The knowledge that many pathogens rely on cell-to-cell communication mechanisms known as quorum sensing, opens a new disease control strategy: quorum quenching. Here we report on one of the rare examples where Gram-positive bacteria, the ‘Staphylococcus intermedius group’ of zoonotic pathogens, excrete two compounds in millimolar concentrations that suppress the quorum sensing signaling and inhibit the growth of a broad spectrum of Gram-negative beta- and gamma-proteobacteria. These compounds were isolated from Staphylococcus delphini. They represent a new class of quorum quenchers with the chemical formula N-[2-(1H-indol-3-yl)ethyl]-urea and N-(2-phenethyl)-urea, which we named yayurea A and B, respectively. In vitro studies with the N-acyl homoserine lactone (AHL) responding receptor LuxN of V. harveyi indicated that both compounds caused opposite effects on phosphorylation to those caused by AHL. This explains the quorum quenching activity. Staphylococcal strains producing yayurea A and B clearly benefit from an increased competitiveness in a mixed community.
While studying the potential interaction of staphylococci with Gram-negative bacteria, we came across another communication system in a Staphylococcus species group, which consists of closely related coagulase-positive bacterial species that play a role as zoonotic pathogens. We found that these species excrete two small compounds that inhibit both the expression of QS-controlled toxins and other QS-regulated compounds as well as growth in Gram-negative bacteria. The excreted compounds, which we named yayurea A and B, were isolated from S. delphini and structurally characterized. They represent new bacterial products, which quench the QS regulation in a wide spectrum of Gram-negative bacteria by stimulating the LuxN-mediated phosphorylation of LuxU. Furthermore, growth of yayurea A and B producing S. delphini is not suppressed by respiratory toxins when co-cultured with P. aeruginosa. This suggests that the quorum quenchers have a function in self-protection and competitiveness in natural environments shared with Gram-negatives. Here we show one of the rare cases of inter-phylum interference between firmicutes (Gram-positive) and beta-/gammaproteobacteria (Gram-negative).
Here we report the draft genome sequence of a bloodstream isolate of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus strain SA16. Strain SA16 is a sequence type 5 (ST5)-staphylococcal cassette chromosome mec type II (SCCmec II) clone and was the most prevalent isolate at a Brazilian hospital during the second half of 2009.
The conjunctiva is a moist mucosal membrane that is constantly exposed to an array of potential pathogens and triggers of inflammation. The NACHT, leucine rich repeat (LRR), and pyrin domain-containing protein 3 (NLRP3) is a Nod-like receptor that can sense pathogens or other triggers, and is highly expressed in wet mucosal membranes. NLRP3 is a member of the multi-protein complex termed the NLRP3 inflammasome that activates the caspase 1 pathway, inducing the secretion of biologically active IL-1β, a major initiator and promoter of inflammation. The purpose of this study was to: (1) determine whether NLRP3 is expressed in the conjunctiva and (2) determine whether goblet cells specifically contribute to innate mediated inflammation via secretion of IL-1β. We report that the receptors known to be involved in the priming and activation of the NLRP3 inflammasome, the purinergic receptors P2X4 and P2X7 and the bacterial Toll-like receptor 2 are present and functional in conjunctival goblet cells. Toxin-containing Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus), which activates the NLRP3 inflammasome, increased the expression of the inflammasome proteins NLRP3, ASC and pro- and mature caspase 1 in conjunctival goblet cells. The biologically active form of IL-1β was detected in goblet cell culture supernatants in response to S. aureus, which was reduced when the cells were treated with the caspase 1 inhibitor Z-YVAD. We conclude that the NLRP3 inflammasome components are present in conjunctival goblet cells. The NRLP3 inflammasome appears to be activated in conjunctival goblet cells by toxin-containing S. aureus via the caspase 1 pathway to secrete mature IL1-β. Thus goblet cells contribute to the innate immune response in the conjunctiva by activation of the NLRP3 inflammasome.
Polyanionic polymers, including lipoteichoic acid and wall teichoic acid, are important determinants of the charged character of the staphylococcal cell wall. This study was designed to investigate the extent to which teichoic acid contributes to protection from anionic azo dyes and to identify barriers to drug penetration for development of new antibiotics for multidrug-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infection.
We studied antimicrobial activity of azo dyes against S. aureus strains with or without inhibition of teichoic acid in vitro and in vivo.
We observed that inhibition of wall teichoic acid expression resulted in an ∼1000-fold increase in susceptibility to azo dyes such as Congo red, reducing its MIC from >1024 to <4 mg/L. Sensitization occurred when the first step in the wall teichoic acid pathway, catalysed by TarO, was inhibited either by mutation or by chemical inhibition. In contrast, genetic blockade of lipoteichoic acid biosynthesis did not confer Congo red susceptibility. Based on this finding, combination therapy was tested using the highly synergistic combination of Congo red plus tunicamycin at sub-MIC concentrations (to inhibit wall teichoic acid biosynthesis). The combination rescued Caenorhabditis elegans from a lethal challenge of S. aureus.
