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1.  Production and Release of Antimicrobial and Immune Defense Proteins by Mammary Epithelial Cells following Streptococcus uberis Infection of Sheep 
Infection and Immunity  2013;81(9):3182-3197.
Investigating the innate immune response mediators released in milk has manifold implications, spanning from elucidation of the role played by mammary epithelial cells (MECs) in fighting microbial infections to the discovery of novel diagnostic markers for monitoring udder health in dairy animals. Here, we investigated the mammary gland response following a two-step experimental infection of lactating sheep with the mastitis-associated bacterium Streptococcus uberis. The establishment of infection was confirmed both clinically and by molecular methods, including PCR and fluorescent in situ hybridization of mammary tissues. Proteomic investigation of the milk fat globule (MFG), a complex vesicle released by lactating MECs, enabled detection of enrichment of several proteins involved in inflammation, chemotaxis of immune cells, and antimicrobial defense, including cathelicidins and calprotectin (S100A8/S100A9), in infected animals, suggesting the consistent involvement of MECs in the innate immune response to pathogens. The ability of MECs to produce and release antimicrobial and immune defense proteins was then demonstrated by immunohistochemistry and confocal immunomicroscopy of cathelicidin and the calprotectin subunit S100A9 on mammary tissues. The time course of their release in milk was also assessed by Western immunoblotting along the course of the experimental infection, revealing the rapid increase of these proteins in the MFG fraction in response to the presence of bacteria. Our results support an active role of MECs in the innate immune response of the mammary gland and provide new potential for the development of novel and more sensitive tools for monitoring mastitis in dairy animals.
doi:10.1128/IAI.00291-13
PMCID: PMC3754230  PMID: 23774600
2.  Evaluating the Impact of Different Sequence Databases on Metaproteome Analysis: Insights from a Lab-Assembled Microbial Mixture 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e82981.
Metaproteomics enables the investigation of the protein repertoire expressed by complex microbial communities. However, to unleash its full potential, refinements in bioinformatic approaches for data analysis are still needed. In this context, sequence databases selection represents a major challenge.
This work assessed the impact of different databases in metaproteomic investigations by using a mock microbial mixture including nine diverse bacterial and eukaryotic species, which was subjected to shotgun metaproteomic analysis. Then, both the microbial mixture and the single microorganisms were subjected to next generation sequencing to obtain experimental metagenomic- and genomic-derived databases, which were used along with public databases (namely, NCBI, UniProtKB/SwissProt and UniProtKB/TrEMBL, parsed at different taxonomic levels) to analyze the metaproteomic dataset. First, a quantitative comparison in terms of number and overlap of peptide identifications was carried out among all databases. As a result, only 35% of peptides were common to all database classes; moreover, genus/species-specific databases provided up to 17% more identifications compared to databases with generic taxonomy, while the metagenomic database enabled a slight increment in respect to public databases. Then, database behavior in terms of false discovery rate and peptide degeneracy was critically evaluated. Public databases with generic taxonomy exhibited a markedly different trend compared to the counterparts. Finally, the reliability of taxonomic attribution according to the lowest common ancestor approach (using MEGAN and Unipept software) was assessed. The level of misassignments varied among the different databases, and specific thresholds based on the number of taxon-specific peptides were established to minimize false positives. This study confirms that database selection has a significant impact in metaproteomics, and provides critical indications for improving depth and reliability of metaproteomic results. Specifically, the use of iterative searches and of suitable filters for taxonomic assignments is proposed with the aim of increasing coverage and trustworthiness of metaproteomic data.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0082981
PMCID: PMC3857319  PMID: 24349410
3.  Mycoplasma agalactiae MAG_5040 is a Mg2+-Dependent, Sugar-Nonspecific SNase Recognised by the Host Humoral Response during Natural Infection 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e57775.
In this study the enzymatic activity of Mycoplasma agalactiae MAG_5040, a magnesium-dependent nuclease homologue to the staphylococcal SNase was characterized and its antigenicity during natural infections was established. A UGA corrected version of MAG_5040, lacking the region encoding the signal peptide, was expressed in Escherichia coli as a GST fusion protein. Recombinant GST-MAG_5040 exhibits nuclease activity similar to typical sugar-nonspecific endo- and exonucleases, with DNA as the preferred substrate and optimal activity in the presence of 20 mM MgCl2 at temperatures ranging from 37 to 45°C. According to in silico analyses, the position of the gene encoding MAG_5040 is consistently located upstream an ABC transporter, in most sequenced mycoplasmas belonging to the Mycoplasma hominis group. In M. agalactiae, MAG_5040 is transcribed in a polycistronic RNA together with the ABC transporter components and with MAG_5030, which is predicted to be a sugar solute binding protein by 3D modeling and homology search. In a natural model of sheep and goats infection, anti-MAG_5040 antibodies were detected up to 9 months post infection. Taking into account its enzymatic activity, MAG_5040 could play a key role in Mycoplasma agalactiae survival into the host, contributing to host pathogenicity. The identification of MAG_5040 opens new perspectives for the development of suitable tools for the control of contagious agalactia in small ruminants.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0057775
PMCID: PMC3585158  PMID: 23469065
4.  Proteomics and Pathway Analyses of the Milk Fat Globule in Sheep Naturally Infected by Mycoplasma agalactiae Provide Indications of the In Vivo Response of the Mammary Epithelium to Bacterial Infection ▿ ‡  
Infection and Immunity  2011;79(9):3833-3845.
