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1.  Characterization of Treponema phagedenis-Like Spirochetes Isolated from Papillomatous Digital Dermatitis Lesions in Dairy Cattle 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2003;41(6):2522-2529.
Four spirochete strains were isolated from papillomatous digital dermatitis (PDD) lesions in Iowa dairy cattle and compared with two previously described spirochete strains isolated from dairy cattle in California. These six strains shared an identical 16S ribosomal DNA sequence that was 98% similar to Treponema phagedenis and 99% similar to the uncultivated PDD spirochete sequence DDLK-4. The whole-cell protein profiles resolved by sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis of these six strains were similar. However, these strains showed differences in the antigenic diversity of lipopolysaccharide (LPS). Genetic diversity was also detected by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis of genomic DNA digests, revealing differences among five of the six strains. Serum immunoglobulin G antibodies from dairy cattle with active PDD lesions reacted with the LPS of all but one PDD spirochete strain. Likewise, peripheral blood mononuclear cells from cattle with active PDD lesions produced blastogenic responses to one of the two California isolates. Both antibody and lymphocyte blastogenic responses were reduced in convalescent dairy cattle, suggesting the immune response to these spirochetes has short duration. These results demonstrate genetic and antigenic diversity among T. phagedenis-like treponemes and provide further evidence for the involvement of these spirochetes in the pathogenesis of PDD.
PMCID: PMC156514  PMID: 12791876
2.  Complete Genome Sequence of Leptospira interrogans Serovar Bratislava, Strain PigK151 
Genome Announcements  2015;3(3):e00678-15.
Leptospira interrogans serovar Bratislava infection occurs in multiple domestic and wildlife species and is associated with poor reproductive performance in swine and horses. We present the complete genome assembly of strain PigK151 comprising two chromosomes, CI (4.457 Mbp) and CII (358 kbp).
PMCID: PMC4481285  PMID: 26112787
3.  Biochemical and molecular characterization of Treponema phagedenis-like spirochetes isolated from a bovine digital dermatitis lesion 
BMC Microbiology  2013;13:280.
Bovine papillomatous digital dermatitis (DD) is the leading cause of lameness in dairy cattle and represents a serious welfare and economic burden. Found primarily in high production dairy cattle worldwide, DD is characterized by the development of an often painful red, raw ulcerative or papillomatous lesion frequently located near the interdigital cleft and above the bulbs of the heel. While the exact etiology is unknown, several spirochete species have been isolated from lesion material. Four isolates of Treponema phagedenis-like spirochetes were isolated from dairy cows in Iowa. Given the distinct differences in host, environmental niche, and disease association, a closer analysis of phenotypic characteristics, growth characteristics, and genomic sequences of T. phagedenis, a human genitalia commensal, and the Iowa DD isolates was undertaken.
Phenotypically, these isolates range from 8.0 to 9.7 μm in length with 6–8 flagella on each end. These isolates, like T. phagedenis, are strictly anaerobic, require serum and volatile fatty acids for growth, and are capable of fermenting fructose, mannitol, pectin, mannose, ribose, maltose, and glucose. Major glucose fermentation products produced are formate, acetate, and butyrate. Further study was conducted with a single isolate, 4A, showing an optimal growth pH of 7.0 (range of 6–8.5) and an optimal growth temperature of 40°C (range of 29°C-43°C). Comparison of partial genomic contigs of isolate 4A and contigs of T. phagedenis F0421 revealed > 95% amino acid sequence identity with amino acid sequence of 4A. In silico DNA-DNA whole genome hybridization and BLAT analysis indicated a DDH estimate of >80% between isolate 4A and T. phagedenis F0421, and estimates of 52.5% or less when compared to the fully sequenced genomes of other treponeme species.
Using both physiological, biochemical and genomic analysis, there is a lack of evidence for difference between T. phagedenis and isolate 4A. The description of Treponema phagedenis should be expanded from human genital skin commensal to include being an inhabitant within DD lesions in cattle.
PMCID: PMC3879011  PMID: 24304812
Bovine digital dermatitis; Treponema; Spirochete; Bacterial growth; Genomic comparison
4.  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.
PMCID: PMC3486042  PMID: 22927050
5.  Methylation and in vivo expression of the surface-exposed Leptospira interrogans outer-membrane protein OmpL32 
Microbiology  2012;158(Pt 3):622-635.
