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1.  Sequence-Based Analysis of the Intestinal Microbiota of Sows and Their Offspring Fed Genetically Modified Maize Expressing a Truncated Form of Bacillus thuringiensis Cry1Ab Protein (Bt Maize) 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2013;79(24):7735-7744.
The aim was to investigate transgenerational effects of feeding genetically modified (GM) maize expressing a truncated form of Bacillus thuringiensis Cry1Ab protein (Bt maize) to sows and their offspring on maternal and offspring intestinal microbiota. Sows were assigned to either non-GM or GM maize dietary treatments during gestation and lactation. At weaning, offspring were assigned within sow treatment to non-GM or GM maize diets for 115 days, as follows: (i) non-GM maize-fed sow/non-GM maize-fed offspring (non-GM/non-GM), (ii) non-GM maize-fed sow/GM maize-fed offspring (non-GM/GM), (iii) GM maize-fed sow/non-GM maize-fed offspring (GM/non-GM), and (iv) GM maize-fed sow/GM maize-fed offspring (GM/GM). Offspring of GM maize-fed sows had higher counts of fecal total anaerobes and Enterobacteriaceae at days 70 and 100 postweaning, respectively. At day 115 postweaning, GM/non-GM offspring had lower ileal Enterobacteriaceae counts than non-GM/non-GM or GM/GM offspring and lower ileal total anaerobes than pigs on the other treatments. GM maize-fed offspring also had higher ileal total anaerobe counts than non-GM maize-fed offspring, and cecal total anaerobes were lower in non-GM/GM and GM/non-GM offspring than in those from the non-GM/non-GM treatment. The only differences observed for major bacterial phyla using 16S rRNA gene sequencing were that fecal Proteobacteria were less abundant in GM maize-fed sows prior to farrowing and in offspring at weaning, with fecal Firmicutes more abundant in offspring. While other differences occurred, they were not observed consistently in offspring, were mostly encountered for low-abundance, low-frequency bacterial taxa, and were not associated with pathology. Therefore, their biological relevance is questionable. This confirms the lack of adverse effects of GM maize on the intestinal microbiota of pigs, even following transgenerational consumption.
PMCID: PMC3837803  PMID: 24096421
2.  Streptolysin S-like virulence factors: the continuing sagA 
Nature reviews. Microbiology  2011;9(9):670-681.
Streptolysin S (SLS) is a potent cytolytic toxin and virulence factor produced by nearly all Streptococcus pyogenes strains. Despite a 100-year history of research on this toxin, it has only recently been established that SLS represents the archetypal example of an extended family of post-translationally modified virulence factors also produced by some other streptococci and Gram-positive pathogens, such as Listeria monocytogenes and Clostridium botulinum. In this Review we describe the identification, genetics, biochemistry and various functions of SLS. We also discuss the shared features of the virulence-associated SLS-like peptides, as well as their place within the rapidly expanding family of thiazole/oxazole-modified microcins (TOMMs).
PMCID: PMC3928602  PMID: 21822292
3.  Protein Quality and the Protein to Carbohydrate Ratio within a High Fat Diet Influences Energy Balance and the Gut Microbiota In C57BL/6J Mice 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e88904.
