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1.  Polymicrobial Interactions: Impact on Pathogenesis and Human Disease 
Clinical Microbiology Reviews  2012;25(1):193-213.
Summary: Microorganisms coexist in a complex milieu of bacteria, fungi, archaea, and viruses on or within the human body, often as multifaceted polymicrobial biofilm communities at mucosal sites and on abiotic surfaces. Only recently have we begun to appreciate the complicated biofilm phenotype during infection; moreover, even less is known about the interactions that occur between microorganisms during polymicrobial growth and their implications in human disease. Therefore, this review focuses on polymicrobial biofilm-mediated infections and examines the contribution of bacterial-bacterial, bacterial-fungal, and bacterial-viral interactions during human infection and potential strategies for protection against such diseases.
PMCID: PMC3255964  PMID: 22232376
2.  Clearance of Staphylococcus aureus Nasal Carriage Is T Cell Dependent and Mediated through Interleukin-17A Expression and Neutrophil Influx 
Infection and Immunity  2013;81(6):2070-2075.
The anterior nares of humans are the major reservoir for Staphylococcus aureus colonization. Approximately 20% of the healthy human population is persistently and 80% is intermittently colonized with S. aureus in the nasal cavity. Previous studies have shown a strong causal connection between S. aureus nasal carriage and increased risk of nosocomial infection, as well as increased carriage due to immune dysfunction. However, the immune responses that permit persistence or mediate clearance of S. aureus on the nasal mucosa are fundamentally undefined. In this study, we developed a carriage model in C57BL/6J mice and showed that clearance begins 14 days postinoculation. In contrast, SCID mice that have a deficient adaptive immune response are unable to eliminate S. aureus even after 28 days postinoculation. Furthermore, decolonization was found to be T cell mediated but B cell independent by evaluating carriage clearance in T-cell receptor β/δ (TCR-β/δ) knockout (KO) and IgH-μ KO mice, respectively. Upregulation of the cytokines interleukin 1β (IL-1β), KC (also termed CXC ligand 1 [CXCL1]), and IL-17A occurred following inoculation with intranasal S. aureus. IL-17A production was crucial for clearance, since IL-17A-deficient mice were unable to effectively eliminate S. aureus carriage. Subsequently, cell differential counts were evaluated from nasal lavage fluid obtained from wild-type and IL-17A-deficient colonized mice. These counts displayed IL-17A-dependent neutrophil migration. Antibody-mediated depletion of neutrophils in colonized mice caused reduced clearance compared to that in isotype-treated controls. Our data suggest that the Th17-associated immune response is required for nasal decolonization. This response is T cell dependent and mediated via IL-17A production and neutrophil influx. Th17-associated immune responses may be targeted for strategies to mitigate distal infections originating from persistent S. aureus carriage in humans.
PMCID: PMC3676016  PMID: 23529621
3.  Staphylococcus aureus adherence to Candida albicans hyphae is mediated by the hyphal adhesin Als3p 
Microbiology  2012;158(Pt 12):2975-2986.
The bacterium Staphylococcus (St.) aureus and the opportunistic fungus Candida albicans are currently among the leading nosocomial pathogens, often co-infecting critically ill patients, with high morbidity and mortality. Previous investigations have demonstrated preferential adherence of St. aureus to C. albicans hyphae during mixed biofilm growth. In this study, we aimed to characterize the mechanism behind this observed interaction. C. albicans adhesin-deficient mutant strains were screened by microscopy to identify the specific receptor on C. albicans hyphae recognized by St. aureus. Furthermore, an immunoassay was developed to validate and quantify staphylococcal binding to fungal biofilms. The findings from these experiments implicated the C. albicans adhesin agglutinin-like sequence 3 (Als3p) in playing a major role in the adherence process. This association was quantitatively established using atomic force microscopy, in which the adhesion force between single cells of the two species was significantly reduced for a C. albicans mutant strain lacking als3. Confocal microscopy further confirmed these observations, as St. aureus overlaid with a purified recombinant Als3 N-terminal domain fragment (rAls3p) exhibited robust binding. Importantly, a strain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae heterologously expressing Als3p was utilized to further confirm this adhesin as a receptor for St. aureus. Although the parental strain does not bind bacteria, expression of Als3p on the cell surface conferred upon the yeast the ability to strongly bind St. aureus. To elucidate the implications of these in vitro findings in a clinically relevant setting, an ex vivo murine model of co-infection was designed using murine tongue explants. Fluorescent microscopic images revealed extensive hyphal penetration of the epithelium typical of C. albicans mucosal infection. Interestingly, St. aureus bacterial cells were only seen within the epithelial tissue when associated with the invasive hyphae. This differed from tongues infected with St. aureus alone or in conjunction with the als3 mutant strain of C. albicans, where bacterial presence was limited to the outer layers of the oral tissue. Collectively, the findings generated from this study identified a key role for C. albicans Als3p in mediating this clinically relevant fungal–bacterial interaction.
