In this study we adapted a Mud-based delivery system to construct a random yfp reporter gene (encoding the yellow fluorescent protein) insertion library in the genome of Salmonella Typhimurium LT2, and used fluorescence activated cell sorting and fluorescence microscopy to screen for translational fusions that were able to clearly and specifically label the bacterial nucleoid. Two such fusions were obtained, corresponding to a translational yfp insertion in iscR and iolR, respectively. Both fusions were further validated, and the IscR::YFP fluorescent nucleoid reporter together with time-lapse fluorescence microscopy was subsequently used to monitor nucleoid dynamics in response to the filamentation imposed by growth of LT2 at high hydrostatic pressure (40–45 MPa). As such, we were able to reveal that upon decompression the apparently entangled LT2 chromosomes in filamentous cells rapidly and efficiently segregate, after which septation of the filament occurs. In the course of the latter process, however, cells with a “trilobed” nucleoid were regularly observed, indicative for an imbalance between septum formation and chromosome segregation.
We announce the genome sequence of Serratia plymuthica strain RVH1, a psychroloterant strain that was isolated from a raw vegetable-processing line and that regulates the production of primary metabolites (acetoin and butanediol), antibiotics, and extracellular enzymes through quorum sensing.
In this study, we examined the intracellular whereabouts of Mrr, a cryptic type IV restriction endonuclease of Escherichia coli K12, in response to different conditions. In absence of stimuli triggering its activity, Mrr was found to be strongly associated with the nucleoid as a number of discrete foci, suggesting the presence of Mrr hotspots on the chromosome. Previously established elicitors of Mrr activity, such as exposure to high (hydrostatic) pressure (HP) or expression of the HhaII methyltransferase, both caused nucleoid condensation and an unexpected coalescence of Mrr foci. However, although the resulting Mrr/nucleoid complex was stable when triggered with HhaII, it tended to be only short-lived when elicited with HP. Moreover, HP-mediated activation of Mrr typically led to cellular blebbing, suggesting a link between chromosome and cellular integrity. Interestingly, Mrr variants could be isolated that were specifically compromised in either HhaII- or HP-dependent activation, underscoring a mechanistic difference in the way both triggers activate Mrr. In general, our results reveal that Mrr can take part in complex spatial distributions on the nucleoid and can be engaged in distinct modes of activity.
Although the study of phage infection has a long history and catalyzed much of our current understanding in bacterial genetics, molecular biology, evolution and ecology, it seems that microbiologists have only just begun to explore the intricacy of phage–host interactions. In a recent manuscript by Cenens et al. we found molecular and genetic support for pseudolysogenic development in the Salmonella Typhimurium–phage P22 model system. More specifically, we observed the existence of phage carrier cells harboring an episomal P22 element that segregated asymmetrically upon subsequent divisions. Moreover, a newly discovered P22 ORFan protein (Pid) able to derepress a metabolic operon of the host (dgo) proved to be specifically expressed in these phage carrier cells. In this addendum we expand on our view regarding pseudolysogeny and its effects on bacterial and phage biology.
Salmonella Typhimurium; phage P22; phage carrier state; phage–host interactions; pseudolysogeny
In contrast to the rapidly increasing knowledge on genome content and diversity of bacterial viruses, insights in intracellular phage development and its impact on bacterial physiology are very limited. We present a multifaceted study combining quantitative PCR (qPCR), microarray, RNA-seq, and two-dimensional gel electrophoresis (2D-GE), to obtain a global overview of alterations in DNA, RNA, and protein content in Pseudomonas aeruginosa PAO1 cells upon infection with the strictly lytic phage LUZ19. Viral genome replication occurs in the second half of the phage infection cycle and coincides with degradation of the bacterial genome. At the RNA level, there is a sharp increase in viral mRNAs from 23 to 60% of all transcripts after 5 and 15 min of infection, respectively. Although microarray analysis revealed a complex pattern of bacterial up- and downregulated genes, the accumulation of viral mRNA clearly coincides with a general breakdown of abundant bacterial transcripts. Two-dimensional gel electrophoretic analyses shows no bacterial protein degradation during phage infection, and seven stress-related bacterial proteins appear. Moreover, the two most abundantly expressed early and late-early phage proteins, LUZ19 gene product 13 (Gp13) and Gp21, completely inhibit P. aeruginosa growth when expressed from a single-copy plasmid. Since Gp13 encodes a predicted GNAT acetyltransferase, this observation points at a crucial but yet unexplored level of posttranslational viral control during infection.
