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1.  Characterization of CrgA, a New Partner of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis Peptidoglycan Polymerization Complexes▿† 
Journal of Bacteriology  2011;193(13):3246-3256.
The role(s) in cell division of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis Rv0011c gene product, a homolog of the Streptomyces CrgA protein that is responsible for coordinating growth and cytokinesis in sporogenic aerial hyphae, is largely unknown. We show that an enhanced cyan fluorescent protein-M. tuberculosis CrgA (ECFP-CrgAMT) fusion protein is localized to the cell membrane, midcell, and cell pole regions in Mycobacterium smegmatis. Furthermore, the ECFP-CrgAMT fusion protein colocalized with FtsZ-enhanced yellow fluorescent protein (EYFP) in M. smegmatis. Bacterial two-hybrid assays indicated strong interactions of M. tuberculosis CrgA with FtsZ, FtsQ, and the class B penicillin-binding proteins, FtsI (PBPB) and PBPA. The midcell localization of CrgAMT was severely compromised under conditions of FtsZ depletion, which indicated that CrgA localizes to the midcell region after assembly of the FtsZ ring. M. tuberculosis cells with reduced CrgA levels were elongated and grew more slowly than wild-type cells, which indicated defects in cell division, whereas CrgA overproduction did not show growth defects. A M. smegmatis ΔcrgA strain exhibited a bulged cell morphology, elongated cells with a chain-like phenotype, cells with polar bulbous structures, and a modest growth defect. FtsZ and FtsI levels were not affected in cells producing altered levels of CrgA. Septal and membrane localization of GFP-FtsI was enhanced by CrgA overproduction and was diminished in a ΔcrgA strain, which indicates that one role of CrgA is to promote and/or stabilize FtsI localization. Overall, these data indicate that CrgA is a novel member of the cell division complex in mycobacteria and possibly facilitates septum formation.
PMCID: PMC3133284  PMID: 21531798
2.  The Product of a Developmental Gene, crgA, That Coordinates Reproductive Growth in Streptomyces Belongs to a Novel Family of Small Actinomycete-Specific Proteins 
Journal of Bacteriology  2003;185(22):6678-6685.
On solid media, the reproductive growth of Streptomyces involves antibiotic biosynthesis coincident with the erection of filamentous aerial hyphae. Following cessation of growth of an aerial hypha, multiple septation occurs at the tip to form a chain of unigenomic spores. A gene, crgA, that coordinates several aspects of this reproductive growth is described. The gene product is representative of a well-conserved family of small actinomycete proteins with two C-terminal hydrophobic-potential membrane-spanning segments. In Streptomyces avermitilis, crgA is required for sporulation, and inactivation of the gene abolished most sporulation septation in aerial hyphae. Disruption of the orthologous gene in Streptomyces coelicolor indicates that whereas CrgA is not essential for sporulation in this species, during growth on glucose-containing media, it influences the timing of the onset of reproductive growth, with precocious erection of aerial hyphae and antibiotic production by the mutant. Moreover, CrgA subsequently acts to inhibit sporulation septation prior to growth arrest of aerial hyphae. Overexpression of CrgA in S. coelicolor, uncoupling any nutritional and growth phase-dependent regulation, results in growth of nonseptated aerial hyphae on all media tested, consistent with a role for the protein in inhibiting sporulation septation.
PMCID: PMC262101  PMID: 14594842
3.  Mycobacterium tuberculosis CwsA Interacts with CrgA and Wag31, and the CrgA-CwsA Complex Is Involved in Peptidoglycan Synthesis and Cell Shape Determination 
Journal of Bacteriology  2012;194(23):6398-6409.
Bacterial cell division and cell wall synthesis are highly coordinated processes involving multiple proteins. Here, we show that Rv0008c, a novel small membrane protein from Mycobacterium tuberculosis, localizes to the poles and on membranes and shows an overall punctate localization throughout the cell. Furthermore, Rv0008c interacts with two proteins, CrgA and Wag31, implicated in peptidoglycan (PG) synthesis in mycobacteria. Deletion of the Rv0008c homolog in M. smegmatis, MSMEG_0023, caused bulged cell poles, formation of rounded cells, and defects in polar localization of Wag31 and cell wall synthesis, with cell wall synthesis measured by the incorporation of the [14C]N-acetylglucosamine cell wall precursor. The M. smegmatis MSMEG_0023 crgA double mutant strain showed severe defects in growth, viability, cell wall synthesis, cell shape, and the localization of the FtsZ, FtsI, and Wag31 proteins. The double mutant strain also exhibited increased autolytic activity in the presence of detergents. Because CrgA and Wag31 proteins interact with FtsI individually, we believe that regulated cell wall synthesis and cell shape maintenance require the concerted actions of the CrgA, Rv0008c, FtsI, and Wag31 proteins. We propose that, together, CrgA and Rv0008c, renamed CwsA for cell wall synthesis and cell shape protein A, play crucial roles in septal and polar PG synthesis and help coordinate these processes with the FtsZ-ring assembly in mycobacteria.
PMCID: PMC3497543  PMID: 23002219
4.  Dynamics of FtsZ Assembly during Sporulation in Streptomyces coelicolor A3(2) 
Journal of Bacteriology  2005;187(9):3227-3237.