PMCID: PMC4083660  PMID: 22918893
4.  Development and application of loop-mediated isothermal amplification assays on rapid detection of various types of staphylococci strains 
A loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) method for rapid detection of various Staphylococcus strains and associated antibiotic resistance determinant had been developed and evaluated in this study. Six primers, including outer primers, inner primers and loop primers, were specially designed for recognizing eight distinct sequences on three targets: 16SrRNA, femA and mecA.. Forty-one reference strains, including various species of gram-negative and -positive isolates, were included in this study to evaluate and optimize LAMP assays. The optimal reaction condition was found to be 65 °C for 45 min, with detection limits at 100 fg DNA/tube and 10 CFU/reaction for 16S rRNA, 100 fg DNA/tube and 10 CFU/reaction for femA, 1 pg DNA/tube and 100 CFU/reaction for mecA, respectively. Application of LAMP assays were performed on 118 various types of Staphylococcus isolates, the detection rate of LAMP assays for the 16SrRNA, femA and mecA was 100% (118/118), 98.5% (64/65) and 94.3% (66/70), and the negative predictive value (NPV) was 100%, 98.1% and 92.3% respectively; with a 100% positive predictive value (PPV) for all three targets. In conclusion, LAMP assays were demonstrated to be useful and powerful tools for rapid detection of various Staphylococcus strains, and undoubtedly, the rapidness, technical simplicity, and cost-effectiveness of LAMP assays will demonstrate broad application for bacteriological detection of food-borne Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus (MRS) isolates.
PMCID: PMC3390935  PMID: 22778501
Loop-mediated isothermal amplification; Rapid detection; Food-borne Staphylococci; MRSA; MRCNS
5.  Draft Genome Sequence of the Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus Isolate MRSA-M2 
Genome Announcements  2013;1(1):e00037-12.
We report the draft genome sequence of a methicillin-resistant strain of Staphylococcus aureus, designated MRSA-M2. This clinical isolate was obtained from an osteomyelitis patient undergoing treatment at the University of Texas Medical Branch (Galveston, TX). This strain is an ST30, spa type T019, agr III strain and has been utilized as a model S. aureus strain in a number of proteomic, transcriptomic, and animal model studies.
PMCID: PMC3569307  PMID: 23405318
6.  Staphylococcus aureus biofilms 
Virulence  2011;2(5):445-459.
Increasing attention has been focused on understanding bacterial biofilms and this growth modality's relation to human disease. In this review we explore the genetic regulation and molecular components involved in biofilm formation and maturation in the context of the Gram-positive cocci, Staphylococcus aureus. In addition, we discuss diseases and host immune responses, along with current therapies associated with S. aureus biofilm infections and prevention strategies.
PMCID: PMC3322633  PMID: 21921685
Staphylococcus aureus; biofilms; MRSA; therapy; vaccine; host response; pathogenesis
7.  Novel Synthetic (Poly)Glycerolphosphate-Based Antistaphylococcal Conjugate Vaccine 
Infection and Immunity  2013;81(7):2554-2561.
Staphylococcal infections are a major source of global morbidity and mortality. Currently there exists no antistaphylococcal vaccine in clinical use. Previous animal studies suggested a possible role for purified lipoteichoic acid as a vaccine target for eliciting protective IgG to several Gram-positive pathogens. Since the highly conserved (poly)glycerolphosphate backbone of lipoteichoic acid is a major antigenic target of the humoral immune system during staphylococcal infections, we developed a synthetic method for producing glycerol phosphoramidites to create a covalent 10-mer of (poly)glycerolphosphate for potential use in a conjugate vaccine. We initially demonstrated that intact Staphylococcus aureus elicits murine CD4+ T cell-dependent (poly)glycerolphosphate-specific IgM and IgG responses in vivo. Naive mice immunized with a covalent conjugate of (poly)glycerolphosphate and tetanus toxoid in alum plus CpG-oligodeoxynucleotides produced high secondary titers of serum (poly)glycerolphosphate-specific IgG. Sera from immunized mice enhanced opsonophagocytic killing of live Staphylococcus aureus in vitro. Mice actively immunized with the (poly)glycerolphosphate conjugate vaccine showed rapid clearance of staphylococcal bacteremia in vivo relative to mice similarly immunized with an irrelevant conjugate vaccine. In contrast to purified, natural lipoteichoic acid, the (poly)glycerolphosphate conjugate vaccine itself exhibited no detectable inflammatory activity. These data suggest that a synthetic (poly)glycerolphosphate-based conjugate vaccine will contribute to active protection against extracellular Gram-positive pathogens expressing this highly conserved backbone structure in their membrane-associated lipoteichoic acid.
