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1.  Considerations in binding diblock copolymers on hydrophilic alginate beads for providing an immunoprotective membrane 
Alginate-based microcapsules are being proposed for treatment of many types of diseases. A major obstacle however in the successes is that these capsules are having large lab-to-lab variations. To make the process more reproducible, we propose to cover the surface of alginate capsules with diblock polymers that can form polymer brushes. In the present study, we describe the stepwise considerations for successful application of diblock copolymer of polyethylene glycol (PEG) and poly-l-lysine (PLL) on the surface of alginate beads. Special procedures had to be designed as alginate beads are hydrophilic and most protocols are designed for hydrophobic biomaterials. The successful attachment of diblock copolymer and the presence of PEG blocks on the surface of the capsules were studied by fluorescence microscopy. Longer time periods, that is, 30–60 min, are required to achieve saturation of the surface. The block lengths influenced the strength of the capsules. Shorter PLL blocks resulted in less stable capsules. Adequate permeability of the capsules was achieved with poly(ethylene glycol)-block-poly(l-lysine hydrochloride) (PEG454-b-PLL100) diblock copolymers. The capsules were a barrier for immunoglobulin G. The PEG454-b-PLL100 capsules have similar mechanical properties as PLL capsules. Minor immune activation of nuclear factor κB in THP-1 monocytes was observed with both PLL and PEG454-b-PLL100 capsules prepared from purified alginate. Our results show that we can successfully apply block copolymers on the surface of hydrophilic alginate beads without interfering with the physicochemical properties.
PMCID: PMC4232034  PMID: 23853069
alginate; microencapsulation; diblock copolymer; physicochemical surface properties
2.  A novel multilayer immunoisolating encapsulation system overcoming protrusion of cells 
Scientific Reports  2014;4:6856.
Application of alginate-microencapsulated therapeutic cells is a promising approach for diseases that require a local and constant supply of therapeutic molecules. However most conventional alginate microencapsulation systems are associated with low mechanical stability and protrusion of cells which is associated with higher surface roughness and limits their clinical application. Here we have developed a novel multilayer encapsulation system that prevents cells from protruding from capsules. The system was tested using a therapeutic protein with anti-tumor activity overexpressed in mammalian cells. The cell containing core of the multilayer capsule was formed by flexible alginate, creating a cell sustaining environment. Surrounded by a poly-L-lysine layer the flexible core was enveloped in a high-G alginate matrix that is less flexible and has higher mechanical stability, which does not support cell survival. The cells in the core of the multilayer capsule did not show growth impairment and protein production was normal for periods up to 70 days in vitro. The additional alginate layer also lowered the surface roughness compared to conventional cell containing alginate-PLL capsules. Our system provides a solution for two important, often overlooked phenomena in cell encapsulation: preventing cell protrusion and improving surface roughness.
PMCID: PMC4215319  PMID: 25358640
3.  Reduction of the Inflammatory Responses against Alginate-Poly-L-Lysine Microcapsules by Anti-Biofouling Surfaces of PEG-b-PLL Diblock Copolymers 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(10):e109837.
Large-scale application of alginate-poly-L-lysine (alginate-PLL) capsules used for microencapsulation of living cells is hampered by varying degrees of success, caused by tissue responses against the capsules in the host. A major cause is proinflammatory PLL which is applied at the surface to provide semipermeable properties and immunoprotection. In this study, we investigated whether application of poly(ethylene glycol)-block-poly(L-lysine hydrochloride) diblock copolymers (PEG-b-PLL) can reduce the responses against PLL on alginate-matrices. The application of PEG-b-PLL was studied in two manners: (i) as a substitute for PLL or (ii) as an anti-biofouling layer on top of a proinflammatory, but immunoprotective, semipermeable alginate-PLL100 membrane. Transmission FTIR was applied to monitor the binding of PEG-b-PLL. When applied as a substitute for PLL, strong host responses in mice were observed. These responses were caused by insufficient binding of the PLL block of the diblock copolymers confirmed by FTIR. When PEG-b-PLL was applied as an anti-biofouling layer on top of PLL100 the responses in mice were severely reduced. Building an effective anti-biofouling layer required 50 hours as confirmed by FTIR, immunocytochemistry and XPS. Our study provides new insight in the binding requirements of polyamino acids necessary to provide an immunoprotective membrane. Furthermore, we present a relatively simple method to mask proinflammatory components on the surface of microcapsules to reduce host responses. Finally, but most importantly, our study illustrates the importance of combining physicochemical and biological methods to understand the complex interactions at the capsules' surface that determine the success or failure of microcapsules applicable for cell-encapsulation.
PMCID: PMC4209974  PMID: 25347191
4.  Genomic Encyclopedia of Bacteria and Archaea: Sequencing a Myriad of Type Strains 
PLoS Biology  2014;12(8):e1001920.
