Mycobacterium tuberculosis EsxA and EsxB proteins are founding members of the WXG100 (WXG) protein family, characterized by their small size (∼100 amino acids) and conserved WXG amino acid motif. M. tuberculosis contains 11 tandem pairs of WXG genes; each gene pair is thought to be coexpressed to form a heterodimer. The precise role of these proteins in the biology of M. tuberculosis is unknown, but several of the heterodimers are secreted, which is important for virulence. However, WXG proteins are not simply virulence factors, since nonpathogenic mycobacteria also express and secrete these proteins. Here we show that three WXG heterodimers have structures and properties similar to those of the M. tuberculosis EsxBA (MtbEsxBA) heterodimer, regardless of their host species and apparent biological function. Biophysical studies indicate that the WXG proteins from M. tuberculosis (EsxG and EsxH), Mycobacterium smegmatis (EsxA and EsxB), and Corynebacterium diphtheriae (EsxA and EsxB) are heterodimers and fold into a predominately α-helical structure. An in vivo protein-protein interaction assay was modified to identify proteins that interact specifically with the native WXG100 heterodimer. MtbEsxA and MtbEsxB were fused into a single polypeptide, MtbEsxBA, to create a biomimetic bait for the native heterodimer. The MtbEsxBA bait showed specific association with several esx-1-encoded proteins and EspA, a virulence protein secreted by ESX-1. The MtbEsxBA fusion peptide was also utilized to identify residues in both EsxA and EsxB that are important for establishing protein interactions with Rv3871 and EspA. Together, the results are consistent with a model in which WXG proteins perform similar biological roles in virulent and nonvirulent species.
Staphylococcus aureus secretes EsxA and EsxB, two small polypeptides of the WXG100 family of proteins. Genetic analyses have shown that production and secretion of EsxA and EsxB require an intact ESAT-6 Secretion System (ESS), a cluster of genes that is conserved in many Firmicutes and encompasses esxA and esxB . Here, we characterize EssB, one of the proteins encoded by the ESS cluster. EssB is highly conserved in Gram-positive bacteria and belongs to the Cluster of Orthologous Groups of protein COG4499 with no known function.
By generating an internal deletion in essB , we demonstrate that EssB is required for secretion of EsxA. We use a polyclonal antibody to identify EssB and show that the protein fractionates with the plasma membrane of S. aureus . Yet, when produced in Escherichia coli, EssB remains mostly soluble and the purified protein assembles into a highly organized oligomer that can be visualized by electron microscopy. Production of truncated EssB variants in wild-type S. aureus confers a dominant negative phenotype on EsxA secretion.
The data presented here support the notion that EssB may oligomerize and interact with other membrane components to form the WXG100-specific translocon in S. aureus .
ESAT-6 secretion; ESS; WXG100; EssB; Type 7 secretion; Staphylococcus aureus
Proteins of the WXG100 family represent the prototypical substrates of bacterial type VII secretion systems that typically encompass 100 residues, lack canonical signal peptides, and form helix-turn-helix hairpin structures with WXG positioned in the turn element. Bacillus anthracis encodes six WXG100 proteins, herein referred to as EsxB, EsxL, EsxP, EsxQ, EsxV, and EsxW. With the exception of EsxB, B. anthracis proteins harbor C-terminal extensions that are appended to canonical WXG domains. When cultured in liquid broth, B. anthracis secretes two substrates, EsxB and EsxW, into the extracellular environment. EsxB is required for the stability and secretion of EsxW; however, EsxW is dispensable for EsxB secretion. In agreement with the hypothesis that EsxB binding to substrates promotes recognition and secretion by the type VII pathway, EsxB is reported to interact with EsxB and EsxW. Unlike deletions in mycobacterial EsxB, deletion of five N- or C-terminal residues does not affect the ability of mutant B. anthracis EsxB to travel the type VII pathway and initiate secretion of EsxW. Translational fusion of ubiquitin to the N or C terminus of EsxB also had no effect, while ubiquitin insertion into the center turn abrogated secretion. Anthrax-infected guinea pigs mounted humoral immune responses to EsxB, EsxP, and EsxW, which suggests that B. anthracis activates the type VII secretion pathway during infection.