FtsZ, the bacterial tubulin homologue, is the main player in at least two distinct processes of cell division during the development of Streptomyces coelicolor A3(2). It forms cytokinetic rings and is required for the formation of both the widely spaced hyphal cross walls in the substrate mycelium and the specialized septation that converts sporogenic aerial hyphae into spores. The latter developmentally controlled septation involves the coordinated assembly of large numbers of FtsZ rings in each sporulating hyphal cell. We used an FtsZ-enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) translational fusion to visualize the progression of FtsZ ring assembly in vivo during sporulation of aerial hyphae. This revealed that the regular placement of multiple FtsZ rings and initiation of cytokinesis was preceded by a protracted phase during which spiral-shaped FtsZ intermediates were detected along the length of the aerial hyphal cell. Time course experiments indicated that they were remodeled and gradually replaced by regularly spaced FtsZ rings. Such spiral-shaped filaments could also be detected with immunofluorescence microscopy using an antiserum against FtsZ. Based on our observations, we propose a model for the progression of Z-ring assembly during sporulation of S. coelicolor. Furthermore, mutants lacking the developmental regulatory genes whiA, whiB, whiG, whiH, and whiI were investigated. They failed in up-regulation of the expression of FtsZ-EGFP in aerial hyphae, which is consistent with the known effects of these genes on ftsZ transcription.
PMCID: PMC1082811  PMID: 15838050
5.  CrgA Is an Inducible LysR-Type Regulator of Neisseria meningitidis, Acting both as a Repressor and as an Activator of Gene Transcription 
Journal of Bacteriology  2005;187(10):3421-3430.
The crgA gene of Neisseria meningitidis, which codes for a LysR-type regulator, is divergently oriented with respect to the mdaB gene, which codes for a hypothetical NADPH-quinone oxidoreductase. Transcriptional studies of the intergenic region between crgA and mdaB showed that two overlapping and divergent promoters, PcrgA and PmdaB, control transcription of these genes. Deletion of the crgA gene led to a strong increase in transcription from the PcrgA promoter and a concomitant strong decrease in transcription from the PmdaB promoter, indicating that CrgA acts both as an autorepressor of transcription at its own promoter and as an activator of transcription at the mdaB promoter. Addition of α-methylene-γ-butyrolactone (MBL), an inducer of NADPH-quinone oxidoreductase, to wild-type N. meningitidis cells specifically resulted in further activation of transcription of the PmdaB promoter and more repression of transcription of the PcrgA promoter. No such regulation was observed when MBL was added to crgA-deficient cells, indicating that the transcriptional response to MBL is CrgA mediated. Under the same experimental conditions, no regulation of transcription by either CrgA or MBL was detected at the pilus and capsule genes. The role of CrgA in the regulation of gene expression during the infectious cycle of N. meningitidis is discussed.
PMCID: PMC1112005  PMID: 15866928
6.  The REP2 Repeats of the Genome of Neisseria meningitidis Are Associated with Genes Coordinately Regulated during Bacterial Cell Interaction 
Journal of Bacteriology  2003;185(8):2618-2627.
Interaction with host cells is essential in meningococcal pathogenesis especially at the blood-brain barrier. This step is likely to involve a common regulatory pathway allowing coordinate regulation of genes necessary for the interaction with endothelial cells. The analysis of the genomic sequence of Neisseria meningitidis Z2491 revealed the presence of many repeats. One of these, designated REP2, contains a −24/−12 type promoter and a ribosome binding site 5 to 13 bp before an ATG. In addition most of these REP2 sequences are located immediately upstream of an ORF. Among these REP2-associated genes are pilC1 and crgA, described as being involved in steps essential for the interaction of N. meningitidis with host cells. Furthermore, the REP2 sequences located upstream of pilC1 and crgA correspond to the previously identified promoters known to be induced during the initial localized adhesion of N. meningitidis with human cells. This characteristic led us to hypothesize that at least some of the REP2-associated genes were upregulated under the same circumstances as pilC1 and crgA. Quantitative PCR in real time demonstrated that the expression of 14 out of 16 REP2-associated genes were upregulated during the initial localized adhesion of N. meningitidis. Taken together, these data suggest that these repeats control a set of genes necessary for the efficient interaction of this pathogen with host cells. Subsequent mutational analysis was performed to address the role of these genes during meningococcus-cell interaction.
PMCID: PMC152611  PMID: 12670987
7.  The structure of CrgA from Neisseria meningitidis reveals a new octameric assembly state for LysR transcriptional regulators 
Nucleic Acids Research  2009;37(14):4545-4558.
LysR-type transcriptional regulators (LTTRs) form the largest family of bacterial regulators acting as both auto-repressors and activators of target promoters, controlling operons involved in a wide variety of cellular processes. The LTTR, CrgA, from the human pathogen Neisseria meningitidis, is upregulated during bacterial–host cell contact. Here, we report the crystal structures of both regulatory domain and full-length CrgA, the first of a novel subclass of LTTRs that form octameric rings. Non-denaturing mass spectrometry analysis and analytical ultracentrifugation established that the octameric form of CrgA is the predominant species in solution in both the presence and absence of an oligonucleotide encompassing the CrgA-binding sequence. Furthermore, analysis of the isolated CrgA–DNA complex by mass spectrometry showed stabilization of a double octamer species upon DNA binding. Based on the observed structure and the mass spectrometry findings, a model is proposed in which a hexadecameric array of two CrgA oligomers binds to its DNA target site.
PMCID: PMC2724274  PMID: 19474343
8.  The Conserved DNA-Binding Protein WhiA Is Involved in Cell Division in Bacillus subtilis 
Journal of Bacteriology  2013;195(24):5450-5460.