PMCID: PMC3697627  PMID: 23649092
8.  Class 1 integron in staphylococci 
Molecular biology reports  2011;38(8):5261-5279.
As a major concern in public health, methicillin-resistant staphylococci (MRS) still remains one of the most prevalent pathogens that cause nosocomial infections throughout the world and has been recently labeled as a “super bug” in antibiotic resistance. Thus, surveillance and investigation on antibiotic resistance mechanisms involved in clinical MRS strains may raise urgent necessity and utmost significance. As a novel antibiotic resistance mechanism, class 1 integron has been identified as a primary source of antimicrobial resistance genes in Gram-negative organisms. However, most available studies on integrons had been limited within Gram-negative microbes, little is known for clinical Gram-positive bacteria. Based on series studies of systematic integrons investigation in hundreds of staphylococci strains during 2001–2006, this review concentrated on the latest development of class 1 integron in MRS isolates, including summary of prevalence and occurrence of class 1 integron, analysis of correlation between integron and antibiotic resistance, further demonstration of the role integrons play as antibiotic determinants, as well as origin and evolution of integron-associated gene cassettes during this study period.
PMCID: PMC3136644  PMID: 21258866
Class 1 integron; Methicillin-resistance staphylococci (MRS); Antibiotic resistance; Mobile genetic element; SCCmec
9.  In Vivo Magnetic Enrichment, Photoacoustic Diagnosis, and Photothermal Purging of Infected Blood Using Multifunctional Gold and Magnetic Nanoparticles 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(9):e45557.
Bacterial infections are a primary cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. Bacteremia is a particular concern owing to the possibility of septic shock and the development of metastatic infections. Treatment of bacteremia is increasingly compromised by the emergence of antibiotic resistant strains, creating an urgent need for alternative therapy. Here, we introduce a method for in vivo photoacoustic (PA) detection and photothermal (PT) eradication of Staphylococcus aureus in tissue and blood. We show that this method could be applicable for label-free diagnosis and treatment of in the bloodstream using intrinsic near-infrared absorption of endogenous carotenoids with nonlinear PA and PT contrast enhancement. To improve sensitivity and specificity for detection of circulating bacteria cells (CBCs), two-color gold and multilayer magnetic nanoparticles with giant amplifications of PA and PT contrasts were functionalized with an antibody cocktail for molecular targeting of S. aureus surface-associated markers such as protein A and lipoprotein. With a murine model, the utility of this approach was demonstrated for ultrasensitive detection of CBCs with threshold sensitivity as low as 0.5 CBCs/mL, in vivo magnetic enrichment of CBCs, PT eradication of CBCs, and real-time monitoring of therapeutic efficacy by CBC counting. Our PA-PT nano-theranostic platform, which integrates in vivo multiplex targeting, magnetic enrichment, signal amplification, multicolor recognition, and feedback control, could be used as a biological tool to gain insights on dissemination pathways of CBCs, infection progression by bacteria re-seeding, and sepsis development and treatment, and could potentially be feasible in humans, especially using bypass schematic.
PMCID: PMC3458934  PMID: 23049814
Chronic wounds contain complex polymicrobial communities of sessile organisms that have been underappreciated because of limitations of standard culture techniques. The aim of this work is to combine recently developed next-generation investigative techniques to comprehensively describe the microbial characteristics of chronic wounds. Tissue samples were obtained from 15 patients with chronic wounds presenting to the Johns Hopkins Wound Center. Standard bacteriological cultures demonstrated an average of 3 common bacterial species in wound samples. By contrast, high-throughput pyrosequencing revealed increased bacterial diversity with an average of 17 genera in each wound. Data from microbial community profiling of chronic wounds was compared to published sequenced analyses of bacteria from normal skin. Increased proportions of anaerobes, Gram-negative rods and Gram-positive cocci were found in chronic wounds. In addition, chronic wounds had significantly lower populations of Propionibacterium compared to normal skin. Using epifluorescence microscopy, wound bacteria were visualized in highly organized thick confluent biofilms or as scattered individual bacterial cells. Fluorescent in-situ hybridization allowed for the visualization of Staphylococcus aureus cells in a wound sample. Quorum sensing molecules were measured by bioassay to evaluate signaling patterns amongst bacteria in the wounds. A range of autoinducer-2 activities were detected in the wound samples. Collectively, these data provide new insights into the identity, organization, and behavior of bacteria in chronic wounds. Such information may provide important clues to effective future strategies in wound healing.
