Bacterial cell surface-associated polysaccharides are involved in the interactions of bacteria with their environment and play an important role in the communication between pathogenic bacteria and their host organisms. Cell surface polysaccharides of probiotic species are far less well described. Therefore, improved knowledge on these molecules is potentially of great importance to understand the strain-specific and proposed beneficial modes of probiotic action.
The Lactobacillus plantarum WCFS1 genome encodes 4 clusters of genes that are associated with surface polysaccharide production. Two of these clusters appear to encode all functions required for capsular polysaccharide formation (cps2A-J and cps4A-J), while the remaining clusters are predicted to lack genes encoding chain-length control functions and a priming glycosyl-transferase (cps1A-I and cps3A-J). We constructed L. plantarum WCFS1 gene deletion mutants that lack individual (Δcps1A-I, Δcps2A-J, Δcps3A-J and Δcps4A-J) or combinations of cps clusters (Δcps1A-3J and Δcps1A-3I, Δcps4A-J) and assessed the genome wide impact of these mutations by transcriptome analysis. The cps cluster deletions influenced the expression of variable gene sets in the individual cps cluster mutants, but also considerable numbers of up- and down-regulated genes were shared between mutants in cps cluster 1 and 2, as well as between mutant in cps clusters 3 and 4. Additionally, the composition of overall cell surface polysaccharide fractions was altered in each mutant strain, implying that despite the apparent incompleteness of cps1A-I and cps3A-J, all clusters are active and functional in L. plantarum. The Δcps1A-I strain produced surface polysaccharides in equal amounts as compared to the wild-type strain, while the polysaccharides were characterized by a reduced molar mass and the lack of rhamnose. The mutants that lacked functional copies of cps2A-J, cps3A-J or cps4A-J produced decreased levels of surface polysaccharides, whereas the molar mass and the composition of polysaccharides was not affected by these cluster mutations. In the quadruple mutant, the amount of surface polysaccharides was strongly reduced. The impact of the cps cluster mutations on toll-like receptor (TLR)-mediated human nuclear factor (NF)-κB activation in host cells was evaluated using a TLR2 reporter cell line. In comparison to a L. plantarum wild-type derivative, TLR2 activation remained unaffected by the Δcps1A-I and Δcps3A-J mutants but appeared slightly increased after stimulation with the Δcps2A-J and Δcps4A-J mutants, while the Δcps1A-3J and Δcps1A-3J, Δcps4A-J mutants elicited the strongest responses and clearly displayed enhanced TLR2 signaling.
Our study reveals that modulation of surface glycan characteristics in L. plantarum highlights the role of these molecules in shielding of cell envelope embedded host receptor ligands. Although the apparently complete cps clusters (cps2A-J and cps4A-J) contributed individually to this shielding, the removal of all cps clusters led to the strongest signaling enhancement. Our findings provide new insights into cell surface glycan biosynthesis in L. plantarum, which bears relevance in the context of host-cell signaling by probiotic bacteria.
Lactobacillus plantarum; Probiotic; Surface polysaccharides; Host cell signaling; TLR2 activation
Lactobacillus plantarum is commonly used in industrial fermentation processes. Selected strains are also marketed as probiotics for their health beneficial effects. Although the functional role of peptidoglycan-degrading enzymes is increasingly documented to be important for a range of bacterial processes and host-microbe interactions, little is known about their functional roles in lactobacilli. This knowledge holds important potential for developing more robust strains resistant to autolysis under stress conditions as well as peptidoglycan engineering for a better understanding of the contribution of released muramyl-peptides as probiotic immunomodulators.
