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1.  Whole-genome enrichment and sequencing of Chlamydia trachomatis directly from clinical samples 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2014;14(1):591.
Chlamydia trachomatis is a pathogen of worldwide importance, causing more than 100 million cases of sexually transmitted infections annually. Whole-genome sequencing is a powerful high resolution tool that can be used to generate accurate data on bacterial population structure, phylogeography and mutations associated with antimicrobial resistance. The objective of this study was to perform whole-genome enrichment and sequencing of C. trachomatis directly from clinical samples.
C. trachomatis positive samples comprising seven vaginal swabs and three urine samples were sequenced without prior in vitro culture in addition to nine cultured C. trachomatis samples, representing different serovars. A custom capture RNA bait set, that captures all known diversity amongst C. trachomatis genomes, was used in a whole-genome enrichment step during library preparation to enrich for C. trachomatis DNA. All samples were sequenced on the MiSeq platform.
Full length C. trachomatis genomes (>95-100% coverage of a reference genome) were successfully generated for eight of ten clinical samples and for all cultured samples. The proportion of reads mapping to C. trachomatis and the mean read depth across each genome were strongly linked to the number of bacterial copies within the original sample. Phylogenetic analysis confirmed the known population structure and the data showed potential for identification of minority variants and mutations associated with antimicrobial resistance. The sensitivity of the method was >10-fold higher than other reported methodologies.
The combination of whole-genome enrichment and deep sequencing has proven to be a non-mutagenic approach, capturing all known variation found within C. trachomatis genomes. The method is a consistent and sensitive tool that enables rapid whole-genome sequencing of C. trachomatis directly from clinical samples and has the potential to be adapted to other pathogens with a similar clonal nature.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12879-014-0591-3) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4233057  PMID: 25388670
Whole-genome enrichment; Whole-genome sequencing; Chlamydia trachomatis; Clinical samples
2.  Expression and characterization of soluble 4-diphosphocytidyl-2-C-methyl-D-erythritol kinase from bacterial pathogens 
Chemistry & biology  2009;16(12):1230-1239.
Many bacterial pathogens utilize the 2-C-methyl-D-erythritol 4-phosphate pathway for biosynthesizing isoprenoid precursors, a pathway that is vital for bacterial survival and absent from human cells, providing a potential source of drug targets. However, the characterization of 4-diphosphocytidyl-2-C-methyl-D-erythritol (CDP-ME) kinase (IspE) has been hindered due to a lack of enantiopure CDP-ME and difficulty in obtaining pure IspE. Here, enantiopure CDP-ME was chemically synthesized and recombinant IspE from bacterial pathogens were purified and characterized. Although gene disruption was not possible in Mycobacterium tuberculosis, IspE is essential in Mycobacterium smegmatis. The biochemical and kinetic characteristics of IspE provide the basis for development of a high throughput screen and structural characterization.
PMCID: PMC4020808  PMID: 20064433
3.  Identification of the likely translational start of Mycobacterium tuberculosis GyrB 
BMC Research Notes  2013;6:274.
Bacterial DNA gyrase is a validated target for antibacterial chemotherapy. It consists of two subunits, GyrA and GyrB, which form an A2B2 complex in the active enzyme. Sequence alignment of Mycobacterium tuberculosis GyrB with other bacterial GyrBs predicts the presence of 40 potential additional amino acids at the GyrB N-terminus. There are discrepancies between the M. tuberculosis GyrB sequences retrieved from different databases, including sequences annotated with or without the additional 40 amino acids. This has resulted in differences in the GyrB sequence numbering that has led to the reporting of previously known fluoroquinolone-resistance mutations as novel mutations.
We have expressed M. tuberculosis GyrB with and without the extra 40 amino acids in Escherichia coli and shown that both can be produced as soluble, active proteins. Supercoiling and other assays of the two proteins show no differences, suggesting that the additional 40 amino acids have no effect on the enzyme in vitro. RT-PCR analysis of M. tuberculosis mRNA shows that transcripts that could yield both the longer and shorter protein are present. However, promoter analysis showed that only the promoter elements leading to the shorter GyrB (lacking the additional 40 amino acids) had significant activity.
We conclude that the most probable translational start codon for M. tuberculosis GyrB is GTG (Val) which results in translation of a protein of 674 amino acids (74 kDa).
PMCID: PMC3724585  PMID: 23856181
Gyrase; Topoisomerase; Mycobacterium tuberculosis
4.  Mycobacterium tuberculosis ClpP Proteases Are Co-transcribed but Exhibit Different Substrate Specificities 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e60228.
