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1.  Characterization of a Novel Plasmid, pMAH135, from Mycobacterium avium Subsp. hominissuis 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(2):e0117797.
Mycobacterium avium complex (MAC) causes mainly two types of disease. The first is disseminated disease in immunocompromised hosts, such as individuals infected by human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). The second is pulmonary disease in individuals without systemic immunosuppression, and the incidence of this type is increasing worldwide. M. avium subsp. hominissuis, a component of MAC, causes infection in pigs as well as in humans. Many aspects of the different modes of M. avium infection and its host specificity remain unclear. Here, we report the characteristics and complete sequence of a novel plasmid, designated pMAH135, derived from M. avium strain TH135 in an HIV-negative patient with pulmonary MAC disease. The pMAH135 plasmid consists of 194,711 nucleotides with an average G + C content of 66.5% and encodes 164 coding sequences (CDSs). This plasmid was unique in terms of its homology to other mycobacterial plasmids. Interestingly, it contains CDSs with sequence homology to mycobactin biosynthesis proteins and type VII secretion system-related proteins, which are involved in the pathogenicity of mycobacteria. It also contains putative conserved domains of the multidrug efflux transporter. Screening of isolates from humans and pigs for genes located on pMAH135 revealed that the detection rate of these genes was higher in clinical isolates from pulmonary MAC disease patients than in those from HIV-positive patients, whereas the genes were almost entirely absent in isolates from pigs. Moreover, variable number tandem repeats typing analysis showed that isolates carrying pMAH135 genes are grouped in a specific cluster. Collectively, the pMAH135 plasmid contains genes associated with M. avium’s pathogenicity and resistance to antimicrobial agents. The results of this study suggest that pMAH135 influence not only the pathological manifestations of MAC disease, but also the host specificity of MAC infection.
PMCID: PMC4324632  PMID: 25671431
2.  Novel insights into transmission routes of Mycobacterium avium in pigs and possible implications for human health 
Veterinary Research  2014;45(1):46.
Mycobacterium avium infection is a severe condition in humans, whereas pigs are often subclinically infected. Pig carcasses represent a possible source of human infection. Faecal excretion of M. avium was recently demonstrated in experimentally infected pigs, along with detection of M. avium in apparently normal lymph nodes. The present study investigates faecal excretion in naturally infected herds and the presence of live mycobacteria in lymph nodes. Two pig herds (A and B), with a history of sporadically suspected M. avium infection were sampled. Herd B used peat, as opposed to Herd A. Samples from peat, sawdust, drinking water, faeces and lymph nodes were collected. Identification of mycobacteria was performed by 16S rDNA sequencing and PCR. Mycobacterium avium isolates were analysed by Multi-Locus Variable Number of Tandem repeat Analysis (MLVA). Mycobacterium avium subsp. hominissuis was detected in samples of faeces, peat and lymph nodes from Herd B, often with identical MLVA profiles. Additionally, other non-tuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) were found in the same material. The absence of macroscopic lymph node lesions in the presence of M. avium subsp. hominissuis was frequently demonstrated. In Herd A, only one NTM isolate, which proved not to be M. avium, was found. Faeces might facilitate transmission of M. avium subsp. hominissuis between pigs and maintain the infection pressure in herds. The low incidence of macroscopic lesions together with the massive presence of M. avium subsp. hominissuis in lymph nodes from pigs kept on peat raises questions related to animal husbandry, food safety and human health.
PMCID: PMC4021465  PMID: 24742183
3.  Intracellular growth of Mycobacterium avium subspecies and global transcriptional responses in human macrophages after infection 
BMC Genomics  2014;15:58.
Mycobacterium avium subsp. avium (Maa) and M. avium subsp. hominissuis (Mah) are environmental mycobacteria and significant opportunistic pathogens. Mycobacterium avium infections in humans and pigs are mainly due to Mah. It is not known whether this is caused by a difference in virulence or difference in exposure to the two subspecies. The aim of the present study was to investigate the ability of the M. avium subspecies to replicate intracellularly and to characterise the gene expression program triggered by infection of human primary macrophages.
All isolates were able to invade and persist within human macrophages. However, intracellular replication was only evident in cells infected with the two Maa isolates. Transcriptional responses to the isolates were characterized by upregulation of genes involved in apoptosis, immune- and inflammatory response, signal transduction and NF-kB signaling, cell proliferation and T-cell activation. Although similar pathways and networks were perturbed by the different isolates, the response to the Maa subspecies was exaggerated, and there was evidence of increased activation of type I and II interferon signaling pathways.
Mycobacterium avium isolates of different genetic characteristics invaded monocytes and induced different degree of macrophage activation. Isolates of Maa were able to replicate intracellularly suggesting that differences in exposure, uptake or induction of adaptive immunity are more likely explanations for the difference in prevalence between M. avium subspecies.