Massive genome sequencing has led to important insights into the enormous genetic diversity of bacterial viruses (bacteriophages). However, for nearly all known phages, information on the impact of the phage infection on host physiology and intracellular phage development is scarce. This aspect of phage research should be revitalized, as phages evolved genes which can shut down or redirect bacterial processes in a very efficient way, which can be exploited towards antibacterial design. In this context, we initiated a study of the human opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa under attack by one its most common predators, the Phikmvlikevirus. By analyzing various stages of infection at different levels, this study uncovers new features of phage infection, representing a cornerstone for future studies on members of this phage genus.
We discovered a novel interaction between phage P22 and its host Salmonella Typhimurium LT2 that is characterized by a phage mediated and targeted derepression of the host dgo operon. Upon further investigation, this interaction was found to be instigated by an ORFan gene (designated pid for phage P22 encoded instigator of dgo expression) located on a previously unannotated moron locus in the late region of the P22 genome, and encoding an 86 amino acid protein of 9.3 kDa. Surprisingly, the Pid/dgo interaction was not observed during strict lytic or lysogenic proliferation of P22, and expression of pid was instead found to arise in cells that upon infection stably maintained an unintegrated phage chromosome that segregated asymmetrically upon subsequent cell divisions. Interestingly, among the emerging siblings, the feature of pid expression remained tightly linked to the cell inheriting this phage carrier state and became quenched in the other. As such, this study is the first to reveal molecular and genetic markers authenticating pseudolysogenic development, thereby exposing a novel mechanism, timing, and populational distribution in the realm of phage–host interactions.
Viruses of bacteria, also referred to as (bacterio)phages, are the most abundant biological entity on earth and have a tremendous impact on the ecology of their hosts. It has traditionally been recognized that upon infection by a temperate phage the host cell is forced either to produce and release new virions during lytic development or to replicate and segregate the phage chromosome together with its own genetic material during lysogenic development. These developmental paths are orchestrated by a dedicated set of phage–host interactions that are able to sense and redirect host cell physiology. In addition to this classical bifurcation of temperate phage development, many studies on phage biology in natural ecosystems hypothesize the existence and significance of stable phage carrier cells that are not engaged in either lytic or lysogenic proliferation. Using Salmonella Typhimurium and phage P22 as a model system, we provide substantial evidence authenticating the existence of the phage carrier state and demonstrate that this state (i) is asymmetrically inherited among carrier cell siblings and (ii) enables the execution of a novel phage–host interaction that is not encountered during lytic or lysogenic proliferation.
Serratia plymuthica strain RVH1, initially isolated from an industrial food processing environment, displays potent antimicrobial activity towards a broad spectrum of Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacterial pathogens. Isolation and subsequent structure determination of bioactive molecules led to the identification of two polyamino antibiotics with the same molecular structure as zeamine and zeamine II as well as a third, closely related analogue, designated zeamine I. The gene cluster encoding the biosynthesis of the zeamine antibiotics was cloned and sequenced and shown to encode FAS, PKS as well as NRPS related enzymes in addition to putative tailoring and export enzymes. Interestingly, several genes show strong homology to the pfa cluster of genes involved in the biosynthesis of long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in marine bacteria. We postulate that a mixed FAS/PKS and a hybrid NRPS/PKS assembly line each synthesize parts of the backbone that are linked together post-assembly in the case of zeamine and zeamine I. This interaction reflects a unique interplay between secondary lipid and secondary metabolite biosynthesis. Most likely, the zeamine antibiotics are produced as prodrugs that undergo activation in which a nonribosomal peptide sequence is cleaved off.
