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1.  Drosophila Microbiota Modulates Host Metabolic Gene Expression via IMD/NF-κB Signaling 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e94729.
Most metazoans engage in mutualistic interactions with their intestinal microbiota. Despite recent progress the molecular mechanisms through which microbiota exerts its beneficial influences on host physiology are still largely uncharacterized. Here we use axenic Drosophila melanogaster adults associated with a standardized microbiota composed of a defined set of commensal bacterial strains to study the impact of microbiota association on its host transcriptome. Our results demonstrate that Drosophila microbiota has a marked impact on the midgut transcriptome and promotes the expression of genes involved in host digestive functions and primary metabolism. We identify the IMD/Relish signaling pathway as a central regulator of this microbiota-mediated transcriptional response and we reveal a marked transcriptional trade-off between the midgut response to its beneficial microbiota and to bacterial pathogens. Taken together our results indicate that microbiota association potentiates host nutrition and host metabolic state, two key physiological parameters influencing host fitness. Our work paves the way to subsequent mechanistic studies to reveal how these microbiota-dependent transcriptional signatures translate into host physiological benefits.
PMCID: PMC3986221  PMID: 24733183
2.  Conserved Mechanisms of Tumorigenesis in the Drosophila Adult Midgut 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e88413.
Whereas the series of genetic events leading to colorectal cancer (CRC) have been well established, the precise functions that these alterations play in tumor progression and how they disrupt intestinal homeostasis remain poorly characterized. Activation of the Wnt/Wg signaling pathway by a mutation in the gene APC is the most common trigger for CRC, inducing benign lesions that progress to carcinomas due to the accumulation of other genetic alterations. Among those, Ras mutations drive tumour progression in CRC, as well as in most epithelial cancers. As mammalian and Drosophila's intestines share many similarities, we decided to explore the alterations induced in the Drosophila midgut by the combined activation of the Wnt signaling pathway with gain of function of Ras signaling in the intestinal stem cells. Here we show that compound Apc-Ras clones, but not clones bearing the individual mutations, expand as aggressive intestinal tumor-like outgrowths. These lesions reproduce many of the human CRC hallmarks such as increased proliferation, blockade of cell differentiation and cell polarity and disrupted organ architecture. This process is followed by expression of tumoral markers present in human lesions. Finally, a metabolic behavioral assay shows that these flies suffer a progressive deterioration in intestinal homeostasis, providing a simple readout that could be used in screens for tumor modifiers or therapeutic compounds. Taken together, our results illustrate the conservation of the mechanisms of CRC tumorigenesis in Drosophila, providing an excellent model system to unravel the events that, upon mutation in Apc and Ras, lead to CRC initiation and progression.
PMCID: PMC3916428  PMID: 24516653
3.  Characterizing the Infection-Induced Transcriptome of Nasonia vitripennis Reveals a Preponderance of Taxonomically-Restricted Immune Genes 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e83984.
The innate immune system in insects consists of a conserved core signaling network and rapidly diversifying effector and recognition components, often containing a high proportion of taxonomically-restricted genes. In the absence of functional annotation, genes encoding immune system proteins can thus be difficult to identify, as homology-based approaches generally cannot detect lineage-specific genes. Here, we use RNA-seq to compare the uninfected and infection-induced transcriptome in the parasitoid wasp Nasonia vitripennis to identify genes regulated by infection. We identify 183 genes significantly up-regulated by infection and 61 genes significantly down-regulated by infection. We also produce a new homology-based immune catalog in N. vitripennis, and show that most infection-induced genes cannot be assigned an immune function from homology alone, suggesting the potential for substantial novel immune components in less well-studied systems. Finally, we show that a high proportion of these novel induced genes are taxonomically restricted, highlighting the rapid evolution of immune gene content. The combination of functional annotation using RNA-seq and homology-based annotation provides a robust method to characterize the innate immune response across a wide variety of insects, and reveals significant novel features of the Nasonia immune response.
PMCID: PMC3873987  PMID: 24386321
4.  Serine Protease MP2 Activates Prophenoloxidase in the Melanization Immune Response of Drosophila melanogaster 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e79533.
In arthropods, melanization plays a major role in the innate immune response to encapsulate and kill the invasive organisms. It is mediated by a serine protease cascade and is regulated by serpins. The identification of the molecular components of melanization and the regulation of those components are still unclear in Drosophila melanogaster, although some genetic research on the activation of melanization has been reported. Here we report that Drosophila serine protease MP2 directly cleaves both recombinant and native prophenoloxidase-1. Overexpression or repression of MP2 in flies resulted in increased and decreased rates of cleavage, respectively, of prophenoloxidase-1. Moreover, serine protease inhibitor Spn27A formed SDS-stable complexes with MP2, both in vitro and in vivo. The amidase activity of MP2 was inhibited efficiently by Spn27A. Spn27A also prevented MP2 from cleaving prophenoloxidase-1. Taken together, these results indicate that under our experimental conditions MP2 functions as a prophenoloxidase-activating protease, and that this function is inhibited by Spn27A. MP2 and Spn27A thus constitute a regulatory unit in the prophenoloxidase activation cascade in Drosophila. The combination of genetic, molecular genetic and biochemical approaches should allow further advances in our understanding of the prophenoloxidase-activating cascade in insects and indirectly shed further light on protease-cascades in humans and other vertebrates.
