It is becoming increasingly apparent that innovations from the “golden age” of antibiotics are becoming ineffective, resulting in a pressing need for novel therapeutics. The bacteriocin family of antimicrobial peptides has attracted much attention in recent years as a source of potential alternatives. The most intensively studied bacteriocin is nisin, a broad spectrum lantibiotic that inhibits Gram-positive bacteria including important food pathogens and clinically relevant antibiotic resistant bacteria. Nisin is gene-encoded and, as such, is amenable to peptide bioengineering, facilitating the generation of novel derivatives that can be screened for desirable properties. It was to this end that we used a site-saturation mutagenesis approach to create a bank of producers of nisin A derivatives that differ with respect to the identity of residue 12 (normally lysine; K12). A number of these producers exhibited enhanced bioactivity and the nisin A K12A producer was deemed of greatest interest. Subsequent investigations with the purified antimicrobial highlighted the enhanced specific activity of this modified nisin against representative target strains from the genera Streptococcus, Bacillus, Lactococcus, Enterococcus and Staphylococcus.
Significant phenotypic diversity was observed when we examined the abilities of a number of Cronobacter sakazakii natural isolates to cope with various sublethal stress conditions (acid, alkaline, osmotic, oxidative, or heat stress). Levels of catalase activity and use of acetate as a carbon source, phenotypes commonly used as indirect assays to predict RpoS function, revealed a high correlation between predicted RpoS activity and tolerance to acid, alkaline, osmotic, and oxidative treatments. The rpoS genes were sequenced and analyzed for polymorphisms. Loss-of-function mutations were found in two strains; C. sakazakii DPC 6523 and the genome-sequenced strain C. sakazakii ATCC BAA-894. The complementation of these strains with a functional rpoS gene resulted in an increase in bacterial tolerance to acid, osmotic, and oxidative stresses. The pigmentation status of strains was also assessed, and a high variability in carotenoid content was observed, with a functional rpoS gene being essential for the production of the characteristic yellow pigment. In conclusion, the evidence presented in this study demonstrates that rpoS is a highly polymorphic gene in C. sakazakii, and it supports the importance of RpoS for the tolerance under stress conditions that C. sakazakii may encounter in the food chain and in the host during infection.
Nisin is a bacteriocin widely utilized in more than 50 countries as a safe and natural antibacterial food preservative. It is the most extensively studied bacteriocin, having undergone decades of bioengineering with a view to improving function and physicochemical properties. The discovery of novel nisin variants with enhanced activity against clinical and foodborne pathogens has recently been described. We screened a randomized bank of nisin A producers and identified a variant with a serine to glycine change at position 29 (S29G), with enhanced efficacy against S. aureus SA113. Using a site-saturation mutagenesis approach we generated three more derivatives (S29A, S29D and S29E) with enhanced activity against a range of Gram positive drug resistant clinical, veterinary and food pathogens. In addition, a number of the nisin S29 derivatives displayed superior antimicrobial activity to nisin A when assessed against a range of Gram negative food-associated pathogens, including E. coli, Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium and Cronobacter sakazakii. This is the first report of derivatives of nisin, or indeed any lantibiotic, with enhanced antimicrobial activity against both Gram positive and Gram negative bacteria.
Caseicins A and B are low-molecular-weight antimicrobial peptides which are released by proteolytic digestion of sodium caseinate. Caseicin A (IKHQGLPQE) is a nine-amino-acid cationic peptide, and caseicin B (VLNENLLR) is a neutral eight-amino-acid peptide; both have previously been shown to exhibit antibacterial activity against a number of pathogens, including Cronobacter sakazakii. Previously, four variants of each caseicin which differed subtly from their natural counterparts were generated by peptide synthesis. Antimicrobial activity assays revealed that the importance of a number of the residues within the peptides was dependent on the strain being targeted. In this study, this engineering-based approach was expanded through the creation of a larger collection of 26 peptides which are altered in a variety of ways. The investigation highlights the generally greater tolerance of caseicin B to change, the fact that changes have a more detrimental impact on anti-Gram-negative activity, and the surprising number of variants which exhibit enhanced activity against Staphylococcus aureus.