Macronutrient quality and composition are important determinants of energy balance and the gut microbiota. Here, we investigated how changes to protein quality (casein versus whey protein isolate; WPI) and the protein to carbohydrate (P/C) ratio within a high fat diet (HFD) impacts on these parameters. Mice were fed a low fat diet (10% kJ) or a high fat diet (HFD; 45% kJ) for 21 weeks with either casein (20% kJ, HFD) or WPI at 20%, 30% or 40% kJ. In comparison to casein, WPI at a similar energy content normalised energy intake, increased lean mass and caused a trend towards a reduction in fat mass (P = 0.08), but the protein challenge did not alter oxygen consumption or locomotor activity. WPI reduced HFD-induced plasma leptin and liver triacylglycerol, and partially attenuated the reduction in adipose FASN mRNA in HFD-fed mice. High throughput sequence-based analysis of faecal microbial populations revealed microbiota in the HFD-20% WPI group clustering closely with HFD controls, although WPI specifically increased Lactobacillaceae/Lactobacillus and decreased Clostridiaceae/Clostridium in HFD-fed mice. There was no effect of increasing the P/C ratio on energy intake, but the highest ratio reduced HFD-induced weight gain, fat mass and plasma triacylglycerol, non-esterified fatty acids, glucose and leptin levels, while it increased lean mass and oxygen consumption. Similar effects were observed on adipose mRNA expression, where the highest ratio reduced HFD-associated expression of UCP-2, TNFα and CD68 and increased the diet-associated expression of β3-AR, LPL, IR, IRS-1 and GLUT4. The P/C ratio also impacted on gut microbiota, with populations in the 30/40% WPI groups clustering together and away from the 20% WPI group. Taken together, our data show that increasing the P/C ratio has a dramatic effect on energy balance and the composition of gut microbiota, which is distinct from that caused by changes to protein quality.
PMCID: PMC3919831  PMID: 24520424
4.  Gut microbial diversity is reduced and is associated with colonic inflammation in a piglet model of short bowel syndrome 
Gut Microbes  2013;4(3):212-221.
Background and objectives
Following small bowel resection (SBR), the luminal environment is altered, which contributes to clinical manifestations of short bowel syndrome (SBS) including malabsorption, mucosal inflammation and bacterial overgrowth. However, the impact of SBR on the colon has not been well-defined. The aims of this study were to characterize the colonic microbiota following SBR and to assess the impact of SBR on mucosal inflammation in the colon.
Analysis of the colonic microbiota demonstrated that there was a significant level of dysbiosis both two and six weeks post-SBR, particularly in the phylum Firmicutes, coupled with a decrease in overall bacterial diversity in the colon. This decrease in diversity was associated with an increase in colonic inflammation six weeks post-surgery.
Female (4-week old) piglets (5−6/group) received a 75% SBR, a transection (sham) or no surgery. Compositional analysis of the colonic microbiota was performed by high-throughput sequencing, two- and six-weeks post-surgery. The gene expression of the pro-inflammatory cytokines interleukin (IL)-1β, IL-6, IL-8, IL-18 and tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α in the colonic mucosa was assessed by qRT-PCR and the number of macrophages and percentage inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) staining in the colonic epithelium were quantified by immunohistochemistry.
SBR significantly decreased the diversity of the colonic microbiota and this was associated with an increase in colonic mucosal inflammation. This study supports the hypothesis that SBR has a significant impact on the colon and that this may play an important role in defining clinical outcome.
PMCID: PMC3669166  PMID: 23549027
short bowel syndrome; mucosal immunology; colonic microbiota; high-throughput sequencing; bacterial diversity; small bowel resection
5.  Draft Genome Sequence of Campylobacter ureolyticus Strain CIT007, the First Whole-Genome Sequence of a Clinical Isolate 
Genome Announcements  2014;2(2):e00262-14.
Herein, we present the draft genome sequence of Campylobacter ureolyticus. Strain CIT007 was isolated from a stool sample from an elderly female presenting with diarrheal illness and end-stage chronic renal disease.
PMCID: PMC3983301  PMID: 24723712
6.  Ribosomally synthesized and post-translationally modified peptide natural products: overview and recommendations for a universal nomenclature 
Natural product reports  2013;30(1):108-160.
This review presents recommended nomenclature for the biosynthesis of ribosomally synthesized and post-translationally modified peptides (RiPPs), a rapidly growing class of natural products. The current knowledge regarding the biosynthesis of the >20 distinct compound classes is also reviewed, and commonalities are discussed.
PMCID: PMC3954855  PMID: 23165928
7.  Atypical Listeria innocua strains possess an intact LIPI-3 
BMC Microbiology  2014;14:58.
