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1.  Bacteriophage endolysins: A novel anti-infective to control Gram-positive pathogens 
Endolysins (or lysins) are highly evolved enzymes produced by bacteriophage (phage for short) to digest the bacterial cell wall for phage progeny release. In Gram-positive bacteria, small quantities of purified recombinant lysin added externally results in immediate lysis causing log-fold death of the target bacterium. Lysins have been used successfully in a variety of animal models to control pathogenic antibiotic-resistant bacteria found on mucosal surfaces and infected tissues. Their specificity for the pathogen without disturbing the normal flora, the low chance of bacterial resistance, and their ability to kill colonizing pathogens on mucosal surfaces, a capacity previously unavailable, make them ideal anti-infectives in an age of mounting resistance. Here we review the current literature showing the effectiveness of these enzymes in controlling a variety of infections.
PMCID: PMC3666336  PMID: 20452280
Phage; Bacteriophage; Cell wall; Gram-positive bacteria; Infection; Lysin
2.  Bacteriophage Lysins as Effective Antibacterials 
Current opinion in microbiology  2008;11(5):393-400.
Lysins are highly evolved enzymes produced by bacteriophage ( phage for short) to digest the bacterial cell wall for phage progeny release. In gram-positive bacteria, small quantities of purified recombinant lysin added externally results in immediate lysis causing log-fold death of the target bacterium. Lysins have been used successfully in a variety of animal models to control pathogenic antibiotic resistant bacteria found on mucosal surfaces and infected tissues. The advantages over antibiotics are their specificity for the pathogen without disturbing the normal flora, the low chance of bacterial resistance to lysins, and their ability to kill colonizing pathogens on mucosal surfaces, a capacity previously unavailable. Thus, lysins may be a much needed anti-infective in an age of mounting antibiotic resistance.
PMCID: PMC2597892  PMID: 18824123
Phage; Bacteriophage; Cell wall; Gram-positive bacteria; Infection; Lysin; Lytic enzymes; Mucosal colonization; Pathogens; Peptidoglycan
3.  Removal of Group B Streptococci Colonizing the Vagina and Oropharynx of Mice with a Bacteriophage Lytic Enzyme 
Group B streptococci (GBS) are the leading cause of neonatal meningitis and sepsis worldwide. The current treatment strategy is limited to intrapartum antibiotic prophylaxis in pregnant women to prevent early-onset neonatal diseases, but considering the potential for antibiotic resistance, the risk of losing control over the disease is high. To approach this problem, we have developed a bacteriophage (phage) lytic enzyme to remove colonizing GBS. Bacteriophage muralytic enzymes, termed lysins, are highly evolved molecules designed to degrade the cell wall of host bacteria to release phage particles from the bacterial cytoplasm. Several different lysins have been developed to specifically kill bacterial pathogens both on mucosal surfaces and in blood and represent a novel approach to control infection. A lysin cloned from a phage infecting GBS was found to contain two putative catalytic domains and one putative binding domain, which is similar to the domain organization of some staphylococcal phage lysins. The lysin (named PlyGBS) was recombinantly expressed in Escherichia coli, and purified PlyGBS efficiently killed all tested GBS serotypes in vitro. In a mouse model, a single dose of PlyGBS significantly reduced bacterial colonization in both the vagina and oropharynx. As an alternative strategy for intrapartum antibiotic prophylaxis, this approach may be used to reduce vaginal GBS colonization in pregnant women before delivery or to decontaminate newborns, thus reducing the incidence of GBS-associated neonatal meningitis and sepsis.
PMCID: PMC538902  PMID: 15616283
4.  Lysis-deficient phages as novel therapeutic agents for controlling bacterial infection 
BMC Microbiology  2011;11:195.
Interest in phage therapy has grown over the past decade due to the rapid emergence of antibiotic resistance in bacterial pathogens. However, the use of bacteriophages for therapeutic purposes has raised concerns over the potential for immune response, rapid toxin release by the lytic action of phages, and difficulty in dose determination in clinical situations. A phage that kills the target cell but is incapable of host cell lysis would alleviate these concerns without compromising efficacy.
We developed a recombinant lysis-deficient Staphylococcus aureus phage P954, in which the endolysin gene was rendered nonfunctional by insertional inactivation. P954, a temperate phage, was lysogenized in S. aureus strain RN4220. The native endolysin gene on the prophage was replaced with an endolysin gene disrupted by the chloramphenicol acetyl transferase (cat) gene through homologous recombination using a plasmid construct. Lysogens carrying the recombinant phage were detected by growth in presence of chloramphenicol. Induction of the recombinant prophage did not result in host cell lysis, and the phage progeny were released by cell lysis with glass beads. The recombinant phage retained the endolysin-deficient genotype and formed plaques only when endolysin was supplemented. The host range of the recombinant phage was the same as that of the parent phage. To test the in vivo efficacy of the recombinant endolysin-deficient phage, immunocompromised mice were challenged with pathogenic S. aureus at a dose that results in 80% mortality (LD80). Treatment with the endolysin-deficient phage rescued mice from the fatal S. aureus infection.
A recombinant endolysin-deficient staphylococcal phage has been developed that is lethal to methicillin-resistant S. aureus without causing bacterial cell lysis. The phage was able to multiply in lytic mode utilizing a heterologous endolysin expressed from a plasmid in the propagation host. The recombinant phage effectively rescued mice from fatal S. aureus infection. To our knowledge this is the first report of a lysis-deficient staphylococcal phage.
PMCID: PMC3224134  PMID: 21880144
5.  Recombinant bacteriophage lysins as antibacterials 
Bioengineered Bugs  2010;1(1):9-16.