In this study, three-day old mature biofilms of Escherichia coli were exposed once to either a temperate Shiga-toxin encoding phage (H-19B) or an obligatory lytic phage (T7), after which further dynamics in the biofilm were monitored. As such, it was found that a single dose of H-19B could rapidly lead to a near complete lysogenization of the biofilm, with a subsequent continuous release of infectious H-19B particles. On the other hand, a single dose of T7 rapidly led to resistance development in the biofilm population. Together, our data indicates a profound impact of phages on the dynamics within structured bacterial populations.
Escherichia coli; biofilm; lysogenic conversion; resistance development; Shiga toxin; phage
Pseudomonas putida exerts a filamentous phenotype in response to environmental stress conditions that are encountered during its natural life cycle. This study assessed whether P. putida filamentation could confer survival advantages. Filamentation of P. putida was induced through culturing at low shaking speed and was compared to culturing in high shaking speed conditions, after which whole proteomic analysis and stress exposure assays were performed.
P. putida grown in filament-inducing conditions showed increased resistance to heat and saline stressors compared to non-filamented cultures. Proteomic analysis showed a significant metabolic change and a pronounced induction of the heat shock protein IbpA and recombinase RecA in filament-inducing conditions. Our data further indicated that the associated heat shock resistance, but not filamentation, was dependent of RecA.
This study provides insights into the altered metabolism of P. putida in filament-inducing conditions, and indicates that the formation of filaments could potentially be utilized by P. putida as a survival strategy in its hostile, recurrently changing habitat.
Pseudomonas putida KT2440; Filamentation; Elongation; SOS response; RecA; Shaking speed; Stress resistance
High hydrostatic pressure (HHP) processing is becoming a valuable nonthermal food pasteurization technique, although there is reasonable concern that bacterial HHP resistance could compromise the safety and stability of HHP-processed foods. While the degree of natural HHP resistance has already been shown to vary greatly among and within bacterial species, a still unresolved question remains as to what extent different food-borne pathogens can actually develop HHP resistance. In this study, we therefore examined and compared the intrinsic potentials for HHP resistance development among strains of Escherichia coli, Shigella flexneri, Salmonella enterica serovars Typhimurium and Enteritidis, Yersinia enterocolitica, Aeromonas hydrophila, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Listeria innocua using a selective enrichment approach. Interestingly, of all strains examined, the acquisition of extreme HHP resistance could be detected in only some of the E. coli strains, indicating that a specific genetic predisposition might be required for resistance development. Furthermore, once acquired, HHP resistance proved to be a very stable trait that was maintained for >80 generations in the absence of HHP exposure. Finally, at the mechanistic level, HHP resistance was not necessarily linked to derepression of the heat shock genes and was not related to the phenomenon of persistence.
In recent work we discovered that the intragenic tandem repeat (TR) region of the tolA gene is highly variable among different Escherichia coli strains. The aim of this study was therefore to investigate the biological function and dynamics of TR variation in E. coli tolA. The biological impact of TR variation was examined by comparing the ability of a set of synthetic tolA variants with in frame repeat copies varying from 2 to 39 to rescue the altered susceptibility of an E. coli ΔtolA mutant to deoxycholic acid, sodium dodecyl sulfate, hyperosmolarity, and infection with filamentous bacteriophage. Interestingly, although each of the TolA variants was able to at least partly rescue the ΔtolA mutant, the extent was clearly dependent on both the repeat number and the type of stress imposed, indicating the existence of opposing selective forces with regard to the optimal TR copy number. Subsequently, TR dynamics in a clonal population were assayed, and we could demonstrate that TR contractions are RecA dependent and enhanced in a DNA repair deficient uvrD background, and can occur at a frequency of 6.9×10−5.