PMCID: PMC3906092  PMID: 24450835
Mycobacterium avium; Human macrophages; Gene expression
4.  A comparative study of Mycobacterium avium subsp. avium and Mycobacterium avium subsp. hominissuis in experimentally infected pigs 
Mycobacterium avium subsp. avium (Maa) and Mycobacterium avium subsp. hominissuis (Mah) are opportunistic pathogens that may infect several species, including humans and pigs. Mah is however more frequently isolated from pigs than Maa, and it is unclear if this is due to difference in virulence or in exposure to the two organisms. Clinical isolates of each subspecies were administered perorally to ten domestic pigs, respectively. The animals were sacrificed at six and 12 weeks after inoculation. At necropsy, macroscopic lesions were recorded, and tissue samples were collected for mycobacterial culture, IS1245 real time PCR and histopathological examination. Culturing was also performed on faecal samples collected at necropsy.
Macroscopic and histopathological lesions were detected in pigs infected with each subspecies, and bacterial growth and histopathological changes were demonstrated, also in samples from organs without gross pathological lesions. Six weeks after inoculation, live Mah was detected in faeces, as opposed to Maa. The presence of live mycobacteria was also more pronounced in Mah infected tonsils. In comparison, the Maa isolate appeared to have a higher ability of intracellular replication in porcine macrophages compared to the Mah isolate.
The study shows that both subspecies were able to infect pigs. Additionally, the more extensive shedding of Mah might cause pig-to-pig transmission and contribute to the higher incidence of infection caused by this subspecies.
PMCID: PMC3296603  PMID: 22284630
Mycobacterium avium; Experimentally infected pigs; Transmission; Source of infection
5.  Biofilm formation by Mycobacterium avium isolates originating from humans, swine and birds 
BMC Microbiology  2009;9:159.
Mycobacterium avium includes the subspecies avium, silvaticum, paratuberculosis and hominissuis, and M. avium subspecies has been isolated from various environments all over the world including from biofilms in water distribution systems. The aim of this study was to examine isolates of M. avium subsp. avium and M. avium subsp. hominissuis of different origin for biofilm formation and to look for correlations between biofilm formation and RFLP-types, and to standardise the method to test for biofilm formation. In order to determine the best screening method, a panel of 14 isolates of M. avium subsp. avium and M. avium subsp. hominissuis, were tested for their ability to form biofilm in microtiter plates under different conditions. Subsequently, 83 additional isolates from humans, swine and birds were tested for biofilm formation. The isolates were tested for the presence of selected genes involved in the synthesis of glycopeptidolipids (GPLs) in the cell wall of M. avium, which is believed to be important for biofilm formation. Colony morphology and hsp65 sequvar were also determined.
Nine isolates from swine produced biofilm. There was a significant higher frequency of porcine isolates forming biofilm compared to human isolates. All isolates were previously characterised by IS1311- and IS1245-RFLP typing. The ability to form biofilm did not correlate with the RFLP-type, hsp65 sequevar, colony morphology or the presence of gene sequences related to GPL synthesis.
The observed differences in biofilm forming abilities between porcine and human isolates raises questions regarding the importance of biofilm formation for infectious potential. The optimised method worked well for screening of multiple isolates.
PMCID: PMC2741467  PMID: 19660141
6.  Virulence-related Mycobacterium avium subsp hominissuis MAV_2928 gene is associated with vacuole remodeling in macrophages 
BMC Microbiology  2010;10:100.
Mycobacterium avium subsp hominissuis (previously Mycobacterium avium subsp avium) is an environmental organism associated with opportunistic infections in humans. Mycobacterium hominissuis infects and replicates within mononuclear phagocytes. Previous study characterized an attenuated mutant in which the PPE gene (MAV_2928) homologous to Rv1787 was inactivated. This mutant, in contrast to the wild-type bacterium, was shown both to have impaired the ability to replicate within macrophages and to have prevented phagosome/lysosome fusion.
MAV_2928 gene is primarily upregulated upon phagocytosis. The transcriptional profile of macrophages infected with the wild-type bacterium and the mutant were examined using DNA microarray, which showed that the two bacteria interact uniquely with mononuclear phagocytes. Based on the results, it was hypothesized that the phagosome environment and vacuole membrane of the wild-type bacterium might differ from the mutant. Wild-type bacterium phagosomes expressed a number of proteins different from those infected with the mutant. Proteins on the phagosomes were confirmed by fluorescence microscopy and Western blot. The environment in the phagosome of macrophages infected with the mutant differed from the environment of vacuoles with M. hominissuis wild-type in the concentration of zinc, manganese, calcium and potassium.
The results suggest that the MAV_2928 gene/operon might participate in the establishment of bacterial intracellular environment in macrophages.
