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1.  Drosophila Host Model Reveals New Enterococcus faecalis Quorum-Sensing Associated Virulence Factors 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e64740.
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.
PMCID: PMC3667150  PMID: 23734216
2.  Comparative Genomics of Vancomycin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus Strains and Their Positions within the Clade Most Commonly Associated with Methicillin-Resistant S. aureus Hospital-Acquired Infection in the United States  
mBio  2012;3(3):e00112-12.
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.
PMCID: PMC3372964  PMID: 22617140
3.  Comparative Genomics of Enterococci: Variation in Enterococcus faecalis, Clade Structure in E. faecium, and Defining Characteristics of E. gallinarum and E. casseliflavus 
mBio  2012;3(1):e00318-11.
The enterococci are Gram-positive lactic acid bacteria that inhabit the gastrointestinal tracts of diverse hosts. However, Enterococcus faecium and E. faecalis have emerged as leading causes of multidrug-resistant hospital-acquired infections. The mechanism by which a well-adapted commensal evolved into a hospital pathogen is poorly understood. In this study, we examined high-quality draft genome data for evidence of key events in the evolution of the leading causes of enterococcal infections, including E. faecalis, E. faecium, E. casseliflavus, and E. gallinarum. We characterized two clades within what is currently classified as E. faecium and identified traits characteristic of each, including variation in operons for cell wall carbohydrate and putative capsule biosynthesis. We examined the extent of recombination between the two E. faecium clades and identified two strains with mosaic genomes. We determined the underlying genetics for the defining characteristics of the motile enterococci E. casseliflavus and E. gallinarum. Further, we identified species-specific traits that could be used to advance the detection of medically relevant enterococci and their identification to the species level.
The enterococci, in particular, vancomycin-resistant enterococci, have emerged as leading causes of multidrug-resistant hospital-acquired infections. In this study, we examined genome sequence data to define traits with the potential to influence host-microbe interactions and to identify sequences and biochemical functions that could form the basis for the rapid identification of enterococcal species or lineages of importance in clinical and environmental samples.
PMCID: PMC3374389  PMID: 22354958
5.  Horizontal Gene Transfer and the Genomics of Enterococcal Antibiotic Resistance 
Current opinion in microbiology  2010;13(5):632-639.
Enterococci are Gram-positive bacteria that normally colonize gastrointestinal tracts of humans and animals. They are of growing concern because of their ability to cause antibiotic resistant hospital infections. Antibiotic resistance has been acquired, and has disseminated throughout enterococci, via horizontal transfer of mobile genetic elements. This transmission has been mediated mainly by conjugative plasmids of the pheromone-responsive and broad host range incompatibility group 18 type. Genome sequencing is revealing the extent of diversity of these and other mobile elements in enterococci, as well as the extent of recombination and rearrangement resulting in new phenotypes. Pheromone-responsive plasmids were recently shown to promote genome plasticity in antibiotic resistant Enterococcus faecalis, and their involvement has been implicated in E. faecium as well. Further, incompatibility group 18 plasmids have recently played an important role in mediating transfer of vancomycin resistance from enterococci to methicillin resistant strains of S. aureus.
PMCID: PMC2955785  PMID: 20837397
6.  Genetic Basis for Daptomycin Resistance in Enterococci ▿ † ‡ 
The emergence of multidrug-resistant enterococci as a leading cause of hospital-acquired infection is an important public health concern. Little is known about the genetic mechanisms by which enterococci adapt to strong selective pressures, including the use of antibiotics. The lipopeptide antibiotic daptomycin is approved to treat Gram-positive bacterial infections, including those caused by enterococci. Since its introduction, resistance to daptomycin by strains of Enterococcus faecalis and Enterococcus faecium has been reported but is still rare. We evolved daptomycin-resistant strains of the multidrug-resistant E. faecalis strain V583. Based on the availability of a fully closed genome sequence for V583, we used whole-genome resequencing to identify the mutations that became fixed over short time scales (∼2 weeks) upon serial passage in the presence of daptomycin. By comparison of the genome sequences of the three adapted strains to that of parental V583, we identified seven candidate daptomycin resistance genes and three different mutational paths to daptomycin resistance in E. faecalis. Mutations in one of the seven candidate genes (EF0631), encoding a putative cardiolipin synthase, were found in each of the adapted E. faecalis V583 strains as well as in daptomycin-resistant E. faecalis and E. faecium clinical isolates. Alleles of EF0631 from daptomycin-resistant strains are dominant in trans and confer daptomycin resistance upon a susceptible host. These results demonstrate a mechanism of enterococcal daptomycin resistance that is genetically distinct from that occurring in staphylococci and indicate that enterococci possessing alternate EF0631 alleles are selected for during daptomycin therapy. However, our analysis of E. faecalis clinical isolates indicates that resistance pathways independent from mutant forms of EF0631 also exist.
