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2.  Biotechnological applications of functional metagenomics in the food and pharmaceutical industries 
Microorganisms are found throughout nature, thriving in a vast range of environmental conditions. The majority of them are unculturable or difficult to culture by traditional methods. Metagenomics enables the study of all microorganisms, regardless of whether they can be cultured or not, through the analysis of genomic data obtained directly from an environmental sample, providing knowledge of the species present, and allowing the extraction of information regarding the functionality of microbial communities in their natural habitat. Function-based screenings, following the cloning and expression of metagenomic DNA in a heterologous host, can be applied to the discovery of novel proteins of industrial interest encoded by the genes of previously inaccessible microorganisms. Functional metagenomics has considerable potential in the food and pharmaceutical industries, where it can, for instance, aid (i) the identification of enzymes with desirable technological properties, capable of catalyzing novel reactions or replacing existing chemically synthesized catalysts which may be difficult or expensive to produce, and able to work under a wide range of environmental conditions encountered in food and pharmaceutical processing cycles including extreme conditions of temperature, pH, osmolarity, etc; (ii) the discovery of novel bioactives including antimicrobials active against microorganisms of concern both in food and medical settings; (iii) the investigation of industrial and societal issues such as antibiotic resistance development. This review article summarizes the state-of-the-art functional metagenomic methods available and discusses the potential of functional metagenomic approaches to mine as yet unexplored environments to discover novel genes with biotechnological application in the food and pharmaceutical industries.
PMCID: PMC4485178  PMID: 26175729
functional metagenomics; industrial applications; food; pharmacological; catalysts; bioactives; antimicrobials
3.  Synthesis, Biological, and Biophysical Studies of DAG-indololactones Designed as Selective Activators of RasGRP 
Bioorganic & medicinal chemistry  2014;22(12):3123-3140.
The development of selective agents capable of discriminating between protein kinase C (PKC) isoforms and other diacylglycerol (DAG)-responsive C1 domain-containing proteins represents an important challenge. Recent studies have highlighted the role that Ras guanine nucleotide-releasing protein (RasGRP) isoforms play both in immune responses as well as in the development of prostate cancer and melanoma, suggesting that the discovery of selective ligands could have potential therapeutic value. Thus far, the N-methyl-substituted indololactone 1 is the agonist with the highest reported potency and selectivity for RasGRP relative to PKC. Here we present the synthesis, binding studies, cellular assays and biophysical analysis of interactions with model membranes of a family of regioisomers of 1 (compounds 2 to 5) that differ in the position of the linkage between the indole ring and the lactone moiety. These structural variations were studied to explore the interaction of the active complex (C1 domain-ligand) with cellular membranes, which is believed to be an important factor for selectivity in the activation of DAG-responsive C1 domain containing signaling proteins. All compounds were potent and selective activators of RasGRP when compared to PKCα with selectivities ranging from 6 to 65 fold. However, the parent compound 1 was appreciably more selective than any of the other isomers. In intact cells, modest differences in the patterns of translocation of the C1 domain targets were observed. Biophysical studies using giant vesicles as model membranes did show substantial differences in terms of molecular interactions impacting lipid organization, dynamics and membrane insertion. However, these differences did not yield correspondingly large changes in patterns of biological response, at least for the parameters examined.
PMCID: PMC4104769  PMID: 24794745
Indolo-lactones; C1 domain; RasGRP; cancer
4.  Charge density influences C1 domain ligand affinity and membrane interactions 
The C1 domain, which represents the recognition motif on protein kinase C for the lipophilic second messenger diacylglycerol and its ultrapotent analog the phorbol esters, has emerged as a promising therapeutic target for cancer and other indications. Potential target selectivity is markedly enhanced both because binding reflects ternary complex formation between ligand, the C1 domain, and phospholipid, and because binding drives membrane insertion of the C1 domain, permitting aspects of the C1 domain surface outside the binding site per se to influence binding energetics. Here, focusing on charged residues identified in atypical C1 domains which contribute to their loss of ligand binding activity, we show that increasing charge along the rim of the binding cleft of the protein kinase C δ C1b domain raises the requirement for anionic phospholipids. Correspondingly, it shifts the selectivity of C1 domain translocation to the plasma membrane, which is more negatively charged than internal membranes. This change in localization is most pronounced in the case of more hydrophilic ligands, which provide weaker membrane stabilization than do the more hydrophobic ligands, and thus contributes an element to the structure activity relations for C1 domain ligands. Co-expressing pairs of C1 containing constructs with differing charges each expressing a distinct fluorescent tag provided a powerful tool to demonstrate the effect of increasing charge in the C1 domain.