PMCID: PMC3829845  PMID: 24260243
5.  Male Killing Spiroplasma Preferentially Disrupts Neural Development in the Drosophila melanogaster Embryo 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e79368.
Male killing bacteria such as Spiroplasma are widespread pathogens of numerous arthropods including Drosophila melanogaster. These maternally transmitted bacteria can bias host sex ratios toward the female sex in order to ‘selfishly’ enhance bacterial transmission. However, little is known about the specific means by which these pathogens disrupt host development in order to kill males. Here we show that a male-killing Spiroplasma strain severely disrupts nervous tissue development in male but not female D. melanogaster embryos. The neuroblasts, or neuron progenitors, form properly and their daughter cells differentiate into neurons of the ventral nerve chord. However, the neurons fail to pack together properly and they produce highly abnormal axons. In contrast, non-neural tissue, such as mesoderm, and body segmentation appear normal during this time, although the entire male embryo becomes highly abnormal during later stages. Finally, we found that Spiroplasma is altogether absent from the neural tissue but localizes within the gut and the epithelium immediately surrounding the neural tissue, suggesting that the bacterium secretes a toxin that affects neural tissue development across tissue boundaries. Together these findings demonstrate the unique ability of this insect pathogen to preferentially affect development of a specific embryonic tissue to induce male killing.
PMCID: PMC3827344  PMID: 24236124
6.  Quantifying Variation in the Ability of Yeasts to Attract Drosophila melanogaster 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(9):e75332.
Yeasts that invade and colonise fruit significantly enhance the volatile chemical diversity of this ecosystem. These modified bouquets are thought to be more attractive to Drosophila flies than the fruit alone, but the variance of attraction in natural yeast populations is uncharacterised. Here we investigate how a range of yeast isolates affect the attraction of female D. melanogaster to fruit in a simple two choice assay comparing yeast to sterile fruit. Of the 43 yeast isolates examined, 33 were attractive and seven repellent to the flies. The results of isolate-versus-isolate comparisons provided the same relative rankings. Attractiveness varied significantly by yeast, with the strongly fermenting Saccharomyces species generally being more attractive than the mostly respiring non-Saccharomyces species (P = 0.0035). Overall the habitat (fruit or other) from which the isolates were directly sampled did not explain attraction (P = 0.2352). However, yeasts isolated from fruit associated niches were more attractive than those from non-fruit associated niches (P = 0.0188) regardless of taxonomic positioning. These data suggest that while attractiveness is primarily correlated with phylogenetic status, the ability to attract Drosophila is a labile trait among yeasts that is potentially associated with those inhabiting fruit ecosystems. Preliminary analysis of the volatiles emitted by four yeast isolates in grape juice show the presence/absence of ethanol and acetic acid were not likely explanations for the observed variation in attraction. These data demonstrate variation among yeasts for their ability to attract Drosophila in a pattern that is consistent with the hypothesis that certain yeasts are manipulating fruit odours to mediate interactions with their Drosophila dispersal agent.
PMCID: PMC3783394  PMID: 24086510
7.  Exposure to Bacterial Signals Does Not Alter Pea Aphids’ Survival upon a Second Challenge or Investment in Production of Winged Offspring 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e73600.
Pea aphids have an obligate nutritional symbiosis with the bacteria Buchneraaphidicola and frequently also harbor one or more facultative symbionts. Aphids are also susceptible to bacterial pathogen infections, and it has been suggested that aphids have a limited immune response towards such pathogen infections compared to other, more well-studied insects. However, aphids do possess at least some of the genes known to be involved in bacterial immune responses in other insects, and immune-competent hemocytes. One possibility is that immune priming with microbial elicitors could stimulate immune protection against subsequent bacterial infections, as has been observed in several other insect systems. To address this hypothesis we challenged aphids with bacterial immune elicitors twenty-four hours prior to live bacterial pathogen infections and then compared their survival rates to aphids that were not pre-exposed to bacterial signals. Using two aphid genotypes, we found no evidence for immune protection conferred by immune priming during infections with either Serratia marcescens or with Escherichia coli. Immune priming was not altered by the presence of facultative, beneficial symbionts in the aphids. In the absence of inducible immune protection, aphids may allocate energy towards other defense traits, including production of offspring with wings that could escape deteriorating conditions. To test this, we monitored the ratio of winged to unwinged offspring produced by adult mothers of a single clone that had been exposed to bacterial immune elicitors, to live E. coli infections or to no challenge. We found no correlation between immune challenge and winged offspring production, suggesting that this mechanism of defense, which functions upon exposure to fungal pathogens, is not central to aphid responses to bacterial infections.
