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1.  Characterisation of a putative AraC transcriptional regulator from Mycobacterium smegmatis 
MSMEG_0307 is annotated as a transcriptional regulator belonging to the AraC protein family and is located adjacent to the arylamine N-acetyltransferase (nat) gene in Mycobacterium smegmatis, in a gene cluster, conserved in most environmental mycobacterial species. In order to elucidate the function of the AraC protein from the nat operon in M. smegmatis, two conserved palindromic DNA motifs were identified using bioinformatics and tested for protein binding using electrophoretic mobility shift assays with a recombinant form of the AraC protein. We identified the formation of a DNA:AraC protein complex with one of the motifs as well as the presence of this motif in 20 loci across the whole genome of M. smegmatis, supporting the existence of an AraC controlled regulon. To characterise the effects of AraC in the regulation of the nat operon genes, as well as to gain further insight into its function, we generated a ΔaraC mutant strain where the araC gene was replaced by a hygromycin resistance marker. The level of expression of the nat and MSMEG_0308 genes was down-regulated in the ΔaraC strain when compared to the wild type strain indicating an activator effect of the AraC protein on the expression of the nat operon genes.
PMCID: PMC4266540  PMID: 25443504
AraC; Transcriptional regulator; Mycobacteria; Mycobacterial two-hybrid system; nat operon; Protein–protein interaction
2.  Species diversity of non-tuberculous mycobacteria isolated from humans, livestock and wildlife in the Serengeti ecosystem, Tanzania 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2014;14(1):616.
Non-tuberculous mycobacteria (NTM), which are ubiquitous micro-organisms occurring in humans, animals and the environment, sometimes receive public health and veterinary attention as opportunistic disease-causing agents. In Tanzania, there is limited information regarding the diversity of NTM species, particularly at the human-livestock-wildlife interface such as the Serengeti ecosystem, where potential for cross species infection or transmission may exist.
Mycobacterial DNA was extracted from cultured isolates obtained from sputum samples of 472 suspect TB patients and 606 tissues from wildlife species and indigenous cattle. Multiplex PCR was used to differentiate NTM from Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex (MTBC) members. NTM were further identified to species level by nucleotide sequencing of the 16S rRNA gene.
A total of fifty five (55) NTM isolates representing 16 mycobacterial species and 5 isolates belonging to the MTBC were detected. Overall, Mycobacterium intracellulare which was isolated from human, cattle and wildlife, was the most frequently isolated species (20 isolates, 36.4%) followed by M. lentiflavum (11 isolates, 20%), M. fortuitum (4 isolates, 7.3%) and M. chelonae-abscessus group (3 isolates, 5.5%). In terms of hosts, 36 isolates were from cattle and 12 from humans, the balance being found in various wildlife species.
This study reveals a diversity of NTM species in the Serengeti ecosystem, some of which have potential for causing disease in animals and humans. The isolation of NTM from tuberculosis-like lesions in the absence of MTBC calls for further research to elucidate their actual role in causing disease. We are also suggesting a one health approach in identifying risk factors for and possible transmission mechanisms of the NTM in the agro-pastoral communities in the Serengeti ecosystem.
PMCID: PMC4239340  PMID: 25403612
Non-tuberculous mycobacteria; Species diversity; Human-animal interface; Serengeti ecosystem
3.  Prevalence and risk factors for infection of bovine tuberculosis in indigenous cattle in the Serengeti ecosystem, Tanzania 
Bovine tuberculosis (bTB) is a chronic debilitating disease and is a cause of morbidity and mortality in livestock, wildlife and humans. This study estimated the prevalence and risk factors associated with bovine tuberculosis transmission in indigenous cattle at the human-animal interface in the Serengeti ecosystem of Tanzania.
A total of 1,103 indigenous cattle from 32 herds were investigated for the presence of bTB using the Single Intradermal Comparative Tuberculin Test. Epidemiological data on herd structure, management and grazing system were also collected.
