Horizontal gene transfer (HGT) is a main driving force of bacterial evolution and innovation. This phenomenon was long thought to be marginal in mycoplasmas, a large group of self-replicating bacteria characterized by minute genomes as a result of successive gene losses during evolution. Recent comparative genomic analyses challenged this paradigm, but the occurrence of chromosomal exchanges had never been formally addressed in mycoplasmas. Here, we demonstrated the conjugal transfer of large chromosomal regions within and among ruminant mycoplasma species, with the incorporation of the incoming DNA occurring by homologous recombination into the recipient chromosome. By combining classical mating experiments with high-throughput next-generation sequencing, we documented the transfer of almost every position of the mycoplasma chromosome. Mycoplasma conjugation relies on the occurrence of an integrative conjugative element (ICE) in at least one parent cell. While ICE propagates horizontally from ICE-positive to ICE-negative cells, chromosomal transfers (CTs) occurred in the opposite direction, from ICE-negative to ICE-positive cells, independently of ICE movement. These findings challenged the classical mechanisms proposed for other bacteria in which conjugative CTs are driven by conjugative elements, bringing into the spotlight a new means for rapid mycoplasma innovation. Overall, they radically change our current views concerning the evolution of mycoplasmas, with particularly far-reaching implications given that over 50 species are human or animal pathogens.
Horizontal gene transfers (HGT) shape bacterial genomes and are key contributors to microbial diversity and innovation. One main mechanism involves conjugation, a process that allows the simultaneous transfer of significant amounts of DNA upon cell-to-cell contact. Recognizing and deciphering conjugal mechanisms are thus essential in understanding the impact of gene flux on bacterial evolution. We addressed this issue in mycoplasmas, the smallest and simplest self-replicating bacteria. In these organisms, HGT was long thought to be marginal. We showed here that nearly every position of the Mycoplasma agalactiae chromosome could be transferred via conjugation, using an unconventional mechanism. The transfer involved DNA blocks containing up to 80 genes that were incorporated into the host chromosome by homologous recombination. These findings radically change our views concerning mycoplasma evolution and adaptation with particularly far-reaching implications given that over 50 species are human or animal pathogens.
Efficient protein synthesis in all organisms requires the post-transcriptional methylation of specific ribosomal ribonucleic acid (rRNA) and transfer RNA (tRNA) nucleotides. The methylation reactions are almost invariably catalyzed by enzymes that use S-adenosylmethionine (AdoMet) as the methyl group donor. One noteworthy exception is seen in some bacteria, where the conserved tRNA methylation at m5U54 is added by the enzyme TrmFO using flavin adenine dinucleotide together with N5,N10-methylenetetrahydrofolate as the one-carbon donor. The minimalist bacterium Mycoplasma capricolum possesses two homologs of trmFO, but surprisingly lacks the m5U54 tRNA modification. We created single and dual deletions of the trmFO homologs using a novel synthetic biology approach. Subsequent analysis of the M. capricolum RNAs by mass spectrometry shows that the TrmFO homolog encoded by Mcap0476 specifically modifies m5U1939 in 23S rRNA, a conserved methylation catalyzed by AdoMet-dependent enzymes in all other characterized bacteria. The Mcap0476 methyltransferase (renamed RlmFO) represents the first folate-dependent flavoprotein seen to modify ribosomal RNA.
Mollicutes is a class of parasitic bacteria that have evolved from a common Firmicutes ancestor mostly by massive genome reduction. With genomes under 1 Mbp in size, most Mollicutes species retain the capacity to replicate and grow autonomously. The major goal of this work was to identify the minimal set of proteins that can sustain ribosome biogenesis and translation of the genetic code in these bacteria. Using the experimentally validated genes from the model bacteria Escherichia coli and Bacillus subtilis as input, genes encoding proteins of the core translation machinery were predicted in 39 distinct Mollicutes species, 33 of which are culturable. The set of 260 input genes encodes proteins involved in ribosome biogenesis, tRNA maturation and aminoacylation, as well as proteins cofactors required for mRNA translation and RNA decay. A core set of 104 of these proteins is found in all species analyzed. Genes encoding proteins involved in post-translational modifications of ribosomal proteins and translation cofactors, post-transcriptional modifications of t+rRNA, in ribosome assembly and RNA degradation are the most frequently lost. As expected, genes coding for aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases, ribosomal proteins and initiation, elongation and termination factors are the most persistent (i.e. conserved in a majority of genomes). Enzymes introducing nucleotides modifications in the anticodon loop of tRNA, in helix 44 of 16S rRNA and in helices 69 and 80 of 23S rRNA, all essential for decoding and facilitating peptidyl transfer, are maintained in all species. Reconstruction of genome evolution in Mollicutes revealed that, beside many gene losses, occasional gains by horizontal gene transfer also occurred. This analysis not only showed that slightly different solutions for preserving a functional, albeit minimal, protein synthetizing machinery have emerged in these successive rounds of reductive evolution but also has broad implications in guiding the reconstruction of a minimal cell by synthetic biology approaches.
