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1.  Complete Genome Sequence of a Mosaic Bacteriophage, Waukesha92 
Genome Announcements  2014;2(4):e00339-14.
In this study, we determined the complete genome sequence of a mosaic bacteriophage, Waukesha92, which was isolated from soil using Bacillus thuringiensis as the host organism. This temperate Myoviridae bacteriophage has similarities to phages SpaA1 and BceA1 and the Bacillus thuringiensis plasmid pBMB165.
PMCID: PMC4153491  PMID: 25146131
2.  Immunological Characterization of a Protective Antigen of Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae: Identification of the Region Responsible for Protective Immunity 
Infection and Immunity  1999;67(4):1646-1651.
The gene encoding a protective protein antigen of the gram-positive bacterium Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae, an important veterinary pathogen responsible for erysipelas in swine and a variety of diseases in animals, was cloned and sequenced. The gene encodes a polypeptide of 597 amino acids plus a putative signal sequence of 29 amino acids, resulting in a mature protein with a molecular mass of 69,017 Da. Sequence analysis of the gene product revealed a C-terminal region composed of nine tandem repeats of 20 amino acids and a total sequence that is nearly identical to that of the 64-kDa cell surface protein (SpaA) of the bacterium. Because of this similarity, the protein was designated SpaA.1. In this study, we examined whether the SpaA.1 protein could induce protective antibodies and whether we could identify the region involved in protective immunity. Both the mature SpaA.1 protein and its C-terminal repeat region, but not the N-terminal segment, were expressed in Escherichia coli and purified as a histidine-tagged fusion recombinant protein. Rabbit antiserum raised against the mature SpaA.1 protein passively protected mice from lethal challenge with a virulent homologous strain, Fujisawa-SmR, suggesting that protection is mediated by humoral antibodies. To determine which domain of the SpaA.1 protein is responsible for the observed protection, mice were actively immunized with either the mature SpaA.1 protein or the C-terminal repeat region and then challenged with Fujisawa-SmR. The result showed that mice immunized with the mature SpaA.1 protein, but not the C-terminal repeat region, were protected, suggesting that the protection-eliciting epitope(s) is located within the N-terminal two-thirds of the SpaA.1 molecule. This was confirmed by passive immunization experiments in which the protective activity of rabbit antiserum, raised against mature SpaA.1 protein, was not abolished by absorption with the purified recombinant C-terminal repeat region. In addition, antibodies specific for the C-terminal repeat region were unable to protect mice from lethal challenge. These results show that the N-terminal two-thirds of the SpaA.1 molecule may constitute a good vaccine candidate against erysipelas.
PMCID: PMC96508  PMID: 10084998
3.  Truncated Surface Protective Antigen (SpaA) of Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae Serotype 1a Elicits Protection against Challenge with Serotypes 1a and 2b in Pigs 
Infection and Immunity  1999;67(9):4376-4382.
Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae is a causal agent of swine erysipelas, which is of economic importance in the swine industry by virtue of causing acute septicemia, chronic arthritis, and endocarditis. However, little is known about the genetic properties of its protective antigens. Recently, a surface protective antigen (SpaA) gene was identified from serotype 2 in a mouse model. We cloned spaA from virulent strain Fujisawa (serotype 1a) and determined that the N-terminal 342 amino acids without C-terminal repeats of 20 amino acids have the ability to elicit protection in mice. Fusions of 342 amino acids of Fujisawa SpaA and histidine hexamer (HisSpa1.0) protected pigs against challenge with both serotype 1 and serotype 2, the most important serotypes in the swine industry. Pigs immunized with HisSpa1.0 reacted well with both HisSpa1.0 and intact SpaA by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and immunoblotting. Serum collected at the time of challenge from a pig immunized with HisSpa1.0 markedly enhanced the in vitro phagocytic and killing activity of pig neutrophils against the bacteria. DNA sequences of protective regions of spaA genes from five strains of serotypes 1 and 2 were almost identical. The full DNA sequences also seemed to be conserved among strains of all 12 serotype reference strains harboring the spaA gene by restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis of PCR products. These results indicates that SpaA is a common protective antigen of serotypes 1 and 2 of E. rhusiopathiae in swine and will be a useful tool for development of new types of vaccines and diagnostic tools for effective control of the disease.
PMCID: PMC96755  PMID: 10456877
4.  Streptococcus mutans Genes That Code for Extracellular Proteins in Escherichia coli K-12 
Infection and Immunity  1982;38(1):147-156.
Chromosomal DNA from Streptococcus mutans 6715 (serotype g) was cloned into Escherichia coli K-12 by using the cosmid pJC74 cloning vector and a bacteriophage λ in vitro packaging system. Rabbit antiserum against S. mutans extracellular proteins was used for immunological screening of the clone bank. Twenty-one clones produced weak to strong precipitin bands around the colonies, but only after the λ c1857 prophage was induced by being heated to lyse the E. coli cells. None of the clones expressed enzyme activity for several known S. mutans extracellular enzymes. One of these clones contained a 45-kilobase recombinant plasmid designated pYA721. An 8.5-kilobase fragment of S. mutans DNA from pYA721 was isolated and recloned into the BamHI restriction site of the plasmid vector pACYC184 to construct pYA726. pYA726 contained all, or nearly all, of the gene for a surface protein antigen (the spaA protein) of S. mutans 6715. This was deduced from immunological studies in which extracts of cells harboring pYA726 reacted with antisera against both purified 6715 spaA protein (about 210,000 daltons) and the immunologically similar antigen I/II of serotype c strains of S. mutans. In addition, the S. mutans spaA protein was found to possess at least one antigenic determinant not present on the protein specified by pYA726. Sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis of E. coli clone extracts revealed that pYA726 produced a polypeptide with a molecular mass of about 180,000 daltons which was predominantly found in the periplasmic space of E. coli cells. Antisera to the spaA protein of S. mutans reacted with extracellular protein from representative strains of S. mutans serotypes a, c, d, e, f, and g, but not b.