Staphylococcus aureus encodes the Sec-independent Ess secretion pathway, an ortholog of mycobacterial T7 secretion systems which is required for the virulence of this Gram-positive microbe. The Ess (ESX secretion) pathway was previously defined as a genomic cluster of eight genes, esxA, esaA, essA, essB, esaB, essC, esaC, and esxB. essABC encode membrane proteins involved in the stable expression of esxA, esxB, and esaC, genes specifying three secreted polypeptide substrates. esaB, which encodes a small cytoplasmic protein, represses the synthesis of EsaC but not that of EsxA and EsxB. Here we investigated a hitherto uncharacterized gene, esaD, located downstream of esxB. Expression of esaD is activated by mutations in esaB and essB. EsaD, the 617-amino-acid product of esaD, is positioned in the membrane and is also accessible to EsaD-specific antibodies on the bacterial surface. S. aureus mutants lacking esaD are defective in the secretion of EsxA. Following intravenous inoculation of mice, S. aureus esaD mutants generate fewer abscesses with a reduced bacterial load compared to wild-type parent strain Newman. The chromosomes of Listeria and Bacillus species with Ess pathways also harbor esaD homologues downstream of esxB, suggesting that the contributory role of EsaD in Ess secretion may be shared among Gram-positive pathogens.
The homodimeric nature of the ESAT-6 homologue GBS1074 and the potential for fibre-like assemblies are revealed by the 2 Å resolution crystal structure.
ESAT-6 is a well characterized secreted protein from Mycobacterium tuberculosis and represents the archetype of the WXG100 family of proteins. Genes encoding ESAT-6 homologues have been identified in the genome of the human pathogen Streptococcus agalactiae; one of these genes, esxA, has been cloned and the recombinant protein has been crystallized. In contrast to M. tuberculosis ESAT-6, the crystal structure of GBS1074 reveals a homodimeric structure similar to homologous structures from Staphylococcus aureus and Helicobacter pylori. Intriguingly, GBS1074 forms elongated fibre-like assemblies in the crystal structure.
ESAT-6; WXG100; GBS1074; four-helix bundle
Staphylococcus aureus encodes the specialized secretion system Ess (ESAT-6 secretion system). The ess locus is a cluster of eight genes (esxAB, essABC, esaABC) of which esxA and esxB display homology to secreted ESAT-6 proteins of Mycobacterium tuberculosis. EsxA and EsxB require EssA, EssB and EssC for transport across the staphylococcal envelope. Herein, we examine the role of EsaB and EsaC and show that EsaB is a negative regulator of EsaC. Further, EsaC production is repressed when staphylococci are grown in broth and increased when staphylococci replicate in serum or infected hosts. EsaB is constitutively produced and remains in the cytoplasm whereas EsaC is secreted. This secretion requires an intact Ess pathway. Mutants lacking esaB or esaC display only a small defect in acute infection, but remarkably are unable to promote persistent abscesses during animal infection. Together, the data suggest a model whereby EsaB controls the production of effector molecules that are important for host pathogen interaction. One such effector, EsaC, is a secretion substrate of the Ess pathway and implements its pathogenic function during infection.
WXG100 proteins; virulence; abscess formation
The production of virulence factors in Staphylococcus aureus is tightly controlled by a complex web of interacting regulators. EsxA is one of the virulence factors that are excreted by the specialized, type VII-like Ess secretion system of S. aureus. The esxA gene is part of the σB-dependent SpoVG subregulon. However, the mode of action of SpoVG and its impact on other global regulators acting on esxA transcription is as yet unknown.
We demonstrate that the transcription of esxA is controlled by a regulatory cascade involving downstream σB-dependent regulatory elements, including the staphylococcal accessory regulator SarA, the ArlRS two-component system and SpoVG. The esxA gene, preceding the ess gene cluster, was shown to form a monocistronic transcript that is driven by a σA promoter, whereas a putative σB promoter identified upstream of the σA promoter was shown to be inactive. Transcription of esxA was strongly upregulated upon either sarA or sigB inactivation, but decreased in agr, arlR and spoVG single mutants, suggesting that agr, ArlR and SpoVG are able to increase esxA transcription and relieve the repressing effect of the σB-controlled SarA on esxA.
SpoVG is a σB-dependent element that fine-tunes the expression of esxA by counteracting the σB-induced repressing activity of the transcriptional regulator SarA and activates esxA transcription.
