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1.  Type III Methyltransferase M.NgoAX from Neisseria gonorrhoeae FA1090 Regulates Biofilm Formation and Interactions with Human Cells 
Neisseria gonorrhoeae is the etiological factor of the sexually transmitted gonorrhea disease that may lead, under specific conditions, to systemic infections. The gonococcal genome encodes many restriction modification (RM) systems, which main biological role is to defend the pathogen from potentially harmful foreign DNA. However, RM systems seem also to be involved in several other functions. In this study, we examined the effect of inactivation the N. gonorrhoeae FA1090 ngoAXmod gene encoding M.NgoAX methyltransferase on the global gene expression, biofilm formation, interactions with human epithelial host cells and overall bacterial growth. Expression microarrays showed at least a twofold deregulation of a total of 121 genes in the NgoAX knock-out mutant compared to the wild-type (wt) strain under standard grow conditions. Genes with changed expression levels encoded mostly proteins involved in cell metabolism, DNA replication and repair or regulating cellular processes and signaling (such as cell wall/envelop biogenesis). As determined by the assay with crystal violet, the NgoAX knock-out strain formed a slightly larger biofilm biomass per cell than the wt strain. Live biofilm observations showed that the biofilm formed by the gonococcal ngoAXmod gene mutant is more relaxed, dispersed and thicker than the one formed by the wt strain. This more relaxed feature of the biofilm, in respect to adhesion and bacterial interactions, can be involved in pathogenesis. Moreover, the overall adhesion of mutant bacterial cells to human cells was lower than adhesion of the wt gonococci [adhesion index = 0.672 (±0.2) and 2.15 (±1.53), respectively]; yet, a higher number of mutant than wt bacteria were found inside the Hec-1-B epithelial cells [invasion index = 3.38 (±0.93) × 105 for mutant and 4.67 (±3.09) × 104 for the wt strain]. These results indicate that NgoAX knock-out cells have lower ability to attach to human cells, but more easily penetrate inside the host cells. All these data suggest that the NgoAX methyltransferase, may be implicated in N. gonorrhoeae pathogenicity, involving regulation of biofilm formation, adhesion to host cells and epithelial cell invasion.
PMCID: PMC4685087  PMID: 26733970
Neisseria gonorrhoeae; restriction modification; NgoAX; adhesion and invasion of epithelial cells; biofilm; phase variation
2.  Neisseria gonorrhoeae Filamentous Phage NgoΦ6 Is Capable of Infecting a Variety of Gram-Negative Bacteria 
Journal of Virology  2014;88(2):1002-1010.
We constructed a phagemid consisting of the whole genome of the Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacteriophage NgoΦ6 cloned into a pBluescript plasmid derivative lacking the f1 origin of replication (named pBS::Φ6). Escherichia coli cells harboring pBS::Φ6 were able to produce a biologically active phagemid, NgoΦ6fm, capable of infecting, integrating its DNA into the chromosome of, and producing progeny phagemids in, a variety of taxonomically distant Gram-negative bacteria, including E. coli, Haemophilus influenzae, Neisseria sicca, Pseudomonas sp., and Paracoccus methylutens. A derivative of pBS::Φ6 lacking the phage orf7 gene, a positional homolog of filamentous phage proteins that mediate the interaction between the phage and the bacterial pilus, was capable of producing phagemid particles that were able to infect E. coli, Haemophilus influenzae, N. sicca, Pseudomonas sp., and Paracoccus methylutens, indicating that NgoΦ6 infects cells of these species using a mechanism that does not involve the Orf7 gene product and that NgoΦ6 initiates infection through a novel process in these species. We further demonstrate that the establishment of the lysogenic state does not require an active phage integrase. Since phagemid particles were capable of infecting diverse hosts, this indicates that NgoΦ6 is the first broad-host-range filamentous bacteriophage described.
