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1.  Identification of the P3 Promoter and Distinct Roles of the Two Promoters of the SaeRS Two-Component System in Staphylococcus aureus▿  
Journal of Bacteriology  2011;193(18):4672-4684.
In Staphylococcus aureus, the SaeRS two-component system (TCS) encoded by the saePQRS operon controls expression of major virulence factors, such as coagulase and alpha-hemolysin. The saePQRS operon has two promoters: P1 and P3. The P1 promoter, a strong promoter, is autoinduced and can transcribe all four genes. Compared with P1, P3 shows fairly low but constitutive promoter activity, and it transcribes only saeR and saeS, the two genes encoding response regulator SaeR and sensor kinase SaeS. However, the role of each promoter in sae signaling has not been rigorously defined. In this study, we found that the genuine transcription start site (TSS) of P3 is located 78 nucleotides downstream of the previously reported TSS. Subsequently, the P3 promoter sequence was identified and validated by mutagenesis analyses. Deletion of the saePQ region including the P1 promoter did not significantly alter the expression patterns of coagulase and alpha-hemolysin, two well-known sae target genes. Due to its L18P substitution in a transmembrane domain, SaeS in strain Newman has a constitutive kinase activity. Interestingly, the mutation also rendered the protein unstable, but the protein stability was restored by SaeQ, suggesting a possible SaeQ-SaeS interaction. Ironically, the same mutation seems to increase mRNA stability. SaeR appears to be stabilized by SaeS, possibly by a protein-protein interaction. Chromosomal mutation of P1 did not affect the expression pattern of coagulase and alpha-hemolysin. Based on these results, we conclude that transcription of saeRS from P3 is sufficient for target gene activation and that P1 is not involved in the activation.
PMCID: PMC3165640  PMID: 21764914
2.  High-level SAE2 promotes malignant phenotype and predicts outcome in gastric cancer 
Background: The SUMO pathway has been shown to play an important role in tumorigenesis. This report analyzed the involvement of the sole SUMO-Activating Enzyme Subunit 2 (SAE2) in human gastric cancer (GC) progression and prognosis. Methods: Expression of SAE2 was examined by Quantigene Plex, western blotting and immunohistochemistry. The expression of SAE2 and c-MYC were detected in parallel in 276 cases. The molecular mechanisms of SAE2 expression and its effects on cell growth, colony formation, migration and invasion were also explored by CCK8 assay, colony formation experiment, transwell chamber assay with or without matrigel, immunoprecipitation and in vivo tumorigenesis and tumor metastasis. Results: SAE2 was markedly overexpressed in GC cell lines and primary tumor samples of GC, and significantly correlated with deeper tumor depth, distant metastasis, higher pathological stage and stratified survival in human GC. SAE2 positivity was independently associated with a worse outcome in multivariate analysis. Knockdown of SAE2 expression inhibited the proliferation, migration, and invasion of SAE2-overexpressing GC cells. Consistent with the in vitro results, down-regulation of SAE2 in human GC BGC823 cells significantly reduced the tumorigenic and metastatic potential of the cells in vivo. SAE2 protein was significantly associated with the higher expression of c-MYC in primary GC tissues. Moreover, FoxM1 was SUMOylated in GC and that inhibition of SAE2 resulted in a decrease in SUMO1-FoxM1 levels compared with those in the controls. Conclusions: These findings suggest that SAE2 has a pivotal role in the aggressiveness of GC, and highlight its usefulness as a prognostic factor in GC.
PMCID: PMC4300690  PMID: 25628926
SAE2; gastric cancer; prognosis; FoxM1; c-MYC
3.  The auxiliary protein complex SaePQ activates the phosphatase activity of sensor kinase SaeS in the SaeRS two-component system of Staphylococcus aureus 
Molecular microbiology  2012;86(2):331-348.
In bacterial two-component regulatory systems (TCSs), dephosphorylation of phosphorylated response regulators is essential for resetting the activated systems to the pre-activation state. However, in the SaeRS TCS, a major virulence TCS of Staphylococcus aureus, the mechanism for dephosphorylation of the response regulator SaeR has not been identified. Here we report that two auxiliary proteins from the sae operon, SaeP and SaeQ, form a protein complex with the sensor kinase SaeS and activate the sensor kinase’s phosphatase activity. Efficient activation of the phosphatase activity required the presence of both SaeP and SaeQ. When SaeP and SaeQ were ectopically expressed, the expression of coagulase, a sae target with low affinity for phosphorylated SaeR, was greatly reduced, while the expression of alpha-hemolysin, a sae target with high affinity for phosphorylated SaeR, was not, demonstrating a differential effect of SaePQ on sae target gene expression. When expression of SaePQ was abolished, most sae target genes were induced at an elevated level. Since the expression of SaeP and SaeQ is induced by the SaeRS TCS, these results suggest that the SaeRS TCS returns to the pre-activation state by a negative feedback mechanism.
PMCID: PMC3468659  PMID: 22882143
Bacteria; Membrane proteins; Lipoproteins; Negative-feedback; Phosphatase
4.  A sumoylation-dependent transcriptional subprogram is required for Myc-driven tumorigenesis 
Science (New York, N.Y.)  2011;335(6066):348-353.