PMCID: PMC2882924  PMID: 20359357
7.  Discovery of Stable and Variable Differences in the Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis Type I, II, and III Genomes by Pan-Genome Microarray Analysis▿ †  
Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis is an important animal pathogen widely disseminated in the environment that has also been associated with Crohn's disease in humans. Three M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis genomotypes are recognized, but genomic differences have not been fully described. To further investigate these potential differences, a 60-mer oligonucleotide microarray (designated the MAPAC array), based on the combined genomes of M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis (strain K-10) and Mycobacterium avium subsp. hominissuis (strain 104), was designed and validated. By use of a test panel of defined M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis strains, the MAPAC array was able to identify a set of large sequence polymorphisms (LSPs) diagnostic for each of the three major M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis types. M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis type II strains contained a smaller genomic complement than M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis type I and M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis type III genomotypes, which included a set of genomic regions also found in M. avium subsp. hominissuis 104. Specific PCRs for genes within LSPs that differentiated M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis types were devised and shown to accurately screen a panel (n = 78) of M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis strains. Analysis of insertion/deletion region INDEL12 showed deletion events causing a reduction in the complement of mycobacterial cell entry genes in M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis type II strains and significantly altering the coding of a major immunologic protein (MPT64) associated with persistence and granuloma formation. Analysis of MAPAC data also identified signal variations in several genomic regions, termed variable genomic islands (vGIs), suggestive of transient duplication/deletion events. vGIs contained significantly low GC% and were immediately flanked by insertion sequences, integrases, or short inverted repeat sequences. Quantitative PCR demonstrated that variation in vGI signals could be associated with colony growth rate and morphology.
PMCID: PMC2632155  PMID: 19047395
8.  Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis and M. avium subsp. avium Are Independently Evolved Pathogenic Clones of a Much Broader Group of M. avium Organisms▿ †  
Journal of Bacteriology  2008;190(7):2479-2487.
Mycobacterium avium comprises organisms that share the same species designation despite considerable genomic and phenotypic variability. To determine the degree and nature of variability between subspecies and strains of M. avium, we used multilocus sequencing analysis, studying 56 genetically diverse strains of M. avium that included all described subspecies. In total, 8,064 bp of sequence from 10 gene loci were studied, with 205 (2.5%) representing variable positions. The majority (149/205) of these variations were found among M. avium subsp. hominissuis organisms. Recombination was also evident in this subspecies. In contrast, there was comparatively little variability and no evidence of recombination within the pathogenic subspecies, M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis, M. avium subsp. avium, and M. avium subsp. silvaticum. Phylogenetic analysis showed that M. avium subsp. avium and M. avium subsp. silvaticum strains clustered together on one branch, while a distinct branch defined M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis organisms. Despite the independent origin of these pathogenic subspecies, an analysis of their rates of nonsynonymous (dN) to synonymous (dS) substitutions showed increased dN/dS ratios for both: 0.67 for M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis and 0.50 for M. avium subsp. avium/M. avium subsp. silvaticum, while the value was 0.08 for M. avium subsp. hominissuis organisms. In conclusion, M. avium subsp. hominissuis represents a diverse group of organisms from which two pathogenic clones (M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis and M. avium subsp. avium/M. avium subsp. silvaticum) have evolved independently.
PMCID: PMC2293204  PMID: 18245284
9.  Non-tuberculous mycobacteria isolated from slaughter pigs in Mubende district, Uganda 
The importance of infections caused by non-tuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) in animals and humans has gained considerable recognition during the past few years. In the developed world, where pig production is extensively practiced, studies on mycobacterial infections and related control strategies have received increasing attention. The infections are reported to be caused by a wide spectrum of NTM. Unfortunately, these infections have been less recognized in sub-Saharan Africa owing to lack of awareness and systematic studies. In this study we aimed at isolating and identifying species of mycobacteria involved in causing infections in slaughter pigs in Mubende district of Uganda. Furthermore we wanted to identify factors associated with infection prevalence in the study area.
A total of 363 lymph nodes were collected and cultured for the presence of mycobacteria. Isolates were identified by 16S rDNA gene sequencing. A questionnaire survey was administered to identify production related factors associated with infection prevalence. Data were assembled and analysed using descriptive statistics and mixed effects logistic regression analysis.
Mycobacteria were detected in 39 % (143/363) of the examined lymph nodes, 63 % (59/93) of lymph nodes with gross lesions typical of mycobacteriosis and 31% (84/270) of lymph nodes with no visible lesions. Nineteen per cent of the isolated mycobacteria were identified as Mycobacterium (M) avium, of these 78% and 22% were M. avium sub sp. Hominissuis and avium respectively. Other mycobacterial species included M. senuense (16%), M. terrae (7%) and M. asiaticum (6%). This study found free range systems (OR = 3.0; P = 0.034) and use of water from valley dams (OR = 2.0; P = 0.049) as factors associated with high prevalence of mycobacteria in slaughter pigs.
This study demonstrated a high prevalence of NTM infections among slaughter pigs in Mubende district of Uganda. M. avium was the most prevalent of all NTM isolated and identified. Free range system of pig management and valley dam water were the most significant factors associated with NTM prevalence in Mubende district. These findings could be of a major public health concern given that it is in a predominantly pork consuming population with 18% HIV/AIDS prevalence. Therefore, stringent post-mortem inspection at the slaughter houses is of paramount importance to reduce human exposure.
PMCID: PMC3490772  PMID: 22564290
10.  Nontuberculous mycobacteria in respiratory samples from patients with pulmonary tuberculosis in the state of Rondônia, Brazil 
Memórias do Instituto Oswaldo Cruz  2013;108(4):457-462.