Recent studies have revealed that bacterial protein methylation is a widespread post-translational modification that is required for virulence in selected pathogenic bacteria. In particular, altered methylation of outer-membrane proteins has been shown to modulate the effectiveness of the host immune response. In this study, 2D gel electrophoresis combined with MALDI-TOF MS identified a Leptospira interrogans serovar Copenhageni strain Fiocruz L1-130 protein, corresponding to ORF LIC11848, which undergoes extensive and differential methylation of glutamic acid residues. Immunofluorescence microscopy implicated LIC11848 as a surface-exposed outer-membrane protein, prompting the designation OmpL32. Indirect immunofluorescence microscopy of golden Syrian hamster liver and kidney sections revealed expression of OmpL32 during colonization of these organs. Identification of methylated surface-exposed outer-membrane proteins, such as OmpL32, provides a foundation for delineating the role of this post-translational modification in leptospiral virulence.
PMCID: PMC3352116  PMID: 22174381
6.  A Leptospira borgpetersenii Serovar Hardjo Vaccine Induces a Th1 Response, Activates NK Cells, and Reduces Renal Colonization ▿ 
Chronic infection of cattle with Leptospira borgpetersenii serovar Hardjo reduces animal production through reproductive failure and presents a persistent health threat to workers in the animal industry. Cattle are maintenance hosts for serovar Hardjo, and development of vaccines that establish long-term protective immunity has been problematic; induction of high titers of anti-serovar Hardjo antibody does not appear to be protective. Rather, development of an antigen-specific Th1 response appears to be critical for limiting renal colonization and urinary shedding of bacteria. In this study we compared two monovalent killed bacterial cell vaccines to assess long-term (12 months) protection against live serovar Hardjo challenge. Although neither vaccine prevented infection, renal colonization and urinary shedding of bacteria were reduced compared to those of control animals. Increased proliferation of CD4+, CD8+, and γδ T cells from vaccinated, but not control, animals was detected. In addition, NK cells from vaccinated animals and from all animals following infection, when exposed to antigen ex vivo, demonstrated a gamma interferon (IFN-γ) recall response. We propose that programming NK cells to respond quickly to L. borgpetersenii serovar Hardjo infection may be an important step toward developing protective immunity.
PMCID: PMC3122574  PMID: 21288995
7.  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.
PMCID: PMC2976334  PMID: 20805337
8.  Genetic diversity of the Leptospiral immunoglobulin-like (Lig) genes in pathogenic Leptospira spp. 
Recent serologic, immunoprotection, and pathogenesis studies identified the Lig proteins as key virulence determinants in interactions of leptospiral pathogens with the mammalian host. We examined the sequence variation and recombination patterns of ligA, ligB, and ligC among 10 pathogenic strains from five Leptospira species. All strains were found to have intact ligB genes and genetic drift accounting for most of the ligB genetic diversity observed. The ligA gene was found exclusively in L. interrogans and L. kirschneri strains, and was created from ligB by a two-step partial gene duplication process. The aminoterminal domain of LigB and the LigA paralog were essentially identical (98.5 ± 0.8% mean identity) in strains with both genes. Like ligB, ligC gene variation also followed phylogenetic patterns, suggesting an early gene duplication event. However, ligC is a pseudogene in several strains, suggesting that LigC is not essential for virulence. Two ligB genes and one ligC gene had mosaic compositions and evidence for recombination events between related Leptospira species was also found for some ligA genes. In conclusion, the results presented here indicate that Lig diversity has important ramifications for the selection of Lig polypeptides for use in diagnosis and as vaccine candidates. This sequence information will aid the identification of highly conserved regions within the Lig proteins and improve upon the performance characteristics of the Lig proteins in diagnostic assays and in subunit vaccine formulations with the potential to confer heterologous protection.
PMCID: PMC2812920  PMID: 19028604
Leptospirosis; Lig; Pathogenesis; Molecular evolution; Sequence analysis
9.  Variable Nucleotide Tandem-Repeat Analysis Revealing a Unique Group of Leptospira interrogans Serovar Pomona Isolates Associated with California Sea Lions▿  
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2009;47(4):1202-1205.
Leptospira interrogans serovar Pomona isolates were compared by variable nucleotide tandem-repeat typing. Most cattle isolates grouped together, while isolates from pigs and wildlife were distributed across several groups. Significantly, California sea lion isolates formed a unique group, providing evidence that these animals are maintenance hosts of serovar Pomona.
PMCID: PMC2668322  PMID: 19204099
10.  Identification of a Divided Genome for VSH-1, the Prophage-Like Gene Transfer Agent of Brachyspira hyodysenteriae▿  
Journal of Bacteriology  2008;191(5):1719-1721.
