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1.  crRNA and tracrRNA guide Cas9-mediated DNA interference in Streptococcus thermophilus 
RNA Biology  2013;10(5):841-851.
The Cas9-crRNA complex of the Streptococcus thermophilus DGCC7710 CRISPR3-Cas system functions as an RNA-guided endonuclease with crRNA-directed target sequence recognition and protein-mediated DNA cleavage. We show here that an additional RNA molecule, tracrRNA (trans-activating CRISPR RNA), co-purifies with the Cas9 protein isolated from the heterologous E. coli strain carrying the S. thermophilus DGCC7710 CRISPR3-Cas system. We provide experimental evidence that tracrRNA is required for Cas9-mediated DNA interference both in vitro and in vivo. We show that Cas9 specifically promotes duplex formation between the precursor crRNA (pre-crRNA) transcript and tracrRNA, in vitro. Furthermore, the housekeeping RNase III contributes to primary pre-crRNA-tracrRNA duplex cleavage for mature crRNA biogenesis. RNase III, however, is not required in the processing of a short pre-crRNA transcribed from a minimal CRISPR array containing a single spacer. Finally, we show that an in vitro-assembled ternary Cas9-crRNA-tracrRNA complex cleaves DNA. This study further specifies the molecular basis for crRNA-based re-programming of Cas9 to specifically cleave any target DNA sequence for precise genome surgery. The processes for crRNA maturation and effector complex assembly established here will contribute to the further development of the Cas9 re-programmable system for genome editing applications.
doi:10.4161/rna.24203
PMCID: PMC3737341  PMID: 23535272
CRISPR; DNA silencing; Type II CRISPR-Cas systems
2.  Mobile CRISPR/Cas-Mediated Bacteriophage Resistance in Lactococcus lactis 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(12):e51663.
Lactococcus lactis is a biotechnological workhorse for food fermentations and potentially therapeutic products and is therefore widely consumed by humans. It is predominantly used as a starter microbe for fermented dairy products, and specialized strains have adapted from a plant environment through reductive evolution and horizontal gene transfer as evidenced by the association of adventitious traits with mobile elements. Specifically, L. lactis has armed itself with a myriad of plasmid-encoded bacteriophage defensive systems to protect against viral predation. This known arsenal had not included CRISPR/Cas (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats/CRISPR-associated proteins), which forms a remarkable microbial immunity system against invading DNA. Although CRISPR/Cas systems are common in the genomes of closely related lactic acid bacteria (LAB), none was identified within the eight published lactococcal genomes. Furthermore, a PCR-based search of the common LAB CRISPR/Cas systems (Types I and II) in 383 industrial L. lactis strains proved unsuccessful. Here we describe a novel, Type III, self-transmissible, plasmid-encoded, phage-interfering CRISPR/Cas discovered in L. lactis. The native CRISPR spacers confer resistance based on sequence identity to corresponding lactococcal phage. The interference is directed at phages problematic to the dairy industry, indicative of a responsive system. Moreover, targeting could be modified by engineering the spacer content. The 62.8-kb plasmid was shown to be conjugally transferrable to various strains. Its mobility should facilitate dissemination within microbial communities and provide a readily applicable system to naturally introduce CRISPR/Cas to industrially relevant strains for enhanced phage resistance and prevention against acquisition of undesirable genes.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0051663
PMCID: PMC3519859  PMID: 23240053
3.  Analysis of the Lactobacillus casei supragenome and its influence in species evolution and lifestyle adaptation 
BMC Genomics  2012;13:533.
Background
The broad ecological distribution of L. casei makes it an insightful subject for research on genome evolution and lifestyle adaptation. To explore evolutionary mechanisms that determine genomic diversity of L. casei, we performed comparative analysis of 17 L. casei genomes representing strains collected from dairy, plant, and human sources.
