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1.  Manuka-type honeys can eradicate biofilms produced by Staphylococcus aureus strains with different biofilm-forming abilities 
PeerJ  2014;2:e326.
Chronic wounds are a major global health problem. Their management is difficult and costly, and the development of antibiotic resistance by both planktonic and biofilm-associated bacteria necessitates the use of alternative wound treatments. Honey is now being revisited as an alternative treatment due to its broad-spectrum antibacterial activity and the inability of bacteria to develop resistance to it. Many previous antibacterial studies have used honeys that are not well characterized, even in terms of quantifying the levels of the major antibacterial components present, making it difficult to build an evidence base for the efficacy of honey as an antibiofilm agent in chronic wound treatment. Here we show that a range of well-characterized New Zealand manuka-type honeys, in which two principle antibacterial components, methylglyoxal and hydrogen peroxide, were quantified, can eradicate biofilms of a range of Staphylococcus aureus strains that differ widely in their biofilm-forming abilities. Using crystal violet and viability assays, along with confocal laser scanning imaging, we demonstrate that in all S. aureus strains, including methicillin-resistant strains, the manuka-type honeys showed significantly higher anti-biofilm activity than clover honey and an isotonic sugar solution. We observed higher anti-biofilm activity as the proportion of manuka-derived honey, and thus methylglyoxal, in a honey blend increased. However, methylglyoxal on its own, or with sugar, was not able to effectively eradicate S. aureus biofilms. We also demonstrate that honey was able to penetrate through the biofilm matrix and kill the embedded cells in some cases. As has been reported for antibiotics, sub-inhibitory concentrations of honey improved biofilm formation by some S. aureus strains, however, biofilm cell suspensions recovered after honey treatment did not develop resistance towards manuka-type honeys. New Zealand manuka-type honeys, at the concentrations they can be applied in wound dressings are highly active in both preventing S. aureus biofilm formation and in their eradication, and do not result in bacteria becoming resistant. Methylglyoxal requires other components in manuka-type honeys for this anti-biofilm activity. Our findings support the use of well-defined manuka-type honeys as a topical anti-biofilm treatment for the effective management of wound healing.
PMCID: PMC3970805
Staphylococcus aureus; Biofilm; Honey; Antibacterial; Wounds; Methylglyoxal
2.  The Type II Secretion System and Its Ubiquitous Lipoprotein Substrate, SslE, Are Required for Biofilm Formation and Virulence of Enteropathogenic Escherichia coli 
Infection and Immunity  2012;80(6):2042-2052.
Enteropathogenic Escherichia coli (EPEC) is a major cause of diarrhea in infants in developing countries. We have identified a functional type II secretion system (T2SS) in EPEC that is homologous to the pathway responsible for the secretion of heat-labile enterotoxin by enterotoxigenic E. coli. The wild-type EPEC T2SS was able to secrete a heat-labile enterotoxin reporter, but an isogenic T2SS mutant could not. We showed that the major substrate of the T2SS in EPEC is SslE, an outer membrane lipoprotein (formerly known as YghJ), and that a functional T2SS is essential for biofilm formation by EPEC. T2SS and SslE mutants were arrested at the microcolony stage of biofilm formation, suggesting that the T2SS is involved in the development of mature biofilms and that SslE is a dominant effector of biofilm development. Moreover, the T2SS was required for virulence, as infection of rabbits with a rabbit-specific EPEC strain carrying a mutation in either the T2SS or SslE resulted in significantly reduced intestinal colonization and milder disease.
PMCID: PMC3370571  PMID: 22451516
3.  MHJ_0125 is an M42 glutamyl aminopeptidase that moonlights as a multifunctional adhesin on the surface of Mycoplasma hyopneumoniae 
Open Biology  2013;3(4):130017.
Bacterial aminopeptidases play important roles in pathogenesis by providing a source of amino acids from exogenous proteins, destroying host immunological effector peptides and executing posttranslational modification of bacterial and host proteins. We show that MHJ_0125 from the swine respiratory pathogen Mycoplasma hyopneumoniae represents a new member of the M42 class of bacterial aminopeptidases. Despite lacking a recognizable signal sequence, MHJ_0125 is detectable on the cell surface by fluorescence microscopy and LC-MS/MS of (i) biotinylated surface proteins captured by avidin chromatography and (ii) peptides released by mild trypsin shaving. Furthermore, surface-associated glutamyl aminopeptidase activity was detected by incubation of live M. hyopneumoniae cells with the diagnostic substrate H-Glu-AMC. MHJ_0125 moonlights as a multifunctional adhesin, binding to both heparin and plasminogen. Native proteomics and comparative modelling studies suggest MHJ_0125 forms a dodecameric, homopolymeric structure and provide insight into the positions of key residues that are predicted to interact with heparin and plasminogen. MHJ_0125 is the first aminopeptidase shown to both bind plasminogen and facilitate its activation by tissue plasminogen activator. Plasmin cleaves host extracellular matrix proteins and activates matrix metalloproteases, generating peptide substrates for MHJ_0125 and a source of amino acids for growth of M. hyopneumoniae. This unique interaction represents a new paradigm in microbial pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3718333  PMID: 23594879
Mycoplasma; aminopeptidase; moonlighting; plasminogen; heparin; homopolymeric complex
4.  A36-dependent Actin Filament Nucleation Promotes Release of Vaccinia Virus 
PLoS Pathogens  2013;9(3):e1003239.
