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1.  The Genome of the Predominant Equine Lactobacillus Species, Lactobacillus equi, Is Reflective of Its Lifestyle Adaptations to an Herbivorous Host 
Genome Announcements  2014;2(1):e01155-13.
We report the draft genome sequence of Lactobacillus equi strain DPC6820, isolated from equine feces. L. equi is a predominant Lactobacillus species in the horse hindgut microbiota. An examination of the genome identified genes and enzymes highlighting L. equi adaptations to the herbivorous gastrointestinal tract of the horse, including fructan hydrolases. This genome sequence may help us further understand the microbial ecology of the equine hindgut and the influence lactobacilli have on it.
doi:10.1128/genomeA.01155-13
PMCID: PMC3894277  PMID: 24435863
2.  Metabolism of Four α-Glycosidic Linkage-Containing Oligosaccharides by Bifidobacterium breve UCC2003 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2013;79(20):6280-6292.
Members of the genus Bifidobacterium are common inhabitants of the gastrointestinal tracts of humans and other mammals, where they ferment many diet-derived carbohydrates that cannot be digested by their hosts. To extend our understanding of bifidobacterial carbohydrate utilization, we investigated the molecular mechanisms by which 11 strains of Bifidobacterium breve metabolize four distinct α-glucose- and/or α-galactose-containing oligosaccharides, namely, raffinose, stachyose, melibiose, and melezitose. Here we demonstrate that all B. breve strains examined possess the ability to utilize raffinose, stachyose, and melibiose. However, the ability to metabolize melezitose was not common to all B. breve strains tested. Transcriptomic and functional genomic approaches identified a gene cluster dedicated to the metabolism of α-galactose-containing carbohydrates, while an adjacent gene cluster, dedicated to the metabolism of α-glucose-containing melezitose, was identified in strains that are able to use this carbohydrate.
doi:10.1128/AEM.01775-13
PMCID: PMC3811189  PMID: 23913435
3.  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).
doi:10.1038/nrmicro2624
PMCID: PMC3928602  PMID: 21822292
4.  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.
doi:10.4161/gmic.21417
PMCID: PMC3466502  PMID: 22892690
Lactobacillus salivarius; bacteriocin; comparative genomic hybridization; probiotic; salivaricin
5.  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.
Background
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.
Results
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.
Conclusions
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.
doi:10.1186/1471-2180-14-25
PMCID: PMC3917905  PMID: 24499167
Antibiotic resistance; Aminoglycosides; β-lactam; Gut microbiota; PCR
6.  Phages of non-dairy lactococci: isolation and characterization of ΦL47, a phage infecting the grass isolate Lactococcus lactis ssp. cremoris DPC6860 
Lactococci isolated from non-dairy sources have been found to possess enhanced metabolic activity when compared to dairy strains. These capabilities may be harnessed through the use of these strains as starter or adjunct cultures to produce more diverse flavor profiles in cheese and other dairy products. To understand the interactions between these organisms and the phages that infect them, a number of phages were isolated against lactococcal strains of non-dairy origin. One such phage, ΦL47, was isolated from a sewage sample using the grass isolate L. lactis ssp. cremoris DPC6860 as a host. Visualization of phage virions by transmission electron microscopy established that this phage belongs to the family Siphoviridae and possesses a long tail fiber, previously unseen in dairy lactococcal phages. Determination of the lytic spectrum revealed a broader than expected host range, with ΦL47 capable of infecting 4 industrial dairy strains, including ML8, HP and 310, and 3 additional non-dairy isolates. Whole genome sequencing of ΦL47 revealed a dsDNA genome of 128, 546 bp, making it the largest sequenced lactococcal phage to date. In total, 190 open reading frames (ORFs) were identified, and comparative analysis revealed that the predicted products of 117 of these ORFs shared greater than 50% amino acid identity with those of L. lactis phage Φ949, a phage isolated from cheese whey. Despite their different ecological niches, the genomic content and organization of ΦL47 and Φ949 are quite similar, with both containing 4 gene clusters oriented in different transcriptional directions. Other features that distinguish ΦL47 from Φ949 and other lactococcal phages, in addition to the presence of the tail fiber and the genome length, include a low GC content (32.5%) and a high number of predicted tRNA genes (8). Comparative genome analysis supports the conclusion that ΦL47 is a new member of the 949 lactococcal phage group which currently includes the dairy Φ949.