PMCID: PMC3756975  PMID: 24009760
8.  Immunogenic and Antioxidant Effects of a Pathogen-Associated Prenyl Pyrophosphate in Anopheles gambiae 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e73868.
Despite efficient vector transmission, Plasmodium parasites suffer great bottlenecks during their developmental stages within Anopheles mosquitoes. The outcome depends on a complex three-way interaction between host, parasite and gut bacteria. Although considerable progress has been made recently in deciphering Anopheles effector responses, little is currently known regarding the underlying microbial immune elicitors. An interesting candidate in this sense is the pathogen-derived prenyl pyrophosphate and designated phosphoantigen (E)-4-hydroxy-3-methyl-but-2-enyl pyrophosphate (HMBPP), found in Plasmodium and most eubacteria but not in higher eukaryotes. HMBPP is the most potent stimulant known of human Vγ9Vδ2 T cells, a unique lymphocyte subset that expands during several infections including malaria. In this study, we show that Vγ9Vδ2 T cells proliferate when stimulated with supernatants from intraerythrocytic stages of Plasmodium falciparum cultures, suggesting that biologically relevant doses of phosphoantigens are excreted by the parasite. Next, we used Anopheles gambiae to investigate the immune- and redox- stimulating effects of HMBPP. We demonstrate a potent activation in vitro of all but one of the signaling pathways earlier implicated in the human Vγ9Vδ2 T cell response, as p38, JNK and PI3K/Akt but not ERK were activated in the A. gambiae 4a3B cell line. Additionally, both HMBPP and the downstream endogenous metabolite isopentenyl pyrophosphate displayed antioxidant effects by promoting cellular tolerance to hydrogen peroxide challenge. When provided in the mosquito blood meal, HMBPP induced temporal changes in the expression of several immune genes. In contrast to meso-diaminopimelic acid containing peptidoglycan, HMBPP induced expression of dual oxidase and nitric oxide synthase, two key determinants of Plasmodium infection. Furthermore, temporal fluctuations in midgut bacterial numbers were observed. The multifaceted effects observed in this study indicates that HMBPP is an important elicitor in common for both Plasmodium and gut bacteria in the mosquito.
PMCID: PMC3742518  PMID: 23967351
9.  Functional Analysis of PGRP-LA in Drosophila Immunity 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e69742.
PeptidoGlycan Recognition Proteins (PGRPs) are key regulators of the insect innate antibacterial response. Even if they have been intensively studied, some of them have yet unknown functions. Here, we present a functional analysis of PGRP-LA, an as yet uncharacterized Drosophila PGRP. The PGRP-LA gene is located in cluster with PGRP-LC and PGRP-LF, which encode a receptor and a negative regulator of the Imd pathway, respectively. Structure predictions indicate that PGRP-LA would not bind to peptidoglycan, pointing to a regulatory role of this PGRP. PGRP-LA expression was enriched in barrier epithelia, but low in the fat body. Use of a newly generated PGRP-LA deficient mutant indicates that PGRP-LA is not required for the production of antimicrobial peptides by the fat body in response to a systemic infection. Focusing on the respiratory tract, where PGRP-LA is strongly expressed, we conducted a genome-wide microarray analysis of the tracheal immune response of wild-type, Relish, and PGRP-LA mutant larvae. Comparing our data to previous microarray studies, we report that a majority of genes regulated in the trachea upon infection differ from those induced in the gut or the fat body. Importantly, antimicrobial peptide gene expression was reduced in the tracheae of larvae and in the adult gut of PGRP-LA-deficient Drosophila upon oral bacterial infection. Together, our results suggest that PGRP-LA positively regulates the Imd pathway in barrier epithelia.
PMCID: PMC3724876  PMID: 23922788
10.  dRYBP Contributes to the Negative Regulation of the Drosophila Imd Pathway 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e62052.
The Drosophila humoral innate immune response fights infection by producing antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) through the microbe-specific activation of the Toll or the Imd signaling pathway. Upon systemic infection, the production of AMPs is both positively and negatively regulated to reach a balanced immune response required for survival. Here, we report the function of the dRYBP (drosophila Ring and YY1 Binding Protein) protein, which contains a ubiquitin-binding domain, in the Imd pathway. We have found that dRYBP contributes to the negative regulation of AMP production: upon systemic infection with Gram-negative bacteria, Diptericin expression is up-regulated in the absence of dRYBP and down-regulated in the presence of high levels of dRYBP. Epistatic analyses using gain and loss of function alleles of imd, Relish, or skpA and dRYBP suggest that dRYBP functions upstream or together with SKPA, a member of the SCF-E3-ubiquitin ligase complex, to repress the Imd signaling cascade. We propose that the role of dRYBP in the regulation of the Imd signaling pathway is to function as a ubiquitin adaptor protein together with SKPA to promote SCF-dependent proteasomal degradation of Relish. Beyond the identification of dRYBP as a novel component of Imd pathway regulation, our results also suggest that the evolutionarily conserved RYBP protein may be involved in the human innate immune response.