Results
Differences in L. casei genome inventory revealed an open pan-genome comprised of 1,715 core and 4,220 accessory genes. Extrapolation of pan-genome data indicates L. casei has a supragenome approximately 3.2 times larger than the average genome of individual strains. Evidence suggests horizontal gene transfer from other bacterial species, particularly lactobacilli, has been important in adaptation of L. casei to new habitats and lifestyles, but evolution of dairy niche specialists also appears to involve gene decay.
Conclusions
Genome diversity in L. casei has evolved through gene acquisition and decay. Acquisition of foreign genomic islands likely confers a fitness benefit in specific habitats, notably plant-associated niches. Loss of unnecessary ancestral traits in strains collected from bacterial-ripened cheeses supports the hypothesis that gene decay contributes to enhanced fitness in that niche. This study gives the first evidence for a L. casei supragenome and provides valuable insights into mechanisms for genome evolution and lifestyle adaptation of this ecologically flexible and industrially important lactic acid bacterium. Additionally, our data confirm the Distributed Genome Hypothesis extends to non-pathogenic, ecologically flexible species like L. casei.
doi:10.1186/1471-2164-13-533
PMCID: PMC3496567  PMID: 23035691
Lactobacillus casei; Lactic acid bacteria; Comparative genomics; Pan-genome; Supragenome; Evolution; Adaptation
4.  Evolution and classification of the CRISPR-Cas systems 
Nature Reviews. Microbiology  2011;9(6):467-477.
The CRISPR–Cas (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats–CRISPR-associated proteins) modules are adaptive immunity systems that are present in many archaea and bacteria. These defence systems are encoded by operons that have an extraordinarily diverse architecture and a high rate of evolution for both the cas genes and the unique spacer content. Here, we provide an updated analysis of the evolutionary relationships between CRISPR–Cas systems and Cas proteins. Three major types of CRISPR–Cas system are delineated, with a further division into several subtypes and a few chimeric variants. Given the complexity of the genomic architectures and the extremely dynamic evolution of the CRISPR–Cas systems, a unified classification of these systems should be based on multiple criteria. Accordingly, we propose a `polythetic' classification that integrates the phylogenies of the most common cas genes, the sequence and organization of the CRISPR repeats and the architecture of the CRISPR–cas loci.
doi:10.1038/nrmicro2577
PMCID: PMC3380444  PMID: 21552286
5.  Phage-Induced Expression of CRISPR-Associated Proteins Is Revealed by Shotgun Proteomics in Streptococcus thermophilus 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e38077.
The CRISPR/Cas system, comprised of clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats along with their associated (Cas) proteins, protects bacteria and archaea from viral predation and invading nucleic acids. While the mechanism of action for this acquired immunity is currently under investigation, the response of Cas protein expression to phage infection has yet to be elucidated. In this study, we employed shotgun proteomics to measure the global proteome expression in a model system for studying the CRISPR/Cas response in S. thermophilus DGCC7710 infected with phage 2972. Host and viral proteins were simultaneously measured following inoculation at two different multiplicities of infection and across various time points using two-dimensional liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry. Thirty-seven out of forty predicted viral proteins were detected, including all proteins of the structural virome and viral effector proteins. In total, 1,013 of 2,079 predicted S. thermophilus proteins were detected, facilitating the monitoring of host protein synthesis changes in response to virus infection. Importantly, Cas proteins from all four CRISPR loci in the S. thermophilus DGCC7710 genome were detected, including loci previously thought to be inactive. Many Cas proteins were found to be constitutively expressed, but several demonstrated increased abundance following infection, including the signature Cas9 proteins from the CRISPR1 and CRISPR3 loci, which are key players in the interference phase of the CRISPR/Cas response. Altogether, these results provide novel insights into the proteomic response of S. thermophilus, specifically CRISPR-associated proteins, upon phage 2972 infection.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0038077
PMCID: PMC3364186  PMID: 22666452
6.  Persisting Viral Sequences Shape Microbial CRISPR-based Immunity 
PLoS Computational Biology  2012;8(4):e1002475.
