Gram-negative bacteria produce outer membrane vesicles (OMVs) that package and deliver proteins, small molecules, and DNA to prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells. The molecular details of OMV biogenesis have not been fully elucidated, but peptidoglycan-associated outer membrane proteins that tether the outer membrane to the underlying peptidoglycan have been shown to be critical for OMV formation in multiple Enterobacteriaceae. In this study, we demonstrate that the peptidoglycan-associated outer membrane proteins OprF and OprI, but not OprL, impact production of OMVs by the opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Interestingly, OprF does not appear to be important for tethering the outer membrane to peptidoglycan but instead impacts OMV formation through modulation of the levels of the Pseudomonas quinolone signal (PQS), a quorum signal previously shown by our laboratory to be critical for OMV formation. Thus, the mechanism by which OprF impacts OMV formation is distinct from that for other peptidoglycan-associated outer membrane proteins, including OprI.
Natural transformation by competent bacteria is a primary means of horizontal gene transfer; however, evidence that competence drives bacterial diversity and evolution has remained elusive. To test this theory, we used a retrospective comparative genomic approach to analyze the evolutionary history of Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans, a bacterial species with both competent and noncompetent sister strains. Through comparative genomic analyses, we reveal that competence is evolutionarily linked to genomic diversity and speciation. Competence loss occurs frequently during evolution and is followed by the loss of clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPRs), bacterial adaptive immune systems that protect against parasitic DNA. Relative to noncompetent strains, competent bacteria have larger genomes containing multiple rearrangements. In contrast, noncompetent bacterial genomes are extremely stable but paradoxically susceptible to infective DNA elements, which contribute to noncompetent strain genetic diversity. Moreover, incomplete noncompetent strain CRISPR immune systems are enriched for self-targeting elements, which suggests that the CRISPRs have been co-opted for bacterial gene regulation, similar to eukaryotic microRNAs derived from the antiviral RNA interference pathway.
The human microbiome is rich with thousands of diverse bacterial species. One mechanism driving this diversity is horizontal gene transfer by natural transformation, whereby naturally competent bacteria take up environmental DNA and incorporate new genes into their genomes. Competence is theorized to accelerate evolution; however, attempts to test this theory have proved difficult. Through genetic analyses of the human periodontal pathogen Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans, we have discovered an evolutionary connection between competence systems promoting gene acquisition and CRISPRs (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats), adaptive immune systems that protect bacteria against genetic parasites. We show that competent A. actinomycetemcomitans strains have numerous redundant CRISPR immune systems, while noncompetent bacteria have lost their CRISPR immune systems because of inactivating mutations. Together, the evolutionary data linking the evolution of competence and CRISPRs reveals unique mechanisms promoting genetic heterogeneity and the rise of new bacterial species, providing insight into complex mechanisms underlying bacterial diversity in the human body.
Indole production by Escherichia coli, discovered in the early 20th century, has been used as a diagnostic marker for distinguishing E. coli from other enteric bacteria. By using transcriptional profiling and competition studies with defined mutants, we show that cyclic AMP (cAMP)-regulated indole formation is a major factor that enables E. coli growth in mixed biofilm and planktonic populations with Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Mutants deficient in cAMP production (cyaA) or the cAMP receptor gene (crp), as well as indole production (tnaA), were not competitive in coculture with P. aeruginosa but could be restored to wild-type competitiveness by supplementation with a physiologically relevant indole concentration. E. coli sdiA mutants, which lacked the receptor for both indole and N-acyl-homoserine lactones (AHLs), showed no change in competitive fitness, suggesting that indole acted directly on P. aeruginosa. An E. coli tnaA mutant strain regained wild-type competiveness if grown with P. aeruginosa AHL synthase (rhlI and rhlI lasI) mutants. In contrast to the wild type, P. aeruginosa AHL synthase mutants were unable to degrade indole. Indole produced during mixed-culture growth inhibited pyocyanin production and other AHL-regulated virulence factors in P. aeruginosa. Mixed-culture growth with P. aeruginosa stimulated indole formation in E. coli cpdA, which is unable to regulate cAMP levels, suggesting the potential for mixed-culture gene activation via cAMP. These findings illustrate how indole, an early described feature of E. coli central metabolism, can play a significant role in mixed-culture survival by inhibiting quorum-regulated competition factors in P. aeruginosa.