This manuscript calls for an international effort to generate a comprehensive catalog from genome sequences of all the archaeal and bacterial type strains.
Microbes hold the key to life. They hold the secrets to our past (as the descendants of the earliest forms of life) and the prospects for our future (as we mine their genes for solutions to some of the planet's most pressing problems, from global warming to antibiotic resistance). However, the piecemeal approach that has defined efforts to study microbial genetic diversity for over 20 years and in over 30,000 genome projects risks squandering that promise. These efforts have covered less than 20% of the diversity of the cultured archaeal and bacterial species, which represent just 15% of the overall known prokaryotic diversity. Here we call for the funding of a systematic effort to produce a comprehensive genomic catalog of all cultured Bacteria and Archaea by sequencing, where available, the type strain of each species with a validly published name (currently∼11,000). This effort will provide an unprecedented level of coverage of our planet's genetic diversity, allow for the large-scale discovery of novel genes and functions, and lead to an improved understanding of microbial evolution and function in the environment.
PMCID: PMC4122341  PMID: 25093819
5.  Photobacterium sanctipauli sp. nov. isolated from bleached Madracis decactis (Scleractinia) in the St Peter & St Paul Archipelago, Mid-Atlantic Ridge, Brazil 
PeerJ  2014;2:e427.
Five novel strains of Photobacterium (A-394T, A-373, A-379, A-397 and A-398) were isolated from bleached coral Madracis decactis (scleractinian) in the remote St Peter & St Archipelago (SPSPA), Mid-Atlantic Ridge, Brazil. Healthy M. decactis specimens were also surveyed, but no strains were related to them. The novel isolates formed a distinct lineage based on the 16S rRNA, recA, and rpoA gene sequences analysis. Their closest phylogenetic neighbours were Photobacterium rosenbergii, P. gaetbulicola, and P. lutimaris, sharing 96.6 to 95.8% 16S rRNA gene sequence similarity. The novel species can be differentiated from the closest neighbours by several phenotypic and chemotaxonomic markers. It grows at pH 11, produces tryptophane deaminase, presents the fatty acid C18:0, but lacks C16:0 iso. The whole cell protein profile, based in MALDI-TOF MS, distinguished the strains of the novel species among each other and from the closest neighbors. In addition, we are releasing the whole genome sequence of the type strain. The name Photobacterium sanctipauli sp. nov. is proposed for this taxon. The G + C content of the type strain A-394T (= LMG27910T = CAIM1892T) is 48.2 mol%.
PMCID: PMC4081156  PMID: 25024905
Photobacterium sanctipauli; St Paul’s rocks; Coral bleaching; New species; Genomic taxonomy
6.  Comparative genome analysis of pathogenic and non-pathogenic Clavibacter strains reveals adaptations to their lifestyle 
BMC Genomics  2014;15(1):392.
The genus Clavibacter harbors economically important plant pathogens infecting agricultural crops such as potato and tomato. Although the vast majority of Clavibacter strains are pathogenic, there is an increasing number of non-pathogenic isolates reported. Non-pathogenic Clavibacter strains isolated from tomato seeds are particularly problematic because they affect the current detection and identification tests for Clavibacter michiganensis subsp. michiganensis (Cmm), which is regulated with a zero tolerance in tomato seed. Their misidentification as pathogenic Cmm hampers a clear judgment on the seed quality and health.
To get more insight in the genetic features linked to the lifestyle of these bacteria, a whole-genome sequence of the tomato seed-borne non-pathogenic Clavibacter LMG 26808 was determined. To gain a better understanding of the molecular determinants of pathogenicity, the genome sequence of LMG 26808 was compared with that of the pathogenic Cmm strain (NCPPB 382). The comparative analysis revealed that LMG 26808 does not contain plasmids pCM1 and pCM2 and also lacks the majority of important virulence factors described so far for pathogenic Cmm. This explains its apparent non-pathogenic nature in tomato plants. Moreover, the genome analysis of LMG 26808 detected sequences from a plasmid originating from a member of Enterobacteriaceae/Klebsiella relative. Genes received that way and coding for antibiotic resistance may provide a competitive advantage for survival of LMG 26808 in its ecological niche. Genetically, LMG 26808 was the most similar to the pathogenic Cmm NCPPB 382 but contained more mobile genetic elements. The genome of this non-pathogenic Clavibacter strain contained also a high number of transporters and regulatory genes.
The genome sequence of the non-pathogenic Clavibacter strain LMG 26808 and the comparative analyses with other pathogenic Clavibacter strains provided a better understanding of the genetic bases of virulence and adaptation mechanisms present in the genus Clavibacter.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1471-2164-15-392) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4059874  PMID: 24885539
Non-pathogenic Clavibacter; Bacterial wilt and canker; Tomato seeds; Genome sequencing; Quarantine; Plant pathogen
7.  Toward Engineering a Novel Transplantation Site for Human Pancreatic Islets 
Diabetes  2013;62(5):1357-1364.
