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1.  Pathogens protection against the action of disinfectants in multispecies biofilms 
Biofilms constitute the prevalent way of life for microorganisms in both natural and man-made environments. Biofilm-dwelling cells display greater tolerance to antimicrobial agents than those that are free-living, and the mechanisms by which this occurs have been investigated extensively using single-strain axenic models. However, there is growing evidence that interspecies interactions may profoundly alter the response of the community to such toxic exposure. In this paper, we propose an overview of the studies dealing with multispecies biofilms resistance to biocides, with particular reference to the protection of pathogenic species by resident surface flora when subjected to disinfectants treatments. The mechanisms involved in such protection include interspecies signaling, interference between biocides molecules and public goods in the matrix, or the physiology and genetic plasticity associated with a structural spatial arrangement. After describing these different mechanisms, we will discuss the experimental methods available for their analysis in the context of complex multispecies biofilms.
PMCID: PMC4500986
multispecies biofilm; disinfectants; bacterial pathogens; protection; interspecies interactions
2.  Identification of ypqP as a New Bacillus subtilis Biofilm Determinant That Mediates the Protection of Staphylococcus aureus against Antimicrobial Agents in Mixed-Species Communities 
In most habitats, microbial life is organized in biofilms, three-dimensional edifices sustained by extracellular polymeric substances that enable bacteria to resist harsh and changing environments. Under multispecies conditions, bacteria can benefit from the polymers produced by other species (“public goods”), thus improving their survival under toxic conditions. A recent study showed that a Bacillus subtilis hospital isolate (NDmed) was able to protect Staphylococcus aureus from biocide action in multispecies biofilms. In this work, we identified ypqP, a gene whose product is required in NDmed for thick-biofilm formation on submerged surfaces and for resistance to two biocides widely used in hospitals. NDmed and S. aureus formed mixed biofilms, and both their spatial arrangement and pathogen protection were mediated by YpqP. Functional ypqP is present in other natural B. subtilis biofilm-forming isolates. However, the gene is disrupted by the SPβ prophage in the weak submerged-biofilm-forming strains NCIB3610 and 168, which are both less resistant than NDmed to the biocides tested. Furthermore, in a 168 laboratory strain cured of the SPβ prophage, the reestablishment of a functional ypqP gene led to increased thickness and resistance to biocides of the associated biofilms. We therefore propose that YpqP is a new and important determinant of B. subtilis surface biofilm architecture, protection against exposure to toxic compounds, and social behavior in bacterial communities.
PMCID: PMC4272715  PMID: 25326298
3.  Genome Sequences of Two Nondomesticated Bacillus subtilis Strains Able To Form Thick Biofilms on Submerged Surfaces 
Genome Announcements  2014;2(5):e00946-14.
Genomes of two nondomesticated strains of Bacillus subtilis subspecies subtilis, NDmed and NDfood, have been sequenced. Both strains form very thick and spatially complex biofilms on submerged surfaces. Moreover, biofilms of the NDmed isolate were shown to be highly resistant to antimicrobials action.
PMCID: PMC4175202  PMID: 25291767
4.  Division in Escherichia coli is triggered by a size-sensing rather than a timing mechanism 
BMC Biology  2014;12:17.
Many organisms coordinate cell growth and division through size control mechanisms: cells must reach a critical size to trigger a cell cycle event. Bacterial division is often assumed to be controlled in this way, but experimental evidence to support this assumption is still lacking. Theoretical arguments show that size control is required to maintain size homeostasis in the case of exponential growth of individual cells. Nevertheless, if the growth law deviates slightly from exponential for very small cells, homeostasis can be maintained with a simple ‘timer’ triggering division. Therefore, deciding whether division control in bacteria relies on a ‘timer’ or ‘sizer’ mechanism requires quantitative comparisons between models and data.
The timer and sizer hypotheses find a natural expression in models based on partial differential equations. Here we test these models with recent data on single-cell growth of Escherichia coli. We demonstrate that a size-independent timer mechanism for division control, though theoretically possible, is quantitatively incompatible with the data and extremely sensitive to slight variations in the growth law. In contrast, a sizer model is robust and fits the data well. In addition, we tested the effect of variability in individual growth rates and noise in septum positioning and found that size control is robust to this phenotypic noise.