PMCID: PMC347710  PMID: 6183208
5.  Genome Characteristics of a Novel Phage from Bacillus thuringiensis Showing High Similarity with Phage from Bacillus cereus 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e37557.
Bacillus thuringiensis is an important entomopathogenic bacterium belongs to the Bacillus cereus group, which also includes B. anthracis and B. cereus. Several genomes of phages originating from this group had been sequenced, but no genome of Siphoviridae phage from B. thuringiensis has been reported. We recently sequenced and analyzed the genome of a novel phage, BtCS33, from a B. thuringiensis strain, subsp. kurstaki CS33, and compared the gneome of this phage to other phages of the B. cereus group. BtCS33 was the first Siphoviridae phage among the sequenced B. thuringiensis phages. It produced small, turbid plaques on bacterial plates and had a narrow host range. BtCS33 possessed a linear, double-stranded DNA genome of 41,992 bp with 57 putative open reading frames (ORFs). It had a typical genome structure consisting of three modules: the “late” region, the “lysogeny-lysis” region and the “early” region. BtCS33 exhibited high similarity with several phages, B. cereus phage Wβ and some variants of Wβ, in genome organization and the amino acid sequences of structural proteins. There were two ORFs, ORF22 and ORF35, in the genome of BtCS33 that were also found in the genomes of B. cereus phage Wβ and may be involved in regulating sporulation of the host cell. Based on these observations and analysis of phylogenetic trees, we deduced that B. thuringiensis phage BtCS33 and B. cereus phage Wβ may have a common distant ancestor.
PMCID: PMC3359378  PMID: 22649540
6.  Regions of the Streptococcus sobrinus spaA gene encoding major determinants of antigen I. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1990;172(7):3988-4001.
Surface protein antigen A (SpaA), also called antigen B, antigen I/II, or antigen P1, is an abundant cell envelope protein that is the major antigenic determinant of Streptococcus sobrinus and other members of the Streptococcus mutans group of cariogenic bacteria. This laboratory has previously reported the cloning and expression in Escherichia coli of a BamHI restriction fragment of S. sobrinus DNA containing most of the spaA gene (pYA726) and encoding antigen I. Regions of spaA encoding immunodeterminants of antigen I were analyzed by either deletion mapping or expressing selected restriction fragments from the trc promoter. SpaA proteins produced by mutants harboring nested deletions, constructed by BAL 31 exonuclease treatment at a unique SstI site located towards the 3' end of the gene, were examined by Western immunoblot with rabbit serum against SpaA from S. sobrinus. Only SpaA polypeptides larger than 56 kilodaltons reacted with anti-SpaA serum. Various restriction fragments of the region of spaA encoding the antigenic determinants were cloned into an expression vector. The immunoreactive properties of the polypeptides encoded by those fragments indicated that expression of the immunodominant determinant required topographically assembled residues specified by noncontiguous regions located within 0.48-kilobase PvuII-to-SstI and 1.2-kilobase SstI-to-HindIII fragments which were adjacent on the spaA map.
PMCID: PMC213384  PMID: 1694526
7.  Cross-reactivity between the immunodominant determinant of the antigen I component of Streptococcus sobrinus SpaA protein and surface antigens from other members of the Streptococcus mutans group. 
Infection and Immunity  1990;58(7):2276-2282.
Most members of the Streptococcus mutans group of microorganisms specify a major cell surface-associated protein, SpaA, that is defined by its antigenic properties. The region of the spaA gene from Streptococcus sobrinus 6715 encoding the immunodominant determinant of the major antigenic component (antigen I) of the SpaA protein has recently been characterized. This study examined whether recognition of the immunodominant determinant is independent of the immunized animal host and whether antibodies elicited by the immunodominant determinant cross-react with cell surface proteins from S. mutans of various serotypes. Mouse and rabbit antisera to the undenatured SpaA protein reacted similarly both with the immunodominant determinant and with other antigenic structures of the protein in Western immunoblots with SpaA polypeptides that were specified by spaA gene fragments expressed in recombinant Escherichia coli. This suggests that the antibody responses of inbred and outbred animals were similar. Furthermore, antibodies raised against both the S. sobrinus SpaA immunodominant determinant expressed by recombinant E. coli and the purified protein from S. sobrinus displayed similar strain specificities and protein band profiles towards cells surface proteins from S. mutans of various serotypes in immunodot and Western blot analyses, respectively. This suggests that for S. sobrinus serotype g, the immune response against the SpaA protein is governed by the immunodominant determinant of antigen I. In addition, it indicates that the SpaA protein domain containing the immunodominant determinant overlaps the domain conferring cross-reactivity to cell surface proteins of S. mutans of various serotypes.
PMCID: PMC258808  PMID: 1694822
8.  Phages Preying on Bacillus anthracis, Bacillus cereus, and Bacillus thuringiensis: Past, Present and Future 
Viruses  2014;6(7):2623-2672.