Myc is an oncogenic transcription factor frequently dysregulated in human cancer. To identify pathways supporting the Myc oncogenic program, we employed a genome-wide RNAi screen for Myc-synthetic-lethal genes and uncovered a role for the SUMO-activating-enzyme (SAE1/2). Loss of SAE1/2 enzymatic activity drives synthetic lethality with Myc. Inactivation of SAE2 leads to mitotic catastrophe and cell death selectively upon Myc hyper-activation. Mechanistically, SAE2 inhibition switches a transcriptional subprogram of Myc from activated to repressed. A subset of these SUMOylation-dependent-Myc-switchers (SMS genes) is required for mitotic spindle function and to support the Myc oncogenic program. SAE2 is required for Myc-dependent tumor growth, and patient survival significantly correlates with SAE1/SAE2 levels in Myc-high tumors. These studies reveal a mitotic vulnerability of Myc-driven cancers, demonstrate that inhibiting sumoylation impairs Myc-dependent tumorigenesis, and suggest inhibiting SUMOylation may have therapeutic benefits for patients with Myc-driven cancer.
PMCID: PMC4059214  PMID: 22157079
5.  SDS Interferes with SaeS Signaling of Staphylococcus aureus Independently of SaePQ 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e71644.
The Staphylococcus aureus regulatory saePQRS system controls the expression of numerous virulence factors, including extracellular adherence protein (Eap), which amongst others facilitates invasion of host cells. The saePQRS operon codes for 4 proteins: the histidine kinase SaeS, the response regulator SaeR, the lipoprotein SaeP and the transmembrane protein SaeQ. S. aureus strain Newman has a single amino acid substitution in the transmembrane domain of SaeS (L18P) which results in constitutive kinase activity. SDS was shown to be one of the signals interfering with SaeS activity leading to inhibition of the sae target gene eap in strains with SaeSL but causing activation in strains containing SaeSP. Here, we analyzed the possible involvement of the SaeP protein and saePQ region in SDS-mediated sae/eap expression. We found that SaePQ is not needed for SDS-mediated SaeS signaling. Furthermore, we could show that SaeS activity is closely linked to the expression of Eap and the capacity to invade host cells in a number of clinical isolates. This suggests that SaeS activity might be directly modulated by structurally non-complex environmental signals, as SDS, which possibly altering its kinase/phosphatase activity.
PMCID: PMC3748130  PMID: 23977102
6.  Repression of hla by rot Is Dependent on sae in Staphylococcus aureus▿  
Infection and Immunity  2008;76(3):1068-1075.
The regulatory locus sae is a two-component system in Staphylococcus aureus that regulates many important virulence factors, including alpha-toxin (encoded by hla) at the transcriptional level. The SarA homologs Rot and SarT were previously shown to be repressors of hla in selected S. aureus backgrounds. To delineate the interaction of rot and sae and the contribution of sarT to hla expression, an assortment of rot and sae isogenic single mutants, a rot sae double mutant, and a rot sae sarT markerless triple mutant were constructed from wild-type strain COL. Using Northern blot analysis and transcriptional reporter gene green fluorescent protein, fusion, and phenotypic assays, we found that the repression of hla by rot is dependent on sae. A rot sae sarT triple mutant was not able to rescue the hla defect of the rot sae double mutant. Among the three sae promoters, the distal sae P3 promoter is the strongest in vitro. Interestingly, the sae P3 promoter activities correlate with hla expression in rot, rot sae, and rot sae sarT mutants of COL. Transcriptional study has also shown that rot repressed sae, especially at the sae P3 promoter. Collectively, our data implicated the importance of sae in the rot-mediated repression of hla in S. aureus.
PMCID: PMC2258807  PMID: 18174341
7.  Differential Target Gene Activation by the Staphylococcus aureus Two-Component System saeRS ▿ †  
Journal of Bacteriology  2009;192(3):613-623.
The saePQRS system of Staphylococcus aureus controls the expression of major virulence factors and encodes a histidine kinase (SaeS), a response regulator (SaeR), a membrane protein (SaeQ), and a lipoprotein (SaeP). The widely used strain Newman is characterized by a single amino acid change in the sensory domain of SaeS (Pro18 in strain Newman [SaeSP], compared with Leu18 in other strains [SaeSL]). SaeSP determines activation of the class I sae target genes (coa, fnbA, eap, sib, efb, fib, sae), which are highly expressed in strain Newman. In contrast, class II target genes (hla, hlb, cap) are not sensitive to the SaeS polymorphism. The SaeSL allele (saeSL) is dominant over the SaeSP allele, as shown by single-copy integration of saePQRSL in strain Newman, which results in severe repression of class I target genes. The differential effect on target gene expression is explained by different requirements for SaeR phosphorylation. From an analysis of saeS deletion strains and strains with mutated SaeR phosphorylation sites, we concluded that a high level of SaeR phosphorylation is required for activation of class I target genes. However, a low level of SaeR phosphorylation, which can occur independent of SaeS, is sufficient to activate class II target genes. Using inducible saeRS constructs, we showed that the expression of both types of target genes is independent of the saeRS dosage and that the typical growth phase-dependent gene expression pattern is not driven by SaeRS.
PMCID: PMC2812464  PMID: 19933357
8.  Aureusimines in Staphylococcus aureus Are Not Involved in Virulence 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(12):e15703.