Confrontations between cell cycle models and data usually suffer from a lack of high-quality data and suitable statistical estimation techniques. Here we overcome these limitations by using high precision measurements of tens of thousands of single bacterial cells combined with recent statistical inference methods to estimate the division rate within the models. We therefore provide the first precise quantitative assessment of different cell cycle models.
PMCID: PMC4016582  PMID: 24580833
Cell cycle; Bacteria; Division; Size control; Structured population equations; Numerical simulations; Nonparametric estimation
5.  SinR Controls Enterotoxin Expression in Bacillus thuringiensis Biofilms 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e87532.
The entomopathogen Bacillus thuringiensis produces dense biofilms under various conditions. Here, we report that the transition phase regulators Spo0A, AbrB and SinR control biofilm formation and swimming motility in B. thuringiensis, just as they control biofilm formation and swarming motility in the closely related saprophyte species B. subtilis. However, microarray analysis indicated that in B. thuringiensis, in contrast to B. subtilis, SinR does not control an eps operon involved in exopolysaccharides production, but regulates genes involved in the biosynthesis of the lipopeptide kurstakin. This lipopeptide is required for biofilm formation and was previously shown to be important for survival in the host cadaver (necrotrophism). Microarray analysis also revealed that the SinR regulon contains genes coding for the Hbl enterotoxin. Transcriptional fusion assays, Western blots and hemolysis assays confirmed that SinR controls Hbl expression, together with PlcR, the main virulence regulator in B. thuringiensis. We show that Hbl is expressed in a sustained way in a small subpopulation of the biofilm, whereas almost all the planktonic population transiently expresses Hbl. The gene coding for SinI, an antagonist of SinR, is expressed in the same biofilm subpopulation as hbl, suggesting that hbl transcription heterogeneity is SinI-dependent. B. thuringiensis and B. cereus are enteric bacteria which possibly form biofilms lining the host intestinal epithelium. Toxins produced in biofilms could therefore be delivered directly to the target tissue.
PMCID: PMC3909190  PMID: 24498128
6.  Biofilms of a Bacillus subtilis Hospital Isolate Protect Staphylococcus aureus from Biocide Action 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(9):e44506.
The development of a biofilm constitutes a survival strategy by providing bacteria a protective environment safe from stresses such as microbicide action and can thus lead to important health-care problems. In this study, biofilm resistance of a Bacillus subtilis strain (called hereafter NDmedical) recently isolated from endoscope washer-disinfectors to peracetic acid was investigated and its ability to protect the pathogen Staphylococcus aureus in mixed biofilms was evaluated. Biocide action within Bacillus subtilis biofilms was visualised in real time using a non-invasive 4D confocal imaging method. The resistance of single species and mixed biofilms to peracetic acid was quantified using standard plate counting methods and their architecture was explored using confocal imaging and electronic microscopy. The results showed that the NDmedical strain demonstrates the ability to make very large amount of biofilm together with hyper-resistance to the concentration of PAA used in many formulations (3500 ppm). Evidences strongly suggest that the enhanced resistance of the NDmedical strain was related to the specific three-dimensional structure of the biofilm and the large amount of the extracellular matrix produced which can hinder the penetration of peracetic acid. When grown in mixed biofilm with Staphylococcus aureus, the NDmedical strain demonstrated the ability to protect the pathogen from PAA action, thus enabling its persistence in the environment. This work points out the ability of bacteria to adapt to an extremely hostile environment, and the necessity of considering multi-organism ecosystems instead of single species model to decipher the mechanisms of biofilm resistance to antimicrobials agents.
PMCID: PMC3433435  PMID: 22973457
7.  Malate-Mediated Carbon Catabolite Repression in Bacillus subtilis Involves the HPrK/CcpA Pathway ▿ §  
Journal of Bacteriology  2011;193(24):6939-6949.