Many bacteriophages (phages) have been widely studied due to their major role in virulence evolution of bacterial pathogens. However, less attention has been paid to phages preying on bacteria from the Bacillus cereus group and their contribution to the bacterial genetic pool has been disregarded. Therefore, this review brings together the main information for the B. cereus group phages, from their discovery to their modern biotechnological applications. A special focus is given to phages infecting Bacillus anthracis, B. cereus and Bacillus thuringiensis. These phages belong to the Myoviridae, Siphoviridae, Podoviridae and Tectiviridae families. For the sake of clarity, several phage categories have been made according to significant characteristics such as lifestyles and lysogenic states. The main categories comprise the transducing phages, phages with a chromosomal or plasmidial prophage state, γ-like phages and jumbo-phages. The current genomic characterization of some of these phages is also addressed throughout this work and some promising applications are discussed here.
PMCID: PMC4113786  PMID: 25010767
(bacterio)phages; Bacillus cereus group; Bacillus anthracis; Bacillus thuringiensis; transducing phages; chromosomal prophages; plasmidial prophages; jumbo-phages; Gamma-like phages
9.  Molecular and immunochemical characterization of recombinant Escherichia coli containing the spaA gene region of Streptococcus sobrinus. 
Infection and Immunity  1989;57(7):1906-1915.
We identified and characterized a recombinant Escherichia coli containing the entire gene for surface protein antigen A (spaA) of Streptococcus sobrinus 6715. The recombinant E. coli was isolated from a cosmid gene bank of size-fractionated S. sobrinus DNA fragments, and recombinants expressing the SpaA protein were detected immunologically. Subcloning experiments showed that the DNA sequences encoding the SpaA protein could be isolated on two contiguous EcoRI fragments, 3.7 and 3.3 kilobases (kb) in size, both contained on a 16.2-kb BglII fragment. Southern blot hybridization experiments using the EcoRI fragments to probe genomic DNAs from various serotypes of the mutans group of streptococci revealed DNA sequence homology not only to S. sobrinus 6715 (serotype g) chromosomal DNA but also to S. sobrinus serotype d DNA. Weak hybridization signals to Streptococcus mutans serotypes c, e, and f and to Streptococcus cricetus serotype a were observed with the 3.3-kb EcoRI fragment. These results suggest that the coding sequence for the spaA gene is probably conserved in S. sobrinus strains. Plasmid-encoded polypeptides made in E. coli minicells revealed that transcription of the spaA gene was initiated on the 3.7-kb EcoRI fragment and that its product size was about 210 kilodaltons. The cloned SpaA protein was purified from the periplasmic protein of E. coli, and monospecific antiserum against the cloned product was prepared in rabbits. The data obtained from various physiochemical and immunological procedures allowed us to conclude that the coding sequence for the entire spaA gene of S. sobrinus 6715 had been successfully cloned in E. coli and that faithful expression of the cloned product could be obtained.
PMCID: PMC313819  PMID: 2543627
10.  Pilus Gene Pool Variation and the Virulence of Corynebacterium diphtheriae Clinical Isolates during Infection of a Nematode 
Journal of Bacteriology  2013;195(16):3774-3783.
Toxigenic Corynebacterium diphtheriae strains cause diphtheria in humans. The toxigenic C. diphtheriae isolate NCTC13129 produces three distinct heterotrimeric pili that contain SpaA, SpaD, and SpaH, making up the shaft structure. The SpaA pili are known to mediate bacterial adherence to pharyngeal epithelial cells. However, to date little is known about the expression of different pili in various clinical isolates and their importance in bacterial pathogenesis. Here, we characterized a large collection of C. diphtheriae clinical isolates for their pilin gene pool by PCR and for the expression of the respective pilins by immunoblotting with antibodies against Spa pilins. Consistent with the role of a virulence factor, the SpaA-type pili were found to be prevalent among the isolates, and most significantly, corynebacterial adherence to pharyngeal epithelial cells was strictly correlated with isolates that were positive for the SpaA pili. By comparison, the isolates were heterogeneous for the presence of SpaD- and SpaH-type pili. Importantly, using Caenorhabditis elegans as a model host for infection, we show here that strain NCTC13129 rapidly killed the nematodes, the phenotype similar to isolates that were positive for toxin and all pilus types. In contrast, isogenic mutants of NCTC13129 lacking SpaA-type pili or devoid of toxin and SpaA pili exhibited delayed killing of nematodes with similar kinetics. Consistently, nontoxigenic or toxigenic isolates that lack one, two, or all three pilus types were also attenuated in virulence. This work signifies the important role of pili in corynebacterial pathogenesis and provides a simple host model to identify additional virulence factors.
PMCID: PMC3754579  PMID: 23772071
11.  Characterization of the SpaCBA Pilus Fibers in the Probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG 
Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG is a human intestinal isolate that has been studied intensively because of its probiotic properties. We have previously shown that L. rhamnosus GG produces proteinaceous pili that earlier had been observed only in Gram-positive pathogens (M. Kankainen et al., Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U. S. A. 106:17193–17198, 2009). These pili were found to be encoded by the spaCBA gene cluster, and the pilus-associated SpaC pilin was shown to confer on the cells a mucus-binding ability. In addition to the spaCBA cluster, another putative pilus cluster, spaFED, was predicted from the L. rhamnosus GG genome sequence. Herein, we show that only SpaCBA pili are produced by L. rhamnosus, and we describe a detailed analysis of cell wall-associated and affinity-purified SpaCBA pili by Western blotting and immunogold electron microscopy. Our results indicate that SpaCBA pili are heterotrimeric protrusions with a SpaA subunit as the shaft-forming major pilin. Only a few SpaB subunits could be observed in pilus fibers. Instead, SpaB pilins were found at pilus bases, as assessed by immunogold double labeling of thin sections of cells, suggesting that SpaB is involved in the termination of pilus assembly. The SpaC adhesin was present along the whole pilus length at numbers nearly equaling those of SpaA. The relative amount and uniform distribution of SpaC within pili not only makes it possible to exert both long-distance and intimate contact with host tissue but also provides mucus-binding strength, which explains the prolonged intestinal residency times observed for L. rhamnosus GG compared to that of nonpiliated lactobacilli.