The Listeria monocytogenes LiaSR two-component system (2CS) encoded by lmo1021 and lmo1022 plays an important role in resistance to the food preservative nisin. A nonpolar deletion in the histidine kinase-encoding component (ΔliaS) resulted in a 4-fold increase in nisin resistance. In contrast, the ΔliaS strain exhibited increased sensitivity to a number of cephalosporin antibiotics (and was also altered with respect to its response to a variety of other antimicrobials, including the active agents of a number of disinfectants). This pattern of increased nisin resistance and reduced cephalosporin resistance in L. monocytogenes has previously been associated with mutation of a second histidine kinase, LisK, which is a predicted regulator of liaS and a penicillin binding protein encoded by lmo2229. We noted that lmo2229 transcription is increased in the ΔliaS mutant and in a ΔliaS ΔlisK double mutant and that disruption of lmo2229 in the ΔliaS ΔlisK mutant resulted in a dramatic sensitization to nisin but had a relatively minor impact on cephalosporin resistance. We anticipate that further efforts to unravel the complex mechanisms by which LiaSR impacts on the antimicrobial resistance of L. monocytogenes could facilitate the development of strategies to increase the susceptibility of the pathogen to these agents.
Clostridium difficile is an important nosocomial pathogen associated particularly with diarrheal disease in elderly individuals in hospitals and long-term care facilities. We examined the carriage rate of Clostridium difficile by culture as a function of fecal microbiota composition in elderly subjects recruited from the community, including outpatient, short-term respite, and long-term hospital stay subjects. The carriage rate ranged from 1.6% (n = 123) for subjects in the community, to 9.5% (n = 43) in outpatient settings, and increasing to 21% (n = 151) for patients in short- or long-term care in hospital. The dominant 072 ribotype was carried by 43% (12/28) of subjects, while the hypervirulent strain R027 (B1/NAP1/027) was isolated from 3 subjects (11%), 2 of whom displayed C. difficile associated diarrhea (CDAD) symptoms at the time of sampling. Emerging ribotypes with enhanced virulence (078 and 018) were also isolated from two asymptomatic subjects. Pyrosequencing of rRNA gene amplicons was used to determine the composition of the fecal microbiota as a surrogate for the microbial population structure of the distal intestine. Asymptomatic subjects (n = 20) from whom C. difficile was isolated showed no dramatic difference at the phylum or family taxonomic level compared to those that were culture negative (n = 252). However, in contrast, a marked reduction in microbial diversity at genus level was observed in patients who had been diagnosed with CDAD at the time of sampling and from whom C. difficile R027 was isolated.
Fermented sausages, although presumed safe for consumption, sometimes cause serious bacterial infections in humans that may be deadly. Not much is known about why and when this is the case. We tested the hypothesis that residual veterinary antibiotics in meat can disrupt the fermentation process, giving pathogenic bacteria a chance to survive and multiply. We found that six commercially available starter cultures were susceptible to commonly used antibiotics, namely, oxytetracycline, penicillin, and erythromycin. In meat, statutorily tolerable levels of oxytetracycline and erythromycin inhibited fermentation performance of three and five of the six starter cultures, respectively. In model sausages, the disruption of meat fermentation enhanced survival of the pathogens Escherichia coli O157:H7 and Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium compared to successful fermentations. Our work reveals an overlooked risk associated with the presence of veterinary drugs in meat.
Antibiotics have for a long time been used as growth promoters in farm animals, and while they are banned as such in Europe, their clinical use in farm animals still accounts for the majority of consumption. Here, we examined how acceptable levels of antibiotics in meat influence fermentation. Our results show that commonly used bacterial starter cultures are sensitive to residual antibiotics at or near statutorily tolerable levels, and as a result, processed sausages may indeed contain high levels of pathogens. Our findings provide a possible explanation for outbreaks and disease cases associated with consumption of fermented sausages and offer yet another argument for limiting the use of antimicrobials in farm animals.
