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1.  Characterization of SCO4439, a D-alanyl-D-alanine carboxypeptidase involved in spore cell wall maturation, resistance, and germination in Streptomyces coelicolor 
Scientific Reports  2016;6:21659.
This work contributes to the understanding of cell wall modifications during sporulation and germination in Streptomyces by assessing the biological function and biochemical properties of SCO4439, a D-alanyl-D-alanine carboxypeptidase (DD-CPase) constitutively expressed during development. SCO4439 harbors a DD-CPase domain and a putative transcriptional regulator domain, separated by a putative transmembrane region. The recombinant protein shows that DD-CPase activity is inhibited by penicillin G. The spores of the SCO4439::Tn5062 mutant are affected in their resistance to heat and acid and showed a dramatic increase in swelling during germination. The mycelium of the SCO4439::Tn5062 mutant is more sensitive to glycopeptide antibiotics (vancomycin and teicoplanin). The DD-CPase domain and the hydrophobic transmembrane region are highly conserved in Streptomyces, and both are essential for complementing the wild type phenotypes in the mutant. A model for the biological mechanism behind the observed phenotypes is proposed, in which SCO4439 DD-CPase releases D-Ala from peptidoglycan (PG) precursors, thereby reducing the substrate pool for PG crosslinking (transpeptidation). PG crosslinking regulates spore physical resistance and germination, and modulates mycelium resistance to glycopeptides. This study is the first demonstration of the role of a DD-CPase in the maturation of the spore cell wall.
PMCID: PMC4751497  PMID: 26867711
2.  Relationship between Glycopeptide Production and Resistance in the Actinomycete Nonomuraea sp. ATCC 39727 
Glycopeptides and β-lactams inhibit bacterial peptidoglycan synthesis in Gram-positive bacteria; resistance to these antibiotics is studied intensively in enterococci and staphylococci because of their relevance to infectious disease. Much less is known about antibiotic resistance in glycopeptide-producing actinomycetes that are likely to represent the evolutionary source of resistance determinants found in bacterial pathogens. Nonomuraea sp. ATCC 39727, the producer of A40926 (the precursor for the semisynthetic dalbavancin), does not harbor the canonical vanHAX genes. Consequently, we investigated the role of the β-lactam-sensitive d,d-peptidase/d,d-carboxypeptidase encoded by vanYn, the only van-like gene found in the A40926 biosynthetic gene cluster, in conferring immunity to the antibiotic in Nonomuraea sp. ATCC 39727. Taking advantage of the tools developed recently to genetically manipulate this uncommon actinomycete, we varied vanYn gene dosage and expressed vanHatAatXat from the teicoplanin producer Actinoplanes teichomyceticus in Nonomuraea sp. ATCC 39727. Knocking out vanYn, complementing a vanYn mutant, or duplicating vanYn had no effect on growth but influenced antibiotic resistance and, in the cases of complementation and duplication, antibiotic production. Nonomuraea sp. ATCC 39727 was found to be resistant to penicillins, but its glycopeptide resistance was diminished in the presence of penicillin G, which inhibits VanYn activity. The heterologous expression of vanHatAatXat increased A40926 resistance in Nonomuraea sp. ATCC 39727 but did not increase antibiotic production, indicating that the level of antibiotic production is not directly determined by the level of resistance. The vanYn-based self-resistance in Nonomuraea sp. ATCC 39727 resembles the glycopeptide resistance mechanism described recently in mutants of Enterococcus faecium selected in vitro for high-level resistance to glycopeptides and penicillins.
PMCID: PMC4135873  PMID: 24957828
3.  The Draining Lymph Node in Rheumatoid Arthritis: Current Concepts and Research Perspectives 
BioMed Research International  2015;2015:420251.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic autoimmune inflammatory disease of unknown aetiology, leading to progressive damage of bone and cartilage with functional impairment and disability. Whilst the synovial membrane represents the epicentre of the immune-inflammatory process, there is growing evidence indicating the potential involvement of additional anatomical compartments, such as the lung, bone marrow, and secondary lymphoid tissues. Draining lymph nodes represent the elective site for tissue immune-surveillance, for the generation of adaptive immune responses and a candidate compartment for the maintenance of peripheral tolerance. Despite the precise role of the juxta- and extra-articular lymph node stations in the pathogenesis of RA remaining poorly defined, several lines of research exploiting new technological approaches are now focusing on their assessment as a potential new source of pathobiologic information, biomarkers, and complementary therapeutic targets. In this review we present an updated overview of the main concepts driving lymph node research in RA, highlighting the most relevant findings, current hypothesis, and translational perspectives.
