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1.  Porphyromonas gingivalis Type IX Secretion Substrates Are Cleaved and Modified by a Sortase-Like Mechanism 
PLoS Pathogens  2015;11(9):e1005152.
The type IX secretion system (T9SS) of Porphyromonas gingivalis secretes proteins possessing a conserved C-terminal domain (CTD) to the cell surface. The C-terminal signal is essential for these proteins to translocate across the outer membrane via the T9SS. On the surface the CTD of these proteins is cleaved prior to extensive glycosylation. It is believed that the modification on these CTD proteins is anionic lipopolysaccharide (A-LPS), which enables the attachment of CTD proteins to the cell surface. However, the exact site of modification and the mechanism of attachment of CTD proteins to the cell surface are unknown. In this study we characterized two wbaP (PG1964) mutants that did not synthesise A-LPS and accumulated CTD proteins in the clarified culture fluid (CCF). The CTDs of the CTD proteins in the CCF were cleaved suggesting normal secretion, however, the CTD proteins were not glycosylated. Mass spectrometric analysis of CTD proteins purified from the CCF of the wbaP mutants revealed the presence of various peptide/amino acid modifications from the growth medium at the C-terminus of the mature CTD proteins. This suggested that modification occurs at the C-terminus of T9SS substrates in the wild type P. gingivalis. This was confirmed by analysis of CTD proteins from wild type, where a 648 Da linker was identified to be attached at the C-terminus of mature CTD proteins. Importantly, treatment with proteinase K released the 648 Da linker from the CTD proteins demonstrating a peptide bond between the C-terminus and the modification. Together, this is suggestive of a mechanism similar to sortase A for the cleavage and modification/attachment of CTD proteins in P. gingivalis. PG0026 has been recognized as the CTD signal peptidase and is now proposed to be the sortase-like protein in P. gingivalis. To our knowledge, this is the first biochemical evidence suggesting a sortase-like mechanism in Gram-negative bacteria.
Author Summary
Chronic periodontitis, associated with the pathogen Porphyromonas gingivalis, is a major public health problem. P. gingivalis secretes virulence factors including the gingipains via the type IX secretion system (T9SS). These proteins contain a C-terminal signal that allows their secretion through the T9SS and it is cleaved by the protein PG0026 at the cell surface. Here we identify a mechanism by which gingipains and other proteins attach to the cell surface of this bacterium. We found that after removal of the C-terminal signal, the proteins were modified via a peptide linkage to either a putative component of anionic lipopolysaccharide (A-LPS) in the wild type or peptides from the growth medium in mutants lacking A-LPS, which has been suggested to anchor the proteins to the cell surface. Results from this study provide evidence for the exact site of modification of these proteins with A-LPS. Furthermore, our results also demonstrate for the first time that the anchoring mechanism of this secretion system involves a substitution between the signal and the anchor (A-LPS) which can be explained by the action of a single enzyme known as a sortase, which we believe is PG0026. This is the first evidence for a sortase-like mechanism in Gram-negative bacteria.
PMCID: PMC4560394  PMID: 26340749
2.  The Porphyromonas gingivalis Ferric Uptake Regulator Orthologue Binds Hemin and Regulates Hemin-Responsive Biofilm Development 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(11):e111168.
Porphyromonas gingivalis is a Gram-negative pathogen associated with the biofilm-mediated disease chronic periodontitis. P. gingivalis biofilm formation is dependent on environmental heme for which P. gingivalis has an obligate requirement as it is unable to synthesize protoporphyrin IX de novo, hence P. gingivalis transports iron and heme liberated from the human host. Homeostasis of a variety of transition metal ions is often mediated in Gram-negative bacteria at the transcriptional level by members of the Ferric Uptake Regulator (Fur) superfamily. P. gingivalis has a single predicted Fur superfamily orthologue which we have designated Har (heme associated regulator). Recombinant Har formed dimers in the presence of Zn2+ and bound one hemin molecule per monomer with high affinity (Kd of 0.23 µM). The binding of hemin resulted in conformational changes of Zn(II)Har and residue 97Cys was involved in hemin binding as part of a predicted -97C-98P-99L- hemin binding motif. The expression of 35 genes was down-regulated and 9 up-regulated in a Har mutant (ECR455) relative to wild-type. Twenty six of the down-regulated genes were previously found to be up-regulated in P. gingivalis grown as a biofilm and 11 were up-regulated under hemin limitation. A truncated Zn(II)Har bound the promoter region of dnaA (PGN_0001), one of the up-regulated genes in the ECR455 mutant. This binding decreased as hemin concentration increased which was consistent with gene expression being regulated by hemin availability. ECR455 formed significantly less biofilm than the wild-type and unlike wild-type biofilm formation was independent of hemin availability. P. gingivalis possesses a hemin-binding Fur orthologue that regulates hemin-dependent biofilm formation.