PMCID: PMC4112953  PMID: 24777910
protein kinase C; phorbol ester; diacylglycerol; ingenol 3-angelate
5.  Metagenomics and novel gene discovery 
Virulence  2013;5(3):399-412.
Metagenomics provides a means of assessing the total genetic pool of all the microbes in a particular environment, in a culture-independent manner. It has revealed unprecedented diversity in microbial community composition, which is further reflected in the encoded functional diversity of the genomes, a large proportion of which consists of novel genes. Herein, we review both sequence-based and functional metagenomic methods to uncover novel genes and outline some of the associated problems of each type of approach, as well as potential solutions. Furthermore, we discuss the potential for metagenomic biotherapeutic discovery, with a particular focus on the human gut microbiome and finally, we outline how the discovery of novel genes may be used to create bioengineered probiotics.
PMCID: PMC3979868  PMID: 24317337
metagenomics; functional metagenomics; novel gene discovery; gut microbiome; microbiota; biotherapeutics; metabiotechnology; bioengineered probiotics
6.  A Bioengineered Nisin Derivative to Control Biofilms of Staphylococcus pseudintermedius 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(3):e0119684.
Antibiotic resistance and the shortage of novel antimicrobials are among the biggest challenges facing society. One of the major factors contributing to resistance is the use of frontline clinical antibiotics in veterinary practice. In order to properly manage dwindling antibiotic resources, we must identify antimicrobials that are specifically targeted to veterinary applications. Nisin is a member of the lantibiotic family of antimicrobial peptides that exhibit potent antibacterial activity against many gram-positive bacteria, including human and animal pathogens such as Staphylococcus, Bacillus, Listeria, and Clostridium. Although not currently used in human medicine, nisin is already employed commercially as an anti-mastitis product in the veterinary field. Recently we have used bioengineering strategies to enhance the activity of nisin against several high profile targets, including multi-drug resistant clinical pathogens such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE) and also against staphylococci and streptococci associated with bovine mastitis. However, newly emerging pathogens such as methicillin resistant Staphylococcus pseudintermedius (MRSP) pose a significant threat in terms of veterinary health and as a reservoir for antibiotic resistance determinants. In this study we created a nisin derivative with enhanced antimicrobial activity against S. pseudintermedius. In addition, the novel nisin derivative exhibits an enhanced ability to impair biofilm formation and to reduce the density of established biofilms. The activities of this peptide represent a significant improvement over that of the wild-type nisin peptide and merit further investigation with a view to their use to treat S. pseudintermedius infections.
PMCID: PMC4366236  PMID: 25789988
7.  Genome analysis of the staphylococcal temperate phage DW2 and functional studies on the endolysin and tail hydrolase 
Bacteriophage  2014;4:e28451.
This study describes the genome of temperate Siphoviridae phage DW2, which is routinely propagated on Staphylococcus aureus DPC5246. The 41941 bp genome revealed an open reading frame (ORF1) which has a high level of homology with members of the resolvase subfamily of site-specific serine recombinase, involved in chromosomal integration and excision. In contrast, the majority of staphylococcal phages reported to date encode tyrosine recombinases. Two putative genes encoded by phage DW2 (ORF15 and ORF24) were highly homologous to the NWMN0273 and NWMN0280 genes encoding virulence factors carried on the genome of ϕNM4, a prophage in the genome of S. aureus Newman. Phage DW2 also encodes proteins highly homologous to two well-characterized Staphylococcus aureus pathogenicity island derepressors encoded by the staphylococcal helper phage 80α indicating that it may similarly act as a helper phage for mobility of pathogenicity islands in S. aureus. This study also focused on the enzybiotic potential of phage DW2. The structure of the putative endolysin and tail hydrolase were investigated and used as the basis for a cloning strategy to create recombinant peptidoglycan hydrolyzing proteins. After overexpression in E. coli, four of these proteins (LysDW2, THDW2, CHAPE1-153, and CHAPE1-163) were demonstrated to have hydrolytic activity against peptidoglycan of S. aureus and thus represent novel candidates for exploitation as enzybiotics.