PMCID: PMC3227014  PMID: 22092791
Chronic Wound; Microbiome; Biofilm; Microbiology; Pyrosequencing; Epifluorescence Microscopy; Fluorescent In-Situ Hybridization; Quorum Sensing
11.  Suppression of the Inflammatory Immune Response Prevents the Development of Chronic Biofilm Infection Due to Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus ▿  
Infection and Immunity  2011;79(12):5010-5018.
Staphylococcus aureus is a common cause of prosthetic implant infections, which can become chronic due to the ability of S. aureus to grow as a biofilm. Little is known about adaptive immune responses to these infections in vivo. We hypothesized that S. aureus elicits inflammatory Th1/Th17 responses, associated with biofilm formation, instead of protective Th2/Treg responses. We used an adapted mouse model of biofilm-mediated prosthetic implant infection to determine chronic infection rates, Treg cell frequencies, and local cytokine levels in Th1-biased C57BL/6 and Th2-biased BALB/c mice. All C57BL/6 mice developed chronic S. aureus implant infection at all time points tested. However, over 75% of BALB/c mice spontaneously cleared the infection without adjunctive therapy and demonstrated higher levels of Th2 cytokines and anti-inflammatory Treg cells. When chronic infection rates in mice deficient in the Th2 cytokine interleukin-4 (IL-4) via STAT6 mutation in a BALB/c background were assessed, the mice were unable to clear the S. aureus implant infection. Additionally, BALB/c mice depleted of Treg cells via an anti-CD25 monoclonal antibody (MAb) were also unable to clear the infection. In contrast, the C57BL/6 mice that were susceptible to infection were able to eliminate S. aureus biofilm populations on infected intramedullary pins once the Th1 and Th17 responses were diminished by MAb treatment with anti-IL-12 p40. Together, these results indicate that Th2/Treg responses are mechanisms of protection against chronic S. aureus implant infection, as opposed to Th1/Th17 responses, which may play a role in the development of chronic infection.
PMCID: PMC3232664  PMID: 21947772
12.  Identifying Low pH Active and Lactate-Utilizing Taxa within Oral Microbiome Communities from Healthy Children Using Stable Isotope Probing Techniques 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(3):e32219.
Many human microbial infectious diseases including dental caries are polymicrobial in nature. How these complex multi-species communities evolve from a healthy to a diseased state is not well understood. Although many health- or disease-associated oral bacteria have been characterized in vitro, their physiology within the complex oral microbiome is difficult to determine with current approaches. In addition, about half of these species remain uncultivated to date with little known besides their 16S rRNA sequence. Lacking culture-based physiological analyses, the functional roles of uncultivated species will remain enigmatic despite their apparent disease correlation. To start addressing these knowledge gaps, we applied a combination of Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (MRS) with RNA and DNA based Stable Isotope Probing (SIP) to oral plaque communities from healthy children for in vitro temporal monitoring of metabolites and identification of metabolically active and inactive bacterial species.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Supragingival plaque samples from caries-free children incubated with 13C-substrates under imposed healthy (buffered, pH 7) and diseased states (pH 5.5 and pH 4.5) produced lactate as the dominant organic acid from glucose metabolism. Rapid lactate utilization upon glucose depletion was observed under pH 7 conditions. SIP analyses revealed a number of genera containing cultured and uncultivated taxa with metabolic capabilities at pH 5.5. The diversity of active species decreased significantly at pH 4.5 and was dominated by Lactobacillus and Propionibacterium species, both of which have been previously found within carious lesions from children.
Our approach allowed for identification of species that metabolize carbohydrates under different pH conditions and supports the importance of Lactobacilli and Propionibacterium in the development of childhood caries. Identification of species within healthy subjects that are active at low pH can lead to a better understanding of oral caries onset and generate appropriate targets for preventative measures in the early stages.
PMCID: PMC3293899  PMID: 22403637
13.  Farnesol-Induced Apoptosis in Candida albicans Is Mediated by Cdr1-p Extrusion and Depletion of Intracellular Glutathione 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(12):e28830.