With the increasing worldwide prevalence of antibiotic resistant bacteria, bacteriophage endolysins (lysins) represent a very promising novel alternative class of antibacterial in the fight against infectious disease. Lysins are phage-encoded peptidoglycan hydrolases which, when applied exogenously (as purified recombinant proteins) to Gram-positive bacteria, bring about rapid lysis and death of the bacterial cell. A number of studies have recently demonstrated the strong potential of these enzymes in human and veterinary medicine to control and treat pathogens on mucosal surfaces and in systemic infections. They also have potential in diagnostics and detection, bio-defence, elimination of food pathogens and control of phytopathogens. This review discusses the extensive research on recombinant bacteriophage lysins in the context of antibacterials, and looks forward to future development and potential.
PMCID: PMC3035150  PMID: 21327123
lysin; endolysin; bacteriophage; pathogen; antibacterial; infection; lytic; enzyme
6.  PEGylating a bacteriophage endolysin inhibits its bactericidal activity 
AMB Express  2011;1:29.
Bacteriophage endolysins (lysins) bind to a cell wall substrate and cleave peptidoglycan, resulting in hypotonic lysis of the phage-infected bacteria. When purified lysins are added externally to Gram-positive bacteria they mediate rapid death by the same mechanism. For this reason, novel therapeutic strategies have been developed using such enzybiotics. However, like other proteins introduced into mammalian organisms, they are quickly cleared from systemic circulation. PEGylation has been used successfully to increase the in vivo half-life of many biological molecules and was therefore applied to Cpl-1, a lysin specific for S. pneumoniae. Cysteine-specific PEGylation with either PEG 10K or 40K was achieved on Cpl-1 mutants, each containing an additional cysteine residue at different locations To the best of our knowledge, this is the first report of the PEGylation of bacteriophage lysin. Compared to the native enzyme, none of the PEGylated conjugates retained significant in vitro anti-pneumococcal lytic activity that would have justified further in vivo studies. Since the anti-microbial activity of the mutant enzymes used in this study was not affected by the introduction of the cysteine residue, our results implied that the presence of the PEG molecule was responsible for the inhibition. As most endolysins exhibit a similar modular structure, we believe that our work emphasizes the inability to improve the in vivo half-life of this class of enzybiotics using a cysteine-specific PEGylation strategy.
PMCID: PMC3222324  PMID: 21982426
Bacteriophage; S. pneumoniae; Cpl-1; PEGylation; Endolysin; Enzybiotic
7.  Engineered Endolysin-Based “Artilysins” To Combat Multidrug-Resistant Gram-Negative Pathogens 
mBio  2014;5(4):e01379-14.
The global threat to public health posed by emerging multidrug-resistant bacteria in the past few years necessitates the development of novel approaches to combat bacterial infections. Endolysins encoded by bacterial viruses (or phages) represent one promising avenue of investigation. These enzyme-based antibacterials efficiently kill Gram-positive bacteria upon contact by specific cell wall hydrolysis. However, a major hurdle in their exploitation as antibacterials against Gram-negative pathogens is the impermeable lipopolysaccharide layer surrounding their cell wall. Therefore, we developed and optimized an approach to engineer these enzymes as outer membrane-penetrating endolysins (Artilysins), rendering them highly bactericidal against Gram-negative pathogens, including Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Acinetobacter baumannii. Artilysins combining a polycationic nonapeptide and a modular endolysin are able to kill these (multidrug-resistant) strains in vitro with a 4 to 5 log reduction within 30 min. We show that the activity of Artilysins can be further enhanced by the presence of a linker of increasing length between the peptide and endolysin or by a combination of both polycationic and hydrophobic/amphipathic peptides. Time-lapse microscopy confirmed the mode of action of polycationic Artilysins, showing that they pass the outer membrane to degrade the peptidoglycan with subsequent cell lysis. Artilysins are effective in vitro (human keratinocytes) and in vivo (Caenorhabditis elegans).
Bacterial resistance to most commonly used antibiotics is a major challenge of the 21st century. Infections that cannot be treated by first-line antibiotics lead to increasing morbidity and mortality, while millions of dollars are spent each year by health care systems in trying to control antibiotic-resistant bacteria and to prevent cross-transmission of resistance. Endolysins—enzymes derived from bacterial viruses—represent a completely novel, promising class of antibacterials based on cell wall hydrolysis. Specifically, they are active against Gram-positive species, which lack a protective outer membrane and which have a low probability of resistance development. We modified endolysins by protein engineering to create Artilysins that are able to pass the outer membrane and become active against Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Acinetobacter baumannii, two of the most hazardous drug-resistant Gram-negative pathogens.
PMCID: PMC4161244  PMID: 24987094
8.  Evolutionary consequences of intra-patient phage predation on microbial populations 
eLife  2014;3:e03497.
The impact of phage predation on bacterial pathogens in the context of human disease is not currently appreciated. Here, we show that predatory interactions of a phage with an important environmentally transmitted pathogen, Vibrio cholerae, can modulate the evolutionary trajectory of this pathogen during the natural course of infection within individual patients. We analyzed geographically and temporally disparate cholera patient stool samples from Haiti and Bangladesh and found that phage predation can drive the genomic diversity of intra-patient V. cholerae populations. Intra-patient phage-sensitive and phage-resistant isolates were isogenic except for mutations conferring phage resistance, and moreover, phage-resistant V. cholerae populations were composed of a heterogeneous mix of many unique mutants. We also observed that phage predation can significantly alter the virulence potential of V. cholerae shed from cholera patients. We provide the first molecular evidence for predatory phage shaping microbial community structure during the natural course of infection in humans.
eLife digest
Cholera epidemics occur seasonally in areas such as Bangladesh, and outbreaks can also strike in vulnerable regions, as has occurred recently in Haiti. The disease is caused by Vibrio cholerae, a water-borne bacterium that colonizes the small intestine, and its symptoms include severe diarrhea and vomiting which can lead to death if the patient is not treated promptly.