PMCID: PMC3302623  PMID: 22247175
12.  The BceABRS Four-Component System Regulates the Bacitracin-Induced Cell Envelope Stress Response in Streptococcus mutans▿  
Streptococcus mutans is known to be resistant to bacitracin, a cyclic polypeptide antibiotic produced by certain species of the genus Bacillus. This property is often exploited in the isolation of S. mutans strains from highly heterogeneous oral microflora. A genetic locus consisting of a four-gene operon, bceABRS (formerly mbrABCD), the component genes of which are homologous to Bacillus subtilis bceRS-bceAB (encoding a two-component system and an ABC transporter), is required for bacitracin resistance in S. mutans. Here we describe the identification of a DNA binding site for the BceR response regulator and its transcriptional control of the bceABRS operon in response to the presence of bacitracin. We provide evidence indicating that phosphorylated BceR binds directly to a conserved invert repeat located between bp −120 and −78 of the bceABRS promoter region and positively regulates expression of the bceABRS operon. We also demonstrate that sensing of bacitracin by the BceS histidine kinase requires the presence of an intact BceAB transporter, since deletion of either bceA or bceB abolishes BceRS-mediated bacitracin sensing. The results suggest that the BceAB transporter acts as a cosensor, together with the BceRS two-component system, for bacitracin perception in S. mutans. By searching the S. mutans genome databases, we have identified three additional genes that share the consensus BceR binding motif at their promoter regions. Our initial work has confirmed that expression of these genes is directly controlled by BceRS, indicating that the bceABRS operon, along with the three additional genes, forms the BceRS regulon in S. mutans. Taking these findings together, we conclude that BceABRS comprises a four-component system that plays an important role in stimulus sensing, signal transduction, the gene regulatory network, and substrate transport for the cell envelope stress response in S. mutans.
PMCID: PMC2935011  PMID: 20606066
13.  Complete nucleotide sequence of the gene for a surface protein antigen of Streptococcus sobrinus. 
Infection and Immunity  1991;59(9):3309-3312.
The complete nucleotide sequence of the gene for a cell surface protein antigen (SpaA) of Streptococcus sobrinus MT3791 (serotype g) was determined. The spaA gene consisted of 4,698 bp and coded for a protein of 170,202 Da. A putative signal peptide was found in the amino-terminal end of the protein. A potential promoter sequence and a putative Shine-Dalgarno sequence preceded the open reading frame. Two internal repeating amino acid sequences were present in SpaA. One repeating region, located in the amino-terminal region, was rich in alanine, and the other, located in the central region, was rich in proline. The molecular structure of SpaA was very similar to that of the surface protein antigen of Streptococcus mutans.
PMCID: PMC258171  PMID: 1840575
14.  Immune responses to Streptococcus sobrinus surface protein antigen A expressed by recombinant Salmonella typhimurium. 
Infection and Immunity  1993;61(5):1859-1866.
In this study, we used a vaccine strain of Salmonella typhimurium to express antigenic determinants of the SpaA antigen of Streptococcus sobrinus, which is involved in the caries-forming process. We cloned either a single repeat (pYA2901) or three tandem repeats (pYA2905) of the 0.48-kb fragment of the spaA gene, which codes for an important component of the SpaA protein, plus a 1.2-kb minor antigenic determinant and measured the resulting immune responses to SpaA in orally immunized BALB/c mice. The single or triple repeat of the spaA gene fragment was inserted into the Asd+ vector pYA292 and was transformed into the S. typhimurium delta cya delta crp vaccine strain chi 4072 containing delta asd in the chromosome. Female BALB/c mice were then orally immunized with two doses of the S. typhimurium containing either of the two SpaA constructs, and the immune responses to the expressed SpaA protein were assessed. Significant serum immunoglobulin G (IgG) anti-SpaA titers were detected in mice immunized with chi 4072(pYA2905) but not chi 4072(pYA2901). Salivary anti-SpaA IgA titers were minimal and were only detected in mice immunized with S. typhimurium expressing the SpaA encoded by pYA2905. Intestinal anti-SpaA IgA titers, however, were detected in both groups of mice, particularly in mice immunized with chi 4072(pYA2905). An oral booster 26 weeks after the initial series of immunizations resulted in increased serum IgG titers in both chi 4072(pYA2901)- and chi 4072(pYA2905)-immunized animals, particularly in the chi 4072(pYA2905)-immunized animals. No anamnestic IgA response was detected in the saliva following the booster immunization.
PMCID: PMC280776  PMID: 8478075
15.  Assembly of Distinct Pilus Structures on the Surface of Corynebacterium diphtheriae 
Journal of Bacteriology  2006;188(4):1526-1533.
