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2.  H5N1 moratorium 
Bioengineered Bugs  2012;3(3):144.
The recent moratorium on research using engineered H5N1 influenza viruses is a move which cannot achieve its aims as it ignores the prevalence of molecular biology.
PMCID: PMC3370931  PMID: 22572784
3.  Two-tiered biological containment strategy for Lactococcus lactis-based vaccine or immunotherapy vectors 
The concept of biological containment was developed as a strategy to prevent environmental dissemination of engineered live vaccine or drug delivery vehicles. A mutation in the gene encoding thymidylate synthase (thyA), a key enzyme in the pyrimidine biosynthetic pathway, has previously been shown to limit growth of L. lactis vectors under restrictive conditions. We hypothesized that further mutations in the pyrimidine biosynthetic pathway might enhance the stability and safety of live L. lactis vectors. We show that a double mutation in the genes encoding ThyA and CTP synthase (PyrG) in L. lactis confers double auxotrophy for both thymidine and cytidine. However, the combination of two mutations failed to enhance the biological containment phenotype of the engineered strain. In the absence of thymine/thymidine, the thyA mutant exhibited a strong bactericidal phenotype. However, creation of the double mutant caused the loss of this phenotype, though survival in the mouse GI tract was enhanced. The implications for biological containment of live L. lactis based delivery vectors are discussed.
PMCID: PMC4185911  PMID: 24196273
biological containment; vaccine; Lactococcus lactis; thyA; pyrG
4.  Divergent Evolution of the Activity and Regulation of the Glutamate Decarboxylase Systems in Listeria monocytogenes EGD-e and 10403S: Roles in Virulence and Acid Tolerance 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(11):e112649.
The glutamate decarboxylase (GAD) system has been shown to be important for the survival of Listeria monocytogenes in low pH environments. The bacterium can use this faculty to maintain pH homeostasis under acidic conditions. The accepted model for the GAD system proposes that the antiport of glutamate into the bacterial cell in exchange for γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is coupled to an intracellular decarboxylation reaction of glutamate into GABA that consumes protons and therefore facilitates pH homeostasis. Most strains of L. monocytogenes possess three decarboxylase genes (gadD1, D2 & D3) and two antiporter genes (gadT1 & gadT2). Here, we confirm that the gadD3 encodes a glutamate decarboxylase dedicated to the intracellular GAD system (GADi), which produces GABA from cytoplasmic glutamate in the absence of antiport activity. We also compare the functionality of the GAD system between two commonly studied reference strains, EGD-e and 10403S with differences in terms of acid resistance. Through functional genomics we show that EGD-e is unable to export GABA and relies exclusively in the GADi system, which is driven primarily by GadD3 in this strain. In contrast 10403S relies upon GadD2 to maintain both an intracellular and extracellular GAD system (GADi/GADe). Through experiments with a murinised variant of EGD-e (EGDm) in mice, we found that the GAD system plays a significant role in the overall virulence of this strain. Double mutants lacking either gadD1D3 or gadD2D3 of the GAD system displayed reduced acid tolerance and were significantly affected in their ability to cause infection following oral inoculation. Since EGDm exploits GADi but not GADe the results indicate that the GADi system makes a contribution to virulence within the mouse. Furthermore, we also provide evidence that there might be a separate line of evolution in the GAD system between two commonly used reference strains.
PMCID: PMC4227838  PMID: 25386947
5.  Autoinducer-2 Plays a Crucial Role in Gut Colonization and Probiotic Functionality of Bifidobacterium breve UCC2003 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(5):e98111.
In the present study we show that luxS of Bifidobacterium breve UCC2003 is involved in the production of the interspecies signaling molecule autoinducer-2 (AI-2), and that this gene is essential for gastrointestinal colonization of a murine host, while it is also involved in providing protection against Salmonella infection in Caenorhabditis elegans. We demonstrate that a B. breve luxS-insertion mutant is significantly more susceptible to iron chelators than the WT strain and that this sensitivity can be partially reverted in the presence of the AI-2 precursor DPD. Furthermore, we show that several genes of an iron starvation-induced gene cluster, which are downregulated in the luxS-insertion mutant and which encodes a presumed iron-uptake system, are transcriptionally upregulated under in vivo conditions. Mutation of two genes of this cluster in B. breve UCC2003 renders the derived mutant strains sensitive to iron chelators while deficient in their ability to confer gut pathogen protection to Salmonella-infected nematodes. Since a functional luxS gene is present in all tested members of the genus Bifidobacterium, we conclude that bifidobacteria operate a LuxS-mediated system for gut colonization and pathogen protection that is correlated with iron acquisition.
