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1.  Identification of novel growth phase- and media-dependent small non-coding RNAs in Streptococcus pyogenes M49 using intergenic tiling arrays 
BMC Genomics  2012;13:550.
Small non-coding RNAs (sRNAs) have attracted attention as a new class of gene regulators in both eukaryotes and bacteria. Genome-wide screening methods have been successfully applied in Gram-negative bacteria to identify sRNA regulators. Many sRNAs are well characterized, including their target mRNAs and mode of action. In comparison, little is known about sRNAs in Gram-positive pathogens. In this study, we identified novel sRNAs in the exclusively human pathogen Streptococcus pyogenes M49 (Group A Streptococcus, GAS M49), employing a whole genome intergenic tiling array approach. GAS is an important pathogen that causes diseases ranging from mild superficial infections of the skin and mucous membranes of the naso-pharynx, to severe toxic and invasive diseases.
We identified 55 putative sRNAs in GAS M49 that were expressed during growth. Of these, 42 were novel. Some of the newly-identified sRNAs belonged to one of the common non-coding RNA families described in the Rfam database. Comparison of the results of our screen with the outcome of two recently published bioinformatics tools showed a low level of overlap between putative sRNA genes. Previously, 40 potential sRNAs have been reported to be expressed in a GAS M1T1 serotype, as detected by a whole genome intergenic tiling array approach. Our screen detected 12 putative sRNA genes that were expressed in both strains. Twenty sRNA candidates appeared to be regulated in a medium-dependent fashion, while eight sRNA genes were regulated throughout growth in chemically defined medium. Expression of candidate genes was verified by reverse transcriptase-qPCR. For a subset of sRNAs, the transcriptional start was determined by 5′ rapid amplification of cDNA ends-PCR (RACE-PCR) analysis.
In accord with the results of previous studies, we found little overlap between different screening methods, which underlines the fact that a comprehensive analysis of sRNAs expressed by a given organism requires the complementary use of different methods and the investigation of several environmental conditions. Despite a high conservation of sRNA genes within streptococci, the expression of sRNAs appears to be strain specific.
PMCID: PMC3542284  PMID: 23062031
Streptococcus pyogenes; Small noncoding RNAs; Virulence; Transcriptional regulation; Pathogenesis
2.  Genome-Wide Identification of Small RNAs in the Opportunistic Pathogen Enterococcus faecalis V583 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(9):e23948.
Small RNA molecules (sRNAs) are key mediators of virulence and stress inducible gene expressions in some pathogens. In this work we identify sRNAs in the Gram positive opportunistic pathogen Enterococcus faecalis. We characterized 11 sRNAs by tiling microarray analysis, 5′ and 3′ RACE-PCR, and Northern blot analysis. Six sRNAs were specifically expressed at exponential phase, two sRNAs were observed at stationary phase, and three were detected during both phases. Searches of putative functions revealed that three of them (EFA0080_EFA0081 and EFB0062_EFB0063 on pTF1 and pTF2 plasmids, respectively, and EF0408_EF04092 located on the chromosome) are similar to antisense RNA involved in plasmid addiction modules. Moreover, EF1097_EF1098 shares strong homologies with tmRNA (bi-functional RNA acting as both a tRNA and an mRNA) and EF2205_EF2206 appears homologous to 4.5S RNA member of the Signal Recognition Particle (SRP) ribonucleoprotein complex. In addition, proteomic analysis of the ΔEF3314_EF3315 sRNA mutant suggests that it may be involved in the turnover of some abundant proteins. The expression patterns of these transcripts were evaluated by tiling array hybridizations performed with samples from cells grown under eleven different conditions some of which may be encountered during infection. Finally, distribution of these sRNAs among genome sequences of 54 E. faecalis strains was assessed. This is the first experimental genome-wide identification of sRNAs in E. faecalis and provides impetus to the understanding of gene regulation in this important human pathogen.