Lytic phages are viruses that specifically attack and kill bacteria. After replicating many times inside the bacterial cell, the phages break open and destroy the cell. Over time a bacterial population can evolve to resist this phage ‘predation’; however, it is not known if bacterial pathogens need to defend themselves against phage attack when they infect humans. It had been suggested that phages might affect the progress of cholera infections in people, but molecular evidence that supports this hypothesis was lacking.
When testing stool samples from Haitian cholera patients, Seed et al. found one sample contained a lot of lytic phage relative to the amount of V. cholerae present. This phage was very similar to—but distinct from—a phage found in Bangladeshi patients.
The V. cholerae bacteria isolated from the stool sample were resistant to attack by the phage. Sequencing the genome of individual bacteria from this sample revealed that each had a mutation that made them resistant to the phage; and while many types of these mutations were found, these were the only differences between all the V. cholerae bacteria in this patient sample. This suggests that this resistance developed independently many different times within the patient due to strong selective pressure from phage predation.
When Seed et al. looked at a phage-positive stool sample from a Bangladeshi patient, more mutations that made the bacteria resistant to this phage were found; however, these mutations were different again from the ones in the Haitian bacteria. Because of the nature of these mutations the bacteria from this patient were rendered unable to cause disease and non-transmissible.
This work shows that phages can indeed have access to pathogenic bacteria during human infection. It also indicates that the pressure imposed by phage predation can, in some cases, be so strong that the bacteria lose their virulence and ability to spread to other humans in order to become resistant to the phage.
PMCID: PMC4141277  PMID: 25161196
Vibrio cholerae; cholera; bacteriophage; phage; OmpU; ToxR; viruses; other
9.  Bacteriophages and Phage-Derived Proteins – Application Approaches 
Current Medicinal Chemistry  2015;22(14):1757-1773.
Currently, the bacterial resistance, especially to most commonly used antibiotics has proved to be a severe therapeutic problem. Nosocomial and community-acquired infections are usually caused by multidrug resistant strains. Therefore, we are forced to develop an alternative or supportive treatment for successful cure of life-threatening infections. The idea of using natural bacterial pathogens such as bacteriophages is already well known. Many papers have been published proving the high antibacterial efficacy of lytic phages tested in animal models as well as in the clinic. Researchers have also investigated the application of non-lytic phages and temperate phages, with promising results. Moreover, the development of molecular biology and novel generation methods of sequencing has opened up new possibilities in the design of engineered phages and recombinant phage-derived proteins. Encouraging performances were noted especially for phage enzymes involved in the first step of viral infection responsible for bacterial envelope degradation, named depolymerases. There are at least five major groups of such enzymes – peptidoglycan hydrolases, endosialidases, endorhamnosidases, alginate lyases and hyaluronate lyases – that have application potential. There is also much interest in proteins encoded by lysis cassette genes (holins, endolysins, spanins) responsible for progeny release during the phage lytic cycle. In this review, we discuss several issues of phage and phage-derived protein application approaches in therapy, diagnostics and biotechnology in general.
PMCID: PMC4468916  PMID: 25666799
Bacteriophage application; endolysins; holins; phage-encoded proteins; polysaccharide depolymerases; spanins.
10.  Lytic enzyme discovery through multigenomic sequence analysis in Clostridium perfringens 
With their ability to lyse Gram-positive bacteria, phage lytic enzymes (or lysins) have received a great deal of attention as novel anti-infective agents. The number of known genes encoding these peptidoglycan hydrolases has increased markedly in recent years, due in large part to advances in DNA sequencing technology. As the genomes of more and more bacterial species/strains are sequenced, lysin-encoding open reading frames (ORFs) can be readily identified in lysogenized prophage regions. In the current study, we sought to assess lysin diversity for the medically relevant pathogen Clostridium perfringens. The sequenced genomes of nine C. perfringens strains were computationally mined for prophage lysins and lysin-like ORFs, revealing several dozen proteins of various enzymatic classes. Of these lysins, a muramidase from strain ATCC 13124 (termed PlyCM) was chosen for recombinant analysis based on its dissimilarity to previously characterized C. perfringens lysins. Following expression and purification, various biochemical properties of PlyCM were determined in vitro, including pH/salt-dependence and temperature stability. The enzyme exhibited activity at low µg/ml concentrations, a typical value for phage lysins. It was active against 23 of 24 strains of C. perfringens tested, with virtually no activity against other clostridial or nonclostridial species. Overall, PlyCM shows potential for development as an enzybiotic agent, demonstrating how expanding genomic databases can serve as rich pools for biotechnologically relevant proteins.
PMCID: PMC3711215  PMID: 21085950
Lysin; Prophage; Enzybiotic; Muramidase; Clostridium perfringens
11.  Nongenetic Individuality in the Host–Phage Interaction 
PLoS Biology  2008;6(5):e120.
Isogenic bacteria can exhibit a range of phenotypes, even in homogeneous environmental conditions. Such nongenetic individuality has been observed in a wide range of biological processes, including differentiation and stress response. A striking example is the heterogeneous response of bacteria to antibiotics, whereby a small fraction of drug-sensitive bacteria can persist under extensive antibiotic treatments. We have previously shown that persistent bacteria enter a phenotypic state, identified by slow growth or dormancy, which protects them from the lethal action of antibiotics. Here, we studied the effect of persistence on the interaction between Escherichia coli and phage lambda. We used long-term time-lapse microscopy to follow the expression of green fluorescent protein (GFP) under the phage lytic promoter, as well as cellular fate, in single infected bacteria. Intriguingly, we found that, whereas persistent bacteria are protected from prophage induction, they are not protected from lytic infection. Quantitative analysis of gene expression reveals that the expression of lytic genes is suppressed in persistent bacteria. However, when persistent bacteria switch to normal growth, the infecting phage resumes the process of gene expression, ultimately causing cell lysis. Using mathematical models for these two host–phage interactions, we found that the bacteria's nongenetic individuality can significantly affect the population dynamics, and might be relevant for understanding the coevolution of bacterial hosts and phages.