doi:10.3389/fmicb.2013.00417
PMCID: PMC3888941  PMID: 24454309
Lactococcus lactis; non-dairy; phage; tail fiber; genome
7.  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.
doi:10.4161/gmic.22371
PMCID: PMC3555884  PMID: 23022738
gut; microbiota; bacteriophages; phages; prophages; induction; community shuffling
8.  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.
doi:10.4161/gmic.22328
PMCID: PMC3555886  PMID: 23018760
obesity; antimicrobials; gut microbiota; firmicutes; metabolic disease
9.  Draft Genome Sequence of Lactobacillus crispatus EM-LC1, an Isolate with Antimicrobial Activity Cultured from an Elderly Subject 
Genome Announcements  2013;1(6):e01070-13.
Here we report the 1.86-Mb draft genome sequence of Lactobacillus crispatus EM-LC1, a fecal isolate with antimicrobial activity. This genome sequence is expected to provide insights into the antimicrobial activity of L. crispatus and improve our knowledge of its potential probiotic traits.
doi:10.1128/genomeA.01070-13
PMCID: PMC3868860  PMID: 24356836
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.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0082653
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.
doi:10.1128/AAC.00261-13
PMCID: PMC3716125  PMID: 23571539
12.  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.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0079563
PMCID: PMC3823697  PMID: 24244524
13.  Bactofencin A, a New Type of Cationic Bacteriocin with Unusual Immunity 
mBio  2013;4(6):e00498-13.
ABSTRACT
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.
IMPORTANCE
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.
doi:10.1128/mBio.00498-13
PMCID: PMC3809560  PMID: 24169573
14.  The Effect of Dietary Supplementation with Spent Cider Yeast on the Swine Distal Gut Microbiome 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e75714.
Background
There is an increasing need for alternatives to antibiotics for promoting animal health, given the increasing problems associated with antibiotic resistance. In this regard, we evaluated spent cider yeast as a potential probiotic for modifying the gut microbiota in weanling pigs using pyrosequencing of 16S rRNA gene libraries.
Methodology and Principal Findings
Piglets aged 24–26 days were assigned to one of two study groups; control (n = 12) and treatment (n = 12). The control animals were fed with a basal diet and the treatment animals were fed with basal diet in combination with cider yeast supplement (500 ml cider yeast containing ∼7.6 log CFU/ml) for 21 days. Faecal samples were collected for 16s rRNA gene compositional analysis. 16S rRNA compositional sequencing analysis of the faecal samples collected from day 0 and day 21 revealed marked differences in microbial diversity at both the phylum and genus levels between the control and treatment groups. This analysis confirmed that levels of Salmonella and Escherichia were significantly decreased in the treatment group, compared with the control (P<0.001). This data suggest a positive influence of dietary supplementation with live cider yeast on the microbial diversity of the pig distal gut.
Conclusions/Significance
The effect of dietary cider yeast on porcine gut microbial communities was characterized for the first time using 16S rRNA gene compositional sequencing. Dietary cider yeast can potentially alter the gut microbiota, however such changes depend on their endogenous microbiota that causes a divergence in relative response to that given diet.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0075714
PMCID: PMC3794030  PMID: 24130736
15.  The two peptide lantibiotic lacticin 3147 acts synergistically with polymyxin to inhibit Gram negative bacteria 
BMC Microbiology  2013;13:212.
Background
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.
Results
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.
Conclusions
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.
doi:10.1186/1471-2180-13-212
PMCID: PMC3849175  PMID: 24069959
Antimicrobial; Synergy; Lantibiotic; Bacteriocin; Lacticin 3147; Polymyxin
16.  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.