PMCID: PMC3626645  PMID: 23596533
11.  Can Insects Develop Resistance to Insect Pathogenic Fungi? 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e60248.
Microevolutionary adaptations and mechanisms of fungal pathogen resistance were explored in a melanic population of the Greater wax moth, Galleria mellonella. Under constant selective pressure from the insect pathogenic fungus Beauveria bassiana, 25th generation larvae exhibited significantly enhanced resistance, which was specific to this pathogen and not to another insect pathogenic fungus, Metarhizium anisopliae. Defense and stress management strategies of selected (resistant) and non-selected (susceptible) insect lines were compared to uncover mechanisms underpinning resistance, and the possible cost of those survival strategies. We hypothesize that the insects developed a transgenerationally primed resistance to the fungus B. bassiana, a costly trait that was achieved not by compromising life-history traits but rather by prioritizing and re-allocating pathogen-species-specific augmentations to integumental front-line defenses that are most likely to be encountered by invading fungi. Specifically during B. bassiana infection, systemic immune defenses are suppressed in favour of a more limited but targeted repertoire of enhanced responses in the cuticle and epidermis of the integument (e.g. expression of the fungal enzyme inhibitor IMPI, and cuticular phenoloxidase activity). A range of putative stress-management factors (e.g. antioxidants) is also activated during the specific response of selected insects to B. bassiana but not M. anisopliae. This too occurs primarily in the integument, and probably contributes to antifungal defense and/or helps ameliorate the damage inflicted by the fungus or the host’s own immune responses.
PMCID: PMC3613352  PMID: 23560083
12.  Immunoregulatory Effect of Bifidobacteria Strains in Porcine Intestinal Epithelial Cells through Modulation of Ubiquitin-Editing Enzyme A20 Expression 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e59259.
We previously showed that evaluation of anti-inflammatory activities of lactic acid bacteria in porcine intestinal epithelial (PIE) cells is useful for selecting potentially immunobiotic strains.
The aims of the present study were: i) to select potentially immunomodulatory bifidobacteria that beneficially modulate the Toll-like receptor (TLR)-4-triggered inflammatory response in PIE cells and; ii) to gain insight into the molecular mechanisms involved in the anti-inflammatory effect of immunobiotics by evaluating the role of TLR2 and TLR negative regulators in the modulation of proinflammatory cytokine production and activation of mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) and nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB) pathways in PIE cells.
Bifidobacteria longum BB536 and B. breve M-16V strains significantly downregulated levels of interleukin (IL)-8, monocyte chemotactic protein (MCP)-1 and IL-6 in PIE cells challenged with heat-killed enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli. Moreover, BB536 and M-16V strains attenuated the proinflammatory response by modulating the NF-κB and MAPK pathways. In addition, our findings provide evidence for a key role for the ubiquitin-editing enzyme A20 in the anti-inflammatory effect of immunobiotic bifidobacteria in PIE cells.
We show new data regarding the mechanism involved in the anti-inflammatory effect of immunobiotics. Several strains with immunoregulatory capabilities used a common mechanism to induce tolerance in PIE cells. Immunoregulatory strains interacted with TLR2, upregulated the expression of A20 in PIE cells, and beneficially modulated the subsequent TLR4 activation by reducing the activation of MAPK and NF-κB pathways and the production of proinflammatory cytokines. We also show that the combination of TLR2 activation and A20 induction can be used as biomarkers to screen and select potential immunoregulatory bifidobacteria strains.
PMCID: PMC3608626  PMID: 23555642
13.  Burkholderia thailandensis Is Virulent in Drosophila melanogaster 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e49745.
Melioidosis is a serious infectious disease endemic to Southeast Asia and Northern Australia. This disease is caused by the Gram-negative bacterium Burkholderia pseudomallei; Burkholderia thailandensis is a closely-related organism known to be avirulent in humans. B. thailandensis has not previously been used to infect Drosophila melanogaster. We examined the effect of B. thailandensis infection on fly survival, on antimicrobial peptide expression, and on phagocytic cells. In the fruit fly, which possesses only an innate immune system, B. thailandensis is highly virulent, causing rapid death when injected or fed. One intriguing aspect of this infection is its temperature dependence: infected flies maintained at 25°C exhibit rapid bacterial proliferation and death in a few days, while infected animals maintained at 18°C exhibit very slow bacterial proliferation and take weeks to die; this effect is due in part to differences in immune activity of the host. Death in this infection is likely due at least in part to a secreted toxin, as injection of flies with sterile B. thailandensis-conditioned medium is able to kill. B. thailandensis infection strongly induces the expression of antimicrobial peptides, but this is insufficient to inhibit bacterial proliferation in infected flies. Finally, the function of fly phagocytes is not affected by B. thailandensis infection. The high virulence of B. thailandensis in the fly suggests the possibility that this organism is a natural pathogen of one or more invertebrates.
