A or T, whereas M. pneumoniae utilized A or T for positions 3 and 1 at a frequency of 40 and 47%, respectively. The biased choice of the A- and T-rich codons in M. genitalium could also account for the preferential use of A- and T-rich codons in conservative amino acid substitutions found in the M. genitalium adhesin. These facts suggest that M. genitalium might have evolved independently of other human mycoplasma species, including M. pneumoniae.
PMCID: PMC313229  PMID: 2925238
5.  Proteomics of Mycoplasma genitalium: identification and characterization of unannotated and atypical proteins in a small model genome 
Nucleic Acids Research  2000;28(16):3075-3082.
We present the results of a comprehensive analysis of the proteome of Mycoplasma genitalium (MG), the smallest autonomously replicating organism that has been completely sequenced. Our aim was to identify and characterize all soluble proteins in MG that are structurally and functionally uncharacterized. We were particularly interested in identifying proteins that differed significantly from typical globular proteins, for example, proteins which are unstructured in the absence of a ‘partner’ molecule or those that exhibit unusual thermodynamic properties. This work is complementary to other structural genomics projects whose primary aim is to determine the three-dimensional structures of proteins with unknown folds. We have identified all the full-length open reading frames (ORFs) in MG that have no homologs of known structure and are of unknown function. Twenty-five of the total 483 ORFs fall into this category and we have expressed, purified and characterized 11 of them. We have used circular dichroism (CD) to rapidly investigate their biophysical properties. Our studies reveal that these proteins have a wide range of structures varying from highly helical to partially structured to unfolded or random coil. They also display a variety of thermodynamic properties ranging from cooperative unfolding to no detectable unfolding upon thermal denaturation. Several of these proteins are highly conserved from mycoplasma to man. Further information about target selection and CD results is available at
PMCID: PMC108442  PMID: 10931922
6.  Molecular cloning and characterization of an adherence-related operon of Mycoplasma genitalium. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1995;177(20):5943-5951.
Adhesins and adhesin-related accessory proteins of pathogenic mycoplasmas are required for cytadherence and the subsequent development of disease pathology. The classic example has been Mycoplasma pneumoniae, which causes primary atypical pneumonia in humans. Mutants of M. pneumoniae defective in adhesins (P1 and P30) or in adherence-accessory proteins (HMW1 through HMW4) are unable to colonize host tissues and are avirulent. Mycoplasma genitalium, implicated in nongonococcal, nonchlamydial urethritis, pneumonia, arthritis, and AIDS progression, was found to encode a 140-kDa adhesin that shared both DNA and protein sequence similarities with P1, a major adhesin of M. pneumoniae. In this report, we show that M. genitalium possesses additional homolog sequences to well-characterized adherence-related genes and proteins of M. pneumoniae. The M. genitalium homologs are designated P32 and P69 and correspond to P30 and HMW3 of M. pneumoniae, respectively (J. B. Baseman, p. 243-259, in S. Rottem and I. Kahane, ed., Subcellular biochemistry, vol. 20. Mycoplasma cell membranes, 1993, and D. C. Krause, D. K. Leith, R. M. Wilson, and J. B. Baseman, Infect. Immun. 35:809-817, 1982). Interestingly, the operon-like organizations of P32 and P69 in the M. genitalium genome are similar to the organizations of P30 and HMW3 genes of M. pneumoniae, suggesting that the conservation of these adherence-related genes and proteins might have occurred through horizontal gene transfer events originating from an ancestral gene family.
PMCID: PMC177423  PMID: 7592348
7.  The Mycoplasma pneumoniae MPN490 and Mycoplasma genitalium MG339 Genes Encode RecA Homologs That Promote Homologous DNA Strand Exchange▿  
Infection and Immunity  2009;77(11):4905-4911.
The P1, P40, and P90 proteins of Mycoplasma pneumoniae and the MgPa and P110 proteins of Mycoplasma genitalium are immunogenic adhesion proteins that display sequence variation. Consequently, these proteins are thought to play eminent roles in immune evasive strategies. For each of the five proteins, a similar underlying molecular mechanism for sequence variation was hypothesized, i.e., modification of the DNA sequences of their respective genes. This modification is thought to result from homologous recombination of parts of these genes with repeat elements (RepMp and MgPar elements in M. pneumoniae and M. genitalium, respectively) that are dispersed throughout the bacterial genome. Proteins that are potentially involved in homologous DNA recombination have been suggested to be implicated in recombination between these repeat elements and thereby in antigenic variation. To investigate this notion, we set out to study the function of the RecA homologs that are encoded by the M. pneumoniae MPN490 and M. genitalium MG339 genes. Both proteins, which are 79% identical on the amino acid level, were found to promote recombination between homologous DNA substrates in an ATP-dependent fashion. The recombinational activities of both proteins were Mg2+ and pH dependent and were strongly supported by the presence of single-stranded DNA binding protein, either from M. pneumoniae or from Escherichia coli. We conclude that the MPN490- and MG339-encoded proteins are RecA homologs that have the capacity to recombine homologous DNA substrates. Thus, they may play a central role in recombination between repetitive elements in both M. pneumoniae and M. genitalium.