PMCID: PMC4352497  PMID: 25793195
4.  Old and New Glycopeptide Antibiotics: Action and Resistance 
Antibiotics  2014;3(4):572-594.
Glycopeptides are considered antibiotics of last resort for the treatment of life-threatening infections caused by relevant Gram-positive human pathogens, such as Staphylococcus aureus, Enterococcus spp. and Clostridium difficile. The emergence of glycopeptide-resistant clinical isolates, first among enterococci and then in staphylococci, has prompted research for second generation glycopeptides and a flurry of activity aimed at understanding resistance mechanisms and their evolution. Glycopeptides are glycosylated non-ribosomal peptides produced by a diverse group of soil actinomycetes. They target Gram-positive bacteria by binding to the acyl-d-alanyl-d-alanine (d-Ala-d-Ala) terminus of the growing peptidoglycan on the outer surface of the cytoplasmatic membrane. Glycopeptide-resistant organisms avoid such a fate by replacing the d-Ala-d-Ala terminus with d-alanyl-d-lactate (d-Ala-d-Lac) or d-alanyl-d-serine (d-Ala-d-Ser), thus markedly reducing antibiotic affinity for the cellular target. Resistance has manifested itself in enterococci and staphylococci largely through the expression of genes (named van) encoding proteins that reprogram cell wall biosynthesis and, thus, evade the action of the antibiotic. These resistance mechanisms were most likely co-opted from the glycopeptide producing actinomycetes, which use them to avoid suicide during antibiotic production, rather than being orchestrated by pathogen bacteria upon continued treatment. van-like gene clusters, similar to those described in enterococci, were in fact identified in many glycopeptide-producing actinomycetes, such as Actinoplanes teichomyceticus, which produces teicoplanin, and Streptomyces toyocaensis, which produces the A47934 glycopeptide. In this paper, we describe the natural and semi-synthetic glycopeptide antibiotics currently used as last resort drugs for Gram-positive infections and compare the van gene-based strategies of glycopeptide resistance among the pathogens and the producing actinomycetes. Particular attention is given to the strategy of immunity recently described in Nonomuraea sp. ATCC 39727. Nonomuraea sp. ATCC 39727 is the producer of A40926, which is the natural precursor of the second generation semi-synthetic glycopeptide dalbavancin, very recently approved for acute bacterial skin and skin structure infections. A thorough understanding of glycopeptide immunity in this producing microorganism may be particularly relevant to predict and eventually control the evolution of resistance that might arise following introduction of dalbavancin and other second generation glycopeptides into clinics.
PMCID: PMC4790382  PMID: 27025757
glycopeptides; resistance; van genes; Nonomuraea sp. ATCC 39727; dalbavancin
5.  Optimizing Escherichia coli as a protein expression platform to produce Mycobacterium tuberculosis immunogenic proteins 
A number of valuable candidates as tuberculosis vaccine have been reported, some of which have already entered clinical trials. The new vaccines, especially subunit vaccines, need multiple administrations in order to maintain adequate life-long immune memory: this demands for high production levels and degree of purity.
In this study, TB10.4, Ag85B and a TB10.4-Ag85B chimeric protein (here-after referred as full) - immunodominant antigens of Mycobacterium tuberculosis - were expressed in Escherichia coli and purified to homogeneity. The rational design of expression constructs and optimization of fermentation and purification conditions allowed a marked increase in solubility and yield of the recombinant antigens. Indeed, scaling up of the process guaranteed mass production of all these three antigens (2.5-25 mg of pure protein/L cultivation broth). Quality of produced soluble proteins was evaluated both by mass spectrometry to assess the purity of final preparations, and by circular dichroism spectroscopy to ascertain the protein conformation. Immunological tests of the different protein products demonstrated that when TB10.4 was fused to Ag85B, the chimeric protein was more immunoreactive than either of the immunogenic protein alone.