Our studies show that wall teichoic acid confers protection to S. aureus from anionic azo dyes and related compounds, and its inhibition raises the prospect of development of new combination therapies based on this inhibition.
bacteria; antibiotics; S. aureus
Enterococcus faecium, natively a gut commensal organism, emerged as a leading cause of multidrug-resistant hospital-acquired infection in the 1980s. As the living record of its adaptation to changes in habitat, we sequenced the genomes of 51 strains, isolated from various ecological environments, to understand how E. faecium emerged as a leading hospital pathogen. Because of the scale and diversity of the sampled strains, we were able to resolve the lineage responsible for epidemic, multidrug-resistant human infection from other strains and to measure the evolutionary distances between groups. We found that the epidemic hospital-adapted lineage is rapidly evolving and emerged approximately 75 years ago, concomitant with the introduction of antibiotics, from a population that included the majority of animal strains, and not from human commensal lines. We further found that the lineage that included most strains of animal origin diverged from the main human commensal line approximately 3,000 years ago, a time that corresponds to increasing urbanization of humans, development of hygienic practices, and domestication of animals, which we speculate contributed to their ecological separation. Each bifurcation was accompanied by the acquisition of new metabolic capabilities and colonization traits on mobile elements and the loss of function and genome remodeling associated with mobile element insertion and movement. As a result, diversity within the species, in terms of sequence divergence as well as gene content, spans a range usually associated with speciation.
Enterococci, in particular vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecium, recently emerged as a leading cause of hospital-acquired infection worldwide. In this study, we examined genome sequence data to understand the bacterial adaptations that accompanied this transformation from microbes that existed for eons as members of host microbiota. We observed changes in the genomes that paralleled changes in human behavior. An initial bifurcation within the species appears to have occurred at a time that corresponds to the urbanization of humans and domestication of animals, and a more recent bifurcation parallels the introduction of antibiotics in medicine and agriculture. In response to the opportunity to fill niches associated with changes in human activity, a rapidly evolving lineage emerged, a lineage responsible for the vast majority of multidrug-resistant E. faecium infections.
Historically landmark experiments showed that capsule switching is critical for Streptococcus pneumonia survival. Further studies demonstrated that capsule ‘transformation’ occurs via DNA uptake. In this issue of Cell Host and Microbe, Bikard et al. (2012) show that CRISPR-Cas systems inhibit DNA uptake, selecting for the outgrowth of CRISPR-defective pneumococci.
Bacterial endophthalmitis is a sight threatening infection of the interior structures of the eye. Incidence in the US has increased in recent years, which appears to be related to procedures being performed on an aging population. The advent of outpatient intravitreal therapy for management of age-related macular degeneration raises yet additional risks. Compounding the problem is the continuing progression of antibiotic resistance. Visual prognosis for endophthalmitis depends on the virulence of the causative organism, the severity of intraocular inflammation, and the timeliness of effective therapy. We review the current understanding of the pathogenesis of bacterial endophthalmitis, highlighting opportunities for the development of improved therapeutics and preventive strategies.
Endophthalmitis; Staphylococcus aureus; coagulase-negative staphylococci; Streptococcus pneumoniae; Enterococcus faecalis; Bacillus
Enterococcus faecalis V583 is a vancomycin-resistant clinical isolate which belongs to the hospital-adapted clade, CC2. This strain harbours several factors that have been associated with virulence, including the fsr quorum-sensing regulatory system that is known to control the expression of GelE and SprE proteases. To discriminate between genes directly regulated by Fsr, and those indirectly regulated as the result of protease expression or activity, we compared gene expression in isogenic mutants of V583 variously defective in either Fsr quorum sensing or protease expression. Quorum sensing was artificially induced by addition of the quorum signal, GBAP, exogenously in a controlled manner. The Fsr regulon was found to be restricted to five genes, gelE, sprE, ef1097, ef1351 and ef1352. Twelve additional genes were found to be dependent on the presence of GBAP-induced proteases. Induction of GelE and SprE by GBAP via Fsr resulted in accumulation of mRNA encoding lrgAB, and this induction was found to be lytRS dependent. Drosophila infection was used to discern varying levels of toxicity stemming from mutations in the fsr quorum regulatory system and the genes that it regulates, highlighting the contribution of LrgAB and bacteriocin EF1097 to infection toxicity. A contribution of SprE to infection toxicity was also detected. This work brought to light new players in E. faecalis success as a pathogen and paves the way for future studies on host tolerance mechanisms to infections caused by this important nosocomial pathogen.
Enterococcus faecalis is a Gram-positive commensal member of the gut microbiota of a wide range of organisms. With the advent of antibiotic therapy, it has emerged as a multidrug resistant, hospital-acquired pathogen. Highly virulent strains of E. faecalis express a pore-forming exotoxin, called cytolysin, which lyses both bacterial and eukaryotic cells in response to quorum signals. Originally described in the 1930s, the cytolysin is a member of a large class of lanthionine-containing bacteriocins produced by Gram-positive bacteria. While the cytolysin shares some core features with other lantibiotics, it possesses unique characteristics as well. The current understanding of cytolysin biosynthesis, structure/function relationships, and contribution to the biology of E. faecalis are reviewed, and opportunities for using emerging technologies to advance this understanding are discussed.
cytolysin; lantibiotic; bacteriocin
Fruit from the palm Mauritia flexuosa (aguaje) is harvested
throughout the Peruvian Amazon for subsistence and commercial purposes.
Recent estimates suggest that residents of Iquitos, the largest city in
the region, consume approximately 148.8 metric tons of aguaje fruit per
month, the vast majority of which is harvested by felling and killing
adult female trees. In this study, we sought to better understand and
document the importance of M. flexuosa palm swamps (aguajales)
in two Maijuna indigenous communities to inform the sustainable
management of this habitat and species.