PMCID: PMC3507839  PMID: 23209596
14.  Transcriptional Responses of Resistant and Susceptible Fish Clones to the Bacterial Pathogen Flavobacterium psychrophilum 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(6):e39126.
Flavobacterium psychrophilum is a bacterial species that represents one of the most important pathogens for aquaculture worldwide, especially for salmonids. To gain insights into the genetic basis of the natural resistance to F. psychrophilum, we selected homozygous clones of rainbow trout with contrasted susceptibility to the infection. We compared the transcriptional response to the bacteria in the pronephros of a susceptible and a resistant line by micro-array analysis five days after infection. While the basal transcriptome of healthy fish was significantly different in the resistant and susceptible lines, the transcriptome modifications induced by the bacteria involved essentially the same genes and pathways. The response to F. psychrophilum involved antimicrobial peptides, complement, and a number of enzymes and chemokines. The matrix metalloproteases mmp9 and mmp13 were among the most highly induced genes in both genetic backgrounds. Key genes of both pro- and anti-inflammatory response such as IL1 and IL10, were up-regulated with a greater magnitude in susceptible animals where the bacterial load was also much higher. While higher resistance to F. psychrophilum does not seem to be based on extensive differences in the orientation of the immune response, several genes including complement C3 showed stronger induction in the resistant fish. They may be important for the variation of susceptibility to the infection.
PMCID: PMC3374740  PMID: 22720048
15.  Expression and Putative Function of Innate Immunity Genes under in situ Conditions in the Symbiotic Hydrothermal Vent Tubeworm Ridgeia piscesae 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(6):e38267.
The relationships between hydrothermal vent tubeworms and sulfide-oxidizing bacteria have served as model associations for understanding chemoautotrophy and endosymbiosis. Numerous studies have focused on the physiological and biochemical adaptations that enable these symbioses to sustain some of the highest recorded carbon fixation rates ever measured. However, far fewer studies have explored the molecular mechanisms underlying the regulation of host and symbiont interactions, specifically those mediated by the innate immune system of the host. To that end, we conducted a series of studies where we maintained the tubeworm, Ridgeia piscesae, in high-pressure aquaria and examined global and quantitative changes in gene expression via high-throughput transcriptomics and quantitative real-time PCR (qPCR). We analyzed over 32,000 full-length expressed sequence tags as well as 26 Mb of transcript sequences from the trophosome (the organ that houses the endosymbiotic bacteria) and the plume (the gas exchange organ in contact with the free-living microbial community). R. piscesae maintained under conditions that promote chemoautotrophy expressed a number of putative cell signaling and innate immunity genes, including pattern recognition receptors (PRRs), often associated with recognizing microbe-associated molecular patterns (MAMPs). Eighteen genes involved with innate immunity, cell signaling, cell stress and metabolite exchange were further analyzed using qPCR. PRRs, including five peptidoglycan recognition proteins and a Toll-like receptor, were expressed significantly higher in the trophosome compared to the plume. Although PRRs are often associated with mediating host responses to infection by pathogens, the differences in expression between the plume and trophosome also implicate similar mechanisms of microbial recognition in interactions between the host and symbiont. We posit that regulation of this association involves a molecular “dialogue” between the partners that includes interactions between the host’s innate immune system and the symbiont.
PMCID: PMC3372519  PMID: 22701617
16.  Functional Characterization of the Infection-Inducible Peptide Edin in Drosophila melanogaster 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e37153.
Drosophila is a well-established model organism for studying innate immunity because of its high resistance against microbial infections and lack of adaptive immunity. In addition, the immune signaling cascades found in Drosophila are evolutionarily conserved. Upon infection, activation of the immune signaling pathways, Toll and Imd, leads to the expression of multiple immune response genes, such as the antimicrobial peptides (AMPs). Previously, we identified an uncharacterized gene edin among the genes, which were strongly induced upon stimulation with Escherichia coli in Drosophila S2 cells. Edin has been associated with resistance against Listeria monocytogenes, but its role in Drosophila immunity remains elusive. In this study, we examined the role of Edin in the immune response of Drosophila both in vitro and in vivo. We report that edin expression is dependent on the Imd-pathway NF-κB transcription factor Relish and that it is expressed upon infection both in vitro and in vivo. Edin encodes a pro-protein, which is further processed in S2 cells. In our experiments, Edin did not bind microbes, nor did it possess antimicrobial activity to tested microbial strains in vitro or in vivo. Furthermore, edin RNAi did not significantly affect the expression of AMPs in vitro or in vivo. However, edin RNAi flies showed modestly impaired resistance to E. faecalis infection. We conclude that Edin has no potent antimicrobial properties but it appears to be important for E. faecalis infection via an uncharacterized mechanism. Further studies are still required to elucidate the exact role of Edin in the Drosophila immune response.