Listeria monocytogenes is a food-borne pathogen which is the causative agent of listeriosis and can be divided into three evolutionary lineages I, II and III. While all strains possess the well established virulence factors associated with the Listeria pathogenicity island I (LIPI-1), lineage I strains also possess an additional pathogenicity island designated LIPI-3 which encodes listeriolysin S (LLS), a post-translationally modified cytolytic peptide. Up until now, this pathogenicity island has been identified exclusively in a subset of lineage I isolates of the pathogen Listeria monocytogenes.
In total 64 L. innocua strains were screened for the presence of LIPI-3. Here we report the identification of an intact LIPI-3 in 11 isolates of L. innocua and the remnants of the cluster in several others. Significantly, we can reveal that placing the L. innocua lls genes under the control of a constitutive promoter results in a haemolytic phenotype, confirming that the cluster is capable of encoding a functional haemolysin.
Although the presence of the LIPI-3 gene cluster is confined to lineage I isolates of L. monocytogenes, a corresponding gene cluster or its remnants have been identified in many L. innocua strains.
PMCID: PMC3974016  PMID: 24606727
8.  A degenerate PCR-based strategy as a means of identifying homologues of aminoglycoside and β-lactam resistance genes in the gut microbiota 
BMC Microbiology  2014;14:25.
The potential for the human gut microbiota to serve as a reservoir for antibiotic resistance genes has been the subject of recent discussion. However, this has yet to be investigated using a rapid PCR-based approach. In light of this, here we aim to determine if degenerate PCR primers can detect aminoglycoside and β-lactam resistance genes in the gut microbiota of healthy adults, without the need for an initial culture-based screen for resistant isolates. In doing so, we would determine if the gut microbiota of healthy adults, lacking recent antibiotic exposure, is a reservoir for resistance genes.
The strategy employed resulted in the identification of numerous aminoglycoside (acetylation, adenylation and phosphorylation) and β-lactam (including blaOXA, blaTEM, blaSHV and blaCTX-M) resistance gene homologues. On the basis of homology, it would appear that these genes originated from different bacterial taxa, with members of the Enterobacteriaceae being a particularly rich source. The results demonstrate that, even in the absence of recent antibiotic exposure, the human gut microbiota is a considerable reservoir for antibiotic resistance genes.
This study has demonstrated that the gut can be a significant source of aminoglycoside and β-lactam resistance genes, even in the absence of recent antibiotic exposure. The results also demonstrate that PCR-based approaches can be successfully applied to detect antibiotic resistance genes in the human gut microbiota, without the need to isolate resistant strains. This approach could also be used to rapidly screen other complex environments for target genes.
PMCID: PMC3917905  PMID: 24499167
Antibiotic resistance; Aminoglycosides; β-lactam; Gut microbiota; PCR
9.  Antimicrobials 
Gut Microbes  2013;4(1):48-53.
Obesity is associated with a number of serious health consequences, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and a variety of cancers among others and has been repeatedly shown to be associated with a higher risk of mortality. The relatively recent discovery that the composition and metabolic activity of the gut microbiota may affect the risk of developing obesity and related disorders has led to an explosion of interest in this distinct research field. A corollary of these findings would suggest that modulation of gut microbial populations can have beneficial effects with respect to controlling obesity. In this addendum, we summarize our recent data, showing that therapeutic manipulation of the microbiota using different antimicrobial strategies may be a useful approach for the management of obesity and metabolic conditions. In addition, we will explore some of the mechanisms that may contribute to microbiota-induced susceptibility to obesity and metabolic diseases.
PMCID: PMC3555886  PMID: 23018760
obesity; antimicrobials; gut microbiota; firmicutes; metabolic disease
10.  In Silico Assigned Resistance Genes Confer Bifidobacterium with Partial Resistance to Aminoglycosides but Not to Β-Lactams 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e82653.
