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1.  A Robust and Adaptable High Throughput Screening Method to Study Host-Microbiota Interactions in the Human Intestine 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(8):e105598.
The intestinal microbiota has many beneficial roles for its host. However, the precise mechanisms developed by the microbiota to influence the host intestinal cell responses are only partially known. The complexity of the ecosystem and our inability to culture most of these micro-organisms have led to the development of molecular approaches such as functional metagenomics, i.e. the heterologous expression of a metagenome in order to identify functions. This elegant strategy coupled to high throughput screening allowed to identify novel enzymes from different ecosystems where culture methods have not yet been adapted to isolate the candidate microorganisms. We have proposed to use this functional metagenomic approach in order to model the microbiota’s interaction with the host by combining this heterologous expression with intestinal reporter cell lines. The addition of the cellular component to this functional metagenomic approach introduced a second important source of variability resulting in a novel challenge for high throughput screening. First attempts of high throughput screening with various reporter cell-lines showed a high distribution of the response and consequent difficulties to reproduce the response, impairing an easy and clear identification of confirmed hits. In this study, we developed a robust and reproducible methodology to combine these two biological systems for high throughput application. We optimized experimental setups and completed them by appropriate statistical analysis tools allowing the use this innovative approach in a high throughput manner and on a broad range of reporter assays. We herewith present a methodology allowing a high throughput screening combining two biological systems. Therefore ideal conditions for homogeneity, sensitivity and reproducibility of both metagenomic clones as well as reporter cell lines have been identified and validated. We believe that this innovative method will allow the identification of new bioactive microbial molecules and, subsequently, will promote understanding of host-microbiota interactions.
PMCID: PMC4139392  PMID: 25141006
2.  Enterococcus faecalis Prophage Dynamics and Contributions to Pathogenic Traits 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(6):e1003539.
Polylysogeny is frequently considered to be the result of an adaptive evolutionary process in which prophages confer fitness and/or virulence factors, thus making them important for evolution of both bacterial populations and infectious diseases. The Enterococcus faecalis V583 isolate belongs to the high-risk clonal complex 2 that is particularly well adapted to the hospital environment. Its genome carries 7 prophage-like elements (V583-pp1 to -pp7), one of which is ubiquitous in the species. In this study, we investigated the activity of the V583 prophages and their contribution to E. faecalis biological traits. We systematically analyzed the ability of each prophage to excise from the bacterial chromosome, to replicate and to package its DNA. We also created a set of E. faecalis isogenic strains that lack from one to all six non-ubiquitous prophages by mimicking natural excision. Our work reveals that prophages of E. faecalis V583 excise from the bacterial chromosome in the presence of a fluoroquinolone, and are able to produce active phage progeny. Intricate interactions between V583 prophages were also unveiled: i) pp7, coined EfCIV583 for E. faecalis chromosomal island of V583, hijacks capsids from helper phage 1, leading to the formation of distinct virions, and ii) pp1, pp3 and pp5 inhibit excision of pp4 and pp6. The hijacking exerted by EfCIV583 on helper phage 1 capsids is the first example of molecular piracy in Gram positive bacteria other than staphylococci. Furthermore, prophages encoding platelet-binding-like proteins were found to be involved in adhesion to human platelets, considered as a first step towards the development of infective endocarditis. Our findings reveal not only a role of E. faecalis V583 prophages in pathogenicity, but also provide an explanation for the correlation between antibiotic usage and E. faecalis success as a nosocomial pathogen, as fluoriquinolone may provoke release of prophages and promote gene dissemination among isolates.
Author Summary
Enterococcus faecalis is a member of the core-microbiome of the human gastrointestinal tract. In the last decades however, this bacterial species has emerged as a major cause of hospital-acquired infections worldwide. Some isolates are particularly adapted to the hospital environment, and this adaptation was recently linked with enrichment in mobile genetic elements including prophages, which are chromosomal integrated genomes of bacterial viruses. We characterized the biological prophage activity in an E. faecalis strain of clinical origin that harbors 7 prophages. Six active prophages exhibit intricate interactions, one of which is involved in a molecular piracy phenomenon. We also established, for the first time, a direct correlation between prophage and adhesion to human platelets, an initial step towards infective endocarditis. Finally, we showed that fluoroquinolone increases prophage activity and can thus contribute to horizontal gene spreading. Overall, we provide evidence that prophages are key players in E. faecalis evolution towards pathogenicity.