Protein secretion is essential for all bacteria in order to interact with their environment. Mycobacterium tuberculosis depends on protein secretion to subvert host immune response mechanisms. Both the general secretion system (Sec) and the twin-arginine translocation system (Tat) are functional in mycobacteria. Furthermore, a novel type of protein translocation system named ESX has been identified. In the genome of M. tuberculosis five paralogous ESX regions (ESX-1 to ESX-5) have been found. Several components of the ESX translocation apparatus have been identified over the last ten years. The ESX regions are composed of a basic set of genes for the translocation machinery and the main substrate - a heterodimer. The best studied of these heterodimers is EsxA (ESAT-6)/EsxB (CFP-10), which has been shown to be exported by ESX-1. EsxA/B is heavily involved in virulence of M. tuberculosis. EsxG/H is exported by ESX-3 and seems to be involved in an essential iron-uptake mechanism in M. tuberculosis. These findings make ESX-3 components high profile drug targets. Until now, reporter systems for determination of ESX protein translocation have not been developed. In order to create such a reporter system, a truncated β-lactamase (‘bla TEM-1) was fused to the N-terminus of EsxB, EsxG and EsxU, respectively. These constructs have then been tested in a β-lactamase (BlaS) deletion strain of Mycobacterium smegmatis. M. smegmatis ΔblaS is highly susceptible to ampicillin. An ampicillin resistant phenotype was conferred by translocation of Bla TEM-1-Esx fusion proteins into the periplasm. BlaTEM-1-Esx fusion proteins were not found in the culture filtrate suggesting that plasma membrane translocation and outer membrane translocation are two distinct steps in ESX secretion. Thus we have developed a powerful tool to dissect the molecular mechanisms of ESX dependent protein translocation and to screen for novel components of the ESX systems on a large scale.
The highly immunogenic mycobacterial proteins ESAT-6, CFP-10, and HspX represent potential target antigens for the development of subunit vaccines and immunodiagnostic tests. Recently, the complete genome sequence revealed the absence of these coding sequences in Mycobacterium ulcerans, the causative agent of the emerging human disease Buruli ulcer. Genome reduction and the acquisition of a cytopathic and immunosuppressive macrolide toxin plasmid are regarded as crucial for the emergence of this pathogen from its environmental progenitor, Mycobacterium marinum. Earlier, we have shown the evolution of M. ulcerans into two distinct lineages. Here, we show that while the genome of M. marinum M contains two copies of the esxB-esxA gene cluster at different loci (designated MURD4 and MURD152), both copies are deleted from the genome of M. ulcerans strains belonging to the classical lineage. Members of the ancestral lineage instead retained some but disrupted most functional MURD4 or MURD152 copies, either by newly identified genomic insertion-deletion events or by conversions of functional genes to pseudogenes via point mutations. Thus, the esxA (ESAT-6), esxB (CFP-10), and hspX genes are located in hot-spot regions for genomic variation where functional disruption seems to be favored by selection pressure. Our detailed genomic analyses have identified a variety of independent genomic changes that have led to the loss of expression of functional ESAT-6, CFP-10, and HspX proteins. Loss of these immunodominant proteins helps the bacteria bypass the host's immunological response and may represent part of an ongoing adaptation of M. ulcerans to survival in host environments that are screened by immunological defense mechanisms.
Mycobacterium tuberculosis encodes five type VII secretion systems that are responsible for exporting a number of proteins, including members of the Esx family, which have been linked to tuberculosis pathogenesis and survival within host cells. The gene cluster encoding ESX-3 is regulated by the availability of iron and zinc, and secreted protein products such as the EsxG·EsxH complex have been associated with metal ion acquisition. EsxG and EsxH have previously been shown to form a stable 1:1 heterodimeric complex, and here we report the solution structure of the complex, which features a core four-helix bundle decorated at both ends by long, highly flexible, N- and C-terminal arms that contain a number of highly conserved residues. Despite clear similarities in the overall backbone fold to the EsxA·EsxB complex, the structure reveals some striking differences in surface features, including a potential protein interaction site on the surface of the EsxG·EsxH complex. EsxG·EsxH was also found to contain a specific Zn2+ binding site formed from a cluster of histidine residues on EsxH, which are conserved across obligate mycobacterial pathogens including M. tuberculosis and Mycobacterium leprae. This site may reflect an essential role in zinc ion acquisition or point to Zn2+-dependent regulation of its interaction with functional partner proteins. Overall, the surface features of both the EsxG·EsxH and the EsxA·EsxB complexes suggest functions mediated via interactions with one or more target protein partners.