Here, we explored the functional role of the predicted peptidoglycan hydrolase (PGH) complement encoded in the genome of L. plantarum by systematic gene deletion. From twelve predicted PGH-encoding genes, nine could be individually inactivated and their corresponding mutant strains were characterized regarding their cell morphology, growth, and autolysis under various conditions. From this analysis, we identified two PGHs, the predicted N-acetylglucosaminidase Acm2 and NplC/P60 D,L-endopeptidase LytA, as key determinants in the morphology of L. plantarum. Acm2 was demonstrated to be required for the ultimate step of cell separation of daughter cells, whereas LytA appeared to be required for cell shape maintenance and cell-wall integrity. We also showed by autolysis experiments that both PGHs are involved in the global autolytic process with a dominant role for Acm2 in all tested conditions, identifying Acm2 as the major autolysin of L. plantarum WCFS1. In addition, Acm2 and the putative N-acetylmuramidase Lys2 were shown to play redundant roles in both cell separation and autolysis under stress conditions. Finally, the analysis of the peptidoglycan composition of Acm2- and LytA-deficient derivatives revealed their potential hydrolytic activities by the disappearance of specific cleavage products.
In this study, we showed that two PGHs of L. plantarum have a predominant physiological role in a range of growth conditions. We demonstrate that the N-acetylglucosaminidase Acm2 is the major autolysin whereas the D,L-endopeptidase LytA is a key morphogenic determinant. In addition, both PGHs have a direct impact on PG structure by generating a higher diversity of cleavage products that could be of importance for interaction with the innate immune system.
Lactobacillus plantarum; Peptidoglycan; Autolysin; Peptidoglycan hydrolase; Glucosaminidase; Muropeptidase
Many studies on probiotics are aimed at restoring immune homeostasis in patients to prevent disease recurrence or reduce immune-mediated pathology. Of equal interest is the use of probiotics in sub-clinical situations, which are characterized by reduced immune function or low-grade inflammation, with an increased risk of infection or disease as a consequence. Most mechanistic studies focus on the use of probiotics in experimental disease models, which may not be informative for these sub-clinical conditions. To gain better understanding of the effects in the healthy situation, we investigated the immunomodulatory effects of two Lactobacillus probiotic strains, i.e. L. plantarum WCFS1 and L. salivarius UCC118, and a non-probiotic lactococcus strain, i.e. L. lactis MG1363, in healthy mice. We studied the effect of these bacteria on the systemic adaptive immune system after 5 days of administration. Only L. plantarum induced an increase in regulatory CD103+ DC and regulatory T cell frequencies in the spleen. However, all three bacterial strains, including L. lactis, reduced specific splenic T helper cell cytokine responses after ex vivo restimulation. The effect on IFN-γ, IL5, IL10, and IL17 production by CD4+ and CD8+ T cells was dependent on the strain administered. A shared observation was that all three bacterial strains reduced T helper 2 cell frequencies. We demonstrate that systemic immunomodulation is not only observed after treatment with probiotic organisms, but also after treatment with non-probiotic bacteria. Our data demonstrate that in healthy mice, lactobacilli can balance T cell immunity in favor of a more regulatory status, via both regulatory T cell dependent and independent mechanisms in a strain dependent manner.
Specific strains of Lactobacillus plantarum are marketed as health-promoting probiotics. The role and interplay of cell-wall compounds like wall- and lipo-teichoic acids (WTA and LTA) in bacterial physiology and probiotic-host interactions remain obscure. L. plantarum WCFS1 harbors the genetic potential to switch WTA backbone alditol, providing an opportunity to study the impact of WTA backbone modifications in an isogenic background.