The Brachyspira hyodysenteriae B204 genome sequence revealed three VSH-1 tail genes, hvp31, hvp60, and hvp37, in a 3.6-kb cluster. The location and transcription direction of these genes relative to those of the previously described VSH-1 16.3-kb gene operon indicate that the gene transfer agent VSH-1 has a noncontiguous, divided genome.
PMCID: PMC2648187  PMID: 19103931
11.  LipL46 is a novel surface-exposed lipoprotein expressed during leptospiral dissemination in the mammalian host 
Microbiology (Reading, England)  2006;152(Pt 12):3777-3786.
Leptospirosis is a widespread zoonosis caused by invasive spirochaetes belonging to the genus Leptospira. Pathogenic leptospires disseminate via the bloodstream to colonize the renal tubules of reservoir hosts. Little is known about leptospiral outer-membrane proteins expressed during the dissemination stage of infection. In this study, a novel surface-exposed lipoprotein is described; it has been designated LipL46 to distinguish it from a previously described 31 kDa peripheral membrane protein, P31LipL45, which is exported as a 45 kDa probable lipoprotein. The lipL46 gene encodes a 412 aa polypeptide with a 21 aa signal peptide. Lipid modification of cysteine at the lipoprotein signal peptidase cleavage site FSISC is supported by the finding that Leptospira interrogans intrinsically labels LipL46 during incubation in medium containing [14C]palmitate. LipL46 appears to be exported to the leptospiral outer membrane as a 46 kDa lipoprotein, based on Triton X-114 solubilization and phase partitioning studies, which included the outer and inner membrane controls LipL32 and LipL31, respectively. Surface immunoprecipitation and whole-cell ELISA experiments indicate that LipL46 is exposed on the leptospiral surface. Immunohistochemistry studies demonstrated expression of LipL46 by leptospires found in the bloodstream of acutely infected hamsters. Leptospires expressing LipL46 were also found in the intercellular spaces of the liver, within splenic phagocytes, and invading the glomerular hilum of the kidney. Infection-associated expression is supported by the finding that LipL46 is a major antigen recognized by sera from infected hamsters. These findings indicate that LipL46 may be important in leptospiral dissemination, and that it may serve as a useful serodiagnostic antigen.
PMCID: PMC2667200  PMID: 17159228
12.  Collateral Effects of Antibiotics: Carbadox and Metronidazole Induce VSH-1 and Facilitate Gene Transfer among Brachyspira hyodysenteriae Strains▿  
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2008;74(10):2950-2956.
Brachyspira hyodysenteriae is an anaerobic spirochete and the etiologic agent of swine dysentery. The genome of this spirochete contains a mitomycin C-inducible, prophage-like gene transfer agent designated VSH-1. VSH-1 particles package random 7.5-kb fragments of the B. hyodysenteriae genome and transfer genes between B. hyodysenteriae cells. The chemicals and conditions inducing VSH-1 production are largely unknown. Antibiotics used in swine management and stressors inducing traditional prophages might induce VSH-1 and thereby stimulate lateral gene transfer between B. hyodysenteriae cells. In these studies, VSH-1 induction was initially detected by a quantitative real-time reverse transcriptase PCR assay evaluating increased transcription of hvp38 (VSH-1 head protein gene). VSH-1 induction was confirmed by detecting VSH-1-associated 7.5-kb DNA and VSH-1 particles in B. hyodysenteriae cultures. Nine antibiotics (chlortetracycline, lincomycin, tylosin, tiamulin, virginiamycin, ampicillin, ceftriaxone, vancomycin, and florfenicol) at concentrations affecting B. hyodysenteriae growth did not induce VSH-1 production. By contrast, VSH-1 was detected in B. hyodysenteriae cultures treated with mitomycin C (10 μg/ml), carbadox (0.5 μg/ml), metronidazole (0.5 μg/ml), and H2O2 (300 μM). Carbadox- and metronidazole-induced VSH-1 particles transmitted tylosin and chloramphenicol resistance determinants between B. hyodysenteriae strains. The results of these studies suggest that certain antibiotics may induce the production of prophage or prophage-like elements by intestinal bacteria and thereby impact intestinal microbial ecology.
PMCID: PMC2394957  PMID: 18359835
13.  Detection of Pathogenic Leptospira Bacteria in Pinniped Populations via PCR and Identification of a Source of Transmission for Zoonotic Leptospirosis in the Marine Environment▿  
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2008;46(5):1728-1733.