Gram-negative bacteria naturally produce outer membrane vesicles (OMVs) that arise through bulging and pinching off of the outer membrane. OMVs have several biological functions for bacteria, most notably as trafficking vehicles for toxins, antimicrobials, and signaling molecules. While their biological roles are now appreciated, the mechanism of OMV formation has not been fully elucidated. We recently demonstrated that the signaling molecule 2-heptyl-3-hydroxy-4-quinolone (PQS) is required for OMV biogenesis in P. aeruginosa. We hypothesized that PQS stimulates OMV formation through direct interaction with the outer leaflet of the outer membrane. To test this hypothesis, we employed a red blood cell (RBC) model that has been used extensively to study small-molecule–membrane interactions. Our results revealed that addition of PQS to RBCs induced membrane curvature, resulting in the formation of membrane spicules (spikes), consistent with small molecules that are inserted stably into the outer leaflet of the membrane. Radiotracer experiments demonstrated that sufficient PQS was inserted into the membrane to account for this curvature and that curvature induction was specific to PQS structure. These data suggest that a low rate of interleaflet flip-flop forces PQS to accumulate in and expand the outer leaflet relative to the inner leaflet, thus inducing membrane curvature. In support of PQS-mediated outer leaflet expansion, the PQS effect was antagonized by chlorpromazine, a molecule known to be preferentially inserted into the inner leaflet. Based on these data, we propose a bilayer-couple model to describe P. aeruginosa OMV biogenesis and suggest that this is a general mechanism for bacterial OMV formation.
Despite the ubiquity and importance of outer membrane vesicle (OMV) production in Gram-negative bacteria, the molecular details of OMV biogenesis are not fully understood. Early experiments showed that 2-heptyl-3-hydroxy-4-quinolone (PQS) induces OMV formation through physical interaction with the membrane but did not elucidate the mechanism. The present study demonstrates that PQS specifically and reversibly promotes blebbing of model membranes dependent upon the same properties that are required for OMV formation in P. aeruginosa. These results are consistent with a mechanism where expansion of the outer leaflet relative to the inner leaflet induces localized membrane curvature. This “bilayer-couple” model can account for OMV formation under all conditions and is easily generalized to other Gram-negative bacteria. The model therefore raises the possibility of a universal paradigm for vesicle production in prokaryotes with features strikingly different from what is known in eukaryotes.
Proteins play major roles in most biological processes; as a consequence, protein expression levels are highly regulated. While extensive post-transcriptional, translational and protein degradation control clearly influence protein concentration and functionality, it is often thought that protein abundances are primarily determined by the abundances of the corresponding mRNAs. Hence surprisingly, a recent study showed that abundances of orthologous nematode and fly proteins correlate better than their corresponding mRNA abundances. We tested if this phenomenon is general by collecting and testing matching large-scale protein and mRNA expression datasets from seven different species: two bacteria, yeast, nematode, fly, human, and plant. We find that steady-state abundances of proteins show significantly higher correlation across these diverse phylogenetic taxa than the abundances of their corresponding mRNAs (p=0.0008, paired Wilcoxon). These data support the presence of strong selective pressure to maintain protein abundances during evolution, even when mRNA abundances diverge.
Many bacteria use extracellular signals to coordinate group behaviors, a process referred to as quorum sensing (QS). The bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa utilizes a complex QS system to control expression of over 300 genes, including many involved in host colonization and disease. The Pseudomonas Quinolone Signal (PQS) is a component of P. aeruginosa QS, and although it contributes to virulence in some models of infection, the PQS biosynthetic pathway is not fully elucidated. Here, we show that PqsH catalyzes the terminal step in PQS production, synthesizing PQS in vitro using the substrates 2-heptyl-4-quinolone (HHQ), NADH, and oxygen. Structure function studies reveal that the alkyl side chain of HHQ is critical for PqsH activity with the highest activity observed for alkyl chain lengths of 7 and 9 carbons. Due to the PqsH requirement for oxygen, PQS and PQS-controlled virulence factors are not produced by anaerobic P. aeruginosa. Interestingly, anaerobic P. aeruginosa produced PQS in the absence of de novo protein synthesis upon introduction of oxygen, indicating that oxygen is the sole limiting substrate during anaerobic growth. We propose a model in which PqsH poises anaerobic P. aeruginosa to activate PQS-controlled factors immediately upon exposure to molecular oxygen.