Semi-structured interviews, focus groups, and household surveys were
carried out to assess the significance of aguajales and their associated
plant and animal resources as well as to determine how the relationship
that the Maijuna have with aguajales has changed over time.
Aguajales and their associated resources are culturally significant and
useful to the Maijuna in a wide variety of ways. In addition to M.
flexuosa, the Maijuna use over 60 different species of plants
from aguajales. When M. flexuosa is in fruit, aguajales are
important hunting areas with a total of 20 different animal species
hunted. The Maijuna also have traditional beliefs about aguajales,
believing that malevolent supernatural beings reside in them. Notably,
the relationship that the Maijuna have with aguajales has changed
considerably over the years as aguaje fruit went from a subsistence item
collected opportunistically from the ground to a market good
destructively harvested beginning in the early 1990s. The Maijuna are
concerned not only about how this has affected the future commercial
harvest of aguaje but also about its effects on game animals given the
importance of hunting to Maijuna cultural identity, subsistence, and
In order to meet the multiple socio-cultural and economic needs of the
Maijuna, sustainable management efforts must be expanded to not only
focus on the commercial harvest of aguaje but also other facets of their
relationship with this habitat. Our study suggests that the research and
development of multi-use forest management plans must not be restricted
to commercial forest products and ecosystem services given that many
communities rely on tropical forests for a wide range of non-market
cultural, economic, and subsistence goods and services.
Ethnoecology; Multi-use management; Forest resources; Maijuna; Peruvian Amazon; Mauritia flexuosa
While breast cancer screening with mammography and MRI is recommended for BRCA mutation carriers, there is no current consensus on the optimal screening regimen.
We used a computer simulation model to compare six annual screening strategies [film mammography (FM), digital mammography (DM), FM and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or DM and MRI contemporaneously, and alternating FM/MRI or DM/MRI at six-month intervals] beginning at ages 25, 30, 35, and 40, and two strategies of annual MRI with delayed alternating DM/FM to clinical surveillance alone. Strategies were evaluated without and with mammography-induced breast cancer risk, using two models of excess relative risk. Input parameters were obtained from the medical literature, publicly available databases, and calibration.
Without radiation risk effects, alternating DM/MRI starting at age 25 provided the highest life expectancy (BRCA1: 72.52 years, BRCA2: 77.63 years). When radiation risk was included, a small proportion of diagnosed cancers were attributable to radiation exposure (BRCA1: <2%, BRCA2: <4%). With radiation risk, alternating DM/MRI at age 25 or annual MRI at age 25/delayed alternating DM at age 30 were most effective, depending on the radiation risk model used. Alternating DM/MRI starting at age 25 also had the highest number of false-positive screens/person (BRCA1: 4.5, BRCA2: 8.1).
Annual MRI at 25/delayed alternating DM at age 30 is likely the most effective screening strategy in BRCA mutation carriers. Screening benefits, associated risks and personal acceptance of false-positive results, should be considered in choosing the optimal screening strategy for individual women.
BRCA1 gene; BRCA2 gene; Breast neoplasms; Mass screening; Computer simulation
Enterococcus faecium has emerged as one of the most important pathogens in healthcare-associated infections worldwide due to its intrinsic and acquired resistance to many antibiotics, including vancomycin. Antimicrobial photodynamic therapy (aPDT) is an alternative therapeutic platform that is currently under investigation for the control and treatment of infections. PDT is based on the use of photoactive dye molecules, widely known as photosensitizer (PS). PS, upon irradiation with visible light, produces reactive oxygen species that can destroy lipids and proteins causing cell death. We employed Galleria mellonella (the greater wax moth) caterpillar fatally infected with E. faecium to develop an invertebrate host model system that can be used to study the antimicrobial PDT (alone or combined with antibiotics). In the establishment of infection by E. faecium in G. mellonella, we found that the G. mellonella death rate was dependent on the number of bacterial cells injected into the insect hemocoel and all E. faecium strains tested were capable of infecting and killing G. mellonella. Antibiotic treatment with ampicillin, gentamicin or the combination of ampicillin and gentamicin prolonged caterpillar survival infected by E. faecium (P = 0.0003, P = 0.0001 and P = 0.0001, respectively). In the study of antimicrobial PDT, we verified that methylene blue (MB) injected into the insect followed by whole body illumination prolonged the caterpillar survival (P = 0.0192). Interestingly, combination therapy of larvae infected with vancomycin-resistant E. faecium, with antimicrobial PDT followed by vancomycin, significantly prolonged the survival of the caterpillars when compared to either antimicrobial PDT (P = 0.0095) or vancomycin treatment alone (P = 0.0025), suggesting that the aPDT made the vancomycin resistant E. faecium strain more susceptible to vancomycin action. In summary, G. mellonella provides an invertebrate model host to study the antimicrobial PDT and to explore combinatorial aPDT-based treatments.