Leptospirosis, caused by the spirochete Leptospira, is a geographically widespread disease that affects a broad range of mammals, including marine mammals. Among pinniped populations, periodic epizootics of leptospirosis are responsible for significant die-offs. Along the west coast of North America, the most recent leptospirosis epizootic occurred in 2004, during which samples were collected from cases ranging from California to British Columbia. The primary objective of this study was to use this well-defined sample set to determine the feasibility of using PCR techniques to diagnose Leptospira infection among pinniped populations in comparison with diagnostic methodologies commonly used for marine mammals. Successful amplification was achieved from a variety of samples, including freshly collected urine, urine stored at −80°C for less than 6 months, and kidney (freshly collected, frozen, and decomposed), as well as feces- and urine-contaminated sand collected in the vicinity of a live-stranded animal. Pathological examination of tissue collected from Leptospira-infected animals revealed the presence of leptospiral antigen in the kidneys. The use of species-specific primer pairs revealed a pattern of host specificity for Leptospira interrogans in sea lions and Leptospira kirschneri in elephant seals. These studies indicate PCR is a sensitive and specific diagnostic tool for the detection of Leptospira infection in pinnipeds and reveal a potential source for epizootic, enzootic, and zoonotic spread of leptospirosis in a marine environment.
PMCID: PMC2395076  PMID: 18367568
14.  Conservation of the S10-spc-α Locus within Otherwise Highly Plastic Genomes Provides Phylogenetic Insight into the Genus Leptospira 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(7):e2752.
S10-spc-α is a 17.5 kb cluster of 32 genes encoding ribosomal proteins. This locus has an unusual composition and organization in Leptospira interrogans. We demonstrate the highly conserved nature of this region among diverse Leptospira and show its utility as a phylogenetically informative region. Comparative analyses were performed by PCR using primer sets covering the whole locus. Correctly sized fragments were obtained by PCR from all L. interrogans strains tested for each primer set indicating that this locus is well conserved in this species. Few differences were detected in amplification profiles between different pathogenic species, indicating that the S10-spc-α locus is conserved among pathogenic Leptospira. In contrast, PCR analysis of this locus using DNA from saprophytic Leptospira species and species with an intermediate pathogenic capacity generated varied results. Sequence alignment of the S10-spc-α locus from two pathogenic species, L. interrogans and L. borgpetersenii, with the corresponding locus from the saprophyte L. biflexa serovar Patoc showed that genetic organization of this locus is well conserved within Leptospira. Multilocus sequence typing (MLST) of four conserved regions resulted in the construction of well-defined phylogenetic trees that help resolve questions about the interrelationships of pathogenic Leptospira. Based on the results of secY sequence analysis, we found that reliable species identification of pathogenic Leptospira is possible by comparative analysis of a 245 bp region commonly used as a target for diagnostic PCR for leptospirosis. Comparative analysis of Leptospira strains revealed that strain H6 previously classified as L. inadai actually belongs to the pathogenic species L. interrogans and that L. meyeri strain ICF phylogenetically co-localized with the pathogenic clusters. These findings demonstrate that the S10-spc-α locus is highly conserved throughout the genus and may be more useful in comparing evolution of the genus than loci studied previously.
PMCID: PMC2481283  PMID: 18648538
15.  Genome Sequence of the Saprophyte Leptospira biflexa Provides Insights into the Evolution of Leptospira and the Pathogenesis of Leptospirosis 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(2):e1607.
Leptospira biflexa is a free-living saprophytic spirochete present in aquatic environments. We determined the genome sequence of L. biflexa, making it the first saprophytic Leptospira to be sequenced. The L. biflexa genome has 3,590 protein-coding genes distributed across three circular replicons: the major 3,604 chromosome, a smaller 278-kb replicon that also carries essential genes, and a third 74-kb replicon. Comparative sequence analysis provides evidence that L. biflexa is an excellent model for the study of Leptospira evolution; we conclude that 2052 genes (61%) represent a progenitor genome that existed before divergence of pathogenic and saprophytic Leptospira species. Comparisons of the L. biflexa genome with two pathogenic Leptospira species reveal several major findings. Nearly one-third of the L. biflexa genes are absent in pathogenic Leptospira. We suggest that once incorporated into the L. biflexa genome, laterally transferred DNA undergoes minimal rearrangement due to physical restrictions imposed by high gene density and limited presence of transposable elements. In contrast, the genomes of pathogenic Leptospira species undergo frequent rearrangements, often involving recombination between insertion sequences. Identification of genes common to the two pathogenic species, L. borgpetersenii and L. interrogans, but absent in L. biflexa, is consistent with a role for these genes in pathogenesis. Differences in environmental sensing capacities of L. biflexa, L. borgpetersenii, and L. interrogans suggest a model which postulates that loss of signal transduction functions in L. borgpetersenii has impaired its survival outside a mammalian host, whereas L. interrogans has retained environmental sensory functions that facilitate disease transmission through water.