Recently, dipeptide aureusimines were reported to activate expression of staphylococcal virulence genes, such as alpha-hemolysin, and increase S. aureus virulence. Surprisingly, most of the virulence genes affected by aureusimines form part of the regulon of the SaeRS two component system (TCS), raising the possibility that SaeRS might be directly or indirectly involved in the aureusimine-dependent signaling process.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Using HPLC analyses, we confirmed that a transposon mutant of ausA, the gene encoding the aureusimine dipeptide synthesis enzyme, does not produce dipeptides. However, the transposon mutant showed normal hemolysis activity and alpha-hemolysin/SaeP production. Furthermore, the P1 promoter of the sae operon, one of the targets of the SaeRS TCS, showed normal transcription activity. Moreover, in contrast to the original report, the ausA transposon mutant did not exhibit attenuated virulence in an animal infection model. DNA sequencing revealed that the ausA deletion mutant used in the original study has an 83 nt-duplication in saeS. Hemolysis activity of the original mutant was restored by a plasmid carrying the sae operon. A mutant of the sae operon showed elevated resistance to chloramphenicol and erythromycin, two antibiotics widely used during staphylococcal mutagenesis. At 43°C in the presence of erythromycin and aeration, the conditions typically employed for staphylococcal mutagenesis, an saeR transposon mutant grew much faster than a control mutant and the saeR mutant was highly enriched in a mixed culture experiment.
Our results show that the previously reported roles of aureusimines in staphylococcal gene regulation and virulence were due to an unintended mutation in saeS, which was likely selected due to elevated resistance of the mutant to environmental stresses. Thus, there is no evidence indicating that the dipeptide aureusimines play a role in sae-mediated virulence factor production or contribute to staphylococcal virulence.
PMCID: PMC3012096  PMID: 21209955
9.  Integration of Genome and Chromatin Structure with Gene Expression Profiles To Predict c-MYC Recognition Site Binding and Function 
PLoS Computational Biology  2007;3(4):e63.
The MYC genes encode nuclear sequence specific–binding DNA-binding proteins that are pleiotropic regulators of cellular function, and the c-MYC proto-oncogene is deregulated and/or mutated in most human cancers. Experimental studies of MYC binding to the genome are not fully consistent. While many c-MYC recognition sites can be identified in c-MYC responsive genes, other motif matches—even experimentally confirmed sites—are associated with genes showing no c-MYC response. We have developed a computational model that integrates multiple sources of evidence to predict which genes will bind and be regulated by MYC in vivo. First, a Bayesian network classifier is used to predict those c-MYC recognition sites that are most likely to exhibit high-occupancy binding in chromatin immunoprecipitation studies. This classifier incorporates genomic sequence, experimentally determined genomic chromatin acetylation islands, and predicted methylation status from a computational model estimating the likelihood of genomic DNA methylation. We find that the predictions from this classifier are also applicable to other transcription factors, such as cAMP-response element-binding protein, whose binding sites are sensitive to DNA methylation. Second, the MYC binding probability is combined with the gene expression profile data from nine independent microarray datasets in multiple tissues. Finally, we may consider gene function annotations in Gene Ontology to predict the c-MYC targets. We assess the performance of our prediction results by comparing them with the c-myc targets identified in the biomedical literature. In total, we predict 460 likely c-MYC target genes in the human genome, of which 67 have been reported to be both bound and regulated by MYC, 68 are bound by MYC, and another 80 are MYC-regulated. The approach thus successfully identifies many known c-MYC targets and suggests many novel sites. Our findings suggest that to identify c-MYC genomic targets, integration of different data sources helps to improve the accuracy.
Author Summary
c-MYC is an important proto-oncogene that controls the expression of many other genes, and MYC regulation is deranged in many cancers. Identifying c-MYC target genes is one of the key steps to understand both the biological role and molecular mechanism of c-MYC action. Defining the complete list of c-MYC target genes and categorizing them as genes that are directly and indirectly modulated remains a challenge. Computational models also help us to understand the mechanisms modulating c-MYC function. We describe a method to predict where MYC will bind in the genome and which c-MYC binding sites will be biologically active. The method integrates multiple sources of data, including both genome sequence and functional annotations, to predict that 460 genes are direct c-MYC targets. These include many genes previously known to be c-MYC targets as well as 245 novel direct c-MYC targets. Using multiple, independent gene-expression datasets improves the sensitivity and specificity of the prediction and demonstrates significant tissue-specific variation in c-MYC action at different genes. Our study suggests that chromatin state plays an important role in modulating both c-MYC binding-site activity and the functional consequences of c-MYC binding.
PMCID: PMC1847699  PMID: 17411336
10.  In the Staphylococcus aureus Two-Component System sae, the Response Regulator SaeR Binds to a Direct Repeat Sequence and DNA Binding Requires Phosphorylation by the Sensor Kinase SaeS ▿  
Journal of Bacteriology  2010;192(8):2111-2127.
Staphylococcus aureus uses the SaeRS two-component system to control the expression of many virulence factors such as alpha-hemolysin and coagulase; however, the molecular mechanism of this signaling has not yet been elucidated. Here, using the P1 promoter of the sae operon as a model target DNA, we demonstrated that the unphosphorylated response regulator SaeR does not bind to the P1 promoter DNA, while its C-terminal DNA binding domain alone does. The DNA binding activity of full-length SaeR could be restored by sensor kinase SaeS-induced phosphorylation. Phosphorylated SaeR is more resistant to digestion by trypsin, suggesting conformational changes. DNase I footprinting assays revealed that the SaeR protection region in the P1 promoter contains a direct repeat sequence (GTTAAN6GTTAA [where N is any nucleotide]). This sequence is critical to the binding of phosphorylated SaeR. Mutational changes in the repeat sequence greatly reduced both the in vitro binding of SaeR and the in vivo function of the P1 promoter. From these results, we concluded that SaeR recognizes the direct repeat sequence as a binding site and that binding requires phosphorylation by SaeS.