PMCID: PMC3166299  PMID: 21912655
3.  The intracellular sRNA transcriptome of Listeria monocytogenes during growth in macrophages 
Nucleic Acids Research  2011;39(10):4235-4248.
Small non-coding RNAs (sRNAs) are widespread effectors of post-transcriptional gene regulation in bacteria. Currently extensive information exists on the sRNAs of Listeria monocytogenes expressed during growth in extracellular environments. We used deep sequencing of cDNAs obtained from fractioned RNA (<500 nt) isolated from extracellularly growing bacteria and from L. monocytogenes infected macrophages to catalog the sRNA repertoire during intracellular bacterial growth. Here, we report on the discovery of 150 putative regulatory RNAs of which 71 have not been previously described. A total of 29 regulatory RNAs, including small non-coding antisense RNAs, are specifically expressed intracellularly. We validated highly expressed sRNAs by northern blotting and demonstrated by the construction and characterization of isogenic mutants of rli31, rli33-1 and rli50* for intracellular expressed sRNA candidates, that their expression is required for efficient growth of bacteria in macrophages. All three mutants were attenuated when assessed for growth in mouse and insect models of infection. Comparative genomic analysis revealed the presence of lineage specific sRNA candidates and the absence of sRNA loci in genomes of naturally occurring infection-attenuated bacteria, with additional loss in non-pathogenic listerial genomes. Our analyses reveal extensive sRNA expression as an important feature of bacterial regulation during intracellular growth.
PMCID: PMC3105390  PMID: 21278422
4.  Comparative genome‐wide analysis of small RNAs of major Gram‐positive pathogens: from identification to application 
Microbial biotechnology  2010;3(6):658-676.
In the recent years, the number of drug‐ and multi‐drug‐resistant microbial strains has increased rapidly. Therefore, the need to identify innovative approaches for development of novel anti‐infectives and new therapeutic targets is of high priority in global health care. The detection of small RNAs (sRNAs) in bacteria has attracted considerable attention as an emerging class of new gene expression regulators. Several experimental technologies to predict sRNA have been established for the Gram‐negative model organism Escherichia coli. In many respects, sRNA screens in this model system have set a blueprint for the global and functional identification of sRNAs for Gram‐positive microbes, but the functional role of sRNAs in colonization and pathogenicity for Listeria monocytogenes, Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus pyogenes, Enterococcus faecalis and Clostridium difficile is almost completely unknown. Here, we report the current knowledge about the sRNAs of these socioeconomically relevant Gram‐positive pathogens, overview the state‐of‐the‐art high‐throughput sRNA screening methods and summarize bioinformatics approaches for genome‐wide sRNA identification and target prediction. Finally, we discuss the use of modified peptide nucleic acids (PNAs) as a novel tool to inactivate potential sRNA and their applications in rapid and specific detection of pathogenic bacteria.
PMCID: PMC3815340  PMID: 21255362
5.  Cloning and characterization of tRNA (m1A58) methyltransferase (TrmI) from Thermus thermophilus HB27, a protein required for cell growth at extreme temperatures 
Nucleic Acids Research  2003;31(8):2148-2156.
N1-methyladenosine (m1A) is found at position 58 in the T-loop of many tRNAs. In yeast, the formation of this modified nucleoside is catalyzed by the essential tRNA (m1A58) methyltransferase, a tetrameric enzyme that is composed of two types of subunits (Gcd14p and Gcd10p). In this report we describe the cloning, expression and characterization of a Gcd14p homolog from the hyperthermophilic bacterium Thermus thermophilus. The purified recombinant enzyme behaves as a homotetramer of ∼150 kDa by gel filtration and catalyzes the site- specific formation of m1A at position 58 of the T-loop of tRNA in the absence of any other complementary protein. S-adenosylmethionine is used as donor of the methyl group. Thus, we propose to name the bacterial enzyme TrmI and accordingly its structural gene trmI. These results provide a key evolutionary link between the functionally characterized two-component eukaryotic enzyme and the recently described crystal structure of an uncharacterized, putative homotetrameric methyltransferase Rv2118c from Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Interest ingly, inactivation of the T.thermophilus trmI gene results in a thermosensitive phenotype (growth defect at 80°C), which suggests a role of the N1-methylation of tRNA adenosine-58 in adaptation of life to extreme temperatures.