Bifidobacteria have received significant attention due to their contribution to human gut health and the use of specific strains as probiotics. It is thus not surprising that there has also been significant interest with respect to their antibiotic resistance profile. Numerous culture-based studies have demonstrated that bifidobacteria are resistant to the majority of aminoglycosides, but are sensitive to β-lactams. However, limited research exists with respect to the genetic basis for the resistance of bifidobacteria to aminoglycosides. Here we performed an in-depth in silico analysis of putative Bifidobacterium-encoded aminoglycoside resistance proteins and β-lactamases and assess the contribution of these proteins to antibiotic resistance. The in silico-based screen detected putative aminoglycoside and β-lactam resistance proteins across the Bifidobacterium genus. Laboratory-based investigations of a number of representative bifidobacteria strains confirmed that despite containing putative β-lactamases, these strains were sensitive to β-lactams. In contrast, all strains were resistant to the aminoglycosides tested. To assess the contribution of genes encoding putative aminoglycoside resistance proteins in Bifidobacterium sp. two genes, namely Bbr_0651 and Bbr_1586, were targeted for insertional inactivation in B. breve UCC2003. As compared to the wild-type, the UCC2003 insertion mutant strains exhibited decreased resistance to gentamycin, kanamycin and streptomycin. This study highlights the associated risks of relying on the in silico assignment of gene function. Although several putative β-lactam resistance proteins are located in bifidobacteria, their presence does not coincide with resistance to these antibiotics. In contrast however, this approach has resulted in the identification of two loci that contribute to the aminoglycoside resistance of B. breve UCC2003 and, potentially, many other bifidobacteria.
PMCID: PMC3855789  PMID: 24324818
11.  Analysis of Anti-Clostridium difficile Activity of Thuricin CD, Vancomycin, Metronidazole, Ramoplanin, and Actagardine, both Singly and in Paired Combinations 
Due to the ongoing problem of recurrence of Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea following antibiotic treatment, there is an urgent need for alternative treatment options. We assessed the MICs of five antimicrobials singly and in combinations against a range of C. difficile clinical isolates. Ramoplanin-actagardine combinations were particularly effective, with partial synergistic/additive effects observed against 61.5% of C. difficile strains tested.
PMCID: PMC3716125  PMID: 23571539
12.  The gut microbiota and its relationship to diet and obesity 
Gut Microbes  2012;3(3):186-202.
Obesity develops from a prolonged imbalance of energy intake and energy expenditure. However, the relatively recent discovery that the composition and function of the gut microbiota impacts on obesity has lead to an explosion of interest in what is now a distinct research field. Here, research relating to the links between the gut microbiota, diet and obesity will be reviewed under five major headings: (1) the gut microbiota of lean and obese animals, (2) the composition of the gut microbiota of lean and obese humans, (3) the impact of diet on the gut microbiota, (4) manipulating the gut microbiota and (5) the mechanisms by which the gut microbiota can impact on weight gain.
PMCID: PMC3427212  PMID: 22572830
gut microbiota; intervention; prebiotic; probiotic; diet and obesity
13.  Composition of the early intestinal microbiota 
Gut Microbes  2012;3(3):203-220.
The colonization, development and maturation of the newborn gastrointestinal tract that begins immediately at birth and continues for two years, is modulated by numerous factors including mode of delivery, feeding regime, maternal diet/weight, probiotic and prebiotic use and antibiotic exposure pre-, peri- and post-natally. While in the past, culture-based approaches were used to assess the impact of these factors on the gut microbiota, these have now largely been replaced by culture-independent DNA-based approaches and most recently, high-throughput sequencing-based forms thereof. The aim of this review is to summarize recent research into the modulatory factors that impact on the acquisition and development of the infant gut microbiota, to outline the knowledge recently gained through the use of culture-independent techniques and, in particular, highlight advances in high-throughput sequencing and how these technologies have, and will continue to, fill gaps in our knowledge with respect to the human intestinal microbiota.
PMCID: PMC3427213  PMID: 22572829
infant; gut microbiota; high-throughput sequencing; colonization; probiotics; prebiotics; antibiotics
14.  Intensive Mutagenesis of the Nisin Hinge Leads to the Rational Design of Enhanced Derivatives 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e79563.