During fermentation of sugars, a number of bacterial species are able to switch from mixed acid production to acetoin and 2,3-butanediol production in order to avoid lethal acidification of their environment, although the regulation of this switch is only poorly understood. In this study, we report the identification of the budAB structural operon, involved in acetoin production in Serratia plymuthica RVH1, and its activation by a LysR-type regulator encoded by budR, immediately upstream of this operon. In addition, the regulation of budR transcription was elucidated and found to be subject to negative control by BudR itself and to positive control by external stimuli such as N-(3-oxohexanoyl)-l-homoserine lactone (OHHL) quorum sensing signaling molecules and acetate. Interestingly, however, we observed that induction of budR transcription by OHHL or acetate did not require BudR, indicating the involvement of additional regulatory factors in relaying these environmental signals to the budR promoter.
The Mrr protein of Escherichia coli is a laterally acquired Type IV restriction endonuclease with specificity for methylated DNA. While Mrr nuclease activity can be elicited by high-pressure stress in E. coli MG1655, its (over)expression per se does not confer any obvious toxicity. In this study, however, we discovered that Mrr of E. coli MG1655 causes distinct genotoxicity when expressed in Salmonella typhimurium LT2. Genetic screening enabled us to contribute this toxicity entirely to the presence of the endogenous Type III restriction modification system (StyLTI) of S. typhimurium LT2. The StyLTI system consists of the Mod DNA methyltransferase and the Res restriction endonuclease, and we revealed that expression of the LT2 mod gene was sufficient to trigger Mrr activity in E. coli MG1655. Moreover, we could demonstrate that horizontal acquisition of the MG1655 mrr locus can drive the loss of endogenous Mod functionality present in S. typhimurium LT2 and E. coli ED1a, and observed a strong anti-correlation between close homologues of MG1655 mrr and LT2 mod in the genome database. This apparent evolutionary antagonism is further discussed in the light of a possible role for Mrr as defense mechanism against the establishment of epigenetic regulation by foreign DNA methyltransferases.
Pressure and temperature are important environmental variables that influence living systems. However, while they vary over a considerable range on Earth and other planets, it has hardly been addressed how straightforwardly and to what extent cellular life can acquire resistance to extremes of these parameters within a defined genomic context and a limited number of generations. Nevertheless, this is a very pertinent question with respect to the penetration of life in allegedly inhospitable environments. In this study, directed evolution was used to reveal the potential of the nonsporulating and mesophilic model bacterium Escherichia coli to develop the ability to survive exposure to high temperature or pressure. While heat resistance could only marginally be increased, our data show that piezoresistance could readily and reproducibly be extended into the GPa range, thereby greatly exceeding the currently recognized maximum for growth or survival.
While extremophilic microorganisms generally serve as the reference for microbial survival capacities in inhospitable environments, we set out to examine how readily a mesophilic model bacterium such as Escherichia coli could build up resistance to extremes of temperature or pressure within a very short evolutionary time scale. Both heat and high pressure constitute ecologically important physical stresses that are able to irrevocably penetrate the entire cell. Our results for the first time establish that cellular life can acquire resistance to pressures extending into the GPa range.
The Escherichia coli Rcs regulon is triggered by antibiotic-mediated peptidoglycan stress and encodes two lysozyme inhibitors, Ivy and MliC. We report activation of this pathway by lysozyme and increased lysozyme sensitivity when Rcs induction is genetically blocked. This lysozyme sensitivity could be alleviated by complementation with Ivy and MliC.
A reverse zymogram method for the detection of bacterial lysozyme inhibitors was developed. This method was validated by using a periplasmic protein extract of Escherichia coli containing a known inhibitor and subsequently led to the detection of a new proteinaceous hen egg white lysozyme inhibitor in Proteus mirabilis.