PMCID: PMC2772507  PMID: 19737894
8.  Mycoplasma genitalium Infection Activates Cellular Host Defense and Inflammation Pathways in a 3-Dimensional Human Endocervical Epithelial Cell Model 
The Journal of Infectious Diseases  2013;207(12):1857-1868.
Background. Because Mycoplasma genitalium is a prevalent and emerging cause of sexually transmitted infections, understanding the mechanisms by which M. genitalium elicits mucosal inflammation is an essential component to managing lower and upper reproductive tract disease syndromes in women.
Methods. We used a rotating wall vessel bioreactor system to create 3-dimensional (3-D) epithelial cell aggregates to model and assess endocervical infection by M. genitalium.
Results. Attachment of M. genitalium to the host cell's apical surface was observed directly and confirmed using immunoelectron microscopy. Bacterial replication was observed from 0 to 72 hours after inoculation, during which time host cells underwent ultrastructural changes, including reduction of microvilli, and marked increases in secretory vesicle formation. Using genome-wide transcriptional profiling, we identified a host defense and inflammation signature activated by M. genitalium during acute infection (48 hours after inoculation) that included cytokine and chemokine activity and secretion of factors for antimicrobial defense. Multiplex bead-based protein assays confirmed secretion of proinflammatory cytokines, several of which are involved in leukocyte recruitment and hypothesized to enhance susceptibility to human immunodeficiency type 1 infection.
Conclusions. These findings provide insight into key molecules and pathways involved in innate recognition of M. genitalium and the response to acute infection in the human endocervix.
PMCID: PMC3654750  PMID: 23493725
Mycoplasma genitalium; Mycoplasma; sexually transmitted infection; cervix; endocervix; epithelial; immune response; transcriptome
9.  Genetic Variation in the Complete MgPa Operon and Its Repetitive Chromosomal Elements in Clinical Strains of Mycoplasma genitalium 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(12):e15660.
Mycoplasma genitalium has been increasingly recognized as an important microbe not only because of its significant association with human genital tract diseases but also because of its utility as a model for studying the minimum set of genes necessary to sustain life. Despite its small genome, 4.7% of the total genome sequence is devoted to making the MgPa adhesin operon and its nine chromosomal repetitive elements (termed MgPars). The MgPa operon, along with 9 MgPars, is believed to play an important role in pathogenesis of M. genitalium infection and has also served as the main target for development of diagnostic tools. However, genetic variation in the complete MgPa operon and MgPars among clinical strains of M. genitalium has not been addressed. In this study we examined the genetic variation in the complete MgPa operon (approximately 8.5 kb) and full or partial MgPar sequences (0.4–2.6 kb) in 15 geographically diverse strains of M. genitalium. Extensive variation was present in four repeat regions of the MgPa operon (with homology to MgPars) among and within strains while the non-repeat regions (without homology to MgPars) showed low-level variation among strains and no variation within strains. MgPars showed significant variation among strains but were highly homogeneous within strains, supporting gene conversion as the likely recombination mechanism. When applying our sequence data to evaluate published MgPa operon-based diagnostic PCR assays and genotyping systems, we found that 11 of 19 primers contain up to 19 variable nucleotides and that the target for one of two typing systems is located in a hypervariable repeat region, suggesting the likelihood of false results with some of these assays. This study not only provides new insights into the role of the MgPa operon in the pathogenesis of M. genitalium infection but has important implications for the development of diagnostic tools.
PMCID: PMC3004944  PMID: 21187921
10.  The Mycoplasma genitalium MG_454 Gene Product Resists Killing by Organic Hydroperoxides▿ † 
Journal of Bacteriology  2009;191(21):6675-6682.