PMCID: PMC4037206  PMID: 24871429
6.  In Vivo Assessment of Growth and Virulence Gene Expression during Commensal and Pathogenic Lifestyles of luxABCDE-Tagged Enterococcus faecalis Strains in Murine Gastrointestinal and Intravenous Infection Models 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2013;79(13):3986-3997.
Cytolysin and gelatinase are prominent pathogenicity determinants associated with highly virulent Enterococcus faecalis strains. In an effort to explore the expression profiles of these virulence traits in vivo, we have employed E. faecalis variants expressing the luxABCDE cassette under the control of either the P16S, cytolysin, or gelatinase promoter for infections of Galleria mellonella caterpillars and mice. Systemic infection of G. mellonella with bioluminescence-tagged E. faecalis MMH594 revealed temporal regulation of both gelatinase and cytolysin promoters and demonstrated that these traits were induced in response to the host environment. Gavage of mice pretreated perorally with antibiotics resulted in efficient colonization of the murine gastrointestinal tract (GIT) in a strain-dependent manner, where the commensal baby isolate EF62 was more persistent than the nosocomial isolate MMH594. A highly significant correlation (R2 > 0.94) was found between bioluminescence and the CFU counts in mouse fecal samples. Both strains showed similar preferences for growth and persistence in the ileum, cecum, and colon. Cytolysin expression was uniform in these compartments of the intestinal lumen. In spite of high numbers (109 CFU/g of intestinal matter) in the ileum, cecum, and colon, no evidence of translocation or systemic infection could be observed. In the murine intravenous infection model, cytolysin expression was readily detected in the liver, kidneys, and bladder. At 72 h postinfection, the highest bacterial loads were found in the liver, kidneys, and spleen, with organ-specific expression levels of cytolysin ∼400- and ∼900-fold higher in the spleen and heart, respectively, than in the liver and kidneys. Taken together, this system based on the bioluminescence imaging technology is established as a new, powerful method to monitor the differential regulation of E. faecalis virulence determinants and to study the spatiotemporal course of infection in living animals in real time.
PMCID: PMC3697570  PMID: 23603680
7.  A Mariner Transposon-Based Signature-Tagged Mutagenesis System for the Analysis of Oral Infection by Listeria monocytogenes 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(9):e75437.
Listeria monocytogenes is a Gram-positive foodborne pathogen and the causative agent of listerosis a disease that manifests predominately as meningitis in the non-pregnant individual or infection of the fetus and spontaneous abortion in pregnant women. Common-source outbreaks of foodborne listeriosis are associated with significant morbidity and mortality. However, relatively little is known concerning the mechanisms that govern infection via the oral route. In order to aid functional genetic analysis of the gastrointestinal phase of infection we designed a novel signature-tagged mutagenesis (STM) system based upon the invasive L. monocytogenes 4b serotype H7858 strain. To overcome the limitations of gastrointestinal infection by L. monocytogenes in the mouse model we created a H7858 strain that is genetically optimised for oral infection in mice. Furthermore our STM system was based upon a mariner transposon to favour numerous and random transposition events throughout the L. monocytogenes genome. Use of the STM bank to investigate oral infection by L. monocytogenes identified 21 insertion mutants that demonstrated significantly reduced potential for infection in our model. The sites of transposon insertion included lmOh7858_0671 (encoding an internalin homologous to Lmo0610), lmOh7858_0898 (encoding a putative surface-expressed LPXTG protein homologous to Lmo0842), lmOh7858_2579 (encoding the HupDGC hemin transport system) and lmOh7858_0399 (encoding a putative fructose specific phosphotransferase system). We propose that this represents an optimised STM system for functional genetic analysis of foodborne/oral infection by L. monocytogenes.
PMCID: PMC3771922  PMID: 24069416
8.  In vivo activity of Nisin A and Nisin V against Listeria monocytogenes in mice 
BMC Microbiology  2013;13:23.