PMCID: PMC3122436  PMID: 21502617
7.  Revisiting the host as a growth medium 
Nature reviews. Microbiology  2008;6(9):657-666.
The ability of the human body to play host to bacterial pathogens has been studied for more than 200 years. Successful pathogenesis relies on the ability to acquire the nutrients that are necessary for growth and survival, yet relatively little is understood about the in vivo physiology and metabolism of most human pathogens. This Review discusses how in vivo carbon sources can affect disease and highlights the concept that carbon metabolic pathways provide viable targets for antibiotic development.
PMCID: PMC3115587  PMID: 18679171
8.  Characterization of the Pseudomonas aeruginosa Transcriptional Response to Phenylalanine and Tyrosine▿  
Journal of Bacteriology  2010;192(11):2722-2728.
Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a Gram-negative opportunistic pathogen often associated with chronic infections in the lungs of individuals with the heritable disease cystic fibrosis (CF). Previous work from our laboratory demonstrated that aromatic amino acids within CF lung secretions (sputum) not only serve as carbon and energy sources but also enhance synthesis of the cell signaling molecule Pseudomonas quinolone signal (PQS). The present study investigates the role of the aromatic amino acid-responsive regulator PhhR in mediating these phenotypes. Transcriptome analysis revealed that PhhR controls four putative transcriptional units (phhA, hpd, hmgA, and dhcA) involved in aromatic amino acid catabolism; however, genes involved in PQS biosynthesis were unaffected. The phhA, hpd, hmgA, and dhcA promoters were mapped by primer extension, and purified His6-PhhR was shown to bind the phhA, hpd, and dhcA promoters in vitro by use of electrophoretic mobility shift assays. Our work characterizes a transcriptional regulator of catabolic genes induced during P. aeruginosa growth in CF sputum.
PMCID: PMC2876504  PMID: 20304990
9.  High-Quality Draft Genome Sequences of 28 Enterococcus sp. Isolates▿  
Journal of Bacteriology  2010;192(9):2469-2470.
The enterococci are low-GC Gram-positive bacteria that have emerged as leading causes of hospital-acquired infection. They are also commensals of the gastrointestinal tract of healthy humans and most other animals with gastrointestinal flora and are important for food fermentations. Here we report the availability of draft genome sequences for 28 enterococcal strains of diverse origin, including the species Enterococcus faecalis, E. faecium, E. casseliflavus, and E. gallinarum.
PMCID: PMC2863476  PMID: 20207762
10.  Multidrug-Resistant Enterococci Lack CRISPR-cas 
mBio  2010;1(4):e00227-10.
Clustered, regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) provide bacteria and archaea with sequence-specific, acquired defense against plasmids and phage. Because mobile elements constitute up to 25% of the genome of multidrug-resistant (MDR) enterococci, it was of interest to examine the codistribution of CRISPR and acquired antibiotic resistance in enterococcal lineages. A database was built from 16 Enterococcus faecalis draft genome sequences to identify commonalities and polymorphisms in the location and content of CRISPR loci. With this data set, we were able to detect identities between CRISPR spacers and sequences from mobile elements, including pheromone-responsive plasmids and phage, suggesting that CRISPR regulates the flux of these elements through the E. faecalis species. Based on conserved locations of CRISPR and CRISPR-cas loci and the discovery of a new CRISPR locus with associated functional genes, CRISPR3-cas, we screened additional E. faecalis strains for CRISPR content, including isolates predating the use of antibiotics. We found a highly significant inverse correlation between the presence of a CRISPR-cas locus and acquired antibiotic resistance in E. faecalis, and examination of an additional eight E. faecium genomes yielded similar results for that species. A mechanism for CRISPR-cas loss in E. faecalis was identified. The inverse relationship between CRISPR-cas and antibiotic resistance suggests that antibiotic use inadvertently selects for enterococcal strains with compromised genome defense.