Bacteria; NMR; Protein Structure; Secretion; Zinc; EsxG/EsxH; Pathogenesis; Tuberculosis
ESAT-6 system 1 (ESX-1)-mediated secretion in Mycobacterium tuberculosis is dependent on proteins encoded by the cotranscribed espA-espC-espD gene cluster. While the roles of EspA and EspC with respect to the ESX-1 secretion system have been actively investigated, the function of EspD remains unknown. We show that EspD is secreted by M. tuberculosis, but unlike EspA and EsxA, its export does not exclusively require the ESX-1 system. Evidence for stabilization of cellular levels of EspA and EspC by EspD is presented, and depletion of EspD results in loss of EsxA secretion. Site-directed mutagenesis of EspD reveals that its role in the maintenance of cellular levels of EspA in M. tuberculosis is distinct from its facilitation of EsxA secretion. The same mutagenesis experiments have also shown that secretion of EspD is not required for the secretion of EsxA. Our findings highlight a critical and complex role for EspD in modulating the ESX-1 secretion system in M. tuberculosis.
Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) requires the ESX1 specialized protein secretion system for virulence, for triggering cytosolic immune surveillance pathways, and for priming an optimal CD8+ T cell response. This suggests that ESX1 might act primarily by destabilizing the phagosomal membrane that surrounds the bacterium. However, identifying the primary function of the ESX1 system has been difficult because deletion of any substrate inhibits the secretion of all known substrates, thereby abolishing all ESX1 activity. Here we demonstrate that the ESX1 substrate EspA forms a disulfide bonded homodimer after secretion. By disrupting EspA disulfide bond formation, we have dissociated virulence from other known ESX1-mediated activities. Inhibition of EspA disulfide bond formation does not inhibit ESX1 secretion, ESX1-dependent stimulation of the cytosolic pattern receptors in the infected macrophage or the ability of Mtb to prime an adaptive immune response to ESX1 substrates. However, blocking EspA disulfide bond formation severely attenuates the ability of Mtb to survive and cause disease in mice. Strikingly, we show that inhibition of EspA disulfide bond formation also significantly compromises the stability of the mycobacterial cell wall, as does deletion of the ESX1 locus or individual components of the ESX1 system. Thus, we demonstrate that EspA is a major determinant of ESX1-mediated virulence independent of its function in ESX1 secretion. We propose that ESX1 and EspA play central roles in the virulence of Mtb in vivo because they alter the integrity of the mycobacterial cell wall.
From studies of BCG, the tuberculosis vaccine, we know that Mycobacterium tuberculosis requires a specialized protein secretion system, ESX1, to cause disease in people. ESX1 is required for Mtb to co-opt the host cells in which the bacterium resides and it is thought that this explains its central role in virulence. However, other data suggests that ESX1 serves an important role in the bacterium itself, altering the organism's cell wall. It has been difficult to determine the relative significance of these ESX1-associated functions, however, because deletion of any piece of the apparatus completely abolishes all ESX1 activities. Here we use a simple approach to pinpoint the functionally significant target of one of the proteins secreted by ESX1, EspA. We mutate EspA such that the ESX1 system still secretes its substrates but the bacterium no longer causes disease. The attenuated EspA mutant has defects in its cell wall but not in its interactions with host cells in vitro. We propose that the ESX1 system and the proteins it secretes are important for Mtb to survive and cause disease in people because they act to ensure the integrity of the bacterial cell wall.
The effort to develop a tuberculosis (TB) vaccine more effective than the widely used Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG) has led to the development of two novel fusion protein subunit vaccines: Ag85B-ESAT-6 and Ag85B-TB10.4. Studies of these vaccines in animal models have revealed their ability to generate protective immune responses. Yet, previous work on TB fusion subunit vaccine candidate, Mtb72f, has suggested that genetic diversity among M. tuberculosis strains may compromise vaccine efficacy. In this study, we sequenced the esxA, esxH, and fbpB genes of M. tuberculosis encoding ESAT-6, TB10.4, and Ag85B proteins, respectively, in a sample of 88 clinical isolates representing 57 strains from Ark, USA, and 31 strains from Turkey, to assess the genetic diversity of the two vaccine candidates. We found no DNA polymorphism in esxA and esxH genes in the study sample and only one synonymous single nucleotide change (C to A) in fbpB gene among 39 (44.3%) of the 88 strains sequenced. These data suggest that it is unlikely that the efficacy of Ag85B-ESAT-6 and Ag85B-TB10.4 vaccines will be affected by the genetic diversity of M. tuberculosis population. Future studies should include a broader pool of M. tuberculosis strains to validate the current conclusion.