PMCID: PMC3351453  PMID: 22606343
17.  Impact of the Resident Microbiota on the Nutritional Phenotype of Drosophila melanogaster 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e36765.
Animals are chronically infected by benign and beneficial microorganisms that generally promote animal health through their effects on the nutrition, immune function and other physiological systems of the host. Insight into the host-microbial interactions can be obtained by comparing the traits of animals experimentally deprived of their microbiota and untreated animals. Drosophila melanogaster is an experimentally tractable system to study host-microbial interactions.
Methodology/Principal Findings
The nutritional significance of the microbiota was investigated in D. melanogaster bearing unmanipulated microbiota, demonstrated by 454 sequencing of 16S rRNA amplicons to be dominated by the α-proteobacterium Acetobacter, and experimentally deprived of the microbiota by egg dechorionation (conventional and axenic flies, respectively). In axenic flies, larval development rate was depressed with no effect on adult size relative to conventional flies, indicating that the microbiota promotes larval growth rates. Female fecundity did not differ significantly between conventional and axenic flies, but axenic flies had significantly reduced metabolic rate and altered carbohydrate allocation, including elevated glucose levels.
We have shown that elimination of the resident microbiota extends larval development and perturbs energy homeostasis and carbohydrate allocation patterns of of D. melanogaster. Our results indicate that the resident microbiota promotes host nutrition and interacts with the regulation of host metabolism.
PMCID: PMC3346728  PMID: 22586494
18.  Intestinal Inflammation Responds to Microbial Tissue Load Independent of Pathogen/Non-Pathogen Discrimination 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e35992.
The intestinal immune system mounts inflammatory responses to pathogens but tolerates harmless commensal microbiota. Various mechanisms for pathogen/non-pathogen discrimination have been proposed but their general relevance for inflammation control is unclear. Here, we compared intestinal responses to pathogenic Salmonella and non-pathogenic E. coli. Both microbes entered intestinal Peyer’s patches and, surprisingly, induced qualitatively and quantitatively similar initial inflammatory responses revealing a striking discrimination failure. Diverging inflammatory responses only occurred when Salmonella subsequently proliferated and induced escalating neutrophil infiltration, while harmless E. coli was rapidly cleared from the tissue and inflammation resolved. Transient intestinal inflammation induced by harmless E. coli tolerized against subsequent exposure thereby preventing chronic inflammation during repeated exposure. These data revealed a striking failure of the intestinal immune system to discriminate pathogens from harmless microbes based on distinct molecular signatures. Instead, appropriate intestinal responses to gut microbiota might be ensured by immediate inflammatory responses to any rise in microbial tissue loads, and desensitization after bacterial clearance.
PMCID: PMC3346762  PMID: 22586458
19.  Negative Regulation of EGFR/MAPK Pathway by Pumilio in Drosophila melanogaster 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(4):e34016.
In Drosophila melanogaster, specification of wing vein cells and sensory organ precursor (SOP) cells, which later give rise to a bristle, requires EGFR signaling. Here, we show that Pumilio (Pum), an RNA-binding translational repressor, negatively regulates EGFR signaling in wing vein and bristle development. We observed that loss of Pum function yielded extra wing veins and additional bristles. Conversely, overexpression of Pum eliminated wing veins and bristles. Heterozygotes for Pum produced no phenotype on their own, but greatly enhanced phenotypes caused by the enhancement of EGFR signaling. Conversely, over-expression of Pum suppressed the effects of ectopic EGFR signaling. Components of the EGFR signaling pathway are encoded by mRNAs that have Nanos Response Element (NRE)–like sequences in their 3’UTRs; NREs are known to bind Pum to confer regulation in other mRNAs. We show that these NRE-like sequences bind Pum and confer repression on a luciferase reporter in heterologous cells. Taken together, our evidence suggests that Pum functions as a negative regulator of EGFR signaling by directly targeting components of the pathway in Drosophila.
PMCID: PMC3326002  PMID: 22514614
20.  The Pseudokinase NIPI-4 Is a Novel Regulator of Antimicrobial Peptide Gene Expression 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(3):e33887.