Nisin A is the most extensively studied lantibiotic and has been used as a preservative by the food industry since 1953. This 34 amino acid peptide contains three dehydrated amino acids and five thioether rings. These rings, resulting from one lanthionine and four methyllanthionine bridges, confer the peptide with its unique structure. Nisin A has two mechanisms of action, with the N-terminal domain of the peptide inhibiting cell wall synthesis through lipid II binding and the C-terminal domain responsible for pore-formation. The focus of this study is the three amino acid ‘hinge’ region (N 20, M 21 and K 22) which separates these two domains and allows for conformational flexibility. As all lantibiotics are gene encoded, novel variants can be generated through manipulation of the corresponding gene. A number of derivatives in which the hinge region was altered have previously been shown to possess enhanced antimicrobial activity. Here we take this approach further by employing simultaneous, indiscriminate site-saturation mutagenesis of all three hinge residues to create a novel bank of nisin derivative producers. Screening of this bank revealed that producers of peptides with hinge regions consisting of AAK, NAI and SLS displayed enhanced bioactivity against a variety of targets. These and other results suggested a preference for small, chiral amino acids within the hinge region, leading to the design and creation of producers of peptides with hinges consisting of AAA and SAA. These producers, and the corresponding peptides, exhibited enhanced bioactivity against Lactococcus lactis HP, Streptococcus agalactiae ATCC 13813, Mycobacterium smegmatis MC2155 and Staphylococcus aureus RF122 and thus represent the first example of nisin derivatives that possess enhanced activity as a consequence of rational design.
PMCID: PMC3823697  PMID: 24244524
15.  Bactofencin A, a New Type of Cationic Bacteriocin with Unusual Immunity 
mBio  2013;4(6):e00498-13.
Bacteriocin production is an important probiotic trait of intestinal bacteria. In this study, we identify a new type of bacteriocin, bactofencin A, produced by a porcine intestinal isolate Lactobacillus salivarius DPC6502, and assess its potency against pathogenic species including Staphylococcus aureus and Listeria monocytogenes. Genome sequencing of the bacteriocin producer revealed bfnA, which encodes the mature and highly basic (pI 10.59), 22-amino-acid defensin-like peptide. Matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization–time of flight (MALDI-TOF) mass spectral analysis determined that bactofencin A has a molecular mass of 2,782 Da and contains two cysteine residues that form an intramolecular disulfide bond. Although an ABC transporter and transport accessory protein were also present within the bacteriocin gene cluster, a classical bacteriocin immunity gene was not detected. Interestingly, a dltB homologue was identified downstream of bfnA. DltB is usually encoded within the dlt operon of many Gram-positive bacteria. It is responsible for d-alanylation of teichoic acids in the cell wall and has previously been associated with bacterial resistance to cationic antimicrobial peptides. Heterologous expression of this gene conferred bactofencin A-specific immunity on sensitive strains of L. salivarius and S. aureus (although not L. monocytogenes), establishing its role in bacteriocin immunity. An analysis of the distribution of bfnA revealed that it was present in four additional isolates derived from porcine origin and absent from five human isolates, suggesting that its distribution is host specific. Given its novelty, we anticipate that bactofencin A represents the prototype of a new class of bacteriocins characterized as being cationic, with a DltB homologue providing a cognate immunity function.
This study describes the identification, purification, and characterization of bactofencin A, a novel type of bacteriocin produced by L. salivarius DPC6502. Interestingly, bactofencin A is not similar to any other known bacteriocin but instead shares similarity with eukaryotic cationic antimicrobial peptides, and here, we demonstrate that it inhibits two medically significant pathogens. Genome sequence analysis of the producing strain also revealed the presence of an atypical dltB homologue in the bacteriocin gene cluster, which was lacking a classical bacteriocin immunity gene. Furthermore, cloning this gene rendered sensitive strains resistant to the bacteriocin, thereby establishing its role in providing cognate bacteriocin immunity. Four additional L. salivarius isolates, also of porcine origin, were found to contain the bacteriocin biosynthesis genes and successfully produced bactofencin A, while these genes were absent from five human-derived strains investigated.
PMCID: PMC3809560  PMID: 24169573
16.  Insights into Lantibiotic Immunity Provided by Bioengineering of LtnI 
Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy  2012;56(10):5122-5133.