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.
Author Summary
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.
doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1002475
PMCID: PMC3330103  PMID: 22532794
7.  The fast milk acidifying phenotype of Streptococcus thermophilus can be acquired by natural transformation of the genomic island encoding the cell-envelope proteinase PrtS 
Microbial Cell Factories  2011;10(Suppl 1):S21.
Background
In industrial fermentation processes, the rate of milk acidification by Streptococcus thermophilus is of major technological importance. The cell-envelope proteinase PrtS was previously shown to be a key determinant of the milk acidification activity in this species. The PrtS enzyme is tightly anchored to the cell wall via a mechanism involving the typical sortase A (SrtA) and initiates the breakdown of milk casein into small oligopeptides. The presence or absence of PrtS divides the S. thermophilus strains into two phenotypic groups i.e. the slow and the fast acidifying strains. The aim of this study was to improve the milk acidification rate of slow S. thermophilus strains, and hence optimise the fermentation process of dairy products.
Results
In the present work, we developed for the first time a strategy based on natural transformation to confer the rapid acidification phenotype to slow acidifying starter strains of S. thermophilus. First, we established by gene disruption that (i) prtS, encoding the cell-envelope proteinase, is a key factor responsible for rapid milk acidification in fast acidifying strains, and that (ii) srtA, encoding sortase A, is not absolutely required to express the PrtS activity. Second, a 15-kb PCR product encompassing the prtS genomic island was transfered by natural transformation using the competence-inducing peptide in three distinct prtS-defective genetic backgrounds having or not a truncated sortase A gene. We showed that in all cases the milk acidification rate of transformants was significantly increased, reaching a level similar to that of wild-type fast acidifying strains. Furthermore, it appeared that the prtS-encoded activity does not depend on the prtS copy number or on its chromosomal integration locus.
Conclusion
We have successfully used natural competence to transfer the prtS locus encoding the cell-envelope proteinase in three slow acidifying strains of S. thermophilus, allowing their conversion into fast acidifying derivatives. The efficient protocol developed in this article will provide the dairy industry with novel and optimised S. thermophilus starter strains.
doi:10.1186/1475-2859-10-S1-S21
PMCID: PMC3231928  PMID: 21995822
8.  The Streptococcus thermophilus CRISPR/Cas system provides immunity in Escherichia coli 
Nucleic Acids Research  2011;39(21):9275-9282.
The CRISPR/Cas adaptive immune system provides resistance against phages and plasmids in Archaea and Bacteria. CRISPR loci integrate short DNA sequences from invading genetic elements that provide small RNA-mediated interference in subsequent exposure to matching nucleic acids. In Streptococcus thermophilus, it was previously shown that the CRISPR1/Cas system can provide adaptive immunity against phages and plasmids by integrating novel spacers following exposure to these foreign genetic elements that subsequently direct the specific cleavage of invasive homologous DNA sequences. Here, we show that the S. thermophilus CRISPR3/Cas system can be transferred into Escherichia coli and provide heterologous protection against plasmid transformation and phage infection. We show that interference is sequence-specific, and that mutations in the vicinity or within the proto-spacer adjacent motif (PAM) allow plasmids to escape CRISPR-encoded immunity. We also establish that cas9 is the sole cas gene necessary for CRISPR-encoded interference. Furthermore, mutation analysis revealed that interference relies on the Cas9 McrA/HNH- and RuvC/RNaseH-motifs. Altogether, our results show that active CRISPR/Cas systems can be transferred across distant genera and provide heterologous interference against invasive nucleic acids. This can be leveraged to develop strains more robust against phage attack, and safer organisms less likely to uptake and disseminate plasmid-encoded undesirable genetic elements.
doi:10.1093/nar/gkr606
PMCID: PMC3241640  PMID: 21813460
9.  Development of a Versatile Procedure Based on Natural Transformation for Marker-Free Targeted Genetic Modification in Streptococcus thermophilus▿  
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2010;76(23):7870-7877.