Different surface organelles contribute to specific interactions of a pathogen with host tissues or infectious partners. Multiple pilus gene clusters potentially encoding different surface structures have been identified in several gram-positive bacterial genomes sequenced to date, including actinomycetales, clostridia, corynebacteria, and streptococci. Corynebacterium diphtheriae has been shown to assemble a pilus structure, with sortase SrtA essential for the assembly of a major subunit SpaA and two minor proteins, SpaB and SpaC. We report here the characterization of a second pilus consisting of SpaD, SpaE, and SpaF, of which SpaD and SpaE form the pilus shaft and SpaF may be located at the pilus tip. The structure of the SpaDEF pilus contains no SpaABC pilins as detected by immunoelectron microscopy. Neither deletion of spaA nor sortase srtA abolishes SpaDEF pilus formation. The assembly of the SpaDEF pilus requires specific sortases located within the SpaDEF pilus gene cluster. Although either sortase SrtB or SrtC is sufficient to polymerize SpaDF, the incorporation of SpaE into the SpaD pili requires sortase SrtB. In addition, an alanine in place of the lysine of the SpaD pilin motif abrogates pilus polymerization. Thus, SpaD, SpaE, and SpaF constitute a different pilus structure that is independently assembled and morphologically distinct from the SpaABC pili and possibly other pili of C. diphtheriae.
PMCID: PMC1367254  PMID: 16452436
16.  Evolution and Molecular Characterization of Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus Epidemic and Sporadic Clones in Cordoba, Argentina 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2006;44(1):192-200.
Since 1999, a new, epidemic, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) strain, named the “Cordobes clone,” has emerged in Argentina and coexists with the pandemic Brazilian clone. The purpose of this study was to determine the stability over time of the new clone and to investigate its evolutionary relationship with epidemic international MRSA lineages and with other MRSA and methicillin-susceptible S. aureus (MSSA) major clones distributed in this region. One hundred three MRSA isolates recovered in 2001 from Cordoba, Argentina, hospitals and 31 MSSA strains collected from 1999 to 2002 were analyzed by their antibiotic resistance patterns, phage typing, and pulsed-field gel electrophoresis. Additionally, representative members of most MRSA defined genotypes (A, B, C, E, K, and I) were characterized by multilocus sequence typing (MLST) and spaA and SCCmec typing. The most prevalent MSSA pulsotypes were also analyzed by MLST. Our results support the displacement of the Brazilian clone (sequence type [ST] 239, spaA type WGKAOMQ, SCCmec type IIIA) by the Cordobes clone (ST5, spaA type TIMEMDMGMGMK, SCCmec type I) in the hospital environment. MRSA and MSSA isolates shared only ST5. The data support the origin of the Cordobes clone as a member of a lineage that includes the pediatric and New York/Japan international clones and that is genetically related to the British EMRSA-3 strain. Interestingly, the pediatric clone, isolated from most community-acquired infections in Cordoba, was characterized by ST100, a single-locus variant of ST5 and a new variant of SCCmec type related to SCCmec type IVc.
PMCID: PMC1351928  PMID: 16390969
17.  Genetic and Antigenic Diversity of the Surface Protective Antigen Proteins of Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae▿  
The surface protective antigen (Spa) protein of Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae has been shown to be highly immunogenic and is a potential candidate for a new vaccine against erysipelas. In this study, we cloned and sequenced spa genes from all E. rhusiopathiae serovar reference strains as well as from a serovar 18 strain which was not classified as any species in the genus Erysipelothrix. Sequence analysis revealed that the Spa proteins could be classified into three molecular species, including SpaA, which was previously found in serovars 1a and 2, and the newly designated SpaB and SpaC proteins. The SpaA protein is produced by E. rhusiopathiae serovars 1a, 1b, 2, 5, 8, 9, 12, 15, 16, 17, and N, the SpaB protein is produced by E. rhusiopathiae serovars 4, 6, 11, 19, and 21, and the SpaC protein is produced only by serovar 18. The amino acid sequence similarity was high among members of each Spa type (96 to 99%) but low between different Spa types (∼60%). The greatest diversity in Spa proteins was found in the N-terminal half of the molecule (50 to 57% similarity), which was shown to be involved in immunoprotection. Coinciding with this, immunoblot analysis revealed that rabbit antisera specific to each Spa reacted strongly with the homologous Spa protein but weakly with heterologous Spa proteins. A mouse cross-protection study showed that the three recombinant Spa (rSpa) proteins elicited complete protection against challenge with homologous strains but that the level of protection against challenge with heterologous strains varied depending on the rSpa protein used for immunization. Our study is the first to demonstrate sequence and antigenic diversity in Spa proteins and to indicate that rSpaC may be the most promising antigen for use as a vaccine component because of its broad cross-protectiveness.
PMCID: PMC1951066  PMID: 17475766
18.  Characterization of Type II and III Restriction-Modification Systems from Bacillus cereus Strains ATCC 10987 and ATCC 14579 
Journal of Bacteriology  2012;194(1):49-60.