In all cells, proteins are synthesized from the message encoded by mRNA using complex machineries involving many proteins and RNAs. In this process, named translation, the ribosome plays a central role. The elements involved in both ribosome biogenesis and its function are extremely conserved in all organisms from the simplest bacteria to mammalian cells. Most of the 260 known proteins involved in translation have been identified and studied in the bacteria Escherichia coli and Bacillus subtilis, two common cellular models in biology. However, comparative genomics has shown that the translation protein set can be much smaller. This is true for bacteria belonging to the class Mollicutes that are characterized by reduced genomes and hence considered as models for minimal cells. Using homology inference approach and expert analyses, we identified the translation apparatus proteins for 39 of these organisms. Although striking variations were found from one group of species to another, some Mollicutes species require half as many proteins as E. coli or B. subtilis. This analysis allowed us to determine a set of proteins necessary for translation in Mollicutes and define the translation apparatus that would be required in a cellular chassis mimicking a minimal bacterial cell.
We report here the draft genome sequences of Mycoplasma auris and Mycoplasma yeatsii, two species commonly isolated from the external ear canal of Caprinae.
We report here the draft genome sequences of Mycoplasma alkalescens, Mycoplasma arginini, and Mycoplasma bovigenitalium. These three species are regularly isolated from bovine clinical specimens, although their role in disease is unclear.
Mycoplasma putrefaciens is one of the etiologic agents of contagious agalactia in goats. We report herein the complete genome sequence of Mycoplasma putrefaciens strain 9231.
Background and Aims
Fine root decomposition is an important determinant of nutrient and carbon cycling in grasslands; however, little is known about the factors controlling root decomposition among species. Our aim was to investigate whether interspecific variation in the potential decomposition rate of fine roots could be accounted for by root chemical and morphological traits, life history and taxonomic affiliation. We also investigated the co-ordinated variation in root and leaf traits and potential decomposition rates.
We analysed potential decomposition rates and the chemical and morphological traits of fine roots on 18 Mediterranean herbaceous species grown in controlled conditions. The results were compared with those obtained for leaves in a previous study conducted on similar species.
Differences in the potential decomposition rates of fine roots between species were accounted for by root chemical composition, but not by morphological traits. The root potential decomposition rate varied with taxonomy, but not with life history. Poaceae, with high cellulose concentration and low concentrations of soluble compounds and phosphorus, decomposed more slowly than Asteraceae and Fabaceae. Patterns of root traits, including decomposition rate, mirrored those of leaf traits, resulting in a similar species clustering.
The highly co-ordinated variation of roots and leaves in terms of traits and potential decomposition rate suggests that changes in the functional composition of communities in response to anthropogenic changes will strongly affect biogeochemical cycles at the ecosystem level.
Above-ground–below-ground interaction; chemical composition; interspecific variation; leaf decomposition; life history; Mediterranean species; morphology; plant functional traits; taxonomic families; root decomposition
The bacterium Mycoplasma agalactiae is responsible for contagious agalactia (CA) in small domestic ruminants, a syndrome listed by the World Organization for Animal Health and responsible for severe damage to the dairy industry. Recently, we frequently isolated this pathogen from lung lesions of ibexes during a mortality episode in the French Alps. This situation was unusual in terms of host specificity and tissue tropism, raising the question of M. agalactiae emergence in wildlife. To address this issue, the ibex isolates were characterized using a combination of approaches that included antigenic profiles, molecular typing, optical mapping, and whole-genome sequencing. Genome analyses showed the presence of a new, large prophage containing 35 coding sequences (CDS) that was detected in most but not all ibex strains and has a homolog in Mycoplasma conjunctivae, a species causing keratoconjunctivitis in wild ungulates. This and the presence in all strains of large integrated conjugative elements suggested highly dynamic genomes. Nevertheless, M. agalactiae strains circulating in the ibex population were shown to be highly related, most likely originating from a single parental clone that has also spread to another wild ungulate species of the same geographical area, the chamois. These strains clearly differ from strains described in Europe so far, including those found nearby, before CA eradication a few years ago. While M. agalactiae pathogenicity in ibexes remains unclear, our data showed the emergence of atypical strains in Alpine wild ungulates, raising the question of a role for the wild fauna as a potential reservoir of pathogenic mycoplasmas.