PMCID: PMC2229662  PMID: 18270594
16.  Lesion Formation and Antibody Response Induced by Papillomatous Digital Dermatitis-Associated Spirochetes in a Murine Abscess Model▿  
Infection and Immunity  2007;75(9):4400-4408.
Papillomatous digital dermatitis (PDD), also known as hairy heel wart, is a growing cause of lameness of cows in the U.S. dairy industry. Farms with PDD-afflicted cows experience economic loss due to treatment costs, decreased milk production, lower reproductive efficiency, and premature culling. While the exact cause of PDD is unknown, lesion development is associated with the presence of anaerobic spirochetes. This study was undertaken to investigate the virulence and antigenic relatedness of four previously isolated Treponema phagedenis-like spirochetes (1A, 3A, 4A, and 5B) by using a mouse abscess model with subcutaneous inoculation of 109, 1010, and 1011 spirochetes. Each of the PDD isolates induced abscess formation, with strain 3A causing cutaneous ulceration. Lesion development and antibody responses were dose dependent and differed significantly from those seen with the nonpathogenic human T. phagedenis strain. Strains 3A, 4A, and 5B showed two-way cross-reactivity with each other and a one-way cross-reaction with T. phagedenis. Strain 5B showed one-way cross-reactivity with 1A. None of the isolates showed cross-reactivity with T. denticola. In addition, distinct differences in immunoglobulin G subclass elicitation occurred between the PDD strains and T. phagedenis. From these data, we conclude that spirochetes isolated from PDD lesions have differential virulence and antigenic traits in vivo. Continuing investigation of these properties is important for the elucidation of virulence mechanisms and antigenic targets for vaccine development.
PMCID: PMC1951177  PMID: 17591787
17.  Response of Leptospira interrogans to Physiologic Osmolarity: Relevance in Signaling the Environment-to-Host Transition▿ † 
Infection and Immunity  2007;75(6):2864-2874.
Transmission of pathogenic Leptospira between mammalian hosts usually involves dissemination via soil or water contaminated by the urine of carrier animals. The ability of Leptospira to adapt to the diverse conditions found inside and outside the host is reflected in its relatively large genome size and high percentage of signal transduction genes. An exception is Leptospira borgpetersenii serovar Hardjo, which is transmitted by direct contact and appears to have lost genes necessary for survival outside the mammalian host. Invasion of host tissues by Leptospira interrogans involves a transition from a low osmolar environment outside the host to a higher physiologic osmolar environment within the host. Expression of the lipoprotein LigA and LigB adhesins is strongly induced by an upshift in osmolarity to the level found in mammalian host tissues. These data suggest that Leptospira utilizes changes in osmolarity to regulate virulence characteristics. To better understand how L. interrogans serovar Copenhageni adapts to osmolar conditions that correspond with invasion of a mammalian host, we quantified alterations in transcript levels using whole-genome microarrays. Overnight exposure in leptospiral culture medium supplemented with sodium chloride to physiologic osmolarity significantly altered the transcript levels of 6% of L. interrogans genes. Repressed genes were significantly more likely to be absent or pseudogenes in L. borgpetersenii, suggesting that osmolarity is relevant in studying the adaptation of L. interrogans to host conditions. Genes induced by physiologic osmolarity encoded a higher than expected number of proteins involved in signal transduction. Further, genes predicted to encode lipoproteins and those coregulated by temperature were overrepresented among both salt-induced and salt-repressed genes. In contrast, leptospiral homologues of hyperosmotic or general stress genes were not induced at physiologic osmolarity. These findings suggest that physiologic osmolarity is an important signal for regulation of gene expression by pathogenic leptospires during transition from ambient conditions to the host tissue environment.
PMCID: PMC1932867  PMID: 17371863
18.  Effects of Temperature on Gene Expression Patterns in Leptospira interrogans Serovar Lai as Assessed by Whole-Genome Microarrays†  
Infection and Immunity  2006;74(10):5848-5859.