PMCID: PMC3911633  PMID: 24198404
3.  Deletion of One Nucleotide within the Homonucleotide Tract Present in the hsdS Gene Alters the DNA Sequence Specificity of Type I Restriction-Modification System NgoAV▿† 
Journal of Bacteriology  2011;193(23):6750-6759.
As a result of a frameshift mutation, the hsdS locus of the NgoAV type IC restriction and modification (RM) system comprises two genes, hsdSNgoAV1 and hsdSNgoAV2. The specificity subunit, HsdSNgoAV, the product of the hsdSNgoAV1 gene, is a naturally truncated form of an archetypal specificity subunit (208 N-terminal amino acids instead of 410). The presence of a homonucleotide tract of seven guanines (poly[G]) at the 3′ end of the hsdSNgoAV1 gene makes the NgoAV system a strong candidate for phase variation, i.e., stochastic addition or reduction in the guanine number. We have constructed mutants with 6 guanines instead of 7 and demonstrated that the deletion of a single nucleotide within the 3′ end of the hsdSNgoAV1 gene restored the fusion between the hsdSNgoAV1 and hsdSNgoAV2 genes. We have demonstrated that such a contraction of the homonucleotide tract may occur in vivo: in a Neisseria gonorrhoeae population, a minor subpopulation of cells appeared to have only 6 guanines at the 3′ end of the hsdSNgoAV1 gene. Escherichia coli cells carrying the fused gene and expressing the NgoAVΔ RM system were able to restrict λ phage at a level comparable to that for the wild-type NgoAV system. NgoAV recognizes the quasipalindromic interrupted sequence 5′-GCA(N8)TGC-3′ and methylates both strands. NgoAVΔ recognizes DNA sequences 5′-GCA(N7)GTCA-3′ and 5′-GCA(N7)CTCA-3′, although the latter sequence is methylated only on the complementary strand within the 5′-CTCA-3′ region of the second recognition target sequence.
PMCID: PMC3232900  PMID: 21984785
4.  Novel non-specific DNA adenine methyltransferases 
Nucleic Acids Research  2011;40(5):2119-2130.
The mom gene of bacteriophage Mu encodes an enzyme that converts adenine to N6-(1-acetamido)-adenine in the phage DNA and thereby protects the viral genome from cleavage by a wide variety of restriction endonucleases. Mu-like prophage sequences present in Haemophilus influenzae Rd (FluMu), Neisseria meningitidis type A strain Z2491 (Pnme1) and H. influenzae biotype aegyptius ATCC 11116 do not possess a Mom-encoding gene. Instead, at the position occupied by mom in Mu they carry an unrelated gene that encodes a protein with homology to DNA adenine N6-methyltransferases (hin1523, nma1821, hia5, respectively). Products of the hin1523, hia5 and nma1821 genes modify adenine residues to N6-methyladenine, both in vitro and in vivo. All of these enzymes catalyzed extensive DNA methylation; most notably the Hia5 protein caused the methylation of 61% of the adenines in λ DNA. Kinetic analysis of oligonucleotide methylation suggests that all adenine residues in DNA, with the possible exception of poly(A)-tracts, constitute substrates for the Hia5 and Hin1523 enzymes. Their potential ‘sequence specificity’ could be summarized as AB or BA (where B = C, G or T). Plasmid DNA isolated from Escherichia coli cells overexpressing these novel DNA methyltransferases was resistant to cleavage by many restriction enzymes sensitive to adenine methylation.
PMCID: PMC3299994  PMID: 22102579
5.  Neisseria gonorrhoeae FA1090 Carries Genes Encoding Two Classes of Vsr Endonucleases ▿  
Journal of Bacteriology  2010;192(15):3951-3960.