Ivy is a lysozyme inhibitor that protects Escherichia coli against lysozyme-mediated cell wall hydrolysis when the outer membrane is permeabilized by mutation or by chemical or physical stress. In the current work, we have investigated whether Ivy is necessary for the survival or growth of E. coli MG1655 and Pseudomonas aeruginosa PAO1 in hen egg white and in human saliva and breast milk, which are naturally rich in lysozyme and in membrane-permeabilizing components. Wild-type E. coli was able to grow in saliva and breast milk but showed partial inactivation in egg white. The knockout of Ivy did not affect growth in breast milk but slightly increased sensitivity to egg white and caused hypersensitivity to saliva, resulting in the complete inactivation of 104 CFU ml−1 of bacteria within less than 5 hours. The depletion of lysozyme from saliva completely restored the ability of the ivy mutant to grow like the parental strain. P. aeruginosa, in contrast, showed growth in all three substrates, which was not affected by the knockout of Ivy production. These results indicate that lysozyme inhibitors like Ivy promote bacterial survival or growth in particular lysozyme-rich secretions and suggest that they may promote the bacterial colonization of specific niches in the animal host.
Lysozymes are ancient and important components of the innate immune system of animals that hydrolyze peptidoglycan, the major bacterial cell wall polymer. Bacteria engaging in commensal or pathogenic interactions with an animal host have evolved various strategies to evade this bactericidal enzyme, one recently proposed strategy being the production of lysozyme inhibitors. We here report the discovery of a novel family of bacterial lysozyme inhibitors with widespread homologs in gram-negative bacteria. First, a lysozyme inhibitor was isolated by affinity chromatography from a periplasmic extract of Salmonella Enteritidis, identified by mass spectrometry and correspondingly designated as PliC (periplasmic lysozyme inhibitor of c-type lysozyme). A pliC knock-out mutant no longer produced lysozyme inhibitory activity and showed increased lysozyme sensitivity in the presence of the outer membrane permeabilizing protein lactoferrin. PliC lacks similarity with the previously described Escherichia coli lysozyme inhibitor Ivy, but is related to a group of proteins with a common conserved COG3895 domain, some of them predicted to be lipoproteins. No function has yet been assigned to these proteins, although they are widely spread among the Proteobacteria. We demonstrate that at least two representatives of this group, MliC (membrane bound lysozyme inhibitor of c-type lysozyme) of E. coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, also possess lysozyme inhibitory activity and confer increased lysozyme tolerance upon expression in E. coli. Interestingly, mliC of Salmonella Typhi was picked up earlier in a screen for genes induced during residence in macrophages, and knockout of mliC was shown to reduce macrophage survival of S. Typhi. Based on these observations, we suggest that the COG3895 domain is a common feature of a novel and widespread family of bacterial lysozyme inhibitors in gram-negative bacteria that may function as colonization or virulence factors in bacteria interacting with an animal host.
Lysozyme is an ancient bactericidal enzyme that is part of the antibacterial defense system of vertebrate and invertebrate animals. Bacteria colonizing or infecting an animal host have developed various ways to overcome lysozyme action, a recently proposed mechanism being the production of lysozyme inhibitors. However, the only high affinity bacterial lysozyme inhibitor known thus far is produced only in few bacteria, and this raised questions about their wider relevance in bacteria–host interactions. We here report the discovery of a novel and distinct family of bacterial lysozyme inhibitors that is widely distributed among the Proteobacteria, including several major pathogens. The family comprises periplasmic as well as membrane-bound inhibitors, and both types contribute to lysozyme tolerance of bacterial cells, as we experimentally demonstrate for the periplasmic inhibitor from Salmonella Typhimurium and the membrane-bound inhibitors from Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Interestingly, a gene encoding one of the newly identified inhibitors has been previously found to promote macrophage survival of Salmonella Typhi. The widespread occurrence of lysozyme inhibitors in bacteria is likely to reflect their functional importance in a wide range of bacteria–host interactions. As such, they are also attractive novel targets for antibacterial drug development.