Cell-to-cell transmission of vaccinia virus can be mediated by enveloped virions that remain attached to the outer surface of the cell or those released into the medium. During egress, the outer membrane of the double-enveloped virus fuses with the plasma membrane leaving extracellular virus attached to the cell surface via viral envelope proteins. Here we report that F-actin nucleation by the viral protein A36 promotes the disengagement of virus attachment and release of enveloped virus. Cells infected with the A36YdF virus, which has mutations at two critical tyrosine residues abrogating localised actin nucleation, displayed a 10-fold reduction in virus release. We examined A36YdF infected cells by transmission electron microscopy and observed that during release, virus appeared trapped in small invaginations at the plasma membrane. To further characterise the mechanism by which actin nucleation drives the dissociation of enveloped virus from the cell surface, we examined recombinant viruses by super-resolution microscopy. Fluorescently-tagged A36 was visualised at sub-viral resolution to image cell-virus attachment in mutant and parental backgrounds. We confirmed that A36YdF extracellular virus remained closely associated to the plasma membrane in small membrane pits. Virus-induced actin nucleation reduced the extent of association, thereby promoting the untethering of virus from the cell surface. Virus release can be enhanced via a point mutation in the luminal region of B5 (P189S), another virus envelope protein. We found that the B5P189S mutation led to reduced contact between extracellular virus and the host membrane during release, even in the absence of virus-induced actin nucleation. Our results posit that during release virus is tightly tethered to the host cell through interactions mediated by viral envelope proteins. Untethering of virus into the surrounding extracellular space requires these interactions be relieved, either through the force of actin nucleation or by mutations in luminal proteins that weaken these interactions.
Author Summary
Traversing the plasma membrane of the host cell is a significant challenge for many viruses during the infection cycle, and the efficiency of detachment from the host cell and subsequent release can have implications in pathogenesis. Vaccinia virus exits cells through the loss of an outer membrane but remains attached via viral envelope proteins that mediate adhesion between the cell and virus. Here we report that actin filament nucleation by the viral protein A36 promotes the disengagement of virus attachment. Viruses unable to locally induce actin nucleation displayed significantly reduced release and particles were found trapped in small pits at the plasma membrane. Mutations in luminal viral proteins that disrupt attachment identified an alternative route to virus release, bypassing the requirement for actin nucleation. Our results suggest that untethering virus attachment to the cell surface is a rate-limiting step during exocytic release of vaccinia virus. We have elucidated that the force of actin nucleation is the primary mechanism that operates to relieve these interactions.
PMCID: PMC3605287  PMID: 23555252
5.  Synergism between Medihoney and Rifampicin against Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e57679.
Skin and chronic wound infections caused by highly antibiotic resistant bacteria such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) are an increasing and urgent health problem worldwide, particularly with sharp increases in obesity and diabetes. New Zealand manuka honey has potent broad-spectrum antimicrobial activity, has been shown to inhibit the growth of MRSA strains, and bacteria resistant to this honey have not been obtainable in the laboratory. Combinational treatment of chronic wounds with manuka honey and common antibiotics may offer a wide range of advantages including synergistic enhancement of the antibacterial activity, reduction of the effective dose of the antibiotic, and reduction of the risk of antibiotic resistance. The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of Medihoney in combination with the widely used antibiotic rifampicin on S. aureus. Using checkerboard microdilution assays, time-kill curve experiments and agar diffusion assays, we show a synergism between Medihoney and rifampicin against MRSA and clinical isolates of S. aureus. Furthermore, the Medihoney/rifampicin combination stopped the appearance of rifampicin-resistant S. aureus in vitro. Methylglyoxal (MGO), believed to be the major antibacterial compound in manuka honey, did not act synergistically with rifampicin and is therefore not the sole factor responsible for the synergistic effect of manuka honey with rifampicin. Our findings support the idea that a combination of honey and antibiotics may be an effective new antimicrobial therapy for chronic wound infections.
PMCID: PMC3585195  PMID: 23469049
6.  Extragenic suppressor mutations that restore twitching motility to fimL mutants of Pseudomonas aeruginosa are associated with elevated intracellular cyclic AMP levels 
MicrobiologyOpen  2012;1(4):490-501.
Cyclic AMP (cAMP) is a signaling molecule that is involved in the regulation of multiple virulence systems of the opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa. The intracellular concentration of cAMP in P. aeruginosa cells is tightly controlled at the levels of cAMP synthesis and degradation through regulation of the activity and/or expression of the adenylate cyclases CyaA and CyaB or the cAMP phosphodiesterase CpdA. Interestingly, mutants of fimL, which usually demonstrate defective twitching motility, frequently revert to a wild-type twitching-motility phenotype presumably via the acquisition of an extragenic suppressor mutation(s). In this study, we have characterized five independent fimL twitching-motility revertants and have determined that all have increased intracellular cAMP levels compared with the parent fimL mutant. Whole-genome sequencing revealed that only one of these fimL revertants has acquired a loss-of-function mutation in cpdA that accounts for the elevated levels of intracellular cAMP. As mutation of cpdA did not account for the restoration of twitching motility observed in the other four fimL revertants, these observations suggest that there is at least another, as yet unidentified, site of extragenic suppressor mutation that can cause phenotypic reversion in fimL mutants and modulation of intracellular cAMP levels of P. aeruginosa.