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.
Bacteriocins are an abundant and diverse group of ribosomally synthesized antimicrobial peptides produced by bacteria and archaea. Traditionally, bacteriocin production has been considered an important trait in the selection of probiotic strains, but until recently, few studies have definitively demonstrated the impact of bacteriocin production on the ability of a strain to compete within complex microbial communities and/or positively influence the health of the host. Although research in this area is still in its infancy, there is intriguing evidence to suggest that bacteriocins may function in a number of ways within the gastrointestinal tract. Bacteriocins may facilitate the introduction of a producer into an established niche, directly inhibit the invasion of competing strains or pathogens, or modulate the composition of the microbiota and influence the host immune system. Here we review the role of bacteriocin production in complex microbial communities and their potential to enhance human health.
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.
With the rapid advances in sequencing technologies in recent years, the human genome is now considered incomplete without the complementing microbiome, which outnumbers human genes by a factor of one hundred. The human microbiome, and more specifically the gut microbiome, has received considerable attention and research efforts over the past decade. Many studies have identified and quantified “who is there?,” while others have determined some of their functional capacity, or “what are they doing?” In a recent study, we identified novel salt-tolerance loci from the human gut microbiome using combined functional metagenomic and bioinformatics based approaches. Herein, we discuss the identified loci, their role in salt-tolerance and their importance in the context of the gut environment. We also consider the utility and power of functional metagenomics for mining such environments for novel genes and proteins, as well as the implications and possible applications for future research.
functional metagenomics; human gut microbiome; salt tolerance; meta-biotechnology
Bacteriocins produced by Lactobacillus salivarius isolates derived from a gastrointestinal origin have previously demonstrated efficacy for in vivo protection against Listeria monocytogenes infection. In this study, comparative genomic analysis was employed to investigate the intraspecies diversity of seven L. salivarius isolates of human and porcine intestinal origin, based on the genome of the well-characterized bacteriocin-producing strain L. salivarius UCC118. This revealed a highly conserved megaplasmid-borne gene cluster in these strains involved in the regulation and secretion of two-component class IIb bacteriocins. However, considerable intraspecific variation was observed in the structural genes encoding the bacteriocin peptides. They ranged from close relatives of abp118, such as salivaricin P, which differs by 2 amino acids, to completely novel bacteriocins, such as salivaricin T, which is characterized in this study. Salivaricin T inhibits closely related lactobacilli and bears little homology to previously characterized salivaricins. Interestingly, the two peptides responsible for salivaricin T activity, SalTα and SalTβ, share considerable identity with the component peptides of thermophilin 13, a bacteriocin produced by Streptococcus thermophilus. Furthermore, the salivaricin locus of strain DPC6488 also encodes an additional novel one-component class IId anti-listerial bacteriocin, salivaricin L. These findings suggest a high level of redundancy in the bacteriocins that can be produced by intestinal L. salivarius isolates using the same enzymatic production and export machinery. Such diversity may contribute to their ability to dominate and compete within the complex microbiota of the mammalian gut.