PMCID: PMC4124061  PMID: 25105056
bacteriophage; Staphylococcus; endolysin; virion-associated peptidoglycan hydrolase; virulence; serine recombinase
8.  Proteomics as the final step in the functional metagenomics study of antimicrobial resistance 
The majority of clinically applied antimicrobial agents are derived from natural products generated by soil microorganisms and therefore resistance is likely to be ubiquitous in such environments. This is supported by the fact that numerous clinically important resistance mechanisms are encoded within the genomes of such bacteria. Advances in genomic sequencing have enabled the in silico identification of putative resistance genes present in these microorganisms. However, it is not sufficient to rely on the identification of putative resistance genes, we must also determine if the resultant proteins confer a resistant phenotype. This will require an analysis pipeline that extends from the extraction of environmental DNA, to the identification and analysis of potential resistance genes and their resultant proteins and phenotypes. This review focuses on the application of functional metagenomics and proteomics to study antimicrobial resistance in diverse environments.
PMCID: PMC4347484  PMID: 25784907
functional metagenomics; antibiotic resistance; proteins; microbiology; novel mechanisms
9.  A review of the systematic review process and its applicability for use in evaluating evidence for health claims on probiotic foods in the European Union 
Nutrition Journal  2015;14:16.
This paper addresses the use of systematic review and meta-analysis to evaluate the strength of evidence for health benefits of probiotic foods, especially relating to health claim substantiation in the European Union. A systematic review is a protocol-driven, transparent and replicable approach, widely accepted in a number of scientific fields, and used by many policy-setting organizations to evaluate the strength of evidence to answer a focused research question. Many systematic reviews have been published on the broad category of probiotics for many different outcomes. Some of these reviews have been criticized for including poor quality studies, pooling heterogeneous study results, and not considering publication bias. Well-designed and -conducted systematic reviews should address such issues. Systematic reviews of probiotics have an additional challenge – rarely addressed in published reviews - in that there must be a scientifically sound basis for combining evidence on different strains, species or genera. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is increasingly adopting the systematic review methodology. It remains to be seen how health claims supported by systematic reviews are evaluated within the EFSA approval process. The EFSA Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies deems randomized trials to be the best approach to generating evidence about the effects of foods on health outcomes. They also acknowledge that systematic reviews (with or without meta-analyses) are the best approach to assess the totality of the evidence. It is reasonable to use these well-established methods to assess objectively the strength of evidence for a probiotic health claim. Use of the methods to combine results on more than a single strain or defined blend of strains will require a rationale that the different probiotics are substantively similar, either in identity or in their mode of action.
PMCID: PMC4334596  PMID: 25889449
Systematic reviews; Meta-analysis; Probiotics; EFSA; Regulatory; Health claims
10.  Two-tiered biological containment strategy for Lactococcus lactis-based vaccine or immunotherapy vectors 
The concept of biological containment was developed as a strategy to prevent environmental dissemination of engineered live vaccine or drug delivery vehicles. A mutation in the gene encoding thymidylate synthase (thyA), a key enzyme in the pyrimidine biosynthetic pathway, has previously been shown to limit growth of L. lactis vectors under restrictive conditions. We hypothesized that further mutations in the pyrimidine biosynthetic pathway might enhance the stability and safety of live L. lactis vectors. We show that a double mutation in the genes encoding ThyA and CTP synthase (PyrG) in L. lactis confers double auxotrophy for both thymidine and cytidine. However, the combination of two mutations failed to enhance the biological containment phenotype of the engineered strain. In the absence of thymine/thymidine, the thyA mutant exhibited a strong bactericidal phenotype. However, creation of the double mutant caused the loss of this phenotype, though survival in the mouse GI tract was enhanced. The implications for biological containment of live L. lactis based delivery vectors are discussed.
PMCID: PMC4185911  PMID: 24196273
biological containment; vaccine; Lactococcus lactis; thyA; pyrG
11.  Novel Approaches to Improve the Intrinsic Microbiological Safety of Powdered Infant Milk Formula 
Nutrients  2015;7(2):1217-1244.
Human milk is recognised as the best form of nutrition for infants. However; in instances where breast-feeding is not possible, unsuitable or inadequate, infant milk formulae are used as breast milk substitutes. These formulae are designed to provide infants with optimum nutrition for normal growth and development and are available in either powdered or liquid forms. Powdered infant formula is widely used for convenience and economic reasons. However; current manufacturing processes are not capable of producing a sterile powdered infant formula. Due to their immature immune systems and permeable gastro-intestinal tracts, infants can be more susceptible to infection via foodborne pathogenic bacteria than other age-groups. Consumption of powdered infant formula contaminated by pathogenic microbes can be a cause of serious illness. In this review paper, we discuss the current manufacturing practices present in the infant formula industry, the pathogens of greatest concern, Cronobacter and Salmonella and methods of improving the intrinsic safety of powdered infant formula via the addition of antimicrobials such as: bioactive peptides; organic acids; probiotics and prebiotics.