PqsH; PQS; Pseudomonas; oxygen; quorum sensing
Pseudomonas aeruginosa is an opportunistic pathogen often associated with chronic lung infections in individuals with the genetic disease cystic fibrosis (CF). Previous work from our laboratory revealed that five genes predicted to be important for catabolism of N-acetylglucosamine (GlcNAc) are induced during in vitro growth in CF lung secretions (sputum). Here, we demonstrate that these genes comprise an operon (referred to as the nag operon) and that NagE, a putative component of the GlcNAc phosphotransferase system, is required for growth on and uptake of GlcNAc. Using primer extension analysis, the promoter of the nag operon was mapped and shown to be inducible by GlcNAc and regulated by the transcriptional regulator NagR. Transcriptome analysis revealed that in addition to induction of the nag operon, several P. aeruginosa genes encoding factors critical for extracellular antimicrobial production are also induced by GlcNAc. Finally, we show that the GlcNAc-containing polymer peptidoglycan induces production of the antimicrobial pyocyanin. Based on this data, we propose a model in which P. aeruginosa senses surrounding bacteria by monitoring exogenous peptidoglycan and responds to this cue through enhanced production of an antimicrobial.
Pseudomonas aeruginosa produces a quorum sensing molecule termed the Pseudomonas Quinolone Signal (2-heptyl-3-hydroxy-4-quinolone; PQS) that regulates an array of genes involved in virulence. This chapter addresses four related techniques useful for detecting and quantifying PQS. First, extraction of PQS from complex mixtures (e.g. cell cultures) is described. Separation of PQS from extracts by Thin-Layer Chromatography (TLC) is used in combination with the natural fluorescence of the molecule for quantification. A second separation technique for the PQS precursor HHQ using High-Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) is also described, and this assay exploits the molecule’s characteristic absorbance for quantification. A third method for quantification of PQS from simple mixtures (e.g. enzyme assays) using fluorescence is outlined. Finally, a protocol for determining PQS interactions with membrane lipids through Fluorescence Resonance Energy Transfer (FRET) is presented. These techniques allow for quantification and characterization of PQS from diverse environments, a prerequisite to understanding the biological functions of QS molecules.
Pseudomonas quinolone signal; Thin-layer chromatography; High-pressure liquid chromatography; Fluorescence resonance energy transfer
The ability of the human body to play host to bacterial pathogens has been studied for more than 200 years. Successful pathogenesis relies on the ability to acquire the nutrients that are necessary for growth and survival, yet relatively little is understood about the in vivo physiology and metabolism of most human pathogens. This Review discusses how in vivo carbon sources can affect disease and highlights the concept that carbon metabolic pathways provide viable targets for antibiotic development.
Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans is an opportunistic pathogen that resides primarily in the mammalian oral cavity. In this environment, A. actinomycetemcomitans faces numerous host- and microbe-derived stresses, including intense competition for nutrients and exposure to the host immune system. While it is clear that A. actinomycetemcomitans responds to precise cues that allow it to adapt and proliferate in the presence of these stresses, little is currently known about the regulatory mechanisms that underlie these responses. Many bacteria use noncoding regulatory RNAs (ncRNAs) to rapidly alter gene expression in response to environmental stresses. Although no ncRNAs have been reported in A. actinomycetemcomitans, we propose that they are likely important for colonization and persistence in the oral cavity. Using a bioinformatic and experimental approach, we identified three putative metabolite-sensing riboswitches and nine small regulatory RNAs (sRNAs) in A. actinomycetemcomitans during planktonic and biofilm growth. Molecular characterization of one of the riboswitches revealed that it is a lysine riboswitch and that its target gene, lysT, encodes a novel lysine-specific transporter. Finally, we demonstrated that lysT and the lysT lysine riboswitch are conserved in over 40 bacterial species, including the phylogenetically related pathogen Haemophilus influenzae.