Mycoplasma genitalium is the smallest self-replicating organism and a successful human pathogen associated with a range of genitourinary maladies. As a consequence of its restricted genome size, genes that are highly conserved in other bacteria are absent in M. genitalium. Significantly, genes that encode antioxidants like superoxide dismutase and catalase-peroxidase are lacking. Nevertheless, comparative genomics has revealed that MG_454 of M. genitalium encodes a protein with putative function as an organic hydroperoxide reductase (Ohr). In this study, we found that an M. genitalium transposon mutant that lacks expression of MG_454 was sensitive to killing by t-butyl hydroperoxide and cumene hydroperoxide. To understand whether this sensitivity to hydroperoxides was linked to MG_454, we cloned this gene behind an arabinose-inducible PBAD promoter in plasmid pHERD20T and transformed this construct (pHERDMG454) into a Pseudomonas aeruginosa strain having deletion in its ohr gene (ohr mutant) and showing sensitivity to organic hydroperoxides. The P. aeruginosa ohr mutant harboring pHERDMG454, when induced with arabinose, was able to reverse its sensitivity to organic hydroperoxides, thus supporting the notion that the product of MG_454 resists organic hydroperoxides in M. genitalium. Surprisingly, real-time reverse transcription-PCR showed that expression of MG_454 in M. genitalium was not elevated in response to oxidative stress but was elevated in response to physical stresses, like salt (NaCl) and heat. Although failure of MG_454 to respond to oxidative stress in M. genitalium implies the absence of a known oxidative stress response regulator in the genome of M. genitalium, elevated expression of MG_454 due to physical stress suggests its control by an unidentified regulator.
PMCID: PMC2795314  PMID: 19717589
11.  Functional Analysis of the Mycoplasma genitalium MG312 Protein Reveals a Specific Requirement of the MG312 N-Terminal Domain for Gliding Motility▿  
Journal of Bacteriology  2007;189(19):7014-7023.
The human pathogen Mycoplasma genitalium is known to mediate cell adhesion to target cells by the attachment organelle, a complex structure also implicated in gliding motility. The gliding mechanism of M. genitalium cells is completely unknown, but recent studies have begun to elucidate the components of the gliding machinery. We report the study of MG312, a cytadherence-related protein containing in the N terminus a box enriched in aromatic and glycine residues (EAGR), which is also exclusively found in MG200 and MG386 gliding motility proteins. Characterization of an MG_312 deletion mutant obtained by homologous recombination has revealed that the MG312 protein is required for the assembly of the M. genitalium terminal organelle. This finding is consistent with the intermediate-cytadherence phenotype and the complete absence of gliding motility exhibited by this mutant. Reintroduction of several MG_312 deletion derivatives into the MG_312 null mutant allowed us to identify two separate functional domains: an N-terminal domain implicated in gliding motility and a C-terminal domain involved in cytadherence and terminal organelle assembly functions. In addition, our results also provide evidence that the EAGR box has a specific contribution to mycoplasma cell motion. Finally, the presence of a conserved ATP binding site known as a Walker A box in the MG312 N-terminal region suggests that this structural protein could also play an active function in the gliding mechanism.
PMCID: PMC2045215  PMID: 17675381
12.  Structure-Function Features of a Mycoplasma Glycolipid Synthase Derived from Structural Data Integration, Molecular Simulations, and Mutational Analysis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e81990.
Glycoglycerolipids are structural components of mycoplasma membranes with a fundamental role in membrane properties and stability. Their biosynthesis is mediated by glycosyltransferases (GT) that catalyze the transfer of glycosyl units from a sugar nucleotide donor to diacylglycerol. The essential function of glycolipid synthases in mycoplasma viability, and the absence of glycoglycerolipids in animal host cells make these GT enzymes a target for drug discovery by designing specific inhibitors. However, rational drug design has been hampered by the lack of structural information for any mycoplasma GT. Most of the annotated GTs in pathogenic mycoplasmas belong to family GT2. We had previously shown that MG517 in Mycoplasma genitalium is a GT-A family GT2 membrane-associated glycolipid synthase. We present here a series of structural models of MG517 obtained by homology modeling following a multiple-template approach. The models have been validated by mutational analysis and refined by long scale molecular dynamics simulations. Based on the models, key structure-function relationships have been identified: The N-terminal GT domain has a GT-A topology that includes a non-conserved variable region involved in acceptor substrate binding. Glu193 is proposed as the catalytic base in the GT mechanism, and Asp40, Tyr126, Tyr169, Ile170 and Tyr218 define the substrates binding site. Mutation Y169F increases the enzyme activity and significantly alters the processivity (or sequential transferase activity) of the enzyme. This is the first structural model of a GT-A glycoglycerolipid synthase and provides preliminary insights into structure and function relationships in this family of enzymes.
PMCID: PMC3849446  PMID: 24312618
13.  SpaK/SpaR Two-component System Characterized by a Structure-driven Domain-fusion Method and in Vitro Phosphorylation Studies 
PLoS Computational Biology  2009;5(6):e1000401.