PMCID: PMC4344585  PMID: 25685987
infant milk formula; pathogens; Cronobacter; manufacturing strategies
12.  Heterologous Expression of Thuricin CD Immunity Genes in Listeria monocytogenes 
Bacteriocins are ribosomally synthesized peptides that can have a narrow or broad spectrum of antimicrobial activity. Bacteriocin producers typically possess dedicated immunity systems that often consist of an ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporter system and/or a dedicated immunity protein. Here we investigated the genes responsible for immunity to thuricin CD, a narrow-spectrum two-peptide sactibiotic produced by Bacillus thuringiensis DPC6431. Heterologous expression of putative thuricin CD immunity determinants allowed us to identify and investigate the relative importance of the individual genes and gene products that contribute to thuricin CD immunity. We established that TrnF and TrnG are the individual components of an ABC transporter system that provides immunity to thuricin CD. We also identified a hitherto overlooked open reading frame located upstream of trnF predicted to encode a 79-amino-acid transmembrane protein. We designated this newly discovered gene trnI and established that TrnI alone can provide protection against thuricin CD.
PMCID: PMC4068476  PMID: 24709257
13.  Divergent Evolution of the Activity and Regulation of the Glutamate Decarboxylase Systems in Listeria monocytogenes EGD-e and 10403S: Roles in Virulence and Acid Tolerance 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(11):e112649.
The glutamate decarboxylase (GAD) system has been shown to be important for the survival of Listeria monocytogenes in low pH environments. The bacterium can use this faculty to maintain pH homeostasis under acidic conditions. The accepted model for the GAD system proposes that the antiport of glutamate into the bacterial cell in exchange for γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is coupled to an intracellular decarboxylation reaction of glutamate into GABA that consumes protons and therefore facilitates pH homeostasis. Most strains of L. monocytogenes possess three decarboxylase genes (gadD1, D2 & D3) and two antiporter genes (gadT1 & gadT2). Here, we confirm that the gadD3 encodes a glutamate decarboxylase dedicated to the intracellular GAD system (GADi), which produces GABA from cytoplasmic glutamate in the absence of antiport activity. We also compare the functionality of the GAD system between two commonly studied reference strains, EGD-e and 10403S with differences in terms of acid resistance. Through functional genomics we show that EGD-e is unable to export GABA and relies exclusively in the GADi system, which is driven primarily by GadD3 in this strain. In contrast 10403S relies upon GadD2 to maintain both an intracellular and extracellular GAD system (GADi/GADe). Through experiments with a murinised variant of EGD-e (EGDm) in mice, we found that the GAD system plays a significant role in the overall virulence of this strain. Double mutants lacking either gadD1D3 or gadD2D3 of the GAD system displayed reduced acid tolerance and were significantly affected in their ability to cause infection following oral inoculation. Since EGDm exploits GADi but not GADe the results indicate that the GADi system makes a contribution to virulence within the mouse. Furthermore, we also provide evidence that there might be a separate line of evolution in the GAD system between two commonly used reference strains.
PMCID: PMC4227838  PMID: 25386947
14.  Metagenomic Identification of a Novel Salt Tolerance Gene from the Human Gut Microbiome Which Encodes a Membrane Protein with Homology to a brp/blh-Family β-Carotene 15,15′-Monooxygenase 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(7):e103318.
The human gut microbiome consists of at least 3 million non-redundant genes, 150 times that of the core human genome. Herein, we report the identification and characterisation of a novel stress tolerance gene from the human gut metagenome. The locus, assigned brpA, encodes a membrane protein with homology to a brp/blh-family β-carotene monooxygenase. Cloning and heterologous expression of brpA in Escherichia coli confers a significant salt tolerance phenotype. Furthermore, when cultured in the presence of exogenous β-carotene, cell pellets adopt a red/orange pigmentation indicating the incorporation of carotenoids in the cell membrane.
PMCID: PMC4110020  PMID: 25058308
15.  Rethinking “probiotics” 
Gut Microbes  2013;4(4):269-270.