PMCID: PMC3636655  PMID: 23613549
8.  Niche differentiation in nitrogen metabolism among methanotrophs within an operational taxonomic unit 
BMC Microbiology  2014;14:83.
The currently accepted thesis on nitrogenous fertilizer additions on methane oxidation activity assumes niche partitioning among methanotrophic species, with activity responses to changes in nitrogen content being dependent on the in situ methanotrophic community structure Unfortunately, widely applied tools for microbial community assessment only have a limited phylogenetic resolution mostly restricted to genus level diversity, and not to species level as often mistakenly assumed. As a consequence, intragenus or intraspecies metabolic versatility in nitrogen metabolism was never evaluated nor considered among methanotrophic bacteria as a source of differential responses of methane oxidation to nitrogen amendments.
We demonstrated that fourteen genotypically different Methylomonas strains, thus distinct below the level at which most techniques assign operational taxonomic units (OTU), show a versatile physiology in their nitrogen metabolism. Differential responses, even among strains with identical 16S rRNA or pmoA gene sequences, were observed for production of nitrite and nitrous oxide from nitrate or ammonium, nitrogen fixation and tolerance to high levels of ammonium, nitrate, and hydroxylamine. Overall, reduction of nitrate to nitrite, nitrogen fixation, higher tolerance to ammonium than nitrate and tolerance and assimilation of nitrite were general features.
Differential responses among closely related methanotrophic strains to overcome inhibition and toxicity from high nitrogen loads and assimilation of various nitrogen sources yield competitive fitness advantages to individual methane-oxidizing bacteria. Our observations proved that community structure at the deepest phylogenetic resolution potentially influences in situ functioning.
PMCID: PMC3997834  PMID: 24708438
Methylomonas methanica; Methylomonas koyamae; Methylomonas lenta; Strain dependency; Nitrogen assimilation; Detoxification
9.  Effect of Bodily Fluids from Honey Bee (Apis mellifera) Larvae on Growth and Genome-Wide Transcriptional Response of the Causal Agent of American Foulbrood Disease (Paenibacillus larvae) 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e89175.
Paenibacillus larvae, the causal agent of American Foulbrood disease (AFB), affects honey bee health worldwide. The present study investigates the effect of bodily fluids from honey bee larvae on growth velocity and transcription for this Gram-positive, endospore-forming bacterium. It was observed that larval fluids accelerate the growth and lead to higher bacterial densities during stationary phase. The genome-wide transcriptional response of in vitro cultures of P. larvae to larval fluids was studied by microarray technology. Early responses of P. larvae to larval fluids are characterized by a general down-regulation of oligopeptide and sugar transporter genes, as well as by amino acid and carbohydrate metabolic genes, among others. Late responses are dominated by general down-regulation of sporulation genes and up-regulation of phage-related genes. A theoretical mechanism of carbon catabolite repression is discussed.
PMCID: PMC3930689  PMID: 24586572
10.  Draft Genome Sequence of Pseudomonas moraviensis R28-S 
Genome Announcements  2014;2(1):e00035-14.
We report the draft genome sequence of Pseudomonas moraviensis R28-S, isolated from the municipal wastewater treatment plant of Moscow, ID. The strain carries a native mercury resistance plasmid, poorly maintains introduced IncP-1 antibiotic resistance plasmids, and has been useful for studying the evolution of plasmid host range and stability.
PMCID: PMC3931354  PMID: 24558233
11.  Porphyromonas Gingivalis and E-coli Induce Different Cytokine Production Patterns in Pregnant Women 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e86355.
Pregnant individuals of many species, including humans, are more sensitive to various bacteria or their products as compared with non-pregnant individuals. Pregnant individuals also respond differently to different bacteria or their products. Therefore, in the present study, we evaluated whether the increased sensitivity of pregnant women to bacterial products and their heterogeneous response to different bacteria was associated with differences in whole blood cytokine production upon stimulation with bacteria or their products.
Blood samples were taken from healthy pregnant and age-matched non-pregnant women and ex vivo stimulated with bacteria or LPS from Porphyromonas Gingivalis (Pg) or E-coli for 24 hrs. TNFα, IL-1ß, IL-6, IL-12 and IL-10 were measured using a multiplex Luminex system.
We observed a generally lower cytokine production after stimulation with Pg bacteria or it’s LPS as compared with E-coli bacteria. However, there was also an effect of pregnancy upon cytokine production: in pregnant women the production of IL-6 upon Pg stimulation was decreased as compared with non-pregnant women. After stimulation with E-coli, the production of IL-12 and TNFα was decreased in pregnant women as compared with non-pregnant women.