Through genome mining and mutagenesis we constructed derivatives that synthesize alternative WTA variants. The mutants were shown to completely lack WTA, or produce WTA and LTA that lack D-Ala substitution, or ribitol-backbone WTA instead of the wild-type glycerol-containing backbone. DNA micro-array experiments established that the tarIJKL gene cluster is required for the biosynthesis of this alternative WTA backbone, and suggest ribose and arabinose are precursors thereof. Increased tarIJKL expression was not observed in any of our previously performed DNA microarray experiments, nor in qRT-PCR analyses of L. plantarum grown on various carbon sources, leaving the natural conditions leading to WTA backbone alditol switching, if any, to be identified. Human embryonic kidney NF-κB reporter cells expressing Toll like receptor (TLR)-2/6 were exposed to purified WTAs and/or the TA mutants, indicating that WTA is not directly involved in TLR-2/6 signaling, but attenuates this signaling in a backbone independent manner, likely by affecting the release and exposure of immunomodulatory compounds such as LTA. Moreover, human dendritic cells did not secrete any cytokines when purified WTAs were applied, whereas they secreted drastically decreased levels of the pro-inflammatory cytokines IL-12p70 and TNF-α after stimulation with the WTA mutants as compared to the wild-type.
The study presented here correlates structural differences in WTA to their functional characteristics, thereby providing important information aiding to improve our understanding of molecular host-microbe interactions and probiotic functionality.
Lactobacillus plantarum; Probiotic; Wall teichoic acid; Lipoteichoic acid; tag and tar genes; Immunomodulation
An important trait of probiotics is their capability to reach their intestinal target sites alive to optimally exert their beneficial effects. Assessment of this trait in intestine-mimicking in vitro model systems has revealed differential survival of individual strains of a species. However, data on the in situ persistence characteristics of individual or mixtures of strains of the same species in the gastrointestinal tract of healthy human volunteers have not been reported to date.
The GI-tract survival of individual L. plantarum strains was determined using an intestine mimicking model system, revealing substantial inter-strain differences. The obtained data were correlated to genomic diversity of the strains using comparative genome hybridization (CGH) datasets, but this approach failed to discover specific genetic loci that explain the observed differences between the strains. Moreover, we developed a next-generation sequencing-based method that targets a variable intergenic region, and employed this method to assess the in vivo GI-tract persistence of different L. plantarum strains when administered in mixtures to healthy human volunteers. Remarkable consistency of the strain-specific persistence curves were observed between individual volunteers, which also correlated significantly with the GI-tract survival predicted on basis of the in vitro assay.
The survival of individual L. plantarum strains in the GI-tract could not be correlated to the absence or presence of specific genes compared to the reference strain L. plantarum WCFS1. Nevertheless, in vivo persistence analysis in the human GI-tract confirmed the strain-specific persistence, which appeared to be remarkably similar in different healthy volunteers. Moreover, the relative strain-specific persistence in vivo appeared to be accurately and significantly predicted by their relative survival in the intestine-mimicking in vitro assay, supporting the use of this assay for screening of strain-specific GI persistence.
Lactic acid bacteria (LAB) are applied worldwide in the production of a variety of fermented food products. Additionally, specific Lactobacillus species are nowadays recognized for their health-promoting effects on the consumer. To optimally exert such beneficial effects, it is considered of great importance that these probiotic bacteria reach their target sites in the gut alive.
In the accompanying manuscript by Bron et al. the probiotic model organism Lactobacillus plantarum WCFS1 was cultured under different fermentation conditions, which was complemented by the determination of the corresponding molecular responses by full-genome transcriptome analyses. Here, the gastrointestinal (GI) survival of the cultures produced was assessed in an in vitro assay. Variations in fermentation conditions led to dramatic differences in GI-tract survival (up to 7-log) and high robustness could be associated with low salt and low pH during the fermentations. Moreover, random forest correlation analyses allowed the identification of specific transcripts associated with robustness. Subsequently, the corresponding genes were targeted by genetic engineering, aiming to enhance robustness, which could be achieved for 3 of the genes that negatively correlated with robustness and where deletion derivatives displayed enhanced survival compared to the parental strain. Specifically, a role in GI-tract survival could be confirmed for the lp_1669-encoded AraC-family transcription regulator, involved in capsular polysaccharide remodeling, the penicillin-binding protein Pbp2A involved in peptidoglycan biosynthesis, and the Na+/H+ antiporter NapA3. Moreover, additional physiological analysis established a role for Pbp2A and NapA3 in bile salt and salt tolerance, respectively.