The apparent individual animal prevalence of tuberculin reactors was 2.4% (95% confidence interval (CI), 1.7 – 3.5%), whereas the true prevalence was 0.6% CI, 0.6 – 0.7% as indicated by a reaction to avian tuberculin purified protein derivatives (PPD) which is more than 4 mm greater than the reaction to avian tuberculin PPD. The results showed that 10.6% (117/1,103) showed non-specific reactions (atypical mycobacterium). The herd prevalence of 50% (16/32) was found. Tuberculin skin test results were found to be significantly associated with age, location, size of the household and animal tested. Of 108 respondents, 70 (64.8%) individuals had not heard about bovine tuberculosis at all. Thirty five percent (38/108) of respondents at least were aware of bTB. About 60% (23/38) of respondents who were aware of bTB had some knowledge on how bTB is spread. Eighty one percent (87/108) of respondents were not aware of the presence of bTB in wildlife. There is regular contact between cattle and wild animals due to sharing of grazing land and water sources, with 99% (107/108) of households grazing cattle in communal pastures.
The study has demonstrated a high reported interaction of livestock with wildlife and poor knowledge of most cattle owners concerning bTB and its transmission pathways among people, livestock and wildlife. Although the overall proportion of animals with bTB is relatively low, herd prevalence is 50% and prevalence within herds varied considerably. Thus there is a possibility of cross transmission of bTB at wildlife-livestock interface areas that necessitates use of genetic strain typing methods to characterize them accurately.
PMCID: PMC3881215  PMID: 24377705
Risk factors; Bovine tuberculosis; Mycobacterium bovis; Human-animal interface; Serengeti ecosystem; Wildlife
4.  Mycobacterial Cells Have Dual Nickel-Cobalt Sensors 
The Journal of biological chemistry  2007;282(44):32298-32310.
A novel ArsR-SmtB family transcriptional repressor, KmtR, has been characterized from mycobacteria. Mutants of Mycobacterium tuberculosis lacking kmtR show elevated expression of Rv2025c encoding a deduced CDF-family metal exporter. KmtR-dependent repression of the cdf and kmtR operator-promoters was alleviated by nickel and cobalt in minimal medium. Electrophoretic mobility shift assays and fluorescence anisotropy show binding of purified KmtR to nucleotide sequences containing a region of dyad symmetry from the cdf and kmtR operator-promoters. Incubation of KmtR with cobalt inhibits DNA complex assembly and metal-protein binding was confirmed. KmtR is the second, to NmtR, characterized ArsR-SmtB sensor of nickel and cobalt from M. tuberculosis suggesting special significance for these ions in this pathogen. KmtR-dependent expression is elevated in complete medium with no increase in response to metals, whereas NmtR retains a response to nickel and cobalt under these conditions. KmtR has tighter affinities for nickel and cobalt than NmtR consistent with basal levels of these metals being sensed by KmtR but not NmtR in complete medium. More than a thousand genes encoding ArsR-SmtB-related proteins are listed in databases. KmtR has none of the previously defined metal-sensing sites. Substitution of His88, Glu101, His102, His110, or His111 with Gln generated KmtR variants that repress the cdf and kmtR operator-promoters even in elevated nickel and cobalt, revealing a new sensory site. Importantly, ArsR-SmtB sequence groupings do not correspond with the different sensory motifs revealing that only the latter should be used to predict metal sensing.
PMCID: PMC3145109  PMID: 17726022
5.  Lipid composition and transcriptional response of Mycobacterium tuberculosis grown under iron-limitation in continuous culture: identification of a novel wax ester 
Microbiology (Reading, England)  2007;153(Pt 5):1435-1444.
The low level of available iron in vivo is a major obstacle for microbial pathogens and is a stimulus for the expression of virulence genes. In this study, Mycobacterium tuberculosis H37Rv was grown aerobically in the presence of limited iron availability in chemostat culture to determine the physiological response of the organism to iron-limitation. A previously unidentified wax ester accumulated under iron-limited growth, and changes in the abundance of triacylglycerol and menaquinone were also observed between iron-replete and iron-limited chemostat cultures. DNA microarray analysis revealed differential expression of genes involved in glycerolipid metabolism and isoprenoid quinone biosynthesis, providing some insight into the underlying genetic changes that correlate with cell-wall lipid profiles of M. tuberculosis growing in an iron-limited environment.