Here we introduce a quantitative structure-driven computational domain-fusion method, which we used to predict the structures of proteins believed to be involved in regulation of the subtilin pathway in Bacillus subtilis, and used to predict a protein-protein complex formed by interaction between the proteins. Homology modeling of SpaK and SpaR yielded preliminary structural models based on a best template for SpaK comprising a dimer of a histidine kinase, and for SpaR a response regulator protein. Our LGA code was used to identify multi-domain proteins with structure homology to both modeled structures, yielding a set of domain-fusion templates then used to model a hypothetical SpaK/SpaR complex. The models were used to identify putative functional residues and residues at the protein-protein interface, and bioinformatics was used to compare functionally and structurally relevant residues in corresponding positions among proteins with structural homology to the templates. Models of the complex were evaluated in light of known properties of the functional residues within two-component systems involving His-Asp phosphorelays. Based on this analysis, a phosphotransferase complexed with a beryllofluoride was selected as the optimal template for modeling a SpaK/SpaR complex conformation. In vitro phosphorylation studies performed using wild type and site-directed SpaK mutant proteins validated the predictions derived from application of the structure-driven domain-fusion method: SpaK was phosphorylated in the presence of 32P-ATP and the phosphate moiety was subsequently transferred to SpaR, supporting the hypothesis that SpaK and SpaR function as sensor and response regulator, respectively, in a two-component signal transduction system, and furthermore suggesting that the structure-driven domain-fusion approach correctly predicted a physical interaction between SpaK and SpaR. Our domain-fusion algorithm leverages quantitative structure information and provides a tool for generation of hypotheses regarding protein function, which can then be tested using empirical methods.
Author Summary
Because proteins so frequently function in coordination with other proteins, identification and characterization of the interactions among proteins are essential for understanding how proteins work. Computational methods for identification of protein-protein interactions have been limited by the degree to which proteins are similar in sequence. However, methods that leverage structure information can overcome this limitation of sequence-based methods; the three-dimensional information provided by structure enables identification of related proteins even when their sequences are dissimilar. In this work we present a quantitative method for identification of protein interacting partners, and we demonstrate its use in modeling the structure of a hypothetical complex between two proteins that function in a bacterial signaling system. This quantitative approach comprises a tool for generation of hypotheses regarding protein function, which can then be tested using empirical methods, and provides a basis for high-throughput prediction of protein-protein interactions, which could be applied on a whole-genome scale.
PMCID: PMC2686270  PMID: 19503843
14.  Structure-based functional inference of hypothetical proteins from Mycoplasma hyopneumoniae 
Journal of Molecular Modeling  2011;18(5):1917-1925.
Enzootic pneumonia caused by Mycoplasma hyopneumoniae is a major constraint to efficient pork production throughout the world. This pathogen has a small genome with 716 coding sequences, of which 418 are homologous to proteins with known functions. However, almost 42% of the 716 coding sequences are annotated as hypothetical proteins. Alternative methodologies such as threading and comparative modeling can be used to predict structures and functions of such hypothetical proteins. Often, these alternative methods can answer questions about the properties of a model system faster than experiments. In this study, we predicted the structures of seven proteins annotated as hypothetical in M. hyopneumoniae, using the structure-based approaches mentioned above. Three proteins were predicted to be involved in metabolic processes, two proteins in transcription and two proteins where no function could be assigned. However, the modeled structures of the last two proteins suggested experimental designs to identify their functions. Our findings are important in diminishing the gap between the lack of annotation of important metabolic pathways and the great number of hypothetical proteins in the M. hyopneumoniae genome.
PMCID: PMC3340535  PMID: 21870198
Comparative modeling; Known function; Modeller; Mollicutes; Threading; Chemistry; Health Informatics; Life Sciences, general; Computer Appl. in Life Sciences; Molecular Medicine; Biomedicine general; Computer Applications in Chemistry
15.  Genomic repeats, genome plasticity and the dynamics of Mycoplasma evolution 
Nucleic Acids Research  2002;30(9):2031-2042.
Mycoplasmas evolved by a drastic reduction in genome size, but their genomes contain numerous repeated sequences with important roles in their evolution. We have established a bioinformatic strategy to detect the major recombination hot-spots in the genomes of Mycoplasma pneumoniae, Mycoplasma genitalium, Ureaplasma urealyticum and Mycoplasma pulmonis. This allowed the identification of large numbers of potentially variable regions, as well as a comparison of the relative recombination potentials of different genomic regions. Different trends are perceptible among mycoplasmas, probably due to different functional and structural constraints. The largest potential for illegitimate recombination in M.pulmonis is found at the vsa locus and its comparison in two different strains reveals numerous changes since divergence. On the other hand, the main M.pneumoniae and M.genitalium adhesins rely on large distant repeats and, hence, homologous recombination for variation. However, the relation between the existence of repeats and antigenic variation is not necessarily straightforward, since repeats of P1 adhesin were found to be anti-correlated with epitopes recognized by patient antibodies. These different strategies have important consequences for the structures of genomes, since large distant repeats correlate well with the major chromosomal rearrangements. Probably to avoid such events, mycoplasmas strongly avoid inverse repeats, in comparison to co-oriented repeats.