The lantibiotic lacticin 3147 has been the focus of much research due to its broad spectrum of activity against many microbial targets, including drug-resistant pathogens. In order to protect itself, a lacticin 3147 producer must possess a cognate immunity mechanism. Lacticin 3147 immunity is provided by an ABC transporter, LtnFE, and a dedicated immunity protein, LtnI, both of which are capable of independently providing a degree of protection. In the study described here, we carried out an in-depth investigation of LtnI structure-function relationships through the creation of a series of fusion proteins and LtnI determinants that have been the subject of random and site-directed mutagenesis. We establish that LtnI is a transmembrane protein that contains a number of individual residues and regions, such as those between amino acids 20 and 27 and amino acids 76 and 83, which are essential for LtnI function. Finally, as a consequence of the screening of a bank of 28,000 strains producing different LtnI derivatives, we identified one variant (LtnI I81V) that provides enhanced protection. To our knowledge, this is the first report of a lantibiotic immunity protein with enhanced functionality.
PMCID: PMC3457384  PMID: 22802258
17.  Tn6188 - A Novel Transposon in Listeria monocytogenes Responsible for Tolerance to Benzalkonium Chloride 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e76835.
Controlling the food-borne pathogen Listeria (L.) monocytogenes is of great importance from a food safety perspective, and thus for human health. The consequences of failures in this regard have been exemplified by recent large listeriosis outbreaks in the USA and Europe. It is thus particularly notable that tolerance to quaternary ammonium compounds such as benzalkonium chloride (BC) has been observed in many L. monocytogenes strains. However, the molecular determinants and mechanisms of BC tolerance of L. monocytogenes are still largely unknown. Here we describe Tn6188, a novel transposon in L. monocytogenes conferring tolerance to BC. Tn6188 is related to Tn554 from Staphylococcus (S.) aureus and other Tn554-like transposons such as Tn558, Tn559 and Tn5406 found in various Firmicutes. Tn6188 comprises 5117 bp, is integrated chromosomally within the radC gene and consists of three transposase genes (tnpABC) as well as genes encoding a putative transcriptional regulator and QacH, a small multidrug resistance protein family (SMR) transporter putatively associated with export of BC that shows high amino acid identity to Smr/QacC from S. aureus and to EmrE from Escherichia coli. We screened 91 L. monocytogenes strains for the presence of Tn6188 by PCR and found Tn6188 in 10 of the analyzed strains. These isolates were from food and food processing environments and predominantly from serovar 1/2a. L. monocytogenes strains harboring Tn6188 had significantly higher BC minimum inhibitory concentrations (MICs) (28.5 ± 4.7 mg/l) than strains without Tn6188 (14 ± 3.2 mg/l). Using quantitative reverse transcriptase PCR we could show a significant increase in qacH expression in the presence of BC. QacH deletion mutants were generated in two L. monocytogenes strains and growth analysis revealed that ΔqacH strains had lower BC MICs than wildtype strains. In conclusion, our results provide evidence that Tn6188 is responsible for BC tolerance in various L. monocytogenes strains.
PMCID: PMC3788773  PMID: 24098567
18.  The two peptide lantibiotic lacticin 3147 acts synergistically with polymyxin to inhibit Gram negative bacteria 
BMC Microbiology  2013;13:212.
The emergence of bacterial drug resistance encourages the re-evaluation of the potential of existing antimicrobials. Lantibiotics are post-translationally modified, ribosomally synthesised antimicrobial peptides with a broad spectrum antimicrobial activity. Here, we focussed on expanding the potential of lacticin 3147, one of the most studied lantibiotics and one which possesses potent activity against a wide range of Gram positive species including many nosocomial pathogens. More specifically, our aim was to investigate if lacticin 3147 activity could be enhanced when combined with a range of different clinical antibiotics.
Initial screening revealed that polymyxin B and polymyxin E (colistin) exhibited synergistic activity with lacticin 3147. Checkerboard assays were performed against a number of strains, including both Gram positive and Gram negative species. The resultant fractional inhibitory concentration (FIC) index values established that, while partial synergy was detected against Gram positive targets, synergy was obvious against Gram negative species, including Cronobacter and E. coli.