Bacterial cell division is a highly coordinated process that begins with the polymerization of the tubulin-like protein FtsZ at midcell. FtsZ polymerization is regulated by a set of conserved cell division proteins, including ZapA. However, a zapA mutation does not result in a clear phenotype in Bacillus subtilis. In this study, we used a synthetic-lethal screen to find genes that become essential when ZapA is mutated. Three transposon insertions were found in yvcL. The deletion of yvcL in a wild-type background had only a mild effect on growth, but a yvcL zapA double mutant is very filamentous and sick. This filamentation is caused by a strong reduction in FtsZ-ring assembly, suggesting that YvcL is involved in an early stage of cell division. YvcL is 25% identical and 50% similar to the Streptomyces coelicolor transcription factor WhiA, which induces ftsZ and is required for septation of aerial hyphae during sporulation. Using green fluorescent protein fusions, we show that YvcL localizes at the nucleoid. Surprisingly, transcriptome analyses in combination with a ChIP-on-chip assay gave no indication that YvcL functions as a transcription factor. To gain more insight into the function of YvcL, we searched for suppressors of the filamentous phenotype of a yvcL zapA double mutant. Transposon insertions in gtaB and pgcA restored normal cell division of the double mutant. The corresponding proteins have been implicated in the metabolic sensing of cell division. We conclude that YvcL (WhiA) is involved in cell division in B. subtilis through an as-yet-unknown mechanism.
PMCID: PMC3889613  PMID: 24097947
9.  Crystallization and preliminary X-ray analysis of CrgA, a LysR-type transcriptional regulator from pathogenic Neisseria meningitidis MC58 
The full length and the regulatory domain of the LysR-type transcriptional regulator CrgA have been crystallized. Diffraction data were collected from two crystal forms of full-length CrgA to 3.0 and 3.8 Å resolution, respectively. Crystals of the selenomethionine derivative of the C-terminal regulatory domain of CrgA diffracted to 2.3 Å resolution.
Although LysR-type regulators (LTTRs) represent the largest family of transcriptional regulators in bacteria, the full-length structure of only one annotated LTTR (CbnR) has been deposited in the PDB. CrgA, a LTTR from pathogenic Neisseria meningitidis MC58, which is up-regulated upon bacterial cell contact with human epithelial cells, has been cloned, purified and crystallized. Crystals of full-length CrgA were obtained after buffer screening with a thermal shift assay and concentration with 0.2 M NDSB-256. Data were collected from two crystal forms of full-length CrgA belonging to space groups P212121 and P21, diffracting to 3.0 and 3.8 Å resolution and consistent with the presence of between six and ten and between ten and 20 copies of CrgA in the asymmetric unit, respectively. In addition, diffraction data were collected to 2.3 Å resolution from the selenomethionine derivative of the regulatory domain of CrgA. The crystals belonged to space group P21 and contained two molecules in the asymmetric unit.
PMCID: PMC2531262  PMID: 18765907
CrgA; Neisseria meningitidis; LysR-type regulators
10.  FtsW Is a Dispensable Cell Division Protein Required for Z-Ring Stabilization during Sporulation Septation in Streptomyces coelicolor▿ † 
Journal of Bacteriology  2008;190(16):5555-5566.
The conserved rodA and ftsW genes encode polytopic membrane proteins that are essential for bacterial cell elongation and division, respectively, and each gene is invariably linked with a cognate class B high-molecular-weight penicillin-binding protein (HMW PBP) gene. Filamentous differentiating Streptomyces coelicolor possesses four such gene pairs. Whereas rodA, although not its cognate HMW PBP gene, is essential in these bacteria, mutation of SCO5302 or SCO2607 (sfr) caused no gross changes to growth and septation. In contrast, disruption of either ftsW or the cognate ftsI gene blocked the formation of sporulation septa in aerial hyphae. The inability of spiral polymers of FtsZ to reorganize into rings in aerial hyphae of these mutants indicates an early pivotal role of an FtsW-FtsI complex in cell division. Concerted assembly of the complete divisome was unnecessary for Z-ring stabilization in aerial hyphae as ftsQ mutants were found to be blocked at a later stage in cell division, during septum closure. Complete cross wall formation occurred in vegetative hyphae in all three fts mutants, indicating that the typical bacterial divisome functions specifically during nonessential sporulation septation, providing a unique opportunity to interrogate the function and dependencies of individual components of the divisome in vivo.
PMCID: PMC2519378  PMID: 18556789
11.  Time-Lapse Microscopy of Streptomyces coelicolor Growth and Sporulation ▿ †  
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2008;74(21):6774-6781.
Bacteria from the genus Streptomyces are among the most complex of all prokaryotes; not only do they grow as a complex mycelium, they also differentiate to form aerial hyphae before developing further to form spore chains. This developmental heterogeneity of streptomycete microcolonies makes studying the dynamic processes that contribute to growth and development a challenging procedure. As a result, in order to study the mechanisms that underpin streptomycete growth, we have developed a system for studying hyphal extension, protein trafficking, and sporulation by time-lapse microscopy. Through the use of time-lapse microscopy we have demonstrated that Streptomyces coelicolor germ tubes undergo a temporary arrest in their growth when in close proximity to sibling extension sites. Following germination, in this system, hyphae extended at a rate of ∼20 μm h−1, which was not significantly different from the rate at which the apical ring of the cytokinetic protein FtsZ progressed along extending hyphae through a spiraling movement. Although we were able to generate movies for streptomycete sporulation, we were unable to do so for either the erection of aerial hyphae or the early stages of sporulation. Despite this, it was possible to demonstrate an arrest of aerial hyphal development that we suggest is through the depolymerization of FtsZ-enhanced green fluorescent protein (GFP). Consequently, the imaging system reported here provides a system that allows the dynamic movement of GFP-tagged proteins involved in growth and development of S. coelicolor to be tracked and their role in cytokinesis to be characterized during the streptomycete life cycle.