PMCID: PMC113839  PMID: 11972343
16.  MolliGen, a database dedicated to the comparative genomics of Mollicutes 
Nucleic Acids Research  2004;32(Database issue):D307-D310.
Bacteria belonging to the class Mollicutes were among the first ones to be selected for complete genome sequencing because of the minimal size of their genomes and their pathogenicity for humans and a broad range of animals and plants. At this time six genome sequences have been publicly released (Mycoplasma genitalium, Mycoplasma pneumoniae, Ureaplasma urealyticum-parvum, Mycoplasma pulmonis, Mycoplasma penetrans and Mycoplasma gallisepticum) and as the number of available mollicute genomes increases, comparative genomics analysis within this model group of organisms becomes more and more instructive. However, such an analysis is difficult to carry out without a suitable platform gathering not only the original annotations but also relevant information available in public databases or obtained by applying common bioinformatics methods. With the aim of solving these difficulties, we have developed a web-accessible database named MolliGen ( After selecting a set of genomes the user can launch various types of search based on annotation, position on the chromosomes or sequence similarity. In addition, relationships of putative orthology have been precomputed to allow differential genome queries. The results are presented in table format with multiple links to public databases and to bioinformatic analyses such as multiple alignments or BLAST search. Specific tools were also developed for the graphical visualization of the results, including a multi- genome browser for displaying dynamic pictures with clickable objects and for viewing relationships of precomputed similarity. MolliGen is designed to integrate all the complete genomes of mollicutes as they become available.
PMCID: PMC308848  PMID: 14681420
17.  Characterization of the Operon Encoding the Holliday Junction Helicase RuvAB from Mycoplasma genitalium and Its Role in mgpB and mgpC Gene Variation 
Journal of Bacteriology  2014;196(8):1608-1618.
Mycoplasma genitalium is an emerging sexually transmitted pathogen associated with reproductive tract disease in men and women, and it can persist for months to years despite the development of a robust antibody response. Mechanisms that may contribute to persistence in vivo include phase and antigenic variation of the MgpB and MgpC adhesins. These processes occur by segmental recombination between discrete variable regions within mgpB and mgpC and multiple archived donor sequences termed MgPa repeats (MgPars). The molecular factors governing mgpB and mgpC variation are poorly understood and obscured by the paucity of recombination genes conserved in the M. genitalium genome. Recently, we demonstrated the requirement for RecA using a quantitative PCR (qPCR) assay developed to measure recombination between the mgpB and mgpC genes and MgPars. Here, we expand these studies by examining the roles of M. genitalium ruvA and ruvB homologs. Deletion of ruvA and ruvB impaired the ability to generate mgpB and mgpC phase and sequence variants, and these deficiencies could be complemented with wild-type copies, including the ruvA gene from Mycoplasma pneumoniae. In contrast, ruvA and ruvB deletions did not affect the sensitivity to UV irradiation, reinforcing our previous findings that the recombinational repair pathway plays a minor role in M. genitalium. Reverse transcription-PCR (RT-PCR) and primer extension analyses also revealed a complex transcriptional organization of the RuvAB system of M. genitalium, which is cotranscribed with two novel open reading frames (ORFs) (termed ORF1 and ORF2 herein) conserved only in M. pneumoniae. These findings suggest that these novel ORFs may play a role in recombination in these two closely related bacteria.
PMCID: PMC3993354  PMID: 24532771
18.  Intracellular Mycoplasma genitalium infection of human vaginal and cervical epithelial cells elicits distinct patterns of inflammatory cytokine secretion and provides a possible survival niche against macrophage-mediated killing 
BMC Microbiology  2009;9:139.
Mycoplasma genitalium is an emerging sexually transmitted pathogen that has been associated with significant reproductive tract inflammatory syndromes in women. In addition, the strong association between severity of M. genitalium infection and Human Immunodeficiency Virus type 1 (HIV-1) shedding from the cervix suggests that innate responses to M. genitalium may influence pathogenesis of other sexually transmitted infections. Epithelial cells (ECs) of the reproductive mucosa are the first cells contacted by sexually transmitted pathogens. Therefore, we first characterized the dynamics of intracellular and extracellular localization and resultant innate immune responses from human vaginal, ecto- and endocervical ECs to M. genitalium type strain G37 and a low-pass contemporary isolate, M2300.