Farnesol is a key derivative in the sterol biosynthesis pathway in eukaryotic cells previously identified as a quorum sensing molecule in the human fungal pathogen Candida albicans. Recently, we demonstrated that above threshold concentrations, farnesol is capable of triggering apoptosis in C. albicans. However, the exact mechanism of farnesol cytotoxicity is not fully elucidated. Lipophilic compounds such as farnesol are known to conjugate with glutathione, an antioxidant crucial for cellular detoxification against damaging compounds. Glutathione conjugates act as substrates for ATP-dependent ABC transporters and are extruded from the cell. To that end, this current study was undertaken to validate the hypothesis that farnesol conjugation with intracellular glutathione coupled with Cdr1p-mediated extrusion of glutathione conjugates, results in total glutathione depletion, oxidative stress and ultimately fungal cell death. The combined findings demonstrated a significant decrease in intracellular glutathione levels concomitant with up-regulation of CDR1 and decreased cell viability. However, addition of exogenous reduced glutathione maintained intracellular glutathione levels and enhanced viability. In contrast, farnesol toxicity was decreased in a mutant lacking CDR1, whereas it was increased in a CDR1-overexpressing strain. Further, gene expression studies demonstrated significant up-regulation of the SOD genes, primary enzymes responsible for defense against oxidative stress, with no changes in expression in CDR1. This is the first study describing the involvement of Cdr1p-mediated glutathione efflux as a mechanism preceding the farnesol-induced apoptotic process in C. albicans. Understanding of the mechanisms underlying farnesol-cytotoxicity in C. albicans may lead to the development of this redox-cycling agent as an alternative antifungal agent.
PMCID: PMC3242750  PMID: 22205973
14.  Regulation of Virulence Gene Expression Resulting from Streptococcus pneumoniae and Nontypeable Haemophilus influenzae Interactions in Chronic Disease 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(12):e28523.
Chronic rhinosinusitis (CRS) is a common inflammatory disease of the sinonasal cavity mediated, in part, by polymicrobial communities of bacteria. Recent molecular studies have confirmed the importance of Streptococcus pneumoniae and nontypeable Haemophilus influenzae (NTHi) in CRS. Here, we hypothesize that interaction between S. pneumoniae and NTHi mixed-species communities cause a change in bacterial virulence gene expression. We examined CRS as a model human disease to validate these polymicrobial interactions. Clinical strains of S. pneumoniae and NTHi were grown in mono- and co-culture in a standard biofilm assay. Reverse transcriptase real-time PCR (RTqPCR) was used to measure gene expression of key virulence factors. To validate these results, we investigated the presence of the bacterial RNA transcripts in excised human tissue from patients with CRS. Consequences of physical or chemical interactions between microbes were also investigated. Transcription of NTHi type IV pili was only expressed in co-culture in vitro, and expression could be detected ex vivo in diseased tissue. S. pneumoniae pyruvate oxidase was up-regulated in co-culture, while pneumolysin and pneumococcal adherence factor A were down-regulated. These results were confirmed in excised human CRS tissue. Gene expression was differentially regulated by physical contact and secreted factors. Overall, these data suggest that interactions between H. influenzae and S. pneumoniae involve physical and chemical mechanisms that influence virulence gene expression of mixed-species biofilm communities present in chronically diseased human tissue. These results extend previous studies of population-level virulence and provide novel insight into the importance of S. pneumoniae and NTHi in CRS.
PMCID: PMC3230614  PMID: 22162775
15.  Resolution of Staphylococcus aureus Biofilm Infection Using Vaccination and Antibiotic Treatment ▿ †  
Infection and Immunity  2011;79(4):1797-1803.
Staphylococcus aureus infections, particularly those from methicillin-resistant strains (i.e., MRSA), are reaching epidemic proportions, with no effective vaccine available. The vast number and transient expression of virulence factors in the infectious course of this pathogen have made the discovery of protective antigens particularly difficult. In addition, the divergent planktonic and biofilm modes of growth with their accompanying proteomic changes also demonstrate significant hindrances to vaccine development. In this study, a multicomponent vaccine was evaluated for its ability to clear a staphylococcal biofilm infection. Antigens (glucosaminidase, an ABC transporter lipoprotein, a conserved hypothetical protein, and a conserved lipoprotein) were chosen since they were found in previous studies to have upregulated and sustained expression in a biofilm, both in vitro and in vivo. Antibodies against these antigens were first used in microscopy studies to localize their expression in in vitro biofilms. Each of the four antigens showed heterogeneous production in various locations within the complex biofilm community in the biofilm. Based upon these studies, the four antigens were delivered simultaneously as a quadrivalent vaccine in order to compensate for this varied production. In addition, antibiotic treatment was also administered to clear the remaining nonattached planktonic cells since the vaccine antigens may have been biofilm specific. The results demonstrated that when vaccination was coupled with vancomycin treatment in a biofilm model of chronic osteomyelitis in rabbits, clinical and radiographic signs of infection significantly reduced by 67 and 82%, respectively, compared to infected animals that were either treated with vancomycin or left untreated. In contrast, vaccination alone resulted in a modest, and nonsignificant, decrease in clinical (34% reduction) and radiographic signs (9% reduction) of infection, compared to nonvaccinated animal groups untreated or treated with vancomycin. Lastly, MRSA biofilm infections were significantly cleared in 87.5% of vaccinated and antibiotic-treated animals, while antibiotics or vaccine alone could not significantly clear infection compared to controls (55.6, 22.2, and 33.3% clearance rates, respectively). This approach to vaccine development may lead to the generation of vaccines against other pathogenic biofilm bacteria.