PMCID: PMC3535393  PMID: 23233287
cAMP; tfp; type IV pili
7.  3D-SIM Super Resolution Microscopy Reveals a Bead-Like Arrangement for FtsZ and the Division Machinery: Implications for Triggering Cytokinesis 
PLoS Biology  2012;10(9):e1001389.
Super resolution three-dimensional imaging reveals a new picture of how bacterial cell division proteins localize to the division site, including the formation of dynamic bead-like patterns, and explains how the division ring constricts.
FtsZ is a tubulin-like GTPase that is the major cytoskeletal protein in bacterial cell division. It polymerizes into a ring, called the Z ring, at the division site and acts as a scaffold to recruit other division proteins to this site as well as providing a contractile force for cytokinesis. To understand how FtsZ performs these functions, the in vivo architecture of the Z ring needs to be established, as well as how this structure constricts to enable cytokinesis. Conventional wide-field fluorescence microscopy depicts the Z ring as a continuous structure of uniform density. Here we use a form of super resolution microscopy, known as 3D-structured illumination microscopy (3D-SIM), to examine the architecture of the Z ring in cells of two Gram-positive organisms that have different cell shapes: the rod-shaped Bacillus subtilis and the coccoid Staphylococcus aureus. We show that in both organisms the Z ring is composed of a heterogeneous distribution of FtsZ. In addition, gaps of fluorescence were evident, which suggest that it is a discontinuous structure. Time-lapse studies using an advanced form of fast live 3D-SIM (Blaze) support a model of FtsZ localization within the Z ring that is dynamic and remains distributed in a heterogeneous manner. However, FtsZ dynamics alone do not trigger the constriction of the Z ring to allow cytokinesis. Lastly, we visualize other components of the divisome and show that they also adopt a bead-like localization pattern at the future division site. Our data lead us to propose that FtsZ guides the divisome to adopt a similar localization pattern to ensure Z ring constriction only proceeds following the assembly of a mature divisome.
Author Summary
Because bacterial cells are so small, it is challenging to image the spatial organization of proteins inside them. All the proteins that orchestrate cell division in these organisms localize to the division site prior to division, but it has not so far been possible to obtain a clear highresolution three-dimensional picture of the dynamics of their localization. In this study we use a new type of super resolution microscopy called three-dimensional structured illumination microscopy (3D-SIM) to analyze the localization of proteins involved in cell division in two types of bacteria that have different cell shapes: the rod-shaped Bacillus subtilis and the spherical Staphylococcus aureus. We show that FtsZ, a cytoskeletal protein that serves as a scaffold for the cytokinetic ring, localizes to the division site in a dynamic bead-like pattern, rather than a uniform ring as was previously proposed, in both types of bacteria. Our observations also provide an explanation of how this ring constricts to split a bacterial cell in two and suggests that this spatial organization of division proteins is conserved among bacteria and is crucial for the regulation of this central cellular process.
PMCID: PMC3439403  PMID: 22984350
8.  Tracking Glideosome-Associated Protein 50 Reveals the Development and Organization of the Inner Membrane Complex of Plasmodium falciparum ▿ † 
Eukaryotic Cell  2011;10(4):556-564.
The most deadly of the human malaria parasites, Plasmodium falciparum, has different stages specialized for invasion of hepatocytes, erythrocytes, and the mosquito gut wall. In each case, host cell invasion is powered by an actin-myosin motor complex that is linked to an inner membrane complex (IMC) via a membrane anchor called the glideosome-associated protein 50 (PfGAP50). We generated P. falciparum transfectants expressing green fluorescent protein (GFP) chimeras of PfGAP50 (PfGAP50-GFP). Using immunoprecipitation and fluorescence photobleaching, we show that C-terminally tagged PfGAP50-GFP can form a complex with endogenous copies of the linker protein PfGAP45 and the myosin A tail domain-interacting protein (MTIP). Full-length PfGAP50-GFP is located in the endoplasmic reticulum in early-stage parasites and then redistributes to apical caps during the formation of daughter merozoites. In the final stage of schizogony, the PfGAP50-GFP profile extends further around the merozoite surface. Three-dimensional (3D) structured illumination microscopy reveals the early-stage IMC as a doubly punctured flat ellipsoid that separates to form claw-shaped apposed structures. A GFP fusion of PfGAP50 lacking the C-terminal membrane anchor is misdirected to the parasitophorous vacuole. Replacement of the acid phosphatase homology domain of PfGAP50 with GFP appears to allow correct trafficking of the chimera but confers a growth disadvantage.
PMCID: PMC3127638  PMID: 21239623
9.  A Genetic Switch to Hypervirulence Reduces Colonization Phenotypes of the Globally Disseminated Group A Streptococcus M1T1 Clone 
The recent resurgence of invasive group A streptococcal disease has been paralleled by the emergence of the M1T1 clone. Recently, invasive disease initiation to has been linked to mutations in the covR/S two-compnent regulator. Here we investigate if a fitness cost is associated with covS mutation that counterbalances hypervirulence.
Wild-type M1T1 GAS and an isogenic covS mutant derived from animal passage were compared for adherence to human laryngeal epithelial cells, keratinocytes or fibronectin, biofilm formation, and binding to intact mouse skin. Targeted mutagenesis of capsule expression from both strains was performed for analysis of its unique contribution to the observed phenotypes.