Leptospirosis is an important zoonosis of worldwide distribution. Humans become infected via exposure to pathogenic Leptospira spp. from infected animals or contaminated water or soil. The availability of genome sequences for Leptospira interrogans, serovars Lai and Copenhageni, has opened up opportunities to examine global transcription profiles using microarray technology. Temperature is a key environmental factor known to affect leptospiral protein expression. Leptospira spp. can grow in artificial media at a range of temperatures reflecting conditions found in the environment and the mammalian host. Therefore, transcriptional changes were compared between cultures grown at 20°C, 30°C, 37°C, and 39°C to represent ambient temperatures in the environment, growth under laboratory conditions, and temperatures in healthy and febrile hosts. Data from direct pairwise comparisons of the four temperatures were consolidated to examine transcriptional changes at two generalized biological conditions representing mammalian physiological temperatures (37°C and 39°C) versus environmental temperatures (20°C and 30°C). Additionally, cultures grown at 30°C then shifted overnight to 37°C were compared with those grown long-term at 30°C and 37°C to identify genes potentially expressed in the early stages of infection. Comparison of data sets from physiological versus environmental experiments with upshift experiments provided novel insights into possible transcriptional changes at different stages of infection. Changes included differential expression of chemotaxis and motility genes, signal transduction systems, and genes encoding proteins involved in alteration of the outer membrane. These findings indicate that temperature is an important factor regulating expression of proteins that facilitate invasion and establishment of disease.
PMCID: PMC1594916  PMID: 16988264
19.  Identification of Genes of VSH-1, a Prophage-Like Gene Transfer Agent of Brachyspira hyodysenteriae 
Journal of Bacteriology  2005;187(17):5885-5892.
VSH-1 is a mitomycin C-inducible prophage of the anaerobic spirochete Brachyspira hyodysenteriae. Purified VSH-1 virions are noninfectious, contain random 7.5-kb fragments of the bacterial genome, and mediate generalized transduction of B. hyodysenteriae cells. In order to identify and sequence genes of this novel gene transfer agent (GTA), proteins associated either with VSH-1 capsids or with tails were purified by sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis. The N-terminal amino acid sequences of 11 proteins were determined. Degenerate PCR primers were designed from the amino acid sequences and used to amplify several VSH-1 genes from B. hyodysenteriae strain B204 DNA. A λ clone library of B. hyodysenteriae B204 DNA was subsequently screened by Southern hybridization methods and used to identify and sequence overlapping DNA inserts containing additional VSH-1 genes. VSH-1 genes spanned 16.3 kb of the B. hyodysenteriae chromosome and were flanked by bacterial genes. VSH-1 identified genes and unidentified, intervening open reading frames were consecutively organized in head (seven genes), tail (seven genes), and lysis (four genes) clusters in the same transcriptional direction. Putative lysis genes encoding endolysin (Lys) and holin proteins were identified from sequence and structural similarities of their translated protein products with GenBank bacteriophage proteins. Recombinant Lys protein hydrolyzed peptidoglycan purified from B. hyodysenteriae cells. The identified VSH-1 genes exceed the DNA capacity of VSH-1 virions and do not encode traditional bacteriophage early functions involved in DNA replication. These genome properties explain the noninfectious nature of VSH-1 virions and further confirm its resemblance to known prophage-like, GTAs of other bacterial species, such as the GTA from Rhodobacter capsulatus. The identification of VSH-1 genes will enable analysis of the regulation of this GTA and should facilitate investigations of VSH-1-like prophages from other Brachyspira species.
PMCID: PMC1196157  PMID: 16109929
20.  Completion of the Genome Sequence of Brucella abortus and Comparison to the Highly Similar Genomes of Brucella melitensis and Brucella suis 
Journal of Bacteriology  2005;187(8):2715-2726.
Brucellosis is a worldwide disease of humans and livestock that is caused by a number of very closely related classical Brucella species in the alpha-2 subdivision of the Proteobacteria. We report the complete genome sequence of Brucella abortus field isolate 9-941 and compare it to those of Brucella suis 1330 and Brucella melitensis 16 M. The genomes of these Brucella species are strikingly similar, with nearly identical genetic content and gene organization. However, a number of insertion-deletion events and several polymorphic regions encoding putative outer membrane proteins were identified among the genomes. Several fragments previously identified as unique to either B. suis or B. melitensis were present in the B. abortus genome. Even though several fragments were shared between only B. abortus and B. suis, B. abortus shared more fragments and had fewer nucleotide polymorphisms with B. melitensis than B. suis. The complete genomic sequence of B. abortus provides an important resource for further investigations into determinants of the pathogenicity and virulence phenotypes of these bacteria.
PMCID: PMC1070361  PMID: 15805518
21.  Role of hha and ler in Transcriptional Regulation of the esp Operon of Enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli O157:H7 
Journal of Bacteriology  2004;186(21):7290-7301.