Microbes within polymicrobial infections often display synergistic interactions resulting in enhanced pathogenesis; however, the molecular mechanisms governing these interactions are not well understood. Development of model systems that allow detailed mechanistic studies of polymicrobial synergy is a critical step towards a comprehensive understanding of these infections in vivo. In this study, we used a model polymicrobial infection including the opportunistic pathogen Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans and the commensal Streptococcus gordonii to examine the importance of metabolite cross-feeding for establishing co-culture infections. Our results reveal that co-culture with S. gordonii enhances the pathogenesis of A. actinomycetemcomitans in a murine abscess model of infection. Interestingly, the ability of A. actinomycetemcomitans to utilize L-lactate as an energy source is essential for these co-culture benefits. Surprisingly, inactivation of L-lactate catabolism had no impact on mono-culture growth in vitro and in vivo suggesting that A. actinomycetemcomitans L-lactate catabolism is only critical for establishing co-culture infections. These results demonstrate that metabolite cross-feeding is critical for A. actinomycetemcomitans to persist in a polymicrobial infection with S. gordonii supporting the idea that the metabolic properties of commensal bacteria alter the course of pathogenesis in polymicrobial communities.
Many bacterial infections are not the result of colonization and persistence of a single pathogenic microbe in an infection site but instead the result of colonization by several. Although the importance of polymicrobial interactions and pathogenesis has been noted by many prominent microbiologists including Louis Pasteur, most studies of pathogenic microbes have focused on single organism infections. One of the primary reasons for this oversight is the lack of robust model systems for studying bacterial interactions in an infection site. Here, we use a model co-culture system composed of the opportunistic oral pathogen Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans and the common oral commensal Streptococcus gordonii to assess the impact of polymicrobial growth on pathogenesis. We found that the abilities of A. actinomycetemcomitans to persist and cause disease are enhanced during co-culture with S. gordonii. Remarkably, this enhanced persistence requires A. actinomycetemcomitans catabolism of L-lactate, the primary metabolite produced by S. gordonii. These data demonstrate that during co-culture growth, S. gordonii provides a carbon source for A. actinomycetemcomitans that is necessary for establishing a robust polymicrobial infection. This study also demonstrates that virulence of an opportunistic pathogen is impacted by members of the commensal flora.
As a new generation of culture-independent analytical strategies emerge, the amount of data on polymicrobial infections will increase dramatically. For these data to inform clinical thinking, and in turn to maximise benefits for patients, an appropriate framework for their interpretation is required. Here, we use cystic fibrosis (CF) lower airway infections as a model system to examine how conceptual and technological advances can address two clinical questions that are central to improved management of CF respiratory disease. Firstly, can markers of the microbial community be identified that predict a change in infection dynamics and clinical outcomes? Secondly, can these new strategies directly characterize the impact of antimicrobial therapies, allowing treatment efficacy to be both assessed and optimized?
Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a Gram-negative opportunistic pathogen often associated with chronic infections in the lungs of individuals with the heritable disease cystic fibrosis (CF). Previous work from our laboratory demonstrated that aromatic amino acids within CF lung secretions (sputum) not only serve as carbon and energy sources but also enhance synthesis of the cell signaling molecule Pseudomonas quinolone signal (PQS). The present study investigates the role of the aromatic amino acid-responsive regulator PhhR in mediating these phenotypes. Transcriptome analysis revealed that PhhR controls four putative transcriptional units (phhA, hpd, hmgA, and dhcA) involved in aromatic amino acid catabolism; however, genes involved in PQS biosynthesis were unaffected. The phhA, hpd, hmgA, and dhcA promoters were mapped by primer extension, and purified His6-PhhR was shown to bind the phhA, hpd, and dhcA promoters in vitro by use of electrophoretic mobility shift assays. Our work characterizes a transcriptional regulator of catabolic genes induced during P. aeruginosa growth in CF sputum.