Lantibiotics are post-translationally modified antimicrobial peptides, of which nisin A is the most extensively studied example. Bioengineering of nisin A has resulted in the generation of derivatives with increased in vitro potency against Gram-positive bacteria. Of these, nisin V (containing a Met21Val change) is noteworthy by virtue of exhibiting enhanced antimicrobial efficacy against a wide range of clinical and food-borne pathogens, including Listeria monocytogenes. However, this increased potency has not been tested in vivo.
Here we address this issue by assessing the ability of nisin A and nisin V to control a bioluminescent strain of Listeria monocytogenes EGDe in a murine infection model.
More specifically, Balb/c mice were infected via the intraperitoneal route at a dose of 1 × 105 cfu/animal and subsequently treated intraperitoneally with either nisin V, nisin A or a PBS control. Bioimaging of the mice was carried out on day 3 of the trial. Animals were then sacrificed and levels of infection were quantified in the liver and spleen.
This analysis revealed that nisin V was more effective than Nisin A with respect to controlling infection and therefore merits further investigation with a view to potential chemotherapeutic applications.
PMCID: PMC3616995  PMID: 23374279
Antimicrobial; Lantibiotic; Bacteriocin; Peptide engineering; Mutagenesis; Nisin
9.  Residual Antibiotics Disrupt Meat Fermentation and Increase Risk of Infection 
mBio  2012;3(5):e00190-12.
Fermented sausages, although presumed safe for consumption, sometimes cause serious bacterial infections in humans that may be deadly. Not much is known about why and when this is the case. We tested the hypothesis that residual veterinary antibiotics in meat can disrupt the fermentation process, giving pathogenic bacteria a chance to survive and multiply. We found that six commercially available starter cultures were susceptible to commonly used antibiotics, namely, oxytetracycline, penicillin, and erythromycin. In meat, statutorily tolerable levels of oxytetracycline and erythromycin inhibited fermentation performance of three and five of the six starter cultures, respectively. In model sausages, the disruption of meat fermentation enhanced survival of the pathogens Escherichia coli O157:H7 and Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium compared to successful fermentations. Our work reveals an overlooked risk associated with the presence of veterinary drugs in meat.
Antibiotics have for a long time been used as growth promoters in farm animals, and while they are banned as such in Europe, their clinical use in farm animals still accounts for the majority of consumption. Here, we examined how acceptable levels of antibiotics in meat influence fermentation. Our results show that commonly used bacterial starter cultures are sensitive to residual antibiotics at or near statutorily tolerable levels, and as a result, processed sausages may indeed contain high levels of pathogens. Our findings provide a possible explanation for outbreaks and disease cases associated with consumption of fermented sausages and offer yet another argument for limiting the use of antimicrobials in farm animals.
PMCID: PMC3445968  PMID: 22930338
10.  Bacteriophages ϕMR299-2 and ϕNH-4 Can Eliminate Pseudomonas aeruginosa in the Murine Lung and on Cystic Fibrosis Lung Airway Cells 
mBio  2012;3(2):e00029-12.
Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a common cause of infection in the lungs of patients with cystic fibrosis (CF). In addition, biofilm formation and antibiotic resistance of Pseudomonas are major problems that can complicate antibiotic therapy. We evaluated the efficacy of using bacteriophages to kill the pathogen in both biofilms and in the murine lung. We isolated and characterized two phages from a local wastewater treatment plant, a myovirus (ϕNH-4) and a podovirus (ϕMR299-2). Both phages were active against clinical isolates of P. aeruginosa. Together, the two phages killed all 9 clinical isolate strains tested, including both mucoid and nonmucoid strains. An equal mixture of the two phages was effective in killing P. aeruginosa NH57388A (mucoid) and P. aeruginosa MR299 (nonmucoid) strains when growing as a biofilm on a cystic fibrosis bronchial epithelial CFBE41o- cell line. Phage titers increased almost 100-fold over a 24-h period, confirming replication of the phage. Furthermore, the phage mix was also effective in killing the pathogen in murine lungs containing 1 × 107 to 2 × 107 P. aeruginosa. Pseudomonas was effectively cleared (reduced by a magnitude of at least 3 to 4 log units) from murine lungs in 6 h. Our study demonstrates the efficacy of these two phages in killing clinical Pseudomonas isolates in the murine lung or as a biofilm on a pulmonary cell line and supports the growing interest in using phage therapy for the control and treatment of multidrug-resistant Pseudomonas lung infections in CF patients.