The locus of enterocyte effacement (LEE), which includes five major operons (LEE1 through LEE4 and tir), enables enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC) O157:H7 to produce attaching and effacing lesions on host cells. Expression of LEE2, LEE3, and tir is positively regulated by ler, a gene located in LEE1. Transcriptional regulation of the esp operon (LEE4), however, is not well defined. Transposon mutagenesis was used to identify transcriptional regulators of the esp operon by screening for mutants with increased β-galactosidase activity in an EHEC O157:H7 strain harboring an esp::lac transcriptional fusion. All mutants with significant increases in β-galactosidase activity had transposon insertions in hha (hha::Tn). Specific complementation of the hha::Tn mutation with a plasmid-encoded copy of hha reduced β-galactosidase activity to the level expressed in the parental esp::lac strain. Purified Hha, however, bound poorly to the esp promoter, suggesting that Hha might repress the transcription of a positive regulator of esp. Transposon mutagenesis of a Δhha esp::lac strain expressing elevated levels of β-galactosidase resulted in ler mutants with reduced β-galactosidase activity. Purified Hha bound to the ler promoter with a higher affinity, and complementation of a Δhha mutation in a Δhha ler::lac strain repressed β-galactosidase activity to the level expressed in a ler::lac strain. A positive regulatory role of ler in esp expression was demonstrated by specific binding of Ler to the esp promoter, reduced expression of β-galactosidase in Δler esp::lac strains with and without hha, and severalfold-increased transcription of ler and espA in strains lacking hha. These results indicate that hha-mediated repression of ler causes reduced expression of the esp operon.
PMCID: PMC523200  PMID: 15489441
22.  Molecular Evolution and Mosaicism of Leptospiral Outer Membrane Proteins Involves Horizontal DNA Transfer 
Journal of Bacteriology  2004;186(9):2818-2828.
Leptospires belong to a genus of parasitic bacterial spirochetes that have adapted to a broad range of mammalian hosts. Mechanisms of leptospiral molecular evolution were explored by sequence analysis of four genes shared by 38 strains belonging to the core group of pathogenic Leptospira species: L. interrogans, L. kirschneri, L. noguchii, L. borgpetersenii, L. santarosai, and L. weilii. The 16S rRNA and lipL32 genes were highly conserved, and the lipL41 and ompL1 genes were significantly more variable. Synonymous substitutions are distributed throughout the ompL1 gene, whereas nonsynonymous substitutions are clustered in four variable regions encoding surface loops. While phylogenetic trees for the 16S, lipL32, and lipL41 genes were relatively stable, 8 of 38 (20%) ompL1 sequences had mosaic compositions consistent with horizontal transfer of DNA between related bacterial species. A novel Bayesian multiple change point model was used to identify the most likely sites of recombination and to determine the phylogenetic relatedness of the segments of the mosaic ompL1 genes. Segments of the mosaic ompL1 genes encoding two of the surface-exposed loops were likely acquired by horizontal transfer from a peregrine allele of unknown ancestry. Identification of the most likely sites of recombination with the Bayesian multiple change point model, an approach which has not previously been applied to prokaryotic gene sequence analysis, serves as a model for future studies of recombination in molecular evolution of genes.
PMCID: PMC387810  PMID: 15090524
23.  LipL21 Is a Novel Surface-Exposed Lipoprotein of Pathogenic Leptospira Species  
Infection and Immunity  2003;71(5):2414-2421.
Leptospira is the etiologic agent of leptospirosis, a bacterial zoonosis distributed worldwide. Leptospiral lipopolysaccharide is a protective immunogen, but the extensive serological diversity of leptospires has inspired a search for conserved outer membrane proteins (OMPs) that may stimulate heterologous immunity. Previously, a global analysis of leptospiral OMPs (P. A. Cullen, S. J. Cordwell, D. M. Bulach, D. A. Haake, and B. Adler, Infect. Immun. 70:2311-2318, 2002) identified pL21, a novel 21-kDa protein that is the second most abundant constituent of the Leptospira interrogans serovar Lai outer membrane proteome. In this study, we identified the gene encoding pL21 and found it to encode a putative lipoprotein; accordingly, the protein was renamed LipL21. Southern hybridization analysis revealed the presence of lipL21 in all of the pathogenic species but in none of the saprophytic species examined. Alignment of the LipL21 sequence from six strains of Leptospira revealed 96 to 100% identity. When specific polyclonal antisera to recombinant LipL21 were used, LipL21 was isolated together with other known leptospiral OMPs by both Triton X-114 extraction and sucrose density gradient membrane fractionation. All nine strains of pathogenic leptospires investigated by Western blotting, whether culture attenuated or virulent, were found to express LipL21. In contrast, the expression of LipL21 or an antigenically related protein could not be detected in nonpathogenic L. biflexa. Infected hamster sera and two of eight human leptospirosis sera tested were found to react with recombinant LipL21. Native LipL21 was found to incorporate tritiated palmitic acid, consistent with the prediction of a lipoprotein signal peptidase cleavage site. Biotinylation of the leptospiral surface resulted in selective labeling of LipL21 and the previously known OMPs LipL32 and LipL41. These findings show that LipL21 is a surface-exposed, abundant outer membrane lipoprotein that is expressed during infection and conserved among pathogenic Leptospira species.