The evolution of mycoplasmas from a common ancestor with Firmicutes has been characterized not only by genome down-sizing but also by horizontal gene transfer between mycoplasma species sharing a common host. The mechanisms of these gene transfers remain unclear because our knowledge of the mycoplasma mobile genetic elements is limited. In particular, only a few plasmids have been described within the Mycoplasma genus.
We have shown that several species of ruminant mycoplasmas carry plasmids that are members of a large family of elements and replicate via a rolling-circle mechanism. All plasmids were isolated from species that either belonged or were closely related to the Mycoplasma mycoides cluster; none was from the Mycoplasma bovis-Mycoplasma agalactiae group. Twenty one plasmids were completely sequenced, named and compared with each other and with the five mycoplasma plasmids previously reported. All plasmids share similar size and genetic organization, and present a mosaic structure. A peculiar case is that of the plasmid pMyBK1 from M. yeatsii; it is larger in size and is predicted to be mobilizable. Its origin of replication and replication protein were identified. In addition, pMyBK1 derivatives were shown to replicate in various species of the M. mycoides cluster, and therefore hold considerable promise for developing gene vectors. The phylogenetic analysis of these plasmids confirms the uniqueness of pMyBK1 and indicates that the other mycoplasma plasmids cluster together, apart from the related replicons found in phytoplasmas and in species of the clade Firmicutes.
Our results unraveled a totally new picture of mycoplasma plasmids. Although they probably play a limited role in the gene exchanges that participate in mycoplasma evolution, they are abundant in some species. Evidence for the occurrence of frequent genetic recombination strongly suggests they are transmitted between species sharing a common host or niche.
Mycoplasma,Plasmid,Replication,Rep protein,Gene transfer,Evolution,Expression vector,Mycoplasma mycoides,Mycoplasma capricolum,Mycoplasma yeatsii
Mycoplasma mycoides subsp. mycoides “Small Colony” (MmmSC) is responsible for contagious bovine pleuropneumonia (CBPP) in bovidae, a notifiable disease to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). Although its origin is not documented, the disease was known in Europe in 1773. It reached nearly world-wide distribution in the 19th century through the cattle trade and was eradicated from most continents by stamping-out policies. During the 20th century it persisted in Africa, and it reappeared sporadically in Southern Europe. Yet, classical epidemiology studies failed to explain the re-occurrence of the disease in Europe in the 1990s. The objectives of this study were to obtain a precise phylogeny of this pathogen, reconstruct its evolutionary history, estimate the date of its emergence, and determine the origin of the most recent European outbreaks. A large-scale genomic approach based on next-generation sequencing technologies was applied to construct a robust phylogeny of this extremely monomorphic pathogen by using 20 representative strains of various geographical origins. Sixty two polymorphic genes of the MmmSC core genome were selected, representing 83601 bp in total and resulting in 139 SNPs within the 20 strains. A robust phylogeny was obtained that identified a lineage specific to European strains; African strains were scattered in various branches. Bayesian analysis allowed dating the most recent common ancestor for MmmSC around 1700. The strains circulating in Sub-Saharan Africa today, however, were shown to descend from a strain that existed around 1810. MmmSC emerged recently, about 300 years ago, and was most probably exported from Europe to other continents, including Africa, during the 19th century. Its diversity is now greater in Africa, where CBPP is enzootic, than in Europe, where outbreaks occurred sporadically until 1999 and where CBPP may now be considered eradicated unless MmmSC remains undetected.
F1F0 ATPases have been identified in most bacteria, including mycoplasmas which have very small genomes associated with a host-dependent lifestyle. In addition to the typical operon of eight genes encoding genuine F1F0 ATPase (Type 1), we identified related clusters of seven genes in many mycoplasma species. Four of the encoded proteins have predicted structures similar to the α, β, γ and ε subunits of F1 ATPases and could form an F1-like ATPase. The other three proteins display no similarity to any other known proteins. Two of these proteins are probably located in the membrane, as they have three and twelve predicted transmembrane helices. Phylogenomic studies identified two types of F1-like ATPase clusters, Type 2 and Type 3, characterized by a rapid evolution of sequences with the conservation of structural features. Clusters encoding Type 2 and Type 3 ATPases were assumed to originate from the Hominis group of mycoplasmas. We suggest that Type 3 ATPase clusters may spread to other phylogenetic groups by horizontal gene transfer between mycoplasmas in the same host, based on phylogeny and genomic context. Functional analyses in the ruminant pathogen Mycoplasma mycoides subsp. mycoides showed that the Type 3 cluster genes were organized into an operon. Proteomic analyses demonstrated that the seven encoded proteins were produced during growth in axenic media. Mutagenesis and complementation studies demonstrated an association of the Type 3 cluster with a major ATPase activity of membrane fractions. Thus, despite their tendency toward genome reduction, mycoplasmas have evolved and exchanged specific F1-like ATPases with no known equivalent in other bacteria. We propose a model, in which the F1-like structure is associated with a hypothetical X0 sector located in the membrane of mycoplasma cells.