The ability of the liver to regenerate is crucial to protect liver function after injury and during chronic disease. Increases in hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) in liver sinusoidal endothelial cells (LSECs) are thought to drive liver regeneration. However, in contrast to endothelial progenitor cells, mature LSECs express little HGF. Therefore, we sought to establish in rats whether liver injury causes BM LSEC progenitor cells to engraft in the liver and provide increased levels of HGF and to examine the relative contribution of resident and BM LSEC progenitors. LSEC label-retaining cells and progenitors were identified in liver and LSEC progenitors in BM. BM LSEC progenitors did not contribute to normal LSEC turnover in the liver. However, after partial hepatectomy, BM LSEC progenitor proliferation and mobilization to the circulation doubled. In the liver, one-quarter of the LSECs were BM derived, and BM LSEC progenitors differentiated into fenestrated LSECs. When irradiated rats underwent partial hepatectomy, liver regeneration was compromised, but infusion of LSEC progenitors rescued the defect. Further analysis revealed that BM LSEC progenitors expressed substantially more HGF and were more proliferative than resident LSEC progenitors after partial hepatectomy. Resident LSEC progenitors within their niche may play a smaller role in recovery from partial hepatectomy than BM LSEC progenitors, but, when infused after injury, these progenitors engrafted and expanded markedly over a 2-month period. In conclusion, LSEC progenitor cells are present in liver and BM, and recruitment of BM LSEC progenitors is necessary for normal liver regeneration.
Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a common cause of infection in the lungs of patients with cystic fibrosis (CF). In addition, biofilm formation and antibiotic resistance of Pseudomonas are major problems that can complicate antibiotic therapy. We evaluated the efficacy of using bacteriophages to kill the pathogen in both biofilms and in the murine lung. We isolated and characterized two phages from a local wastewater treatment plant, a myovirus (ϕNH-4) and a podovirus (ϕMR299-2). Both phages were active against clinical isolates of P. aeruginosa. Together, the two phages killed all 9 clinical isolate strains tested, including both mucoid and nonmucoid strains. An equal mixture of the two phages was effective in killing P. aeruginosa NH57388A (mucoid) and P. aeruginosa MR299 (nonmucoid) strains when growing as a biofilm on a cystic fibrosis bronchial epithelial CFBE41o- cell line. Phage titers increased almost 100-fold over a 24-h period, confirming replication of the phage. Furthermore, the phage mix was also effective in killing the pathogen in murine lungs containing 1 × 107 to 2 × 107
P. aeruginosa. Pseudomonas was effectively cleared (reduced by a magnitude of at least 3 to 4 log units) from murine lungs in 6 h. Our study demonstrates the efficacy of these two phages in killing clinical Pseudomonas isolates in the murine lung or as a biofilm on a pulmonary cell line and supports the growing interest in using phage therapy for the control and treatment of multidrug-resistant Pseudomonas lung infections in CF patients.
Given the rise in antibiotic resistance, nonantibiotic therapies are required for the treatment of infection. This is particularly true for the treatment of Pseudomonas infection in patients with cystic fibrosis. We have identified two bacterial viruses (bacteriophages) that can kill Pseudomonas growing on human lung cells and in an animal model of lung infection. The use of bacteriophages is particularly appropriate because the killing agent can replicate on the target cell, generating fresh copies of the bacteriophage. Thus, in the presence of a target, the killing agent multiplies. By using two bacteriophages we can reduce the risk of resistant colonies developing at the site of infection. Bacteriophage therapy is an exciting field, and this study represents an important demonstration of efficacy in validated infection models.
Regulation of iron homeostasis in many pathogens is principally mediated by the ferric uptake regulator, Fur. Since acquisition of iron from the host is essential for the intracellular pathogen Listeria monocytogenes, we predicted the existence of Fur-regulated systems that support infection. We examined the contribution of nine Fur-regulated loci to the pathogenicity of L. monocytogenes in a murine model of infection. While mutating the majority of the genes failed to affect virulence, three mutants exhibited a significantly compromised virulence potential. Most striking was the role of the membrane protein we designate FrvA (Fur regulated virulence factor A; encoded by frvA [lmo0641]), which is absolutely required for the systemic phase of infection in mice and also for virulence in an alternative infection model, the Wax Moth Galleria mellonella. Further analysis of the ΔfrvA mutant revealed poor growth in iron deficient media and inhibition of growth by micromolar concentrations of haem or haemoglobin, a phenotype which may contribute to the attenuated growth of this mutant during infection. Uptake studies indicated that the ΔfrvA mutant is unaffected in the uptake of ferric citrate but demonstrates a significant increase in uptake of haem and haemin. The data suggest a potential role for FrvA as a haem exporter that functions, at least in part, to protect the cell against the potential toxicity of free haem.