We reached the goal of purifying large quantities of soluble antigens effective in generating immunological response against M. tuberculosis by a robust, controlled, scalable and economically feasible production process.
PMCID: PMC4225511  PMID: 24252280
Recombinant antigens; Mycobacterium tuberculosis; Chimeric protein; Protein expression
6.  Langerhans Cells Facilitate Epithelial DNA Damage and Squamous Cell Carcinoma 
Science (New York, N.Y.)  2012;335(6064):104-108.
Polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are prevalent, potent carcinogens, and 7,12-dimethylbenz[a]anthracene (DMBA) is a model PAH widely used to study tumorigenesis. Mice lacking Langerhans cells (LCs), a signatory epidermal dendritic cell (DC), are protected from cutaneous chemical carcinogenesis, independent of T cell immunity. Investigation of the underlying mechanism revealed that LC-deficient skin was relatively resistant to DMBA-induced DNA damage. LCs efficiently metabolized DMBA to DMBA-trans-3,4-diol, an intermediate proximal to oncogenic Hras mutation, and DMBA-treated LC-deficient skin contained significantly fewer Hras mutations. Moreover, DMBA-trans-3,4-diol application bypassed tumor resistance in LC-deficient mice. Additionally, the genotoxic impact of DMBA on human keratinocytes was significantly increased by prior incubation with human-derived LC. Thus, tissue-associated DC can enhance chemical carcinogenesis via PAH metabolism, highlighting the complex relation between immune cells and carcinogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3753811  PMID: 22223807
7.  Streptomyces spp. as efficient expression system for a d,d-peptidase/d,d-carboxypeptidase involved in glycopeptide antibiotic resistance 
BMC Biotechnology  2013;13:24.
VanYn, encoded by the dbv7 gene (also known as vanYn) of the biosynthetic cluster devoted to A40926 production, is a novel protein involved in the mechanism of self-resistance in Nonomuraea sp. ATCC 39727. This filamentous actinomycete is an uncommon microorganism, difficult-to-handle but biotechnologically valuable since it produces the glycopeptide antibiotic A40926, which is the precursor of the second-generation dalbavancin in phase III of clinical development. In order to investigate VanYn role in glycopeptide resistance in the producer actinomycete an appropriate host-vector expression system is required.
The cloning strategy of vanYn gene (G-C ratio 73.3%) in the expression vector pIJ86 yielded a recombinant protein with a tag encoding for a histidine hexamer added at the C-terminus (C-His6-vanYn) or at the N-terminus (N-His6-vanYn). These plasmids were used to transform three Streptomyces spp., which are genetically-treatable high G-C content Gram-positive bacteria taxonomically related to the homologous producer Nonomuraea sp.. Highest yield of protein expression and purification (12 mg of protein per liter of culture at 3 L bioreactor-scale) was achieved in Streptomyces venezuelae ATCC 10595, that is a fast growing streptomyces susceptible to glycopeptides. VanYn is a transmembrane protein which was easily detached and recovered from the cell wall fraction. Purified C-His6-VanYn showed d,d-carboxypeptidase and d,d-dipeptidase activities on synthetic analogs of bacterial peptidoglycan (PG) precursors. C-His6-VanYn over-expression conferred glycopeptide resistance to S. venezuelae. On the contrary, the addition of His6-tag at the N-terminus of the protein abolished its biological activity either in vitro or in vivo assays.
Heterologous expression of vanYn from Nonomuraea sp. ATCC 39727 in S. venezuelae was successfully achieved and conferred the host an increased level of glycopeptide resistance. Cellular localization of recombinant VanYn together with its enzymatic activity as a d,d-peptidase/d,d-carboxypeptidase agree with its role in removing the last d-Ala from the pentapeptide PG precursors and reprogramming cell wall biosynthesis, as previously reported in glycopeptide resistant pathogens.