The Mycoplasma mycoides cluster consists of five species or subspecies that are ruminant pathogens. One subspecies, Mycoplasma mycoides subspecies mycoides Small Colony (MmmSC), is the causative agent of contagious bovine pleuropneumonia. Its very close relative, Mycoplasma mycoides subsp. capri (Mmc), is a more ubiquitous pathogen in small ruminants causing mastitis, arthritis, keratitis, pneumonia and septicaemia and is also found as saprophyte in the ear canal. To understand the genetics underlying these phenotypic differences, we compared the MmmSC PG1 type strain genome, which was already available, with the genome of an Mmc field strain (95010) that was sequenced in this study. We also compared the 95010 genome with the recently published genome of another Mmc strain (GM12) to evaluate Mmc strain diversity.
The MmmSC PG1 genome is 1,212 kbp and that of Mmc 95010 is ca. 58 kbp shorter. Most of the sequences present in PG1 but not 95010 are highly repeated Insertion Sequences (three types of IS) and large duplicated DNA fragments. The 95010 genome contains five types of IS, present in fewer copies than in PG1, and two copies of an integrative conjugative element. These mobile genetic elements have played a key role in genome plasticity, leading to inversions of large DNA fragments. Comparison of the two genomes suggested a marked decay of the PG1 genome that seems to be correlated with a greater number of IS. The repertoire of gene families encoding surface proteins is smaller in PG1. Several genes involved in polysaccharide metabolism and protein degradation are also absent from, or degraded in, PG1.
The genome of MmmSC PG1 is larger than that of Mmc 95010, its very close relative, but has less coding capacity. This is the result of large genetic rearrangements due to mobile elements that have also led to marked gene decay. This is consistent with a non-adaptative genomic complexity theory, allowing duplications or pseudogenes to be maintained in the absence of adaptive selection that would lead to purifying selection and genome streamlining over longer evolutionary times. These findings also suggest that MmmSC only recently adapted to its bovine host.
The assembly of 20,000 sequencing reads obtained from shotgun and chromosome-specific libraries of the Spiroplasma citri genome yielded 77 chromosomal contigs totaling 1,674 kbp (92%) of the 1,820-kbp chromosome. The largest chromosomal contigs were positioned on the physical and genetic maps constructed from pulsed-field gel electrophoresis and Southern blot hybridizations. Thirty-eight contigs were annotated, resulting in 1,908 predicted coding sequences (CDS) representing an overall coding density of only 74%. Cellular processes, cell metabolism, and structural-element CDS account for 29% of the coding capacity, CDS of external origin such as viruses and mobile elements account for 24% of the coding capacity, and CDS of unknown function account for 47% of the coding capacity. Among these, 21% of the CDS group into 63 paralog families. The organization of these paralogs into conserved blocks suggests that they represent potential mobile units. Phage-related sequences were particularly abundant and include plectrovirus SpV1 and SVGII3 and lambda-like SpV2 sequences. Sixty-nine copies of transposases belonging to four insertion sequence (IS) families (IS30, IS481, IS3, and ISNCY) were detected. Similarity analyses showed that 21% of chromosomal CDS were truncated compared to their bacterial orthologs. Transmembrane domains, including signal peptides, were predicted for 599 CDS, of which 58 were putative lipoproteins. S. citri has a Sec-dependent protein export pathway. Eighty-four CDS were assigned to transport, such as phosphoenolpyruvate phosphotransferase systems (PTS), the ATP binding cassette (ABC), and other transporters. Besides glycolytic and ATP synthesis pathways, it is noteworthy that S. citri possesses a nearly complete pathway for the biosynthesis of a terpenoid.
While the genomic era is accumulating a tremendous amount of data, the question of how genomics can describe a bacterial species remains to be fully addressed. The recent sequencing of the genome of the Mycoplasma agalactiae type strain has challenged our general view on mycoplasmas by suggesting that these simple bacteria are able to exchange significant amount of genetic material via horizontal gene transfer. Yet, events that are shaping mycoplasma genomes and that are underlining diversity within this species have to be fully evaluated. For this purpose, we compared two strains that are representative of the genetic spectrum encountered in this species: the type strain PG2 which genome is already available and a field strain, 5632, which was fully sequenced and annotated in this study.