PMCID: PMC2849438  PMID: 20172998
11.  The Virulence Regulator Sae of Staphylococcus aureus: Promoter Activities and Response to Phagocytosis-Related Signals▿  
Journal of Bacteriology  2008;190(10):3419-3428.
The two-component system SaeRS of Staphylococcus aureus is closely involved in the regulation of major virulence factors. However, little is known about the signals leading to saeRS activation. A total of four overlapping transcripts (T1 to T4) from three different transcription starting points are expressed in the sae operon. We used a β-galactosidase reporter assay to characterize the putative promoter regions within the saeRS upstream region. The main transcript T2 is probably generated by endoribonucleolytic processing of the T1 transcript. Only two distinct promoter elements (P1 and P3) could be detected within the saeRS upstream region. The P3 promoter, upstream of saeRS, generates the T3 transcript, includes a cis-acting enhancer element and is repressed by saeRS. The most distal P1 promoter is strongly autoregulated, activated by agr, and repressed by sigma factor B. In strain Newman a mutation within the histidine kinase SaeS leads to a constitutively activated sae system. Evaluation of different external signals revealed that the P1 promoter in strain ISP479R and strain UAMS-1 is inhibited by low pH and high NaCl concentrations but activated by hydrogen peroxide. The most prominent induction of P1 was observed at subinhibitory concentrations of α-defensins in various S. aureus strains, with the exception of strain ISP479R and strain COL. P1 was not activated by the antimicrobial peptides LL37 and daptomycin. In summary, the results indicate that the sensor molecule SaeS is activated by alteration within the membrane allowing the pathogen to react to phagocytosis related effector molecules.
PMCID: PMC2395011  PMID: 18344360
12.  Inactivation of a Two-Component Signal Transduction System, SaeRS, Eliminates Adherence and Attenuates Virulence of Staphylococcus aureus  
Infection and Immunity  2006;74(8):4655-4665.
Staphylococcus aureus is a major human and animal pathogen. During infection, this organism not only is able to attach to and enter host cells by using its cell surface-associated factors but also exports toxins to induce apoptosis and kill invaded cells. In this study, we identified the regulon of a two-component signal transduction system, SaeRS, and demonstrated that the SaeRS system is required for S. aureus to cause infection both in vitro and in vivo. Using microarray and real-time reverse transcriptase PCR analyses, we found that SaeRS regulates the expression of genes involved in adhesion and invasion (such as those encoding fibronectin-binding proteins and fibrinogen-binding proteins) and genes encoding α-, β-, and γ-hemolysins. Surprisingly, we found that SaeRS represses the Agr regulatory system since the mutation of saeS up-regulates agrA expression, which was confirmed by using an agr promoter-reporter fusion system. More importantly, we demonstrated that inactivation of the SaeRS system significantly decreases the bacterium-induced apoptosis and/or death of lung epithelial cells (A549) and attenuates virulence in a murine infection model. Moreover, we found that inactivation of the SaeRS system eliminates staphylococcal adhesion and internalization of lung epithelial cells. We also found that both a novel hypothetical protein (the SA1000 protein) and a bifunctional protein (Efb), which binds to extracellular fibrinogen and complement factor C3, might partially contribute to bacterial adhesion to and invasion of epithelial cells. Our results indicate that activation of the SaeRS system may be required for S. aureus to adhere to and invade epithelial cells.
PMCID: PMC1539584  PMID: 16861653
13.  Influence of the Two-Component System SaeRS on Global Gene Expression in Two Different Staphylococcus aureus Strains†  
Journal of Bacteriology  2006;188(22):7742-7758.
The two-component system SaeRS consisting of the histidin kinase SaeS and the response regulator SaeR is known to act on virulence gene expression in Staphylococcus aureus. In order to get a more comprehensive picture on SaeR-regulated genes, we studied the contribution of the two-component system on global gene expression by using both the proteomic and transcriptomic approach. Altogether, a loss of SaeRS resulted in a decreased amount of at least 17 extracellular proteins and two cell surface-associated proteins, among them several important virulence factors such as HlgA, HlgB, HlgC, LukF, and LukM. SaeRS activates the expression of these genes at the transcriptional level. The amount of the five proteins Aur, SspA, SsaA, Plc, and GlpQ was negatively influenced by SaeRS. However, the transcription of the corresponding genes was not affected by the two-component system. SaeRS had also no measurable influence on the transcription of the regulatory genes agr, sarA, arlRS, and sigB that contribute to the regulation of SaeRS-dependent virulence factors identified in this investigation. Our results clearly show that SaeRS is strongly involved in the tight temporal control of virulence factor expression in S. aureus. Its precise role within the regulatory network remains to be determined.
PMCID: PMC1636327  PMID: 17079681
14.  Sumoylation Influences DNA Break Repair Partly by Increasing the Solubility of a Conserved End Resection Protein 
PLoS Genetics  2015;11(1):e1004899.