The covS mutant bacteria showed reduced capacity to bind to epithelial cell layers as a consequence of increased capsule expression. The covS mutant strain also had reduced capacity to bind fibronectin and to form biofilms on plastic and epithelial cell layers. A defect in skin adherence of the covS mutant strain was demonstrated in a murine model.
Reduced colonization capacity provides a potential explanation as to why the covS mutation conferring hypervirulence has not become fixed in the globally-disseminated M1T1 GAS clone, but rather may arise anew under innate immune selection in individual patients.
PMCID: PMC2880657  PMID: 20507231
10.  A diagnostic PCR assay for the detection of an Australian epidemic strain of Pseudomonas aeruginosa 
Chronic lung infection with the bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa is one of the hallmarks of cystic fibrosis (CF) and is associated with worsening lung function, increased hospitalisation and reduced life expectancy. A virulent clonal strain of P. aeruginosa (Australian epidemic strain I; AES-I) has been found to be widespread in CF patients in eastern Australia.
Suppression subtractive hybridization (SSH) was employed to identify genetic sequences that are present in the AES-I strain but absent from the sequenced reference strain PAO1. We used PCR to evaluate the distribution of several of the AES-I loci amongst a collection of 188 P. aeruginosa isolates which was comprised of 35 AES-I isolates (as determined by PFGE), 78 non-AES-I CF isolates including other epidemic CF strains as well as 69 P. aeruginosa isolates from other clinical and environmental sources.
We have identified a unique AES-I genetic locus that is present in all 35 AES-I isolates tested and not present in any of the other 153 P. aeruginosa strains examined. We have used this unique AES-I locus to develop a diagnostic PCR and a real-time PCR assay to detect the presence of P. aeruginosa and AES-I in patient sputum samples.
We have developed diagnostic PCR assays that are 100% sensitive and 100% specific for the P. aeruginosa strain AES-I. We have also shown that Whatman FTA® Elute cards may be used with PCR-based assays to rapidly detect the presence of P. aeruginosa strains in CF sputum.
PMCID: PMC2912777  PMID: 20637114
11.  Twitching Motility Is Essential for Virulence in Dichelobacter nodosus▿ †  
Journal of Bacteriology  2008;190(9):3323-3335.
Type IV fimbriae are essential virulence factors of Dichelobacter nodosus, the principal causative agent of ovine foot rot. The fimA fimbrial subunit gene is required for virulence, but fimA mutants exhibit several phenotypic changes and it is not certain if the effects on virulence result from the loss of type IV fimbria-mediated twitching motility, cell adherence, or reduced protease secretion. We showed that mutation of either the pilT or pilU gene eliminated the ability to carry out twitching motility. However, the pilT mutants displayed decreased adhesion to epithelial cells and reduced protease secretion, whereas the pilU mutants had wild-type levels of extracellular protease secretion and adherence. These data provided evidence that PilT is required for the type IV fimbria-dependent protease secretion pathway in D. nodosus. It was postulated that sufficient fimbrial retraction must occur in the pilU mutants to allow protease secretion, but not twitching motility, to take place. Although no cell movement was detected in a pilU mutant of D. nodosus, aberrant motion was detected in an equivalent mutant of Pseudomonas aeruginosa. These observations explain how in D. nodosus protease secretion can occur in a pilU mutant but not in a pilT mutant. In addition, virulence studies with sheep showed that both the pilT and pilU mutants were avirulent, providing evidence that mutation of the type IV fimbrial system affects virulence by eliminating twitching motility, not by altering cell adherence or protease secretion.
PMCID: PMC2347375  PMID: 18310333
12.  Pseudomonas aeruginosa fimL regulates multiple virulence functions by intersecting with Vfr-modulated pathways 
Molecular microbiology  2005;55(5):1357-1378.
Virulence of Pseudomonas aeruginosa involves the co-ordinate expression of a range of factors including type IV pili (tfp), the type III secretion system (TTSS) and quorum sensing. Tfp are required for twitching motility, efficient biofilm formation, and for adhesion and type III secretion (TTS)-mediated damage to mammalian cells. We describe a novel gene (fimL) that is required for tfp biogenesis and function, for TTS and for normal biofilm development in P. aeruginosa. The predicted product of fimL is homologous to the N-terminal domain of ChpA, except that its putative histidine and threonine phosphotransfer sites have been replaced with glutamine. fimL mutants resemble vfr mutants in many aspects including increased autolysis, reduced levels of surface-assembled tfp and diminished production of type III secreted effectors. Expression of vfr in trans can complement fimL mutants. vfr transcription and production is reduced in fimL mutants whereas cAMP levels are unaffected. Deletion and insertion mutants of fimL frequently revert to wild-type phenotypes suggesting that an extragenic suppressor mutation is able to overcome the loss of fimL. vfr transcription and production, as well as cAMP levels, are elevated in these revertants, while Pseudomonas quinolone signal (PQS) production is reduced. These results suggest that the site(s) of spontaneous mutation is in a gene(s) which lies upstream of vfr transcription, cAMP, production, and PQS synthesis. Our studies indicate that Vfr and FimL are components of intersecting pathways that control twitching motility, TTSS and autolysis in P. aeruginosa.