The two genomes differ by ca. 130 kbp with that of 5632 being the largest (1006 kbp). The make up of this additional genetic material mainly corresponds (i) to mobile genetic elements and (ii) to expanded repertoire of gene families that encode putative surface proteins and display features of highly-variable systems. More specifically, three entire copies of a previously described integrative conjugative element are found in 5632 that accounts for ca. 80 kbp. Other mobile genetic elements, found in 5632 but not in PG2, are the more classical insertion sequences which are related to those found in two other ruminant pathogens, M. bovis and M. mycoides subsp. mycoides SC. In 5632, repertoires of gene families encoding surface proteins are larger due to gene duplication. Comparative proteomic analyses of the two strains indicate that the additional coding capacity of 5632 affects the overall architecture of the surface and suggests the occurrence of new phase variable systems based on single nucleotide polymorphisms.
Overall, comparative analyses of two M. agalactiae strains revealed a very dynamic genome which structure has been shaped by gene flow among ruminant mycoplasmas and expansion-reduction of gene repertoires encoding surface proteins, the expression of which is driven by localized genetic micro-events.
Mycoplasma hominis is an opportunistic human mycoplasma. Two other pathogenic human species, M. genitalium and Ureaplasma parvum, reside within the same natural niche as M. hominis: the urogenital tract. These three species have overlapping, but distinct, pathogenic roles. They have minimal genomes and, thus, reduced metabolic capabilities characterized by distinct energy-generating pathways. Analysis of the M. hominis PG21 genome sequence revealed that it is the second smallest genome among self-replicating free living organisms (665,445 bp, 537 coding sequences (CDSs)). Five clusters of genes were predicted to have undergone horizontal gene transfer (HGT) between M. hominis and the phylogenetically distant U. parvum species. We reconstructed M. hominis metabolic pathways from the predicted genes, with particular emphasis on energy-generating pathways. The Embden–Meyerhoff–Parnas pathway was incomplete, with a single enzyme absent. We identified the three proteins constituting the arginine dihydrolase pathway. This pathway was found essential to promote growth in vivo. The predicted presence of dimethylarginine dimethylaminohydrolase suggested that arginine catabolism is more complex than initially described. This enzyme may have been acquired by HGT from non-mollicute bacteria. Comparison of the three minimal mollicute genomes showed that 247 CDSs were common to all three genomes, whereas 220 CDSs were specific to M. hominis, 172 CDSs were specific to M. genitalium, and 280 CDSs were specific to U. parvum. Within these species-specific genes, two major sets of genes could be identified: one including genes involved in various energy-generating pathways, depending on the energy source used (glucose, urea, or arginine) and another involved in cytadherence and virulence. Therefore, a minimal mycoplasma cell, not including cytadherence and virulence-related genes, could be envisaged containing a core genome (247 genes), plus a set of genes required for providing energy. For M. hominis, this set would include 247+9 genes, resulting in a theoretical minimal genome of 256 genes.
Mycoplasma hominis, M. genitalium, and Ureaplasma parvum are human pathogenic bacteria that colonize the urogenital tract. They have minimal genomes, and thus have a minimal metabolic capacity. However, they have distinct energy-generating pathways and distinct pathogenic roles. We compared the genomes of these three human pathogen minimal species, providing further insight into the composition of hypothetical minimal gene sets needed for life. To this end, we sequenced the whole M. hominis genome and reconstructed its energy-generating pathways from gene predictions. Its unusual major energy-producing pathway through arginine hydrolysis was confirmed in both genome analyses and in vivo assays. Our findings suggest that M. hominis and U. parvum underwent genetic exchange, probably while sharing a common host. We proposed a set of genes likely to represent a minimal genome. For M. hominis, this minimal genome, not including cytadherence and virulence-related genes, can be defined comprising the 247 genes shared by the three minimal genital mollicutes, combined with a set of nine genes needed for energy production for cell metabolism. This study provides insight for the synthesis of artificial genomes.
Mycoplasma mycoides subspecies mycoides small colony (SC) is the aetiologic agent of contagious bovine pleuropneumonia (CBPP), a respiratory disease causing important losses in cattle production. The publication of the genome sequence of M. mycoides subsp. mycoides SC should facilitate the identification of putative virulence factors. However, real progress in the study of molecular mechanisms of pathogenicity also requires efficient molecular tools for gene inactivation. In the present study, we have developed a transposon-based approach for the random mutagenesis of M. mycoides subsp. mycoides SC. A PCR-based screening assay enabled the characterization of several mutants with knockouts of genes potentially involved in pathogenicity. The initial transposon was further improved by combining it with the transposon γδ TnpR/res recombination system to allow the production of unmarked mutations. Using this approach, we isolated a mutant free of antibiotic-resistance genes, in which the gene encoding the main lipoprotein LppQ was disrupted. The mutant was found to express only residual amounts of the truncated N-terminal end of LppQ. This approach opens the way to study virulence factors and pathogen-host interactions of M. mycoides subsp. mycoides SC and to develop new, genetically defined vaccine strains.
