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1.  High-Temperature Protein G Is an Essential Virulence Factor of Leptospira interrogans 
Infection and Immunity  2014;82(3):1123-1131.
Leptospira interrogans is a global zoonotic pathogen and is the causative agent of leptospirosis, an endemic disease of humans and animals worldwide. There is limited understanding of leptospiral pathogenesis; therefore, further elucidation of the mechanisms involved would aid in vaccine development and the prevention of infection. HtpG (high-temperature protein G) is the bacterial homolog to the highly conserved molecular chaperone Hsp90 and is important in the stress responses of many bacteria. The specific role of HtpG, especially in bacterial pathogenesis, remains largely unknown. Through the use of an L. interrogans htpG transposon insertion mutant, this study demonstrates that L. interrogans HtpG is essential for virulence in the hamster model of acute leptospirosis. Complementation of the htpG mutant completely restored virulence. Surprisingly, the htpG mutant did not appear to show sensitivity to heat or oxidative stress, phenotypes common in htpG mutants in other bacterial species. Furthermore, the mutant did not show increased sensitivity to serum complement, reduced survival within macrophages, or altered protein or lipopolysaccharide expression. The underlying cause for attenuation thus remains unknown, but HtpG is a novel leptospiral virulence factor and one of only a very small number identified to date.
doi:10.1128/IAI.01546-13
PMCID: PMC3958012  PMID: 24366253
2.  Structural and Functional Characterization of an Orphan ATP-Binding Cassette ATPase Involved in Manganese Utilization and Tolerance in Leptospira spp. 
Journal of Bacteriology  2013;195(24):5583-5591.
Pathogenic Leptospira species are the etiological agents of the widespread zoonotic disease leptospirosis. Most organisms, including Leptospira, require divalent cations for proper growth, but because of their high reactivity, these metals are toxic at high concentrations. Therefore, bacteria have acquired strategies to maintain metal homeostasis, such as metal import and efflux. By screening Leptospira biflexa transposon mutants for their ability to use Mn2+, we have identified a gene encoding a putative orphan ATP-binding cassette (ABC) ATPase of unknown function. Inactivation of this gene in both L. biflexa and L. interrogans strains led to mutants unable to grow in medium in which iron was replaced by Mn2+, suggesting an involvement of this ABC ATPase in divalent cation uptake. A mutation in this ATPase-coding gene increased susceptibility to Mn2+ toxicity. Recombinant ABC ATPase of the pathogen L. interrogans exhibited Mg2+-dependent ATPase activity involving a P-loop motif. The structure of this ATPase was solved from a crystal containing two monomers in the asymmetric unit. Each monomer adopted a canonical two-subdomain organization of the ABC ATPase fold with an α/β subdomain containing the Walker motifs and an α subdomain containing the ABC signature motif (LSSGE). The two monomers were arranged in a head-to-tail orientation, forming a V-shaped particle with all the conserved ABC motifs at the dimer interface, similar to functional ABC ATPases. These results provide the first structural and functional characterization of a leptospiral ABC ATPase.
doi:10.1128/JB.00915-13
PMCID: PMC3889601  PMID: 24123817
3.  Cross-protective Immunity Against Leptospirosis Elicited by a Live, Attenuated Lipopolysaccharide Mutant 
The Journal of Infectious Diseases  2011;203(6):870-879.
Background. Leptospira species cause leptospirosis, a zoonotic disease found worldwide. Current vaccines against leptospirosis provide protection only against closely related serovars.
Methods. We evaluated an attenuated transposon mutant of Leptospira interrogans serovar Manilae (M1352, defective in lipopolysaccharide biosynthesis) as a live vaccine against leptospirosis. Hamsters received a single dose of vaccine and were challenged with the homologous serovar (Manilae) and a serologically unrelated heterologous serovar (Pomona). Comparisons were made with killed vaccines. Potential cross-protective antigens against leptospirosis were investigated.
Results. Live M1352 vaccine induced superior protection in hamsters against homologous challenge. The live vaccine also stimulated cross-protection against heterologous challenge, with 100% survival (live M1352) versus 40% survival (killed vaccine). Hamsters receiving either vaccine responded to the dominant membrane proteins LipL32 and LipL41. Hamsters receiving the live vaccine additionally recognized LA3961/OmpL36 (unknown function), Loa22 (OmpA family protein, recognized virulence factor), LA2372 (general secretory protein G), and LA1939 (hypothetical protein). Manilae LigA was recognized by M1352 vaccinates, whereas LipL36 was detected in Pomona.