PMCID: PMC153295  PMID: 12704111
24.  Cloning of a Beta-Hemolysin Gene of Brachyspira (Serpulina) hyodysenteriae and Its Expression in Escherichia coli 
Infection and Immunity  2001;69(2):706-711.
Brachyspira (Serpulina) hyodysenteriae induces a mucohemorrhagic diarrheal disease in pigs. The production of a beta-hemolysin has been considered a major virulence attribute of this organism. Previous reports have failed to correlate a specific cloned gene sequence with a purified beta-hemolytic protein sequence. Thus, questions still remain concerning the structural gene sequence of the hemolysin. To answer this question unequivocally, the beta-hemolytic toxin was purified from extracts of log-phase spirochetes, and the N-terminal amino acid sequence was determined (K-D-V-V-A-N-Q-L-N-I-S-D-K) and compared with the translated sequences of previously cloned genes, tlyA to tlyC. The lack of homology between tlyA to tlyC translated sequences and the purified beta-hemolytic toxin sequence resulted in the study that is reported here. A degenerate probe was designed based on the N-terminal amino acid sequence of the purified beta-hemolysin and used to screen a B. hyodysenteriae genomic library. Three overlapping clones were identified, and one was sequenced to reveal an open reading frame coding for a putative 8.93-kDa polypeptide containing the N-terminal sequence of the purified beta-hemolysin. To distinguish this gene from the tlyA to tlyC genes, it has been designated hlyA. A hemolysis-negative Escherichia coli strains containing hlyA was beta-hemolytic on blood agar media. Also, the hemolytic activity of the recombinant protein had identical protease and lipase sensitivities and electrophoretic mobility to those of native B. hyodysenteriae beta-hemolysin. Based on sequence analysis, the translated protein had a pI of 4.3, an α-helical structure, and a phosphopantetheine binding motif. Hybridization analysis of genomic DNA indicated that the hlyA gene was present in B. hyodysenteriae and B. intermedia but was not detected in B. innocens, B. pilosicoli, or B. murdochii under high-stringency conditions. The location of hlyA on the chromosomal map was distinct from the locations of tlyA, tlyB, and tlyC.
PMCID: PMC97942  PMID: 11159958
25.  The Leptospiral Major Outer Membrane Protein LipL32 Is a Lipoprotein Expressed during Mammalian Infection 
Infection and Immunity  2000;68(4):2276-2285.
We report the cloning of the gene encoding the 32-kDa lipoprotein, designated LipL32, the most prominent protein in the leptospiral protein profile. We obtained the N-terminal amino acid sequence of a staphylococcal V8 proteolytic-digest fragment to design an oligonucleotide probe. A Lambda-Zap II library containing EcoRI fragments of Leptospira kirschneri DNA was screened, and a 5.0-kb DNA fragment which contained the entire structural lipL32 gene was identified. Several lines of evidence indicate that LipL32 is lipid modified in a manner similar to that of other procaryotic lipoproteins. The deduced amino acid sequence of LipL32 would encode a 272-amino-acid polypeptide with a 19-amino-acid signal peptide, followed by a lipoprotein signal peptidase cleavage site. LipL32 is intrinsically labeled during incubation of L. kirschneri in media containing [3H]palmitate. The linkage of palmitate and the amino-terminal cysteine of LipL32 is acid labile. LipL32 is completely solubilized by Triton X-114 extraction of L. kirschneri; phase separation results in partitioning of LipL32 exclusively into the hydrophobic, detergent phase, indicating that it is a component of the leptospiral outer membrane. CaCl2 (20 mM) must be present during phase separation for recovery of LipL32. LipL32 is expressed not only during cultivation but also during mammalian infection. Immunohistochemistry demonstrated intense LipL32 reactivity with L. kirschneri infecting proximal tubules of hamster kidneys. LipL32 is also a prominent immunogen during human leptospirosis. The sequence and expression of LipL32 is highly conserved among pathogenic Leptospira species. These findings indicate that LipL32 may be important in the pathogenesis, diagnosis, and prevention of leptospirosis.
PMCID: PMC97414  PMID: 10722630

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