PMCID: PMC3675006  PMID: 23754962
3.  Anaesthetic Impairment of Immune Function Is Mediated via GABAA Receptors 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(2):e17152.
GABAA receptors are members of the Cys-loop family of neurotransmitter receptors, proteins which are responsible for fast synaptic transmission, and are the site of action of wide range of drugs [1]. Recent work has shown that Cys-loop receptors are present on immune cells, but their physiological roles and the effects of drugs that modify their function in the innate immune system are currently unclear [2]. We are interested in how and why anaesthetics increase infections in intensive care patients; a serious problem as more than 50% of patients with severe sepsis will die [3]–[6]. As many anaesthetics act via GABAA receptors [7], the aim of this study was to determine if these receptors are present on immune cells, and could play a role in immunocompromising patients.
Principal Findings
We demonstrate, using RT-PCR, that monocytes express GABAA receptors constructed of α1, α4, β2, γ1 and/or δ subunits. Whole cell patch clamp electrophysiological studies show that GABA can activate these receptors, resulting in the opening of a chloride-selective channel; activation is inhibited by the GABAA receptor antagonists bicuculline and picrotoxin, but not enhanced by the positive modulator diazepam. The anaesthetic drugs propofol and thiopental, which can act via GABAA receptors, impaired monocyte function in classic immunological chemotaxis and phagocytosis assays, an effect reversed by bicuculline and picrotoxin.
Our results show that functional GABAA receptors are present on monocytes with properties similar to CNS GABAA receptors. The functional data provide a possible explanation as to why chronic propofol and thiopental administration can increase the risk of infection in critically ill patients: their action on GABAA receptors inhibits normal monocyte behaviour. The data also suggest a potential solution: monocyte GABAA receptors are insensitive to diazepam, thus the use of benzodiazepines as an alternative anesthetising agent may be advantageous where infection is a life threatening problem.
PMCID: PMC3044756  PMID: 21390329
4.  The inhibitory receptor LILRB4 (ILT3) modulates antigen presenting cell phenotype and, along with LILRB2 (ILT4), is upregulated in response to Salmonella infection 
BMC Immunology  2009;10:56.
Leukocyte Ig-like receptors (LILR) are a family of innate immune receptors with immunomodulatory functions. High-level expression of the receptors LILRB2 (ILT4) and LILRB4 (ILT3) is a feature of tolerogenic antigen presenting cells and has been observed in cancer and transplant situations. There are relatively few studies regarding these receptors in the context of infection and it is not yet clear how LILRB4 exerts its inhibitory effects.
We studied the effects of LILRB4 ligation on antigen presenting cell phenotype, and the expression of LILRB2 and LILRB4 on Salmonella-infected antigen presenting cells. Ligation of LILRB4 throughout in vitro culture of dendritic cells led to an upregulation of the co-stimulatory protein CD86. Alterations in the production of IL-8 and IL-10 by LILRB4-ligated macrophages were also observed. Infection with Salmonella typhimurium or TLR stimulation with Salmonella components led to an upregulation of LILRB2 and LILRB4.
Our results indicate that the inhibitory effects of LILRB4 do not result from a failure to upregulate co-stimulatory proteins. In addition to the high level expression that can render antigen presenting cells tolerogenic, there may be a role for lower level expression and activity of LILRB2 and LILRB4 in response to TLR signalling during an immune response to bacterial infection.
PMCID: PMC2773765  PMID: 19860908
5.  The HLA-DRα Chain Is Modified by Polyubiquitination* 
The Journal of Biological Chemistry  2009;284(11):7007-7016.