Caseinolytic (Clp) proteases are widespread energy-dependent proteases; the functional ATP-dependent protease is comprised of multimers of proteolytic and regulatory subunits. Mycobacterium tuberculosis has two ClpP proteolytic subunits (ClpP1 and ClpP2), with both being essential for growth in vitro. ClpP1 and clpP2 are arranged in an apparent operon; we demonstrated that the two genes are co-expressed under normal growth conditions. We identified a single promoter region for the clpP1P2 operon; no promoter was detected upstream of clpP2 demonstrating that independent expression of clpP1 and clpP2 was highly unlikely. Promoter activity was not induced by heat shock or oxidative stress. We identified a regulatory region upstream of the promoter with a consensus sequence matching the ClgR regulator motif; we determined the limits of the region by mutagenesis and confirmed that positive regulation of the promoter occurs in M. tuberculosis. We developed a reporter system to monitor ClpP1 and ClpP2 enzymatic activities based on LacZ incorporating ssrAtag sequences. We showed that whilst both ClpP1 and ClpP2 degrade SsrA-tagged LacZ, ClpP2 (but not ClpP1) degrades untagged proteins. Our data suggest that the two proteolytic subunits display different substrate specificities and therefore have different, but overlapping roles in M. tuberculosis.
PMCID: PMC3613350  PMID: 23560081
5.  The dUTPase Enzyme Is Essential in Mycobacterium smegmatis 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e37461.
Thymidine biosynthesis is essential in all cells. Inhibitors of the enzymes involved in this pathway (e.g. methotrexate) are thus frequently used as cytostatics. Due to its pivotal role in mycobacterial thymidylate synthesis dUTPase, which hydrolyzes dUTP into the dTTP precursor dUMP, has been suggested as a target for new antitubercular agents. All mycobacterial genomes encode dUTPase with a mycobacteria-specific surface loop absent in the human dUTPase. Using Mycobacterium smegmatis as a fast growing model for Mycobacterium tuberculosis, we demonstrate that dUTPase knock-out results in lethality that can be reverted by complementation with wild-type dUTPase. Interestingly, a mutant dUTPase gene lacking the genus-specific loop was unable to complement the knock-out phenotype. We also show that deletion of the mycobacteria-specific loop has no major effect on dUTPase enzymatic properties in vitro and thus a yet to be identified loop-specific function seems to be essential within the bacterial cell context. In addition, here we demonstrated that Mycobacterium tuberculosis dUTPase is fully functional in Mycobacterium smegmatis as it rescues the lethal knock-out phenotype. Our results indicate the potential of dUTPase as a target for antitubercular drugs and identify a genus-specific surface loop on the enzyme as a selective target.
PMCID: PMC3360063  PMID: 22655049
6.  Human Neutrophil Clearance of Bacterial Pathogens Triggers Anti-Microbial γδ T Cell Responses in Early Infection 
PLoS Pathogens  2011;7(5):e1002040.
Human blood Vγ9/Vδ2 T cells, monocytes and neutrophils share a responsiveness toward inflammatory chemokines and are rapidly recruited to sites of infection. Studying their interaction in vitro and relating these findings to in vivo observations in patients may therefore provide crucial insight into inflammatory events. Our present data demonstrate that Vγ9/Vδ2 T cells provide potent survival signals resulting in neutrophil activation and the release of the neutrophil chemoattractant CXCL8 (IL-8). In turn, Vγ9/Vδ2 T cells readily respond to neutrophils harboring phagocytosed bacteria, as evidenced by expression of CD69, interferon (IFN)-γ and tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α. This response is dependent on the ability of these bacteria to produce the microbial metabolite (E)-4-hydroxy-3-methyl-but-2-enyl pyrophosphate (HMB-PP), requires cell-cell contact of Vγ9/Vδ2 T cells with accessory monocytes through lymphocyte function-associated antigen-1 (LFA-1), and results in a TNF-α dependent proliferation of Vγ9/Vδ2 T cells. The antibiotic fosmidomycin, which targets the HMB-PP biosynthesis pathway, not only has a direct antibacterial effect on most HMB-PP producing bacteria but also possesses rapid anti-inflammatory properties by inhibiting γδ T cell responses in vitro. Patients with acute peritoneal-dialysis (PD)-associated bacterial peritonitis – characterized by an excessive influx of neutrophils and monocytes into the peritoneal cavity – show a selective activation of local Vγ9/Vδ2 T cells by HMB-PP producing but not by HMB-PP deficient bacterial pathogens. The γδ T cell-driven perpetuation of inflammatory responses during acute peritonitis is associated with elevated peritoneal levels of γδ T cells and TNF-α and detrimental clinical outcomes in infections caused by HMB-PP positive microorganisms. Taken together, our findings indicate a direct link between invading pathogens, neutrophils, monocytes and microbe-responsive γδ T cells in early infection and suggest novel diagnostic and therapeutic approaches.