Given the rise in antibiotic resistance, nonantibiotic therapies are required for the treatment of infection. This is particularly true for the treatment of Pseudomonas infection in patients with cystic fibrosis. We have identified two bacterial viruses (bacteriophages) that can kill Pseudomonas growing on human lung cells and in an animal model of lung infection. The use of bacteriophages is particularly appropriate because the killing agent can replicate on the target cell, generating fresh copies of the bacteriophage. Thus, in the presence of a target, the killing agent multiplies. By using two bacteriophages we can reduce the risk of resistant colonies developing at the site of infection. Bacteriophage therapy is an exciting field, and this study represents an important demonstration of efficacy in validated infection models.
PMCID: PMC3302570  PMID: 22396480
11.  A Putative P-Type ATPase Required for Virulence and Resistance to Haem Toxicity in Listeria monocytogenes 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(2):e30928.
Regulation of iron homeostasis in many pathogens is principally mediated by the ferric uptake regulator, Fur. Since acquisition of iron from the host is essential for the intracellular pathogen Listeria monocytogenes, we predicted the existence of Fur-regulated systems that support infection. We examined the contribution of nine Fur-regulated loci to the pathogenicity of L. monocytogenes in a murine model of infection. While mutating the majority of the genes failed to affect virulence, three mutants exhibited a significantly compromised virulence potential. Most striking was the role of the membrane protein we designate FrvA (Fur regulated virulence factor A; encoded by frvA [lmo0641]), which is absolutely required for the systemic phase of infection in mice and also for virulence in an alternative infection model, the Wax Moth Galleria mellonella. Further analysis of the ΔfrvA mutant revealed poor growth in iron deficient media and inhibition of growth by micromolar concentrations of haem or haemoglobin, a phenotype which may contribute to the attenuated growth of this mutant during infection. Uptake studies indicated that the ΔfrvA mutant is unaffected in the uptake of ferric citrate but demonstrates a significant increase in uptake of haem and haemin. The data suggest a potential role for FrvA as a haem exporter that functions, at least in part, to protect the cell against the potential toxicity of free haem.
PMCID: PMC3283593  PMID: 22363518
12.  The Lantibiotic Lacticin 3147 Prevents Systemic Spread of Staphylococcus aureus in a Murine Infection Model 
The objective of this study was to investigate the in vivo activity of the lantibiotic lacticin 3147 against the luminescent Staphylococcus aureus strain Xen 29 using a murine model. Female BALB/c mice (7 weeks old, 17 g) were divided into groups (n = 5) and infected with the Xen 29 strain via the intraperitoneal route at a dose of 1 × 106 cfu/animal. After 1.5 hr, the animals were treated subcutaneously with doses of phosphate-buffered saline (PBS; negative control) or lacticin 3147. Luminescent imaging was carried 3 and 5 hours postinfection. Mice were then sacrificed, and the levels of S. aureus Xen 29 in the liver, spleen, and kidneys were quantified. Notably, photoluminescence and culture-based analysis both revealed that lacticin 3147 successfully controlled the systemic spread of S. aureus in mice thus indicating that lacticin 3147 has potential as a chemotherapeutic agent for in vivo applications.
PMCID: PMC3265090  PMID: 22291709
13.  Efficacy of a Lactococcus lactis ΔpyrG vaccine delivery platform expressing chromosomally integrated hly from Listeria monocytogenes 
Bioengineered Bugs  2010;1(1):66-74.