The main cause of pulmonary tuberculosis (TB) is infection with Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB). We aimed to evaluate the contribution of nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) to pulmonary disease in patients from the state of Rondônia using respiratory samples and epidemiological data from TB cases. Mycobacterium isolates were identified using a combination of conventional tests, polymerase chain reaction-based restriction enzyme analysis of hsp65 gene and hsp65 gene sequencing. Among the 1,812 cases suspected of having pulmonary TB, 444 yielded bacterial cultures, including 369 cases positive for MTB and 75 cases positive for NTM. Within the latter group, 14 species were identified as Mycobacterium abscessus, Mycobacterium avium, Mycobacterium fortuitum, Mycobacterium intracellulare, Mycobacterium gilvum, Mycobacterium gordonae, Mycobacterium asiaticum, Mycobacterium tusciae, Mycobacterium porcinum, Mycobacterium novocastrense, Mycobacterium simiae, Mycobacterium szulgai, Mycobacterium phlei and Mycobacterium holsaticum and 13 isolates could not be identified at the species level. The majority of NTM cases were observed in Porto Velho and the relative frequency of NTM compared with MTB was highest in Ji-Paraná. In approximately half of the TB subjects with NTM, a second sample containing NTM was obtained, confirming this as the disease-causing agent. The most frequently observed NTM species were M. abscessus and M. avium and because the former species is resistant to many antibiotics and displays unsatisfactory cure rates, the implementation of rapid identification of mycobacterium species is of considerable importance.
PMCID: PMC3970618  PMID: 23827995
pulmonary tuberculosis; nontuberculous mycobacteria; PRA; Rondônia; Brazil
11.  The Mycobacterium avium ESX-5 PPE protein, PPE25-MAV, Interacts with an ESAT-6 Family Protein, MAV_2921, and Localizes to the Bacterial Surface 
Microbial pathogenesis  2012;52(4):10.1016/j.micpath.2012.01.004.
Previous research has demonstrated that inactivation of the Mycobacterium avium gene, PPE25-MAV (MAV-2928), leads to a significant attenuation of virulence in both in vitro and in vivo models. PPE25-MAV encodes for a PPE family protein, a family from which many members have been implicated in both bacterial virulence and host immune recognition. Recent research has shown that many PPE family proteins are exported by a specialized Type VII secretion system in mycobacteria. In this context, the mechanisms of PPE25-MAV in M. avium pathogenesis were investigated. A mycobacterial 2-hybrid system was used to perform a directed search for M. avium proteins that interact directly with PPE25-MAV. An interaction was observed between PPE25-MAV and the ESAT-6 family protein, MAV_2921, and was further defined by 2-hybrid analysis of truncated PPE25-MAV, and confirmed by co-immunoprecipitation. Localization of the PPE25-MAV protein was analyzed in Mycobacterium smegmatis expressing the recombinant protein and a significant percentage of PPE25-MAV was shown to be exposed at the bacterial surface by surface biotinylation and trypsin protection assays. Finally, transcriptional analysis of PPE25-MAV and its associated operon suggested that nutrient limitation, a condition which occurs in the phagosome, plays a role in regulating expression of the PPE25-MAV gene.
PMCID: PMC3883564  PMID: 22265661
Mycobacterium avium; ESX-5; PPE25-MAV; interaction; pathogenesis
12.  Identification of virulence determinants of Mycobacterium avium that impact on the ability to resist host killing mechanisms 
Journal of Medical Microbiology  2010;59(Pt 1):8-16.
Mycobacterium avium is an opportunistic pathogen associated with pulmonary disease in non-AIDS patients and disseminated infection in patients with AIDS. The chief route of infection is by colonization and invasion of the mucosa of the gastrointestinal tract, but infection through the respiratory route also occurs. After crossing the mucosa, M. avium infects and replicates within tissue macrophages. To identify M. avium genes required for survival in vivo, a library of signature-tagged transposon mutants was constructed and screened for clones attenuated in mice. Thirty-two clones were found to be attenuated for their virulence, from which eleven were sequenced and tested further. All the mutants studied grew similarly in vitro to the wild-type MAC104. Ten mutants were tested individually in mice, confirming the attenuated phenotype. MAV_2450, a polyketide synthase homologue to Mycobacterium tuberculosis pks12, was identified. STM5 and STM10 genes (encoding two hypothetical proteins MAV_4292 and MAV_4012) were associated with susceptibility to oxidative products. Mutants MAV_2450, MAV_4292, MAV_0385 and MAV_4264 live in macrophage vacuoles with acidic pH (below 6.9). Mutants MAV_4292, MAV_0385 and MAV_4264 were susceptible to nitric oxide in vitro. The study of individual mutants can potentially lead to new knowledge about M. avium pathogenic mechanisms.
PMCID: PMC2887559  PMID: 19745033
13.  Genomic Comparison of PE and PPE Genes in the Mycobacterium avium Complex▿ †  
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2009;47(4):1002-1011.