In bacteria, transformation and restriction-modification (R-M) systems play potentially antagonistic roles. While the former, proposed as a form of sexuality, relies on internalized foreign DNA to create genetic diversity, the latter degrade foreign DNA to protect from bacteriophage attack. The human pathogen Streptococcus pneumoniae is transformable and possesses either of two R-M systems, DpnI and DpnII, which respectively restrict methylated or unmethylated double-stranded (ds) DNA. S. pneumoniae DpnII strains possess DpnM, which methylates dsDNA to protect it from DpnII restriction, and a second methylase, DpnA, which is induced during competence for genetic transformation and is unusual in that it methylates single-stranded (ss) DNA. DpnA was tentatively ascribed the role of protecting internalized plasmids from DpnII restriction, but this seems unlikely in light of recent results establishing that pneumococcal transformation was not evolved to favor plasmid exchange. Here we validate an alternative hypothesis, showing that DpnA plays a crucial role in the protection of internalized foreign DNA, enabling exchange of pathogenicity islands and more generally of variable regions between pneumococcal isolates. We show that transformation of a 21.7 kb heterologous region is reduced by more than 4 logs in dpnA mutant cells and provide evidence that the specific induction of dpnA during competence is critical for full protection. We suggest that the integration of a restrictase/ssDNA-methylase couplet into the competence regulon maintains protection from bacteriophage attack whilst simultaneously enabling exchange of pathogenicicy islands. This protective role of DpnA is likely to be of particular importance for pneumococcal virulence by allowing free variation of capsule serotype in DpnII strains via integration of DpnI capsule loci, contributing to the documented escape of pneumococci from capsule-based vaccines. Generally, this finding is the first evidence for a mechanism that actively promotes genetic diversity of S. pneumoniae through programmed protection and incorporation of foreign DNA.
Natural genetic transformation can compensate for the absence of sexual reproduction in bacteria, allowing genetic diversification by recombination. It proceeds through the internalization of single stranded (ss) DNA fragments created from an exogenous double stranded (ds) DNA substrate, which are incorporated into the genome by homology. On the other hand, restriction-modification (R-M) systems, which protect bacteria from bacteriophage attack by degrading invading foreign DNA, potentially antagonize transformation. About half of the strains of the naturally transformable species and human pathogen Streptococcus pneumoniae possess an R-M system, DpnII, restricting unmethylated dsDNA. DpnII strains possess DpnA which is unusual in that it methylates ssDNA. Here we show that DpnA plays a crucial role in the protection of internalized heterologous transforming ssDNA, preventing the post-replicative destruction by DpnII of transformants produced by chromosomal integration of heterogolous DNA by virtue of flanking homology. This protective role of DpnA is of particular importance for acquisition of pathogenicity islands, such as capsule loci, from non-DpnII origin by DpnII strains, likely contributing to pneumococcal virulence via escape from capsule-based vaccines. Generally, this finding is the first evidence for a mechanism that actively promotes genetic diversity of S. pneumoniae through active protection and incorporation of foreign DNA.
Bacteria and archaea face continual onslaughts of rapidly diversifying viruses and plasmids. Many prokaryotes maintain adaptive immune systems known as clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) and CRISPR-associated genes (Cas). CRISPR-Cas systems are genomic sensors that serially acquire viral and plasmid DNA fragments (spacers) that are utilized to target and cleave matching viral and plasmid DNA in subsequent genomic invasions, offering critical immunological memory. Only 50% of sequenced bacteria possess CRISPR-Cas immunity, in contrast to over 90% of sequenced archaea. To probe why half of bacteria lack CRISPR-Cas immunity, we combined comparative genomics and mathematical modeling. Analysis of hundreds of diverse prokaryotic genomes shows that CRISPR-Cas systems are substantially more prevalent in thermophiles than in mesophiles. With sequenced bacteria disproportionately mesophilic and sequenced archaea mostly thermophilic, the presence of CRISPR-Cas appears to depend more on environmental temperature than on bacterial-archaeal taxonomy. Mutation rates are typically severalfold higher in mesophilic prokaryotes than in thermophilic prokaryotes. To quantitatively test whether accelerated viral mutation leads microbes to lose CRISPR-Cas systems, we developed a stochastic model of virus-CRISPR coevolution. The model competes CRISPR-Cas-positive (CRISPR-Cas+) prokaryotes against CRISPR-Cas-negative (CRISPR-Cas−) prokaryotes, continually weighing the antiviral benefits conferred by CRISPR-Cas immunity against its fitness costs. Tracking this cost-benefit analysis across parameter space reveals viral mutation rate thresholds beyond which CRISPR-Cas cannot provide sufficient immunity and is purged from host populations. These results offer a simple, testable viral diversity hypothesis to explain why mesophilic bacteria disproportionately lack CRISPR-Cas immunity. More generally, fundamental limits on the adaptability of biological sensors (Lamarckian evolution) are predicted.
A remarkable recent discovery in microbiology is that bacteria and archaea possess systems conferring immunological memory and adaptive immunity. Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) and CRISPR-associated genes (CRISPR-Cas) are genomic sensors that allow prokaryotes to acquire DNA fragments from invading viruses and plasmids. Providing immunological memory, these stored fragments destroy matching DNA in future viral and plasmid invasions. CRISPR-Cas systems also provide adaptive immunity, keeping up with mutating viruses and plasmids by continually acquiring new DNA fragments. Surprisingly, less than 50% of mesophilic bacteria, in contrast to almost 90% of thermophilic bacteria and Archaea, maintain CRISPR-Cas immunity. Using mathematical modeling, we probe this dichotomy, showing how increased viral mutation rates can explain the reduced prevalence of CRISPR-Cas systems in mesophiles. Rapidly mutating viruses outrun CRISPR-Cas immune systems, likely decreasing their prevalence in bacterial populations. Thus, viral adaptability may select against, rather than for, immune adaptability in prokaryotes.