PMCID: PMC2576688  PMID: 18791015
12.  The RGS protein Crg2 is required for establishment and progression of murine pulmonary cryptococcosis 
Cryptococcal regulators of G protein signaling (CRG) are important for growth, differentiation, and virulence of Cryptococcus neoformans. Disruption of CRG2 resulted in dysregulated cAMP signaling and attenuated virulence, whereas disruption of CRG1 increased pheromone responses and enhanced virulence in the archetypal H99 strain. In tests with newly constructed near congenic mutants, a distinction between crg2Δ and crg1Δ gene expression was not apparent during macrophage interaction. Intranasal inoculation indicated that crg2Δ, crg1Δ, and wild-type strains reached the lungs within 0.5 hours of infection. However, CFUs were significantly decreased for crg2Δ at 2, 7, and 14 days post-infection. In contrast, crg1Δ proliferated to the same extent as the wild type (WT). Lung edema was not apparent in mice infected with crg2Δ 0.5 hours post-infection, which showed little cellular infiltrate in comparison to WT. Alveolar septal thickening was most evident in mice infected with crg1Δ, while mice infected with WT exhibited decreased septal thickening at later time points. Consistent with these observations, crg2Δ was less efficient in the elicitation of Th2 immune responses in a multiplex cytokine assay. Our results suggest that Crg2 is critical for establishment of early pulmonary infection and for persistence of infection, Crg1 regulates virulence in a strain-specific manner, and crg2Δ, crg1Δ and WT can all be distinguished on the basis of host tissue responses.
PMCID: PMC3520091  PMID: 20818923
Cryptococcal regulators of G protein signaling; macrophage interaction; host response; cytokine production; and fungal virulence
13.  A collection of mRNA species that are inducible in the RAW 264.7 mouse macrophage cell line by gamma interferon and other agents. 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  1992;12(4):1535-1545.
To identify genes induced during macrophage activation, a cDNA library was prepared from cultures of the RAW 264.7 mouse macrophage cell line that had been treated with conditioned medium from mitogen-stimulated spleen cells, and the cDNA library was screened by differential plaque hybridization. Eleven cDNA clones, designated CRG-1 through CRG-11, corresponding to mRNA species inducible in RAW 264.7 cells by the spleen cell conditioned medium, were isolated. Inductions were not blocked by cycloheximide. All of the mRNAs were inducible by gamma interferon, and some were also inducible by alpha and beta interferons, by lipopolysaccharide, by phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate, and by the calcium ionophore A23187. Sequencing of the cDNAs revealed that CRG-1, CRG-3, and CRG-5 are cDNAs of recently identified transcription factors IRF-1, zif/268, and LRF-1 respectively. As previously reported, CRG-2 and CRG-10 (MIG) encode new members of the platelet factor 4 family of cytokines. CRG-6 corresponds to a new member of a family of interferon-inducible genes clustered on mouse chromosome 1, CRG-9 corresponds to a prostaglandin synthase homolog, CRG-8 corresponds to beta 2-microglobulin, and CRG-4 corresponds to metallothionein II. CRG-11 contains sequences of a truncated L1Md repetitive element as well as nonrepetitive sequences. The nonrepetitive sequence of CRG-11 as well as the sequences of CRG-7 are not closely related to published sequences. The CRG genes and proteins are of interest because of their involvement in macrophage activation, because of their roles as mediators of the effects of gamma interferon and other pleiotropic agents, and because of their usefulness as tools for studying the signal pathways through which gamma interferon and other inducers exert their effects on gene and protein expression.
PMCID: PMC369595  PMID: 1372386
14.  Coordinating Bacterial Cell Division with Nutrient Availability: a Role for Glycolysis 
mBio  2014;5(3):e00935-14.
Cell division in bacteria is driven by a cytoskeletal ring structure, the Z ring, composed of polymers of the tubulin-like protein FtsZ. Z-ring formation must be tightly regulated to ensure faithful cell division, and several mechanisms that influence the positioning and timing of Z-ring assembly have been described. Another important but as yet poorly understood aspect of cell division regulation is the need to coordinate division with cell growth and nutrient availability. In this study, we demonstrated for the first time that cell division is intimately linked to central carbon metabolism in the model Gram-positive bacterium Bacillus subtilis. We showed that a deletion of the gene encoding pyruvate kinase (pyk), which produces pyruvate in the final reaction of glycolysis, rescues the assembly defect of a temperature-sensitive ftsZ mutant and has significant effects on Z-ring formation in wild-type B. subtilis cells. Addition of exogenous pyruvate restores normal division in the absence of the pyruvate kinase enzyme, implicating pyruvate as a key metabolite in the coordination of bacterial growth and division. Our results support a model in which pyruvate levels are coupled to Z-ring assembly via an enzyme that actually metabolizes pyruvate, the E1α subunit of pyruvate dehydrogenase. We have shown that this protein localizes over the nucleoid in a pyruvate-dependent manner and may stimulate more efficient Z-ring formation at the cell center under nutrient-rich conditions, when cells must divide more frequently.