Our results showed that cytokine production upon bacterial stimulation of whole blood differed between pregnant and non-pregnant women, showing that the increased sensitivity of pregnant women may be due to differences in cytokine production. Moreover, pregnancy also affected whole blood cytokine production upon Pg or E-coli stimulation differently. Thus, the different responses of pregnant women to different bacteria or their products may result from variations in cytokine production.
PMCID: PMC3899230  PMID: 24466049
12.  Monocytes and Macrophages in Pregnancy and Pre-Eclampsia 
Preeclampsia is an important complication in pregnancy, characterized by hypertension and proteinuria in the second half of pregnancy. Generalized activation of the inflammatory response is thought to play a role in the pathogenesis of pre-eclampsia. Monocytes may play a central role in this inflammatory response. Monocytes are short lived cells that mature in the circulation and invade into tissues upon an inflammatory stimulus and develop into macrophages. Macrophages are abundantly present in the endometrium and play a role in implantation and placentation in normal pregnancy. In pre-eclampsia, these macrophages appear to be present in larger numbers and are also activated. In the present review, we focused on the role of monocytes and macrophages in the pathophysiology of pre-eclampsia.
PMCID: PMC4074993  PMID: 25071761
pregnancy; pre-eclampsia; monocytes; macrophages; decidua; placenta
13.  Immunological and Technical Considerations in Application of Alginate-Based Microencapsulation Systems 
Islets encapsulated in immunoprotective microcapsules are being proposed as an alternative for insulin therapy for treatment of type 1 diabetes. Many materials for producing microcapsules have been proposed but only alginate does currently qualify as ready for clinical application. However, many different alginate-based capsule systems do exist. A pitfall in the field is that these systems are applied without a targeted strategy with varying degrees of success as a consequence. In the current review, the different properties of alginate-based systems are reviewed in view of future application in humans. The use of allogeneic and xenogeneic islet sources are discussed with acknowledging the different degrees of immune protection the encapsulation system should supply. Also issues such as oxygen supply and the role of danger associated molecular patterns (DAMPS) in immune activation are being reviewed. A common property of the encapsulation systems is that alginates for medical application should have an extreme high degree of purity and lack pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs) to avoid activation of the recipient’s immune system. Up to now, non-inflammatory alginates are only produced on a lab-scale and are not yet commercially available. This is a major pitfall on the route to human application. Also the lack of predictive pre-clinical models is a burden. The principle differences between relevant innate and adaptive immune responses in humans and other species are reviewed. Especially, the extreme differences between the immune system of non-human primates and humans are cumbersome as non-human primates may not be predictive of the immune responses in humans, as opposed to the popular belief of regulatory agencies. Current insight is that although the technology is versatile major research efforts are required for identifying the mechanical, immunological, and physico-chemical requirements that alginate-based capsules should meet for successful human application.
PMCID: PMC4123607  PMID: 25147785
alginate; purification; microencapsulation; PAMPs; DAMPs; innate immune activation; non-human models
14.  Draft genome sequence of Xanthomonas fragariae reveals reductive evolution and distinct virulence-related gene content 
BMC Genomics  2013;14(1):829.
Xanthomonas fragariae (Xf) is a bacterial strawberry pathogen and an A2 quarantine organism on strawberry planting stock in the EU. It is taxonomically and metabolically distinct within the genus Xanthomonas, and known for its host specificity. As part of a broader pathogenicity study, the genome of a Belgian, virulent Xf strain (LMG 25863) was assembled to draft status and examined for its pathogenicity related gene content.
The Xf draft genome (4.2 Mb) was considerably smaller than most known Xanthomonas genomes (~5 Mb). Only half of the genes coding for TonB-dependent transporters and cell-wall degrading enzymes that are typically present in other Xanthomonas genomes, were found in Xf. Other missing genes/regions with a possible impact on its plant-host interaction were: i) the three loci for xylan degradation and metabolism, ii) a locus coding for a ß-ketoadipate phenolics catabolism pathway, iii) xcs, one of two Type II Secretion System coding regions in Xanthomonas, and iv) the genes coding for the glyoxylate shunt pathway. Conversely, the Xf genome revealed a high content of externally derived DNA and several uncommon, possibly virulence-related features: a Type VI Secretion System, a second Type IV Secretion System and a distinct Type III Secretion System effector repertoire comprised of multiple rare effectors and several putative new ones.
The draft genome sequence of LMG 25863 confirms the distinct phylogenetic position of Xf within the genus Xanthomonas and reveals a patchwork of both lost and newly acquired genomic features. These features may help explain the specific, mostly endophytic association of Xf with the strawberry plant.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1471-2164-14-829) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4046712  PMID: 24274055
15.  The Effect of Primer Choice and Short Read Sequences on the Outcome of 16S rRNA Gene Based Diversity Studies 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e71360.