The biocompatibility and antibacterial properties of N,N-hexyl,methyl-polyethylenimine (HMPEI) covalently attached to the Boston Keratoprosthesis (B-KPro) materials was evaluated. By means of confocal and electron microscopies, we observed that HMPEI-derivatized materials exert an inhibitory effect on biofilm formation by Staphylococcus aureus clinical isolates, as compared to the parent poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA) and titanium. There was no additional corneal epithelial cell cytotoxicity of HMPEI-coated PMMA compared to that of control PMMA in tissue cultures in vitro. Likewise, no toxicity or adverse reactivity was detected with HMPEI-derivatized PMMA or titanium compared to those of the control materials after intrastromal or anterior chamber implantation in rabbits in vivo.
antibacterial; polyethylenimine (PEI); keratoprosthesis; PMMA; titanium; Staphylococcus aureus; corneal cytotoxicity
Staphylococcus aureus is a leading cause of community-associated and nosocomial infections. Imperative to the success of S. aureus is the ability to adapt and utilize nutrients that are readily available. Genomic sequencing suggests that S. aureus has the genes required for synthesis of all twenty amino acids. However, in vitro experimentation demonstrates that staphylococci have multiple amino acid auxotrophies, including arginine. Although S. aureus possesses the highly conserved anabolic pathway that synthesizes arginine via glutamate, we demonstrate here that inactivation of ccpA facilitates the synthesis of arginine via the urea cycle utilizing proline as a substrate. Mutations within putA, rocD, arcB1, argG and argH abolished the ability of S. aureus JE2 ccpA::tetL to grow in the absence of arginine, whereas an interruption in argJBCF, arcB2, or proC had no effect. Furthermore, nuclear magnetic resonance demonstrated that JE2 ccpA::ermB produced 13C5 labeled arginine when grown with 13C5 proline. Taken together, these data support the conclusion that S. aureus synthesizes arginine from proline during growth on secondary carbon sources. Furthermore, although highly conserved in all sequenced S. aureus genomes, the arginine anabolic pathway (ArgJBCDFGH) is not functional under in vitro growth conditions. Finally, a mutation in argH attenuated virulence in a mouse kidney abscess model in comparison to wild type JE2 demonstrating the importance of arginine biosynthesis in vivo via the urea cycle. However, mutations in argB, argF, and putA did not attenuate virulence suggesting both the glutamate and proline pathways are active and they, or their pathway intermediates, can complement each other in vivo.
Although Staphylococcus aureus encodes the highly conserved arginine biosynthesis pathway via glutamate, arginine is an essential amino acid. We found that a mutation in ccpA, a gene encoding a protein facilitating carbon catabolite repression, mediates arginine biosynthesis under in vitro growth conditions. However, both genetic and biochemical evidence suggested that a S. aureus ccpA mutant synthesizes arginine via proline and the urea cycle, a pathway not demonstrated in bacteria before. Furthermore, an animal model of S. aureus infection demonstrated the importance of arginine biosynthesis in vivo. This new pathway sheds light on important host-pathogen interactions and suggests S. aureus has evolved to address arginine depletion in the host by synthesizing arginine from a readily available substrate such as proline.
Relapsing C. difficile disease in humans is linked to a pathological imbalance within the intestinal microbiota, termed dysbiosis, which remains poorly understood. We show that mice infected with epidemic C. difficile (genotype 027/BI) develop highly contagious, chronic intestinal disease and persistent dysbiosis characterized by a distinct, simplified microbiota containing opportunistic pathogens and altered metabolite production. Chronic C. difficile 027/BI infection was refractory to vancomycin treatment leading to relapsing disease. In contrast, treatment of C. difficile 027/BI infected mice with feces from healthy mice rapidly restored a diverse, healthy microbiota and resolved C. difficile disease and contagiousness. We used this model to identify a simple mixture of six phylogenetically diverse intestinal bacteria, including novel species, which can re-establish a health-associated microbiota and clear C. difficile 027/BI infection from mice. Thus, targeting a dysbiotic microbiota with a defined mixture of phylogenetically diverse bacteria can trigger major shifts in the microbial community structure that displaces C. difficile and, as a result, resolves disease and contagiousness. Further, we demonstrate a rational approach to harness the therapeutic potential of health-associated microbial communities to treat C. difficile disease and potentially other forms of intestinal dysbiosis.
Pathological imbalances within the intestinal microbiota, termed dysbiosis, are often associated with chronic Clostridium difficile infections in humans. We show that infection of mice with the healthcare pathogen C. difficile leads to persistent intestinal dysbiosis that is associated with chronic disease and a highly contagious state. Using this model we rationally designed a simple mixture of phylogenetically diverse intestinal bacteria that can disrupt intestinal dysbiosis and as a result resolve disease and contagiousness. Our results validate the microbiota as a viable therapeutic target and open the way to rationally design bacteriotherapy to treat chronic C. difficile infections and potentially other forms of persistent dysbiosis.