PMCID: PMC3744511  PMID: 23778363
probiotic; meta-analysis; regulatory; EFSA; health effects
16.  Combined metagenomic and phenomic approaches identify a novel salt tolerance gene from the human gut microbiome 
In the current study, a number of salt-tolerant clones previously isolated from a human gut metagenomic library were screened using Phenotype MicroArray (PM) technology to assess their functional capacity. PM's can be used to study gene function, pathogenicity, metabolic capacity and identify drug targets using a series of specialized microtitre plate assays, where each well of the microtitre plate contains a different set of conditions and tests a different phenotype. Cellular respiration is monitored colorimetrically by the reduction of a tetrazolium dye. One clone, SMG 9, was found to be positive for utilization/transport of L-carnitine (a well-characterized osmoprotectant) in the presence of 6% w/v sodium chloride (NaCl). Subsequent experiments revealed a significant growth advantage in minimal media containing NaCl and L-carnitine. Fosmid sequencing revealed putative candidate genes responsible for the phenotype. Subsequent cloning of two genes did not replicate the L-carnitine-associated phenotype, although one of the genes, a σ54-dependent transcriptional regulator, did confer salt tolerance to Escherichia coli when expressed in isolation. The original clone, SMG 9, was subsequently found to have lost the original observed phenotype upon further investigation. Nevertheless, this study demonstrates the usefulness of a phenomic approach to assign a functional role to metagenome-derived clones.
PMCID: PMC4010731  PMID: 24808895
metagenomics; functional metagenomics; gut microbiome; microbiota; salt tolerance; BIOLOG; phenotype microarray; transcriptional regulator
17.  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
18.  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
19.  Structure-Activity Relationship of Synthetic Variants of the Milk-Derived Antimicrobial Peptide αs2-Casein f(183–207) 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2013;79(17):5179-5185.
Template-based studies on antimicrobial peptide (AMP) derivatives obtained through manipulation of the amino acid sequence are helpful to identify properties or residues that are important for biological activity. The present study sheds light on the importance of specific amino acids of the milk-derived αs2-casein f(183–207) peptide to its antibacterial activity against the food-borne pathogens Listeria monocytogenes and Cronobacter sakazakii. Trimming of the peptide revealed that residues at the C-terminal end of the peptide are important for activity. Removal of the last 5 amino acids at the C-terminal end and replacement of the Arg at position 23 of the peptide sequence by an Ala residue significantly decreased activity. These findings suggest that Arg23 is very important for optimal activity of the peptide. Substitution of the also positively charged Lys residues at positions 15 and 17 of the αs2-casein f(183–207) peptide also caused a significant reduction of the effectiveness against C. sakazakii, which points toward the importance of the positive charge of the peptide for its biological activity. Indeed, simultaneous replacement of various positively charged amino acids was linked to a loss of bactericidal activity. On the other hand, replacement of Pro residues at positions 14 and 20 resulted in a significantly increased antibacterial potency, and hydrophobic end tagging of αs2-casein f(193–203) and αs2-casein f(197–207) peptides with multiple Trp or Phe residues significantly increased their potency against L. monocytogenes. Finally, the effect of pH (4.5 to 7.4), temperature (4°C to 37°C), and addition of sodium and calcium salts (1% to 3%) on the activity of the 15-amino-acid αs2-casein f(193–207) peptide was also determined, and its biological activity was shown to be completely abolished in high-saline environments.
PMCID: PMC3753947  PMID: 23793637
20.  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
21.  Effects of Combined Radiation and Burn injury on the Renin-Angiotensin System 
The renin angiotensin system (RAS) plays an important role in wound repair; however, little is known pertaining to RAS expression in response to thermal and the combination of radiation plus burn injury (CRBI). The purpose of this study was to test the hypothesis that thermal injury modifies expression of RAS components and CRBI delayed this up-regulation of RAS. Skin from uninjured mice was compared to mice receiving local thermal injury or CRBI (injury site). Skin was analyzed for gene and protein expression of RAS components. There was an initial increase in the expression of various components of RAS following thermal injury. However, in the higher CRBI group there is an initial decrease in AT1b (vasoconstriction, pro-proliferative) AT2 (vasodilation, differentiation) and Mas (vasodilation, anti-inflammatory) gene expression. This corresponded with a delay and decrease in AT1, AT2 and MAS protein expression in fibroblasts and keratinocytes. The reduction in RAS receptor positive fibroblasts and keratinocytes correlated with a reduction in collagen deposition and keratinocyte infiltration into the wounded area resulting in a delay of re-epithelialization following CRBI. These data support the hypothesis that delayed wound healing observed in subjects following radiation exposure may be in part due to decreased expression of RAS.
PMCID: PMC3540151  PMID: 23231670
angiotensin; combined radiation and burn injury; wound healing
22.  Movers and shakers 
Gut Microbes  2013;4(1):4-16.