Protein modifications regulate both DNA repair levels and pathway choice. How each modification achieves regulatory effects and how different modifications collaborate with each other are important questions to be answered. Here, we show that sumoylation regulates double-strand break repair partly by modifying the end resection factor Sae2. This modification is conserved from yeast to humans, and is induced by DNA damage. We mapped the sumoylation site of Sae2 to a single lysine in its self-association domain. Abolishing Sae2 sumoylation by mutating this lysine to arginine impaired Sae2 function in the processing and repair of multiple types of DNA breaks. We found that Sae2 sumoylation occurs independently of its phosphorylation, and the two modifications act in synergy to increase soluble forms of Sae2. We also provide evidence that sumoylation of the Sae2-binding nuclease, the Mre11-Rad50-Xrs2 complex, further increases end resection. These findings reveal a novel role for sumoylation in DNA repair by regulating the solubility of an end resection factor. They also show that collaboration between different modifications and among multiple substrates leads to a stronger biological effect.
Author Summary
Proper repair of DNA lesions is crucial for cell growth and organism development. Both the choice and capacity of DNA repair pathways are tightly regulated in response to environmental cues and cell cycle phase. Recent work has uncovered the importance of protein modifications, such as phosphorylation and sumoylation, in this regulation. Sumoylation is known to be critical for the efficient repair of highly toxic DNA double-strand breaks in both yeast and humans, and this is partly mediated by influencing DNA end resection. However, it has been unclear for which resection factor sumoylation is important, how sumoylation influences specific attributes of the relevant targets, and how this modification is coordinated with phosphorylation-based regulation. Here, we provide exciting new insights into these issues by revealing that 1) a conserved end resection factor is a SUMO target relevant to this process, 2) this regulation favors a specific repair pathway, 3) sumoylation collaborates with phosphorylation to promote protein solubility, and 4) sumoylation influences DNA repair via an “ensemble effect” that entails simultaneous small alterations of multiple substrates. Our work reveals both a novel mechanism and a general principle for SUMO-mediated regulation of DNA repair.
PMCID: PMC4287433  PMID: 25569253
15.  c-myc Repression of TSC2 Contributes to Control of Translation Initiation and Myc-Induced Transformation 
Cancer research  2007;67(23):11209-11217.
The c-myc oncogene plays a key role in cellular growth control, and translation initiation factors are among the transcriptional targets of Myc. Here, we describe a defect in translation initiation control in myc-null cells due to alterations in the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathway. Myc loss increased sensitivity to dominant inhibition of eukaryotic translation initiation factor 4E function. Polysomal profiles of myc−/− cells revealed decreased translation initiation rates, which were accompanied by decreased 40S/60S ribosomal subunit ratios. Because the 40S small ribosomal subunit contains the key regulatory ribosomal protein S6 (rpS6), we considered that myc loss might affect expression of components of the mTOR signaling pathway that regulate rpS6 function. Among mTOR signaling components, Myc directly affected transcription of tuberous sclerosis 2 (TSC2), as shown by quantitative mRNA analysis and by Myc binding to its promoter in chromatin immunoprecipitation assays. Importantly, Myc acted as a strong and direct repressor for TSC2 expression because its loss increased TSC2 mRNA in myc-null and in HL60 shRNA experiments, activation of a mycER construct in myc−/− cells suppressed TSC2 induction in a myc box II–dependent manner, and mycER activation recruited Myc to the TSC2 promoter. The biological significance of the effect of Myc on TSC2 expression was shown by markedly reduced TSC2 mRNA levels in myc-transformed cells, stimulation of S6 kinase activity in myc-null cells by TSC2 siRNA, and decreased Myc-induced soft agar colony formation following retroviral transduction of TSC2. Together, these findings show that regulation of TSC2 can contribute to the effects of Myc on cell proliferation and neoplastic growth.
PMCID: PMC3022657  PMID: 18056446
16.  A Point Mutation in the Sensor Histidine Kinase SaeS of Staphylococcus aureus Strain Newman Alters the Response to Biocide Exposure▿ †  
Journal of Bacteriology  2009;191(23):7306-7314.
Staphylococcus aureus reacts to changing environmental conditions such as heat, pH, and chemicals through global regulators such as the sae (S. aureus exoprotein expression) two-component signaling system. Subinhibitory concentrations of some antibiotics were shown to increase virulence factor expression. Here, we investigated the S. aureus stress response to sublethal concentrations of a commonly used biocide (Perform), by real-time quantitative PCR (qRT-PCR), promoter activity assay, sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS)-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis, and a flow cytometric invasion assay. Perform, acting through the production of reactive oxygen species, generally downregulated expression of extracellular proteins in strains 6850, COL, ISP479C but upregulated these proteins in strain Newman. Upregulated proteins were sae dependent. The Perform component SDS, but not paraquat (another oxygen donor), mimicked the biocide effect. Eap (extracellular adherence protein) was most prominently augmented. Upregulation of eap and sae was confirmed by qRT-PCR. Promoter activity of sae P1 was increased by Perform and SDS. Both substances enhanced cellular invasiveness, by 2.5-fold and 3.2-fold, respectively. Increased invasiveness was dependent on Eap and the sae system, whereas agr, sarA, sigB, and fibronectin-binding proteins had no major effect in strain Newman. This unique response pattern was due to a point mutation in SaeS (the sensor histidine kinase), as demonstrated by allele swapping. Newman saePQRSISP479C behaved like ISP479C, whereas saePQRSNewman rendered ISP479C equally responsive as Newman. Taken together, the findings indicate that a point mutation in SaeS of strain Newman was responsible for increased expression of Eap upon exposure to sublethal Perform and SDS concentrations, leading to increased Eap-dependent cellular invasiveness. This may be important for understanding the regulation of virulence in S. aureus.