Wall teichoic acids (WTAs) are phosphate-rich, sugar-based polymers attached to the cell walls of most Gram-positive bacteria. In Staphylococcus aureus, these anionic polymers regulate cell division, protect cells from osmotic stress, mediate host colonization, and mask enzymatically susceptible peptidoglycan bonds. Although WTAs are not required for survival in vitro, blocking the pathway at a late stage of synthesis is lethal. We recently discovered a novel antibiotic, targocil, that inhibits a late acting step in the WTA pathway. Its target is TarG, the transmembrane component of the ABC transporter (TarGH) that exports WTAs to the cell surface. We examined here the effects of targocil on S. aureus using transmission electron microscopy and gene expression profiling. We report that targocil treatment leads to multicellular clusters containing swollen cells displaying evidence of osmotic stress, strongly induces the cell wall stress stimulon, and reduces the expression of key virulence genes, including dltABCD and capsule genes. We conclude that WTA inhibitors that act at a late stage of the biosynthetic pathway may be useful as antibiotics, and we present evidence that they could be particularly useful in combination with beta-lactams.
We have investigated to what extent natural transformation acting on free DNA substrates can facilitate transfer of mobile elements including transposons, integrons and/or gene cassettes between bacterial species. Naturally transformable cells of Acinetobacter baylyi were exposed to DNA from integron-carrying strains of the genera Acinetobacter, Citrobacter, Enterobacter, Escherichia, Pseudomonas, and Salmonella to determine the nature and frequency of transfer. Exposure to the various DNA sources resulted in acquisition of antibiotic resistance traits as well as entire integrons and transposons, over a 24 h exposure period. DNA incorporation was not solely dependent on integrase functions or the genetic relatedness between species. DNA sequence analyses revealed that several mechanisms facilitated stable integration in the recipient genome depending on the nature of the donor DNA; homologous or heterologous recombination and various types of transposition (Tn21-like and IS26-like). Both donor strains and transformed isolates were extensively characterized by antimicrobial susceptibility testing, integron- and cassette-specific PCRs, DNA sequencing, pulsed field gel electrophoreses (PFGE), Southern blot hybridizations, and by re-transformation assays. Two transformant strains were also genome-sequenced. Our data demonstrate that natural transformation facilitates interspecies transfer of genetic elements, suggesting that the transient presence of DNA in the cytoplasm may be sufficient for genomic integration to occur. Our study provides a plausible explanation for why sequence-conserved transposons, IS elements and integrons can be found disseminated among bacterial species. Moreover, natural transformation of integron harboring populations of competent bacteria revealed that interspecies exchange of gene cassettes can be highly efficient, and independent on genetic relatedness between donor and recipient. In conclusion, natural transformation provides a much broader capacity for horizontal acquisitions of genetic elements and hence, resistance traits from divergent species than previously assumed.
Genetic elements, such as transposons and integrons, frequently carry antimicrobial resistance determinants and can be found widely disseminated among pathogenic bacteria. Their distribution pattern suggests dissemination through horizontal gene transfer. The role of natural transformation in horizontal transfer of genetic elements other than those that are self-replicative (plasmids) has remained largely unexplored. We have tested if natural transformation can facilitate transfer of transposons and class 1 integrons between bacterial species. We here provide experimental evidence showing that natural transformation can be a general mechanism for dissemination of genetic elements that by themselves do not encode interspecies transfer functions (e.g. transposons, insertion sequences). We demonstrate that antibiotic resistance determinants present in such genetic elements can spread by natural transformation between species of clinical interest. We show by quantitative data that interspecies exchange of resistance gene cassettes is highly efficient among integron-containing strains and species. Our study also provides a plausible explanation for how sequence-conserved integrons can become distributed among bacterial species.
Quorum sensing (QS) is a bacterial cell-cell communication process that relies on the production and detection of extracellular signal molecules called autoinducers. QS allows bacteria to perform collective activities. Vibrio cholerae, a pathogen that causes an acute disease, uses QS to repress virulence factor production and biofilm formation. Thus, molecules that activate QS in V. cholerae have the potential to control pathogenicity in this globally important bacterium. Using a whole-cell high-throughput screen, we identified eleven molecules that activate V. cholerae QS: eight molecules are receptor agonists and three molecules are antagonists of LuxO, the central NtrC-type response regulator that controls the global V. cholerae QS cascade. The LuxO inhibitors act by an uncompetitive mechanism by binding to the pre-formed LuxO-ATP complex to inhibit ATP hydrolysis. Genetic analyses suggest that the inhibitors bind in close proximity to the Walker B motif. The inhibitors display broad-spectrum capability in activation of QS in Vibrio species that employ LuxO. To the best of our knowledge, these are the first molecules identified that inhibit the ATPase activity of a NtrC-type response regulator. Our discovery supports the idea that exploiting pro-QS molecules is a promising strategy for the development of novel anti-infectives.
The disease cholera, caused by the pathogenic bacterium Vibrio cholerae, is a major health concern in developing regions. In order to be virulent, V. cholerae must precisely control the timing of production of virulence factors. To do this, V. cholerae uses a cell-cell communication process called quorum sensing to regulate pathogenicity. In the current work, we identify and characterize new classes of small molecules that interfere with quorum-sensing-control of virulence in multiple Vibrio species. The molecules target the key quorum-sensing regulator LuxO. These molecules have the potential to be developed into new anti-infectives to combat infectious diseases of global importance.