Different regions of the bacterial 16S rRNA gene evolve at different evolutionary rates. The scientific outcome of short read sequencing studies therefore alters with the gene region sequenced. We wanted to gain insight in the impact of primer choice on the outcome of short read sequencing efforts. All the unknowns associated with sequencing data, i.e. primer coverage rate, phylogeny, OTU-richness and taxonomic assignment, were therefore implemented in one study for ten well established universal primers (338f/r, 518f/r, 799f/r, 926f/r and 1062f/r) targeting dispersed regions of the bacterial 16S rRNA gene. All analyses were performed on nearly full length and in silico generated short read sequence libraries containing 1175 sequences that were carefully chosen as to present a representative substitute of the SILVA SSU database. The 518f and 799r primers, targeting the V4 region of the 16S rRNA gene, were found to be particularly suited for short read sequencing studies, while the primer 1062r, targeting V6, seemed to be least reliable. Our results will assist scientists in considering whether the best option for their study is to select the most informative primer, or the primer that excludes interferences by host-organelle DNA. The methodology followed can be extrapolated to other primers, allowing their evaluation prior to the experiment.
PMCID: PMC3747265  PMID: 23977026
16.  Impact of Lactobacillus plantarum Sortase on Target Protein Sorting, Gastrointestinal Persistence, and Host Immune Response Modulation 
Journal of Bacteriology  2013;195(3):502-509.
Sortases are transpeptidases that couple surface proteins to the peptidoglycan of Gram-positive bacteria, and several sortase-dependent proteins (SDPs) have been demonstrated to be crucial for the interactions of pathogenic and nonpathogenic bacteria with their hosts. Here, we studied the role of sortase A (SrtA) in Lactobacillus plantarum WCFS1, a model Lactobacillus for probiotic organisms. An isogenic srtA deletion derivative was constructed which did not show residual SrtA activity. DNA microarray-based transcriptome analysis revealed that the srtA deletion had only minor impact on the full-genome transcriptome of L. plantarum, while the expression of SDP-encoding genes remained completely unaffected. Mass spectrometry analysis of the bacterial cell surface proteome, which was assessed by trypsinization of intact bacterial cells and by LiCl protein extraction, revealed that SrtA is required for the appropriate subcellular location of specific SDPs and for their covalent coupling to the cell envelope, respectively. We further found that SrtA deficiency did not affect the persistence and/or survival of L. plantarum in the gastrointestinal tract of mice. In addition, an in vitro immature dendritic cell (iDC) assay revealed that the removal of surface proteins by LiCl strongly affected the proinflammatory signaling properties of the SrtA-deficient strain but not of the wild type, which suggests a role of SDPs in host immune response modulation.
PMCID: PMC3554011  PMID: 23175652
17.  The Efficacy of an Immunoisolating Membrane System for Islet Xenotransplantation in Minipigs 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e70150.
Developing a device that protects xenogeneic islets to allow treatment and potentially cure of diabetes in large mammals has been a major challenge in the past decade. Using xenogeneic islets for transplantation is required in light of donor shortage and the large number of diabetic patients that qualify for islet transplantation. Until now, however, host immunoreactivity against the xenogeneic graft has been a major drawback for the use of porcine islets. Our study demonstrates the applicability of a novel immunoprotective membrane that allows successful xenotransplantation of rat islets in diabetic minipigs without immunosuppressive therapy. Rat pancreatic islets were encapsulated in highly purified alginate and integrated into a plastic macrochamber covered by a poly-membrane for subcutaneous transplantation. Diabetic Sinclair pigs were transplanted and followed for up to 90 days. We demonstrated a persistent graft function and restoration of normoglycemia without the need for immunosuppressive therapy. This concept could potentially offer an attractive strategy for a more widespread islet replacement therapy that would restore endogenous insulin secretion in diabetic patients without the need for immunosuppressive drugs and may even open up an avenue for safe utilization of xenogeneic islet donors.
PMCID: PMC3731363  PMID: 23936385
18.  Immune Modulation by Different Types of β2→1-Fructans Is Toll-Like Receptor Dependent 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e68367.
β2→1-fructans are dietary fibers. Main objectives of this study were 1) to demonstrate direct signalling of β2→1-fructans on immune cells, 2) to study whether this is mediated by the pattern recognition receptors Toll-like receptors (TLRs) and nucleotide-binding oligomerisation domain-containing proteins (NODs), and 3) to relate the observed effects to the chain length differences in β2→1-fructans.
Four different β2→1-fructan formulations were characterised for their chain length profile. Human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) were stimulated in vitro with β2→1-fructans, and production of IL-1Ra, IL-1β, IL-6, IL-10, IL-12p70, and TNF-α was analysed. Reporter cells for TLRs and NODs were incubated with β2→1-fructans and analysed for NF-κB/AP-1 activation.