PMCID: PMC1266277  PMID: 15720546
13.  tonB3 Is Required for Normal Twitching Motility and Extracellular Assembly of Type IV Pili 
Journal of Bacteriology  2004;186(13):4387-4389.
Three mutants with Tn5-B21 insertion in tonB3 (PA0406) of Pseudomonas aeruginosa exhibited defective twitching motility and reduced assembly of extracellular pili. These defects could be complemented with wild-type tonB3.
PMCID: PMC421604  PMID: 15205442
14.  FimX, a Multidomain Protein Connecting Environmental Signals to Twitching Motility in Pseudomonas aeruginosa 
Journal of Bacteriology  2003;185(24):7068-7076.
Twitching motility is a form of surface translocation mediated by the extension, tethering, and retraction of type IV pili. Three independent Tn5-B21 mutations of Pseudomonas aeruginosa with reduced twitching motility were identified in a new locus which encodes a predicted protein of unknown function annotated PA4959 in the P. aeruginosa genome sequence. Complementation of these mutants with the wild-type PA4959 gene, which we designated fimX, restored normal twitching motility. fimX mutants were found to express normal levels of pilin and remained sensitive to pilus-specific bacteriophages, but they exhibited very low levels of surface pili, suggesting that normal pilus function was impaired. The fimX gene product has a molecular weight of 76,000 and contains four predicted domains that are commonly found in signal transduction proteins: a putative response regulator (CheY-like) domain, a PAS-PAC domain (commonly involved in environmental sensing), and DUF1 (or GGDEF) and DUF2 (or EAL) domains, which are thought to be involved in cyclic di-GMP metabolism. Red fluorescent protein fusion experiments showed that FimX is located at one pole of the cell via sequences adjacent to its CheY-like domain. Twitching motility in fimX mutants was found to respond relatively normally to a range of environmental factors but could not be stimulated by tryptone and mucin. These data suggest that fimX is involved in the regulation of twitching motility in response to environmental cues.
PMCID: PMC296245  PMID: 14645265
15.  Phosphorylation of the Pseudomonas aeruginosa Response Regulator AlgR Is Essential for Type IV Fimbria-Mediated Twitching Motility 
Journal of Bacteriology  2002;184(16):4544-4554.
The response regulator AlgR is required for both alginate biosynthesis and type IV fimbria-mediated twitching motility in Pseudomonas aeruginosa. In this study, the roles of AlgR signal transduction and phosphorylation in twitching motility and biofilm formation were examined. The predicted phosphorylation site of AlgR (aspartate 54) and a second aspartate (aspartate 85) in the receiver domain of AlgR were mutated to asparagine, and mutant algR alleles were introduced into the chromosome of P. aeruginosa strains PAK and PAO1. Assays of these mutants demonstrated that aspartate 54 but not aspartate 85 of AlgR is required for twitching motility and biofilm initiation. However, strains expressing AlgR D85N were found to be hyperfimbriate, indicating that both aspartate 54 and aspartate 85 are involved in fimbrial biogenesis and function. algD mutants were observed to have wild-type twitching motility, indicating that AlgR control of twitching motility is not mediated via its role in the control of alginate biosynthesis. In vitro phosphorylation assays showed that AlgR D54N is not phosphorylated by the enteric histidine kinase CheA. These findings indicate that phosphorylation of AlgR most likely occurs at aspartate 54 and that aspartate 54 and aspartate 85 of AlgR are required for the control of the molecular events governing fimbrial biogenesis, twitching motility, and biofilm formation in P. aeruginosa.
PMCID: PMC135261  PMID: 12142425
16.  Quorum Sensing Is Not Required for Twitching Motility in Pseudomonas aeruginosa 
Journal of Bacteriology  2002;184(13):3598-3604.
It has been reported that mutations in the quorum-sensing genes lasI and rhlI in Pseudomonas aeruginosa result in, among many other things, loss of twitching motility (A. Glessner, R. S. Smith, B. H. Iglewski, and J. B. Robinson, J. Bacteriol. 181:1623-1629, 1999). We constructed knockouts of lasI and rhlI and the corresponding regulatory genes lasR and rhlR and found no effect on twitching motility. However, twitching-defective variants accumulated during culturing of lasI and rhlI mutants. Further analysis showed that the stable twitching-defective variants of lasI and rhlI mutants had arisen as a consequence of secondary mutations in vfr and algR, respectively, both of which encode key regulators affecting a variety of phenotypes, including twitching motility. In addition, when grown in shaking broth culture, lasI and rhlI mutants, but not the wild-type parent, also accumulated unstable variants that lacked both twitching motility and swimming motility and appeared to be identical in phenotype to the S1 and S2 variants that were recently reported to occur at high frequencies in P. aeruginosa strains grown as a biofilm or in static broth culture (E. Deziel, Y. Comeau, and R. Villemur, J. Bacteriol. 183:1195-1204, 2001). These results indicate that mutations in one regulatory system may create distortions that select during subsequent culturing for compensatory mutations in other regulatory genes within the cellular network. This problem may have compromised some past studies of regulatory hierarchies controlled by quorum sensing and of bacterial regulatory systems in general.
PMCID: PMC135140  PMID: 12057954
17.  Differential Regulation of Twitching Motility and Elastase Production by Vfr in Pseudomonas aeruginosa 
Journal of Bacteriology  2002;184(13):3605-3613.