The Mycobacterium avium complex (MAC) comprises genomically similar but phenotypically divergent bacteria that inhabit diverse environments and that cause disease in different hosts. In this study, a whole-genome approach was used to examine the polymorphic PE (Pro-Glu) and PPE (Pro-Pro-Glu) gene families, implicated in immunostimulation and virulence. The four major groups of MAC organisms were examined, including the newly sequenced type strains of M. intracellulare and M. avium subsp. avium, plus M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis and M. avium subsp. hominissuis, for the purpose of finding genetic differences that could be exploited to design diagnostic tests specific to these groups and that could help explain their divergence in pathogenesis and host specificity. Unique and missing PPE genes were found in all MAC members except M. avium subsp. avium. Only M. intracellulare had a unique PE gene. Apart from this, most PE and PPE sequences were conserved, with average nucleotide sequence identities of 99.1 and 98.1%, respectively, among the M. avium subspecies, but only 82.9 and 79.7% identities with the PE and PPE sequences of M. intracellulare, respectively. A detailed analysis of the amino acid sequences was performed between M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis and M. avium subsp. hominissuis. Most differences were detected in the PPE proteins, with amino acid substitutions and frame shifts leading to unique amino acid sequences. In conclusion, several unique PPE proteins were identified in MAC organisms next to numerous polymorphisms in both the PE and PPE gene families. These substantial differences could help explain the divergence in phenotypes within the MAC and could lead to diagnostic tests with better discriminatory abilities.
PMCID: PMC2668356  PMID: 19144814
14.  Differential Responses of Bovine Macrophages to Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis and Mycobacterium avium subsp. avium  
Infection and Immunity  2002;70(10):5556-5561.
Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis and Mycobacterium avium subsp. avium are antigenically and genetically similar organisms; however, they differ in their virulence for cattle. M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis causes a chronic intestinal infection leading to a chronic wasting disease termed paratuberculosis or Johne's disease, whereas M. avium subsp. avium causes only a transient infection. We compared the response of bovine monocyte-derived macrophages to ingestion of M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis and M. avium subsp. avium organisms by determining organism survival, superoxide and nitric oxide production, and expression of the cytokines tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α), gamma interferon (IFN-γ), interleukin-8 (IL-8), IL-10, IL-12, and granulocyte-monocyte colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF). Unlike M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis, macrophages were able to kill approximately half of the M. avium subsp. avium organisms after 96 h of incubation. This difference in killing efficiency was not related to differences in nitric oxide or superoxide production. Compared to macrophages activated with IFN-γ and lipopolysaccharide, macrophages incubated with M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis showed greater expression of IL-10 and GM-CSF (all time points) and IL-8 (72 h) and less expression of IL-12 (72 h), IFN-γ (6 h), and TNF-α (6 h). When cytokine expression by macrophages incubated with M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis was compared to those of macrophages incubated with M. avium subsp. avium, M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis-infected cells showed greater expression of IL-10 (6 and 24 h) and less expression of TNF-α (6 h). Therefore, the combination of inherent resistance to intracellular degradation and suppression of macrophage activation through oversecretion of IL-10 may contribute to the virulence of M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis in cattle.
PMCID: PMC128321  PMID: 12228282
15.  Disruption of Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis-specific genes impairs in vivo fitness 
BMC Genomics  2014;15(1):415.
Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis (MAP) is an obligate intracellular pathogen that infects many ruminant species. The acquisition of foreign genes via horizontal gene transfer has been postulated to contribute to its pathogenesis, as these genetic elements are absent from its putative ancestor, M. avium subsp. hominissuis (MAH), an environmental organism with lesser pathogenicity. In this study, high-throughput sequencing of MAP transposon libraries were analyzed to qualitatively and quantitatively determine the contribution of individual genes to bacterial survival during infection.
Out of 52384 TA dinucleotides present in the MAP K-10 genome, 12607 had a MycoMarT7 transposon in the input pool, interrupting 2443 of the 4350 genes in the MAP genome (56%). Of 96 genes situated in MAP-specific genomic islands, 82 were disrupted in the input pool, indicating that MAP-specific genomic regions are dispensable for in vitro growth (odds ratio = 0.21). Following 5 independent in vivo infections with this pool of mutants, the correlation between output pools was high for 4 of 5 (R = 0.49 to 0.61) enabling us to define genes whose disruption reproducibly reduced bacterial fitness in vivo. At three different thresholds for reduced fitness in vivo, MAP-specific genes were over-represented in the list of predicted essential genes. We also identified additional genes that were severely depleted after infection, and several of them have orthologues that are essential genes in M. tuberculosis.
This work indicates that the genetic elements required for the in vivo survival of MAP represent a combination of conserved mycobacterial virulence genes and MAP-specific genes acquired via horizontal gene transfer. In addition, the in vitro and in vivo essential genes identified in this study may be further characterized to offer a better understanding of MAP pathogenesis, and potentially contribute to the discovery of novel therapeutic and vaccine targets.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1471-2164-15-415) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4058006  PMID: 24885784
Mycobacterium avium; M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis; Transposon insertion sequencing; Horizontal gene transfer; Mycobacterial pathogenesis
16.  “Mycobacterium avium subsp. hominissuis” in Neck Lymph Nodes of Children and their Environment Examined by Culture and Triplex Quantitative Real-Time PCR ▿  
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2010;49(1):167-172.