We showed in a previous study that associations of antimicrobial peptides (AMPs), which are key components of the innate immune systems of all living species, with the fluoroquinolone enrofloxacin can successfully cure HeLa cell cultures of Mycoplasma fermentans and M. hyorhinis contamination. In the present work, the in vitro susceptibility of M. pulmonis, a murine pathogen, to enrofloxacin and four AMPs (alamethicin, globomycin, gramicidin S, and surfactin) was investigated, with special reference to synergistic associations and the effect of the mycoplasma cell concentration. Enrofloxacin and globomycin displayed the lowest MICs (0.4 μM), followed by gramicidin S (3.12 μM), alamethicin (6.25 μM), and surfactin (25 μM). When the mycoplasma cell concentration was varied from 104 to 108 CFU/ml, the MICs of enrofloxacin and globomycin increased while those of the three other molecules remained essentially constant. The minimal bactericidal concentration of enrofloxacin (0.8 μM) was also lower than those of the peptides (6.25 to 100 μM), but the latter killed the mycoplasma cells much faster than enrofloxacin (2 h versus 1 day). The use of the AMPs in association with enrofloxacin revealed synergistic effects with alamethicin and surfactin. Interestingly, the mycoplasma-killing activities of the two combinations enrofloxacin (MIC/2) plus alamethicin (MIC/4) and enrofloxacin (MIC/2) plus surfactin (MIC/16) were about 2 orders of magnitude higher than those of the three molecules used separately. These results support the interest devoted to AMPs as a novel class of antimicrobial agents and pinpoint their ability to potentiate the activities of conventional antibiotics, such as fluoroquinolones.
Mycoplasmas are commonly described as the simplest self-replicating organisms, whose evolution was mainly characterized by genome downsizing with a proposed evolutionary scenario similar to that of obligate intracellular bacteria such as insect endosymbionts. Thus far, analysis of mycoplasma genomes indicates a low level of horizontal gene transfer (HGT) implying that DNA acquisition is strongly limited in these minimal bacteria. In this study, the genome of the ruminant pathogen Mycoplasma agalactiae was sequenced. Comparative genomic data and phylogenetic tree reconstruction revealed that ∼18% of its small genome (877,438 bp) has undergone HGT with the phylogenetically distinct mycoides cluster, which is composed of significant ruminant pathogens. HGT involves genes often found as clusters, several of which encode lipoproteins that usually play an important role in mycoplasma–host interaction. A decayed form of a conjugative element also described in a member of the mycoides cluster was found in the M. agalactiae genome, suggesting that HGT may have occurred by mobilizing a related genetic element. The possibility of HGT events among other mycoplasmas was evaluated with the available sequenced genomes. Our data indicate marginal levels of HGT among Mycoplasma species except for those described above and, to a lesser extent, for those observed in between the two bird pathogens, M. gallisepticum and M. synoviae. This first description of large-scale HGT among mycoplasmas sharing the same ecological niche challenges the generally accepted evolutionary scenario in which gene loss is the main driving force of mycoplasma evolution. The latter clearly differs from that of other bacteria with small genomes, particularly obligate intracellular bacteria that are isolated within host cells. Consequently, mycoplasmas are not only able to subvert complex hosts but presumably have retained sexual competence, a trait that may prevent them from genome stasis and contribute to adaptation to new hosts.
Mycoplasmas are cell wall–lacking prokaryotes that evolved from ancestors common to Gram-positive bacteria by way of massive losses of genetic material. With their minimal genome, mycoplasmas are considered to be the simplest free-living organisms, yet several species are successful pathogens of man and animal. In this study, we challenged the commonly accepted view in which mycoplasma evolution is driven only by genome down-sizing. Indeed, we showed that a significant amount of genes underwent horizontal transfer among different mycoplasma species that share the same ruminant hosts. In these species, the occurrence of a genetic element that can promote DNA transfer via cell-to-cell contact suggests that some mycoplasmas may have retained or acquired sexual competence. Transferred genes were found to encode proteins that are likely to be associated with mycoplasma–host interactions. Sharing genetic resources via horizontal gene transfer may provide mycoplasmas with a means for adapting to new niches or to new hosts and for avoiding irreversible genome erosion.