The ESX-1 secretion system of M. tuberculosis delivers bacterial virulence factors to host cells during infection. The most abundant factor, the ESAT-6/CFP-10 dimer, is targeted for secretion via a C-terminal signal sequence on CFP-10 that is recognized by the cytosolic ATPase, Rv3871. However, the selection determinants for other ESX-1 substrates appear to be more complex. Some substrates, such as ESAT-6, are secreted despite lacking signal sequences. Furthermore, all substrates require targeting of the other ESX-1 secreted proteins, a distinguishing feature of this system. How ESX-1 substrates are selected and the basis for co-dependent secretion is unknown. Here we show that the EspC substrate interacts with Rv3868, a cytosolic AAA ATPase, through its C-terminus. Swapping the C-termini of EspC and CFP-10 revealed that these signals are functionally distinct, suggesting that the proteins are targeted via interactions with different ATPases. Surprisingly, biochemical purification experiments demonstrate that these substrates and ATPases form multi-protein complexes inside the cell and identified a new secreted substrate. By interfering with this protein interaction network, we have partially uncoupled co-dependent substrate secretion. Our results suggest that proper functioning of the ESX-1 pathway requires the interaction of multiple ESX-1 substrates and components prior to their secretion. Ultimately, understanding the details of ESX-1 targeting may allow for engineering of better vaccines to prevent tuberculosis.
The dedicated secretion system ESX-1 of Mycobacterium tuberculosis encoded by the extended RD1 region (extRD1) assures export of the ESAT-6 protein and its partner, the 10-kDa culture filtrate protein CFP-10, and is missing from the vaccine strains M. bovis BCG and M. microti. Here, we systematically investigated the involvement of each individual ESX-1 gene in the secretion of both antigens, specific immunogenicity, and virulence. ESX-1-complemented BCG and M. microti strains were more efficiently engulfed by bone-marrow-derived macrophages than controls, and this may account for the enhanced in vivo growth of ESX-1-carrying strains. Inactivation of gene pe35 (Rv3872) impaired expression of CFP-10 and ESAT-6, suggesting a role in regulation. Genes Rv3868, Rv3869, Rv3870, Rv3871, and Rv3877 encoding an ATP-dependent chaperone and translocon were essential for secretion of ESAT-6 and CFP-10 in contrast to ppe68 Rv3873 and Rv3876, whose inactivation did not impair secretion of ESAT-6. A strict correlation was found between ESAT-6 export and the generation of ESAT-6 specific T-cell responses in mice. Furthermore, ESAT-6 secretion and specific immunogenicity were almost always correlated with enhanced virulence in the SCID mouse model. Only loss of Rv3865 and part of Rv3866 did not affect ESAT-6 secretion or immunogenicity but led to attenuation. This suggests that Rv3865/66 represent a new virulence factor that is independent from ESAT-6 secretion. The present study has allowed us to identify new aspects of the extRD1 region of M. tuberculosis and to explore its role in the pathogenesis of tuberculosis.
The Esx-1 (type VII) secretion system is a major virulence determinant of pathogenic mycobacteria, including Mycobacterium marinum. However, the molecular events and host-pathogen interactions underlying Esx-1-mediated virulence in vivo remain unclear. Here we address this problem in a non-lethal mouse model of M. marinum infection that allows detailed quantitative analysis of disease progression. M. marinum established local infection in mouse tails, with Esx-1-dependent formation of caseating granulomas similar to those formed in human tuberculosis, and bone deterioration reminiscent of skeletal tuberculosis. Analysis of tails infected with wild type or Esx-1-deficient bacteria showed that Esx-1 enhanced generation of proinflammatory cytokines, including the secreted form of IL-1β, suggesting that Esx-1 promotes inflammasome activation in vivo. In vitro experiments indicated that Esx-1-dependent inflammasome activation required the host NLRP3 and ASC proteins. Infection of wild type and ASC-deficient mice demonstrated that Esx-1-dependent inflammasome activation exacerbated disease without restricting bacterial growth, indicating a host-detrimental role of this inflammatory pathway in mycobacterial infection. These findings define an immunoregulatory role for Esx-1 in a specific host-pathogen interaction in vivo, and indicate that the Esx-1 secretion system promotes disease and inflammation through its ability to activate the inflammasome.