“Mycobacterium avium subsp. hominissuis” often causes cervical lymphadenitis in children; its prompt and accurate identification enables adequate therapy, tracing, and prevention. The aims of this study were to determine the causative agent of lymphadenitis using culture, PCR, and triplex quantitative real-time PCR (qPCR) methods with DNA directly isolated from tissue, as well as to identify possible sources of infection from the environment. We confirmed the diagnoses by detecting M. avium subsp. hominissuis using qPCR with DNA directly isolated from lymph node biopsy specimens of two patients. In order to trace the source of infection from the environment, a method of DNA isolation from soil and other environmental samples, such as dust, cobwebs, and compost, was developed. The triplex qPCR examination revealed the presence of M. avium subsp. hominissuis in a high proportion of the environmental samples (42.8% in the first patient's house and 47.6% in the second patient's house). Both patients were also exposed to M. avium subsp. avium, which was present due to the breeding of infected domestic hens. The high infectious dose of M. avium subsp. hominissuis or the increased susceptibility of humans to M. avium subsp. hominissuis compared to M. avium subsp. avium could be the reason why the children were infected with M. avium subsp. hominissuis.
PMCID: PMC3020421  PMID: 21084514
17.  Virulence and Immune Response Induced by Mycobacterium avium Complex Strains in a Model of Progressive Pulmonary Tuberculosis and Subcutaneous Infection in BALB/c Mice 
Infection and Immunity  2013;81(11):4001-4012.
The genus Mycobacterium comprises more than 150 species, including important pathogens for humans which cause major public health problems. The vast majority of efforts to understand the genus have been addressed in studies with Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The biological differentiation between M. tuberculosis and nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) is important because there are distinctions in the sources of infection, treatments, and the course of disease. Likewise, the importance of studying NTM is not only due to its clinical significance but also due to the mechanisms by which some species are pathogenic while others are not. Mycobacterium avium complex (MAC) is the most important group of NTM opportunistic pathogens, since it is the second largest medical complex in the genus after the M. tuberculosis complex. Here, we evaluated the virulence and immune response of M. avium subsp. avium and Mycobacterium colombiense, using experimental models of progressive pulmonary tuberculosis and subcutaneous infection in BALB/c mice. Mice infected intratracheally with a high dose of MAC strains showed high expression of tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) and inducible nitric oxide synthase with rapid bacillus elimination and numerous granulomas, but without lung consolidation during late infection in coexistence with high expression of anti-inflammatory cytokines. In contrast, subcutaneous infection showed high production of the proinflammatory cytokines TNF-α and gamma interferon with relatively low production of anti-inflammatory cytokines such as interleukin-10 (IL-10) or IL-4, which efficiently eliminate the bacilli but maintain extensive inflammation and fibrosis. Thus, MAC infection evokes different immune and inflammatory responses depending on the MAC species and affected tissue.
PMCID: PMC3811829  PMID: 23959717
18.  Distribution of Nontuberculous Mycobacteria by Multigene Sequence-Based Typing and Clinical Significance of Isolated Strains 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2014;52(4):1207-1212.
Species identification of nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) is challenging due to the increasing number of identified NTM species and the lack of standardized testing strategies. The objectives of this study were to investigate the distribution of NTM species recovered from respiratory specimens by multigene sequence-based typing and to evaluate the clinical significance of identified species. Two hundred thirty-two consecutive clinical NTM isolates were subjected to sequencing of multiple genes, including hsp65, rpoB, and 16S-23S rRNA internal transcribed spacer (ITS) sequence. In addition, clinical data from all patients whose specimens had NTM isolates were analyzed to examine clinical virulence and treatment history. Eighteen strains from 227 isolates from 169 patients were successfully identified at the species level by multigene sequence-based typing. Mycobacterium avium complex and M. abscessus complex made up the majority of isolated NTM (88%; 199/227), followed by M. fortuitum complex (4%; 10/227). The pathogenic potential of NTM differs enormously by species, and M. avium complex and M. abscessus complex revealed especially high levels of virulence compared with findings for other NTM species. The results from our work support M. avium complex and M. abscessus complex being the most common NTM species with highly pathogenic potential isolated from clinical respiratory specimens and could be a good resource for molecular epidemiology of NTM species in South Korea.
PMCID: PMC3993509  PMID: 24501029
19.  Lymphadenitis in children is caused by Mycobacterium avium hominissuis and not related to ‘bird tuberculosis’ 
Mycobacterium avium is the most commonly encountered mycobacterium species among non-Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex (nontuberculous mycobacteria) isolates worldwide and frequently causes lymphadenitis in children. During a multi-centre study in The Netherlands that was performed to determine the optimal treatment for mycobacterial lymphadenitis, concern was expressed in the media about the possible role of birds as sources of these M. avium infections, referred to as ‘bird tuberculosis.’ To examine the involvement of birds in mycobacterial lymphadenitis, 34 M. avium isolates from lymphadenitis cases were subjected to IS1245 restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) typing. This genotyping method enables the distinction of the subspecies M. avium subsp. hominissuis and the ‘bird-type’ M. avium spp. avium. Highly variable RFLP patterns were found among the lymphadenitis M. avium isolates, and all belonged to the M. avium hominissuis subspecies. A relation to pet birds in the etiology of mycobacterial lymphadenitis could not be established, and the source of the infections may be environmental.