A versatile natural transformation protocol was established for and successfully applied to 18 of the 19 Streptococcus thermophilus strains tested. The efficiency of the protocol enables the use of in vitro-amplified mutagenesis fragments to perform deletion or insertion of large genetic fragments. Depending on the phenotype linked to the mutation, markerless mutants can be selected either in two steps, i.e., resistance marker insertion and excision using an adapted Cre-loxP system, or in one step using a powerful positive screening procedure as illustrated here for histidine prototrophy.
doi:10.1128/AEM.01671-10
PMCID: PMC2988589  PMID: 20935129
10.  A Novel Pheromone Quorum-Sensing System Controls the Development of Natural Competence in Streptococcus thermophilus and Streptococcus salivarius▿ †  
Journal of Bacteriology  2009;192(5):1444-1454.
In streptococcal species, the key step of competence development is the transcriptional induction of comX, which encodes the alternative sigma factor σX, which positively regulates genes necessary for DNA transformation. In Streptococcus species belonging to the mitis and mutans groups, induction of comX relies on the activation of a three-component system consisting of a secreted pheromone, a histidine kinase, and a response regulator. In Streptococcus thermophilus, a species belonging to the salivarius group, the oligopeptide transporter Ami is essential for comX expression under competence-inducing conditions. This suggests a different regulation pathway of competence based on the production and reimportation of a signal peptide. The objective of our work was to identify the main actors involved in the early steps of comX induction in S. thermophilus LMD-9. Using a transcriptomic approach, four highly induced early competence operons were identified. Among them, we found a Rgg-like regulator (Ster_0316) associated with a nonannotated gene encoding a 24-amino-acid hydrophobic peptide (Shp0316). Through genetic deletions, we showed that these two genes are essential for comX induction. Moreover, addition to the medium of synthetic peptides derived from the C-terminal part of Shp0316 restored comX induction and transformation of a Shp0316-deficient strain. These peptides also induced competence in S. thermophilus and Streptococcus salivarius strains that are poorly transformable or not transformable. Altogether, our results show that Ster_0316 and Shp0316, renamed ComRS, are the two members of a novel quorum-sensing system responsible for comX induction in species from the salivarius group, which differs from the classical phosphorelay three-component system identified previously in streptococci.
doi:10.1128/JB.01251-09
PMCID: PMC2820839  PMID: 20023010
11.  Comparative Analyses of Prophage-Like Elements Present in Bifidobacterial Genomes▿ † 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2009;75(21):6929-6936.
So far, only scarce and rather diffuse information is available on bacteriophages infecting members of the genus Bifidobacterium. In the current study, we investigated the genetic organization, phylogenetic relationships, and, in some cases, transcription profiles and inducibility of 19 prophage-like elements present on the individual chromosomes of nine bifidobacterial strains, which represent six different species.
doi:10.1128/AEM.01112-09
PMCID: PMC2772436  PMID: 19734330
12.  Comparison of the Complete Genome Sequences of Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis DSM 10140 and Bl-04 ▿ †  
Journal of Bacteriology  2009;191(13):4144-4151.
Bifidobacteria are important members of the human gut flora, especially in infants. Comparative genomic analysis of two Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis strains revealed evolution by internal deletion of consecutive spacer-repeat units within a novel clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat locus, which represented the largest differential content between the two genomes. Additionally, 47 single nucleotide polymorphisms were identified, consisting primarily of nonsynonymous mutations, indicating positive selection and/or recent divergence. A particular nonsynonymous mutation in a putative glucose transporter was linked to a negative phenotypic effect on the ability of the variant to catabolize glucose, consistent with a modification in the predicted protein transmembrane topology. Comparative genome sequence analysis of three Bifidobacterium species provided a core genome set of 1,117 orthologs complemented by a pan-genome of 2,445 genes. The genome sequences of the intestinal bacterium B. animalis subsp. lactis provide insights into rapid genome evolution and the genetic basis for adaptation to the human gut environment, notably with regard to catabolism of dietary carbohydrates, resistance to bile and acid, and interaction with the intestinal epithelium. The high degree of genome conservation observed between the two strains in terms of size, organization, and sequence is indicative of a genomically monomorphic subspecies and explains the inability to differentiate the strains by standard techniques such as pulsed-field gel electrophoresis.