Cytokine production in human PBMCs was dose- and chain length-dependent. Strikingly, short chain enriched β2→1-fructans induced a regulatory cytokine balance compared to long chain enriched β2→1-fructans as measured by IL-10/IL-12 ratios. Activation of reporter cells showed that signalling was highly dependent on TLRs and their adapter, myeloid differentiation primary response protein 88 (MyD88). In human embryonic kidney reporter cells, TLR2 was prominently activated, while TLR4, 5, 7, 8, and NOD2 were mildly activated.
β2→1-fructans possess direct signalling capacity on human immune cells. By activating primarily TLR2, and to a lesser extent TLR4, 5, 7, 8, and NOD2, β2→1-fructan stimulation results in NF-κB/AP-1 activation. Chain length of β2→1-fructans is important for the induced activation pattern and IL-10/IL-12 ratios.
PMCID: PMC3702581  PMID: 23861894
19.  Probiotics Can Generate FoxP3 T-Cell Responses in the Small Intestine and Simultaneously Inducing CD4 and CD8 T Cell Activation in the Large Intestine 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e68952.
Most studies on probiotics aim to restore intestinal homeostasis to reduce immune-pathology in disease. Of equal importance are studies on how probiotics might prevent or delay disease in healthy individuals. However, knowledge on mechanisms of probiotic actions in healthy individuals is scarce. To gain more insight in how different bacterial strains may modulate the healthy intestinal immune system, we investigated the effect of the food derived bacterial strains L. plantarum WCFS1, L. salivarius UCC118, and L. lactis MG1363, on the intestinal regulatory immune phenotype in healthy mice. All three bacterial strains induced an upregulation of activity and numbers of CD11c+ MHCII+ DCs in the immune-sampling Peyer’s Patches. Only L. salivarius UCC118 skewed towards an immune regulatory phenotype in the small intestinal lamina propria (SILP). The effects were different in the large intestine lamina propria. L. salivarius UCC118 induced activation in both CD4 and CD8 positive T-cells while L. plantarum WCFS1 induced a more regulatory phenotype. Moreover, L. plantarum WCFS1 decreased the Th1/Th2 ratio in the SILP. Also L. lactis MG1363 had immunomodulatory effects. L. lactis MG1363 decreased the expression of the GATA-3 and T-bet in the SILP. As our data show that contradictory effects may occur in different parts of the gut, it is recommended to study effects of probiotic in different sites in the intestine. Our strain-specific results suggest that unspecified application of probiotics may not be very effective. Our data also indicate that selection of specific probiotic strain activities on the basis of responses in healthy mice may be a promising strategy to specifically stimulate or suppress immunity in specific parts of the intestine.
PMCID: PMC3701681  PMID: 23861953
20.  Aberrant Pregnancy Adaptations in the Peripheral Immune Response in Type 1 Diabetes: A Rat Model 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e65490.
Despite tight glycemic control, pregnancy complication rate in type 1 diabetes patients is higher than in normal pregnancy. Other etiological factors may be responsible for the development of adverse pregnancy outcome. Acceptance of the semi-allogeneic fetus is accompanied by adaptations in the maternal immune-response. Maladaptations of the immune-response has been shown to contribute to pregnancy complications. We hypothesized that type 1 diabetes, as an autoimmune disease, may be associated with maladaptations of the immune-response to pregnancy, possibly resulting in pregnancy complications.
We studied pregnancy outcome and pregnancy-induced immunological adaptations in a normoglycemic rat-model of type 1 diabetes, i.e. biobreeding diabetes-prone rats (BBDP; 5 non-pregnant rats, 7 pregnant day 10 rats and 6 pregnant day 18 rats) , versus non-diabetic control rats (i.e. congenic non-diabetic biobreeding diabetes-resistant (BBDR; 6 non-pregnant rats, 6 pregnant day 10 rats and 6 pregnant day 18 rats) and Wistar-rats (6 non-pregnant, 6 pregnant day 10 rats and 5 pregnant day 18 rats)).
We observed reduced litter size, lower fetal weight of viable fetuses and increased numbers of resorptions versus control rats. These complications are accompanied by various differences in the immune-response between BBDP and control rats in both pregnant and non-pregnant animals. The immune-response in non-pregnant BBDP-rats was characterized by decreased percentages of lymphocytes, increased percentages of effector T-cells, regulatory T-cells and natural killer cells, an increased Th1/Th2-ratio and activated monocytes versus Wistar and BBDR-rats. Furthermore, pregnancy-induced adaptations in BBDP-rats coincided with an increased Th1/Th2-ratio, a decreased mean fluorescence intensity CD161a/NKR-P1b ratio and no further activation of monocytes versus non-diabetic control rats.