Transcriptome trait matching enabled the identification of biomarkers for bacterial (gut-)robustness, which is important for our molecular understanding of GI-tract survival and could facilitate the design of culture conditions aimed to enhance probiotic culture robustness.
Lactic acid bacteria (LAB) are utilized widely for the fermentation of foods. In the current post-genomic era, tools have been developed that explore genetic diversity among LAB strains aiming to link these variations to differential phenotypes observed in the strains investigated. However, these genotype-phenotype matching approaches fail to assess the role of conserved genes in the determination of physiological characteristics of cultures by environmental conditions. This manuscript describes a complementary approach in which Lactobacillus plantarum WCFS1 was fermented under a variety of conditions that differ in temperature, pH, as well as NaCl, amino acid, and O2 levels. Samples derived from these fermentations were analyzed by full-genome transcriptomics, paralleled by the assessment of physiological characteristics, e.g., maximum growth rate, yield, and organic acid profiles. A data-storage and -mining suite designated FermDB was constructed and exploited to identify correlations between fermentation conditions and industrially relevant physiological characteristics of L. plantarum, as well as the associated transcriptome signatures. Finally, integration of the specific fermentation variables with the transcriptomes enabled the reconstruction of the gene-regulatory networks involved. The fermentation-genomics platform presented here is a valuable complementary approach to earlier described genotype-phenotype matching strategies which allows the identification of transcriptome signatures underlying physiological variations imposed by different fermentation conditions.
This paper describes the molecular responses of Lactobacillus plantarum WCFS1 toward ethanol exposure. Global transcriptome profiling using DNA microarrays demonstrated adaptation of the microorganism to the presence of 8% ethanol over short (10-min and 30-min) and long (24-h) time intervals. A total of 57 genes were differentially expressed at all time points. Expression levels of an additional 859 and 873 genes were modulated after 30 min and 24 h of exposure to the solvent, respectively. Ethanol exposure led to induced expression of genes involved in citrate metabolism and cell envelope architecture, as well as canonical stress response pathways controlled by the central stress regulators HrcA and CtsR. Correspondingly, cells grown for 24 h in medium containing 8% ethanol exhibited higher levels of citrate consumption and modified cell membrane fatty acid composition and showed invaginating septa compared with cells grown in liquid medium without ethanol. In addition, these physiological changes resulted in cross-protection against high temperatures but not against several other stresses tested. To evaluate the role of HrcA and CtsR in ethanol tolerance, ctsR and hrcA gene deletion mutants were constructed. The growth rate of the L. plantarum ΔctsR::cat strain was impaired in de Man-Rogosa-Sharpe (MRS) medium containing 8% ethanol, whereas growth of the L. plantarum ΔhrcA::cat and ΔctsR ΔhrcA::cat mutants was indistinguishable from that of wild-type cells. Overall, these results suggest that the induction of CtsR class III stress responses provides cross-protection against heat stress.
The major autolysin Acm2 from the probiotic strain Lactobacillus plantarum WCFS1 contains high proportions of alanine, serine, and threonine in its N-terminal so-called AST domain. It has been suggested that this extracellular protein might be glycosylated, but this has not been experimentally verified. We used high-resolution liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) to study the possible occurrence of glycans on peptides generated from lactobacillary surface proteins by protease treatment. This approach yielded five glycopeptides in various glycoforms, all derived from the AST domain of Acm2. All five glycopeptides contained the hydroxy-amino acids serine and threonine, suggesting that Acm2 is O-glycosylated. By using lectin blotting with succinylated wheat germ agglutinin, and by comparing the wild-type strain with an Acm2-negative derivative (NZ3557), we found that the attached N-acetylhexosamines are most likely N-acetylglucosamines (GlcNAc). NZ3557 was further used as a genetic background to express an Acm2 variant lacking its secretion signal, resulting in intracellular expression of Acm2. We show that this intracellular version of Acm2 is also glycosylated, indicating that the GlcNAc modification is an intracellular process.