PMCID: PMC3123377  PMID: 17464057
6.  Rapid construction of mycobacterial mutagenesis vectors using ligation-independent cloning 
Targeted mutagenesis is one of the major tools for determining the function of a given gene and its involvement in bacterial pathogenesis. In mycobacteria, gene deletion is often accomplished by using allelic exchange techniques that commonly utilise a suicide delivery vector. We have adapted a widely-used suicide delivery vector (p1NIL) for cloning two flanking regions of a gene using ligation independent cloning (LIC). The pNILRB plasmid series produced allow a faster, more efficient and less laborious cloning procedure. In this paper we describe the making of pNILRB5, a modified version of p1NIL that contains two pairs of LIC sites flanking either a sacB or a lacZ gene. We demonstrate the success of this technique by generating 3 mycobacterial mutant strains. These vectors will contribute to more high-throughput methods of mutagenesis.
PMCID: PMC2941038  PMID: 20650290
Mycobacteria; Homologous recombination; Ligation independent cloning; Gene deletion
7.  Cholesterol utilization in mycobacteria is controlled by two TetR-type transcriptional regulators: kstR and kstR2 
Microbiology  2010;156(Pt 5):1362-1371.
Mycobacterium tuberculosis is able to use a variety of carbon sources in vivo and current knowledge suggests that cholesterol is used as a carbon source during infection. The catabolized cholesterol is used both as an energy source (ATP generation) and as a source of precursor molecules for the synthesis of complex methyl-branched fatty acids. In previous studies, we described a TetR-type transcriptional repressor, kstR, that controls the expression of a number of genes involved in cholesterol catabolism. In this study, we describe a second TetR-type repressor, which we call kstR2. We knocked this gene out in Mycobacterium smegmatis and used microarrays and quantitative RT-PCR to examine the effects on gene expression. We identified a palindromic regulatory motif for KstR2, showed that this motif is present in three promoter regions in mycobacteria and rhodococcus, and demonstrated binding of purified KstR2 to the motif. Using a combination of motif location analysis, gene expression analysis and the examination of gene conservation, we suggest that kstR2 controls the expression of a 15 gene regulon. Like kstR, kstR2 and the kstR2 regulon are highly conserved among the actinomycetes and studies in rhodococcus suggest a role for these genes in cholesterol catabolism. The functional significance of the regulon and implications for the control of cholesterol utilization are discussed.
PMCID: PMC3068626  PMID: 20167624
8.  Quantification of global transcription patterns in prokaryotes using spotted microarrays 
Genome Biology  2007;8(12):R265.
An analysis is described, applicable to any spotted microarray dataset that is produced using genomic DNA as a reference for quantifying prokaryotic levels of mRNA on a genome-wide scale.
We describe an analysis, applicable to any spotted microarray dataset produced using genomic DNA as a reference, that quantifies prokaryotic levels of mRNA on a genome-wide scale. Applying this to Mycobacterium tuberculosis, we validate the technique, show a correlation between level of expression and biological importance, define the complement of invariant genes and analyze absolute levels of expression by functional class to develop ways of understanding an organism's biology without comparison to another growth condition.
PMCID: PMC2246267  PMID: 18078514
9.  A highly conserved transcriptional repressor controls a large regulon involved in lipid degradation in Mycobacterium smegmatis and Mycobacterium tuberculosis 
Molecular Microbiology  2007;65(3):684-699.
The Mycobacterium tuberculosis TetR-type regulator Rv3574 has been implicated in pathogenesis as it is induced in vivo, and genome-wide essentiality studies show it is required for infection. As the gene is highly conserved in the mycobacteria, we deleted the Rv3574 orthologue in Mycobacterium smegmatis (MSMEG_6042) and used real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction and microarray analyses to show that it represses the transcription both of itself and of a large number of genes involved in lipid metabolism. We identified a conserved motif within its own promoter (TnnAACnnGTTnnA) and showed that it binds as a dimer to 29 bp probes containing the motif. We found 16 and 31 other instances of the motif in intergenic regions of M. tuberculosis and M. smegmatis respectively. Combining the results of the microarray studies with the motif analyses, we predict that Rv3574 directly controls the expression of 83 genes in M. smegmatis, and 74 in M. tuberculosis. Many of these genes are known to be induced by growth on cholesterol in rhodococci, and palmitate in M. tuberculosis. We conclude that this regulator, designated elsewhere as kstR, controls the expression of genes used for utilizing diverse lipids as energy sources, possibly imported through the mce4 system.