Listeria monocytogenes is a significant food-borne pathogen and the causative agent of listeriosis, a disease which manifests as meningitis in immunocompromised adults or infection of the fetus and miscarriage in pregnant women. We have previously used Lactococcus lactis, a GRAS (Generally Regarded As Safe) organism, as a vaccine vector against listeriosis by engineering plasmid-mediated expression of the immunodominant antigen from L. monocytogenes, listeriolysin O (LLO). However, the environmental release of an engineered vaccine vector carrying a replicating plasmid during clinical usage may raise safety concerns. Here we describe the integration of the LLO gene (hly) into the L. lactis chromosome through homologous double crossover to allow stable expression, in order to avoid the use of antibiotic selection markers and to eliminate the requirement for a plasmid-based system. The approach was designed to simultaneously eliminate the pyrG gene encoding the CTP synthase which is responsible for converting UTP to CTP in a unique step in the de novo pyrimidine synthesis in L. lactis. This gene was targeted in order to restrict bacterial replication outside of the host (biological containment). The resulting cytidine auxotroph was able to secrete LLO constitutively and could elicit LLO91–99-specific CD8+ T lymphocytes in the murine infection model. Moreover, protection against lethal challenge with L. monocytogenes was accomplished after intraperitoneal (IP) vaccination with the constructed strain. The implications for the use of cytidine auxotropy in biological containment are discussed.
PMCID: PMC3035148  PMID: 21327128
Lactococcus lactis; biological containment; listeriolysin O; pyrG; hly; vaccine
14.  Directed evolution and targeted mutagenesis to murinize listeria monocytogenes internalin A for enhanced infectivity in the murine oral infection model 
BMC Microbiology  2010;10:318.
Internalin A (InlA) is a critical virulence factor which mediates the initiation of Listeria monocytogenes infection by the oral route in permissive hosts. The interaction of InlA with the host cell ligand E-cadherin efficiently stimulates L. monocytogenes entry into human enterocytes, but has only a limited interaction with murine cells.
We have created a surface display library of randomly mutated InlA in a non-invasive heterologous host Lactococcus lactis in order to create and screen novel variants of this invasion factor. After sequential passage through a murine cell line (CT-26), multiple clones with enhanced invasion characteristics were identified. Competitive index experiments were conducted in mice using selected mutations introduced into L. monocytogenes EGD-e background. A novel single amino acid change was identified which enhanced virulence by the oral route in the murine model and will form the basis of further engineering approaches. As a control a previously described EGD-InlAm murinized strain was also re-created as part of this study with minor modifications and designated EGD-e InlAm*. The strain was created using a procedure that minimizes the likelihood of secondary mutations and incorporates Listeria-optimized codons encoding the altered amino acids. L. monocytogenes EGD-e InlAm* yielded consistently higher level murine infections by the oral route when compared to EGD-e, but did not display the two-fold increased invasion into a human cell line that was previously described for the EGD-InlAm strain.
We have used both site-directed mutagenesis and directed evolution to create variants of InlA which may inform future structure-function analyses of this protein. During the course of the study we engineered a murinized strain of L. monocytogenes EGD-e which shows reproducibly higher infectivity in the intragastric murine infection model than the wild type, but does not display enhanced entry into human cells as previously observed. This murinized L. monocytogenes strain will provide a useful tool for the analysis of the gastrointestinal phase of listeriosis.
PMCID: PMC3016325  PMID: 21144051
15.  The truncated phage lysin CHAPk eliminates Staphylococcus aureus in the nares of mice 
Bioengineered Bugs  2010;1(6):404-407.
The endolysin LysK derived from staphylococcal phage K has previously been shown to have two enzymatic domains, one of which is an N-acetylmuramoyl-L-alanine amidase and the other a cysteine/histidine-dependant amidohydrolase/peptidase designated CHAPk. The latter, when cloned as a single-domain truncated enzyme, is conveniently overexpressed in a highly-soluble form. This enzyme was shown to be highly active in vitro against live cell suspensions of S. aureus. In the current study, the IVIS imaging system was used to demonstrate the effective elimination of a lux labeled S. aureus from the nares of BALB/c mice.
PMCID: PMC3056090  PMID: 21468207
Staphylococcus; decolonization; lysin; bacteriophage; nasal
16.  Specific Osmolyte Transporters Mediate Bile Tolerance in Listeria monocytogenes▿  
Infection and Immunity  2009;77(11):4895-4904.