Conclusion. This study demonstrated that a live, attenuated vaccine can stimulate cross-protective immunity to L. interrogans and has identified antigens that potentially confer cross-protection against leptospirosis.
doi:10.1093/infdis/jiq127
PMCID: PMC3071135  PMID: 21220775
4.  Leptospiral LruA Is Required for Virulence and Modulates an Interaction with Mammalian Apolipoprotein AI 
Infection and Immunity  2013;81(10):3872-3879.
Leptospirosis is a worldwide zoonosis caused by spirochetes of the genus Leptospira. While understanding of pathogenesis remains limited, the development of mutagenesis in Leptospira has provided a powerful tool for identifying novel virulence factors. LruA is a lipoprotein that has been implicated in leptospiral uveitis as a target of the immune response. In this study, two lruA mutants, M754 and M765, generated by transposon mutagenesis from Leptospira interrogans serovar Manilae, were characterized. In M754, the transposon inserted in the middle of lruA, resulting in no detectable expression of LruA. In M765, the transposon inserted toward the 3′ end of the gene, resulting in expression of a truncated protein. LruA was demonstrated to be on the cell surface in M765 and the wild type (WT). M754, but not M765, was attenuated in a hamster model of acute infection. A search for differential binding to human serum proteins identified a serum protein of around 30 kDa bound to the wild type and the LruA deletion mutant (M754), but not to the LruA truncation mutant (M765). Two-dimensional separation of proteins from leptospiral cells incubated with guinea pig serum identified the 28-kDa apolipoprotein A-I (ApoA-I) as a major mammalian serum protein that binds Leptospira in vitro. Interestingly, M754 (with no detectable LruA) bound more ApoA-I than did the LruA-expressing strains Manilae wild type and M765. Our data thus identify LruA as a surface-exposed leptospiral virulence factor that contributes to leptospiral pathogenesis, possibly by modulating cellular interactions with serum protein ApoA-I.
doi:10.1128/IAI.01195-12
PMCID: PMC3811782  PMID: 23918777
5.  Precipitation of Iron on the Surface of Leptospira interrogans Is Associated with Mutation of the Stress Response Metalloprotease HtpX 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2013;79(15):4653-4660.
High concentrations of free metal ions in the environment can be detrimental to bacterial survival. However, bacteria utilize strategies, including the activation of stress response pathways and immobilizing chemical elements on their surface, to limit this toxicity. In this study, we characterized LA4131, the HtpX-like M48 metalloprotease from Leptospira interrogans, with a putative role in bacterial stress response and membrane homeostasis. Growth of the la4131 transposon mutant strain (L522) in 360 μM FeSO4 (10-fold the normal in vitro concentration) resulted in the production of an amorphous iron precipitate. Atomic force microscopy and transmission electron microscopy analysis of the strain demonstrated that precipitate production was associated with the generation and release of outer membrane vesicles (OMVs) from the leptospiral surface. Transcriptional studies indicated that inactivation of la4131 resulted in altered expression of a subset of metal toxicity and stress response genes. Combining these findings, this report describes OMV production in response to environmental stressors and associates OMV production with the in vitro activity of an HtpX-like metalloprotease.
doi:10.1128/AEM.01097-13
PMCID: PMC3719529  PMID: 23709510
6.  Leptospiral Outer Membrane Protein LipL41 Is Not Essential for Acute Leptospirosis but Requires a Small Chaperone Protein, Lep, for Stable Expression 
Infection and Immunity  2013;81(8):2768-2776.
Leptospirosis is a worldwide zoonosis caused by pathogenic Leptospira spp., but knowledge of leptospiral pathogenesis remains limited. However, the development of mutagenesis systems has allowed the investigation of putative virulence factors and their involvement in leptospirosis. LipL41 is the third most abundant lipoprotein found in the outer membranes of pathogenic leptospires and has been considered a putative virulence factor. LipL41 is encoded on the large chromosome 28 bp upstream of a small open reading frame encoding a hypothetical protein of unknown function. This gene was named lep, for LipL41 expression partner. In this study, lipL41 was found to be cotranscribed with lep. Two transposon mutants were characterized: a lipL41 mutant and a lep mutant. In the lep mutant, LipL41 protein levels were reduced by approximately 90%. Lep was shown through cross-linking and coexpression experiments to bind to LipL41. Lep is proposed to be a molecular chaperone essential for the stable expression of LipL41. The roles of LipL41 and Lep in the pathogenesis of Leptospira interrogans were investigated; surprisingly, neither of these two unique proteins was essential for acute leptospirosis.
doi:10.1128/IAI.00531-13
PMCID: PMC3719587  PMID: 23690405
7.  Leptospira interrogans Catalase Is Required for Resistance to H2O2 and for Virulence 
Infection and Immunity  2012;80(11):3892-3899.