Vfr, a homolog of Escherichia coli cyclic AMP (cAMP) receptor protein, has been shown to regulate quorum sensing, exotoxin A production, and regA transcription in Pseudomonas aeruginosa. We identified a twitching motility-defective mutant that carries a transposon insertion in vfr and confirmed that vfr is required for twitching motility by construction of an independent allelic deletion-replacement mutant of vfr that exhibited the same phenotype, as well as by the restoration of normal twitching motility by complementation of these mutants with wild-type vfr. Vfr-null mutants exhibited severely reduced twitching motility with barely detectable levels of type IV pili, as well as loss of elastase production and altered pyocyanin production. We also identified reduced-twitching variants of quorum-sensing mutants (PAK lasI::Tc) with a spontaneous deletion in vfr (S. A. Beatson, C. B. Whitchurch, A. B. T. Semmler, and J. S. Mattick, J. Bacteriol., 184:3598-3604, 2002), the net result of which was the loss of five residues (EQERS) from the putative cAMP-binding pocket of Vfr. This allele (VfrΔEQERS) was capable of restoring elastase and pyocyanin production to wild-type levels in vfr-null mutants but not their defects in twitching motility. Furthermore, structural analysis of Vfr and VfrΔEQERS in relation to E. coli CRP suggests that Vfr is capable of binding both cAMP and cyclic GMP whereas VfrΔEQERS is only capable of responding to cAMP. We suggest that Vfr controls twitching motility and quorum sensing via independent pathways in response to these different signals, bound by the same cyclic nucleotide monophosphate-binding pocket.
PMCID: PMC135129  PMID: 12057955
18.  Pseudomonas aeruginosa Gene Products PilT and PilU Are Required for Cytotoxicity In Vitro and Virulence in a Mouse Model of Acute Pneumonia 
Infection and Immunity  1999;67(7):3625-3630.
Type IV pili of the opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa mediate twitching motility and act as receptors for bacteriophage infection. They are also important bacterial adhesins, and nonpiliated mutants of P. aeruginosa have been shown to cause less epithelial cell damage in vitro and have decreased virulence in animal models. This finding raises the question as to whether the reduction in cytotoxicity and virulence of nonpiliated P. aeruginosa mutants are primarily due to defects in cell adhesion or loss of twitching motility, or both. This work describes the role of PilT and PilU, putative nucleotide-binding proteins involved in pili function, in mediating epithelial cell injury in vitro and virulence in vivo. Mutants of pilT and pilU retain surface pili but have lost twitching motility. In three different epithelial cell lines, pilT or pilU mutants of the strain PAK caused less cytotoxicity than the wild-type strain but more than isogenic, nonpiliated pilA or rpoN mutants. The pilT and pilU mutants also showed reduced association with these same epithelial cell lines compared both to the wild type, and surprisingly, to a pilA mutant. In a mouse model of acute pneumonia, the pilT and pilU mutants showed decreased colonization of the liver but not of the lung relative to the parental strain, though they exhibited no change in the ability to cause mortality. These results demonstrate that pilus function mediated by PilT and PilU is required for in vitro adherence and cytotoxicity toward epithelial cells and is important in virulence in vivo.
PMCID: PMC116553  PMID: 10377148
19.  Spatial association with PTEX complexes defines regions for effector export into Plasmodium falciparum-infected erythrocytes 
Nature Communications  2013;4:1415-.
Export of proteins into the infected erythrocyte is critical for malaria parasite survival. The majority of effector proteins are thought to export via a proteinaceous translocon, resident in the parasitophorous vacuole membrane surrounding the parasite. Identification of the Plasmodium translocon of exported proteins and its biochemical association with exported proteins suggests it performs this role. Direct evidence for this, however, is lacking. Here using viable purified Plasmodium falciparum merozoites and three-dimensional structured illumination microscopy, we investigate remodelling events immediately following parasite invasion. We show that multiple complexes of the Plasmodium translocon of exported proteins localize together in foci that dynamically change in clustering behaviour. Furthermore, we provide conclusive evidence of spatial association between exported proteins and exported protein 2, a core component of the Plasmodium translocon of exported proteins, during native conditions and upon generation of translocation intermediates. These data provide the most direct cellular evidence to date that protein export occurs at regions of the parasitophorous vacuole membrane housing the Plasmodium translocon of exported proteins complex.
During red blood cell infection, malaria parasites export hundreds of proteins that remodel the host cell surface. Cowman and colleagues identify a putative protein translocator complex spatially associated with exported proteins, revealing the cellular domains involved in protein export.
PMCID: PMC3562467  PMID: 23361006
20.  Atomic force and super-resolution microscopy support a role for LapA as a cell-surface biofilm adhesin of Pseudomonas fluorescens 
Research in microbiology  2012;163(9-10):685-691.
Pseudomonas fluorescence Pf0-1 requires the large repeat protein LapA for stable surface attachment. This study presents direct evidence that LapA is a cell-surface-localized adhesin. Atomic force microscopy (AFM) revealed a significant twofold reduction in adhesion force for mutants lacking the LapA protein on the cell surface compared to the wild-type strain. Deletion of lapG, a gene encoding a periplasmic cysteine protease that functions to release LapA from the cell surface, resulted in a twofold increase in the force of adhesion. Three-dimensional structured illumination microscopy (3D-SIM) revealed the presence of the LapA protein on the cell surface, consistent with its role as an adhesin. The protein is only visualized in the cytoplasm for a mutant of the ABC transporter responsible for translocating LapA to the cell surface. Together, these data highlight the power of combining the use of AFM and 3D-SIM with genetic studies to demonstrate that LapA, a member of a large group of RTX-like repeat proteins, is a cell-surface adhesin.