Both M. genitalium strains rapidly attached to vaginal and cervical ECs by 2 h post-infection (PI). By 3 h PI, M. genitalium organisms also were found in intracellular membrane-bound vacuoles of which approximately 60% were adjacent to the nucleus. Egress of M. genitalium from infected ECs into the culture supernatant was observed but, after invasion, viable intracellular titers were significantly higher than extracellular titers at 24 and 48 h PI. All of the tested cell types responded by secreting significant levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines and chemokines in a pattern consistent with recruitment and stimulation of monocytes and macrophages. Based on the elaborated cytokines, we next investigated the cellular interaction of M. genitalium with human monocyte-derived macrophages and characterized the resultant cytokine responses. Macrophages rapidly phagocytosed M. genitalium resulting in a loss of bacterial viability and a potent pro-inflammatory response that included significant secretion of IL-6 and other cytokines associated with enhanced HIV-1 replication. The macrophage-stimulating capacity of M. genitalium was independent of bacterial viability but was sensitive to heat denaturation and proteinase-K digestion suggesting that M. genitalium protein components are the predominant mediators of inflammation.
Collectively, the data indicated that human genital ECs were susceptible and immunologically responsive to M. genitalium infection that likely induced cellular immune responses. Although macrophage phagocytosis was an effective method for M. genitalium killing, intracellular localization within vaginal and cervical ECs may provide M. genitalium a survival niche and protection from cellular immune responses thereby facilitating the establishment and maintenance of reproductive tract infection.
PMCID: PMC2717097  PMID: 19602269
19.  Functional Characterization of the RuvB Homologs from Mycoplasma pneumoniae and Mycoplasma genitalium▿ 
Journal of Bacteriology  2011;193(23):6425-6435.
Homologous recombination between repeated DNA elements in the genomes of Mycoplasma species has been hypothesized to be a crucial causal factor in sequence variation of antigenic proteins at the bacterial surface. To investigate this notion, studies were initiated to identify and characterize the proteins that form part of the homologous DNA recombination machinery in Mycoplasma pneumoniae as well as Mycoplasma genitalium. Among the most likely participants of this machinery are homologs of the Holliday junction migration motor protein RuvB. In both M. pneumoniae and M. genitalium, genes have been identified that have the capacity to encode RuvB homologs (MPN536 and MG359, respectively). Here, the characteristics of the MPN536- and MG359-encoded proteins (the RuvB proteins from M. pneumoniae strain FH [RuvBFH] and M. genitalium [RuvBMge], respectively) are described. Both RuvBFH and RuvBMge were found to have ATPase activity and to bind DNA. In addition, both proteins displayed divalent cation- and ATP-dependent DNA helicase activity on partially double-stranded DNA substrates. The helicase activity of RuvBMge, however, was significantly lower than that of RuvBFH. Interestingly, we found RuvBFH to be expressed exclusively by subtype 2 strains of M. pneumoniae. In strains belonging to the other major subtype (subtype 1), a version of the protein is expressed (the RuvB protein from M. pneumoniae strain M129 [RuvBM129]) that differs from RuvBFH in a single amino acid residue (at position 140). In contrast to RuvBFH, RuvBM129 displayed only marginal levels of DNA-unwinding activity. These results demonstrate that M. pneumoniae strains (as well as closely related Mycoplasma spp.) can differ significantly in the function of components of their DNA recombination and repair machinery.
PMCID: PMC3232873  PMID: 21949077
20.  Structure Modeling of All Identified G Protein–Coupled Receptors in the Human Genome 
PLoS Computational Biology  2006;2(2):e13.
G protein–coupled receptors (GPCRs), encoded by about 5% of human genes, comprise the largest family of integral membrane proteins and act as cell surface receptors responsible for the transduction of endogenous signal into a cellular response. Although tertiary structural information is crucial for function annotation and drug design, there are few experimentally determined GPCR structures. To address this issue, we employ the recently developed threading assembly refinement (TASSER) method to generate structure predictions for all 907 putative GPCRs in the human genome. Unlike traditional homology modeling approaches, TASSER modeling does not require solved homologous template structures; moreover, it often refines the structures closer to native. These features are essential for the comprehensive modeling of all human GPCRs when close homologous templates are absent. Based on a benchmarked confidence score, approximately 820 predicted models should have the correct folds. The majority of GPCR models share the characteristic seven-transmembrane helix topology, but 45 ORFs are predicted to have different structures. This is due to GPCR fragments that are predominantly from extracellular or intracellular domains as well as database annotation errors. Our preliminary validation includes the automated modeling of bovine rhodopsin, the only solved GPCR in the Protein Data Bank. With homologous templates excluded, the final model built by TASSER has a global Cα root-mean-squared deviation from native of 4.6 Å, with a root-mean-squared deviation in the transmembrane helix region of 2.1 Å. Models of several representative GPCRs are compared with mutagenesis and affinity labeling data, and consistent agreement is demonstrated. Structure clustering of the predicted models shows that GPCRs with similar structures tend to belong to a similar functional class even when their sequences are diverse. These results demonstrate the usefulness and robustness of the in silico models for GPCR functional analysis. All predicted GPCR models are freely available for noncommercial users on our Web site (
G protein–coupled receptors (GPCRs) are a large superfamily of integral membrane proteins that transduce signals across the cell membrane. Because of the breadth and importance of the physiological roles undertaken by the GPCR family, many of its members are important pharmacological targets. Although the knowledge of a protein's native structure can provide important insight into understanding its function and for the design of new drugs, the experimental determination of the three-dimensional structure of GPCR membrane proteins has proved to be very difficult. This is demonstrated by the fact that there is only one solved GPCR structure (from bovine rhodopsin) deposited in the Protein Data Bank library. In contrast, there are no human GPCR structures in the Protein Data Bank. To address the need for the tertiary structures of human GPCRs, using just sequence information, the authors use a newly developed threading-assembly-refinement method to generate models for all 907 registered GPCRs in the human genome. About 820 GPCRs are anticipated to have correct topology and transmembrane helix arrangement. A subset of the resulting models is validated by comparison with mutagenesis experimental data, and consistent agreement is demonstrated.