For many bacteria, including the opportunistically pathogenic enterococci, antibiotic resistance is mediated by acquisition of new DNA and is frequently encoded on mobile DNA elements such as plasmids and transposons. Certain enterococcal lineages have recently emerged that are characterized by abundant mobile DNA, including numerous viruses (phage), and plasmids and transposons encoding multiple antibiotic resistances. These lineages cause hospital infection outbreaks around the world. The striking influx of mobile DNA into these lineages is in contrast to what would be expected if a self (genome)-defense system was present. Clustered, regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat (CRISPR) defense is a recently discovered mechanism of prokaryotic self-defense that provides a type of acquired immunity. Here, we find that antibiotic resistance and possession of complete CRISPR loci are inversely related and that members of recently emerged high-risk enterococcal lineages lack complete CRISPR loci. Our results suggest that antibiotic therapy inadvertently selects for enterococci with compromised genome defense.
PMCID: PMC2975353  PMID: 21060735
12.  Nutritional Cues Control Pseudomonas aeruginosa Multicellular Behavior in Cystic Fibrosis Sputum▿ †  
Journal of Bacteriology  2007;189(22):8079-8087.
The sputum (mucus) layer of the cystic fibrosis (CF) lung is a complex substrate that provides Pseudomonas aeruginosa with carbon and energy to support high-density growth during chronic colonization. Unfortunately, the CF lung sputum layer has been difficult to mimic in animal models of CF disease, and mechanistic studies of P. aeruginosa physiology during growth in CF sputum are hampered by its complexity. In this study, we performed chromatographic and enzymatic analyses of CF sputum to develop a defined, synthetic CF sputum medium (SCFM) that mimics the nutritional composition of CF sputum. Importantly, P. aeruginosa displays similar phenotypes during growth in CF sputum and in SCFM, including similar growth rates, gene expression profiles, carbon substrate preferences, and cell-cell signaling profiles. Using SCFM, we provide evidence that aromatic amino acids serve as nutritional cues that influence cell-cell signaling and antimicrobial activity of P. aeruginosa during growth in CF sputum.
PMCID: PMC2168676  PMID: 17873029
13.  Membrane-Bound Nitrate Reductase Is Required for Anaerobic Growth in Cystic Fibrosis Sputum▿ †  
Journal of Bacteriology  2007;189(12):4449-4455.
The autosomal recessive disorder cystic fibrosis (CF) affects approximately 70,000 people worldwide and is characterized by chronic bacterial lung infections with the opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa. To form a chronic CF lung infection, P. aeruginosa must grow and proliferate within the CF lung, and the highly viscous sputum within the CF lung provides a likely growth substrate. Recent evidence indicates that anaerobic microenvironments may be present in the CF lung sputum layer. Since anaerobic growth significantly enhances P. aeruginosa biofilm formation and antibiotic resistance, it is important to examine P. aeruginosa physiology and metabolism in anaerobic environments. Measurement of nitrate levels revealed that CF sputum contains sufficient nitrate to support significant P. aeruginosa growth anaerobically, and mutational analysis revealed that the membrane-bound nitrate reductase is essential for P. aeruginosa anaerobic growth in an in vitro CF sputum medium. In addition, expression of genes coding for the membrane-bound nitrate reductase complex is responsive to CF sputum nitrate levels. These findings suggest that the membrane-bound nitrate reductase is critical for P. aeruginosa anaerobic growth with nitrate in the CF lung.
PMCID: PMC1913347  PMID: 17400735
14.  Cystic Fibrosis Sputum Supports Growth and Cues Key Aspects of Pseudomonas aeruginosa Physiology 
Journal of Bacteriology  2005;187(15):5267-5277.
The opportunistic human pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa causes persistent airway infections in patients with cystic fibrosis (CF). To establish these chronic infections, P. aeruginosa must grow and proliferate within the highly viscous sputum in the lungs of CF patients. In this study, we used Affymetrix GeneChip microarrays to investigate the physiology of P. aeruginosa grown using CF sputum as the sole source of carbon and energy. Our results indicate that CF sputum readily supports high-density P. aeruginosa growth. Furthermore, multiple signals, which reduce swimming motility and prematurely activate the Pseudomonas quinolone signal cell-to-cell signaling cascade in P. aeruginosa, are present in CF sputum. P. aeruginosa factors critical for lysis of the common CF lung inhabitant Staphylococcus aureus were also induced in CF sputum and increased the competitiveness of P. aeruginosa during polymicrobial growth in CF sputum.
PMCID: PMC1196007  PMID: 16030221

Results 1-14 (14)