We have previously characterized the N-acyl-l-homoserine lactone-based quorum-sensing system of the biofilm isolate Serratia plymuthica RVH1. Here we investigated the role of quorum sensing and of quorum-sensing-dependent production of an antimicrobial compound (AC) on biofilm formation by RVH1 and on the cocultivation of RVH1 and Escherichia coli in planktonic cultures or in biofilms. Biofilm formation of S. plymuthica was not affected by the knockout of splI or splR, the S. plymuthica homologs of the luxI or luxR quorum-sensing gene, respectively, or by the knockout of AC production. E. coli grew well in mixed broth culture with RVH1 until the latter reached 8.5 to 9.5 log CFU/ml, after which the E. coli colony counts steeply declined. In comparison, only a very small decline occurred in cocultures with the S. plymuthica AC-deficient and splI mutants. Complementation with exogenous N-hexanoyl-l-homoserine lactone rescued the wild-type phenotype of the splI mutant. The splR knockout mutant also induced a steep decline of E. coli, consistent with its proposed function as a repressor of quorum-sensing-regulated genes. The numbers of E. coli in 3-day-old mixed biofilms followed a similar pattern, being higher with S. plymuthica deficient in SplI or AC production than with wild-type S. plymuthica, the splR mutant, or the splI mutant in the presence of N-hexanoyl-l-homoserine lactone. Confocal laser scanning microscopic analysis of mixed biofilms established with strains producing different fluorescent proteins showed that E. coli microcolonies were less developed in the presence of RVH1 than in the presence of the AC-deficient mutant.
The enzyme lactoperoxidase is part of the innate immune system in vertebrates and owes its antimicrobial activity to the formation of oxidative reaction products from various substrates. In a previous study, we have reported that, with thiocyanate as a substrate, the lactoperoxidase system elicits a distinct stress response in Escherichia coli MG1655. This response is different from but partly overlapping with the stress responses to hydrogen peroxide and to superoxide. In the current work, we constructed knockouts in 10 lactoperoxidase system-inducible genes to investigate their role in the tolerance of E. coli MG1655 to this antimicrobial system. Five mutations resulted in a slightly increased sensitivity, but one mutation (corA) caused hypersensitivity to the lactoperoxidase system. This hypersensitive phenotype was specific to the lactoperoxidase system, since neither the sensitivity to hydrogen peroxide nor to the superoxide generator plumbagin was affected in the corA mutant. Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium corA had a similar phenotype. Although corA encodes an Mg2+ transporter and at least three other inducible open reading frames belonged to the Mg2+ regulon, repression of the Mg stimulon by Mg2+ did not change the lactoperoxidase sensitivity of either the wild-type or corA mutant. Prior exposure to 0.3 mM Ni2+, which is also transported by CorA, strongly sensitized MG1655 but not the corA mutant to the lactoperoxidase system. Furthermore, this Ni2+-dependent sensitization was suppressed by the CorA-specific inhibitor Co(III) hexaammine. These results indicate that CorA affects the lactoperoxidase sensitivity of E. coli by modulating the cytoplasmic concentrations of transition metals that enhance the toxicity of the lactoperoxidase system.
Lactoperoxidase is an enzyme that contributes to the antimicrobial defense in secretory fluids and that has attracted interest as a potential biopreservative for foods and other perishable products. Its antimicrobial activity is based on the formation of hypothiocyanate (OSCN−) from thiocyanate (SCN−), using H2O2 as an oxidant. To gain insight into the antibacterial mode of action of the lactoperoxidase enzyme system, we generated random transposon insertion mutations in Escherichia coli MG1655 and screened the resultant mutants for an altered tolerance of bacteriostatic concentrations of this enzyme system. Out of the ca. 5,000 mutants screened, 4 showed significantly increased tolerance, and 2 of these had an insertion, one in the waaQ gene and one in the waaO gene, whose products are involved in the synthesis of the core oligosaccharide moiety of lipopolysaccharides. Besides producing truncated lipopolysaccharides and displaying hypersensitivity to novobiocin and sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS), these mutants were also shown by urea-SDS-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis analysis to have reduced amounts of porins in their outer membranes. Moreover, they showed a reduced degradation of p-nitrophenyl phosphate and an increased resistance to ampicillin, two indications of a decrease in outer membrane permeability for small hydrophilic solutes. Additionally, ompC and ompF knockout mutants displayed levels of tolerance to the lactoperoxidase system similar to those displayed by the waa mutants. These results suggest that mutations which reduce the porin-mediated outer membrane permeability for small hydrophilic molecules lead to increased tolerance to the lactoperoxidase enzyme system because of a reduced uptake of OSCN−.