Author Summary
The immune system of all jawed vertebrates harbors three distinct lymphocyte populations – αβ T cells, γδ T cells and B cells – yet only higher primates including humans possess so-called Vγ9/Vδ2 T cells, an enigmatic γδ T cell subset that uniformly responds to the majority of bacterial pathogens. For reasons that are not understood, this responsiveness is absent in all other animals although they too are constantly exposed to a plethora of potentially harmful micro-organisms. We here investigated how Vγ9/Vδ2 T cells respond to live microbes by mimicking physiological conditions in acute disease. Our experiments demonstrate that Vγ9/Vδ2 T cells recognize a small common molecule released when invading bacteria become ingested and killed by other white blood cells. The stimulation of Vγ9/Vδ2 T cells at the site of infection amplifies the inflammatory response and has important consequences for pathogen clearance and the development of microbe-specific immunity. However, if triggered at the wrong time or the wrong place, this rapid reaction toward bacteria may also lead to inflammation-related damage. These findings improve our insight into the complex cellular interactions in early infection, identify novel biomarkers of diagnostic and predictive value and highlight new avenues for therapeutic intervention.
PMCID: PMC3093373  PMID: 21589907
7.  The Nonmevalonate Pathway of Isoprenoid Biosynthesis in Mycobacterium tuberculosis Is Essential and Transcriptionally Regulated by Dxs ▿ †  
Journal of Bacteriology  2010;192(9):2424-2433.
Mycobacterium tuberculosis synthesizes isoprenoids via the nonmevalonate or DOXP pathway. Previous work demonstrated that three enzymes in the pathway (Dxr, IspD, and IspF) are all required for growth in vitro. We demonstrate the essentiality of the key genes dxs1 and gcpE, confirming that the pathway is of central importance and that the second homolog of the synthase (dxs2) cannot compensate for the loss of dxs1. We looked at the effect of overexpression of Dxr, Dxs1, Dxs2, and GcpE on viability and on growth in M. tuberculosis. Overexpression of dxs1 or dxs2 was inhibitory to growth, whereas overexpression of dxr or gcpE was not. Toxicity is likely to be, at least partially, due to depletion of pyruvate from the cells. Overexpression of dxs1 or gcpE resulted in increased flux through the pathway, as measured by accumulation of the metabolite 4-hydroxy-3-methyl-but-2-enyl pyrophosphate. We identified the functional translational start site and promoter region for dxr and demonstrated that it is expressed as part of a polycistronic mRNA with gcpE and two other genes. Increased expression of this operon was seen in cells overexpressing Dxs1, indicating that transcriptional control is effected by the first enzyme of the pathway via an unknown regulator.
PMCID: PMC2863480  PMID: 20172995
8.  Dxr is essential in Mycobacterium tuberculosis and fosmidomycin resistance is due to a lack of uptake 
BMC Microbiology  2008;8:78.
Fosmidomycin is a phosphonic antibiotic which inhibits 1-deoxy-D-xylulose 5-phosphate reductoisomerase (Dxr), the first committed step of the non-mevalonate pathway of isoprenoid biosynthesis. In Mycobacterium tuberculosis Dxr is encoded by Rv2870c, and although the antibiotic has been shown to inhibit the recombinant enzyme [1], mycobacteria are intrinsically resistant to fosmidomycin at the whole cell level. Fosmidomycin is a hydrophilic molecule and in many bacteria its uptake is an active process involving a cAMP dependent glycerol-3-phosphate transporter (GlpT). The fact that there is no glpT homologue in the M. tuberculosis genome and the highly impervious nature of the hydrophobic mycobacterial cell wall suggests that resistance may be due to a lack of cellular penetration.