Modulation of the immune system is one of the most plausible mechanisms underlying the beneficial effects of probiotic bacteria on human health. Presently, the specific probiotic cell products responsible for immunomodulation are largely unknown. In this study, the genetic and phenotypic diversity of strains of the Lactobacillus plantarum species were investigated to identify genes of L. plantarum with the potential to influence the amounts of cytokines interleukin 10 (IL-10) and IL-12 and the ratio of IL-10/IL-12 produced by peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs).
A total of 42 Lactobacillus plantarum strains isolated from diverse environmental and human sources were evaluated for their capacity to stimulate cytokine production in PBMCs. The L. plantarum strains induced the secretion of the anti-inflammatory cytokine IL-10 over an average 14-fold range and secretion of the pro-inflammatory cytokine IL-12 over an average 16-fold range. Comparisons of the strain-specific cytokine responses of PBMCs to comparative genome hybridization profiles obtained with L. plantarum WCFS1 DNA microarrays (also termed gene-trait matching) resulted in the identification of 6 candidate genetic loci with immunomodulatory capacities. These loci included genes encoding an N-acetyl-glucosamine/galactosamine phosphotransferase system, the LamBDCA quorum sensing system, and components of the plantaricin (bacteriocin) biosynthesis and transport pathway. Deletion of these genes in L. plantarum WCFS1 resulted in growth phase-dependent changes in the PBMC IL-10 and IL-12 cytokine profiles compared with wild-type cells.
The altered PBMC cytokine profiles obtained with the L. plantarum WCFS1 mutants were in good agreement with the predictions made by gene-trait matching for the 42 L. plantarum strains. This study therefore resulted in the identification of genes present in certain strains of L. plantarum which might be responsible for the stimulation of anti- or pro-inflammatory immune responses in the gut.
Probiotics can be used to stimulate or regulate epithelial and immune cells of the intestinal mucosa and generate beneficial mucosal immunomodulatory effects. Beneficial effects of specific strains of probiotics have been established in the treatment and prevention of various intestinal disorders, including allergic diseases and diarrhea. However, the precise molecular mechanisms and the strain-dependent factors involved are poorly understood.
In this study, we aimed to identify gene loci in the model probiotic organism Lactobacillus plantarum WCFS1 that modulate the immune response of host dendritic cells. The amounts of IL-10 and IL-12 secreted by dendritic cells (DCs) after stimulation with 42 individual L. plantarum strains were measured and correlated with the strain-specific genomic composition using comparative genome hybridisation and the Random Forest algorithm. This in silico “gene-trait matching” approach led to the identification of eight candidate genes in the L. plantarum genome that might modulate the DC cytokine response to L. plantarum. Six of these genes were involved in bacteriocin production or secretion, one encoded a bile salt hydrolase and one encoded a transcription regulator of which the exact function is unknown. Subsequently, gene deletions mutants were constructed in L. plantarum WCFS1 and compared to the wild-type strain in DC stimulation assays. All three bacteriocin mutants as well as the transcription regulator (lp_2991) had the predicted effect on cytokine production confirming their immunomodulatory effect on the DC response to L. plantarum. Transcriptome analysis and qPCR data showed that transcript level of gtcA3, which is predicted to be involved in glycosylation of cell wall teichoic acids, was substantially increased in the lp_2991 deletion mutant (44 and 29 fold respectively).
Comparative genome hybridization led to the identification of gene loci in L. plantarum WCFS1 that modulate the immune response of DCs.