Combining lacticin 3147 with low levels of a polymyxin could provide a means of broadening target specificity of the lantibiotic, while also reducing polymyxin use due to the lower concentrations required as a result of synergy.
PMCID: PMC3849175  PMID: 24069959
Antimicrobial; Synergy; Lantibiotic; Bacteriocin; Lacticin 3147; Polymyxin
19.  High-Throughput Sequencing for Detection of Subpopulations of Bacteria Not Previously Associated with Artisanal Cheeses 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2012;78(16):5717-5723.
Here, high-throughput sequencing was employed to reveal the highly diverse bacterial populations present in 62 Irish artisanal cheeses and, in some cases, associated cheese rinds. Using this approach, we revealed the presence of several genera not previously associated with cheese, including Faecalibacterium, Prevotella, and Helcococcus and, for the first time, detected the presence of Arthrobacter and Brachybacterium in goats' milk cheese. Our analysis confirmed many previously observed patterns, such as the dominance of typical cheese bacteria, the fact that the microbiota of raw and pasteurized milk cheeses differ, and that the level of cheese maturation has a significant influence on Lactobacillus populations. It was also noted that cheeses containing adjunct ingredients had lower proportions of Lactococcus species. It is thus apparent that high-throughput sequencing-based investigations can provide valuable insights into the microbial populations of artisanal foods.
PMCID: PMC3406138  PMID: 22685131
20.  Nucleic acid-based approaches to investigate microbial-related cheese quality defects 
The microbial profile of cheese is a primary determinant of cheese quality. Microorganisms can contribute to aroma and taste defects, form biogenic amines, cause gas and secondary fermentation defects, and can contribute to cheese pinking and mineral deposition issues. These defects may be as a result of seasonality and the variability in the composition of the milk supplied, variations in cheese processing parameters, as well as the nature and number of the non-starter microorganisms which come from the milk or other environmental sources. Such defects can be responsible for production and product recall costs and thus represent a significant economic burden for the dairy industry worldwide. Traditional non-molecular approaches are often considered biased and have inherently slow turnaround times. Molecular techniques can provide early and rapid detection of defects that result from the presence of specific spoilage microbes and, ultimately, assist in enhancing cheese quality and reducing costs. Here we review the DNA-based methods that are available to detect/quantify spoilage bacteria, and relevant metabolic pathways in cheeses and, in the process, highlight how these strategies can be employed to improve cheese quality and reduce the associated economic burden on cheese processors.
PMCID: PMC3549567  PMID: 23346082
molecular methods; cheese quality defects; microbial defects
21.  Homologues and Bioengineered Derivatives of LtnJ Vary in Ability to Form d-Alanine in the Lantibiotic Lacticin 3147 
Journal of Bacteriology  2012;194(3):708-714.
Ltnα and Ltnβ are individual components of the two-peptide lantibiotic lacticin 3147 and are unusual in that, although ribosomally synthesized, they contain d-amino acids. These result from the dehydration of l-serine to dehydroalanine by LtnM and subsequent stereospecific hydrogenation to d-alanine by LtnJ. Homologues of LtnJ are rare but have been identified in silico in Staphylococcus aureus C55 (SacJ), Pediococcus pentosaceus FBB61 (PenN), and Nostoc punctiforme PCC73102 (NpnJ, previously called NpunJ [P. D. Cotter et al., Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U. S. A. 102:18584–18589, 2005]). Here, the ability of these enzymes to catalyze d-alanine formation in the lacticin 3147 system was assessed through heterologous enzyme production in a ΔltnJ mutant. PenN successfully incorporated d-alanines in both peptides, and SacJ modified Ltnα only, while NpnJ was unable to modify either peptide. Site-directed mutagenesis was also employed to identify residues of key importance in LtnJ. The most surprising outcome from these investigations was the generation of peptides by specific LtnJ mutants which exhibited less bioactivity than those generated by the ΔltnJ strain. We have established that the reduced activity of these peptides is due to the inability of the associated LtnJ enzymes to generate d-alanine residues in a stereospecific manner, resulting in the presence of both d- and l-alanines at the relevant locations in the lacticin 3147 peptides.