PMCID: PMC3067561  PMID: 21220484
16.  Murine Immune Response to a Chronic Staphylococcus aureus Biofilm Infection ▿ †  
Infection and Immunity  2011;79(4):1789-1796.
Staphylococcus aureus has reemerged as an important human pathogen in recent decades. Although many infections caused by this microbial species persist through a biofilm mode of growth, little is known about how the host's adaptive immune system responds to these biofilm infections. In this study, S. aureus cells adhered to pins in culture and were subsequently inserted into the tibiae of C57BL/6 mice, with an infecting dose of 2 × 105 CFU. This model was utilized to determine local cytokine levels, antibody (Ab) function, and T cell populations at multiple time points throughout infection. Like human hosts, S. aureus implant infection was chronic and remained localized in 100% of C57BL/6 mice at a consistent level of approximately 107 CFU/gram bone tissue after day 7. This infection persisted locally for >49 days and was recalcitrant to clearance by the host immune response and antimicrobial therapy. Local inflammatory cytokines of the Th1 (interleukin-2 [IL-2], IL-12 p70, tumor necrosis factor alpha [TNF-α], and IL-1β) and Th17 (IL-6 and IL-17) responses were upregulated throughout the infection, except IL-12 p70, which dwindled late in the infection. In addition, Th1 Ab subtypes against a biofilm antigen (SA0486) were upregulated early in the infection, while Th2 Abs and anti-inflammatory regulatory T cells (Tregs) were not upregulated until later. These results indicate that early Th1 and Th17 inflammatory responses and downregulated Th2 and Treg responses occur during the development of a chronic biofilm implant infection. This unrestrained inflammatory response may cause tissue damage, thereby enabling S. aureus to attach and thrive in a biofilm mode of growth.
PMCID: PMC3067568  PMID: 21282411
17.  Antimicrobial Peptides: Primeval Molecules or Future Drugs? 
PLoS Pathogens  2010;6(10):e1001067.
PMCID: PMC2965748  PMID: 21060861
18.  Flagellum-Mediated Biofilm Defense Mechanisms of Pseudomonas aeruginosa against Host-Derived Lactoferrin ▿  
Infection and Immunity  2009;77(10):4559-4566.
Chronic infection with the gram-negative organism Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in human patients, despite high doses of antibiotics used to treat the various diseases this organism causes. These infections are chronic because P. aeruginosa readily forms biofilms, which are inherently resistant to antibiotics as well as the host's immune system. Our laboratory has been investigating specific mutations in P. aeruginosa that regulate biofilm bacterial susceptibility to the host. To continue our investigation of the role of genetics in bacterial biofilm host resistance, we examined P. aeruginosa biofilms that lack the flgK gene. This mutant lacks flagella, which results in defects in early biofilm development (up to 36 h). For these experiments, the flgK-disrupted strain and the parental strain (PA14) were used in a modified version of the 96-well plate microtiter assay. Biofilms were challenged with freshly isolated human leukocytes for 4 to 6 h and viable bacteria enumerated by CFU. Subsequent to the challenge, both mononuclear cells (monocytes and lymphocytes) and neutrophils, along with tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α), were required for optimal killing of the flgK biofilm bacteria. We identified a cytokine cross talk network between mononuclear cells and neutrophils that was essential to the production of lactoferrin and bacterial killing. Our data suggest that TNF-α is secreted from mononuclear cells, causing neutrophil activation, resulting in the secretion of bactericidal concentrations of lactoferrin. These results extend previous studies of the importance of lactoferrin in the innate immune defense against bacterial biofilms.