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) strains are leading causes of hospital-acquired infections in the United States, and clonal cluster 5 (CC5) is the predominant lineage responsible for these infections. Since 2002, there have been 12 cases of vancomycin-resistant S. aureus (VRSA) infection in the United States—all CC5 strains. To understand this genetic background and what distinguishes it from other lineages, we generated and analyzed high-quality draft genome sequences for all available VRSA strains. Sequence comparisons show unambiguously that each strain independently acquired Tn1546 and that all VRSA strains last shared a common ancestor over 50 years ago, well before the occurrence of vancomycin resistance in this species. In contrast to existing hypotheses on what predisposes this lineage to acquire Tn1546, the barrier posed by restriction systems appears to be intact in most VRSA strains. However, VRSA (and other CC5) strains were found to possess a constellation of traits that appears to be optimized for proliferation in precisely the types of polymicrobic infection where transfer could occur. They lack a bacteriocin operon that would be predicted to limit the occurrence of non-CC5 strains in mixed infection and harbor a cluster of unique superantigens and lipoproteins to confound host immunity. A frameshift in dprA, which in other microbes influences uptake of foreign DNA, may also make this lineage conducive to foreign DNA acquisition.
Invasive methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection now ranks among the leading causes of death in the United States. Vancomycin is a key last-line bactericidal drug for treating these infections. However, since 2002, vancomycin resistance has entered this species. Of the now 12 cases of vancomycin-resistant S. aureus (VRSA), each was believed to represent a new acquisition of the vancomycin-resistant transposon Tn1546 from enterococcal donors. All acquisitions of Tn1546 so far have occurred in MRSA strains of the clonal cluster 5 genetic background, the most common hospital lineage causing hospital-acquired MRSA infection. To understand the nature of these strains, we determined and examined the nucleotide sequences of the genomes of all available VRSA. Genome comparison identified candidate features that position strains of this lineage well for acquiring resistance to antibiotics in mixed infection.
Well-studied innate immune systems exist throughout bacteria and archaea, but a more recently discovered genomic locus may offer prokaryotes surprising immunological adaptability. Mediated by a cassette-like genomic locus termed Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR), the microbial adaptive immune system differs from its eukaryotic immune analogues by incorporating new immunities unidirectionally. CRISPR thus stores genomically recoverable timelines of virus-host coevolution in natural organisms refractory to laboratory cultivation. Here we combined a population genetic mathematical model of CRISPR-virus coevolution with six years of metagenomic sequencing to link the recoverable genomic dynamics of CRISPR loci to the unknown population dynamics of virus and host in natural communities. Metagenomic reconstructions in an acid-mine drainage system document CRISPR loci conserving ancestral immune elements to the base-pair across thousands of microbial generations. This ‘trailer-end conservation’ occurs despite rapid viral mutation and despite rapid prokaryotic genomic deletion. The trailer-ends of many reconstructed CRISPR loci are also largely identical across a population. ‘Trailer-end clonality’ occurs despite predictions of host immunological diversity due to negative frequency dependent selection (kill the winner dynamics). Statistical clustering and model simulations explain this lack of diversity by capturing rapid selective sweeps by highly immune CRISPR lineages. Potentially explaining ‘trailer-end conservation,’ we record the first example of a viral bloom overwhelming a CRISPR system. The polyclonal viruses bloom even though they share sequences previously targeted by host CRISPR loci. Simulations show how increasing random genomic deletions in CRISPR loci purges immunological controls on long-lived viral sequences, allowing polyclonal viruses to bloom and depressing host fitness. Our results thus link documented patterns of genomic conservation in CRISPR loci to an evolutionary advantage against persistent viruses. By maintaining old immunities, selection may be tuning CRISPR-mediated immunity against viruses reemerging from lysogeny or migration.
Most microbes appear unculturable in the laboratory, limiting our knowledge of how virus and prokaryotic host evolve in natural systems. However, a genomic locus found in many prokaryotes, CRISPR, may offer cultivation-independent probes of virus-microbe coevolution. Utilizing nearby genes, CRISPR can serially incorporate short viral and plasmid sequences. These sequences bind and cleave cognate regions in subsequent viral and plasmid insertions, conferring adaptive anti-viral and anti-plasmid immunity. By incorporating sequences undirectionally, CRISPR also provides timelines of virus-prokaryote coevolution. Yet, CRISPR only incorporates 30–80 base-pair viral sequences, leaving incomplete coevolutionary recordings. To reconstruct the missing coevolutionary dynamics shaping natural CRISPRs, we combined metagenomic reconstructions with population-scale mathematical modeling. Capturing rare and rapid sweeps of CRISPR diversity by highly immune lines, mathematical modeling explains why naturally reconstructed CRISPR loci are often largely identical across a population. Both model and experiment further document surprising proliferations of old viral sequences against which hosts had preexisting CRISPR immunity. Due to these deadly blooms of ancestral viral elements, CRISPR's conservation of old immune sequences appears to confer a selective advantage. This may explain the striking immunological memory documented in CRISPR loci, which occurs despite rapid viral mutation and despite rapid deletions in prokaryotic genomes.