PMCID: PMC153742  PMID: 12682365
6.  Gene Islands Integrated into tRNAGly Genes Confer Genome Diversity on a Pseudomonas aeruginosa Clone 
Journal of Bacteriology  2002;184(23):6665-6680.
Intraclonal genome diversity of Pseudomonas aeruginosa was studied in one of the most diverse mosaic regions of the P. aeruginosa chromosome. The ca. 110-kb large hypervariable region located near the lipH gene in two members of the predominant P. aeruginosa clone C, strain C and strain SG17M, was sequenced. In both strains the region consists of an individual strain-specific gene island of 111 (strain C) or 106 (SG17M) open reading frames (ORFs) and of a 7-kb stretch of clone C-specific sequence of 9 ORFs. The gene islands are integrated into conserved tRNAGly genes and have a bipartite structure. The first part adjacent to the tRNA gene consists of strain-specific ORFs encoding metabolic functions and transporters, the majority of which have homologs of known function in other eubacteria, such as hemophores, cytochrome c biosynthesis, or mercury resistance. The second part is made up mostly of ORFs of yet-unknown function. Forty-seven of these ORFs are mutual homologs with a pairwise amino acid sequence identity of 35 to 88% and are arranged in the same order in the two gene islands. We hypothesize that this novel type of gene island derives from mobile elements which, upon integration, endow the recipient with strain-specific metabolic properties, thus possibly conferring on it a selective advantage in its specific habitat.
PMCID: PMC135438  PMID: 12426355
7.  Molecular Analyses of the Natural Transformation Machinery and Identification of Pilus Structures in the Extremely Thermophilic Bacterium Thermus thermophilus Strain HB27 
Thermus thermophilus HB27, an extremely thermophilic bacterium, exhibits high competence for natural transformation. To identify genes of the natural transformation machinery of T. thermophilus HB27, we performed homology searches in the partially completed T. thermophilus genomic sequence for conserved competence genes. These analyses resulted in the detection of 28 open reading frames (ORFs) exhibiting significant similarities to known competence proteins of gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria. Disruption of 15 selected potential competence genes led to the identification of 8 noncompetent mutants and one transformation-deficient mutant with a 100-fold reduced transformation frequency. One competence protein is similar to DprA of Haemophilus influenzae, seven are similar to type IV pilus proteins of Pseudomonas aeruginosa or Neisseria gonorrhoeae (PilM, PilN, PilO, PilQ, PilF, PilC, PilD), and another deduced protein (PilW) is similar to a protein of unknown function in Deinococcus radiodurans R1. Analysis of the piliation phenotype of T. thermophilus HB27 revealed the presence of single pilus structures on the surface of the wild-type cells, whereas the noncompetent pil mutants of Thermus, with the exception of the pilF mutant, were devoid of pilus structures. These results suggest that pili and natural transformation in T. thermophilus HB27 are functionally linked.