Most organisms can choose their preferred carbon source from a mixture of nutrients. This process is called carbon catabolite repression. The Gram-positive bacterium Bacillus subtilis uses glucose as the preferred source of carbon and energy. Glucose-mediated catabolite repression is caused by binding of the CcpA transcription factor to the promoter regions of catabolic operons. CcpA binds DNA upon interaction with its cofactors HPr(Ser-P) and Crh(Ser-P). The formation of the cofactors is catalyzed by the metabolite-activated HPr kinase/phosphorylase. Recently, it has been shown that malate is a second preferred carbon source for B. subtilis that also causes catabolite repression. In this work, we addressed the mechanism by which malate causes catabolite repression. Genetic analyses revealed that malate-dependent catabolite repression requires CcpA and its cofactors. Moreover, we demonstrate that HPr(Ser-P) is present in malate-grown cells and that CcpA and HPr interact in vivo in the presence of glucose or malate but not in the absence of a repressing carbon source. The formation of the cofactor HPr(Ser-P) could be attributed to the concentrations of ATP and fructose 1,6-bisphosphate in cells growing with malate. Both metabolites are available at concentrations that are sufficient to stimulate HPr kinase activity. The adaptation of cells to environmental changes requires dynamic metabolic and regulatory adjustments. The repression strength of target promoters was similar to that observed in steady-state growth conditions, although it took somewhat longer to reach the second steady-state of expression when cells were shifted to malate.
PMCID: PMC3232832  PMID: 22001508
8.  The Spatial Architecture of Bacillus subtilis Biofilms Deciphered Using a Surface-Associated Model and In Situ Imaging 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(1):e16177.
The formation of multicellular communities known as biofilms is the part of bacterial life cycle in which bacteria display cooperative behaviour and differentiated phenotypes leading to specific functions. Bacillus subtilis is a Gram-positive bacterium that has served for a decade as a model to study the molecular pathways that control biofilm formation. Most of the data on B. subtilis biofilms have come from studies on the formation of pellicles at the air-liquid interface, or on the complex macrocolonies that develop on semi-solid nutritive agar. Here, using confocal laser scanning microcopy, we show that B. subtilis strains of different origins are capable of forming biofilms on immersed surfaces with dramatically protruding “beanstalk-like” structures with certain strains. Indeed, these structures can reach a height of more than 300 µm with one undomesticated strain from a medical environment. Using 14 GFP-labeled mutants previously described as affecting pellicle or complex colony formation, we have identified four genes whose inactivation significantly impeded immersed biofilm development, and one mutation triggering hyperbiofilm formation. We also identified mutations causing the three-dimensional architecture of the biofilm to be altered. Taken together, our results reveal that B. subtilis is able to form specific biofilm features on immersed surfaces, and that the development of these multicellular surface-associated communities involves regulation pathways that are common to those governing the formation of pellicle and/or complex colonies, and also some specific mechanisms. Finally, we propose the submerged surface-associated biofilm as another relevant model for the study of B. subtilis multicellular communities.
PMCID: PMC3022735  PMID: 21267464
9.  Biofilm Formation and Cell Surface Properties among Pathogenic and Nonpathogenic Strains of the Bacillus cereus Group▿ †  
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2009;75(20):6616-6618.
Biofilm formation by 102 Bacillus cereus and B. thuringiensis strains was determined. Strains isolated from soil or involved in digestive tract infections were efficient biofilm formers, whereas strains isolated from other diseases were poor biofilm formers. Cell surface hydrophobicity, the presence of an S layer, and adhesion to epithelial cells were also examined.
PMCID: PMC2765156  PMID: 19648377
10.  The Bacillus subtilis ywjI (glpX) Gene Encodes a Class II Fructose-1,6-Bisphosphatase, Functionally Equivalent to the Class III Fbp Enzyme▿  
Journal of Bacteriology  2009;191(9):3168-3171.
We present here experimental evidence that the Bacillus subtilis ywjI gene encodes a class II fructose-1,6-bisphosphatase, functionally equivalent to the fbp-encoded class III enzyme, and constitutes with the upstream gene, murAB, an operon transcribed at the same level under glycolytic or gluconeogenic conditions.
PMCID: PMC2681800  PMID: 19270101
11.  CcpN Controls Central Carbon Fluxes in Bacillus subtilis▿ ‡  
Journal of Bacteriology  2008;190(18):6178-6187.