The genomes of two Bacillus cereus strains (ATCC 10987 and ATCC 14579) have been sequenced. Here, we report the specificities of type II/III restriction (R) and modification (M) enzymes. Found in the ATCC 10987 strain, BceSI is a restriction endonuclease (REase) with the recognition and cut site CGAAG 24-25/27-28. BceSII is an isoschizomer of AvaII (G/GWCC). BceSIII cleaves at ACGGC 12/14. The BceSIII C terminus resembles the catalytic domains of AlwI, MlyI, and Nt.BstNBI. BceSIV is composed of two subunits and cleaves on both sides of GCWGC. BceSIV activity is strongly stimulated by the addition of cofactor ATP or GTP. The large subunit (R1) of BceSIV contains conserved motifs of NTPases and DNA helicases. The R1 subunit has no endonuclease activity by itself; it strongly stimulates REase activity when in complex with the R2 subunit. BceSIV was demonstrated to hydrolyze GTP and ATP in vitro. BceSIV is similar to CglI (GCSGC), and homologs of R1 are found in 11 sequenced bacterial genomes, where they are paired with specificity subunits. In addition, homologs of the BceSIV R1-R2 fusion are found in many sequenced microbial genomes. An orphan methylase, M.BceSV, was found to modify GCNGC, GGCC, CCGG, GGNNCC, and GCGC sites. A ParB-methylase fusion protein appears to nick DNA nonspecifically. The ATCC 14579 genome encodes an active enzyme Bce14579I (GCWGC). BceSIV and Bce14579I belong to the phospholipase D (PLD) family of endonucleases that are widely distributed among Bacteria and Archaea. A survey of type II and III restriction-modification (R-M) system genes is presented from sequenced B. cereus, Bacillus anthracis, and Bacillus thuringiensis strains.
PMCID: PMC3256598  PMID: 22037402
19.  Sequence and structural analysis of surface protein antigen I/II (SpaA) of Streptococcus sobrinus. 
Infection and Immunity  1991;59(8):2677-2685.
Streptococcal antigen I/II or the surface protein antigen A (SpaA) of Streptococcus sobrinus is an adhesin which mediates binding of the organism to tooth surfaces. The complete sequence of the gene which encodes SpaA has been determined. The gene consists of 4,584 bp and encodes a protein of 1,528 amino acid residues. The deduced amino acid sequence shows extensive homology with those of the cell surface adhesins from Streptococcus mutans serotypes c and f and from Streptococcus sanguis. Structural analysis of the N-terminal region (residues 50 to 550), which is rich in alanine and includes four tandem repeats of an 82-residue sequence, suggests that it adopts an alpha-helical coiled-coil conformation. Cell surface hydrophobicity may be associated with this region. The C-terminal region is more conserved and includes two tandem repeats of a 39-residue proline-rich sequence. A further proline-rich sequence in this region is predicted to span the cell wall. Although a hydrophobic sequence is present in the C-terminal region, it appears to be too short to span the cell membrane. Anchoring of SpaA in the cell membrane may therefore require some form of posttranslational modification or association with another membrane protein.
PMCID: PMC258073  PMID: 1855987
20.  Geographic Distribution of Staphylococcus aureus Causing Invasive Infections in Europe: A Molecular-Epidemiological Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(1):e1000215.
Hajo Grundmann and colleagues describe the development of a new interactive mapping tool for analyzing the spatial distribution of invasive Staphylococcus aureus clones.
Staphylococcus aureus is one of the most important human pathogens and methicillin-resistant variants (MRSAs) are a major cause of hospital and community-acquired infection. We aimed to map the geographic distribution of the dominant clones that cause invasive infections in Europe.
Methods and Findings
In each country, staphylococcal reference laboratories secured the participation of a sufficient number of hospital laboratories to achieve national geo-demographic representation. Participating laboratories collected successive methicillin-susceptible (MSSA) and MRSA isolates from patients with invasive S. aureus infection using an agreed protocol. All isolates were sent to the respective national reference laboratories and characterised by quality-controlled sequence typing of the variable region of the staphylococcal spa gene (spa typing), and data were uploaded to a central database. Relevant genetic and phenotypic information was assembled for interactive interrogation by a purpose-built Web-based mapping application. Between September 2006 and February 2007, 357 laboratories serving 450 hospitals in 26 countries collected 2,890 MSSA and MRSA isolates from patients with invasive S. aureus infection. A wide geographical distribution of spa types was found with some prevalent in all European countries. MSSA were more diverse than MRSA. Genetic diversity of MRSA differed considerably between countries with dominant MRSA spa types forming distinctive geographical clusters. We provide evidence that a network approach consisting of decentralised typing and visualisation of aggregated data using an interactive mapping tool can provide important information on the dynamics of MRSA populations such as early signalling of emerging strains, cross border spread, and importation by travel.
In contrast to MSSA, MRSA spa types have a predominantly regional distribution in Europe. This finding is indicative of the selection and spread of a limited number of clones within health care networks, suggesting that control efforts aimed at interrupting the spread within and between health care institutions may not only be feasible but ultimately successful and should therefore be strongly encouraged.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
The bacterium Staphylococcus aureus lives on the skin and in the nose of about a third of healthy people. Although S. aureus usually coexists peacefully with its human carriers, it is also an important disease-causing organism or pathogen. If it enters the body through a cut or during a surgical procedure, S. aureus can cause minor infections such as pimples and boils or more serious, life-threatening infections such as blood poisoning and pneumonia. Minor S. aureus infections can be treated without antibiotics—by draining a boil, for example. Invasive infections are usually treated with antibiotics. Unfortunately, many of the S. aureus clones (groups of bacteria that are all genetically related and descended from a single, common ancestor) that are now circulating are resistant to methicillin and several other antibiotics. Invasive methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) infections are a particular problem in hospitals and other health care facilities (so-called hospital-acquired MRSA infections), but they can also occur in otherwise healthy people who have not been admitted to a hospital (community-acquired MRSA infections).
Why Was This Study Done?