doi:10.1128/JB.00155-09
PMCID: PMC2698493  PMID: 19376856
13.  Phage Response to CRISPR-Encoded Resistance in Streptococcus thermophilus▿  
Journal of Bacteriology  2007;190(4):1390-1400.
Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) and their associated genes are linked to a mechanism of acquired resistance against bacteriophages. Bacteria can integrate short stretches of phage-derived sequences (spacers) within CRISPR loci to become phage resistant. In this study, we further characterized the efficiency of CRISPR1 as a phage resistance mechanism in Streptococcus thermophilus. First, we show that CRISPR1 is distinct from previously known phage defense systems and is effective against the two main groups of S. thermophilus phages. Analyses of 30 bacteriophage-insensitive mutants of S. thermophilus indicate that the addition of one new spacer in CRISPR1 is the most frequent outcome of a phage challenge and that the iterative addition of spacers increases the overall phage resistance of the host. The added new spacers have a size of between 29 to 31 nucleotides, with 30 being by far the most frequent. Comparative analysis of 39 newly acquired spacers with the complete genomic sequences of the wild-type phages 2972, 858, and DT1 demonstrated that the newly added spacer must be identical to a region (named proto-spacer) in the phage genome to confer a phage resistance phenotype. Moreover, we found a CRISPR1-specific sequence (NNAGAAW) located downstream of the proto-spacer region that is important for the phage resistance phenotype. Finally, we show through the analyses of 20 mutant phages that virulent phages are rapidly evolving through single nucleotide mutations as well as deletions, in response to CRISPR1.
doi:10.1128/JB.01412-07
PMCID: PMC2238228  PMID: 18065545
14.  Diversity, Activity, and Evolution of CRISPR Loci in Streptococcus thermophilus▿ † 
Journal of Bacteriology  2007;190(4):1401-1412.
Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) are hypervariable loci widely distributed in prokaryotes that provide acquired immunity against foreign genetic elements. Here, we characterize a novel Streptococcus thermophilus locus, CRISPR3, and experimentally demonstrate its ability to integrate novel spacers in response to bacteriophage. Also, we analyze CRISPR diversity and activity across three distinct CRISPR loci in several S. thermophilus strains. We show that both CRISPR repeats and cas genes are locus specific and functionally coupled. A total of 124 strains were studied, and 109 unique spacer arrangements were observed across the three CRISPR loci. Overall, 3,626 spacers were analyzed, including 2,829 for CRISPR1 (782 unique), 173 for CRISPR2 (16 unique), and 624 for CRISPR3 (154 unique). Sequence analysis of the spacers revealed homology and identity to phage sequences (77%), plasmid sequences (16%), and S. thermophilus chromosomal sequences (7%). Polymorphisms were observed for the CRISPR repeats, CRISPR spacers, cas genes, CRISPR motif, locus architecture, and specific sequence content. Interestingly, CRISPR loci evolved both via polarized addition of novel spacers after exposure to foreign genetic elements and via internal deletion of spacers. We hypothesize that the level of diversity is correlated with relative CRISPR activity and propose that the activity is highest for CRISPR1, followed by CRISPR3, while CRISPR2 may be degenerate. Globally, the dynamic nature of CRISPR loci might prove valuable for typing and comparative analyses of strains and microbial populations. Also, CRISPRs provide critical insights into the relationships between prokaryotes and their environments, notably the coevolution of host and viral genomes.
doi:10.1128/JB.01415-07
PMCID: PMC2238196  PMID: 18065539

Results 1-14 (14)