The transcriptional regulator CcpN of Bacillus subtilis has been recently characterized as a repressor of two gluconeogenic genes, gapB and pckA, and of a small noncoding regulatory RNA, sr1, involved in arginine catabolism. Deletion of ccpN impairs growth on glucose and strongly alters the distribution of intracellular fluxes, rerouting the main glucose catabolism from glycolysis to the pentose phosphate (PP) pathway. Using transcriptome analysis, we show that during growth on glucose, gapB and pckA are the only protein-coding genes directly repressed by CcpN. By quantifying intracellular fluxes in deletion mutants, we demonstrate that derepression of pckA under glycolytic condition causes the growth defect observed in the ccpN mutant due to extensive futile cycling through the pyruvate carboxylase, phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase, and pyruvate kinase. Beyond ATP dissipation via this cycle, PckA activity causes a drain on tricarboxylic acid cycle intermediates, which we show to be the main reason for the reduced growth of a ccpN mutant. The high flux through the PP pathway in the ccpN mutant is modulated by the flux through the alternative glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenases, GapA and GapB. Strongly increased concentrations of intermediates in upper glycolysis indicate that GapB overexpression causes a metabolic jamming of this pathway and, consequently, increases the relative flux through the PP pathway. In contrast, derepression of sr1, the third known target of CcpN, plays only a marginal role in ccpN mutant phenotypes.
PMCID: PMC2546806  PMID: 18586936
12.  Reconstruction and analysis of the genetic and metabolic regulatory networks of the central metabolism of Bacillus subtilis 
BMC Systems Biology  2008;2:20.
Few genome-scale models of organisms focus on the regulatory networks and none of them integrates all known levels of regulation. In particular, the regulations involving metabolite pools are often neglected. However, metabolite pools link the metabolic to the genetic network through genetic regulations, including those involving effectors of transcription factors or riboswitches. Consequently, they play pivotal roles in the global organization of the genetic and metabolic regulatory networks.
We report the manually curated reconstruction of the genetic and metabolic regulatory networks of the central metabolism of Bacillus subtilis (transcriptional, translational and post-translational regulations and modulation of enzymatic activities). We provide a systematic graphic representation of regulations of each metabolic pathway based on the central role of metabolites in regulation. We show that the complex regulatory network of B. subtilis can be decomposed as sets of locally regulated modules, which are coordinated by global regulators.
This work reveals the strong involvement of metabolite pools in the general regulation of the metabolic network. Breaking the metabolic network down into modules based on the control of metabolite pools reveals the functional organization of the genetic and metabolic regulatory networks of B. subtilis.
PMCID: PMC2311275  PMID: 18302748
13.  YtsJ Has the Major Physiological Role of the Four Paralogous Malic Enzyme Isoforms in Bacillus subtilis†  
Journal of Bacteriology  2006;188(13):4727-4736.
The Bacillus subtilis genome contains several sets of paralogs. An extreme case is the four putative malic enzyme genes maeA, malS, ytsJ, and mleA. maeA was demonstrated to encode malic enzyme activity, to be inducible by malate, but also to be dispensable for growth on malate. We report systematic experiments to test whether these four genes ensure backup or cover different functions. Analysis of single- and multiple-mutant strains demonstrated that ytsJ has a major physiological role in malate utilization for which none of the other three genes could compensate. In contrast, maeA, malS, and mleA had distinct roles in malate utilization for which they could compensate one another. The four proteins exhibited malic enzyme activity; MalS, MleA, and MaeA exhibited 4- to 90-fold higher activities with NAD+ than with NADP+. YtsJ activity, in contrast, was 70-fold higher with NADP+ than with NAD+, with Km values of 0.055 and 2.8 mM, respectively. lacZ fusions revealed strong transcription of ytsJ, twofold higher in malate than in glucose medium, but weak transcription of malS and mleA. In contrast, mleA was strongly transcribed in complex medium. Metabolic flux analysis confirmed the major role of YtsJ in malate-to-pyruvate interconversion. While overexpression of the NADP-dependent Escherichia coli malic enzyme MaeB did not suppress the growth defect of a ytsJ mutant on malate, overexpression of the transhydrogenase UdhA from E. coli partially suppressed it. These results suggest an additional physiological role of YtsJ beyond that of malate-to-pyruvate conversion.
PMCID: PMC1482987  PMID: 16788182
14.  Autoinducer 2 Affects Biofilm Formation by Bacillus cereus 
Cell-free supernatants from growing Bacillus cereus strain ATCC 10987 induced luminescence in a Photorhabdus luminescens ΔluxS mutant, indicating the production of functional autoinducer 2 (AI-2). The exogenous addition of in vitro synthesized AI-2 had an inhibitory effect on biofilm formation by B. cereus and promoted release of the cells from a preformed biofilm.