PMCID: PMC2270917  PMID: 18320245
20.  Failure to Recognize Nontuberculous Mycobacteria Leads to Misdiagnosis of Chronic Pulmonary Tuberculosis 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e36902.
Nontuberculous mycobacterial (NTM) infections cause morbidity worldwide. They are difficult to diagnose in resource-limited regions, and most patients receive empiric treatment for tuberculosis (TB). Our objective here is to evaluate the potential impact of NTM diseases among patients treated presumptively for tuberculosis in Mali.
We re-evaluated sputum specimens among patients newly diagnosed with TB (naïve) and those previously treated for TB disease (chronic cases). Sputum microscopy, culture and Mycobacterium tuberculosis drug susceptibility testing were performed. Identification of strains was performed using molecular probes or sequencing of secA1 and/or 16S rRNA genes.
Of 142 patients enrolled, 61 (43%) were clinically classified as chronic cases and 17 (12%) were infected with NTM. Eleven of the 142 (8%) patients had NTM disease alone (8 M. avium, 2 M. simiae and 1 M. palustre). All these 11 were from the chronic TB group, comprising 11/61 (18%) of that group and all were identified as candidates for second line treatment. The remaining 6/17 (35.30%) NTM infected patients had coinfection with M. tuberculosis and all 6 were from the TB treatment naïve group. These 6 were candidates for the standard first line treatment regimen of TB. M. avium was identified in 11 of the 142 (8%) patients, only 3/11 (27.27%) of whom were HIV positive.
NTM infections should be considered a cause of morbidity in TB endemic environments especially when managing chronic TB cases to limit morbidity and provide appropriate treatment.
PMCID: PMC3353983  PMID: 22615839
21.  Determination of Genotypic Diversity of Mycobacterium avium Subspecies from Human and Animal Origins by Mycobacterial Interspersed Repetitive-Unit-Variable-Number Tandem-Repeat and IS1311 Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism Typing Methods ▿ †  
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2010;48(4):1026-1034.
Members of the Mycobacterium avium complex (MAC) are ubiquitous bacteria that can be found in water, food, and other environmental samples and are considered opportunistic pathogens for numerous animal species, mainly birds and pigs, as well as for humans. We have recently demonstrated the usefulness of a PCR-based mycobacterial interspersed repetitive-unit-variable-number tandem-repeat (MIRU-VNTR) typing for the molecular characterization of M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis and M. avium strains exclusively isolated from AIDS patients. In the present study we extended our analysis, based on eight MIRU-VNTR markers, to a strain collection comprehensively comprising the other M. avium subspecies, including M. avium subsp. avium, M. avium subsp. hominissuis, and M. avium subsp. silvaticum, isolated from numerous animal species, HIV-positive and HIV-negative humans, and environmental sources. All strains were fully typeable, with the discriminatory index being 0.885, which is almost equal to that obtained by IS1311 restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) typing as a reference. In contrast to IS1311 RFLP typing, MIRU-VNTR typing was able to further discriminate M. avium subsp. avium strains. MIRU-VNTR alleles strongly associated with or specific for M. avium subspecies were detected in several markers. Moreover, the MIRU-VNTR typing-based results were consistent with a scenario of the independent evolution of M. avium subsp. avium/M. avium subsp. silvaticum and M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis from M. avium subsp. hominissuis, previously proposed on the basis of multilocus sequence analysis. MIRU-VNTR typing therefore appears to be a convenient typing method capable of distinguishing the three main subspecies and strains of the complex and providing new epidemiological knowledge on MAC.
PMCID: PMC2849548  PMID: 20107094
22.  Efficient Differentiation of Mycobacterium avium Complex Species and Subspecies by Use of Five-Target Multiplex PCR▿  
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2010;48(11):4057-4062.
Infections caused by the Mycobacterium avium complex (MAC) are on the rise in both human and veterinary medicine. A means of effectively discriminating among closely related yet pathogenetically diverse members of the MAC would enable better diagnosis and treatment as well as further our understanding of the epidemiology of these pathogens. In this study, a five-target multiplex PCR designed to discriminate MAC organisms isolated from liquid culture media was developed. This MAC multiplex was designed to amplify a 16S rRNA gene target common to all Mycobacterium species, a chromosomal target called DT1 that is unique to M. avium subsp. avium serotypes 2 and 3, to M. avium subsp. silvaticum, and to M. intracellulare, and three insertion sequences, IS900, IS901, and IS1311. The pattern of amplification results allowed determination of whether isolates were mycobacteria, whether they were members of the MAC, and whether they belonged to one of three major MAC subspecies, M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis, M. avium subsp. avium, and M. avium subsp. hominissuis. Analytical sensitivity was 10 fg of M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis genomic DNA, 5 to 10 fg of M. avium subsp. avium genomic DNA, and 2 to 5 fg of DNA from other mycobacterial species. Identification accuracy of the MAC multiplex was evaluated by testing 53 bacterial reference strains consisting of 28 different mycobacterial species and 12 nonmycobacterial species. Identification accuracy in a clinical setting was evaluated for 223 clinical MAC isolates independently identified by other methods. Isolate identification agreement between the MAC multiplex and these comparison assays was 100%. The novel MAC multiplex is a rapid, reliable, and simple assay for discrimination of MAC species and subspecies in liquid culture media.