With ∼2 million people dying from tuberculosis every year, Mycobacterium tuberculosis represents the single most important bacterial pathogen globally. We use the closely related Mycobacterium marinum to study fundamental aspects of mycobacterial pathogenesis, likely to extend to human tuberculosis. The Esx-1 (type VII) secretion system is a major virulence determinant of pathogenic mycobacteria, including M. tuberculosis and M. marinum. However, a molecular explanation for Esx-1-mediated virulence in vivo has been lacking. Here we address this problem in a non-lethal mouse model of M. marinum infection that allows quantitative analysis of disease progression. M. marinum established local infection with important features of human tuberculosis, including formation of granulomas with caseating centers. Using a combination of bacterial and host mutants, we show that Esx-1-mediated activation of the host inflammasome increases inflammation without restricting bacterial growth, suggesting that activation of the inflammasome during mycobacterial infection is a manifestation of bacterial virulence rather than a manifestation of host response. These findings define a biological role for Esx-1 in a specific host-pathogen interaction in vivo, and imply that the Esx-1 secretion system has evolved specifically to promote host pathology.
Mycobacterium tuberculosis uses the ESX-1 secretion system to deliver virulence proteins during infection of host cells. Here we report a novel post-transcriptional control mechanism of ESX-1 mediated by MycP1, a serine protease. We show that MycP1 is required for ESX-1 secretion and has unusual substrate specificity. Unexpectedly, inhibition of protease activity increases secretion of ESX-1 substrates. We demonstrate that EspB, an ESX-1 substrate required for secretion, is a target of MycP1 in vitro and in vivo. During macrophage infection, an inactive MycP1 protease mutant causes hyper-activation of ESX-1 stimulated innate signaling pathways. MycP1 is required for growth in mice during acute infection, while protease inhibition leads to attenuated virulence during chronic infection. As the key ESX-1 substrates ESAT-6 and CFP-10 are highly immunogenic, fine-tuning of their secretion by MycP1 may balance virulence and immune detection and be essential for successful maintenance of long-term M. tuberculosis infection.
ESX-1 secreted protein regulator (EspR, Rv3849) from M. tuberculosis has been purified and crystallized, and diffracted to 3.2 Å resolution at wavelength 0.97625 Å.
ESX-1-secreted protein regulator (EspR; Rv3849) is a key regulator in Mycobacterium tuberculosis that delivers bacterial proteins into the host cell during infection. EspR binds directly to the Rv3616c-Rv3614c promoter and activates transcription and secretes itself from the bacterial cell by the ESX-1 system. The three-dimensional structure of EspR will aid in understanding the mechanisms by which it binds to the Rv3616c-Rv3614c promoter and is involved in transcriptional activation. This study will significantly aid in the development of EspR-based therapeutics against M. tuberculosis. The full-length EspR gene from M. tuberculosis (H37Rv strain) was cloned and overexpressed as a soluble protein in Escherichia coli. The protein was purified by affinity chromatography using His-tagged protein followed by size-exclusion chromatography. EspR was crystallized using polyethylene glycol 3350 as precipitant. The crystals diffracted to 3.2 Å resolution using synchrotron radiation of wavelength 0.97625 Å. The crystal belonged to space group P3121 and contained three monomers in the asymmetric unit. Native and heavy-atom-derivatized data sets were collected from EspR crystals for use in ab initio structure-solution techniques.
ESX-1-secreted protein regulator; Rv3849; Mycobacterium tuberculosis
Bacterial pathogens trigger specialized virulence factor secretion systems on encountering host cells. The ESX-1 protein secretion system of Mycobacterium tuberculosis—the causative agent of the human disease tuberculosis—delivers bacterial proteins into host cells during infection and is critical for virulence, but how it is regulated is unknown. Here we show that EspR (also known as Rv3849) is a key regulator of ESX-1 that is required for secretion and virulence in mice. EspR activates transcription of an operon that includes three ESX-1 components, Rv3616c–Rv3614c, whose expression in turn promotes secretion of ESX-1 substrates. EspR directly binds to and activates the Rv3616c–Rv3614c promoter and, unexpectedly, is itself secreted from the bacterial cell by the ESX-1 system that it regulates. Efflux of the DNA-binding regulator results in reduced Rv3616c–Rv3614c transcription, and thus reduced ESX-1 secretion. Our results reveal a direct negative feedback loop that regulates the activity of a secretion system essential for virulence. As the virulence factors secreted by the ESX-1 system are highly antigenic, fine control of secretion may be critical to successful infection.