Using leaderless alkaline phosphatase as a probe, it was demonstrated that pressure treatment induces endogenous intracellular oxidative stress in Escherichia coli MG1655. In stationary-phase cells, this oxidative stress increased with the applied pressure at least up to 400 MPa, which is well beyond the pressure at which the cells started to become inactivated (200 MPa). In exponential-phase cells, in contrast, oxidative stress increased with pressure treatment up to 150 MPa and then decreased again, together with the cell counts. Anaerobic incubation after pressure treatment significantly supported the recovery of MG1655, while mutants with increased intrinsic sensitivity toward oxidative stress (katE, katF, oxyR, sodAB, and soxS) were found to be more pressure sensitive than wild-type MG1655. Furthermore, mild pressure treatment strongly sensitized E. coli toward t-butylhydroperoxide and the superoxide generator plumbagin. Finally, previously described pressure-resistant mutants of E. coli MG1655 displayed enhanced resistance toward plumbagin. In one of these mutants, the induction of endogenous oxidative stress upon high hydrostatic pressure treatment was also investigated and found to be much lower than in MG1655. These results suggest that, at least under some conditions, the inactivation of E. coli by high hydrostatic pressure treatment is the consequence of a suicide mechanism involving the induction of an endogenous oxidative burst.
Since high hydrostatic pressure is becoming increasingly important in modern food preservation, its potential effects on microorganisms need to be thoroughly investigated. In this context, mild pressures (<200 MPa) have recently been shown to induce an SOS response in Escherichia coli MG1655. Due to this response, we observed a RecA- and LexA-dependent induction of lambda prophage upon treating E. coli lysogens with sublethal pressures. In this report, we extend this observation to lambdoid Shiga toxin (Stx)-converting bacteriophages in MG1655, which constitute an important virulence trait in Stx-producing E. coli strains (STEC). The window of pressures capable of inducing Stx phages correlated well with the window of bacterial survival. When pressure treatments were conducted in whole milk, which is known to promote bacterial survival, Stx phage induction could be observed at up to 250 MPa in E. coli MG1655 and at up to 300 MPa in a pressure-resistant mutant of this strain. In addition, we found that the intrinsic pressure resistance of two types of Stx phages was very different, with one type surviving relatively well treatments of up to 400 MPa for 15 min at 20°C. Interestingly, and in contrast to UV irradiation or mitomycin C treatment, pressure was not able to induce Stx prophage or an SOS response in several natural Stx-producing STEC isolates.
Although pressure is an important environmental parameter in microbial niches such as the deep sea and is furthermore used in food preservation to inactivate microorganisms, the fundamental understanding of its effects on bacteria remains fragmentary. Our group recently initiated differential fluorescence induction screening to search for pressure-induced Escherichia coli promoters and has already reported induction of the heat shock regulon. Here the screening was continued, and we report for the first time that pressure induces a bona fide SOS response in E. coli, characterized by the RecA and LexA-dependent expression of uvrA, recA, and sulA. Moreover, it was shown that pressure is capable of triggering lambda prophage induction in E. coli lysogens. The remnant lambdoid e14 element, however, could not be induced by pressure, as opposed to UV irradiation, indicating subtle differences between the pressure-induced and the classical SOS response. Furthermore, the pressure-induced SOS response seems not to be initiated by DNA damage, since ΔrecA and lexA1 (Ind−) mutants, which are intrinsically hypersensitive to DNA damage, were not sensitized or were only very slightly sensitized for pressure-mediated killing and since pressure treatment was not found to be mutagenic. In light of these findings, the current knowledge of pressure-mediated effects on bacteria is discussed.