PMCID: PMC3020869  PMID: 20810779
23.  Demonstration of Allelic Exchange in the Slow-Growing Bacterium Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis, and Generation of Mutants with Deletions at the pknG, relA, and lsr2 Loci▿  
Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis is the causative pathogen of Johne's disease, a chronic inflammatory wasting disease in ruminants. This disease has been difficult to control because of the lack of an effective vaccine. To address this need, we adapted a specialized transduction system originally developed for M. tuberculosis and modified it to improve the efficiency of allelic exchange in order to generate site-directed mutations in preselected M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis genes. With our novel optimized method, the allelic exchange frequency was 78 to 100% and the transduction frequency was 1.1 × 10−7 to 2.9 × 10−7. Three genes were selected for mutagenesis: pknG and relA, which are genes that are known to be important virulence factors in M. tuberculosis and M. bovis, and lsr2, a gene regulating lipid biosynthesis and antibiotic resistance. Mutants were successfully generated with a virulent strain of M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis (M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis K10) and with a recombinant K10 strain expressing the green fluorescent protein gene, gfp. The improved efficiency of disruption of selected genes in M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis should accelerate development of additional mutants for vaccine testing and functional studies.
PMCID: PMC2268294  PMID: 18192416
24.  Surface-exposed proteins of pathogenic mycobacteria and the role of cu-zn superoxide dismutase in macrophages and neutrophil survival 
Proteome Science  2013;11:45.
Pathogenic mycobacteria are important agents causing human disease. Mycobacterium avium subsp. hominissuis (M. avium) is a species of recalcitrant environmental pathogen. The bacterium forms robust biofilms that allow it to colonize and persist in austere environments, such as residential and commercial water systems. M. avium is also an opportunistic pathogen that is a significant source of mortality for immune-compromised individuals. Proteins exposed at the bacterial surface play a central role in mediating the relationship between the bacterium and its environment. The processes underlying both biofilm formation and pathogenesis are directly dependent on this essential subset of the bacterial proteome. Therefore, the characterization of the surface-exposed proteome is an important step towards an improved understanding of the mycobacterial biology and pathogenesis. Here we examined the complement of surface exposed proteins from Mycobacterium avium 104, a clinical isolate and reference strain of Mycobacterium avium subsp. hominissuis. To profile the surface-exposed proteins of viable M. avium 104, bacteria were covalently labeled with a membrane impermeable biotinylation reagent and labeled proteins were affinity purified via the biotin-streptavidin interaction. The results provide a helpful snapshot of the surface-exposed proteome of this frequently utilized reference strain of M. avium. A Cu-Zn SOD knockout mutant, MAV_2043, a surface identified protein, was evaluated regarding its role in the survival in both macrophages and neutrophils.
PMCID: PMC4176128  PMID: 24283571
Mycobacterium avium; Surface-exposed proteome; Shotgun proteomics; Cu-Zn SOD
25.  Mycobacterium avium Biofilm Attenuates Mononuclear Phagocyte Function by Triggering Hyperstimulation and Apoptosis during Early Infection 
Infection and Immunity  2014;82(1):405-412.
Mycobacterium avium subsp. hominissuis is an opportunistic human pathogen that has been shown to form biofilm in vitro and in vivo. Biofilm formation in vivo appears to be associated with infections in the respiratory tract of the host. The reasoning behind how M. avium subsp. hominissuis biofilm is allowed to establish and persist without being cleared by the innate immune system is currently unknown. To identify the mechanism responsible for this, we developed an in vitro model using THP-1 human mononuclear phagocytes cocultured with established M. avium subsp. hominissuis biofilm and surveyed various aspects of the interaction, including phagocyte stimulation and response, bacterial killing, and apoptosis. M. avium subsp. hominissuis biofilm triggered robust tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) release from THP-1 cells as well as superoxide and nitric oxide production. Surprisingly, the hyperstimulated phagocytes did not effectively eliminate the cells of the biofilm, even when prestimulated with gamma interferon (IFN-γ) or TNF-α or cocultured with natural killer cells (which have been shown to induce anti-M. avium subsp. hominissuis activity when added to THP-1 cells infected with planktonic M. avium subsp. hominissuis). Time-lapse microscopy and the TUNEL (terminal deoxynucleotidyltransferase-mediated dUTP-biotin nick end labeling) assay determined that contact with the M. avium subsp. hominissuis biofilm led to early, widespread onset of apoptosis, which is not seen until much later in planktonic M. avium subsp. hominissuis infection. Blocking TNF-α or TNF-R1 during interaction with the biofilm significantly reduced THP-1 apoptosis but did not lead to elimination of M. avium subsp. hominissuis. Our data collectively indicate that M. avium subsp. hominissuis biofilm induces TNF-α-driven hyperstimulation and apoptosis of surveilling phagocytes, which prevents clearance of the biofilm by cells of the innate immune system and allows the biofilm-associated infection to persist.
PMCID: PMC3911830  PMID: 24191301

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