The severity and outcome of an S. aureus infection in an individual depends in part on the ability of the bacterial clone with which the individual is infected to cause disease—the clone's “virulence.” Public-health officials and infectious disease experts would like to know the geographic distribution of the virulent S. aureus clones that cause invasive infections, because this information should help them understand how these pathogens spread and thus how to control them. Different clones of S. aureus can be distinguished by “molecular typing,” the determination of clone-specific sequences of nucleotides in variable regions of the bacterial genome (the bacterium's blueprint; genomes consist of DNA, long chains of nucleotides). In this study, the researchers use molecular typing to map the geographic distribution of MRSA and methicillin-sensitive S. aureus (MSSA) clones causing invasive infections in Europe; a MRSA clone emerges when an MSSA clone acquires antibiotic resistance from another type of bacteria so it is useful to understand the geographic distribution of both MRSA and MSSA.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Between September 2006 and February 2007, 357 laboratories serving 450 hospitals in 26 European countries collected almost 3,000 MRSA and MSSA isolates from patients with invasive S. aureus infections. The isolates were sent to the relevant national staphylococcal reference laboratory (SRL) where they were characterized by quality-controlled sequence typing of the variable region of a staphylococcal gene called spa (spa typing). The spa typing data were entered into a central database and then analyzed by a public, purpose-built Web-based mapping tool (SRL-Maps), which provides interactive access and easy-to-understand illustrations of the geographical distribution of S. aureus clones. Using this mapping tool, the researchers found that there was a wide geographical distribution of spa types across Europe with some types being common in all European countries. MSSA isolates were more diverse than MRSA isolates and the genetic diversity (variability) of MRSA differed considerably between countries. Most importantly, major MRSA spa types occurred in distinct geographical clusters.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings provide the first representative snapshot of the genetic population structure of S. aureus across Europe. Because the researchers used spa typing, which analyzes only a small region of one gene, and characterized only 3,000 isolates, analysis of other parts of the S. aureus genome in more isolates is now needed to build a complete portrait of the geographical abundance of the S. aureus clones that cause invasive infections in Europe. However, the finding that MRSA spa types occur mainly in geographical clusters has important implications for the control of MRSA, because it indicates that a limited number of clones are spreading within health care networks, which means that MRSA is mainly spread by patients who are repeatedly admitted to different hospitals. Control efforts aimed at interrupting this spread within and between health care institutions may be feasible and ultimately successful, suggest the researchers, and should be strongly encouraged. In addition, this study shows how, by sharing typing results on a Web-based platform, an international surveillance network can provide clinicians and infection control teams with crucial information about the dynamics of pathogens such as S. aureus, including early warnings about emerging virulent clones.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
This study is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Franklin D. Lowy
The UK Health Protection Agency provides information about Staphylococcus aureus
The UK National Health Service Choices Web site has pages on staphylococcal infections and on MRSA
The US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease has information about MRSA
The US Centers for Disease Control and Infection provides information about MRSA for the public and professionals
MedlinePlus provides links to further resources on staphylococcal infections and on MRSA (in English and Spanish)
SRL-Maps can be freely accessed
PMCID: PMC2796391  PMID: 20084094
21.  Genome sequence and analysis of a broad-host range lytic bacteriophage that infects the Bacillus cereus group 
Virology Journal  2013;10:48.
Comparatively little information is available on members of the Myoviridae infecting low G+C content, Gram-positive host bacteria of the family Firmicutes. While numerous Bacillus phages have been isolated up till now only very few Bacillus cereus phages have been characterized in detail.
Here we present data on the large, virulent, broad-host-range B. cereus phage vB_BceM_Bc431v3 (Bc431v3). Bc431v3 features a 158,618 bp dsDNA genome, encompassing 239 putative open reading frames (ORFs) and, 20 tRNA genes encoding 17 different amino acids. Since pulsed-field gel electrophoresis indicated that the genome of this phage has a mass of 155-158 kb Bc431v3 DNA appears not to contain long terminal repeats that are found in the genome of Bacillus phage SPO1.
Bc431v3 displays significant sequence similarity, at the protein level, to B. cereus phage BCP78, Listeria phage A511 and Enterococcus phage ØEF24C and other morphologically related phages infecting Firmicutes such as Staphylococcus phage K and Lactobacillus phage LP65. Based on these data we suggest that Bc431v3 should be included as a member of the Spounavirinae; however, because of all the diverse taxonomical information has been addressed recently, it is difficult to determine the genus. The Bc431v3 phage contains some highly unusual genes such as gp143 encoding putative tRNAHis guanylyltransferase. In addition, it carries some genes that appear to be related to the host sporulation regulators. These are: gp098, which encodes a putative segregation protein related to FstK/SpoIIIE DNA transporters; gp105, a putative segregation protein; gp108, RNA polymerase sigma factor F/B; and, gp109 encoding RNA polymerase sigma factor G.
PMCID: PMC3601020  PMID: 23388049
Bacillus cereus; Bacteriophage; Myoviridae; Host range; Genome; Proteome; tRNAs
22.  Resistance to Bacitracin in Bacillus subtilis: Unexpected Requirement of the BceAB ABC Transporter in the Control of Expression of Its Own Structural Genes▿ †  
Journal of Bacteriology  2007;189(23):8636-8642.
The Bacillus subtilis BceAB ABC transporter involved in a defense mechanism against bacitracin is composed of a membrane-spanning domain and a nucleotide-binding domain. Induction of the structural bceAB genes requires the BceR response regulator and the BceS histidine kinase of a signal transduction system. However, despite the presence of such a transduction system and of bacitracin, no transcription from an unaltered bceA promoter is observed in cells lacking the BceAB transporter. Expression in trans of the BceAB transporter in these bceAB cells restores the transcription from the bceA promoter. Cells possessing a mutated nucleotide-binding domain of the transporter are also no longer able to trigger transcription from the bceA promoter in the presence of bacitracin, although the mutated ABC transporter is still bound to the membrane. In these cells, expression of the bceA promoter can no longer be detected, indicating that the ABC transporter not only must be present in the cell membrane, but also must be expressed in a native form for the induction of the bceAB genes. Several hypotheses are discussed to explain the simultaneous need for bacitracin, a native signal transduction system, and an active BceAB ABC transporter to trigger transcription from the bceA promoter.