PMCID: PMC2786562  PMID: 19783632
17.  saeRS and sarA Act Synergistically to Repress Protease Production and Promote Biofilm Formation in Staphylococcus aureus 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(6):e38453.
Mutation of the staphylococcal accessory regulator (sarA) limits biofilm formation in diverse strains of Staphylococcus aureus, but there are exceptions. One of these is the commonly studied strain Newman. This strain has two defects of potential relevance, the first being mutations that preclude anchoring of the fibronectin-binding proteins FnbA and FnbB to the cell wall, and the second being a point mutation in saeS that results in constitutive activation of the saePQRS regulatory system. We repaired these defects to determine whether either plays a role in biofilm formation and, if so, whether this could account for the reduced impact of sarA in Newman. Restoration of surface-anchored FnbA enhanced biofilm formation, but mutation of sarA in this fnbA-positive strain increased rather than decreased biofilm formation. Mutation of sarA in an saeS-repaired derivative of Newman (P18L) or a Newman saeRS mutant (ΔsaeRS) resulted in a biofilm-deficient phenotype like that observed in clinical isolates, even in the absence of surface-anchored FnbA. These phenotypes were correlated with increased production of extracellular proteases and decreased accumulation of FnbA and/or Spa in the P18L and ΔsaeRS sarA mutants by comparison to the Newman sarA mutant. The reduced accumulation of Spa was reversed by mutation of the gene encoding aureolysin, while the reduced accumulation of FnbA was reversed by mutation of the sspABC operon. These results demonstrate that saeRS and sarA act synergistically to repress the production of extracellular proteases that would otherwise limit accumulation of critical proteins that contribute to biofilm formation, with constitutive activation of saeRS limiting protease production, even in a sarA mutant, to a degree that can be correlated with increased enhanced capacity to form a biofilm. Although it remains unclear whether these effects are mediated directly or indirectly, studies done with an sspA::lux reporter suggest they are mediated at a transcriptional level.
PMCID: PMC3369899  PMID: 22685571
18.  Transcriptional control of DNA replication licensing by Myc 
Scientific Reports  2013;3:3444.
The c-myc protooncogene encodes the Myc transcription factor, a global regulator of fundamental cellular processes. Deregulation of c-myc leads to tumorigenesis, and c-myc is an important driver in human cancer. Myc and its dimerization partner Max are bHLH-Zip DNA binding proteins involved in transcriptional regulation of target genes. Non-transcriptional functions have also been attributed to the Myc protein, notably direct interaction with the pre-replicative complex (pre-RC) controlling the initiation of DNA replication. A key component of the pre-RC is the Cdt1 protein, an essential factor in origin licensing. Here we present data suggesting that the CDT1 gene is a transcriptional target of the Myc-Max complex. Expression of the CDT1 gene in v-myc-transformed cells directly correlates with myc expression. Also, human tumor cells with elevated c-myc expression display increased CDT1 expression. Occupation of the CDT1 promoter by Myc-Max is demonstrated by chromatin immunoprecipitation, and transactivation by Myc-Max is shown in reporter assays. Ectopic expression of CDT1 leads to cell transformation. Our results provide a possible direct mechanistic link of Myc's canonical function as a transcription factor to DNA replication. Furthermore, we suggest that aberrant transcriptional activation of CDT1 by deregulated myc alleles contributes to the genomic instabilities observed in tumor cells.
PMCID: PMC3853707  PMID: 24309437
19.  Molecular Architecture of the Regulatory Locus sae of Staphylococcus aureus and Its Impact on Expression of Virulence Factors 
Journal of Bacteriology  2003;185(21):6278-6286.
We characterized the sae operon, a global regulator for virulence gene expression in Staphylococcus aureus. A Tn917 sae mutant was obtained by screening a Tn917 library of the agr mutant ISP479Mu for clones with altered hemolytic activity. Sequence analysis of the sae operon revealed two additional open reading frames (ORFs) (ORF3 and ORF4) upstream of the two-component regulatory genes saeR and saeS. Four overlapping sae-specific transcripts (T1 to T4) were detected by Northern blot analysis, and the transcriptional initiation points were mapped by primer extension analysis. The T1, T2, and T3 mRNAs are probably terminated at the same stem-loop sequence downstream of saeS. The T1 message (3.1 kb) initiates upstream of ORF4, T2 (2.4 kb) initiates upstream of ORF3, and T3 (2.0 kb) initiates in front of saeR. T4 (0.7 kb) represents a monocistronic mRNA encompassing ORF4 only. sae-specific transcripts were detectable in all of the 40 different clinical S. aureus isolates investigated. Transcript levels were at maximum during the post-exponential growth phase. The sae mutant showed a significantly reduced rate of invasion of human endothelial cells, consistent with diminished transcription and expression of fnbA. The expression of type 5 capsular polysaccharide is activated in the sae mutant of strain Newman, as shown by immunofluorescence and promoter-reporter fusion experiments. In summary, the sae operon constitutes a four-component regulator system which acts on virulence gene expression in S. aureus.
PMCID: PMC219404  PMID: 14563862
20.  Staphylococcus aureus Nuclease Is an SaeRS-Dependent Virulence Factor 
Infection and Immunity  2013;81(4):1316-1324.