The principal virulence determinant of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb), the ESX-1 protein secretion system, is positively controlled at the transcriptional level by EspR. Depletion of EspR reportedly affects a small number of genes, both positively or negatively, including a key ESX-1 component, the espACD operon. EspR is also thought to be an ESX-1 substrate. Using EspR-specific antibodies in ChIP-Seq experiments (chromatin immunoprecipitation followed by ultra-high throughput DNA sequencing) we show that EspR binds to at least 165 loci on the Mtb genome. Included in the EspR regulon are genes encoding not only EspA, but also EspR itself, the ESX-2 and ESX-5 systems, a host of diverse cell wall functions, such as production of the complex lipid PDIM (phenolthiocerol dimycocerosate) and the PE/PPE cell-surface proteins. EspR binding sites are not restricted to promoter regions and can be clustered. This suggests that rather than functioning as a classical regulatory protein EspR acts globally as a nucleoid-associated protein capable of long-range interactions consistent with a recently established structural model. EspR expression was shown to be growth phase-dependent, peaking in the stationary phase. Overexpression in Mtb strain H37Rv revealed that EspR influences target gene expression both positively or negatively leading to growth arrest. At no stage was EspR secreted into the culture filtrate. Thus, rather than serving as a specific activator of a virulence locus, EspR is a novel nucleoid-associated protein, with both architectural and regulatory roles, that impacts cell wall functions and pathogenesis through multiple genes.
A major infection mechanism employed by the causative agent of tuberculosis, Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb), is the ESX-1 secretion system. It has been postulated that the DNA-binding protein EspR controls the virulence of Mtb by specifically regulating expression of the exported EspA protein, which is required for ESX-1 to function. Previous structural studies indicated that EspR forms dimers capable of multimerizing on DNA and forming loop structures, thus bringing together otherwise distant chromosomal regions. Such characteristics are reminiscent of nucleoid-associated proteins (NAPs), the histone equivalent in bacteria. Here we use ChIP-Seq technology to map EspR binding sites on the Mtb chromosome in living bacterial cells. Genome-wide analysis of EspR identified hundreds of binding-sites, with almost equal inter- and intra-genic distribution, and mostly found in proximity to genes associated with cell wall function. We validated a subset of EspR-binding sites experimentally and identified a consensus motif required for optimal binding affinity. Moreover, our study reveals that EspR expression varies with bacterial growth and that intracellular levels are not linked to EspR secretion. These findings corroborate the NAP nature of EspR and its dual roles, architectural and regulatory, that impact the Mtb chromosome and pathogenesis globally rather than the ESX-1 loci specifically.
The ESX-1 secretion system is required for pathogenicity of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb). Despite considerable research, little is known about the structural components of ESX-1, or how these proteins are assembled into the active secretion apparatus. Here, we exploit the functionally related ESX-1 apparatus of Mycobacterium smegmatis (Ms) to show that fluorescently tagged proteins required for ESX-1 activity consistently localize to the cell pole, identified by time-lapse fluoro-microscopy as the non-septal (old) pole. Deletions in Msesx1 prevented polar localization of tagged proteins, indicating the need for specific protein-protein interactions in polar trafficking. Remarkably, expression of the Mtbesx1 locus in Msesx1 mutants restored polar localization of tagged proteins, indicating establishment of the MtbESX-1 apparatus in M. smegmatis. This observation illustrates the cross-species conservation of protein interactions governing assembly of ESX-1, as well as polar localization. Importantly, we describe novel non-esx1 encoded proteins that affect ESX-1 activity, that co-localize with ESX-1, and that are required for ESX-1 recruitment and assembly. This analysis provides new insights into the molecular assembly of this important determinant of Mtb virulence.