PMCID: PMC3518552  PMID: 23064158
AFM; Adhesin; Biofilm; Weibull analysis; 3D-SIM
21.  A Quadruple Knockout of lasIR and rhlIR of Pseudomonas aeruginosa PAO1 That Retains Wild-Type Twitching Motility Has Equivalent Infectivity and Persistence to PAO1 in a Mouse Model of Lung Infection 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e60973.
It has been widely reported that quorum-sensing incapable strains of Pseudomonas aeruginosa are less virulent than wild type strains. However, quorum sensing mutants of P. aeruginosa have been shown to develop other spontaneous mutations under prolonged culture conditions, and one of the phenotypes of P. aeruginosa that is frequently affected by this phenomenon is type IV pili-dependent motility, referred to as twitching motility. As twitching motility has been reported to be important for adhesion and colonisation, we aimed to generate a quorum-sensing knockout for which the heritage was recorded and the virulence factor production in areas unrelated to quorum sensing was known to be intact. We created a lasIRrhlIR quadruple knockout in PAO1 using a published technique that allows for the deletion of antibiotic resistance cartridges following mutagenesis, to create an unmarked QS knockout of PAO1, thereby avoiding the need for use of antibiotics in culturing, which can have subtle effects on bacterial phenotype. We phenotyped this mutant demonstrating that it produced reduced levels of protease and elastase, barely detectable levels of pyoverdin and undetectable levels of the quorum sensing signal molecules N-3-oxododecanoly-L-homoserine lactone and N-butyryl homoserine lactone, but retained full twitching motility. We then used a mouse model of acute lung infection with P. aeruginosa to demonstrate that the lasIRrhlIR knockout strain showed equal persistence to wild type parental PAO1, induced equal or greater neutrophil infiltration to the lungs, and induced similar levels of expression of inflammatory cytokines in the lungs and similar antibody responses, both in terms of magnitude and isotype. Our results suggest, in contrast to previous reports, that lack of quorum sensing alone does not significantly affect the immunogenicity, infectiveness and persistence of P. aeruginosa in a mouse model of acute lung infection.
PMCID: PMC3622596  PMID: 23593362
22.  The Effect of New Zealand Kanuka, Manuka and Clover Honeys on Bacterial Growth Dynamics and Cellular Morphology Varies According to the Species 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e55898.
Treatment of chronic wounds is becoming increasingly difficult due to antibiotic resistance. Complex natural products with antimicrobial activity, such as honey, are now under the spotlight as alternative treatments to antibiotics. Several studies have shown honey to have broad-spectrum antibacterial activity at concentrations present in honey dressings, and resistance to honey has not been attainable in the laboratory. However not all honeys are the same and few studies have used honey that is well defined both in geographic and chemical terms. Here we have used a range of concentrations of clover honey and a suite of manuka and kanuka honeys from known geographical locations, and for which the floral source and concentration of methylglyoxal and hydrogen peroxide potential were defined, to determine their effect on growth and cellular morphology of four bacteria: Bacillus subtilis, Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. While the general trend in effectiveness of growth inhibition was manuka>manuka-kanuka blend>kanuka>clover, the honeys had varying and diverse effects on the growth and cellular morphology of each bacterium, and each organism had a unique response profile to these honeys. P. aeruginosa showed a markedly different pattern of growth inhibition to the other three organisms when treated with sub-inhibitory concentrations of honey, being equally sensitive to all honeys, including clover, and the least sensitive to honey overall. While hydrogen peroxide potential contributed to the antibacterial activity of the manuka and kanuka honeys, it was never essential for complete growth inhibition. Cell morphology analysis also showed a varied and diverse set of responses to the honeys that included cell length changes, cell lysis, and alterations to DNA appearance. These changes are likely to reflect the different regulatory circuits of the organisms that are activated by the stress of honey treatment.
PMCID: PMC3572166  PMID: 23418472
23.  Subcompartmentalisation of Proteins in the Rhoptries Correlates with Ordered Events of Erythrocyte Invasion by the Blood Stage Malaria Parasite 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(9):e46160.
Host cell infection by apicomplexan parasites plays an essential role in lifecycle progression for these obligate intracellular pathogens. For most species, including the etiological agents of malaria and toxoplasmosis, infection requires active host-cell invasion dependent on formation of a tight junction – the organising interface between parasite and host cell during entry. Formation of this structure is not, however, shared across all Apicomplexa or indeed all parasite lifecycle stages. Here, using an in silico integrative genomic search and endogenous gene-tagging strategy, we sought to characterise proteins that function specifically during junction-dependent invasion, a class of proteins we term invasins to distinguish them from adhesins that function in species specific host-cell recognition. High-definition imaging of tagged Plasmodium falciparum invasins localised proteins to multiple cellular compartments of the blood stage merozoite. This includes several that localise to distinct subcompartments within the rhoptries. While originating from the same organelle, however, each has very different dynamics during invasion. Apical Sushi Protein and Rhoptry Neck protein 2 release early, following the junction, whilst a novel rhoptry protein PFF0645c releases only after invasion is complete. This supports the idea that organisation of proteins within a secretory organelle determines the order and destination of protein secretion and provides a localisation-based classification strategy for predicting invasin function during apicomplexan parasite invasion.