Several prominent bacterial pathogens secrete nuclease (Nuc) enzymes that have an important role in combating the host immune response. Early studies of Staphylococcus aureus Nuc attributed its regulation to the agr quorum-sensing system. However, recent microarray data have indicated that nuc is under the control of the SaeRS two-component system, which is a major regulator of S. aureus virulence determinants. Here we report that the nuc gene is directly controlled by the SaeRS two-component system through reporter fusion, immunoblotting, Nuc activity measurements, promoter mapping, and binding studies, and additionally, we were unable identify a notable regulatory link to the agr system. The observed SaeRS-dependent regulation was conserved across a wide spectrum of representative S. aureus isolates. Moreover, with community-associated methicillin-resistant S. aureus (CA MRSA) in a mouse model of peritonitis, we observed in vivo expression of Nuc activity in an SaeRS-dependent manner and determined that Nuc is a virulence factor that is important for in vivo survival, confirming the enzyme's role as a contributor to invasive disease. Finally, natural polymorphisms were identified in the SaeRS proteins, one of which was linked to Nuc regulation in a CA MRSA USA300 endocarditis isolate. Altogether, our findings demonstrate that Nuc is an important S. aureus virulence factor and part of the SaeRS regulon.
PMCID: PMC3639593  PMID: 23381999
21.  Hydra myc2, a unique pre-bilaterian member of the myc gene family, is activated in cell proliferation and gametogenesis 
Biology Open  2014;3(5):397-407.
The myc protooncogene encodes the Myc transcription factor which is the essential part of the Myc–Max network controlling fundamental cellular processes. Deregulation of myc leads to tumorigenesis and is a hallmark of many human cancers. We have recently identified homologs of myc (myc1, myc2) and max in the early diploblastic cnidarian Hydra and have characterized myc1 in detail. Here we show that myc2 is transcriptionally activated in the interstitial stem cell system. Furthermore, in contrast to myc1, myc2 expression is also detectable in proliferating epithelial stem cells throughout the gastric region. myc2 but not myc1 is activated in cycling precursor cells during early oogenesis and spermatogenesis, suggesting that the Hydra Myc2 protein has a possible non-redundant function in cell cycle progression. The Myc2 protein displays the principal design and properties of vertebrate Myc proteins. In complex with Max, Myc2 binds to DNA with similar affinity as Myc1–Max heterodimers. Immunoprecipitation of Hydra chromatin revealed that both Myc1 and Myc2 bind to the enhancer region of CAD, a classical Myc target gene in mammals. Luciferase reporter gene assays showed that Myc1 but not Myc2 transcriptionally activates the CAD promoter. Myc2 has oncogenic potential when tested in primary avian fibroblasts but to a lower degree as compared to Myc1. The identification of an additional myc gene in Cnidaria, a phylum that diverged prior to bilaterians, with characteristic expression patterns in tissue homeostasis and developmental processes suggests that principle functions of myc genes have arisen very early in metazoan evolution.
PMCID: PMC4021362  PMID: 24771621
Cnidarian; Oncogenic transcription factor; Gene regulation; Development; Evolution
22.  Rot and SaeRS Cooperate To Activate Expression of the Staphylococcal Superantigen-Like Exoproteins 
Journal of Bacteriology  2012;194(16):4355-4365.
Staphylococcus aureus is a significant human pathogen that is capable of infecting a wide range of host tissues. This bacterium is able to evade the host immune response by utilizing a repertoire of virulence factors. These factors are tightly regulated by various two-component systems (TCS) and transcription factors. Previous studies have suggested that transcriptional regulation of a subset of immunomodulators, known as the staphylococcal superantigen-like proteins (Ssls), is mediated by the master regulators accessory gene regulator (Agr) TCS, S. aureus exoprotein expression (Sae) TCS, and Rot. Here we demonstrate that Rot and SaeR, the response regulator of the Sae TCS, synergize to coordinate the activation of the ssl promoters. We have determined that both transcription factors are required, but that neither is sufficient, for promoter activation. This regulatory scheme is mediated by direct binding of both transcription factors to the ssl promoters. We also demonstrate that clinically relevant methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) strains respond to neutrophils via the Sae TCS to upregulate the expression of ssls. Until now, Rot and the Sae TCS have been proposed to work in opposition of one another on their target genes. This is the first example of these two regulators working in concert to activate promoters.
PMCID: PMC3416255  PMID: 22685286
23.  Myc interacts with Max and Miz1 to repress C/EBPδ promoter activity and gene expression 
Molecular Cancer  2010;9:92.
"Loss of function" alterations in CCAAT/Enhancer Binding Proteinδ (C/EBPδ) have been reported in a number of human cancers including breast, prostate and cervical cancer, hepatocellular carcinoma and acute myeloid leukemia. C/EBPδ gene transcription is induced during cellular quiescence and repressed during active cell cycle progression. C/EBPδ exhibits tumor suppressor gene properties including reduced expression in cancer cell lines and tumors and promoter methylation silencing.
We previously reported that C/EBPδ expression is inversely correlated with c-Myc (Myc) expression. Aberrant Myc expression is common in cancer and transcriptional repression is a major mechanism of Myc oncogenesis. A number of tumor suppressor genes are targets of Myc transcriptional repression including C/EBPα, p15INK4, p21CIP1, p27KIP1 and p57KIP2. This study investigated the mechanisms underlying Myc repression of C/EBPδ expression.