Antimicrobial peptides are widely distributed in nature, and in vertebrates, they play a key function in the innate immune defense system. It is generally agreed that these molecules may provide new antibiotics with therapeutic value. However, there are still many unsolved questions regarding the mechanisms underlying their antimicrobial activity as well as the mechanisms of resistance evolved by microorganisms against these molecules. The second point was addressed in this study. After determining the activity of 10 antimicrobial peptides against Mycoplasma pulmonis, a murine respiratory pathogen, the development of resistance was investigated. Following in vitro selection using subinhibitory concentrations of peptides, clones of this bacterium showing increased resistance to melittin or gramicidin D were obtained. For some of the clones, a cross-resistance was observed between these two peptides, in spite of their deep structural differences, and also with tetracycline. A proteomic analysis suggested that the stress response in these clones was constitutively activated, and this was confirmed by finding mutations in the hrcA gene; in mycoplasmas, bacteria which lack alternative sigma factors, the HrcA protein is supposed to play a key role as a negative regulator of heat shock proteins. By complementation of the hrcA mutants with the wild-type gene, the initial MICs of melittin and gramicidin D decreased to values close to the initial ones. This indicates that the resistance of M. pulmonis to these two antimicrobial peptides could result from a stress response involving HrcA-regulated genes.
Replicative oriC plasmids were recently developed for several mollicutes, including three Mycoplasma species belonging to the mycoides cluster that are responsible for bovine and caprine diseases: Mycoplasma mycoides subsp. mycoides small-colony type, Mycoplasma mycoides subsp. mycoides large-colony type, and Mycoplasma capricolum subsp. capricolum. In this study, oriC plasmids were evaluated in M. capricolum subsp. capricolum as genetic tools for (i) expression of heterologous proteins and (ii) gene inactivation by homologous recombination. The reporter gene lacZ, encoding β-galactosidase, and the gene encoding spiralin, an abundant surface lipoprotein of the related mollicute Spiroplasma citri, were successfully expressed. Functional Escherichia coli β-galactosidase was detected in transformed Mycoplasma capricolum subsp. capricolum cells despite noticeable codon usage differences. The expression of spiralin in M. capricolum subsp. capricolum was assessed by colony and Western blotting. Accessibility of this protein at the cell surface and its partition into the Triton X-114 detergent phase suggest a correct maturation of the spiralin precursor. The expression of a heterologous lipoprotein in a mycoplasma raises potentially interesting applications, e.g., the use of these bacteria as live vaccines. Targeted inactivation of gene lppA encoding lipoprotein A was achieved in M. capricolum subsp. capricolum with plasmids harboring a replication origin derived from S. citri. Our results suggest that the selection of the infrequent events of homologous recombination could be enhanced by the use of oriC plasmids derived from related mollicute species. Mycoplasma gene inactivation opens the way to functional genomics in a group of bacteria for which a large wealth of genome data are already available and steadily growing.
Bacteria belonging to the class Mollicutes were among the first ones to be selected for complete genome sequencing because of the minimal size of their genomes and their pathogenicity for humans and a broad range of animals and plants. At this time six genome sequences have been publicly released (Mycoplasma genitalium, Mycoplasma pneumoniae, Ureaplasma urealyticum-parvum, Mycoplasma pulmonis, Mycoplasma penetrans and Mycoplasma gallisepticum) and as the number of available mollicute genomes increases, comparative genomics analysis within this model group of organisms becomes more and more instructive. However, such an analysis is difficult to carry out without a suitable platform gathering not only the original annotations but also relevant information available in public databases or obtained by applying common bioinformatics methods. With the aim of solving these difficulties, we have developed a web-accessible database named MolliGen (http://cbi.labri.fr/outils/molligen/). After selecting a set of genomes the user can launch various types of search based on annotation, position on the chromosomes or sequence similarity. In addition, relationships of putative orthology have been precomputed to allow differential genome queries. The results are presented in table format with multiple links to public databases and to bioinformatic analyses such as multiple alignments or BLAST search. Specific tools were also developed for the graphical visualization of the results, including a multi- genome browser for displaying dynamic pictures with clickable objects and for viewing relationships of precomputed similarity. MolliGen is designed to integrate all the complete genomes of mollicutes as they become available.
Recently, artificial oriC plasmids containing the chromosomal dnaA gene and surrounding DnaA box sequences were obtained for the mollicutes Spiroplasma citri and Mycoplasma pulmonis. In order to study the specificity of these plasmids among mollicutes, a set of similar oriC plasmids was developed for three mycoplasmas belonging to the mycoides cluster, Mycoplasma mycoides subsp. mycoides LC (MmmLC), M.mycoides subsp. mycoides SC (MmmSC) and Mycoplasma capricolum subsp. capricolum. Mycoplasmas from the mycoides cluster, S.citri and M.pulmonis were used as recipients for transformation experiments by homologous and heterologous oriC plasmids. All five mollicutes were successfully transformed by homologous plasmids, suggesting that the dnaA gene region represents the functional replication origin of the mollicute chromosomes. However, the ability of mollicutes to replicate heterologous oriC plasmids was found to vary noticeably with the species. For example, the oriC plasmid from M.capricolum did not replicate in the closely related species MmmSC and MmmLC. In contrast, plasmids harbouring the oriC from MmmSC, MmmLC and the more distant species S.citri were all found to replicate in M.capricolum. Our results suggest that the cis-elements present in oriC sequences are not the only determinants of this host specificity.