Author Summary
Persistence of subpopulations of bacteria to antibiotic treatments is a major problem in recurrent infections. Unlike resistance, which is passed on to the next generations, persistence is a transient trait characterized by slow growth or dormancy. It has been suggested that the existence of both persister and non-persister bacteria within a given population might constitute a general strategy that bacterial populations use to cope with an ever-changing, stressful environment. Here, we studied the influence of persistence on the interaction between bacterial populations and viruses that infect bacteria, called phages. We found that persistence provides a clear advantage for lysogenic bacteria—in which the phage DNA has integrated into the host DNA but remains mostly inactive—as they enter the reversal of this state, typically in response to environmental stress. This suggests that persistence might have evolved in lysogenic bacteria under stressful conditions. In contrast, persister bacteria do not survive infections by lytic phages—which replicate until they cause the host cell to burst—any better than non-persister bacteria, but release the infectious phages on a significantly longer time scale. Mathematical analysis reveals that this host heterogeneity might substantially affect host–phage population dynamics and could be relevant for other predator–prey systems.
Mathematical analysis and single-cell observations of bacteria persistent to antibiotic treatments shed new light on the ecology of bacteria and phages.
PMCID: PMC2386839  PMID: 18494559
12.  The Phage Lytic Proteins from the Staphylococcus aureus Bacteriophage vB_SauS-phiIPLA88 Display Multiple Active Catalytic Domains and Do Not Trigger Staphylococcal Resistance 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e64671.
The increase in antibiotic resistance world-wide revitalized the interest in the use of phage lysins to combat pathogenic bacteria. In this work, we analyzed the specific cleavage sites on the staphylococcal peptidoglycan produced by three phage lytic proteins. The investigated cell wall lytic enzymes were the endolysin LysH5 derived from the S. aureus bacteriophage vB_SauS-phi-IPLA88 (phi-IPLA88) and two fusion proteins between lysostaphin and the virion-associated peptidoglycan hydrolase HydH5 (HydH5SH3b and HydH5Lyso). We determined that all catalytic domains present in these proteins were active. Additionally, we tested for the emergence of resistant Staphylococcus aureus to any of the three phage lytic proteins constructs. Resistant S. aureus could not be identified after 10 cycles of bacterial exposure to phage lytic proteins either in liquid or plate cultures. However, a quick increase in lysostaphin resistance (up to 1000-fold in liquid culture) was observed. The lack of resistant development supports the use of phage lytic proteins as future therapeutics to treat staphylococcal infections.
PMCID: PMC3665550  PMID: 23724076
13.  Using a bacteriocin structure to engineer a phage lysin that targets Yersinia pestis 
Biochemical Society transactions  2012;40(6):1503-1506.
Purified phage lysins present an alternative to traditional antibiotics and work by hydrolyzing peptidoglycan. Phage lysins have been developed against Gram-positive pathogens such as Bacillus anthracis and Streptococcus pneumoniae, where the peptidoglycan layer is exposed on the cell surface. Addition of the lysin to a bacterial culture results in rapid death of the organism. Gram-negative bacteria are resistant to phage lysins because they contain an outer membrane that protects the peptidoglycan from degradation. We solved crystal structures of a Yersinia pestis outer membrane protein and the bacteriocin that targets it, which informed engineering of a bacterial-phage hybrid lysin that can be transported across the outer membrane to kill specific Gram-negative bacteria. This work provides a template for engineering phage lysins against a wide variety of bacterial pathogens.
PMCID: PMC3679646  PMID: 23176506
1. Osmotic shock disrupts particles of phage T2 into material containing nearly all the phage sulfur in a form precipitable by antiphage serum, and capable of specific adsorption to bacteria. It releases into solution nearly all the phage DNA in a form not precipitable by antiserum and not adsorbable to bacteria. The sulfur-containing protein of the phage particle evidently makes up a membrane that protects the phage DNA from DNase, comprises the sole or principal antigenic material, and is responsible for attachment of the virus to bacteria. 2. Adsorption of T2 to heat-killed bacteria, and heating or alternate freezing and thawing of infected cells, sensitize the DNA of the adsorbed phage to DNase. These treatments have little or no sensitizing effect on unadsorbed phage. Neither heating nor freezing and thawing releases the phage DNA from infected cells, although other cell constituents can be extracted by these methods. These facts suggest that the phage DNA forms part of an organized intracellular structure throughout the period of phage growth. 3. Adsorption of phage T2 to bacterial debris causes part of the phage DNA to appear in solution, leaving the phage sulfur attached to the debris. Another part of the phage DNA, corresponding roughly to the remaining half of the DNA of the inactivated phage, remains attached to the debris but can be separated from it by DNase. Phage T4 behaves similarly, although the two phages can be shown to attach to different combining sites. The inactivation of phage by bacterial debris is evidently accompanied by the rupture of the viral membrane. 4. Suspensions of infected cells agitated in a Waring blendor release 75 per cent of the phage sulfur and only 15 per cent of the phage phosphorus to the solution as a result of the applied shearing force. The cells remain capable of yielding phage progeny. 5. The facts stated show that most of the phage sulfur remains at the cell surface and most of the phage DNA enters the cell on infection. Whether sulfur-free material other than DNA enters the cell has not been determined. The properties of the sulfur-containing residue identify it as essentially unchanged membranes of the phage particles. All types of evidence show that the passage of phage DNA into the cell occurs in non-nutrient medium under conditions in which other known steps in viral growth do not occur. 6. The phage progeny yielded by bacteria infected with phage labeled with radioactive sulfur contain less than 1 per cent of the parental radioactivity. The progeny of phage particles labeled with radioactive phosphorus contain 30 per cent or more of the parental phosphorus. 7. Phage inactivated by dilute formaldehyde is capable of adsorbing to bacteria, but does not release its DNA to the cell. This shows that the interaction between phage and bacterium resulting in release of the phage DNA from its protective membrane depends on labile components of the phage particle. By contrast, the components of the bacterium essential to this interaction are remarkably stable. The nature of the interaction is otherwise unknown. 8. The sulfur-containing protein of resting phage particles is confined to a protective coat that is responsible for the adsorption to bacteria, and functions as an instrument for the injection of the phage DNA into the cell. This protein probably has no function in the growth of intracellular phage. The DNA has some function. Further chemical inferences should not be drawn from the experiments presented.