Myc represses C/EBPδ promoter activity in nontransformed mammary epithelial cells in a dose-dependent manner that requires Myc Box II, Basic Region and HLH/LZ domains. Chromatin Immunoprecipitation (ChIP) assays demonstrate that Myc, Miz1 and Max are associated with the C/EBPδ promoter in proliferating cells, when C/EBPδ expression is repressed. EMSAs demonstrate that Miz1 binds to a 30 bp region (-100 to -70) of the C/EBPδ promoter which contains a putative transcription initiator (Inr) element. Miz1 functions exclusively as a repressor of C/EBPδ promoter activity. Miz1 siRNA expression or expression of a Miz1 binding deficient Myc (MycV394D) construct reduces Myc repression of C/EBPδ promoter activity. Max siRNA expression, or expression of a Myc construct lacking the HLH/LZ (Max interacting) region, also reduces Myc repression of C/EBPδ promoter activity. Miz1 and Max siRNA treatments attenuate Myc repression of endogenous C/EBPδ expression. Myc Box II interacting proteins RuvBl1 (Pontin, TIP49) and RuvBl2 (Reptin, TIP48) enhances Myc repression of C/EBPδ promoter activity.
Myc represses C/EBPδ expression by associating with the C/EBPδ proximal promoter as a transient component of a repressive complex that includes Max and Miz1. RuvBl1 and RuvBl2 enhance Myc repression of C/EBPδ promoter activity. These results identify protein interactions that mediate Myc repression of C/EBPδ, and possibly other tumor suppressor genes, and suggest new therapeutic targets to block Myc transcriptional repression and oncogenic function.
PMCID: PMC2879254  PMID: 20426839
24.  Stimulation of Myc transactivation by the TATA binding protein in promoter-reporter assays 
BMC Biochemistry  2005;6:7.
The c-Myc oncogenic transcription factor heterodimerizes with Max, binds specific DNA sites and regulates transcription. The role of Myc in transcriptional activation involves its binding to TRRAP and histone acetylases; however, Myc's ability to activate transcription in transient transfection assays is remarkably weak (2 to 5 fold) when compared to other transcription factors. Since a deletion Myc mutant D106-143 and a substitution mutant W135E that weakly binds TRRAP are still fully active in transient transfection reporter assays and the TATA binding protein (TBP) has been reported to directly bind Myc, we sought to determine the effect of TBP on Myc transactivation.
We report here a potent stimulation of Myc transactivation by TBP, allowing up to 35-fold transactivation of reporter constructs. Although promoters with an initiator (InR) element briskly responded to Myc transactivation, the presence of an InR significantly diminished the response to increasing amounts of TBP. We surmise from these findings that promoters containing both TATA and InR elements may control Myc responsive genes that require brisk increased expression within a narrow window of Myc levels, independent of TBP. In contrast, promoters driven by the TATA element only, may also respond to modulation of TBP activity or levels.
Our observations not only demonstrate that TBP is limiting for Myc transactivation in transient transfection experiments, but they also suggest that the inclusion of TBP in Myc transactivation assays may further improve the characterization of c-Myc target genes.
PMCID: PMC1145180  PMID: 15876353
25.  SIRT1 Promotes N-Myc Oncogenesis through a Positive Feedback Loop Involving the Effects of MKP3 and ERK on N-Myc Protein Stability 
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(6):e1002135.
The N-Myc oncoprotein is a critical factor in neuroblastoma tumorigenesis which requires additional mechanisms converting a low-level to a high-level N-Myc expression. N-Myc protein is stabilized when phosphorylated at Serine 62 by phosphorylated ERK protein. Here we describe a novel positive feedback loop whereby N-Myc directly induced the transcription of the class III histone deacetylase SIRT1, which in turn increased N-Myc protein stability. SIRT1 binds to Myc Box I domain of N-Myc protein to form a novel transcriptional repressor complex at gene promoter of mitogen-activated protein kinase phosphatase 3 (MKP3), leading to transcriptional repression of MKP3, ERK protein phosphorylation, N-Myc protein phosphorylation at Serine 62, and N-Myc protein stabilization. Importantly, SIRT1 was up-regulated, MKP3 down-regulated, in pre-cancerous cells, and preventative treatment with the SIRT1 inhibitor Cambinol reduced tumorigenesis in TH-MYCN transgenic mice. Our data demonstrate the important roles of SIRT1 in N-Myc oncogenesis and SIRT1 inhibitors in the prevention and therapy of N-Myc–induced neuroblastoma.
Author Summary
The class III histone deacetylase SIRT1 is repressed by tumor suppressor genes and exerts divergent effects on tumorigenesis depending on its down-stream targets. Small molecule SIRT1 inhibitors have shown promising anti-cancer effects both in vitro and in vivo. Here we identified SIRT1 as a gene directly up-regulated by N-Myc and identified SIRT1-mediated transcriptional repression as a novel mechanism responsible for maintaining N-Myc oncoprotein stability. Moreover, SIRT1 contributed to N-Myc–induced cell proliferation, and preventative treatment with the SIRT1 inhibitor Cambinol reduced tumorigenesis in N-Myc transgenic mice. Our data identify SIRT1 as an important co-factor for N-Myc oncogenesis and provide important evidence for the potential application of SIRT1 inhibitors in the prevention and therapy of N-Myc–induced neuroblastoma.
PMCID: PMC3116909  PMID: 21698133

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