Streptococcus pneumoniae is an important human pathogen responsible for a spectrum of diseases including pneumonia. Immunological and pro-inflammatory processes induced in the lung during pneumococcal infection are well documented, but little is known about the role played by immunoregulatory cells and cytokines in the control of such responses. We demonstrate considerable differences in the immunomodulatory cytokine transforming growth factor (TGF)-β between the pneumococcal pneumonia resistant BALB/c and susceptible CBA/Ca mouse strains. Immunohistochemistry and flow cytometry reveal higher levels of TGF-β protein in BALB/c lungs during pneumococcal pneumonia that correlates with a rapid rise in lung Foxp3+Helios+ T regulatory cells. These cells have protective functions during pneumococcal pneumonia, because blocking their induction with an inhibitor of TGF-β impairs BALB/c resistance to infection and aids bacterial dissemination from lungs. Conversely, adoptive transfer of T regulatory cells to CBA/Ca mice, prior to infection, prolongs survival and decreases bacterial dissemination from lungs to blood. Importantly, strong T regulatory cell responses also correlate with disease-resistance in outbred MF1 mice, confirming the importance of immunoregulatory cells in controlling protective responses to the pneumococcus. This study provides exciting new evidence for the importance of immunomodulation during pulmonary pneumococcal infection and suggests that TGF-β signalling is a potential target for immunotherapy or drug design.
Streptococcus pneumoniae is a major human bacterial pathogen that causes a wide range of diseases including pneumonia, meningitis, sepsis and ear infections. The bacterium is responsible for around 1.2 million deaths per year, mostly in high-risk groups such as children, the elderly and those with a weakened immune system. Infection with the pneumococcus can induce a wide-variety of immune responses and disease symptoms and it is not known why some people are more resistant to infection than others. Here, we identify an important role in natural resistance against pneumococcal pneumonia for a group of cells – known as T regulatory cells – that control the immune response to pneumococcal infection. In mice, strong T regulatory cell responses correlate with resistance to invasive pneumococcal pneumonia. Disease-resistance can be boosted by administering T regulatory cells to highly susceptible mice or inhibited by blocking the activity of these cells in resistant mice. These results advance our understanding of the host immunity differences that underpin resistance to pneumococcal pneumonia and offer hope that in the future we might boost resistance in susceptible individuals through modulation of their immune system.
Staphylococcus aureus virulence has been associated with the production of phenol soluble modulins (PSM). PSM are known to activate, attract and lyse neutrophils. However, the functional characterizations were generally performed in the absence of human serum. Here, we demonstrate that human serum can inhibit all the previously-described activities of PSM. We observed that serum can fully block both the cell lysis and FPR2 activation of neutrophils. We show a direct interaction between PSM and serum lipoproteins in human serum and whole blood. Subsequent analysis using purified high, low, and very low density lipoproteins (HDL, LDL, and VLDL) revealed that they indeed neutralize PSM. The lipoprotein HDL showed highest binding and antagonizing capacity for PSM. Furthermore, we show potential intracellular production of PSM by S. aureus upon phagocytosis by neutrophils, which opens a new area for exploration of the intracellular lytic capacity of PSM. Collectively, our data show that in a serum environment the function of PSM as important extracellular toxins should be reconsidered.
Infections with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) are difficult to treat because of resistance against standard antibiotics. In contrast to the traditional healthcare-associated (HA-) MRSA strains, community-associated (CA-) MRSA strains cause severe infections in otherwise healthy individuals. CA-MRSA strains display enhanced virulence, spreading more rapidly and causing more severe illness than HA-MRSA strains. Enhanced virulence of CA-MRSA is thought to be associated with the production of several toxins, such as Phenol Soluble Modulins (PSM). PSM have been described to activate, attract and lyse neutrophils. Thus far, previous studies characterizing the functions of PSM were performed in the absence of body fluids. In the current study, we show that human serum strongly inhibits many functions attributed to PSM. We demonstrate that serum lipoprotein particles are responsible for the binding and inhibition of PSM, even when PSM are produced by growing S. aureus in whole blood. Finally, we show production of PSM by S. aureus within neutrophils, suggesting that PSM may play a role intracellularly in a serum-free environment. These findings significantly contribute to our understanding of the function of PSM and strongly suggest that PSM, instead of performing as extracellular toxins, most likely act as intracellular toxins.
The majority of bacterial infections occur across wet-surfaced mucosal epithelia, including those that cover the eye, respiratory tract, gastrointestinal tract and genitourinary tract. The apical surface of all these mucosal epithelia is covered by a heavily glycosylated glycocalyx, a major component of which are membrane-associated mucins (MAMs). MAMs form a barrier that serves as one of the first lines of defense against invading bacteria. While opportunistic bacteria rely on pre-existing defects or wounds to gain entry to epithelia, non opportunistic bacteria, especially the epidemic disease-causing ones, gain access to epithelial cells without evidence of predisposing injury. The molecular mechanisms employed by these non opportunistic pathogens to breach the MAM barrier remain unknown. To test the hypothesis that disease-causing non opportunistic bacteria gain access to the epithelium by removal of MAMs, corneal, conjunctival, and tracheobronchial epithelial cells, cultured to differentiate to express the MAMs, MUCs 1, 4, and 16, were exposed to a non encapsulated, non typeable strain of Streptococcus pneumoniae (SP168), which causes epidemic conjunctivitis. The ability of strain SP168 to induce MAM ectodomain release from epithelia was compared to that of other strains of S. pneumoniae, as well as the opportunistic pathogen Staphylococcus aureus. The experiments reported herein demonstrate that the epidemic disease-causing S. pneumoniae species secretes a metalloproteinase, ZmpC, which selectively induces ectodomain shedding of the MAM MUC16. Furthermore, ZmpC-induced removal of MUC16 from the epithelium leads to loss of the glycocalyx barrier function and enhanced internalization of the bacterium. These data suggest that removal of MAMs by bacterial enzymes may be an important virulence mechanism employed by disease-causing non opportunistic bacteria to gain access to epithelial cells to cause infection.