PMCID: PMC2147348  PMID: 12981234
15.  In Vitro Characterization of PlySK1249, a Novel Phage Lysin, and Assessment of Its Antibacterial Activity in a Mouse Model of Streptococcus agalactiae Bacteremia 
Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy  2013;57(12):6276-6283.
Beta-hemolytic Streptococcus agalactiae is the leading cause of bacteremia and invasive infections. These diseases are treated with β-lactams or macrolides, but the emergence of less susceptible and even fully resistant strains is a cause for concern. New bacteriophage lysins could be promising alternatives against such organisms. They hydrolyze the bacterial peptidoglycan at the end of the phage cycle, in order to release the phage progeny. By using a bioinformatic approach to screen several beta-hemolytic streptococci, a gene coding for a lysin was identified on a prophage carried by Streptococcus dysgalactiae subsp. equisimilis SK1249. The gene product, named PlySK1249, harbored an original three-domain structure with a central cell wall-binding domain surrounded by an N-terminal amidase and a C-terminal CHAP domain. Purified PlySK1249 was highly lytic and bactericidal for S. dysgalactiae (2-log10 CFU/ml decrease within 15 min). Moreover, it also efficiently killed S. agalactiae (1.5-log10 CFU/ml decrease within 15 min) but not several streptococcal commensal species. We further investigated the activity of PlySK1249 in a mouse model of S. agalactiae bacteremia. Eighty percent of the animals (n = 10) challenged intraperitoneally with 106 CFU of S. agalactiae died within 72 h, whereas repeated injections of PlySK1249 (45 mg/kg 3 times within 24 h) significantly protected the mice (P < 0.01). Thus, PlySK1249, which was isolated from S. dysgalactiae, demonstrated high cross-lytic activity against S. agalactiae both in vitro and in vivo. These encouraging results indicated that PlySK1249 might represent a good candidate to be developed as a new enzybiotic for the treatment of systemic S. agalactiae infections.
PMCID: PMC3837886  PMID: 24100496
16.  Biochemical Characterization and Validation of a Catalytic Site of a Highly Thermostable Ts2631 Endolysin from the Thermus scotoductus Phage vB_Tsc2631 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(9):e0137374.
Phage vB_Tsc2631 infects the extremophilic bacterium Thermus scotoductus MAT2631 and uses the Ts2631 endolysin for the release of its progeny. The Ts2631 endolysin is the first endolysin from thermophilic bacteriophage with an experimentally validated catalytic site. In silico analysis and computational modelling of the Ts2631 endolysin structure revealed a conserved Zn2+ binding site (His30, Tyr58, His131 and Cys139) similar to Zn2+ binding site of eukaryotic peptidoglycan recognition proteins (PGRPs). We have shown that the Ts2631 endolysin lytic activity is dependent on divalent metal ions (Zn2+ and Ca2+). The Ts2631 endolysin substitution variants H30N, Y58F, H131N and C139S dramatically lost their antimicrobial activity, providing evidence for the role of the aforementioned residues in the lytic activity of the enzyme. The enzyme has proven to be not only thermoresistant, retaining 64.8% of its initial activity after 2 h at 95°C, but also highly thermodynamically stable (Tm = 99.82°C, ΔHcal = 4.58 × 104 cal mol-1). Substitutions of histidine residues (H30N and H131N) and a cysteine residue (C139S) resulted in variants aggregating at temperatures ≥75°C, indicating a significant role of these residues in enzyme thermostability. The substrate spectrum of the Ts2631 endolysin included extremophiles of the genus Thermus but also Gram-negative mesophiles, such as Escherichia coli, Salmonella panama, Pseudomonas fluorescens and Serratia marcescens. The broad substrate spectrum and high thermostability of this endolysin makes it a good candidate for use as an antimicrobial agent to combat Gram-negative pathogens.
PMCID: PMC4573324  PMID: 26375388
17.  Improving the Lethal Effect of Cpl-7, a Pneumococcal Phage Lysozyme with Broad Bactericidal Activity, by Inverting the Net Charge of Its Cell Wall-Binding Module 
Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy  2013;57(11):5355-5365.