Summary
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.
doi:10.1111/1751-7915.12041
PMCID: PMC3918158  PMID: 23433070
17.  Identification and characterization of an oleate hydratase-encoding gene from Bifidobacterium breve 
Bioengineered  2013;4(5):313-321.
Bifidobacteria are common commensals of the mammalian gastrointestinal tract. Previous studies have suggested that a bifidobacterial myosin cross reactive antigen (MCRA) protein plays a role in bacterial stress tolerance, while this protein has also been linked to the biosynthesis of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) in bifidobacteria. In order to increase our understanding on the role of MCRA in bifidobacteria we created and analyzed an insertion mutant of the MCRA-encoding gene of B. breve NCFB 2258. Our results demonstrate that the MCRA protein of B. breve NCFB 2258 does not appear to play a role in CLA production, yet is an oleate hydratase, which contributes to bifidobacterial solvent stress protection.
doi:10.4161/bioe.24159
PMCID: PMC3813531  PMID: 23851389
bifidobacteria; probiotic; conjugated linoleic acid; myosin cross reactive antigen; hydratase
18.  Bacteriocin Production: a Probiotic Trait? 
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.
doi:10.1128/AEM.05576-11
PMCID: PMC3255625  PMID: 22038602
19.  Sequencing-Based Analysis of the Bacterial and Fungal Composition of Kefir Grains and Milks from Multiple Sources 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e69371.
Kefir is a fermented milk-based beverage to which a number of health-promoting properties have been attributed. The microbes responsible for the fermentation of milk to produce kefir consist of a complex association of bacteria and yeasts, bound within a polysaccharide matrix, known as the kefir grain. The consistency of this microbial population, and that present in the resultant beverage, has been the subject of a number of previous, almost exclusively culture-based, studies which have indicated differences depending on geographical location and culture conditions. However, culture-based identification studies are limited by virtue of only detecting species with the ability to grow on the specific medium used and thus culture-independent, molecular-based techniques offer the potential for a more comprehensive analysis of such communities. Here we describe a detailed investigation of the microbial population, both bacterial and fungal, of kefir, using high-throughput sequencing to analyse 25 kefir milks and associated grains sourced from 8 geographically distinct regions. This is the first occasion that this technology has been employed to investigate the fungal component of these populations or to reveal the microbial composition of such an extensive number of kefir grains or milks. As a result several genera and species not previously identified in kefir were revealed. Our analysis shows that the bacterial populations in kefir are dominated by 2 phyla, the Firmicutes and the Proteobacteria. It was also established that the fungal populations of kefir were dominated by the genera Kazachstania, Kluyveromyces and Naumovozyma, but that a variable sub-dominant population also exists.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0069371
PMCID: PMC3716650  PMID: 23894461
20.  Targeting the Microbiota to Address Diet-Induced Obesity: A Time Dependent Challenge 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e65790.
Links between the gut microbiota and host metabolism have provided new perspectives on obesity. We previously showed that the link between the microbiota and fat deposition is age- and time-dependent subject to microbial adaptation to diet over time. We also demonstrated reduced weight gain in diet-induced obese (DIO) mice through manipulation of the gut microbiota with vancomycin or with the bacteriocin-producing probiotic Lactobacillus salivarius UCC118 (Bac+), with metabolic improvement achieved in DIO mice in receipt of vancomycin. However, two phases of weight gain were observed with effects most marked early in the intervention phase. Here, we compare the gut microbial populations at the early relative to the late stages of intervention using a high throughput sequencing-based analysis to understand the temporal relationship between the gut microbiota and obesity. This reveals several differences in microbiota composition over the intervening period. Vancomycin dramatically altered the gut microbiota composition, relative to controls, at the early stages of intervention after which time some recovery was evident. It was also revealed that Bac+ treatment initially resulted in the presence of significantly higher proportions of Peptococcaceae and significantly lower proportions of Rikenellaceae and Porphyromonadaceae relative to the gut microbiota of L. salivarius UCC118 bacteriocin negative (Bac-) administered controls. These differences were no longer evident at the later time. The results highlight the resilience of the gut microbiota and suggest that interventions may need to be monitored and continually adjusted to ensure sustained modification of the gut microbiota.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0065790
PMCID: PMC3676335  PMID: 23762426
21.  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.
doi:10.4161/gmic.20169
PMCID: PMC3427213  PMID: 22572829
infant; gut microbiota; high-throughput sequencing; colonization; probiotics; prebiotics; antibiotics
22.  High-Throughput Sequencing Reveals the Incomplete, Short-Term Recovery of Infant Gut Microbiota following Parenteral Antibiotic Treatment with Ampicillin and Gentamicin 
Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy  2012;56(11):5811-5820.