The food-borne pathogenic bacterium Listeria monocytogenes has the potential to adapt to an array of suboptimal growth environments encountered within the host. The pathogen is relatively bile tolerant and has the capacity to survive and grow within both the small intestine and the gallbladder in murine models of oral infection. We have previously demonstrated a role for the principal carnitine transport system of L. monocytogenes (OpuC) in gastrointestinal survival of the pathogen (R. Sleator, J. Wouters, C. G. M. Gahan, T. Abee, and C. Hill, Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 67:2692-2698, 2001). However, the mechanisms by which OpuC, or indeed carnitine, protects the pathogen in this environment are unclear. In the current study, systematic analysis of strains with mutations in osmolyte transporters revealed a role for OpuC in resisting the acute toxicity of bile, with a minor role also played by BetL, a secondary betaine uptake system which also exhibits a low affinity for carnitine. In addition, the toxic effects of bile on wild-type L. monocytogenes cells were ameliorated when carnitine (but not betaine) was added to the medium. lux-promoter fusions to the promoters of the genes encoding the principal osmolyte uptake systems Gbu, BetL, and OpuC and the known bile tolerance system BilE were constructed. Promoter activity for all systems was significantly induced in the presence of bile, with the opuC and bilE promoters exhibiting the highest levels of bile-dependent expression in vitro and the betL and bilE promoters showing the highest expression levels in the intestines of orally inoculated mice. A direct comparison of all osmolyte transporter mutants in a murine oral infection model confirmed a major role for OpuC in intestinal persistence and systemic invasion and a minor role for the BetL transporter in fecal carriage. This study therefore demonstrates a previously unrecognized function for osmolyte uptake systems in bile tolerance in L. monocytogenes.
PMCID: PMC2772544  PMID: 19737907
17.  Allelic Variation of Bile Salt Hydrolase Genes in Lactobacillus salivarius Does Not Determine Bile Resistance Levels▿ †  
Journal of Bacteriology  2009;191(18):5743-5757.
Commensal lactobacilli frequently produce bile salt hydrolase (Bsh) enzymes whose roles in intestinal survival are unclear. Twenty-six Lactobacillus salivarius strains from different sources all harbored a bsh1 allele on their respective megaplasmids. This allele was related to the plasmid-borne bsh1 gene of the probiotic strain UCC118. A second locus (bsh2) was found in the chromosomes of two strains that had higher bile resistance levels. Four Bsh1-encoding allele groups were identified, defined by truncations or deletions involving a conserved residue. In vitro analyses showed that this allelic variation was correlated with widely varying bile deconjugation phenotypes. Despite very low activity of the UCC118 Bsh1 enzyme, a mutant lacking this protein had significantly lower bile resistance, both in vitro and during intestinal transit in mice. However, the overall bile resistance phenotype of this and other strains was independent of the bsh1 allele type. Analysis of the L. salivarius transcriptome upon exposure to bile and cholate identified a multiplicity of stress response proteins and putative efflux proteins that appear to broadly compensate for, or mask, the effects of allelic variation of bsh genes. Bsh enzymes with different bile-degrading kinetics, though apparently not the primary determinants of bile resistance in L. salivarius, may have additional biological importance because of varying effects upon bile as a signaling molecule in the host.
PMCID: PMC2737978  PMID: 19592587
18.  Analysis of the Isoprenoid Biosynthesis Pathways in Listeria monocytogenes Reveals a Role for the Alternative 2-C-Methyl-d-Erythritol 4-Phosphate Pathway in Murine Infection▿  
Infection and Immunity  2008;76(11):5392-5401.
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.
PMCID: PMC2573353  PMID: 18765739
19.  Listeriolysin S, a Novel Peptide Haemolysin Associated with a Subset of Lineage I Listeria monocytogenes 
PLoS Pathogens  2008;4(9):e1000144.
Streptolysin S (SLS) is a bacteriocin-like haemolytic and cytotoxic virulence factor that plays a key role in the virulence of Group A Streptococcus (GAS), the causative agent of pharyngitis, impetigo, necrotizing fasciitis and streptococcal toxic shock syndrome. Although it has long been thought that SLS and related peptides are produced by GAS and related streptococci only, there is evidence to suggest that a number of the most notorious Gram-positive pathogenic bacteria, including Listeria monocytogenes, Clostridium botulinum and Staphylococcus aureus, produce related peptides. The distribution of the L. monocytogenes cluster is particularly noteworthy in that it is found exclusively among a subset of lineage I strains; i.e., those responsible for the majority of outbreaks of listeriosis. Expression of these genes results in the production of a haemolytic and cytotoxic factor, designated Listeriolysin S, which contributes to virulence of the pathogen as assessed by murine- and human polymorphonuclear neutrophil–based studies. Thus, in the process of establishing the existence of an extended family of SLS-like modified virulence peptides (MVPs), the genetic basis for the enhanced virulence of a proportion of lineage I L. monocytogenes may have been revealed.