PMCID: PMC126729  PMID: 11823215
8.  Natural Transformation in Mesophilic and Thermophilic Bacteria: Identification and Characterization of Novel, Closely Related Competence Genes in Acinetobacter sp. Strain BD413 and Thermus thermophilus HB27 
The mesophile Acinetobacter sp. strain BD413 and the extreme thermophile Thermus thermophilus HB27 display high frequencies of natural transformation. In this study we identified and characterized a novel competence gene in Acinetobacter sp. strain BD413, comA, whose product displays significant similarities to the competence proteins ComA and ComEC in Neisseria and Bacillus species. Transcription of comA correlated with growth phase-dependent transcriptional regulation of the recently identified pilin-like factors of the transformation machinery. This finding strongly suggests that comA is part of a competence regulon. Examination of the genome sequence of T. thermophilus HB27 led to detection of a comA/comEC-like open reading frame (ORF) which is flanked by an ORF whose product shows significant similarities to the Bacillus subtilis competence protein ComEA. To examine whether these two ORFs, designated comEC and comEA, are implicated in natural transformation of T. thermophilus HB27, both were disrupted by using a thermostable kanamycin resistance marker. Natural transformation in comEC mutants was reduced 1,000-fold, whereas in comEA mutants the natural transformation phenotype was completely eliminated. These results strongly suggest that both genes, comEC and comEA, are required for natural transformation in T. thermophilus HB27. Several transmembrane α-helices are predicted based on the amino acid sequences of ComA in Acinetobacter sp. strain BD413 and ComEC in T. thermophilus HB27, which suggests that ComA and ComEC are located in the inner membrane and function in DNA transport through the cytoplasmic membrane.
PMCID: PMC92993  PMID: 11425734
9.  S-Fimbria-Encoding Determinant sfaI Is Located on Pathogenicity Island III536 of Uropathogenic Escherichia coli Strain 536 
Infection and Immunity  2001;69(7):4248-4256.
The sfaI determinant encoding the S-fimbrial adhesin of uropathogenic Escherichia coli strains was found to be located on a pathogenicity island of uropathogenic E. coli strain 536. This pathogenicity island, designated PAI III536, is located at 5.6 min of the E. coli chromosome and covers a region of at least 37 kb between the tRNA locus thrW and yagU. As far as it has been determined, PAI III536 also contains genes which code for components of a putative enterochelin siderophore system of E. coli and Salmonella spp. as well as for colicin V immunity. Several intact or nonfunctional mobility genes of bacteriophages and insertion sequence elements such as transposases and integrases are present on PAI III536. The presence of known PAI III536 sequences has been investigated in several wild-type E. coli isolates. The results demonstrate that the determinants of the members of the S-family of fimbrial adhesins may be located on a common pathogenicity island which, in E. coli strain 536, replaces a 40-kb DNA region which represents an E. coli K-12-specific genomic island.
PMCID: PMC98494  PMID: 11401961
10.  Direct Cloning from Enrichment Cultures, a Reliable Strategy for Isolation of Complete Operons and Genes from Microbial Consortia 
Enrichment cultures of microbial consortia enable the diverse metabolic and catabolic activities of these populations to be studied on a molecular level and to be explored as potential sources for biotechnology processes. We have used a combined approach of enrichment culture and direct cloning to construct cosmid libraries with large (>30-kb) inserts from microbial consortia. Enrichment cultures were inoculated with samples from five environments, and high amounts of avidin were added to the cultures to favor growth of biotin-producing microbes. DNA was extracted from three of these enrichment cultures and used to construct cosmid libraries; each library consisted of between 6,000 and 35,000 clones, with an average insert size of 30 to 40 kb. The inserts contained a diverse population of genomic DNA fragments isolated from the consortia organisms. These three libraries were used to complement the Escherichia coli biotin auxotrophic strain ATCC 33767 Δ(bio-uvrB). Initial screens resulted in the isolation of seven different complementing cosmid clones, carrying biotin biosynthesis operons. Biotin biosynthesis capabilities and growth under defined conditions of four of these clones were studied. Biotin measured in the different culture supernatants ranged from 42 to 3,800 pg/ml/optical density unit. Sequencing the identified biotin synthesis genes revealed high similarities to bio operons from gram-negative bacteria. In addition, random sequencing identified other interesting open reading frames, as well as two operons, the histidine utilization operon (hut), and the cluster of genes involved in biosynthesis of molybdopterin cofactors in bacteria (moaABCDE).
PMCID: PMC92523  PMID: 11133432

Results 1-10 (10)