Hosts have developed diverse mechanisms to counter the pathogens they face in their natural environment. Throughout the plant and animal kingdoms, the up-regulation of antimicrobial peptides is a common response to infection. In C. elegans, infection with the natural pathogen Drechmeria coniospora leads to rapid induction of antimicrobial peptide gene expression in the epidermis. Through a large genetic screen we have isolated many new mutants that are incapable of upregulating the antimicrobial peptide nlp-29 in response to infection (i.e. with a Nipi or ‘no induction of peptide after infection’ phenotype). More than half of the newly isolated Nipi mutants do not correspond to genes previously associated with the regulation of antimicrobial peptides. One of these, nipi-4, encodes a member of a nematode-specific kinase family. NIPI-4 is predicted to be catalytically inactive, thus to be a pseudokinase. It acts in the epidermis downstream of the PKC∂ TPA-1, as a positive regulator of nlp antimicrobial peptide gene expression after infection. It also controls the constitutive expression of antimicrobial peptide genes of the cnc family that are targets of TGFß regulation. Our results open the way for a more detailed understanding of how host defense pathways can be molded by environmental pathogens.
PMCID: PMC3309975  PMID: 22470487
21.  Specific versus Non-Specific Immune Responses in an Invertebrate Species Evidenced by a Comparative de novo Sequencing Study 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(3):e32512.
Our present understanding of the functioning and evolutionary history of invertebrate innate immunity derives mostly from studies on a few model species belonging to ecdysozoa. In particular, the characterization of signaling pathways dedicated to specific responses towards fungi and Gram-positive or Gram-negative bacteria in Drosophila melanogaster challenged our original view of a non-specific immunity in invertebrates. However, much remains to be elucidated from lophotrochozoan species. To investigate the global specificity of the immune response in the fresh-water snail Biomphalaria glabrata, we used massive Illumina sequencing of 5′-end cDNAs to compare expression profiles after challenge by Gram-positive or Gram-negative bacteria or after a yeast challenge. 5′-end cDNA sequencing of the libraries yielded over 12 millions high quality reads. To link these short reads to expressed genes, we prepared a reference transcriptomic database through automatic assembly and annotation of the 758,510 redundant sequences (ESTs, mRNAs) of B. glabrata available in public databases. Computational analysis of Illumina reads followed by multivariate analyses allowed identification of 1685 candidate transcripts differentially expressed after an immune challenge, with a two fold ratio between transcripts showing a challenge-specific expression versus a lower or non-specific differential expression. Differential expression has been validated using quantitative PCR for a subset of randomly selected candidates. Predicted functions of annotated candidates (approx. 700 unisequences) belonged to a large extend to similar functional categories or protein types. This work significantly expands upon previous gene discovery and expression studies on B. glabrata and suggests that responses to various pathogens may involve similar immune processes or signaling pathways but different genes belonging to multigenic families. These results raise the question of the importance of gene duplication and acquisition of paralog functional diversity in the evolution of specific invertebrate immune responses.
PMCID: PMC3299671  PMID: 22427848
22.  Bifidobacterium longum CECT 7347 Modulates Immune Responses in a Gliadin-Induced Enteropathy Animal Model 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(2):e30744.
Coeliac disease (CD) is an autoimmune disorder triggered by gluten proteins (gliadin) that involves innate and adaptive immunity. In this study, we hypothesise that the administration of Bifidobacterium longum CECT 7347, previously selected for reducing gliadin immunotoxic effects in vitro, could exert protective effects in an animal model of gliadin-induced enteropathy. The effects of this bacterium were evaluated in newborn rats fed gliadin alone or sensitised with interferon (IFN)-γ and fed gliadin. Jejunal tissue sections were collected for histological, NFκB mRNA expression and cytokine production analyses. Leukocyte populations and T-cell subsets were analysed in peripheral blood samples. The possible translocation of the bacterium to different organs was determined by plate counting and the composition of the colonic microbiota was quantified by real-time PCR. Feeding gliadin alone reduced enterocyte height and peripheral CD4+ cells, but increased CD4+/Foxp3+ T and CD8+ cells, while the simultaneous administration of B. longum CECT 7347 exerted opposite effects. Animals sensitised with IFN-γ and fed gliadin showed high cellular infiltration, reduced villi width and enterocyte height. Sensitised animals also exhibited increased NFκB mRNA expression and TNF-α production in tissue sections. B. longum CECT 7347 administration increased NFκB expression and IL-10, but reduced TNF-α, production in the enteropathy model. In sensitised gliadin-fed animals, CD4+, CD4+/Foxp3+ and CD8+ T cells increased, whereas the administration of B. longum CECT 7347 reduced CD4+ and CD4+/Foxp3+ cell populations and increased CD8+ T cell populations. The bifidobacterial strain administered represented between 75–95% of the total bifidobacteria isolated from all treated groups, and translocation to organs was not detected. These findings indicate that B. longum attenuates the production of inflammatory cytokines and the CD4+ T-cell mediated immune response in an animal model of gliadin-induced enteropathy.
PMCID: PMC3277586  PMID: 22348021
23.  Cyclin-Dependent Kinase 9 Activity Regulates Neutrophil Spontaneous Apoptosis 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(1):e30128.