PMCID: PMC4222909  PMID: 25375181
3.  A novel transposon construct expressing PhoA with potential for studying protein expression and translocation in Mycoplasma gallisepticum  
BMC Microbiology  2012;12:138.
Mycoplasma gallisepticum is a major poultry pathogen and causes severe economic loss to the poultry industry. In mycoplasmas lipoproteins are abundant on the membrane surface and play a critical role in interactions with the host, but tools for exploring their molecular biology are limited.
In this study we examined whether the alkaline phosphatase gene (phoA ) from Escherichia coli could be used as a reporter in mycoplasmas. The promoter region from the gene for elongation factor Tu (ltuf) and the signal and acylation sequences from the vlhA 1.1 gene, both from Mycoplasma gallisepticum , together with the coding region of phoA , were assembled in the transposon-containing plasmid pISM2062.2 (pTAP) to enable expression of alkaline phosphatase (AP) as a recombinant lipoprotein. The transposon was used to transform M. gallisepticum strain S6. As a control, a plasmid containing a similar construct, but lacking the signal and acylation sequences, was also produced (pTP) and also introduced into M. gallisepticum . Using a colorimetric substrate for detection of alkaline phosphatase activity, it was possible to detect transformed M. gallisepticum . The level of transcription of phoA in organisms transformed with pTP was lower than in those transformed with pTAP, and alkaline phosphatase was not detected by immunoblotting or enzymatic assays in pTP transformants, eventhough alkaline phosphatase expression could be readily detected by both assays in pTAP transformants. Alkaline phosphatase was shown to be located in the hydrophobic fraction of transformed mycoplasmas following Triton X-114 partitioning and in the membrane fraction after differential fractionation. Trypsin proteolysis confirmed its surface exposure. The inclusion of the VlhA lipoprotein signal sequence in pTAP enabled translocation of PhoA and acylation of the amino terminal cysteine moiety, as confirmed by the effect of treatment with globomycin and radiolabelling studies with [14 C]palmitate. PhoA could be identified by mass-spectrometry after separation by two-dimensional electrophoresis.
This is the first study to express PhoA as a lipoprotein in mycoplasmas. The pTAP plasmid will facilitate investigations of lipoproteins and protein translocation across the cell membrane in mycoplasmas, and the ease of detection of these transformants makes this vector system suitable for the simultaneous screening and detection of cloned genes expressed as membrane proteins in mycoplasmas.
PMCID: PMC3438114  PMID: 22770122
Mycoplasma gallisepticum ; Lipoprotein; Membrane protein; Reporter gene; phoA ; Alkaline phosphatase
4.  Phase-locked mutants of Mycoplasma agalactiae: defining the molecular switch of high-frequency Vpma antigenic variation 
Molecular Microbiology  2008;67(6):1196-1210.
Mycoplasma agalactiae, an important pathogen of small ruminants, exhibits antigenic diversity by switching the expression of multiple surface lipoproteins called Vpmas (Variable proteins of M. agalactiae). Although phase variation has been shown to play important roles in many host–pathogen interactions, the biological significance and the mechanism of Vpma oscillations remain largely unclear. Here, we demonstrate that all six Vpma proteins are expressed in the type strain PG2 and all undergo phase variation at an unusually high frequency. Furthermore, targeted gene disruption of the xer1 gene encoding a putative site-specific recombinase adjacent to the vpma locus was accomplished via homologous recombination using a replicon-based vector. Inactivation of xer1 abolished further Vpma switching and the ‘phase-locked’ mutants (PLMs) continued to steadily express only a single Vpma product. Complementation of the wild-type xer1 gene in PLMs restored Vpma phase variation thereby proving that Xer1 is essential for vpma inversions. The study is not only instrumental in enhancing our ability to understand the role of Vpmas in M. agalactiae infections but also provides useful molecular approaches to study potential disease factors in other ‘difficult-to-manipulate’ mycoplasmas.