PMCID: PMC1352198  PMID: 16391139
15.  Crystal structure of Bacillus subtilis TrmB, the tRNA (m7G46) methyltransferase 
Nucleic Acids Research  2006;34(6):1925-1934.
The structure of Bacillus subtilis TrmB (BsTrmB), the tRNA (m7G46) methyltransferase, was determined at a resolution of 2.1 Å. This is the first structure of a member of the TrmB family to be determined by X-ray crystallography. It reveals a unique variant of the Rossmann-fold methyltransferase (RFM) structure, with the N-terminal helix folded on the opposite site of the catalytic domain. The architecture of the active site and a computational docking model of BsTrmB in complex with the methyl group donor S-adenosyl-l-methionine and the tRNA substrate provide an explanation for results from mutagenesis studies of an orthologous enzyme from Escherichia coli (EcTrmB). However, unlike EcTrmB, BsTrmB is shown here to be dimeric both in the crystal and in solution. The dimer interface has a hydrophobic core and buries a potassium ion and five water molecules. The evolutionary analysis of the putative interface residues in the TrmB family suggests that homodimerization may be a specific feature of TrmBs from Bacilli, which may represent an early stage of evolution to an obligatory dimer.
PMCID: PMC1447647  PMID: 16600901
16.  The Bacillus subtilis yqjI Gene Encodes the NADP+-Dependent 6-P-Gluconate Dehydrogenase in the Pentose Phosphate Pathway 
Journal of Bacteriology  2004;186(14):4528-4534.
Despite the importance of the oxidative pentose phosphate (PP) pathway as a major source of reducing power and metabolic intermediates for biosynthetic processes, almost no direct genetic or biochemical evidence is available for Bacillus subtilis. Using a combination of knockout mutations in known and putative genes of the oxidative PP pathway and 13C-labeling experiments, we demonstrated that yqjI encodes the NADP+-dependent 6-P-gluconate dehydrogenase, as was hypothesized previously from sequence similarities. Moreover, YqjI was the predominant isoenzyme during glucose and gluconate catabolism, and its role in the oxidative PP pathway could not be played by either of two homologues, GntZ and YqeC. This conclusion is in contrast to the generally held view that GntZ is the relevant isoform; hence, we propose a new designation for yqjI, gndA, the monocistronic gene encoding the principal 6-P-gluconate dehydrogenase. Although we demonstrated the NAD+-dependent 6-P-gluconate dehydrogenase activity of GntZ, gntZ mutants exhibited no detectable phenotype on glucose, and GntZ did not contribute to PP pathway fluxes during growth on glucose. Since gntZ mutants grew normally on gluconate, the functional role of GntZ remains obscure, as does the role of the third homologue, YqeC. Knockout of the glucose-6-P dehydrogenase-encoding zwf gene was primarily compensated for by increased glycolytic fluxes, but about 5% of the catabolic flux was rerouted through the gluconate bypass with glucose dehydrogenase as the key enzyme.
PMCID: PMC438568  PMID: 15231785
17.  Histidinol Phosphate Phosphatase, Catalyzing the Penultimate Step of the Histidine Biosynthesis Pathway, Is Encoded by ytvP (hisJ) in Bacillus subtilis 
Journal of Bacteriology  1999;181(10):3277-3280.
The deduced product of the Bacillus subtilis ytvP gene is similar to that of ORF13, a gene of unknown function in the Lactococcus lactis histidine biosynthesis operon. A B. subtilis ytvP mutant was auxotrophic for histidine. The only enzyme of the histidine biosynthesis pathway that remained uncharacterized in B. subtilis was histidinol phosphate phosphatase (HolPase), catalyzing the penultimate step of this pathway. HolPase activity could not be detected in crude extracts of the ytvP mutant, while purified glutathione S-transferase-YtvP fusion protein exhibited strong HolPase activity. These observations demonstrated that HolPase is encoded by ytvP in B. subtilis and led us to rename this gene hisJ. Together with the HolPase of Saccharomyces cerevisiae and the presumed HolPases of L. lactis and Schizosaccharomyces pombe, HisJ constitutes a family of related enzymes that are not homologous to the HolPases of Escherichia coli, Salmonella typhimurium, and Haemophilus influenzae.
PMCID: PMC93787  PMID: 10322033

Results 1-17 (17)