Phage endolysins are murein hydrolases that break the bacterial cell wall to provoke lysis and release of phage progeny. Recently, these enzymes have also been recognized as powerful and specific antibacterial agents when added exogenously. In the pneumococcal system, most cell wall associated murein hydrolases reported so far depend on choline for activity, and Cpl-7 lysozyme constitutes a remarkable exception. Here, we report the improvement of the killing activity of the Cpl-7 endolysin by inversion of the sign of the charge of the cell wall-binding module (from −14.93 to +3.0 at neutral pH). The engineered variant, Cpl-7S, has 15 amino acid substitutions and an improved lytic activity against Streptococcus pneumoniae (including multiresistant strains), Streptococcus pyogenes, and other pathogens. Moreover, we have demonstrated that a single 25-μg dose of Cpl-7S significantly increased the survival rate of zebrafish embryos infected with S. pneumoniae or S. pyogenes, confirming the killing effect of Cpl-7S in vivo. Interestingly, Cpl-7S, in combination with 0.01% carvacrol (an essential oil), was also found to efficiently kill Gram-negative bacteria such as Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas putida, an effect not described previously. Our findings provide a strategy to improve the lytic activity of phage endolysins based on facilitating their pass through the negatively charged bacterial envelope, and thereby their interaction with the cell wall target, by modulating the net charge of the cell wall-binding modules.
PMCID: PMC3811316  PMID: 23959317
18.  Helicobacter pylori Peptidoglycan Modifications Confer Lysozyme Resistance and Contribute to Survival in the Host 
mBio  2012;3(6):e00409-12.
The prominent host muramidase lysozyme cleaves bacterial peptidoglycan (PG), and the enzyme is abundant in mucosal secretions. The lytic enzyme susceptibility of Gram-negative bacteria and mechanisms they use to thwart lytic enzyme activity are poorly studied. We previously characterized a Helicobacter pylori PG modification enzyme, an N-deacetylase (PgdA) involved in lysozyme resistance. In this study, another PG modification enzyme, a putative PG O-acetyltransferase (PatA), was identified. Mass spectral analysis of the purified PG demonstrated that a patA strain contained a greatly reduced amount of acetylated muropeptides, indicating a role for PatA in H. pylori PG O-acetylation. The PG modification mutant strains (pgdA, patA, or pgdA patA) were more susceptible to lysozyme killing than the parent, but this assay required high lysozyme levels (up to 50 mg/ml). However, addition of host lactoferrin conferred lysozyme sensitivity to H. pylori, at physiologically relevant concentrations of both host components (3 mg/ml lactoferrin plus 0.3 mg/ml lysozyme). The pgdA patA double mutant strain was far more susceptible to lysozyme/lactoferrin killing than the parent. Peptidoglycan purified from a pgdA patA mutant was five times more sensitive to lysozyme than PG from the parent strain, while PG from both single mutants displayed intermediate sensitivity. Both sensitivity assays for whole cells and for purified PGs indicated that the modifications mediated by PgdA and PatA have a synergistic effect, conferring lysozyme tolerance. In a mouse infection model, significant colonization deficiency was observed for the double mutant at 3 weeks postinoculation. The results show that PG modifications affect the survival of a Gram-negative pathogen.
Importance Pathogenic bacteria evade host antibacterial enzymes by a variety of mechanisms, which include resisting lytic enzymes abundant in the host. Enzymatic modifications to peptidoglycan (PG, the site of action of lysozyme) are a known mechanism used by Gram-positive bacteria to protect against host lysozyme attack. However, Gram-negative bacteria contain a thin layer of PG and a recalcitrant outer membrane permeability barrier to resist lysis, so molecular modifications to cell wall structure in order to combat lysis remain largely unstudied. Here we show that two Helicobacter pylori PG modification enzymes (PgdA and PatA) confer a clear protective advantage to a Gram-negative bacterium. They protect the bacterium from lytic enzyme degradation, albeit via different PG modification activities. Many pathogens are Gram negative, so some would be expected to have a similar cell wall-modifying strategy. Understanding such strategies may be useful for combating pathogen growth.
Pathogenic bacteria evade host antibacterial enzymes by a variety of mechanisms, which include resisting lytic enzymes abundant in the host. Enzymatic modifications to peptidoglycan (PG, the site of action of lysozyme) are a known mechanism used by Gram-positive bacteria to protect against host lysozyme attack. However, Gram-negative bacteria contain a thin layer of PG and a recalcitrant outer membrane permeability barrier to resist lysis, so molecular modifications to cell wall structure in order to combat lysis remain largely unstudied. Here we show that two Helicobacter pylori PG modification enzymes (PgdA and PatA) confer a clear protective advantage to a Gram-negative bacterium. They protect the bacterium from lytic enzyme degradation, albeit via different PG modification activities. Many pathogens are Gram negative, so some would be expected to have a similar cell wall-modifying strategy. Understanding such strategies may be useful for combating pathogen growth.
PMCID: PMC3517862  PMID: 23221800
19.  A Highly Active and Negatively Charged Streptococcus pyogenes Lysin with a Rare d-Alanyl-l-Alanine Endopeptidase Activity Protects Mice against Streptococcal Bacteremia 
Bacteriophage endolysins have shown great efficacy in killing Gram-positive bacteria. PlyC, a group C streptococcal phage lysin, represents the most efficient lysin characterized to date, with a remarkably high specificity against different streptococcal species, including the important pathogen Streptococcus pyogenes. However, PlyC is a unique lysin, in terms of both its high activity and structure (two distinct subunits). We sought to discover and characterize a phage lysin active against S. pyogenes with an endolysin architecture distinct from that of PlyC to determine if it relies on the same mechanism of action as PlyC. In this study, we identified and characterized an endolysin, termed PlyPy (phage lysin from S. pyogenes), from a prophage infecting S. pyogenes. By in silico analysis, PlyPy was found to have a molecular mass of 27.8 kDa and a pI of 4.16. It was active against a majority of group A streptococci and displayed high levels of activity as well as binding specificity against group B and C streptococci, while it was less efficient against other streptococcal species. PlyPy showed the highest activity at neutral pH in the presence of calcium and NaCl. Surprisingly, its activity was not affected by the presence of the group A-specific carbohydrate, while the activity of PlyC was partly inhibited. Additionally, PlyPy was active in vivo and could rescue mice from systemic bacteremia. Finally, we developed a novel method to determine the peptidoglycan bond cleaved by lysins and concluded that PlyPy exhibits a rare d-alanyl-l-alanine endopeptidase activity. PlyPy thus represents the first lysin characterized from Streptococcus pyogenes and has a mechanism of action distinct from that of PlyC.