The infant gut microbiota undergoes dramatic changes during the first 2 years of life. The acquisition and development of this population can be influenced by numerous factors, and antibiotic treatment has been suggested as one of the most significant. Despite this, however, there have been relatively few studies which have investigated the short-term recovery of the infant gut microbiota following antibiotic treatment. The aim of this study was to use high-throughput sequencing (employing both 16S rRNA and rpoB-specific primers) and quantitative PCR to compare the gut microbiota of nine infants who underwent parenteral antibiotic treatment with ampicillin and gentamicin (within 48 h of birth), 4 and 8 weeks after the conclusion of treatment, relative to that of nine matched healthy controls. The investigation revealed that the gut microbiota of the antibiotic-treated infants had significantly higher proportions of Proteobacteria (P = 0.0049) and significantly lower proportions of Actinobacteria (P = 0.00001) (and the associated genus Bifidobacterium [P = 0.0132]) as well as the genus Lactobacillus (P = 0.0182) than the untreated controls 4 weeks after the cessation of treatment. By week 8, the Proteobacteria levels remained significantly higher in the treated infants (P = 0.0049), but the Actinobacteria, Bifidobacterium, and Lactobacillus levels had recovered and were similar to those in the control samples. Despite this recovery of total Bifidobacterium numbers, rpoB-targeted pyrosequencing revealed that the number of different Bifidobacterium species present in the antibiotic-treated infants was reduced. It is thus apparent that the combined use of ampicillin and gentamicin in early life can have significant effects on the evolution of the infant gut microbiota, the long-term health implications of which remain unknown.
doi:10.1128/AAC.00789-12
PMCID: PMC3486619  PMID: 22948872
23.  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.
doi:10.1128/AAC.00979-12
PMCID: PMC3457384  PMID: 22802258
24.  Microbiota diversity and stability of the preterm neonatal ileum and colon of two infants 
MicrobiologyOpen  2013;2(2):215-225.
The composition of the microbiota associated with the human ileum and colon in the early weeks of life of two preterm infants was examined, with particular emphasis on the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium members. Culturing work showed that bifidobacteria and lactobacilli in the ileostomy changed over time, compared with the colostomy effluent where there was far less variation. The colostomy infant was dominated by two phyla, Actinobacteria and Firmicutes, while in the ileostomy samples, Proteobacteria emerged at the expense of Actinobacteria. Bacteroidetes were only detected following the reversal of the ileostomy in the final fecal sample and were not detected in any colonic fluid samples. Clostridia levels were unstable in the colostomy fluid, suggesting that the ileostomy/colostomy itself influenced the gut microbiota, in particular the strict anaerobes. Pyrosequencing analysis of microbiota composition indicated that bifidobacteria and lactobacilli are among the dominant genera in both the ileal and colonic fluids. Bifidobacteria and lactobacilli levels were unstable in the ileostomy fluid, with large reductions in numbers and relative proportions of both observed. These decreases were characterized by an increase in proportions of Streptococcus and Enterobacteriaceae. Clostridium was detected only in the colonic effluent, with large changes in the relative proportions over time.
doi:10.1002/mbo3.64
PMCID: PMC3633347  PMID: 23349073
Colostomy; gastrointestinal tract; ileostomy; microbiota; preterm infant
25.  Saturation Mutagenesis of Lysine 12 Leads to the Identification of Derivatives of Nisin A with Enhanced Antimicrobial Activity 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e58530.
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.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0058530
PMCID: PMC3594307  PMID: 23505531

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