PMCID: PMC3458004  PMID: 23049965
24.  Spatial Localisation of Actin Filaments across Developmental Stages of the Malaria Parasite 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(2):e32188.
Actin dynamics have been implicated in a variety of developmental processes during the malaria parasite lifecycle. Parasite motility, in particular, is thought to critically depend on an actomyosin motor located in the outer pellicle of the parasite cell. Efforts to understand the diverse roles actin plays have, however, been hampered by an inability to detect microfilaments under native conditions. To visualise the spatial dynamics of actin we generated a parasite-specific actin antibody that shows preferential recognition of filamentous actin and applied this tool to different lifecycle stages (merozoites, sporozoites and ookinetes) of the human and mouse malaria parasite species Plasmodium falciparum and P. berghei along with tachyzoites from the related apicomplexan parasite Toxoplasma gondii. Actin filament distribution was found associated with three core compartments: the nuclear periphery, pellicular membranes of motile or invasive parasite forms and in a ring-like distribution at the tight junction during merozoite invasion of erythrocytes in both human and mouse malaria parasites. Localisation at the nuclear periphery is consistent with an emerging role of actin in facilitating parasite gene regulation. During invasion, we show that the actin ring at the parasite-host cell tight junction is dependent on dynamic filament turnover. Super-resolution imaging places this ring posterior to, and not concentric with, the junction marker rhoptry neck protein 4. This implies motor force relies on the engagement of dynamic microfilaments at zones of traction, though not necessarily directly through receptor-ligand interactions at sites of adhesion during invasion. Combined, these observations extend current understanding of the diverse roles actin plays in malaria parasite development and apicomplexan cell motility, in particular refining understanding on the linkage of the internal parasite gliding motor with the extra-cellular milieu.
PMCID: PMC3289632  PMID: 22389687
25.  MrkH, a Novel c-di-GMP-Dependent Transcriptional Activator, Controls Klebsiella pneumoniae Biofilm Formation by Regulating Type 3 Fimbriae Expression 
PLoS Pathogens  2011;7(8):e1002204.
Klebsiella pneumoniae causes significant morbidity and mortality worldwide, particularly amongst hospitalized individuals. The principle mechanism for pathogenesis in hospital environments involves the formation of biofilms, primarily on implanted medical devices. In this study, we constructed a transposon mutant library in a clinical isolate, K. pneumoniae AJ218, to identify the genes and pathways implicated in biofilm formation. Three mutants severely defective in biofilm formation contained insertions within the mrkABCDF genes encoding the main structural subunit and assembly machinery for type 3 fimbriae. Two other mutants carried insertions within the yfiN and mrkJ genes, which encode GGDEF domain- and EAL domain-containing c-di-GMP turnover enzymes, respectively. The remaining two isolates contained insertions that inactivated the mrkH and mrkI genes, which encode for novel proteins with a c-di-GMP-binding PilZ domain and a LuxR-type transcriptional regulator, respectively. Biochemical and functional assays indicated that the effects of these factors on biofilm formation accompany concomitant changes in type 3 fimbriae expression. We mapped the transcriptional start site of mrkA, demonstrated that MrkH directly activates transcription of the mrkA promoter and showed that MrkH binds strongly to the mrkA regulatory region only in the presence of c-di-GMP. Furthermore, a point mutation in the putative c-di-GMP-binding domain of MrkH completely abolished its function as a transcriptional activator. In vivo analysis of the yfiN and mrkJ genes strongly indicated their c-di-GMP-specific function as diguanylate cyclase and phosphodiesterase, respectively. In addition, in vitro assays showed that purified MrkJ protein has strong c-di-GMP phosphodiesterase activity. These results demonstrate for the first time that c-di-GMP can function as an effector to stimulate the activity of a transcriptional activator, and explain how type 3 fimbriae expression is coordinated with other gene expression programs in K. pneumoniae to promote biofilm formation to implanted medical devices.
Author Summary
Biofilms are surface-associated communities of microorganisms. Biofilm-associated bacteria are protected from host defenses and antibiotics and are the cause of many infections. Klebsiella pneumoniae is primarily a hospital-acquired bacterial pathogen that causes pneumonia, urinary tract infections and septicemia. Its success is related to its ability to form biofilms on medical devices, such as catheters. In K. pneumoniae, biofilm formation is mediated by type 3 fimbriae – hair-like, protein appendages extending out from the cell surface that adhere to surfaces. This study investigated how K. pneumoniae regulates the expression of these fimbriae. We identified a protein, MrkH, which behaves as a “biofilm switch” that turns on the expression of genes responsible for producing type 3 fimbriae. MrkH works by binding to regulatory regions of DNA nearby to these genes and initiates their expression. Importantly, MrkH binds to DNA strongly only when the protein is stimulated by a small molecule, c-di-GMP. Furthermore, we identified bacterial enzymes that either produce or break down c-di-GMP to control its concentration within the cell, and thus modulate MrkH activity. Understanding the molecular basis for these processes may lead to the development of therapeutic compounds, possibly for incorporation into medical device materials to inhibit biofilm formation and pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3161979  PMID: 21901098

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