PMCID: PMC1364505  PMID: 16485037
21.  Mapping phosphoproteins in Mycoplasma genitalium and Mycoplasma pneumoniae 
BMC Microbiology  2007;7:63.
Little is known regarding the extent or targets of phosphorylation in mycoplasmas, yet in many other bacterial species phosphorylation is known to play an important role in signaling and regulation of cellular processes. To determine the prevalence of phosphorylation in mycoplasmas, we examined the CHAPS-soluble protein fractions of Mycoplasma genitalium and Mycoplasma pneumoniae by two-dimensional gel electrophoresis (2-DE), using a combination of Pro-Q Diamond phosphoprotein stain and 33P labeling. Protein spots that were positive for phosphorylation were identified by peptide mass fingerprinting using MALDI-TOF-TOF mass spectrometry.
We identified a total of 24 distinct phosphoproteins, about 3% and 5% of the total protein complement in M. pneumoniae and M. genitalium, respectively, indicating that phosphorylation occurs with prevalence similar to many other bacterial species. Identified phosphoproteins include pyruvate dehydrogenase E1 alpha and beta subunits, enolase, heat shock proteins DnaK and GroEL, elongation factor Tu, cytadherence accessory protein HMW3, P65, and several hypothetical proteins. These proteins are involved in energy metabolism, carbohydrate metabolism, translation/transcription and cytadherence. Interestingly, fourteen of the 24 phosphoproteins we identified (58%) were previously reported as putatively associated with a cytoskeleton-like structure that is present in the mycoplasmas, indicating a potential regulatory role for phosphorylation in this structure.
This study has shown that phosphorylation in mycoplasmas is comparable to that of other bacterial species. Our evidence supports a link between phosphorylation and cytadherence and/or a cytoskeleton-like structure, since over half of the proteins identified as phosphorylated have been previously associated with these functions. This opens the door to further research into the purposes and mechanisms of phosphorylation for mycoplasmas.
PMCID: PMC1947986  PMID: 17605819
22.  Molecular Characterization of the Mycoplasma gallisepticum pvpA Gene Which Encodes a Putative Variable Cytadhesin Protein 
Infection and Immunity  2000;68(7):3956-3964.
A putative cytadhesin-related protein (PvpA) undergoing variation in its expression was identified in the avian pathogen Mycoplasma gallisepticum. The pvpA gene was cloned, expressed in Escherichia coli, and sequenced. It exhibits 54 and 52% homology with the P30 and P32 cytadhesin proteins of the human pathogens Mycoplasma pneumoniae and Mycoplasma genitalium, respectively. In addition, 50% homology was found with the MGC2 cytadhesin of M. gallisepticum and 49% homology was found with a stretch of 205 amino acids of the cytadherence accessory protein HMW3 of M. pneumoniae. The PvpA molecule possesses a proline-rich carboxy-terminal region (28%) containing two identical directly repeated sequences of 52 amino acids and a tetrapeptide motif (Pro-Arg-Pro-X) which is repeated 14 times. Genetic analysis of several clonal isolates representing different expression states of the PvpA product ruled out chromosomal rearrangement as the mechanism for PvpA phase variation. The molecular basis of PvpA variation was revealed in a short tract of repeated GAA codons, encoding five successive glutamate resides, located in the N-terminal region and subject to frequent mutation generating an in-frame UAA stop codon. Size variation of the PvpA protein was observed among M. gallisepticum strains, ranging from 48 to 55 kDa and caused by several types of deletions occurring at the PvpA C-terminal end and within the two directly repeated sequences. By immunoelectron microscopy, the PvpA protein was localized on the mycoplasma cell surface, in particular on the terminal tip structure. Collectively, these findings suggest that PvpA is a newly identified variable surface cytadhesin protein of M. gallisepticum.