Ubiquitination plays a major role in regulating cell surface and intracellular localization of major histocompatibility complex class II molecules. Two E3 ligases, MARCH I and MARCH VIII, have been shown to polyubiquitinate lysine residue 225 in the cytoplasmic tail of I-Aβ and HLA-DRβ. We show that lysine residue 219 in the cytoplasmic tail of DRα is also subject to polyubiquitination. Each chain of the HLA-DR heterodimer is independently recognized and ubiquitinated, but DRβ is more extensively modified. In the cytoplasmic tail of DRβ lysine, residue 225 is the only residue that is absolutely required for ubiquitination; all other residues can be deleted or substituted without loss of function. In contrast, although lysine 219 is absolutely required for modification of DRα, other features of the DRα tail act to limit the extent of ubiquitination.
PMCID: PMC2652342  PMID: 19117940
6.  Brucella Control of Dendritic Cell Maturation Is Dependent on the TIR-Containing Protein Btp1 
PLoS Pathogens  2008;4(2):e21.
Brucella is an intracellular pathogen able to persist for long periods of time within the host and establish a chronic disease. We show that soon after Brucella inoculation in intestinal loops, dendritic cells from ileal Peyer's patches become infected and constitute a cell target for this pathogen. In vitro, we found that Brucella replicates within dendritic cells and hinders their functional activation. In addition, we identified a new Brucella protein Btp1, which down-modulates maturation of infected dendritic cells by interfering with the TLR2 signaling pathway. These results show that intracellular Brucella is able to control dendritic cell function, which may have important consequences in the development of chronic brucellosis.
Author Summary
A key determinant for intracellular pathogenic bacteria to induce infectious diseases is their ability to avoid recognition by the host immune system. Although most microorganisms internalized by host cells are efficiently cleared, Brucella behave as a Trojan horse causing a zoonosis called brucellosis that affects both humans and animals. Here we show that pathogenic Brucella are able to target host cell defense mechanisms by controlling the function of the sentinels of the immune system, the dendritic cells. In particular, the Brucella TIR-containing protein (Btp1) targets the Toll-like receptor 2 activation pathway, which is a major host response system involved in bacterial recognition. Btp1 is involved in the inhibition of dendritic cell maturation. The direct consequence is a control of inflammatory cytokine secretion and antigen presentation to T lymphocytes. These bacterial proteins are not specific for Brucella and have been identified in other pathogens and may be part of a general virulence mechanism used by several intracellular pathogens to induce disease.
PMCID: PMC2233671  PMID: 18266466
7.  Salmonella polarises peptide-MHC-II presentation towards an unconventional Type B CD4+ T-cell response 
European Journal of Immunology  2013;43(4):897-906.
Distinct peptide-MHC-II complexes, recognised by Type A and B CD4+ T-cell subsets, are generated when antigen is loaded in different intracellular compartments. Conventional Type A T cells recognize their peptide epitope regardless of the route of processing, whereas unconventional Type B T cells only recognise exogenously supplied peptide. Type B T cells are implicated in autoimmune conditions and may break tolerance by escaping negative selection. Here we show that Salmonella differentially influences presentation of antigen to Type A and B T cells. Infection of bone marrow-derived dendritic cells (BMDCs) with Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium (S. Typhimurium) reduced presentation of antigen to Type A T cells but enhanced presentation of exogenous peptide to Type B T cells. Exposure to S. Typhimurium was sufficient to enhance Type B T-cell activation. Salmonella Typhimurium infection reduced surface expression of MHC-II, by an invariant chain-independent trafficking mechanism, resulting in accumulation of MHC-II in multi-vesicular bodies. Reduced MHC-II surface expression in S. Typhimurium-infected BMDCs correlated with reduced antigen presentation to Type A T cells. Salmonella infection is implicated in reactive arthritis. Therefore, polarisation of antigen presentation towards a Type B response by Salmonella may be a predisposing factor in autoimmune conditions such as reactive arthritis.
PMCID: PMC3816330  PMID: 23319341
Autoimmunity; Bacterial Infections; CD4 T cells; Tolerance

Results 1-7 (7)