PMCID: PMC4068442  PMID: 24637688
20.  A triggered-suicide system designed as a defense against bacteriophages. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1997;179(21):6741-6748.
A novel bacteriophage protection system for Lactococcus lactis based on a genetic trap, in which a strictly phage-inducible promoter isolated from the lytic phage phi31 is used to activate a bacterial suicide system after infection, was developed. The lethal gene of the suicide system consists of the three-gene restriction cassette LlaIR+, which is lethal across a wide range of gram-positive bacteria. The phage-inducible trigger promoter (phi31P) and the LlaIR+ restriction cassette were cloned in Escherichia coli on a high-copy-number replicon to generate pTRK414H. Restriction activity was not apparent in E. coli or L. lactis prior to phage infection. In phage challenges of L. lactis(pTRK414H) with phi31, the efficiency of plaquing was lowered to 10(-4) and accompanied by a fourfold reduction in burst size. Center-of-infection assays revealed that only 15% of infected cells released progeny phage. In addition to phage phi31, the phi31P/LlaIR+ suicide cassette also inhibited four phi31-derived recombinant phages at levels at least 10-fold greater than that of phi31. The phi31P/LlaIR+-based suicide system is a genetically engineered form of abortive infection that traps and eliminates phages potentially evolving in fermentation environments by destroying the phage genome and killing the propagation host. This type of phage-triggered suicide system could be designed for any bacterium-phage combination, given a universal lethal gene and an inducible promoter which is triggered by the infecting bacteriophage.
PMCID: PMC179604  PMID: 9352925
21.  A Genetic Screen to Identify Bacteriophage Lysins 
Methods in molecular biology (Clifton, N.J.)  2009;502:10.1007/978-1-60327-565-1_18.
Lysins are phage-encoded, peptidoglycan (cell wall) hydrolases that accumulate in the bacterial cytoplasm during a lytic infection cycle. Late during infection, the lysins undergo holin-mediated translocation across the inner membrane into the peptidoglycan matrix where they cleave cell wall covalent bonds required for wall stability and allow bacterial lysis and progeny phage release. This potent hydrolytic activity is now the foundation of a powerful genetic-based screening process for the identification and analysis of phage lysin proteins. Here, we describe a method for identifying a lysin, PlyG, from a bacteriophage that specifically infects the Gram-positive organism Bacillus anthracis, however, the techniques described can be adapted to clone, express and analyze lysins from any phage infecting Gram-positive bacteria or possibly even Gram-negative bacteria.
PMCID: PMC3863392  PMID: 19082564
lysin; hydrolase; cell wall; peptidoglycan; lysozyme; Gram-positive; antimicrobial; diagnostic; expression library
22.  The CD27L and CTP1L Endolysins Targeting Clostridia Contain a Built-in Trigger and Release Factor 
PLoS Pathogens  2014;10(7):e1004228.
The bacteriophage ΦCD27 is capable of lysing Clostridium difficile, a pathogenic bacterium that is a major cause for nosocomial infection. A recombinant CD27L endolysin lyses C. difficile in vitro, and represents a promising alternative as a bactericide. To better understand the lysis mechanism, we have determined the crystal structure of an autoproteolytic fragment of the CD27L endolysin. The structure covers the C-terminal domain of the endolysin, and represents a novel fold that is identified in a number of lysins that target Clostridia bacteria. The structure indicates endolysin cleavage occurs at the stem of the linker connecting the catalytic domain with the C-terminal domain. We also solved the crystal structure of the C-terminal domain of a slow cleaving mutant of the CTP1L endolysin that targets C. tyrobutyricum. Two distinct dimerization modes are observed in the crystal structures for both endolysins, despite a sequence identity of only 22% between the domains. The dimers are validated to be present for the full length protein in solution by right angle light scattering, small angle X-ray scattering and cross-linking experiments using the cross-linking amino acid p-benzoyl-L-phenylalanine (pBpa). Mutagenesis on residues contributing to the dimer interfaces indicates that there is a link between the dimerization modes and the autocleavage mechanism. We show that for the CTP1L endolysin, there is a reduction in lysis efficiency that is proportional to the cleavage efficiency. We propose a model for endolysin triggering, where the extended dimer presents the inactive state, and a switch to the side-by-side dimer triggers the cleavage of the C-terminal domain. This leads to the release of the catalytic portion of the endolysin, enabling the efficient digestion of the bacterial cell wall.
Author Summary
Clostridium difficile infection is a common cause of hospital-acquired diarrhea, following broad-spectrum antibiotic treatment particularly in elderly patients. Bacteriophage therapy could provide an alternative treatment, but a better understanding of the viral components that lyse the bacterial cell is necessary. Here, we report on the activation of two endolysins from bacteriophages that lyse Clostridia. The structures of autoproteolytic fragments of two endolysins were determined by X-ray crystallography. Based on the structures, we introduced mutations that affect the autolytic cleavage of the enzymatic portion of the endolysins, and we show that two oligomeric states have an effect on the cleavage mechanism. Moreover, the lysis activity is affected when autocleavage is inhibited for one endolysin. We propose that the cleavage and oligomerization are linked, and they provide the endolysin with a trigger and release mechanism that leads to activation. The identification of a trigger and release factor may not only be relevant to Clostridia endolysins, but could be an important factor in the triggering of many bacteriophage endolysins. A fuller understanding of this activation mechanism will help in the design of recombinant endolysins or bacteriophages with a more efficient therapeutic potential.