Most bacteria synthesize isoprenoids through one of two essential pathways which provide the basic building block, isopentyl diphosphate (IPP): either the classical mevalonate pathway or the alternative non-mevalonate 2-C-methyl-d-erythritol 4-phosphate (MEP) pathway. However, postgenomic analyses of the Listeria monocytogenes genome revealed that this pathogen possesses the genetic capacity to produce the complete set of enzymes involved in both pathways. The nonpathogenic species Listeria innocua naturally lacks the last two genes (gcpE and lytB) of the MEP pathway, and bioinformatic analyses strongly suggest that the genes have been lost through evolution. In the present study we show that heterologous expression of gcpE and lytB in L. innocua can functionally restore the MEP pathway in this organism and confer on it the ability to induce Vγ9Vδ2 T cells. We have previously confirmed that both pathways are functional in L. monocytogenes and can provide sufficient IPP for normal growth in laboratory media (M. Begley, C. G. Gahan, A. K. Kollas, M. Hintz, C. Hill, H. Jomaa, and M. Eberl, FEBS Lett. 561:99-104, 2004). Here we describe a targeted mutagenesis strategy to create a double pathway mutant in L. monocytogenes which cannot grow in the absence of exogenously provided mevalonate, confirming the requirement for at least one intact pathway for growth. In addition, murine studies revealed that mutants lacking the MEP pathway were impaired in virulence relative to the parent strain during intraperitoneal infection, while mutants lacking the classical mevalonate pathway were not impaired in virulence potential. In vivo bioluminescence imaging also confirmed in vivo expression of the gcpE gene (MEP pathway) during murine infection.
Thioredoxin (TRX) is a powerful disulfide oxido-reductase that catalyzes a wide spectrum of redox reactions in the cell. The aim of this study is to elucidate the role of the TRX system in the oxidative stress response in Lactobacillus plantarum WCFS1.
We have identified the trxB1-encoded thioredoxin reductase (TR) as a key enzyme in the oxidative stress response of Lactobacillus plantarum WCFS1.
Overexpression of the trxB1 gene resulted in a 3-fold higher TR activity in comparison to the wild-type strain. Subsequently, higher TR activity was associated with an increased resistance towards oxidative stress. We further determined the global transcriptional response to hydrogen peroxide stress in the trxB1-overexpression and wild-type strains grown in continuous cultures. Hydrogen peroxide stress and overproduction of TR collectively resulted in the up-regulation of 267 genes. Additionally, gene expression profiling showed significant differential expression of 27 genes in the trxB1-overexpression strain. Over expression of trxB1 was found to activate genes associated with DNA repair and stress mechanisms as well as genes associated with the activity of biosynthetic pathways for purine and sulfur-containing amino acids. A total of 16 genes showed a response to both TR overproduction and hydrogen peroxide stress. These genes are involved in the purine metabolism, energy metabolism (gapB) as well as in stress-response (groEL, npr2), and manganese transport (mntH2).
Based on our findings we propose that overproduction of the trxB1-encoded TR in L. plantarum improves tolerance towards oxidative stress. This response coincides with simultaneous induction of a group of 16 transcripts of genes. Within this group of genes, most are associated with oxidative stress response. The obtained crossover between datasets may explain the phenotype of the trxB1-overexpression strain, which appears to be prepared for encountering oxidative stress. This latter property can be used for engineering robustness towards oxidative stress in industrial strains of L. plantarum.
In this paper we describe construction of a luciferase-based vector, pPL2lux, and use of this vector to study gene expression in Listeria monocytogenes. pPL2lux is a derivative of the listerial integration vector pPL2 and harbors a synthetic luxABCDE operon encoding a fatty acid reductase complex (LuxCDE) involved in synthesis of the fatty aldehyde substrate for the bioluminescence reaction catalyzed by the LuxAB luciferase. We constructed pPL2lux derivatives in which the secA and hlyA promoters were translationally fused to luxABCDE and integrated as a single copy into the chromosome of L. monocytogenes EGD-e. Growth experiments revealed that hlyA was expressed predominantly in the stationary phase in LB medium buffered at pH 7.4, whereas secA expression could be detected in the exponential growth phase. Moreover, the correlation between luciferase activity and transcription levels, as determined by reverse transcriptase PCR, was confirmed using conditions known to lead to repression and activation of hemolysin expression (addition of cellobiose and activated charcoal, respectively). Furthermore, hemolysin expression could be monitored in real time during invasion of an intact monolayer of C2Bbe1 (Caco-2-derived) cells. Finally, hemolysin expression could be detected in the livers, spleens, and kidneys of mice 3 days postinfection. These experiments clearly established the effectiveness of pPL2lux as a quantitative reporter system for real-time, noninvasive evaluation of gene expression in L. monocytogenes.