The objective of this study was to investigate the in vivo activity of the lantibiotic lacticin 3147 against the luminescent Staphylococcus aureus strain Xen 29 using a murine model. Female BALB/c mice (7 weeks old, 17 g) were divided into groups (n = 5) and infected with the Xen 29 strain via the intraperitoneal route at a dose of 1 × 106 cfu/animal. After 1.5 hr, the animals were treated subcutaneously with doses of phosphate-buffered saline (PBS; negative control) or lacticin 3147. Luminescent imaging was carried 3 and 5 hours postinfection. Mice were then sacrificed, and the levels of S. aureus Xen 29 in the liver, spleen, and kidneys were quantified. Notably, photoluminescence and culture-based analysis both revealed that lacticin 3147 successfully controlled the systemic spread of S. aureus in mice thus indicating that lacticin 3147 has potential as a chemotherapeutic agent for in vivo applications.
Caseicin A (IKHQGLPQE) and caseicin B (VLNENLLR) are antimicrobial peptides generated through the bacterial fermentation of sodium caseinate, and on the basis of this and previous studies, they are active against many Gram-negative pathogens (Cronobacter sakazakii, Cronobacter muytjensii, Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium, Escherichia coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae, and Pseudomonas fluorescens) as well as the Gram-positive organism Staphylococcus aureus. Here we describe further studies with the aim of establishing the importance of specific (charged and nonpolar aliphatic) residues within the caseicin peptides and the effects that they have on the bacteria listed above. In order to achieve our objective, we created four derivatives of each caseicin (A1 to A4 and B1 to B4) in which specific residues were altered, and results obtained with these derivatives were compared to wild-type caseicin activity. Although conversion of cationic residues to alanine in caseicins B1 (R8A change), A1 (K2A), A2 (H3A), and A3 (K2A-H3A) generally resulted in their activity against microbial targets being reduced or unaltered, C. sakazakii DPC6440 was unusual in that it displayed enhanced sensitivity to three peptides (caseicins A1, A3, and B2) in which positively charged residues had been eliminated. While the replacement of leucine with alanine in selected variants (B3 and B4) resulted in reduced activity against a number of strains of Cronobacter and, in some cases, S. Typhimurium, these changes enhanced the activities of these peptides against DPC6440 and a number of S. aureus strains. It is thus apparent that the importance of specific residues within the caseicin peptides is dependent on the strain being targeted.
Listeria monocytogenes strains (n = 117) were screened for the presence of stress survival islet 1 (SSI-1). SSI-1+ strains (32.5%) belonged mainly to serotypes 1/2c, 3b, and 3c. All sequence type 121 (ST-121) strains included (n = 7) possessed homologues to Listeria innocua genes lin0464 and lin0465 instead of SSI-1.
Lactobacillus plantarum LMG P-26358 isolated from a soft French artisanal cheese produces a potent class IIa bacteriocin with 100% homology to plantaricin 423 and bacteriocidal activity against Listeria innocua and Listeria monocytogenes. The bacteriocin was found to be highly stable at temperatures as high as 100°C and pH ranges from 1-10. While this relatively narrow spectrum bacteriocin also exhibited antimicrobial activity against species of enterococci, it did not inhibit dairy starters including lactococci and lactobacilli when tested by well diffusion assay (WDA). In order to test the suitability of Lb. plantarum LMG P-26358 as an anti-listerial adjunct with nisin-producing lactococci, laboratory-scale cheeses were manufactured. Results indicated that combining Lb. plantarum LMG P-26358 (at 108 colony forming units (cfu)/ml) with a nisin producer is an effective strategy to eliminate the biological indicator strain, L. innocua. Moreover, industrial-scale cheeses also demonstrated that Lb. plantarum LMG P-26358 was much more effective than the nisin producer alone for protection against the indicator. MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry confirmed the presence of plantaricin 423 and nisin in the appropriate cheeses over an 18 week ripening period. A spray-dried fermentate of Lb. plantarum LMG P-26358 also demonstrated potent anti-listerial activity in vitro using L. innocua. Overall, the results suggest that Lb. plantarum LMG P-26358 is a suitable adjunct for use with nisin-producing cultures to improve the safety and quality of dairy products.