Neutrophils are the most abundant leukocyte and play a central role in the immune defense against rapidly dividing bacteria. However, they are also the shortest lived cell in the blood with a lifespan in the circulation of 5.4 days. The mechanisms underlying their short lifespan and spontaneous entry into apoptosis are poorly understood. Recently, the broad range cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK) inhibitor R-roscovitine was shown to increase neutrophil apoptosis, implicating CDKs in the regulation of neutrophil lifespan. To determine which CDKs were involved in regulating neutrophil lifespan we first examined CDK expression in human neutrophils and found that only three CDKs: CDK5, CDK7 and CDK9 were expressed in these cells. The use of CDK inhibitors with differing selectivity towards the various CDKs suggested that CDK9 activity regulates neutrophil lifespan. Furthermore CDK9 activity and the expression of its activating partner cyclin T1 both declined as neutrophils aged and entered apoptosis spontaneously. CDK9 is a component of the P-TEFb complex involved in transcriptional regulation and its inhibition will preferentially affect proteins with short half-lives. Treatment of neutrophils with flavopiridol, a potent CDK9 inhibitor, increased apoptosis and caused a rapid decline in the level of the anti-apoptotic protein Mcl-1, whilst Bcl2A was unaffected. We propose that CDK9 activity is a key regulator of neutrophil lifespan, preventing apoptosis by maintaining levels of short lived anti-apoptotic proteins such as Mcl-1. Furthermore, as inappropriate inhibition of neutrophil apoptosis contributes to chronic inflammatory diseases such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, CDK9 represents a novel therapeutic target in such diseases.
PMCID: PMC3261871  PMID: 22276149
24.  Sexual Transmission of a Plant Pathogenic Bacterium, Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus, between Conspecific Insect Vectors during Mating 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(12):e29197.
Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus is a fastidious, phloem-inhabiting, gram-negative bacterium transmitted by Asian citrus psyllid, Diaphorina citri Kuwayama (Hemiptera: Psyllidae). The bacterium is the presumed causal agent of huanglongbing (HLB), one of the most destructive and economically important diseases of citrus. We investigated whether Las is transmitted between infected and uninfected D. citri adults during courtship. Our results indicate that Las was sexually transmitted from Las-infected male D. citri to uninfected females at a low rate (<4%) during mating. Sexual transmission was not observed following mating of infected females and uninfected males or among adult pairs of the same sex. Las was detected in genitalia of both sexes and also in eggs of infected females. A latent period of 7 days or more was required to detect the bacterium in recipient females. Rod shaped as well as spherical structures resembling Las were observed in ovaries of Las-infected females with transmission electron microscopy, but were absent in ovaries from uninfected D. citri females. The size of the rod shaped structures varied from 0.39 to 0.67 µm in length and 0.19 to 0.39 µm in width. The spherical structures measured from 0.61 to 0.80 µm in diameter. This investigation provides convincing evidence that a plant pathogenic bacterium is sexually transmitted from male to female insects during courtship and established evidence that bacteria persist in reproductive organs. Moreover, these findings provide an alternative sexually horizontal mechanism for the spread of Las within populations of D. citri, even in the absence of infected host trees.
PMCID: PMC3244449  PMID: 22216209
25.  Population Genetics of Duplicated Alternatively Spliced Exons of the Dscam Gene in Daphnia and Drosophila 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(12):e27947.
In insects and crustaceans, the Down syndrome cell adhesion molecule (Dscam) occurs in many different isoforms. These are produced by mutually exclusive alternative splicing of dozens of tandem duplicated exons coding for parts or whole immunoglobulin (Ig) domains of the Dscam protein. This diversity plays a role in the development of the nervous system and also in the immune system. Structural analysis of the protein suggested candidate epitopes where binding to pathogens could occur. These epitopes are coded by regions of the duplicated exons and are therefore diverse within individuals. Here we apply molecular population genetics and molecular evolution analyses using Daphnia magna and several Drosophila species to investigate the potential role of natural selection in the divergence between orthologs of these duplicated exons among species, as well as between paralogous exons within species. We found no evidence for a role of positive selection in the divergence of these paralogous exons. However, the power of this test was low, and the fact that no signs of gene conversion between paralogous exons were found suggests that paralog diversity may nonetheless be maintained by selection. The analysis of orthologous exons in Drosophila and in Daphnia revealed an excess of non-synonymous polymorphisms in the epitopes putatively involved in pathogen binding. This may be a sign of balancing selection. Indeed, in Dr. melanogaster the same derived non-synonymous alleles segregate in several populations around the world. Yet other hallmarks of balancing selection were not found. Hence, we cannot rule out that the excess of non-synonymous polymorphisms is caused by segregating slightly deleterious alleles, thus potentially indicating reduced selective constraints in the putative pathogen binding epitopes of Dscam.
PMCID: PMC3236188  PMID: 22174757

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