This study suggests that even in the face of strict normoglycemia, pregnancy complications still occur in type 1 diabetic pregnancies. This adverse pregnancy outcome may be related to the aberrant immunological adaptations to pregnancy in diabetic rats.
PMCID: PMC3689741  PMID: 23805184
21.  Multilocus Variable-Number-Tandem-Repeats Analysis (MLVA) distinguishes a clonal complex of Clavibacter michiganensis subsp. michiganensis strains isolated from recent outbreaks of bacterial wilt and canker in Belgium 
BMC Microbiology  2013;13:126.
Clavibacter michiganensis subsp. michiganensis (Cmm) causes bacterial wilt and canker in tomato. Cmm is present nearly in all European countries. During the last three years several local outbreaks were detected in Belgium. The lack of a convenient high-resolution strain-typing method has hampered the study of the routes of transmission of Cmm and epidemiology in tomato cultivation. In this study the genetic relatedness among a worldwide collection of Cmm strains and their relatives was approached by gyrB and dnaA gene sequencing. Further, we developed and applied a multilocus variable number of tandem repeats analysis (MLVA) scheme to discriminate among Cmm strains.
A phylogenetic analysis of gyrB and dnaA gene sequences of 56 Cmm strains demonstrated that Belgian Cmm strains from recent outbreaks of 2010–2012 form a genetically uniform group within the Cmm clade, and Cmm is phylogenetically distinct from other Clavibacter subspecies and from non-pathogenic Clavibacter-like strains. MLVA conducted with eight minisatellite loci detected 25 haplotypes within Cmm. All strains from Belgian outbreaks, isolated between 2010 and 2012, together with two French strains from 2010 seem to form one monomorphic group. Regardless of the isolation year, location or tomato cultivar, Belgian strains from recent outbreaks belonged to the same haplotype. On the contrary, strains from diverse geographical locations or isolated over longer periods of time formed mostly singletons.
We hypothesise that the introduction might have originated from one lot of seeds or contaminated tomato seedlings that was the source of the outbreak in 2010 and that these Cmm strains persisted and induced infection in 2011 and 2012. Our results demonstrate that MLVA is a promising typing technique for a local surveillance and outbreaks investigation in epidemiological studies of Cmm.
PMCID: PMC3691591  PMID: 23738754
Clavibacter; MLVA; Bacterial typing; Epidemiology; Bacterial wilt and canker; Plant pathogen
22.  L. plantarum, L. salivarius, and L. lactis Attenuate Th2 Responses and Increase Treg Frequencies in Healthy Mice in a Strain Dependent Manner 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(10):e47244.
Many studies on probiotics are aimed at restoring immune homeostasis in patients to prevent disease recurrence or reduce immune-mediated pathology. Of equal interest is the use of probiotics in sub-clinical situations, which are characterized by reduced immune function or low-grade inflammation, with an increased risk of infection or disease as a consequence. Most mechanistic studies focus on the use of probiotics in experimental disease models, which may not be informative for these sub-clinical conditions. To gain better understanding of the effects in the healthy situation, we investigated the immunomodulatory effects of two Lactobacillus probiotic strains, i.e. L. plantarum WCFS1 and L. salivarius UCC118, and a non-probiotic lactococcus strain, i.e. L. lactis MG1363, in healthy mice. We studied the effect of these bacteria on the systemic adaptive immune system after 5 days of administration. Only L. plantarum induced an increase in regulatory CD103+ DC and regulatory T cell frequencies in the spleen. However, all three bacterial strains, including L. lactis, reduced specific splenic T helper cell cytokine responses after ex vivo restimulation. The effect on IFN-γ, IL5, IL10, and IL17 production by CD4+ and CD8+ T cells was dependent on the strain administered. A shared observation was that all three bacterial strains reduced T helper 2 cell frequencies. We demonstrate that systemic immunomodulation is not only observed after treatment with probiotic organisms, but also after treatment with non-probiotic bacteria. Our data demonstrate that in healthy mice, lactobacilli can balance T cell immunity in favor of a more regulatory status, via both regulatory T cell dependent and independent mechanisms in a strain dependent manner.
PMCID: PMC3467239  PMID: 23056616
23.  Pregnancy and Preeclampsia Affect Monocyte Subsets in Humans and Rats 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(9):e45229.
Both nonclassical and intermediate monocytes have been implicated in different inflammatory conditions. We hypothesized that these monocytes would increase during pregnancy, a condition associated with generalized activation of inflammatory responses and that they would increase even more during preeclampsia, in which inflammatory responses are further stimulated. In the present study we investigated changes in monocyte subsets during healthy pregnancy and preeclampsia in humans and rats.
Blood monocyte subsets of nonpregnant, preeclamptic and healthy pregnant women were identified with CD14 and CD16. In nonpregnant and pregnant rats, blood monocytes were identified with CD172a and CD43, as well as in rats infused with adenosine triphosphate (ATP), a pro-inflammatory stimulus known to induce preeclampsia-like symptoms. Total and CD206-positive macrophages were quantified in placentas of these animals.