We demonstrated that dxr (Rv2780c) is an essential gene in M. tuberculosis, since we could not delete the chromosomal copy unless a second functional copy was provided on an integrating vector. This confirmed that the intracellular target of fosmidomycin was essential as well as sensitive. We looked at the uptake of fosmidomycin in two mycobacterial species, the slow-growing pathogenic M. tuberculosis and the fast-growing, saprophytic Mycobacterium smegmatis; both species were resistant to fosmidomycin to a high level. Fosmidomycin was not accumulated intra-cellularly in M. tuberculosis or M. smegmatis but remained in the extra-cellular medium. In contrast, fosmidomycin uptake was confirmed in the sensitive organism, Escherichia coli. We established that the lack of intra-cellular accumulation was not due to efflux, since efflux pump inhibitors had no effect on fosmidomycin resistance. Finally, we demonstrated that fosmidomycin was not modified by mycobacterial cells or by extracts but remained in a fully functional state.
Taken together, these data demonstrate that fosmidomycin resistance in M. tuberculosis and M. smegmatis results from a lack of penetration of the antibiotic to the site of the sensitive target.
PMCID: PMC2409342  PMID: 18489786
9.  Characterization of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis 4-Diphosphocytidyl-2-C-Methyl-d-Erythritol Synthase: Potential for Drug Development▿  
Journal of Bacteriology  2007;189(24):8922-8927.
Mycobacterium tuberculosis utilizes the methylerythritol phosphate (MEP) pathway for biosynthesis of isopentenyl diphosphate and its isomer, dimethylallyl diphosphate, precursors of all isoprenoid compounds. This pathway is of interest as a source of new drug targets, as it is absent from humans and disruption of the responsible genes has shown a lethal phenotype for Escherichia coli. In the MEP pathway, 4-diphosphocytidyl-2-C-methyl-d-erythritol is formed from 2-C-methyl-d-erythritol 4-phosphate (MEP) and CTP in a reaction catalyzed by a 4-diphosphocytidyl-2-C-methyl-d-erythritol synthase (IspD). In the present work, we demonstrate that Rv3582c is essential for M. tuberculosis: Rv3582c has been cloned and expressed, and the encoded protein has been purified. The purified M. tuberculosis IspD protein was capable of catalyzing the formation of 4-diphosphocytidyl-2-C-methyl-d-erythritol in the presence of MEP and CTP. The enzyme was active over a broad pH range (pH 6.0 to 9.0), with peak activity at pH 8.0. The activity was absolutely dependent upon divalent cations, with 20 mM Mg2+ being optimal, and replacement of CTP with other nucleotide 5′-triphosphates did not support activity. Under the conditions tested, M. tuberculosis IspD had Km values of 58.5 μM for MEP and 53.2 μM for CTP. Calculated kcat and kcat/Km values were 0.72 min−1 and 12.3 mM−1 min−1 for MEP and 1.0 min−1 and 18.8 mM−1 min−1 for CTP, respectively.
PMCID: PMC2168624  PMID: 17921290
10.  The structure of Mycobacteria 2C-methyl-D-erythritol-2,4-cyclodiphosphate synthase, an essential enzyme, provides a platform for drug discovery 
The prevalence of tuberculosis, the prolonged and expensive treatment that this disease requires and an increase in drug resistance indicate an urgent need for new treatments. The 1-deoxy-D-xylulose 5-phosphate pathway of isoprenoid precursor biosynthesis is an attractive chemotherapeutic target because it occurs in many pathogens, including Mycobacterium tuberculosis, and is absent from humans. To underpin future drug development it is important to assess which enzymes in this biosynthetic pathway are essential in the actual pathogens and to characterize them.
The fifth enzyme of this pathway, encoded by ispF, is 2C-methyl-D-erythritol-2,4-cyclodiphosphate synthase (IspF). A two-step recombination strategy was used to construct ispF deletion mutants in M. tuberculosis but only wild-type double crossover strains were isolated. The chromosomal copy could be deleted when a second functional copy was provided on an integrating plasmid, demonstrating that ispF is an essential gene under the conditions tested thereby confirming its potential as a drug target. We attempted structure determination of the M. tuberculosis enzyme (MtIspF), but failed to obtain crystals. We instead analyzed the orthologue M. smegmatis IspF (MsIspF), sharing 73% amino acid sequence identity, at 2.2 Å resolution. The high level of sequence conservation is particularly pronounced in and around the active site. MsIspF is a trimer with a hydrophobic cavity at its center that contains density consistent with diphosphate-containing isoprenoids. The active site, created by two subunits, comprises a rigid CDP-Zn2+ binding pocket with a flexible loop to position the 2C-methyl-D-erythritol moiety of substrate. Sequence-structure comparisons indicate that the active site and interactions with ligands are highly conserved.
Our study genetically validates MtIspF as a therapeutic target and provides a model system for structure-based ligand design.
PMCID: PMC2151065  PMID: 17956607

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