Author Summary
Listeria monocytogenes is known to produce only one haemolytic factor that plays an important role in its pathogenic cycle—that is, the cholesterol-dependent Listeriolysin O. However, here we identify a second haemolysin, which is present in a subset of strains of lineage I, the evolutionary lineage of L. monocytogenes that contributes to the majority of spontaneous and epidemic outbreaks of listeriosis. This second haemolysin is only induced under oxidative stress conditions and contributes to murine virulence and in survival in polymorphonuclear neutrophils. Bioinformatic analysis suggests that the haemolysin Listeriolysin S (LLS) is post-translationally modified and belongs to a family of modified virulence peptides, including the potent virulence factor Streptolysin S (SLS), a peptide cytolysin produced by Streptococcus pyogenes, and several as-yet uncharacterised members of the same family in other pathogens. Therefore, en route to establishing that some L. monocytogenes produce more than one haemolysin, we have uncovered a virulence factor that is exclusively associated with a subset of the lineage I evolutionary line and that is also the first non-streptococcal representative of a potentially extended family of SLS-like peptides.
PMCID: PMC2522273  PMID: 18787690
20.  Development of multiple strain competitive index assays for Listeria monocytogenes using pIMC; a new site-specific integrative vector 
BMC Microbiology  2008;8:96.
The foodborne, gram-positive pathogen, Listeria monocytogenes, is capable of causing lethal infections in compromised individuals. In the post genomic era of L. monocytogenes research, techniques are required to identify and validate genes involved in the pathogenicity and environmental biology of the organism. The aim here was to develop a widely applicable method to tag L. monocytogenes strains, with a particular emphasis on the development of multiple strain competitive index assays.
We have constructed a new site-specific integrative vector, pIMC, based on pPL2, for the selection of L. monocytogenes from complex samples. The pIMC vector was further modified through the incorporation of IPTG inducible markers (antibiotic and phenotypic) to produce a suite of four vectors which allowed the discrimination of multiple strains from a single sample. We were able to perform murine infection studies with up to four EGDe isolates within a single mouse and showed that the tags did not impact upon growth rate or virulence. The system also allowed the identification of subtle differences in virulence between strains of L. monocytogenes commonly used in laboratory studies.
This study has developed a competitive index assay that can be broadly applied to all L. monocytogenes strains. Improved statistical robustness of the data was observed, resulting in fewer mice being required for virulence assays. The competitive index assays provide a powerful method to analyse the virulence or fitness of L. monocytogenes in complex biological samples.
PMCID: PMC2440758  PMID: 18554399
21.  Pseudomonas aeruginosa RsmA Plays an Important Role during Murine Infection by Influencing Colonization, Virulence, Persistence, and Pulmonary Inflammation▿  
Infection and Immunity  2007;76(2):632-638.
The ability of Pseudomonas aeruginosa to cause a broad range of infections in humans is due, at least in part, to its adaptability and its capacity to regulate the expression of key virulence genes in response to specific environmental conditions. Multiple two-component response regulators have been shown to facilitate rapid responses to these environmental conditions, including the coordinated expression of specific virulence determinants. RsmA is a posttranscriptional regulatory protein which controls the expression of a number of virulence-related genes with relevance for acute and chronic infections. Many membrane-bound sensors, including RetS, LadS, and GacS, are responsible for the reciprocal regulation of genes associated with acute infection and chronic persistence. In P. aeruginosa this is due to sensors influencing the expression of the regulatory RNA RsmZ, with subsequent effects on the level of free RsmA. While interactions between an rsmA mutant and human airway epithelial cells have been examined in vitro, the role of RsmA during infection in vivo has not been determined yet. Here the function of RsmA in both acute and chronic models of infection was examined. The results demonstrate that RsmA is involved in initial colonization and dissemination in a mouse model of acute pneumonia. Furthermore, while loss of RsmA results in reduced colonization during the initial stages of acute infection, the data show that mutation of rsmA ultimately favors chronic persistence and results in increased inflammation in the lungs of infected mice.