Lower percentages of classical monocytes were found in pregnant women (91%–[83–98%]) compared to nonpregnant women (94%–[90–98%]) and even less in preeclamptic patients (90%–[61–92%]). In contrast, the percentage of combined nonclassical/intermediate monocytes was higher in pregnant women (8.5%–[2.3–16.6%] vs. 5.6%–[1.9–9.5%]) and even higher in preeclamptic patients (9.9%–[7.8–38.7%]), which was caused by a selective increase of intermediate monocytes. In rats, we also found lower percentages of classical monocytes and higher percentages of nonclassical monocytes in pregnant versus nonpregnant rats. ATP infusion increased the percentage of nonclassical monocytes in pregnant rats even further but not in nonpregnant rats. These nonclassical monocytes showed a more activated phenotype in pregnant ATP-infused rats only. Mesometrial triangles of ATP-infused rats had less CD206-positive macrophages as compared to those of saline-infused rats.
The higher percentage of nonclassical/intermediate monocytes found in pregnancy and preeclampsia confirms their association with inflammatory responses. The observation that ATP stimulated numbers/activation of nonclassical monocytes in pregnant rats only, suggests that nonclassical monocytes are specifically altered in pregnancy and may play a role in the pathophysiology of preeclampsia.
PMCID: PMC3441708  PMID: 23028864
24.  Occurrence of Putative Virulence Genes in Arcobacter Species Isolated from Humans and Animals 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2012;50(3):735-741.
Interest in arcobacters in veterinary and human public health has increased since the first report of the isolation of arcobacters from food of animal origin. Since then, studies worldwide have reported the occurrence of arcobacters on food and in food production animals and have highlighted possible transmission, especially of Arcobacter butzleri, to the human population. In humans, arcobacters are associated with enteritis and septicemia. To assess their clinical relevance for humans and animals, evaluation of potential virulence factors is required. However, up to now, little has been known about the mechanisms of pathogenicity. Because of their close phylogenetic affiliation to the food-borne pathogen Campylobacter and their similar clinical manifestations, the presence of nine putative Campylobacter virulence genes (cadF, ciaB, cj1349, hecA, hecB, irgA, mviN, pldA, and tlyA) previously identified in the recent Arcobacter butzleri ATCC 49616 genome sequence was determined in a large set of human and animal Arcobacter butzleri, Arcobacter cryaerophilus, and Arcobacter skirrowii strains after the development of rapid and accurate PCR assays and confirmed by sequencing and dot blot hybridization.
PMCID: PMC3295157  PMID: 22170914
25.  Sequence Diversity in the Dickeya fliC Gene: Phylogeny of the Dickeya Genus and TaqMan® PCR for 'D. solani', New Biovar 3 Variant on Potato in Europe 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e35738.
Worldwide, Dickeya (formerly Erwinia chrysanthemi) is causing soft rot diseases on a large diversity of crops and ornamental plants. Strains affecting potato are mainly found in D. dadantii, D. dianthicola and D. zeae, which appear to have a marked geographical distribution. Furthermore, a few Dickeya isolates from potato are attributed to D. chrysanthemi and D. dieffenbachiae. In Europe, isolates of Erwinia chrysanthemi biovar 1 and biovar 7 from potato are now classified in D. dianthicola. However, in the past few years, a new Dickeya biovar 3 variant, tentatively named ‘Dickeya solani’, has emerged as a common major threat, in particular in seed potatoes. Sequences of a fliC gene fragment were used to generate a phylogeny of Dickeya reference strains from culture collections and with this reference backbone, to classify pectinolytic isolates, i.e. Dickeya spp. from potato and ornamental plants. The reference strains of the currently recognized Dickeya species and ‘D. solani’ were unambiguously delineated in the fliC phylogram. D. dadantii, D. dianthicola and ‘D. solani’ displayed unbranched clades, while D. chrysanthemi, D. zeae and D. dieffenbachiae branched into subclades and lineages. Moreover, Dickeya isolates from diagnostic samples, in particular biovar 3 isolates from greenhouse ornamentals, formed several new lineages. Most of these isolates were positioned between the clade of ‘D. solani’ and D. dadantii as transition variants. New lineages also appeared in D. dieffenbachiae and in D. zeae. The strains and isolates of D. dianthicola and ‘D. solani’ were differentiated by a fliC sequence useful for barcode identification. A fliC TaqMan®real-time PCR was developed for ‘D. solani’ and the assay was provisionally evaluated in direct analysis of diagnostic potato samples. This molecular tool can support the efforts to control this particular phytopathogen in seed potato certification.
PMCID: PMC3343043  PMID: 22570692

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