A very short patch repair system prevents mutations resulting from deamination of 5-methylcytosine to thymine. The Vsr endonuclease is the key enzyme of this system, providing sequence specificity. We identified two genes encoding Vsr endonucleases V.NgoAXIII and V.NgoAXIV from Neisseria gonorrhoeae FA1090 based on DNA sequence similarity to genes encoding Vsr endonucleases from other bacteria. After expression of the gonococcal genes in Escherichia coli, the proteins were biochemically characterized and the endonucleolytic activities and specificities of V.NgoAXIII and V.NgoAXIV were determined. V.NgoAXIII was found to be multispecific and to recognize T:G mismatches in every nucleotide context tested, whereas V.NgoAXIV recognized T:G mismatches in the following sequences: GTGG, CTGG, GTGC, ATGC, and CTGC. Alanine mutagenesis of conserved residues showed that Asp50 and His68 of V.NgoAXIII and Asp51 and His69 of V.NgoAXIV are essential for hydrolytic activity. Glu25, His64, and Asp97 of V.NgoAXIV and Glu24, Asp63, and Asp97 of V.NgoAXIII are important but not crucial for the activity of V.NgoAXIII and V.NgoAXIV. However, Glu24 and Asp63 are also important for the specificity of V.NgoAXIII. On the basis of our results concerning features of Vsr endonucleases expressed by N. gonorrhoeae FA1090, we postulate that at least two types of Vsr endonucleases can be distinguished.
PMCID: PMC2916375  PMID: 20511499
6.  The restriction endonuclease R.NmeDI from Neisseria meningitidis that recognizes a palindromic sequence and cuts the DNA on both sides of the recognition sequence 
Nucleic Acids Research  2007;35(19):6539-6546.
The restriction endonuclease Type II R.NmeDI from Neisseria meningitidis 2120 (serogroup C, ST-11 complex) was characterized. The cloned nmeDIR gene was expressed in Escherichia coli cells, and the endonucleolytic and restriction activities of R.NmeDI were then observed in vitro and in vivo. The nmeDIR gene consists of 1056 bp coding 351 aa protein with a calculated molecular weight of M(r) = 39 000 ± 1000 Da. The R.NmeDI enzyme was purified to apparent homogeneity following overexpression, using metal affinity chromatography. This enzyme recognizes a palindrome sequence and cleaves double-stranded DNA upstream and downstream of its recognition sequence (12/7) RCCGGY (7/12) (R = A/G, Y = C/T) cutting out a 25-bp fragment. R.NmeDI cleaves in two steps. The enzyme cleaves the first strand randomly on either side of the recognition sequence generating an intermediate, and the second cleavage occurs more slowly and results in the production of a final reaction product. The R.NmeDI endonuclease requires two recognition sequences for effective cleavage. The tetramer is an active form of the R.NmeDI enzyme.
PMCID: PMC2095814  PMID: 17897964
7.  Characterization of the dsDNA prophage sequences in the genome of Neisseria gonorrhoeae and visualization of productive bacteriophage 
BMC Microbiology  2007;7:66.
Bioinformatic analysis of the genome sequence of Neisseria gonorrhoeae revealed the presence of nine probable prophage islands. The distribution, conservation and function of many of these sequences, and their ability to produce bacteriophage particles are unknown.
Our analysis of the genomic sequence of FA1090 identified five genomic regions (NgoΦ1 – 5) that are related to dsDNA lysogenic phage. The genetic content of the dsDNA prophage sequences were examined in detail and found to contain blocks of genes encoding for proteins homologous to proteins responsible for phage DNA replication, structural proteins and proteins responsible for phage assembly. The DNA sequences from NgoΦ1, NgoΦ2 and NgoΦ3 contain some significant regions of identity. A unique region of NgoΦ2 showed very high similarity with the Pseudomonas aeruginosa generalized transducing phage F116. Comparative analysis at the nucleotide and protein levels suggests that the sequences of NgoΦ1 and NgoΦ2 encode functionally active phages, while NgoΦ3, NgoΦ4 and NgoΦ5 encode incomplete genomes. Expression of the NgoΦ1 and NgoΦ2 repressors in Escherichia coli inhibit the growth of E. coli and the propagation of phage λ. The NgoΦ2 repressor was able to inhibit transcription of N. gonorrhoeae genes and Haemophilus influenzae HP1 phage promoters. The holin gene of NgoΦ1 (identical to that encoded by NgoΦ2), when expressed in E. coli, could serve as substitute for the phage λ s gene. We were able to detect the presence of the DNA derived from NgoΦ1 in the cultures of N. gonorrhoeae. Electron microscopy analysis of culture supernatants revealed the presence of multiple forms of bacteriophage particles.