Bacteria are social organisms that display distinct behaviors/phenotypes when present in groups. These behaviors include the abilities to construct antibiotic-resistant sessile biofilm communities and to communicate with small signaling molecules (quorum sensing [QS]). Our understanding of biofilms and QS arises primarily from in vitro studies of bacterial communities containing large numbers of cells, often greater than 108 bacteria; however, in nature, bacteria often reside in dense clusters (aggregates) consisting of significantly fewer cells. Indeed, bacterial clusters containing 101 to 105 cells are important for transmission of many bacterial pathogens. Here, we describe a versatile strategy for conducting mechanistic studies to interrogate the molecular processes controlling antibiotic resistance and QS-mediated virulence factor production in high-density bacterial clusters. This strategy involves enclosing a single bacterium within three-dimensional picoliter-scale microcavities (referred to as bacterial “lobster traps”) defined by walls that are permeable to nutrients, waste products, and other bioactive small molecules. Within these traps, bacteria divide normally into extremely dense (1012 cells/ml) clonal populations with final population sizes similar to that observed in naturally occurring bacterial clusters. Using these traps, we provide strong evidence that within low-cell-number/high-density bacterial clusters, QS is modulated not only by bacterial density but also by population size and flow rate of the surrounding medium. We also demonstrate that antibiotic resistance develops as cell density increases, with as few as ~150 confined bacteria exhibiting an antibiotic-resistant phenotype similar to biofilm bacteria. Together, these findings provide key insights into clinically relevant phenotypes in low-cell-number/high-density bacterial populations.
Prokaryotes are social organisms capable of coordinated group behaviors, including the abilities to construct antibiotic-resistant biofilms and to communicate with small signaling molecules (quorum sensing [QS]). While there has been significant effort devoted to understanding biofilm formation and QS, few studies have examined these processes in high-density/low-cell-number populations. Such studies have clinical significance, as many infections are initiated by small bacterial populations (<105) that are organized into dense clusters. Here, we describe a technology for studying such bacterial populations in picoliter-sized porous cavities (referred to as bacterial “lobster traps”) capable of capturing a single bacterium and tracking growth and behavior in real time. We provide evidence that small changes in the size of the bacterial cluster as well as flow rate of the surrounding medium modulate QS in Pseudomonas aeruginosa. We also demonstrate that as few as ~150 confined bacteria are needed to exhibit an antibiotic-resistant phenotype similar to biofilm bacteria.
The Gram-negative bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a common cause of chronic airway infections in individuals with the heritable disease cystic fibrosis (CF). After prolonged colonization of the CF lung, P. aeruginosa becomes highly resistant to host clearance and antibiotic treatment; therefore, understanding how this bacterium evolves during chronic infection is important for identifying beneficial adaptations that could be targeted therapeutically. To identify potential adaptive traits of P. aeruginosa during chronic infection, we carried out global transcriptomic profiling of chronological clonal isolates obtained from 3 individuals with CF. Isolates were collected sequentially over periods ranging from 3 months to 8 years, representing up to 39,000 in vivo generations. We identified 24 genes that were commonly regulated by all 3 P. aeruginosa lineages, including several genes encoding traits previously shown to be important for in vivo growth. Our results reveal that parallel evolution occurs in the CF lung and that at least a proportion of the traits identified are beneficial for P. aeruginosa chronic colonization of the CF lung.
Deadly diseases like AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis are the result of long-term chronic infections. Pathogens that cause chronic infections adapt to the host environment, avoiding the immune response and resisting antimicrobial agents. Studies of pathogen adaptation are therefore important for understanding how the efficacy of current therapeutics may change upon prolonged infection. One notorious chronic pathogen is Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a bacterium that causes long-term infections in individuals with the heritable disease cystic fibrosis (CF). We used gene expression profiles to identify 24 genes that commonly changed expression over time in 3 P. aeruginosa lineages, indicating that these changes occur in parallel in the lungs of individuals with CF. Several of these genes have previously been shown to encode traits critical for in vivo-relevant processes, suggesting that they are likely beneficial adaptations important for chronic colonization of the CF lung.