PMCID: PMC2268961  PMID: 18248580
5.  Surface Diversity in Mycoplasma agalactiae Is Driven by Site-Specific DNA Inversions within the vpma Multigene Locus 
Journal of Bacteriology  2002;184(21):5987-5998.
The ruminant pathogen Mycoplasma agalactiae possesses a family of abundantly expressed variable surface lipoproteins called Vpmas. Phenotypic switches between Vpma members have previously been correlated with DNA rearrangements within a locus of vpma genes and are proposed to play an important role in disease pathogenesis. In this study, six vpma genes were characterized in the M. agalactiae type strain PG2. All vpma genes clustered within an 8-kb region and shared highly conserved 5′ untranslated regions, lipoprotein signal sequences, and short N-terminal sequences. Analyses of the vpma loci from consecutive clonal isolates showed that vpma DNA rearrangements were site specific and that cleavage and strand exchange occurred within a minimal region of 21 bp located within the 5′ untranslated region of all vpma genes. This process controlled expression of vpma genes by effectively linking the open reading frame (ORF) of a silent gene to a unique active promoter sequence within the locus. An ORF (xer1) immediately adjacent to one end of the vpma locus did not undergo rearrangement and had significant homology to a distinct subset of genes belonging to the λ integrase family of site-specific xer recombinases. It is proposed that xer1 codes for a site-specific recombinase that is not involved in chromosome dimer resolution but rather is responsible for the observed vpma-specific recombination in M. agalactiae.
PMCID: PMC135373  PMID: 12374833
6.  Expression of the pMGA Genes of Mycoplasma gallisepticum Is Controlled by Variation in the GAA Trinucleotide Repeat Lengths within the 5′ Noncoding Regions 
Infection and Immunity  1998;66(12):5833-5841.
We analyzed the segment of DNA which contains the expressed pMGA gene from one strain of Mycoplasma gallisepticum in normal (strain S6) cells and in cells in which pMGA1.1 gene expression had ceased as a consequence of in vitro culture in the presence of pMGA1.1-specific antibodies. Sequence analysis of isolates lacking pMGA1.1 expression revealed that this gene, which is typically expressed, exhibited sequence changes within a region 5′ to its promoter. Specifically, pMGA1.1+ cells contained a (GAA)12 motif upstream of the promoter, whereas in pMGA1.1− cells the corresponding region contained a (GAA)10 motif; when such cells were grown in medium no longer containing pMGA-specific antibodies, pMGA1.1 was reexpressed and the 5′ (GAA)12 motif was restored. Two other genes, pMGA1.9 and pMGA1.2, were also shown to acquire a (GAA)12 motif in clones which expressed these genes. The results imply the evolution by the pMGA genes of M. gallisepticum of a novel transcriptional requirement which facilitates rapid and reversible switches in the pMGA expression pattern.
PMCID: PMC108738  PMID: 9826362
7.  Expression of Two Members of the pMGA Gene Family of Mycoplasma gallisepticum Oscillates and Is Influenced by pMGA-Specific Antibodies 
Infection and Immunity  1998;66(6):2845-2853.
Certain monoclonal antibodies and polyclonal antisera directed to pMGA, the major protein of Mycoplasma gallisepticum, were tested for the ability to influence the surface phenotype of the cell population which resulted from their inclusion in growth medium. The polyclonal antiserum and one monoclonal antibody (MAb 66) resulted in an alteration of surface phenotype; specifically, populations of cells grown either on plates or in broth cultures which contained these reagents ceased the expression of pMGA and instead expressed an antigenically unrelated new polypeptide (p82). Upon the removal of antibody, the progeny of these cells regained pMGA expression and produced antigenically sectored colonies. The basis of this switch between pMGA+ and pMGA− states was shown to be transcriptional. The p82 polypeptide, the expression of which resulted from growth of cells in antibodies, was another member of the pMGA gene family and was located just downstream from the pMGA gene normally expressed by the M. gallisepticum cells used. Collectively the results of this work suggest that this organism has evolved an unusual means of altering the antigenic composition of its surface in response to antibodies or to other environmental cues.
PMCID: PMC108280  PMID: 9596758

Results 1-7 (7)