Thuricin CD is a two-component bacteriocin produced by Bacillus thuringiensis that kills a wide range of clinically significant Clostridium difficile. This bacteriocin has recently been characterized and consists of two distinct peptides, Trnβ and Trnα, which both possess 3 intrapeptide sulphur to α-carbon bridges and act synergistically. Indeed, thuricin CD and subtilosin A are the only antimicrobials known to possess these unusual structures and are known as the sactibiotics (sulplur to alpha carbon-containing antibiotics). Analysis of the thuricin CD-associated gene cluster revealed the presence of genes encoding two highly unusual SAM proteins (TrnC and TrnD) which are proposed to be responsible for these unusual post-translational modifications. On the basis of the frequently high conservation among enzymes responsible for the post-translational modification of specific antimicrobials, we performed an in silico screen for novel thuricin CD–like gene clusters using the TrnC and TrnD radical SAM proteins as driver sequences to perform an initial homology search against the complete non-redundant database. Fifteen novel thuricin CD–like gene clusters were identified, based on the presence of TrnC and TrnD homologues in the context of neighbouring genes encoding potential bacteriocin structural peptides. Moreover, metagenomic analysis revealed that TrnC or TrnD homologs are present in a variety of metagenomic environments, suggesting a widespread distribution of thuricin-like operons in a variety of environments. In-silico analysis of radical SAM proteins is sufficient to identify novel putative sactibiotic clusters.
Due to the severity of the food-borne infection listeriosis, strict legislation governs the detectable and permissible limits at which Listeria monocytogenes is permitted in foods. These requirements, coupled with the ubiquitous nature of L. monocytogenes strains and the potential for epidemic outbreaks, mean that the pathogen can devastate affected sectors of the food industry. Although almost all L. monocytogenes strains have the potential to cause listeriosis, those implicated in the vast majority of epidemics belong to a subset of strains belonging to evolutionary lineage I. It has been established that a significant proportion of these strains, including those implicated in the majority of outbreaks, produce an additional hemolysin, designated listeriolysin S (LLS), which may be responsible for the enhanced virulence of these strains. In order to ultimately establish this definitively, it is important to first be able to rapidly discriminate between LLS-positive and -negative strains. Here, after essential genes within the LLS-encoding cluster, Listeria pathogenicity island 3, were identified by deletion mutagenesis, a real-time PCR assay which targets one such gene, llsX, was developed as a means of identifying LLS-positive L. monocytogenes. The specificity of the assay was validated against a panel of 40 L. monocytogenes strains (20 of which were LLS positive) and 25 strains representative of other Listeria species. Furthermore, 1 CFU of an LLS-positive strain per 25 g/ml of spiked foods was detected in less than 30 h when the assay was coupled with culture enrichment. The detection limit of this assay was 10 genome equivalents.