PMCID: PMC2223469  PMID: 18025099
22.  Construction of p16Slux, a Novel Vector for Improved Bioluminescent Labeling of Gram-Negative Bacteria▿  
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2007;73(21):7092-7095.
A novel vector has been constructed for the constitutive luminescent tagging of gram-negative bacteria by site-specific integration into the 16S locus of the bacterial chromosome. A number of gram-negative pathogens were successfully tagged using this vector, and the system was validated during murine infections of living animals.
PMCID: PMC2074938  PMID: 17766445
23.  Improved Luciferase Tagging System for Listeria monocytogenes Allows Real-Time Monitoring In Vivo and In Vitro▿  
An improved system for luciferase tagging Listeria monocytogenes was developed by constructing a highly active, constitutive promoter. This construct gave 100-fold-higher activity in broth than any native promoter tested and allowed for imaging of lux-tagged L. monocytogenes in food products, during murine infections, and in tumor targeting studies.
PMCID: PMC1892880  PMID: 17351089
24.  A Five-Strain Probiotic Combination Reduces Pathogen Shedding and Alleviates Disease Signs in Pigs Challenged with Salmonella enterica Serovar Typhimurium▿  
Salmonella spp. infection is a major cause of gastroenteritis, with many thousands of cases reported in the European Union every year. The use of probiotics offers the potential to improve this situation. Here, we investigate the effects of oral treatment of pigs with a defined lactic acid bacteria culture mixture on both clinical and microbiological signs of Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium infection. Fifteen weaned pigs blocked by sex and weight were administered control milk or a mixture of five probiotic strains as either a milk fermentate or milk suspension for a total of 30 days. The mixture consisted of two strains of Lactobacillus murinus and one strain each of Lactobacillus salivarius subsp. salivarius, Lactobacillus pentosus, and Pediococcus pentosaceous. Following probiotic administration for 6 days, animals were challenged orally with serovar Typhimurium; the health of the animals and the microbiological composition of their feces were monitored for 23 days postinfection. Animals treated with probiotic showed reduced incidence, severity, and duration of diarrhea. These animals also gained weight at a greater rate than control pigs administered skim milk. Mean fecal numbers of Salmonella were significantly reduced in probiotic-treated animals at 15 days postinfection (P = 0.01). The administered probiotic bacteria improved both the clinical and microbiological outcome of Salmonella infection. These strains offer significant benefit for use in the food industry and may have potential in human applications.
PMCID: PMC1828830  PMID: 17261517
25.  Relative Ability of Orally Administered Lactobacillus murinus To Predominate and Persist in the Porcine Gastrointestinal Tract 
Five porcine-derived Lactobacillus or Pediococcus isolates administered to pigs (n = 4), either singly or as a combination at ∼1010 CFU per day varied with respect to intestinal survival and persistence. Two Lactobacillus murinus strains survived best and were excreted at ∼107 to 108 CFU/g of feces. In contrast, Pediococcus pentosaceus DPC6006 had the lowest fecal count at ∼105 CFU/g and was excreted at a significantly lower level than both L. murinus strains. Fecal L. murinus DPC6003 counts were also significantly higher than both Lactobacillus salivarius DPC6005 and Lactobacillus pentosus DPC6004 (∼106 CFU/g). The L. murinus strains persisted for at least 9 days postadministration in both the feces and the cecum. Animals fed a combination of all five strains excreted ∼107 CFU of the administered strains/g, with L. murinus predominating, as determined by randomly amplified polymorphic DNA PCR. Postadministration, variation was observed between animals fed the strain combination, but in general, L. murinus DPC6002 and DPC6003 and L. pentosus DPC6004 predominated in the feces and the cecum while P. pentosaceus DPC6006 was detected only in the cecum. Fifteen days after the start of culture administration, mean fecal Enterobacteriaceae counts were significantly lower in some of the treatment groups. In addition, when mean preadministration counts were compared with those obtained after 21 days of culture administration, Enterobacteriaceae counts were reduced by ∼87 to 98% in pigs fed L. salivarius DPC6005, P. pentosaceus DPC6006, L. pentosus DPC6004, and the culture mix. In conclusion, the porcine intestinal isolates have potential as probiotic feed additives for pigs, with differences in strain performance highlighting the advantages of using culture combinations.
PMCID: PMC383152  PMID: 15066778

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