PMCID: PMC3264081  PMID: 22123251
22.  Subspecies diversity in bacteriocin production by intestinal Lactobacillus salivarius strains 
Gut Microbes  2012;3(5):468-473.
A recent comparative genomic hybridization study in our laboratory revealed considerable plasticity within the bacteriocin locus of gastrointestinal strains of Lactobacillus salivarius. Most notably, these analyses led to the identification of two novel unmodified bacteriocins, salivaricin L and salivaricin T, produced by the neonatal isolate L. salivarius DPC6488 with immunity, regulatory and export systems analogous to those of abp118, a two-component bacteriocin produced by the well characterized reference strain L. salivarius UCC118. In this addendum we discuss the intraspecific diversity of our seven bacteriocin-producing L. salivarius isolates on a genome-wide level, and more specifically, with respect to their salivaricin loci.
PMCID: PMC3466502  PMID: 22892690
Lactobacillus salivarius; bacteriocin; comparative genomic hybridization; probiotic; salivaricin
23.  Saturation mutagenesis of selected residues of the α-peptide of the lantibiotic lacticin 3147 yields a derivative with enhanced antimicrobial activity 
Microbial Biotechnology  2013;6(5):564-575.
The lantibiotic lacticin 3147 consists of two ribosomally synthesized and post-translationally modified antimicrobial peptides, Ltnα and Ltnβ, which act synergistically against a wide range of Gram-positive microorganisms. We performed saturation mutagenesis of specific residues of Ltnα to determine their functional importance. The results establish that Ltnα is more tolerant to change than previously suggested by alanine scanning mutagenesis. One substitution, LtnαH23S, was identified which improved the specific activity of lacticin 3147 against one pathogenic strain, Staphylococcus aureus NCDO1499. This represents the first occasion upon which the activity of a two peptide lantibiotic has been enhanced through bioengineering.
Funding Information Work in the authors' laboratory is supported by the Irish Government under the National Development Plan; by the Irish Research Council for Science Engineering and Technology (IRCSET); by Enterprise Ireland; and by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), through the Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre (APC) at University College Cork, Ireland, which is supported by the SFI-funded Centre for Science, Engineering and Technology (SFI-CSET) and provided P.D.C., C.H and R.P.R. with SFI Principal Investigator funding.
PMCID: PMC3918158  PMID: 23433070
24.  The spiFEG Locus in Streptococcus infantarius subsp. infantarius BAA-102 Confers Protection against Nisin U 
Nisin U is a member of the extended nisin family of lantibiotics. Here we identify the presence of nisin U immunity gene homologues in Streptococcus infantarius subsp. infantarius BAA-102. Heterologous expression of these genes in Lactococcus lactis subsp. cremoris HP confers protection to nisin U and other members of the nisin family, thereby establishing that the recently identified phenomenon of resistance through immune mimicry also occurs with respect to nisin.
PMCID: PMC3256037  PMID: 22064537
25.  Bioengineering 
Bioengineered  2012;3(6):313-319.
While the bacteriocin Nisin has been employed by the food industry for 60 y, it remains the only bacteriocin to be extensively employed as a food preservative. This is despite the fact that the activity of Nisin against several food spoilage and pathogenic bacteria is poor and the availability of many other bacteriocins with significant potential in this regard. An alternative route to address the deficiencies of Nisin is the application of bioengineered derivatives of the peptide which, despite differing only subtly, possess enhanced capabilities of commercial value. The career path which has taken me from learning for the first time what bacteriocins are to understanding the potential of bacteriocin bioengineering has been a hugely enjoyable experience and promises to get even more interesting in the years to come.
PMCID: PMC3489705  PMID: 22922299
bacteriocin; bioengineering; food grade; food preservative; lacticin 3147; lantibiotic; nisin

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