Milk fat globules (MFGs) are vesicles released in milk as fat droplets surrounded by the endoplasmic reticulum and apical cell membranes. During formation and apocrine secretion by lactocytes, various amounts of cytoplasmic crescents remain trapped within the released vesicle, making MFGs a natural sampling mechanism of the lactating cell contents. With the aim of investigating the events occurring in the mammary epithelium during bacterial infection, the MFG proteome was characterized by two-dimensional difference gel electrophoresis (2-D DIGE), SDS-PAGE followed by shotgun liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (GeLC-MS/MS), label-free quantification by the normalized spectral abundance factor (NSAF) approach, Western blotting, and pathway analysis, using sheep naturally infected by Mycoplasma agalactiae. A number of protein classes were found to increase in MFGs upon infection, including proteins involved in inflammation and host defense, cortical cytoskeleton proteins, heat shock proteins, and proteins related to oxidative stress. Conversely, a strikingly lower abundance was observed for proteins devoted to MFG metabolism and secretion. To our knowledge, this is the first report describing proteomic changes occurring in MFGs during sheep infectious mastitis. The results presented here offer new insights into the in vivo response of mammary epithelial cells to bacterial infection and open the way to the discovery of protein biomarkers for monitoring clinical and subclinical mastitis.
doi:10.1128/IAI.00040-11
PMCID: PMC3165467  PMID: 21690237
5.  Influence of Moraxella sp. colonization on the kidney proteome of farmed gilthead sea breams (Sparus aurata, L.) 
Proteome Science  2010;8:50.
Background
Currently, presence of Moraxella sp. in internal organs of fish is not considered detrimental for fish farming. However, bacterial colonization of internal organs can affect fish wellness and decrease growth rate, stress resistance, and immune response. Recently, there have been reports by farmers concerning slow growth, poor feed conversion, and low average weight increase of fish farmed in offshore floating sea cages, often associated with internal organ colonization by Moraxella sp. Therefore, presence of these opportunistic bacteria deserves further investigations for elucidating incidence and impact on fish metabolism.
Results
A total of 960 gilthead sea breams (Sparus aurata, L.), collected along 17 months from four offshore sea cage plants and two natural lagoons in Sardinia, were subjected to routine microbiological examination of internal organs throughout the production cycle. Thirteen subjects (1.35%) were found positive for Moraxella sp. in the kidney (7), brain (3), eye (1), spleen (1), and perivisceral fat (1). In order to investigate the influence of Moraxella sp. colonization, positive and negative kidney samples were subjected to a differential proteomics study by means of 2-D PAGE and mass spectrometry. Interestingly, Moraxella sp. infected kidneys displayed a concerted upregulation of several mitochondrial enzymes compared to negative tissues, reinforcing previous observations following lipopolysaccharide (LPS) challenge in fish.
Conclusions
Presence of Moraxella sp. in farmed sea bream kidney is able to induce proteome alterations similar to those described following LPS challenge in other fish species. This study revealed that Moraxella sp. might be causing metabolic alterations in fish, and provided indications on proteins that could be investigated as markers of infection by Gram-negative bacteria within farming plants.
doi:10.1186/1477-5956-8-50
PMCID: PMC2964643  PMID: 20939867
6.  The liposoluble proteome of Mycoplasma agalactiae: an insight into the minimal protein complement of a bacterial membrane 
BMC Microbiology  2010;10:225.
Background
Mycoplasmas are the simplest bacteria capable of autonomous replication. Their evolution proceeded from gram-positive bacteria, with the loss of many biosynthetic pathways and of the cell wall. In this work, the liposoluble protein complement of Mycoplasma agalactiae, a minimal bacterial pathogen causing mastitis, polyarthritis, keratoconjunctivitis, and abortion in small ruminants, was subjected to systematic characterization in order to gain insights into its membrane proteome composition.
Results
The selective enrichment for M. agalactiae PG2T liposoluble proteins was accomplished by means of Triton X-114 fractionation. Liposoluble proteins were subjected to 2-D PAGE-MS, leading to the identification of 40 unique proteins and to the generation of a reference 2D map of the M. agalactiae liposoluble proteome. Liposoluble proteins from the type strain PG2 and two field isolates were then compared by means of 2D DIGE, revealing reproducible differences in protein expression among isolates. An in-depth analysis was then performed by GeLC-MS/MS in order to achieve a higher coverage of the liposoluble proteome. Using this approach, a total of 194 unique proteins were identified, corresponding to 26% of all M. agalactiae PG2T genes. A gene ontology analysis and classification for localization and function was also carried out on all protein identifications. Interestingly, the 11.5% of expressed membrane proteins derived from putative horizontal gene transfer events.
Conclusions
This study led to the in-depth systematic characterization of the M. agalactiae liposoluble protein component, providing useful insights into its membrane organization.
doi:10.1186/1471-2180-10-225
PMCID: PMC2941501  PMID: 20738845

Results 1-6 (6)