How bacteria coordinate cell cycle processes with nutrient availability and growth is a fundamental yet unresolved question in microbiology. Recent breakthroughs have revealed that nutritional information can be transmitted directly from metabolic pathways to the cell cycle machinery and that this can serve as a mechanism for fine-tuning cell cycle processes in response to changes in environmental conditions. Here we identified a novel link between glycolysis and cell division in Bacillus subtilis. We showed that pyruvate, the final product of glycolysis, plays an important role in maintaining normal division. Nutrient-dependent changes in pyruvate levels affect the function of the cell division protein FtsZ, most likely by modifying the activity of an enzyme that metabolizes pyruvate, namely pyruvate dehydrogenase E1α. Ultimately this system may help to coordinate bacterial division with nutritional conditions to ensure the survival of newborn cells.
PMCID: PMC4030479  PMID: 24825009
15.  Streptomyces coelicolor Genes ftsL and divIC Play a Role in Cell Division but Are Dispensable for Colony Formation▿  
Journal of Bacteriology  2007;189(24):8982-8992.
We have characterized homologues of the bacterial cell division genes ftsL and divIC in the gram-positive mycelial bacterium Streptomyces coelicolor A3(2). We show by deletion-insertion mutations that ftsL and divIC are dispensable for growth and viability in S. coelicolor. When mutant strains were grown on a conventional rich medium (R2YE, containing high sucrose), inactivation of either ftsL or divIC resulted in the formation of aerial hyphae with partially constricted division sites but no clear separation of prespore compartments. Surprisingly, this phenotype was largely suppressed when strains were grown on minimal medium or sucrose-free R2YE, where division sites in many aerial hyphae had finished constricting and chains of spores were evident. Thus, osmolarity appears to affect the severity of the division defect. Furthermore, double mutant strains deleted for both ftsL and divIC are viable and have medium-dependent phenotypes similar to that of the single mutant strains, suggesting that functions performed by FtsL and DivIC are not absolutely required for septation during growth and sporulation. Alternatively, another division protein may partially compensate for the loss of both FtsL and DivIC on minimal medium or sucrose-free R2YE. Finally, based on transmission electron microscopy observations, we propose that FtsL and DivIC are involved in coordinating symmetrical annular ingrowth of the invaginating septum.
PMCID: PMC2168613  PMID: 17951394
16.  Characterization of Changes to the Cell Surface during the Life Cycle of Streptomyces coelicolor: Atomic Force Microscopy of Living Cells▿  
Journal of Bacteriology  2006;189(6):2219-2225.
Cell surface changes that accompany the complex life cycle of Streptomyces coelicolor were monitored by atomic force microscopy (AFM) of living cells. Images were obtained using tapping mode to reveal that young, branching vegetative hyphae have a relatively smooth surface and are attached to an inert silica surface by means of a secreted extracellular matrix. Older hyphae, representing a transition between substrate and aerial growth, are sparsely decorated with fibers. Previously, a well-organized stable mosaic of fibers, called the rodlet layer, coating the surface of spores has been observed using electron microscopy. AFM revealed that aerial hyphae, prior to sporulation, possess a relatively unstable dense heterogeneous fibrous layer. Material from this layer is shed as the hyphae mature, revealing a more tightly organized fibrous mosaic layer typical of spores. The aerial hyphae are also characterized by the absence of the secreted extracellular matrix. The formation of sporulation septa is accompanied by modification to the surface layer, which undergoes localized temporary disruption at the sites of cell division. The characteristics of the hyphal surfaces of mutants show how various chaplin and rodlin proteins contribute to the formation of fibrous layers of differing stabilities. Finally, older spores with a compact rodlet layer develop surface concavities that are attributed to a reduction of intracellular turgor pressure as metabolic activity slows.
PMCID: PMC1899363  PMID: 17194797
17.  3D-SIM Super Resolution Microscopy Reveals a Bead-Like Arrangement for FtsZ and the Division Machinery: Implications for Triggering Cytokinesis 
PLoS Biology  2012;10(9):e1001389.
Super resolution three-dimensional imaging reveals a new picture of how bacterial cell division proteins localize to the division site, including the formation of dynamic bead-like patterns, and explains how the division ring constricts.
FtsZ is a tubulin-like GTPase that is the major cytoskeletal protein in bacterial cell division. It polymerizes into a ring, called the Z ring, at the division site and acts as a scaffold to recruit other division proteins to this site as well as providing a contractile force for cytokinesis. To understand how FtsZ performs these functions, the in vivo architecture of the Z ring needs to be established, as well as how this structure constricts to enable cytokinesis. Conventional wide-field fluorescence microscopy depicts the Z ring as a continuous structure of uniform density. Here we use a form of super resolution microscopy, known as 3D-structured illumination microscopy (3D-SIM), to examine the architecture of the Z ring in cells of two Gram-positive organisms that have different cell shapes: the rod-shaped Bacillus subtilis and the coccoid Staphylococcus aureus. We show that in both organisms the Z ring is composed of a heterogeneous distribution of FtsZ. In addition, gaps of fluorescence were evident, which suggest that it is a discontinuous structure. Time-lapse studies using an advanced form of fast live 3D-SIM (Blaze) support a model of FtsZ localization within the Z ring that is dynamic and remains distributed in a heterogeneous manner. However, FtsZ dynamics alone do not trigger the constriction of the Z ring to allow cytokinesis. Lastly, we visualize other components of the divisome and show that they also adopt a bead-like localization pattern at the future division site. Our data lead us to propose that FtsZ guides the divisome to adopt a similar localization pattern to ensure Z ring constriction only proceeds following the assembly of a mature divisome.