Lactobacillus plantarum is a frequently encountered inhabitant of the human intestinal tract, and some strains are marketed as probiotics. Their ability to adhere to mannose residues is a potentially interesting characteristic with regard to proposed probiotic features such as colonization of the intestinal surface and competitive exclusion of pathogens. In this study, the variable capacity of 14 L. plantarum strains to agglutinate Saccharomyces cerevisiae in a mannose-specific manner was determined and subsequently correlated with an L. plantarum WCFS1-based genome-wide genotype database. This led to the identification of four candidate mannose adhesin-encoding genes. Two genes primarily predicted to code for sortase-dependent cell surface proteins displayed a complete gene-trait match. Their involvement in mannose adhesion was corroborated by the finding that a sortase (srtA) mutant of L. plantarum WCFS1 lost the capacity to agglutinate S. cerevisiae. The postulated role of these two candidate genes was investigated by gene-specific deletion and overexpression in L. plantarum WCFS1. Subsequent evaluation of the mannose adhesion capacity of the resulting mutant strains showed that inactivation of one candidate gene (lp_0373) did not affect mannose adhesion properties. In contrast, deletion of the other gene (lp_1229) resulted in a complete loss of yeast agglutination ability, while its overexpression quantitatively enhanced this phenotype. Therefore, this gene was designated to encode the mannose-specific adhesin (Msa; gene name, msa) of L. plantarum. Domain homology analysis of the predicted 1,000-residue Msa protein identified known carbohydrate-binding domains, further supporting its role as a mannose adhesin that is likely to be involved in the interaction of L. plantarum with its host in the intestinal tract.
In this paper we describe the growth, morphological, and genetic responses of Lactobacillus plantarum WCFS1 to bile. Growth experiments revealed that a stepwise increase in the porcine bile concentration led to a gradual decrease in the maximal growth rate. Moreover, the final density reached by an L. plantarum culture growing in MRS containing 0.1% bile was approximately threefold lower than that in MRS lacking bile. The morphology of the cells grown in MRS containing 0.1% bile was investigated by scanning electron microscopy, which revealed that cells clumped together and had rough surfaces and that some of the cells had a shrunken and empty appearance, which clearly contrasted with the characteristic rod-shaped, smooth-surface morphology of L. plantarum cells grown in MRS without bile. An alr complementation-based genome-wide promoter screening analysis was performed with L. plantarum, which led to identification of 31 genes whose expression was potentially induced by 0.1% porcine bile. Remarkably, 11 membrane- and cell wall-associated functions appeared to be induced by bile, as were five functions involved in redox reactions and five regulatory factors. Moreover, the lp_0237 and lp_0775 genes, identified here as genes that are inducible by bile in vitro, were previously identified in our laboratory as important for L. plantarum in vivo during passage in the mouse gastrointestinal tract (P. A. Bron, C. Grangette, A. Mercenier, W. M. de Vos, and M. Kleerebezem, J. Bacteriol. 186:5721-5729, 2004). A quantitative reverse transcription-PCR approach focusing on these two genes confirmed that the expression level of lp_0237 and lp_0775 was significantly higher in cells grown in the presence of bile and cells isolated from the mouse duodenum than in cells grown on laboratory medium without bile.