PMCID: PMC2747969  PMID: 19651866
19.  Farnesol-Induced Apoptosis in Candida albicans▿ †  
Farnesol, a precursor in the isoprenoid/sterol pathway, was recently identified as a quorum-sensing molecule produced by the fungal pathogen Candida albicans. Farnesol is involved in the inhibition of germination and biofilm formation by C. albicans and can be cytotoxic at certain concentrations. In addition, we have shown that farnesol can trigger apoptosis in mammalian cells via the classical apoptotic pathways. In order to elucidate the mechanism behind farnesol cytotoxicity in C. albicans, the response to farnesol was investigated, using proteomic analysis. Global protein expression profiles demonstrated significant changes in protein expression resulting from farnesol exposure. Among the downregulated proteins were those involved in metabolism, glycolysis, protein synthesis, and mitochondrial electron transport and the respiratory chain, whereas proteins involved in folding, protection against environmental and oxidative stress, actin cytoskeleton reorganization, and apoptosis were upregulated. Cellular changes that accompany apoptosis (regulated cell death) were further analyzed using fluorescent microscopy and gene expression analysis. The results indicated reactive oxygen species accumulation, mitochondrial degradation, and positive terminal deoxynucleotidyltransferase-mediated dUTP-biotin nick end labeling (TUNEL) in the farnesol-exposed cells concurrent with increased expression of antioxidant-encoding and drug response genes. More importantly, the results demonstrated farnesol-induced upregulation of the caspase gene MCA1 and the intracellular presence of activated caspases. In conclusion, this study demonstrated that farnesol promotes apoptosis in C. albicans through caspase activation, implying an important physiological role for farnesol in the fungal cell life cycle with important implications for adaptation and survival.
PMCID: PMC2687256  PMID: 19364863
20.  Occurrence and Characteristics of Class 1 and 2 Integrons in Pseudomonas aeruginosa Isolates from Patients in Southern China▿  
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2008;47(1):230-234.
Class 1 and 2 integrons were detected in 45.8% (54/118) and 19.5% (23/118) of our tested Pseudomonas aeruginosa isolates, respectively. Three strains were positive for both the integrons. This is the first report of class 2 integrons in P. aeruginosa and also of isolates carrying class 1 and 2 integrons simultaneously.
PMCID: PMC2620863  PMID: 19020065
21.  A Novel Immune Evasion Strategy of Candida albicans: Proteolytic Cleavage of a Salivary Antimicrobial Peptide 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(4):e5039.
Oropharyngeal candidiasis is an opportunistic infection considered to be a harbinger of AIDS. The etiologic agent Candida albicans is a fungal species commonly colonizing human mucosal surfaces. However, under conditions of immune dysfunction, colonizing C. albicans can become an opportunistic pathogen causing superficial or even life-threatening infections. The reasons behind this transition, however, are not clear. In the oral cavity, salivary antimicrobial peptides are considered to be an important part of the host innate defense system in the prevention of microbial colonization. Histatin-5 specifically has exhibited potent activity against C. albicans. Our previous studies have shown histatin-5 levels to be significantly reduced in the saliva of HIV+ individuals, indicating an important role for histatin-5 in keeping C. albicans in its commensal stage. The versatility in the pathogenic potential of C. albicans is the result of its ability to adapt through the regulation of virulence determinants, most notably of which are proteolytic enzymes (Saps), involved in tissue degradation. In this study, we show that C. albicans cells efficiently and rapidly degrade histatin-5, resulting in loss of its anti-candidal potency. In addition, we demonstrate that this cellular activity is due to proteolysis by a member of the secreted aspartic proteases (Sap) family involved in C. albicans pathogenesis. Specifically, the proteolysis was attributed to Sap9, in turn identifying histatin-5 as the first host-specific substrate for that isoenzyme. These findings demonstrate for the first time the ability of a specific C. albicans enzyme to degrade and deactivate a host antimicrobial peptide involved in the protection of the oral mucosa against C. albicans, thereby providing new insights into the factors directing the transition of C. albicans from commensal to pathogen, with important clinical implications for alternative therapy. This report characterizes the first defined mechanism behind the enhanced susceptibility of HIV+ individuals to oral candidiasis since the emergence of HIV.
PMCID: PMC2661360  PMID: 19352427
22.  Vaccine development in Staphylococcus aureus: taking the biofilm phenotype into consideration 
Vaccine development against pathogenic bacteria is an imperative initiative as bacteria are gaining resistance to current antimicrobial therapies and few novel antibiotics are being developed. Candidate antigens for vaccine development can be identified by a multitude of high-throughput technologies that were accelerated by access to complete genomes. While considerable success has been achieved in vaccine development against bacterial pathogens, many species with multiple virulence factors and modes of infection have provided reasonable challenges in identifying protective antigens. In particular, vaccine candidates should be evaluated in the context of the complex disease properties, whether planktonic (e.g. sepsis and pneumonia) and/or biofilm associated (e.g. indwelling medical device infections). Because of the phenotypic differences between these modes of growth, those vaccine candidates chosen only for their efficacy in one disease state may fail against other infections. This review will summarize the history and types of bacterial vaccines and adjuvants as well as present an overview of modern antigen discovery and complications brought about by polymicrobial infections. Finally, we will also use one of the better studied microbial species that uses differential, multifactorial protein profiles to mediate an array of diseases, Staphylococcus aureus, to outline some of the more recently identified problematic issues in vaccine development in this biofilm-forming species.