PMCID: PMC1995591  PMID: 17635188
10.  Deletion of Two-Component Regulatory Systems Increases the Virulence of Mycobacterium tuberculosis  
Infection and Immunity  2003;71(3):1134-1140.
Two-component regulatory signal transduction systems are widely distributed among bacteria and enable the organisms to make coordinated changes in gene expression in response to a variety of environmental stimuli. The genome sequence of Mycobacterium tuberculosis contains 11 complete two-component systems, four isolated homologous regulators, and three isolated homologous sensors. We have constructed defined mutations in six of these genes and measured virulence in a SCID mouse model. Mice infected with four of the mutants (deletions of devR, tcrXY, trcS, and kdpDE) died more rapidly than those infected with wild-type bacteria. The other two mutants (narL and Rv3220c) showed no change compared to the wild-type H37Rv strain. The most hypervirulent mutant (devRΔ) also grew more rapidly in the acute stage of infection in immunocompetent mice and in gamma interferon-activated macrophages. These results define a novel class of genes in this pathogen whose presence slows down its multiplication in vivo or increases its susceptibility to host killing mechanisms. Thus, M. tuberculosis actively maintains a balance between its own survival and that of the host.
PMCID: PMC148821  PMID: 12595424
11.  Microarray Analysis of Bacterial Gene Expression: Towards the Regulome 
Microarray technology allows co-regulated genes to be identified. In order to identify genes that are controlled by specific regulators, gene expression can be compared in mutant and wild-type bacteria. However, there are a number of pitfalls with this approach; in particular, the regulator may not be active under the conditions in which the wild-type strain is cultured. Once co-regulated genes have been identified, proteinbinding motifs can be identified. By combining these data with a map of promoters, or operons (the operome), the regulatory networks in the cell (the regulome) can start to be built up.
PMCID: PMC2448436  PMID: 18629272
12.  Inhibition of T1/St2 during Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infection Prevents T Helper Cell Type 2 (Th2)- but Not Th1-Driven Immunopathology 
T cells secreting interleukin (IL)-4 and IL-5 (T helper cell type 2 [Th2] cells) play a detrimental role in a variety of diseases, but specific methods of regulating their activity remain elusive. T1/ST2 is a surface ligand of the IL-1 receptor family, expressed on Th2- but not on interferon (IFN)-γ–producing Th1 cells. Prior exposure of BALB/c mice to the attachment (G) or fusion (F) protein of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) increases illness severity during intranasal RSV challenge, due to Th2-driven lung eosinophilia and exuberant Th1-driven pulmonary infiltration, respectively. We used these polar models of viral illness to study the recruitment of T1/ST2 cells to the lung and to test the effects of anti-T1/ST2 treatment in vivo. T1/ST2 was present on a subset of CD4+ cells from mice with eosinophilic lung disease. Monoclonal anti-T1/ST2 treatment reduced lung inflammation and the severity of illness in mice with Th2 (but not Th1) immunopathology. These results show that inhibition of T1/ST2 has a specific effect on virally induced Th2 responses and suggests that therapy targeted at this receptor might be of value in treating Th2-driven illness.
PMCID: PMC2193366  PMID: 11283151
bronchiolitis, viral; immunity, mucosal; immunity, cellular; pulmonary infection; eosinophil
13.  bkaR is a TetR-type repressor that controls an operon associated with branched-chain keto-acid metabolism in Mycobacteria 
Fems Microbiology Letters  2013;345(2):132-140.
This study describes how bkaR, a highly conserved mycobacterial TetR-like transcriptional repressor, regulates a number of nearby genes that have associations with branched-chain keto-acid metabolism. bkaR (MSMEG_4718) was deleted from the nonpathogenic species Mycobacterium smegmatis, and changes in global gene expression were assessed using microarray analysis and reporter gene studies. bkaR was found to directly control the expression of 10 genes in M. smegmatis, and its ortholog in Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Rv2506) is predicted to control at least 12 genes. A conserved operator motif was identified, and binding of purified recombinant M. tuberculosis BkaR to the motif was demonstrated. Analysis of the stoichiometry of binding showed that BkaR binds to the motif as a dimer.
PMCID: PMC3920632  PMID: 23763300
Rv2506; MSMEG_4718; accA1; accD1; transcriptional regulation; microarray

Results 1-13 (13)