Komodo dragons, the world's largest lizard, dispatch their large ungulate prey by biting and tearing flesh. If a prey escapes, oral bacteria inoculated into the wound reputedly induce a sepsis that augments later prey capture by the same or other lizards. However, the ecological and evolutionary basis of sepsis in Komodo prey acquisition is controversial. Two models have been proposed. The “bacteria as venom” model postulates that the oral flora directly benefits the lizard in prey capture irrespective of any benefit to the bacteria. The “passive acquisition” model is that the oral flora of lizards reflects the bacteria found in carrion and sick prey, with no relevance to the ability to induce sepsis in subsequent prey. A third model is proposed and analyzed here, the “lizard-lizard epidemic” model. In this model, bacteria are spread indirectly from one lizard mouth to another. Prey escaping an initial attack act as vectors in infecting new lizards. This model requires specific life history characteristics and ways to refute the model based on these characteristics are proposed and tested. Dragon life histories (some details of which are reported here) prove remarkably consistent with the model, especially that multiple, unrelated lizards feed communally on large carcasses and that escaping, wounded prey are ultimately fed on by other lizards. The identities and evolutionary histories of bacteria in the oral flora may yield the most useful additional insights for further testing the epidemic model and can now be obtained with new technologies.
The opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa causes a variety of infections in immunocompromised individuals, including individuals with the heritable disease cystic fibrosis. Like the carbon sources metabolized by many disease-causing bacteria, the carbon sources metabolized by P. aeruginosa at the host infection site are unknown. We recently reported that l-alanine is a preferred carbon source for P. aeruginosa and that two genes potentially involved in alanine catabolism (dadA and dadX) are induced during in vivo growth in the rat peritoneum and during in vitro growth in sputum (mucus) collected from the lungs of individuals with cystic fibrosis. The goals of this study were to characterize factors required for alanine catabolism in P. aeruginosa and to assess the importance of these factors for in vivo growth. Our results reveal that dadA and dadX are arranged in an operon and are required for catabolism of l-alanine. The dad operon is inducible by l-alanine, d-alanine, and l-valine, and induction is dependent on the transcriptional regulator Lrp. Finally, we show that a mutant unable to catabolize dl-alanine displays decreased competitiveness in a rat lung model of infection.
Pathogenic bacteria use interconnected multi-layered regulatory networks, such as quorum sensing (QS) networks to sense and respond to environmental cues and external and internal bacterial cell signals, and thereby adapt to and exploit target hosts. Despite the many advances that have been made in understanding QS regulation, little is known regarding how these inputs are integrated and processed in the context of multi-layered QS regulatory networks. Here we report the examination of the Pseudomonas aeruginosa QS 4-hydroxy-2-alkylquinolines (HAQs) MvfR regulatory network and determination of its interaction with the QS acyl-homoserine-lactone (AHL) RhlR network. The aim of this work was to elucidate paradigmatically the complex relationships between multi-layered regulatory QS circuitries, their signaling molecules, and the environmental cues to which they respond. Our findings revealed positive and negative homeostatic regulatory loops that fine-tune the MvfR regulon via a multi-layered dependent homeostatic regulation of the cell-cell signaling molecules PQS and HHQ, and interplay between these molecules and iron. We discovered that the MvfR regulon component PqsE is a key mediator in orchestrating this homeostatic regulation, and in establishing a connection to the QS rhlR system in cooperation with RhlR. Our results show that P. aeruginosa modulates the intensity of its virulence response, at least in part, through this multi-layered interplay. Our findings underscore the importance of the homeostatic interplay that balances competition within and between QS systems via cell-cell signaling molecules and environmental cues in the control of virulence gene expression. Elucidation of the fine-tuning of this complex relationship offers novel insights into the regulation of these systems and may inform strategies designed to limit infections caused by P. aeruginosa and related human pathogens.
Bacterial cells can communicate with one another about their surrounding environment. This information can be in the form of small self-secreted molecules acting as signals to activate or inhibit the expression of genes. Pseudomonas aeruginosa is an environmental bacterium that infects diverse organisms from plants to humans. Our results show that this pathogen uses two highly sensitive networks, namely MvfR and LasR/RhlR pathways, to modulate its virulence functions by titrating the concentration of the small molecules HHQ and PQS in a manner that depends upon the presence or absence of iron. Via negative and positive feedback loops, this bacterium processes the signaled information to regulate its virulence functions and homeostatically balance the production of the small molecules required for the activation of the MvfR virulence network. Our study sheds light on paradigmatic complex networks that maintain a homeostatic bacterial virulence response.