Author Summary
Because bacterial cells are so small, it is challenging to image the spatial organization of proteins inside them. All the proteins that orchestrate cell division in these organisms localize to the division site prior to division, but it has not so far been possible to obtain a clear highresolution three-dimensional picture of the dynamics of their localization. In this study we use a new type of super resolution microscopy called three-dimensional structured illumination microscopy (3D-SIM) to analyze the localization of proteins involved in cell division in two types of bacteria that have different cell shapes: the rod-shaped Bacillus subtilis and the spherical Staphylococcus aureus. We show that FtsZ, a cytoskeletal protein that serves as a scaffold for the cytokinetic ring, localizes to the division site in a dynamic bead-like pattern, rather than a uniform ring as was previously proposed, in both types of bacteria. Our observations also provide an explanation of how this ring constricts to split a bacterial cell in two and suggests that this spatial organization of division proteins is conserved among bacteria and is crucial for the regulation of this central cellular process.
PMCID: PMC3439403  PMID: 22984350
18.  The RGS protein Crg2 regulates both pheromone and cAMP signaling in Cryptococcus neoformans 
Molecular microbiology  2008;70(2):379-395.
G proteins orchestrate critical cellular functions by transducing extracellular signals into internal signals and controlling cellular responses to environmental cues. G proteins typically function as switches that are activated by G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) and negatively controlled by regulator of G protein signaling (RGS) proteins. In the human fungal pathogen Cryptococcus neoformans, three G protein α subunits (Gpa1, Gpa2, and Gpa3) have been identified. In a previous study, we identified the RGS protein Crg2 involved in regulating the pheromone response pathway through Gpa2 and Gpa3. In this study, a role for Crg2 was established in the Gpa1-cAMP signaling pathway that governs mating and virulence. We show that Crg2 physically interacts with Gpa1 and crg2 mutations increase cAMP production. crg2 mutations also enhance mating filament hyphae production, but reduce cell-cell fusion and sporulation efficiency during mating. Although crg2 mutations and the Gpa1 dominant active allele GPA1Q284L enhanced melanin production under normally repressive conditions, virulence was attenuated in a murine model. We conclude that Crg2 participates in controlling both Gpa1-cAMP-virulence and pheromone-mating signaling cascades and hypothesize it may serve as a molecular interface between these two central signaling conduits.
PMCID: PMC3736591  PMID: 18761692
19.  The Division Inhibitor EzrA Contains a Seven-Residue Patch Required for Maintaining the Dynamic Nature of the Medial FtsZ Ring▿  
Journal of Bacteriology  2007;189(24):9001-9010.
The essential cytoskeletal protein FtsZ assembles into a ring-like structure at the nascent division site and serves as a scaffold for the assembly of the prokaryotic division machinery. We previously characterized EzrA as an inhibitor of FtsZ assembly in Bacillus subtilis. EzrA interacts directly with FtsZ to prevent aberrant FtsZ assembly and cytokinesis at cell poles. EzrA also concentrates at the cytokinetic ring in an FtsZ-dependent manner, although its precise role at this position is not known. Here, we identified a conserved patch of amino acids in the EzrA C terminus that is essential for localization to the FtsZ ring. Mutations in this patch (designated the “QNR patch”) abolish EzrA localization to midcell but do not significantly affect EzrA's ability to inhibit FtsZ assembly at cell poles. ezrA QNR patch mutant cells exhibit stabilized FtsZ assembly at midcell and are significantly longer than wild-type cells, despite lacking extra FtsZ rings. These results indicate that EzrA has two distinct activities in vivo: (i) preventing aberrant FtsZ ring formation at cell poles through inhibition of de novo FtsZ assembly and (ii) maintaining proper FtsZ assembly dynamics within the medial FtsZ ring, thereby rendering it sensitive to the factors responsible for coordinating cell growth and cell division.
PMCID: PMC2168614  PMID: 17873055
20.  The RGS Protein Crg2 Regulates Pheromone and Cyclic AMP Signaling in Cryptococcus neoformans▿ †  
Eukaryotic Cell  2008;7(9):1540-1548.
Crg1 and Crg2 are regulators of G-protein signaling homologs found in the human fungal pathogen Cryptococcus neoformans. Crg1 negatively regulates pheromone responses and mating through direct inhibition of Gα subunits Gpa2 and Gpa3. It has also been proposed that Crg2 has a role in mating, as genetic crosses involving Δcrg2 mutants resulted in formation of hyperfilaments. We found that mutation of Gpa2 and Gpa3 partially suppressed the hyperfilamentation, mutation of Gpa3 alleviated Δcrg2-specfic cell swelling, and mutation of the mitogen-activated protein kinase Cpk1 blocked both processes. These findings indicate that Gpa2 and Gpa3 function downstream of Crg2 and that Gpa3 is also epistatic to Crg2 in a Cpk1-dependent morphogenesis process linked to mating. Significantly, we found that Δcrg2 mutants formed enlarged capsules that mimic cells expressing a constitutively active GPA1(Q284L) allele and that the levels of intracellular cyclic AMP (cAMP) were also elevated, suggesting that Crg2 also negatively regulates the Gpa1-cAMP signaling pathway. We further showed that Crg2 interacted with Gpa3 and Gpa1, but not Gpa2, in a pulldown assay and that Crg2 maintained a higher in vitro GTPase-activating protein activity toward Gpa3 and Gpa1 than to Gpa2. Finally, we found that dysregulation of cAMP due to the Crg2 mutation attenuated virulence in a murine model of cryptococcosis. Taken together, our study reveals Crg2 as an RGS (regulator of G-protein signaling) protein of multiregulatory function, including one that controls mating distinctly from Crg1 and one that serves as a novel inhibitor of Gpa1-cAMP signaling.