Pathogenic Leptospira spp. are likely to encounter higher concentrations of reactive oxygen species induced by the host innate immune response. In this study, we characterized Leptospira interrogans catalase (KatE), the only annotated catalase found within pathogenic Leptospira species, by assessing its role in resistance to H2O2-induced oxidative stress and during infection in hamsters. Pathogenic L. interrogans bacteria had a 50-fold-higher survival rate under H2O2-induced oxidative stress than did saprophytic L. biflexa bacteria, and this was predominantly catalase dependent. We also characterized KatE, the only annotated catalase found within pathogenic Leptospira species. Catalase assays performed with recombinant KatE confirmed specific catalase activity, while protein fractionation experiments localized KatE to the bacterial periplasmic space. The insertional inactivation of katE in pathogenic Leptospira bacteria drastically diminished leptospiral viability in the presence of extracellular H2O2 and reduced virulence in an acute-infection model. Combined, these results suggest that L. interrogans KatE confers in vivo resistance to reactive oxygen species induced by the host innate immune response.
doi:10.1128/IAI.00466-12
PMCID: PMC3486042  PMID: 22927050
8.  Transcriptional Response of Leptospira interrogans to Iron Limitation and Characterization of a PerR Homolog ▿ †  
Infection and Immunity  2010;78(11):4850-4859.
Leptospirosis is a globally significant zoonosis caused by Leptospira spp. Iron is essential for growth of most bacterial species. Since iron availability is low in the host, pathogens have evolved complex iron acquisition mechanisms to survive and establish infection. In many bacteria, expression of iron uptake and storage proteins is regulated by Fur. L. interrogans encodes four predicted Fur homologs; we have constructed a mutation in one of these, la1857. We conducted microarray analysis to identify iron-responsive genes and to study the effects of la1857 mutation on gene expression. Under iron-limiting conditions, 43 genes were upregulated and 49 genes were downregulated in the wild type. Genes encoding proteins with predicted involvement in inorganic ion transport and metabolism (including TonB-dependent proteins and outer membrane transport proteins) were overrepresented in the upregulated list, while 54% of differentially expressed genes had no known function. There were 16 upregulated genes of unknown function which are absent from the saprophyte L. biflexa and which therefore may encode virulence-associated factors. Expression of iron-responsive genes was not significantly affected by mutagenesis of la1857, indicating that LA1857 is not a global regulator of iron homeostasis. Upregulation of heme biosynthetic genes and a putative catalase in the mutant suggested that LA1857 is more similar to PerR, a regulator of the oxidative stress response. Indeed, the la1857 mutant was more resistant to peroxide stress than the wild type. Our results provide insights into the role of iron in leptospiral metabolism and regulation of the oxidative stress response, including genes likely to be important for virulence.
doi:10.1128/IAI.00435-10
PMCID: PMC2976334  PMID: 20805337
9.  Use of Luminescent Leptospira interrogans for Enumeration in Biological Assays▿  
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2010;48(6):2037-2042.
Rapid and reliable in vitro methods for the detection of pathogenic leptospires, such as Leptospira interrogans, are lacking. The present study investigated the use of luminescence to replace the existing enumeration techniques. Transposon TnSC189 was modified to incorporate the luxCDABE cassette from Photorhabdus luminescens and was used to construct luminescent Leptospira spp. There was a linear relationship between luminescence and cell number, with the theoretical detection limit being less than 104 leptospires. A comparison of enumeration by a standard method (counting by dark-field microscopy) and enumeration by luminescence was conducted with luminescent L. interrogans. There was a good correlation between the two methods of enumeration (R2 = 0.766), although variation in the luminescence early and late in growth phase reduced the degree of correlation. To demonstrate the utility of luminescence as a viability and cell number reporter, in vitro assays, including MIC determination, an extracellular matrix binding experiment, and a complement killing experiment, were conducted. In each case, the results obtained by luminescence matched those obtained by traditional means with high correlations (binding assay R2 = 0.916, complement killing assay R2 = 0.988). A strain expressing the luxCDABE transposon retained virulence in the hamster model of infection. Despite some variation in luminescence as a result of the growth phase or the particular assay conditions, enumeration by luminescence was found to be a quick, reliable, and highly sensitive method for the in vitro detection of leptospires that has the potential to replace more time-consuming methods of enumeration.
doi:10.1128/JCM.02541-09
PMCID: PMC2884486  PMID: 20375235
10.  Major Surface Protein LipL32 Is Not Required for Either Acute or Chronic Infection with Leptospira interrogans▿ †  
Infection and Immunity  2008;77(3):952-958.