PMCID: PMC101673  PMID: 10858209
23.  Microarray analysis of gene expression profiles in ripening pineapple fruits 
BMC Plant Biology  2012;12:240.
Pineapple (Ananas comosus) is a tropical fruit crop of significant commercial importance. Although the physiological changes that occur during pineapple fruit development have been well characterized, little is known about the molecular events that occur during the fruit ripening process. Understanding the molecular basis of pineapple fruit ripening will aid the development of new varieties via molecular breeding or genetic modification. In this study we developed a 9277 element pineapple microarray and used it to profile gene expression changes that occur during pineapple fruit ripening.
Microarray analyses identified 271 unique cDNAs differentially expressed at least 1.5-fold between the mature green and mature yellow stages of pineapple fruit ripening. Among these 271 sequences, 184 share significant homology with genes encoding proteins of known function, 53 share homology with genes encoding proteins of unknown function and 34 share no significant homology with any database accession. Of the 237 pineapple sequences with homologs, 160 were up-regulated and 77 were down-regulated during pineapple fruit ripening. DAVID Functional Annotation Cluster (FAC) analysis of all 237 sequences with homologs revealed confident enrichment scores for redox activity, organic acid metabolism, metalloenzyme activity, glycolysis, vitamin C biosynthesis, antioxidant activity and cysteine peptidase activity, indicating the functional significance and importance of these processes and pathways during pineapple fruit development. Quantitative real-time PCR analysis validated the microarray expression results for nine out of ten genes tested.
This is the first report of a microarray based gene expression study undertaken in pineapple. Our bioinformatic analyses of the transcript profiles have identified a number of genes, processes and pathways with putative involvement in the pineapple fruit ripening process. This study extends our knowledge of the molecular basis of pineapple fruit ripening and non-climacteric fruit ripening in general.
PMCID: PMC3568034  PMID: 23245313
Pineapple; Non-climacteric; Fruit ripening; Microarray
24.  Cloning and characterization of a putative cytadhesin gene (mgc1) from Mycoplasma gallisepticum. 
Infection and Immunity  1996;64(5):1541-1547.
A 150-kDa cytadhesin-like protein from Mycoplasma gallisepticum has been identified. A previously described 583-bp fragment (J.E. Dohms, L.L. Hnatow, P. Whetzel, R. Morgan and C.L. Keeler, Jr., Avian Dis. 37:380-388, 1993) was used to probe a genomic library of M. gallisepticum DNA. An 8.0-kb SacI fragment was identified, cloned, and partially sequenced. Analysis of the resulting 3,750-bp sequence revealed the presence of a 3,366-nucleotide open reading frame, mgc1. The 1,122-amino-acid protein encoded by this open reading frame, MGC1, has characteristics of a class I membrane protein and has homology with the MgPa cytadhesin of Mycoplasma genitalium (26.3%) and the P1 cytadhesin of Mycoplasma pneumoniae (28.7%). A portion of MGC1 was expressed as a glutathione S-transferase fusion protein and used to produce antiserum in rabbits. The antiserum recognizes a 150-kDa protein from M. gallisepticum. The protein is sensitive to trypsin, confirming that it is surface exposed. Primer extension analysis indicates that the mgc1 RNA starts within an upstream open reading frame, suggesting complex control of its expression. This is the first description of a functional gene from M. gallisepticum showing homology to cytadhesin genes from human mycoplasmas.
PMCID: PMC173959  PMID: 8613358
25.  Peptide Methionine Sulfoxide Reductase (MsrA) Is a Virulence Determinant in Mycoplasma genitalium 
Journal of Bacteriology  2001;183(19):5645-5650.
Mycoplasma genitalium is the smallest self-replicating microorganism and is implicated in human diseases, including urogenital and respiratory infections and arthritides. M. genitalium colonizes host cells primarily through adherence mechanisms mediated by a network of surface-associated membrane proteins, including adhesins and cytadherence-related proteins. In this paper, we show that cytadherence in M. genitalium is affected by an unrelated protein known as peptide methionine sulfoxide reductase (MsrA), an antioxidant repair enzyme that catalyzes the reduction of methionine sulfoxide [Met(O)] residues in proteins to methionine. An msrA disruption mutant of M. genitalium, constructed through homologous recombination, displayed markedly reduced adherence to sheep erythrocytes. In addition, the msrA mutant was incapable of growing in hamsters and exhibited hypersensitivity to hydrogen peroxide when compared to wild-type virulent M. genitalium. These results indicate that MsrA plays an important role in M. genitalium pathogenicity, possibly by protecting mycoplasma protein structures from oxidative damage or through alternate virulence-related pathways.
PMCID: PMC95456  PMID: 11544227

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