These data suggest that the genes similar to dsDNA lysogenic phage present in the gonococcus are generally conserved in this pathogen and that they are able to regulate the expression of other neisserial genes. Since phage particles were only present in culture supernatants after induction with mitomycin C, it indicates that the gonococcus also regulates the expression of bacteriophage genes.
PMCID: PMC1931599  PMID: 17615066
8.  Biochemical Analysis of Lpt3, a Protein Responsible for Phosphoethanolamine Addition to Lipooligosaccharide of Pathogenic Neisseria 
Journal of Bacteriology  2006;188(3):1039-1048.
The inner core of neisserial lipooligosaccharide (LOS) contains heptose residues that can be decorated by phosphoethanolamine (PEA). PEA modification of heptose II (HepII) can occur at the 3, 6, or 7 position(s). We used a genomic DNA sequence of lpt3, derived from Neisseria meningitidis MC58, to search the genomic sequence of N. gonorrhoeae FA1090 and identified a homolog of lpt3 in N. gonorrhoeae. A PCR amplicon containing lpt3 was amplified from F62ΔLgtA, cloned, mutagenized, and inserted into the chromosome of N. gonorrhoeae strain F62ΔLgtA, producing strain F62ΔLgtAlpt3::Tn5. LOS isolated from this strain lost the ability to bind monoclonal antibody (MAb) 2-1-L8. Complementation of this mutation by genetic removal of the transposon insertion restored MAb 2-1-L8 binding. Mass spectrometry analysis of LOS isolated from the F62ΔLgtA indicated that this strain contained two PEA modifications on its LOS. F62ΔLgtAlpt3::Tn5 lacked a PEA modification on its LOS, a finding consistent with the hypothesis that lpt3 encodes a protein mediating PEA addition onto gonococcal LOS. The DNA encoding lpt3 was cloned into an expression vector and Lpt3 was purified. Purified Lpt3 was able to mediate the addition of PEA to LOS isolated from F62ΔLgtAlpt3::Tn5.
PMCID: PMC1347319  PMID: 16428408
9.  SURVEY AND SUMMARY: A nomenclature for restriction enzymes, DNA methyltransferases, homing endonucleases and their genes 
Nucleic Acids Research  2003;31(7):1805-1812.
A nomenclature is described for restriction endonucleases, DNA methyltransferases, homing endonucleases and related genes and gene products. It provides explicit categories for the many different Type II enzymes now identified and provides a system for naming the putative genes found by sequence analysis of microbial genomes.
PMCID: PMC152790  PMID: 12654995
10.  Biochemical Properties of Neisseria gonorrhoeae LgtE 
Journal of Bacteriology  2002;184(23):6410-6416.
A fragment of chromosomal DNA encoding the lgtE gene of Neisseria gonorrhoeae strain F62 was amplified by PCR and cloned into the expression vector pET15b. Functional LgtE was purified and its biochemical properties were determined. The purified enzyme was maximally active in buffer containing manganese; minimal activity was obtained in buffer containing other divalent cations. LgtE was only able to mediate the addition of UDP-galactose into neisserial lipooligosaccharides (LOSs). We used a variety of genetically defined and chemically verified LOS structures to determine acceptor specificity. LgtE was able to mediate the addition of galactose into a variety of LOS structures, indicating the this enzyme possesses broad acceptor specificity. Furthermore, it was able to add multiple galactose residues onto LOS. We also determined that this enzyme was capable of adding galactose onto both the α and β chains of neisserial LOS.
PMCID: PMC135445  PMID: 12426326

Results 1-10 (10)