Leptospira interrogans is responsible for leptospirosis, a zoonosis of worldwide distribution. LipL32 is the major outer membrane protein of pathogenic leptospires, accounting for up to 75% of total outer membrane protein. In recent times LipL32 has become the focus of intense study because of its surface location, dominance in the host immune response, and conservation among pathogenic species. In this study, an lipL32 mutant was constructed in L. interrogans using transposon mutagenesis. The lipL32 mutant had normal morphology and growth rate compared to the wild type and was equally adherent to extracellular matrix. Protein composition of the cell membranes was found to be largely unaffected by the loss of LipL32, with no obvious compensatory increase in other proteins. Microarray studies found no obvious stress response or upregulation of genes that may compensate for the loss of LipL32 but did suggest an association between LipL32 and the synthesis of heme and vitamin B12. When hamsters were inoculated by systemic and mucosal routes, the mutant caused acute severe disease manifestations that were indistinguishable from wild-type L. interrogans infection. In the rat model of chronic infection, the LipL32 mutant colonized the renal tubules as efficiently as the wild-type strain. In conclusion, this study showed that LipL32 does not play a role in either the acute or chronic models of infection. Considering the abundance and conservation of LipL32 among all pathogenic Leptospira spp. and its absence in saprophytic Leptospira, this finding is remarkable. The role of this protein in leptospiral biology and pathogenesis thus remains elusive.
doi:10.1128/IAI.01370-08
PMCID: PMC2643616  PMID: 19103763
11.  Genome-Wide Transposon Mutagenesis in Pathogenic Leptospira Species▿ ‡  
Infection and Immunity  2008;77(2):810-816.
Leptospira interrogans is the most common cause of leptospirosis in humans and animals. Genetic analysis of L. interrogans has been severely hindered by a lack of tools for genetic manipulation. Recently we developed the mariner-based transposon Himar1 to generate the first defined mutants in L. interrogans. In this study, a total of 929 independent transposon mutants were obtained and the location of insertion determined. Of these mutants, 721 were located in the protein coding regions of 551 different genes. While sequence analysis of transposon insertion sites indicated that transposition occurred in an essentially random fashion in the genome, 25 unique transposon mutants were found to exhibit insertions into genes encoding 16S or 23S rRNAs, suggesting these genes are insertional hot spots in the L. interrogans genome. In contrast, loci containing notionally essential genes involved in lipopolysaccharide and heme biosynthesis showed few transposon insertions. The effect of gene disruption on the virulence of a selected set of defined mutants was investigated using the hamster model of leptospirosis. Two attenuated mutants with disruptions in hypothetical genes were identified, thus validating the use of transposon mutagenesis for the identification of novel virulence factors in L. interrogans. This library provides a valuable resource for the study of gene function in L. interrogans. Combined with the genome sequences of L. interrogans, this provides an opportunity to investigate genes that contribute to pathogenesis and will provide a better understanding of the biology of L. interrogans.
doi:10.1128/IAI.01293-08
PMCID: PMC2632054  PMID: 19047402
12.  Altering the Length of the Lipopolysaccharide O Antigen Has an Impact on the Interaction of Salmonella enterica Serovar Typhimurium with Macrophages and Complement 
Journal of Bacteriology  2006;188(7):2735-2739.
A panel of isogenic Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium strains that vary only in the length of the O antigen was constructed through complementation of a wzz double mutant (displaying unregulated O-antigen length) with one of two homologous (wzzST and wzzfepE) or three heterologous (wzzO139 of Vibrio cholerae and wzzSF and wzzpHS-2 of Shigella flexneri) wzz genes. Each gene was functional in the S. enterica serovar Typhimurium host and specified production of O-antigen polymers with lengths typical of those synthesized by the donor bacteria (ranging from 2 to >100 O-antigen repeat units). By use of this panel of strains, it was found that O-antigen length influences invasion/uptake by macrophage cells; this is the first time this has been shown with Salmonella. O-antigen length was confirmed to be related to complement resistance, with a minimum protective length of >4 and <15 repeat units. O antigen of 16 to 35 repeat units was found to activate complement more efficiently than other lengths, but this was unrelated to complement resistance. No evidence was found to suggest that modifying the length of the O-antigen polymer affected expression of the O1, O4, or O5 antigenic factors.
doi:10.1128/JB.188.7.2735-2739.2006
PMCID: PMC1428429  PMID: 16547065

Results 1-12 (12)