The human intestinal microbiota is one of the most densely populated ecosystems on Earth, containing up to 1013 bacteria/g and in some respects can be considered an organ itself given its role in human health. Bacteriophages (phages) are the most abundant replicating entities on the planet and thrive wherever their bacterial hosts exist. They undoubtedly influence the dominant microbial populations in many ecosystems including the human intestine. Within this setting, lysogeny appears to be the preferred life cycle, presumably due to nutrient limitations and lack of suitable hosts protected in biofilms, hence the predator/prey dynamic observed in many ecosystems is absent. On the other hand, free virulent phages in the gut are more common among sufferers of intestinal diseases and have been shown to increase with antibiotic usage. Many of these phages evolve from prophages of intestinal bacteria and emerge under conditions where their bacterial hosts encounter stress suggesting that prophages can significantly alter the microbial community composition. Based on these observations, we propose the “community shuffling” model which hypothesizes that prophage induction contributes to intestinal dysbiosis by altering the ratio of symbionts to pathobionts, enabling pathobiont niche reoccupation. The consequences of the increased phage load on the mammalian immune system are also addressed. While this is an area of intestinal biology which has received little attention, this review assembles evidence from the literature which supports the role of phages as one of the biological drivers behind the composition of the gut microbiota.
PMCID: PMC3555884  PMID: 23022738
gut; microbiota; bacteriophages; phages; prophages; induction; community shuffling
23.  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
24.  In Vivo Assessment of Growth and Virulence Gene Expression during Commensal and Pathogenic Lifestyles of luxABCDE-Tagged Enterococcus faecalis Strains in Murine Gastrointestinal and Intravenous Infection Models 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2013;79(13):3986-3997.
Cytolysin and gelatinase are prominent pathogenicity determinants associated with highly virulent Enterococcus faecalis strains. In an effort to explore the expression profiles of these virulence traits in vivo, we have employed E. faecalis variants expressing the luxABCDE cassette under the control of either the P16S, cytolysin, or gelatinase promoter for infections of Galleria mellonella caterpillars and mice. Systemic infection of G. mellonella with bioluminescence-tagged E. faecalis MMH594 revealed temporal regulation of both gelatinase and cytolysin promoters and demonstrated that these traits were induced in response to the host environment. Gavage of mice pretreated perorally with antibiotics resulted in efficient colonization of the murine gastrointestinal tract (GIT) in a strain-dependent manner, where the commensal baby isolate EF62 was more persistent than the nosocomial isolate MMH594. A highly significant correlation (R2 > 0.94) was found between bioluminescence and the CFU counts in mouse fecal samples. Both strains showed similar preferences for growth and persistence in the ileum, cecum, and colon. Cytolysin expression was uniform in these compartments of the intestinal lumen. In spite of high numbers (109 CFU/g of intestinal matter) in the ileum, cecum, and colon, no evidence of translocation or systemic infection could be observed. In the murine intravenous infection model, cytolysin expression was readily detected in the liver, kidneys, and bladder. At 72 h postinfection, the highest bacterial loads were found in the liver, kidneys, and spleen, with organ-specific expression levels of cytolysin ∼400- and ∼900-fold higher in the spleen and heart, respectively, than in the liver and kidneys. Taken together, this system based on the bioluminescence imaging technology is established as a new, powerful method to monitor the differential regulation of E. faecalis virulence determinants and to study the spatiotemporal course of infection in living animals in real time.
PMCID: PMC3697570  PMID: 23603680
25.  Listeria monocytogenes: survival and adaptation in the gastrointestinal tract 
The foodborne pathogen Listeria monocytogenes has the capacity to survive and grow in a diverse range of natural environments. The transition from a food environment to the gastrointestinal tract begins a process of adaptation that may culminate in invasive systemic disease. Here we describe recent advances in our understanding of how L. monocytogenes adapts to the gastrointestinal environment prior to initiating systemic infection. We will discuss mechanisms used by the pathogen to survive encounters with acidic environments (which include the glutamate decarboxylase and arginine deiminase systems), and those which enable the organism to cope with bile acids (including bile salt hydrolase) and competition with the resident microbiota. An increased understanding of how the pathogen survives in this environment is likely to inform the future design of novel prophylactic approaches that exploit specific pharmabiotics; including probiotics, prebiotics, or phages.
PMCID: PMC3913888  PMID: 24551601
Listeria; stress; acid; bile; gastrointestinal; virulence; pathogenesis; infection

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