PMCID: PMC3610138  PMID: 23497129
Streptomyces; Heterologous protein production; d,d-carboxypeptidases; Glycopeptide production; Glycopeptide resistance; Dalbavancin
9.  Association between levels of C-reactive protein and leukocytes and cancer: Three repeated measurements in the Swedish AMORIS study 
To study levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) and leukocytes, as inflammatory markers, in the context of cancer risk.
From the Apolipoprotein MOrtality RISk (AMORIS) study, we selected 102,749 persons with one measurement and 9,273 persons with three repeated measurements of CRP and leukocytes. Multivariate Cox proportional hazards regression was applied to categories of CRP (<10, 10-15, 15-25, 25-50, >50 g/L) and quartiles of leukocytes. An Inflammation-based Predictive Score (IPS) indicated whether someone had CRP levels >10mg/L combined with leukocytes >10×109/L. Reverse causality was assessed by excluding those with <3, 5, or 7 years of follow-up. To analyze repeated measurements of CRP and leukocytes the repeated IPS (IPSr) was calculated by adding the IPS of each measurement.
In the cohort with one measurement, there was a positive trend between CRP and cancer, with the lowest category being the reference: 0.99 (0.92-1.06), 1.28 (1.11-1.47), 1.27 (1.09-1.49), 1.22 (1.01-1.48) for the 2nd to 5th categories, respectively. This association disappeared when excluding those with follow-up <3, 5 or 7 years. The association between leukocytes and cancer was slightly stronger. In the cohort with repeated measurements the IPSr was strongly associated with cancer risk: 1.87 (1.33-2.63), 1.51 (0.56-4.06), 4.46 (1.43-13.87) for IPSr =1, 2, and 3, compared to IPSr =0. The association remained after excluding those with follow-up <1 year.
Conclusions and impact
Our large prospective cohort study adds evidence for a link between inflammatory markers and cancer risk by using repeated measurements and ascertaining reverse causality.
PMCID: PMC3078551  PMID: 21297038
cancer; C-reactive protein; leukocytes; Sweden
10.  Novel Mechanism of Glycopeptide Resistance in the A40926 Producer Nonomuraea sp. ATCC 39727▿  
In glycopeptide-resistant enterococci and staphylococci, high-level resistance is achieved by replacing the C-terminal d-alanyl-d-alanine of lipid II with d-alanyl-d-lactate, thus reducing glycopeptide affinity for cell wall targets. Reorganization of the cell wall in these organisms is directed by the vanHAX gene cluster. Similar self-resistance mechanisms have been reported for glycopeptide-producing actinomycetes. We investigated glycopeptide resistance in Nonomuraea sp. ATCC 39727, the producer of the glycopeptide A40926, which is the precursor of the semisynthetic antibiotic dalbavancin, which is currently in phase III clinical trials. The MIC of Nonomuraea sp. ATCC 39727 toward A40926 during vegetative growth was 4 μg/ml, but this increased to ca. 20 μg/ml during A40926 production. vanHAX gene clusters were not detected in Nonomuraea sp. ATCC 39727 by Southern hybridization or by PCR with degenerate primers. However, the dbv gene cluster for A40926 production contains a gene, vanY (ORF7), potentially encoding an enzyme capable of removing the terminal d-Ala residue of pentapeptide peptidoglycan precursors. Analysis of UDP-linked peptidoglycan precursors in Nonomuraea sp. ATCC 39727 revealed the predominant presence of the tetrapeptide UDP-MurNAc-l-Ala-d-Glu-meso-Dap-d-Ala and only traces of the pentapeptide UDP-MurNAc-l-Ala-d-Glu-meso-Dap-d-Ala-d-Ala. This suggested a novel mechanism of glycopeptide resistance in Nonomuraea sp. ATCC 39727 that was based on the d,d-carboxypeptidase activity of vanY. Consistent with this, a vanY-null mutant of Nonomuraea sp. ATCC 39727 demonstrated a reduced level of glycopeptide resistance, without affecting A40926 productivity. Heterologous expression of vanY in a sensitive Streptomyces species, Streptomyces venezuelae, resulted in higher levels of glycopeptide resistance.
PMCID: PMC2876364  PMID: 20308385

Results 1-10 (10)