ESX-1; Mycobacteria; Protein localization; Secretion
The recently described ESX-5 secretion system of Mycobacterium tuberculosis is one of the most important modulators of host-pathogen interactions due to its crucial impact on PPE protein secretion, cell wall stability and virulence. Although various components of the ESX-5 secretion machinery have been defined, other ESX-5 core components still remain to be characterized. In this study, we focused on EccB5 and EccC5, a transmembrane protein (EccB5) and a membrane-bound ATPase (EccC5), both predicted to be building blocks of the M. tuberculosis ESX-5 membrane-associated complex. In vitro expression studies demonstrated that EccB5 and EccC5 encoding genes constitute an operon. The expression of this operon is essential for M. tuberculosis, since the deletion of the eccB5-eccC5 genomic segment at the ESX-5 locus is possible only after the integration of a second functional copy of eccB5-eccC5 genes into the M. tuberculosis chromosome. The characterization of two M. tuberculosis conditional mutant strains (MtbPptreccB5 and MtbPptreccC5), in which the eccB5-eccC5 operon or the eccC5 gene, respectively, were expressed under the control of an anhydrotetracycline-repressible promoter, confirmed that the repression of eccB5-eccC5 genes is detrimental for growth of M. tuberculosis both in vitro and in THP-1 human macrophage cell line. Moreover, analysis of the secretome of MtbPptreccB5-eccC5 and MtbPptreccC5 strains revealed that both EccB5 and EccC5 are required for secretion of ESX-5 specific substrates, thus confirming that they are indeed components of the ESX-5 secretion machinery. Taken together these findings demonstrate the importance of an intact and functional ESX-5 system for viability of M. tuberculosis, thus opening new interesting options for alternative antimycobacterial control strategies.
After phagocytosis, the intracellular pathogen Mycobacterium tuberculosis arrests the progression of the nascent phagosome into a phagolysosome, allowing for replication in a compartment that resembles early endosomes. To better understand the molecular mechanisms that govern phagosome maturation arrest, we performed a visual screen on a set of M. tuberculosis mutants specifically attenuated for growth in mice to identify strains that failed to arrest phagosome maturation and trafficked to late phagosomal compartments. We identified 10 such mutants that could be partitioned into two classes based on the kinetics of trafficking. Importantly, four of these mutants harbor mutations in genes that encode components of the ESX-1 secretion system, a pathway critical for M. tuberculosis virulence. Although ESX-1 is required, the known ESX-1 secreted proteins are dispensable for phagosome maturation arrest, suggesting that a novel effector required for phagosome maturation arrest is secreted by ESX-1. Other mutants identified in this screen had mutations in genes involved in lipid synthesis and secretion and in molybdopterin biosynthesis, as well as in genes with unknown functions. Most of these trafficking mutants exhibited a corresponding growth defect during macrophage infection, but two mutants grew like wild-type M. tuberculosis during macrophage infection. Our results support the emerging consensus that multiple factors from M. tuberculosis, including the ESX-1 secretion system, are involved in modulating trafficking within the host.
The Influenza A virus non-structural protein 1 (NS1) is a multifunctional virulence factor with several protein-protein interaction domains, involved in preventing apoptosis of the infected cell and in evading the interferon response. In addition, the majority of influenza A virus NS1 proteins have a class I PDZ-binding motif at the C-terminus, and this itself has been shown to be a virulence determinant.
In the majority of human influenza NS1 proteins the consensus motif is RSxV: in avian NS1 it is ESxV. Of the few human strains that have the avian motif, all were from very high mortality outbreaks of the disease. Previous work has shown that minor differences in PDZ-binding motifs can have major effects on the spectrum of cellular proteins targeted. In this study we analyse the effect of these differences upon the binding of Influenza A virus NS1 protein to a range of cellular proteins involved in polarity and signal transduction.
The ESX-1 secretion system exports the immunomodulatory protein ESAT-6 and other proteins important in the pathogenesis of Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Components and substrates of ESX-1 are encoded at several loci, but the regulation of the encoding genes is only partially understood. In this study, we investigated the role of the MprAB two-component system in the regulation of ESX-1 activity. We determined that MprAB directly regulates the espA gene cluster, a locus necessary for ESX-1 function. Transcript mapping determined that the five genes in the cluster form an operon with two transcriptional start points, and several MprA binding sites were detected in the espA promoter. Expression analyses and promoter constructs indicated that MprAB represses the espA operon. However, the MprAB mutant Rv-D981 secreted lower levels of EspA, ESAT-6, and the ESX-1 substrate EspB than control strains. Secretion of CFP10, which is normally cosecreted with ESAT-6, was similar in Rv-D981 and control strains, further demonstrating aberrant ESX-1 activity in the mutant. ESAT-6 induces proinflammatory cytokines, and macrophages infected with Rv-D981 elicited lower levels of interleukin 1β (IL-1β) and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α), consistent with the reduced levels of ESAT-6. These findings indicate that MprAB modulates ESX-1 function and reveal a new role for MprAB in host-pathogen interactions.