Lactobacillus plantarum is a flexible and versatile microorganism that inhabits a variety of environmental niches, including the human gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Moreover, this lactic acid bacterium can survive passage through the human or mouse stomach in an active form. To investigate the genetic background of this persistence, resolvase-based in vivo expression technology (R-IVET) was performed in L. plantarum WCFS1 by using the mouse GI tract as a model system. This approach identified 72 L. plantarum genes whose expression was induced during passage through the GI tract as compared to laboratory media. Nine of these genes encode sugar-related functions, including ribose, cellobiose, sucrose, and sorbitol transporter genes. Another nine genes encode functions involved in acquisition and synthesis of amino acids, nucleotides, cofactors, and vitamins, indicating their limited availability in the GI tract. Four genes involved in stress-related functions were identified, reflecting the harsh conditions that L. plantarum encounters in the GI tract. The four extracellular protein encoding genes identified could potentially be involved in interaction with host specific factors. The rest of the genes are part of several functionally unrelated pathways or encode (conserved) hypothetical proteins. Remarkably, a large number of the functions or pathways identified here have previously been identified in pathogens as being important in vivo during infection, strongly suggesting that survival rather than virulence is the explanation for the importance of these genes during host residence.
This paper describes the use of the alr gene, encoding alanine racemase, as a promoter-screening tool for the identification of conditional promoters in Lactobacillus plantarum. Random fragments of the L. plantarum WCFS1 genome were cloned upstream of the promoterless alr gene of Lactococcus lactis in a low-copy-number plasmid vector. The resulting plasmid library was introduced into an L. plantarum Δalr strain (MD007), and 40,000 clones were selected. The genome coverage of the library was estimated to be 98%, based on nucleotide insert sequence and restriction analyses of the inserts of randomly selected clones. The library was screened for clones that were capable of complementing the d-alanine auxotroph phenotype of MD007 in media containing up to 10, 100, or 300 μg of the competitive Alr inhibitor d-cycloserine per ml. Western blot analysis with polyclonal antibodies raised against lactococcal Alr revealed that the Alr production level required for growth increased in the presence of increasing concentrations of d-cycloserine, adding a quantitative factor to the primarily qualitative nature of the alr complementation screen. Screening of the alr complementation library for clones that could grow only in the presence of 0.8 M NaCl resulted in the identification of eight clones that upon Western blot analysis showed significantly higher Alr production under high-salt conditions than under low-salt conditions. These results established the effectiveness of the alanine racemase complementation screening method for the identification of promoters on their conditional or constitutive activity.
Both Lactococcus lactis and Lactobacillus plantarum contain a single alr gene, encoding an alanine racemase (EC 22.214.171.124), which catalyzes the interconversion of d-alanine and l-alanine. The alr genes of these lactic acid bacteria were investigated for their application as food-grade selection markers in a heterologous complementation approach. Since isogenic mutants of both species carrying an alr deletion (Δalr) showed auxotrophy for d-alanine, plasmids carrying a heterologous alr were constructed and could be selected, since they complemented d-alanine auxotrophy in the L. plantarum Δalr and L. lactis Δalr strains. Selection was found to be highly stringent, and plasmids were stably maintained over 200 generations of culturing. Moreover, the plasmids carrying the heterologous alr genes could be stably maintained in wild-type strains of L. plantarum and L. lactis by selection for resistance to d-cycloserine, a competitive inhibitor of Alr (600 and 200 μg/ml, respectively). In addition, a plasmid carrying the L. plantarum alr gene under control of the regulated nisA promoter was constructed to demonstrate that d-cycloserine resistance of L. lactis is linearly correlated to the alr expression level. Finally, the L. lactis alr gene controlled by the nisA promoter, together with the nisin-regulatory genes nisRK, were integrated into the chromosome of L. plantarum Δalr. The resulting strain could grow in the absence of d-alanine only when expression of the alr gene was induced with nisin.