The food-borne pathogen Listeria monocytogenes is known to colonize the lumen of the gallbladder in infected mice and to grow rapidly in this environment (J. Hardy et al., Science 303:851-853, 2004). However, relatively little is known about the mechanisms utilized by the pathogen to survive and grow in this location. We utilized gallbladder bile (GB bile) isolated directly from porcine gallbladders as an ex vivo model of gallbladder growth. We demonstrate that GB bile is generally nontoxic for bacteria and can readily support growth of a variety of bacterial species including L. monocytogenes, Lactococcus lactis, Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium, and Escherichia coli. Significantly, L. monocytogenes grew at the same rate as the nonpathogenic species Listeria innocua, indicating that the pathogen does not possess specialized mechanisms that enable growth in this environment. However, when we reduced the pH of GB bile to pH 5.5 in order to mimic the release of bile within the small intestine, the toxicity of GB bile increased significantly and specific resistance mechanisms (Sigma B, BSH, and BilE) were essential for survival of the pathogen under these conditions. In order to identify genetic loci that are necessary for growth of L. monocytogenes in the gallbladder, a mariner transposon bank was created and screened for mutants unable to replicate in GB bile. This led to the identification of mutants in six loci, including genes encoding enzymes involved in purine metabolism, amino acid biosynthesis, and biotin uptake. Although GB bile does not represent a significant impediment to bacterial growth, specific metabolic processes are required by L. monocytogenes in order to grow in this environment.
Human blood Vγ9/Vδ2 T cells, monocytes and neutrophils share a responsiveness toward inflammatory chemokines and are rapidly recruited to sites of infection. Studying their interaction in vitro and relating these findings to in vivo observations in patients may therefore provide crucial insight into inflammatory events. Our present data demonstrate that Vγ9/Vδ2 T cells provide potent survival signals resulting in neutrophil activation and the release of the neutrophil chemoattractant CXCL8 (IL-8). In turn, Vγ9/Vδ2 T cells readily respond to neutrophils harboring phagocytosed bacteria, as evidenced by expression of CD69, interferon (IFN)-γ and tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α. This response is dependent on the ability of these bacteria to produce the microbial metabolite (E)-4-hydroxy-3-methyl-but-2-enyl pyrophosphate (HMB-PP), requires cell-cell contact of Vγ9/Vδ2 T cells with accessory monocytes through lymphocyte function-associated antigen-1 (LFA-1), and results in a TNF-α dependent proliferation of Vγ9/Vδ2 T cells. The antibiotic fosmidomycin, which targets the HMB-PP biosynthesis pathway, not only has a direct antibacterial effect on most HMB-PP producing bacteria but also possesses rapid anti-inflammatory properties by inhibiting γδ T cell responses in vitro. Patients with acute peritoneal-dialysis (PD)-associated bacterial peritonitis – characterized by an excessive influx of neutrophils and monocytes into the peritoneal cavity – show a selective activation of local Vγ9/Vδ2 T cells by HMB-PP producing but not by HMB-PP deficient bacterial pathogens. The γδ T cell-driven perpetuation of inflammatory responses during acute peritonitis is associated with elevated peritoneal levels of γδ T cells and TNF-α and detrimental clinical outcomes in infections caused by HMB-PP positive microorganisms. Taken together, our findings indicate a direct link between invading pathogens, neutrophils, monocytes and microbe-responsive γδ T cells in early infection and suggest novel diagnostic and therapeutic approaches.
The immune system of all jawed vertebrates harbors three distinct lymphocyte populations – αβ T cells, γδ T cells and B cells – yet only higher primates including humans possess so-called Vγ9/Vδ2 T cells, an enigmatic γδ T cell subset that uniformly responds to the majority of bacterial pathogens. For reasons that are not understood, this responsiveness is absent in all other animals although they too are constantly exposed to a plethora of potentially harmful micro-organisms. We here investigated how Vγ9/Vδ2 T cells respond to live microbes by mimicking physiological conditions in acute disease. Our experiments demonstrate that Vγ9/Vδ2 T cells recognize a small common molecule released when invading bacteria become ingested and killed by other white blood cells. The stimulation of Vγ9/Vδ2 T cells at the site of infection amplifies the inflammatory response and has important consequences for pathogen clearance and the development of microbe-specific immunity. However, if triggered at the wrong time or the wrong place, this rapid reaction toward bacteria may also lead to inflammation-related damage. These findings improve our insight into the complex cellular interactions in early infection, identify novel biomarkers of diagnostic and predictive value and highlight new avenues for therapeutic intervention.