PMCID: PMC2547063  PMID: 18658258
21.  Interspecies modulation of bacterial development through iron competition and siderophore piracy 
Molecular microbiology  2012;86(3):628-644.
While soil-dwelling actinomycetes are renowned for secreting natural products, little is known about the roles of these molecules in mediating actinomycete interactions. In a previous co-culture screen, we found that one actinomycete, Amycolatopsis sp. AA4, inhibited aerial hyphae formation in adjacent colonies of Streptomyces coelicolor. A siderophore, amychelin, mediated this developmental arrest. Here we present genetic evidence that confirms the role of the amc locus in the production of amychelin and in the inhibition of S. coelicolor development. We further characterize the Amycolatopsis sp. AA4 - S. coelicolor interaction by examining expression of developmental and iron acquisition genes over time in co-culture. Manipulation of iron availability and/or growth near Amycolatopsis sp. AA4 led to alterations in expression of the critical developmental gene bldN, and other key down-stream genes in the S. coelicolor transcriptional cascade. In Amycolatopsis sp. AA4, siderophore genes were down-regulated when grown near S. coelicolor, leading us to find that deferrioxamine E, produced by S. coelicolor, could be readily utilized by Amycolatopsis sp. AA4. Collectively these results suggest that competition for iron via siderophore piracy and species-specific siderophores can alter patterns of gene expression and morphological differentiation during actinomycete interactions.
PMCID: PMC3481010  PMID: 22931126
Interspecies interactions; NRPS; natural products; Amycolatopsis; sporulation
22.  The Kil Peptide of Bacteriophage λ Blocks Escherichia coli Cytokinesis via ZipA-Dependent Inhibition of FtsZ Assembly 
PLoS Genetics  2014;10(3):e1004217.
Assembly of the essential, tubulin-like FtsZ protein into a ring-shaped structure at the nascent division site determines the timing and position of cytokinesis in most bacteria and serves as a scaffold for recruitment of the cell division machinery. Here we report that expression of bacteriophage λ kil, either from a resident phage or from a plasmid, induces filamentation of Escherichia coli cells by rapid inhibition of FtsZ ring formation. Mutant alleles of ftsZ resistant to the Kil protein map to the FtsZ polymer subunit interface, stabilize FtsZ ring assembly, and confer increased resistance to endogenous FtsZ inhibitors, consistent with Kil inhibiting FtsZ assembly. Cells with the normally essential cell division gene zipA deleted (in a modified background) display normal FtsZ rings after kil expression, suggesting that ZipA is required for Kil-mediated inhibition of FtsZ rings in vivo. In support of this model, point mutations in the C-terminal FtsZ-interaction domain of ZipA abrogate Kil activity without discernibly altering FtsZ-ZipA interactions. An affinity-tagged-Kil derivative interacts with both FtsZ and ZipA, and inhibits sedimentation of FtsZ filament bundles in vitro. Together, these data inspire a model in which Kil interacts with FtsZ and ZipA in the cell to prevent FtsZ assembly into a coherent, division-competent ring structure. Phage growth assays show that kil+ phage lyse ∼30% later than kil mutant phage, suggesting that Kil delays lysis, perhaps via its interaction with FtsZ and ZipA.
Author Summary
Bacterial antibiotic resistance is a serious concern, particularly its role in hospital-acquired infection. Viruses that infect bacteria (bacteriophage) can kill their host, and some prevent the bacterial cell from reproducing during that process. Since their discovery, phage have been considered a potential tool against bacterial infection, but little is known regarding how phage-encoded factors may inhibit bacterial cell division. Understanding the interaction between phage factors and the targeted host systems is therefore a critical research goal. Our report focuses on E. coli and λ, a well-studied phage that infects it. λ contains a gene, kil, whose expression prevents E. coli from dividing, causing cells to grow into long filaments that die. Here we report that Kil protein prevents an essential bacterial protein, FtsZ, from properly assembling into the structure needed for cell division. Our data show that Kil can inhibit FtsZ assembly directly in vitro, but that ZipA, another essential cell division protein, enhances its activity on FtsZ in vivo. The results of our study elucidate one way that a phage naturally inhibits bacterial reproduction, which could serve as a target for rational antibiotic design.
PMCID: PMC3961180  PMID: 24651041
23.  Sigma factor RpoN (σ54) regulates pilE transcription in commensal Neisseria elongata 
Molecular microbiology  2013;90(1):103-113.