PMCID: PMC2168949  PMID: 17905982
23.  Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay Employing a Recombinant Antigen for Detection of Protective Antibody against Swine Erysipelas 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2003;41(11):5015-5021.
The specificities and sensitivities of five recombinant proteins of the surface protective antigen (SpaA) of Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae were examined by indirect enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) with the aim of developing a reliable serological test for the detection of protective antibody against E. rhusiopathiae. Fully mature protein and the N-terminal 416 amino acids (SpaA416) showed sufficient antigenicities, and further examination was done with SpaA416 because of its higher yield. The antibody titers of pigs experimentally immunized with commercial live vaccine and two types of inactivated vaccines clearly increased after immunization, and all pigs were completely protected against challenge with virulent strains. On the other hand, the antibody titers of nonimmunized control pigs remained very low until they were challenged, and all showed severe symptoms or subsequently died. Interference with the production of antibody against live vaccine by maternal antibody or porcine respiratory and reproductive syndrome virus infection 1 week after vaccination was also clearly detected. Because the ELISA titer correlated well with the protection results, the specificity and sensitivity of the ELISA were further evaluated with sera collected from pigs reared on 1 farm on which animals had acute septicemia, 2 farms on which the animals were infected or free from infection, and 10 farms on which the animals were vaccinated with live vaccine, among others. The ELISA titers clearly revealed the conditions of the herds. These results indicate that the SpaA416 ELISA is an effective method not only for evaluating pigs for the presence of protective antibody levels resulting from vaccination or maternal antibody but also for detecting antibody produced by natural infection. This test has important potential for the effective control of swine erysipelas.
PMCID: PMC262546  PMID: 14605133
24.  Detection of Enterotoxic Bacillus cereus and Bacillus thuringiensis Strains by PCR Analysis 
Many strains of Bacillus cereus cause gastrointestinal diseases, and the closely related insect pathogen B. thuringiensis has also been involved in outbreaks of diarrhea. The diarrheal types of diseases are attributed to enterotoxins. Two different enterotoxic protein complexes, hemolysin BL (HBL) and nonhemolytic enterotoxin (NHE), and an enterotoxic protein, enterotoxin T, have been characterized, and the genes have been sequenced. PCR primers for the detection of these genes were deduced and used to detect the genes in 22 B. cereus and 41 B. thuringiensis strains. At least one gene of each of the two protein complexes HBL and NHE was detected in all of the B. thuringiensis strains, while six B. cereus strains were devoid of all three HBL genes, three lacked at least two of the three NHE genes, and one lacked all three. Five different sets of primers were used for detection of the gene (bceT) encoding enterotoxin T. The results obtained with these primer sets indicate that bceT is widely distributed among B. cereus and B. thuringiensis strains and that the gene varies in sequence among different strains. PCR with the two primer sets BCET1-BCET3 and BCET1-BCET4 unambiguously detected the bceT gene, as confirmed by Southern analysis. The occurrence of the genes within the two complexes is significantly associated, while neither the occurrence of the two complexes nor the occurrence of the bceT gene is significantly associated in the 63 strains. We suggest an approach for detection of enterotoxin-encoding genes in B. cereus and B. thuringiensis based on PCR analysis with the six primer sets for the detection of genes in the HBL and NHE operons and with the BCET1, BCET3, and BCET4 primers for the detection of bceT. PCR analysis of the 16S-23S rRNA gene internal transcribed spacer region revealed identical patterns for all strains studied.
PMCID: PMC92543  PMID: 11133444
25.  Comparison of DNA Sequencing of the Protein A Gene Polymorphic Region with Other Molecular Typing Techniques for Typing Two Epidemiologically Diverse Collections of Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2001;39(2):574-580.
The aim of this study was to compare the recently developed typing approach for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) based on the DNA sequencing of the protein A gene polymorphic region (spaA typing) with a combination of three well-established molecular typing techniques: ClaI-mecA vicinity polymorphisms, ClaI-Tn554 insertion patterns, and SmaI pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) profiles. In order to evaluate the applicability of this typing technique in different types of studies, two groups of MRSA clinical isolates were analyzed: a collection of 185 MRSA isolates circulating in Hungary recovered from 17 hospitals in seven cities during a 3-year period (1994 through 1996), and a selection of 53 MRSA strains isolated in a single hospital in Hungary between 1997 and 1998. The 238 MRSA clinical strains from Hungary were first classified in clonal types (defined as ClaI-mecA::ClaI-Tn554::SmaI-PFGE patterns), and 65 of the 238 strains, representing major MRSA clones and some sporadic clones, were further analyzed by spaA typing. Our results showed that the lineages most recently introduced in the hospital setting showed little variability in spaA types, whereas the MRSA clones circulating for a longer period of time and spread among several hospitals showed a higher degree of variability. The implementation of the spaA typing method was straightforward, and the results obtained were reproducible, unambiguous, and easily interpreted. This method seems to be adequate for outbreak investigations but should be complemented with other techniques in long-term surveillance or in studies comparing distant clonal lineages.
PMCID: PMC87778  PMID: 11158109

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