Mycoplasmas evolved by a drastic reduction in genome size, but their genomes contain numerous repeated sequences with important roles in their evolution. We have established a bioinformatic strategy to detect the major recombination hot-spots in the genomes of Mycoplasma pneumoniae, Mycoplasma genitalium, Ureaplasma urealyticum and Mycoplasma pulmonis. This allowed the identification of large numbers of potentially variable regions, as well as a comparison of the relative recombination potentials of different genomic regions. Different trends are perceptible among mycoplasmas, probably due to different functional and structural constraints. The largest potential for illegitimate recombination in M.pulmonis is found at the vsa locus and its comparison in two different strains reveals numerous changes since divergence. On the other hand, the main M.pneumoniae and M.genitalium adhesins rely on large distant repeats and, hence, homologous recombination for variation. However, the relation between the existence of repeats and antigenic variation is not necessarily straightforward, since repeats of P1 adhesin were found to be anti-correlated with epitopes recognized by patient antibodies. These different strategies have important consequences for the structures of genomes, since large distant repeats correlate well with the major chromosomal rearrangements. Probably to avoid such events, mycoplasmas strongly avoid inverse repeats, in comparison to co-oriented repeats.
Mycoplasmas, which are bacteria that are devoid of a cell wall and which belong to the class Mollicutes, are pathogenic for humans and animals and are frequent contaminants of tissue cell cultures. Although contamination of cultures with mycoplasma can easily be monitored with fluorescent dyes that stain DNA and/or with molecular probes, protection and decontamination of cultures remain serious challenges. In the present work, we investigated the susceptibilities of Mycoplasma fermentans and Mycoplasma hyorhinis to the membrane-active peptides alamethicin, dermaseptin B2, gramicidin S, and surfactin by growth inhibition and lethality assays. In the absence of serum, the four peptides killed mycoplasmas at minimal bactericidal concentrations that ranged from 12.5 to 100 μM, but in all cases the activities were decreased by the presence of serum. As a result, under standard culture conditions (10% serum) only alamethicin and gramicidin S were able to inhibit mycoplasma growth (MICs, 50 μM), while dermaseptin B2 and surfactin were ineffective. Furthermore, 8 days of treatment of HeLa cell cultures experimentally contaminated with either mycoplasma species with 70 μM enrofloxacin cured the cultures of infection, whereas treatment with alamethicin and gramicidin S alone was not reliable because the concentrations and treatment times required were toxic to the cells. However, combination of alamethicin or gramicidin S with 70 μM enrofloxacin allowed mycoplasma eradication after 30 min or 24 h of treatment, depending on the mycoplasma and peptide considered. HeLa cell cultures experimentally infected with mycoplasmas should prove to be a useful model for study of the antimycoplasma activities of antibiotics and membrane-active peptides under conditions close to those found in vivo.
The pathogenicity and prevalence of Mycoplasma penetrans, a Mycoplasma species recently isolated from humans, are still debated. A major P35 antigen, which is used as target epitope in serological assays, was shown to be a phase-variable lipid-associated membrane protein (LAMP). In this study, we performed a comparative analysis of the LAMP patterns from five M. penetrans clinical isolates and from the type strain. Sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis profiles and immunoblots with sera serially collected from an M. penetrans-infected patient indicated that these strains expressed different LAMP repertoires. Furthermore, the intraclonal variation in the expression of LAMPs (P34A, P34B, P35, and P38) was monitored by immunoblot analysis with three specific monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) developed in this study and MAb 7 to P35. The phase variation of these LAMPs occurs in an independent manner, with frequencies of variation ranging from 10−2 to 10−4 per cell per generation. Consistent with their amphipathic nature, the P34B and P38 antigens were found exposed at the cell surface. The DNA sequence encoding the P38 antigen was defined and found to be related to those of the P35 gene and other putative LAMP-encoding genes, suggesting that these variable antigens are encoded by a family of related genes. Finally, the serum samples from an M. penetrans-infected patient contained antibodies that reacted with a P36 antigen expressed in different M. penetrans strains but not in the isolate recovered from this patient. This result suggested that in vivo phase variation of P36 occurred, which would support a role for these LAMP variations in avoiding the host's immune vigilance.