The putative two-component system BfrAB is involved in Streptococcus gordonii biofilm development. Here, we provide evidence that BfrAB regulates the expression of bfrCD and bfrEFG, which encode two ABC transporters, and bfrH, which encodes a CAAX amino-terminal protease family protein. BfrC and BfrE are ATP-binding proteins and BfrD, BfrF and BfrG are homologous membrane- spanning polypeptides. Similarly, BfrABss, the BfrAB homologous system in S. sanguinis controls the expression of two bfrCD-homologous operons (bfrCDss and bfrXYss), a bfrH-homologous gene (bfrH1ss) and another CAAX amino- terminal protease family protein gene (bfrH2ss). Furthermore, we demonstrate that the purified BfrA DNA-binding domain from S. gordonii binds to the promoter regions of bfrCD, bfrEFG, bfrH, bfrCDss, bfrXYss, and bfrH1ss in vitro. Finally, we show that the BfrA DNA-binding domain recognizes a conserved DNA motif with a consensuses sequence of TTTCTTTAGAAATATTTTAGAATT. These data suggest, therefore, that S. gordonii BfrAB could control biofilm formation by regulating multiple ABC-transporter systems.
Two-component system; BfrAB; gene expression; streptococci
Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans is a Gram-negative opportunistic pathogen and the proposed causative agent of localized aggressive periodontitis. A. actinomycetemcomitans is found exclusively in the mammalian oral cavity in the space between the gums and the teeth known as the gingival crevice. Many bacterial species reside in this environment where competition for carbon is high. A. actinomycetemcomitans utilizes a unique carbon resource partitioning system whereby the presence of L-lactate inhibits uptake of glucose, thus allowing preferential catabolism of L-lactate. Although the mechanism for this process is not fully elucidated, we previously demonstrated that high levels of intracellular pyruvate are critical for L-lactate preference. As the first step in L-lactate catabolism is conversion of L-lactate to pyruvate by lactate dehydrogenase, we proposed a model in which the A. actinomycetemcomitans L-lactate dehydrogenase, unlike homologous enzymes, is not feedback inhibited by pyruvate. This lack of feedback inhibition allows intracellular pyruvate to rise to levels sufficient to inhibit glucose uptake in other bacteria. In the present study, the A. actinomycetemcomitans L-lactate dehydrogenase was purified and shown to convert L-lactate, but not D-lactate, to pyruvate with a Km of approximately 150 µM. Inhibition studies reveal that pyruvate is a poor inhibitor of L-lactate dehydrogenase activity, providing mechanistic insight into L-lactate preference in A. actinomycetemcomitans.
Pseudomonas aeruginosa produces the quorum signal 2-heptyl-3-hydroxy-4-quinolone (Pseudomonas quinolone signal), which is important for stimulating outer membrane vesicle (MV) formation. Here we describe the importance of the 3-hydroxyl and 2-alkyl chain for MV production and the length of the 2-alkyl chain for association with MVs.
Bacteria have evolved elaborate communication strategies to co-ordinate their group activities, a process termed quorum sensing (QS). Pseudomonas aeruginosa is an opportunistic pathogen that utilizes QS for diverse activities, including disease pathogenesis. P. aeruginosa has evolved a novel communication system in which the signal molecule 2-heptyl-3-hydroxy-4-quinolone (Pseudomonas Quinolone Signal, PQS) is trafficked between cells via membrane vesicles (MVs). Not only is PQS packaged into MVs, it is required for MV formation. Although MVs are involved in important biological processes aside from signalling, the molecular mechanism of MV formation is unknown. To provide insight into the molecular mechanism of MV formation, we examined the interaction of PQS with bacterial lipids. Here, we show that PQS interacts strongly with the acyl chains and 4′-phosphate of bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS). Using PQS derivatives, we demonstrate that the alkyl side-chain and third position hydroxyl of PQS are critical for these interactions. Finally, we show that PQS stimulated purified LPS to form liposome-like structures. These studies provide molecular insight into P. aeruginosa MV formation and demonstrate that quorum signals serve important non-signalling functions.