Human-adapted Neisseria includes two pathogens, Neisseria gonorrhoeae and Neisseria meningitidis, and at least 13 species of commensals that colonize many of the same niches as the pathogens. The Type IV pilus plays an important role in the biology of pathogenic Neisseria. In these species, Sigma factor RpoD (σ70), Integration Host Factor, and repressors RegF and CrgA regulate transcription of pilE, the gene encoding the pilus structural subunit. The Type IV pilus is also a strictly conserved trait in commensal Neisseria. We present evidence that a different mechanism regulates pilE transcription in commensals. Using Neisseria elongata as a model, we show that Sigma factor RpoN (σ54), Integration Host Factor, and an activator we name Npa regulate pilE transcription. Taken in context with previous reports, our findings indicate pilE regulation switched from an RpoN- to an RpoD-dependent mechanism as pathogenic Neisseria diverged from commensals during evolution. Our findings have implications for the timing of Tfp expression and Tfp-mediated host cell interactions in these two groups of bacteria.
PMCID: PMC4474139  PMID: 23899162
24.  A Systems Biology Approach Reveals the Role of a Novel Methyltransferase in Response to Chemical Stress and Lipid Homeostasis 
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(10):e1002332.
Using small molecule probes to understand gene function is an attractive approach that allows functional characterization of genes that are dispensable in standard laboratory conditions and provides insight into the mode of action of these compounds. Using chemogenomic assays we previously identified yeast Crg1, an uncharacterized SAM-dependent methyltransferase, as a novel interactor of the protein phosphatase inhibitor cantharidin. In this study we used a combinatorial approach that exploits contemporary high-throughput techniques available in Saccharomyces cerevisiae combined with rigorous biological follow-up to characterize the interaction of Crg1 with cantharidin. Biochemical analysis of this enzyme followed by a systematic analysis of the interactome and lipidome of CRG1 mutants revealed that Crg1, a stress-responsive SAM-dependent methyltransferase, methylates cantharidin in vitro. Chemogenomic assays uncovered that lipid-related processes are essential for cantharidin resistance in cells sensitized by deletion of the CRG1 gene. Lipidome-wide analysis of mutants further showed that cantharidin induces alterations in glycerophospholipid and sphingolipid abundance in a Crg1-dependent manner. We propose that Crg1 is a small molecule methyltransferase important for maintaining lipid homeostasis in response to drug perturbation. This approach demonstrates the value of combining chemical genomics with other systems-based methods for characterizing proteins and elucidating previously unknown mechanisms of action of small molecule inhibitors.
Author Summary
Chemical genetics uses small molecules to perturb biological systems to study gene function. By analogy with genetic lesions, chemical probes act as fast-acting, reversible, and “tunable” conditional alleles. Furthermore, small molecules can target multiple protein targets and target pathways simultaneously to uncover phenotypes that may be masked by genes encoding partially redundant proteins. Finally, potent chemical probes can be useful starting points for the development of human therapeutics. Here, we used cantharidin, a natural toxin, to uncover otherwise “hidden” phenotypes for a methyltransferase that has resisted characterization. This enzyme, Crg1, has no phenotype in standard conditions but is indispensible for survival in the presence of cantharidin. Using this chemical genetic relationship, we characterized novel functions of Crg1, and by combining diverse genomic assays with small molecule perturbation we characterized the mechanism of cantharidin cytotoxicity. These observations are relevant beyond yeast Crg1 because cantharidin and its analogues have potent anticancer activity, yet its therapeutic use has been limited to topical applications because of its cytotoxicity. Considering that methyltransferases are an extremely abundant and diverse class of cellular proteins, chemical probes such as cantharidin are critical for understanding their cellular roles and defining potential points of therapeutic intervention.
PMCID: PMC3197675  PMID: 22028670
25.  Systematically characterizing and prioritizing chemosensitivity related gene based on Gene Ontology and protein interaction network 
BMC Medical Genomics  2012;5:43.
The identification of genes that predict in vitro cellular chemosensitivity of cancer cells is of great importance. Chemosensitivity related genes (CRGs) have been widely utilized to guide clinical and cancer chemotherapy decisions. In addition, CRGs potentially share functional characteristics and network features in protein interaction networks (PPIN).
In this study, we proposed a method to identify CRGs based on Gene Ontology (GO) and PPIN. Firstly, we documented 150 pairs of drug-CCRG (curated chemosensitivity related gene) from 492 published papers. Secondly, we characterized CCRGs from the perspective of GO and PPIN. Thirdly, we prioritized CRGs based on CCRGs’ GO and network characteristics. Lastly, we evaluated the performance of the proposed method.
We found that CCRG enriched GO terms were most often related to chemosensitivity and exhibited higher similarity scores compared to randomly selected genes. Moreover, CCRGs played key roles in maintaining the connectivity and controlling the information flow of PPINs. We then prioritized CRGs using CCRG enriched GO terms and CCRG network characteristics in order to obtain a database of predicted drug-CRGs that included 53 CRGs, 32 of which have been reported to affect susceptibility to drugs. Our proposed method identifies a greater number of drug-CCRGs, and drug-CCRGs are much more significantly enriched in predicted drug-CRGs, compared to a method based on the correlation of gene expression and drug activity. The mean area under ROC curve (AUC) for our method is 65.2%, whereas that for the traditional method is 55.2%.
Our method not only identifies CRGs with expression patterns strongly correlated with drug activity, but also identifies CRGs in which expression is weakly correlated with drug activity. This study provides the framework for the identification of signatures that predict in vitro cellular chemosensitivity and offers a valuable database for pharmacogenomics research.
PMCID: PMC3532125  PMID: 23031817

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