PMCID: PMC4110038  PMID: 25058163
23.  Genomic characterization of JG068, a novel virulent podovirus active against Burkholderia cenocepacia 
BMC Genomics  2013;14:574.
As is true for many other antibiotic-resistant Gram-negative pathogens, members of the Burkholderia cepacia complex (BCC) are currently being assessed for their susceptibility to phage therapy as an antimicrobial treatment. The objective of this study was to perform genomic and limited functional characterization of the novel BCC phage JG068 (vB_BceP_JG068).
JG068 is a podovirus that forms large, clear plaques on Burkholderia cenocepacia K56-2. Host range analysis indicates that this phage can infect environmental, clinical, and epidemic isolates of Burkholderia multivorans, B. cenocepacia, Burkholderia stabilis, and Burkholderia dolosa, likely through interaction with the host lipopolysaccharide as a receptor. The JG068 chromosome is 41,604 base pairs (bp) in length and is flanked by 216 bp short direct terminal repeats. Gene expression originates from both host and phage promoters and is in the forward direction for all 49 open reading frames. The genome sequence shows similarity to Ralstonia phage ϕRSB1, Caulobacter phage Cd1, and uncharacterized genetic loci of blood disease bacterium R229 and Burkholderia pseudomallei 1710b. CoreGenesUniqueGenes analysis indicates that JG068 belongs to the Autographivirinae subfamily and ϕKMV-like phages genus. Modules within the genome encode proteins involved in DNA-binding, morphogenesis, and lysis, but none associated with pathogenicity or lysogeny. Similar to the signal-arrest-release (SAR) endolysin of ϕKMV, inducible expression of the JG068 SAR endolysin causes lysis of Escherichia coli that is dependent on the presence of an N-terminal signal sequence. In an in vivo assay using the Galleria mellonella infection model, treatment of B. cenocepacia K56-2-infected larvae with JG068 results in a significant increase in larval survival.
As JG068 has a broad host range, does not encode virulence factors, is obligately lytic, and has activity against an epidemic B. cenocepacia strain in vivo, this phage is a highly promising candidate for BCC phage therapy development.
PMCID: PMC3765740  PMID: 23978260
Burkholderia cepacia complex; Phage therapy; Autographivirinae; ϕKMV-like phages; SAR endolysin; Galleria mellonella
24.  The Autolysin LytA Contributes to Efficient Bacteriophage Progeny Release in Streptococcus pneumoniae▿  
Journal of Bacteriology  2009;191(17):5428-5440.
Most bacteriophages (phages) release their progeny through the action of holins that form lesions in the cytoplasmic membrane and lysins that degrade the bacterial peptidoglycan. Although the function of each protein is well established in phages infecting Streptococcus pneumoniae, the role—if any—of the powerful bacterial autolysin LytA in virion release is currently unknown. In this study, deletions of the bacterial and phage lysins were done in lysogenic S. pneumoniae strains, allowing the evaluation of the contribution of each lytic enzyme to phage release through the monitoring of bacterial-culture lysis and phage plaque assays. In addition, we assessed membrane integrity during phage-mediated lysis using flow cytometry to evaluate the regulatory role of holins over the lytic activities. Our data show that LytA is activated at the end of the lytic cycle and that its triggering results from holin-induced membrane permeabilization. In the absence of phage lysin, LytA is able to mediate bacterial lysis and phage release, although exclusive dependence on the autolysin results in reduced virion egress and altered kinetics that may impair phage fitness. Under normal conditions, activation of bacterial LytA, together with the phage lysin, leads to greater phage progeny release. Our findings demonstrate that S. pneumoniae phages use the ubiquitous host autolysin to accomplish an optimal phage exiting strategy.
PMCID: PMC2725628  PMID: 19581370
25.  Therapy of Experimental Pseudomonas Infections with a Nonreplicating Genetically Modified Phage 
Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy  2004;48(10):3817-3822.
Bacteriophage therapy of bacterial infections has received renewed attention owing to the increasing prevalence of antibiotic-resistant pathogens. A side effect of many antibiotics as well as of phage therapy with lytic phage is the release of cell wall components, e.g., endotoxins of gram-negative bacteria, which mediate the general pathological aspects of septicemia. Here we explored an alternative strategy by using genetically engineered nonreplicating, nonlytic phage to combat an experimental Pseudomonas aeruginosa infection. An export protein gene of the P. aeruginosa filamentous phage Pf3 was replaced with a restriction endonuclease gene. This rendered the Pf3 variant (Pf3R) nonreplicative and concomitantly prevented the release of the therapeutic agent from the target cell. The Pf3R phage efficiently killed a wild-type host in vitro, while endotoxin release was kept to a minimum. Treatment of P. aeruginosa infections of mice with Pf3R or with a replicating lytic phage resulted in comparable survival rates upon challenge with a minimal lethal dose of 3. However, the survival rate after phage therapy with Pf3R was significantly higher than that with the lytic phage upon challenge with a minimal lethal dose of 5. This higher survival rate correlated with a reduced inflammatory response elicited by Pf3R treatment relative to that with the lytic phage. Therefore, this study suggests that the increased survival rate of Pf3R-treated mice could result from reduced endotoxin release. Thus, the use of a nonreplicating modified phage for the delivery of genes encoding proteins toxic to bacterial pathogens may open up a new avenue in antimicrobial therapy.
PMCID: PMC521880  PMID: 15388440

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