PMCID: PMC2936112  PMID: 20602638
Staphylococcus aureus; vaccine; biofilm
23.  Microbial interactions and differential protein expression in Staphylococcus aureus –Candida albicans dual-species biofilms 
The fungal species Candida albicans and the bacterial species Staphylococcus aureus are responsible for a majority of hospital-acquired infections and often coinfect critically ill patients as complicating polymicrobial biofilms. To investigate biofilm structure during polymicrobial growth, dual-species biofilms were imaged with confocal scanning laser microscopy. Analyses revealed a unique biofilm architecture where S. aureus commonly associated with the hyphal elements of C. albicans. This physical interaction may provide staphylococci with an invasion strategy because candidal hyphae can penetrate through epithelial layers. To further understand the molecular mechanisms possibly responsible for previously demonstrated amplified virulence during coinfection, protein expression studies were undertaken. Differential in-gel electrophoresis identified a total of 27 proteins to be significantly differentially produced by these organisms during coculture biofilm growth. Among the upregulated staphylococcal proteins was l-lactate dehydrogenase 1, which confers resistance to host-derived oxidative stressors. Among the downregulated proteins was the global transcriptional repressor of virulence factors, CodY. These findings demonstrate that the hyphae-mediated enhanced pathogenesis of S. aureus may not only be due to physical interactions but can also be attributed to the differential regulation of specific virulence factors induced during polymicrobial growth. Further characterization of the intricate interaction between these pathogens at the molecular level is warranted, as it may aid in the design of novel therapeutic strategies aimed at combating fungal–bacterial polymicrobial infection.
PMCID: PMC2936118  PMID: 20608978
Candida albicans; Staphylococcus aureus; polymicrobial; biofilm; proteome
24.  Farnesol, a Fungal Quorum-Sensing Molecule Triggers Apoptosis in Human Oral Squamous Carcinoma Cells1 
Neoplasia (New York, N.Y.)  2008;10(9):954-963.
Farnesol is a catabolite within the isoprenoid/cholesterol pathway that has exhibited significant antitumor activity. Farnesol was recently identified as a quorum-sensing molecule produced by the fungal pathogen Candida albicans. In this study, we hypothesize that synthetic and Candida-produced farnesol can induce apoptosis in vitro in oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) lines. Cell proliferation, apoptosis, mitochondrial degradation, and survivin and caspase expressions were examined. In addition, global protein expression profiles were analyzed using proteomic analysis. Results demonstrated significant decrease in proliferation and increase in apoptosis in cells exposed to farnesol and C. albicans culture media. Concurrently, protein expression analysis demonstrated a significant decrease in survivin and an increase in cleaved-caspase expression, whereas fluorescent microscopy revealed the presence of active caspases with mitochondrial degradation in exposed cells. A total of 36 differentially expressed proteins were identified by proteomic analysis. Among the 26 up-regulated proteins were those involved in the inhibition of carcinogenesis, proliferation suppression, and aging. Most notable among the 10 down-regulated proteins were those involved in the inhibition of apoptosis and proteins overexpressed in epithelial carcinomas. This study demonstrates that farnesol significantly inhibits the proliferation of OSCCs and promotes apoptosis in vitro through both the intrinsic and extrinsic apoptotic signaling pathways. In addition, we report for the first time the ability of Candida-produced farnesol to induce a similar apoptotic response through the same pathways. The capability of farnesol to trigger apoptosis in cancer cells makes it a potential tool for studying tumor progression and an attractive candidate as a therapeutic agent.
PMCID: PMC2517640  PMID: 18714396
25.  Immunoglobulins to Surface-Associated Biofilm Immunogens Provide a Novel Means of Visualization of Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus Biofilms▿  
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2007;73(20):6612-6619.
Antigens from the methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) cell wall have been shown to be immunogenic in vivo and upregulated during biofilm growth. In this study, we created purified, recombinant forms of selected antigens and biofilm-upregulated, cell wall-associated proteins. These proteins were shown to cause a robust polyclonal immunoglobulin G (IgG) response when used to immunize rabbits. Antibodies against these recombinant proteins bound to the native forms of each protein as harvested from in vitro grown biofilms of MRSA, as determined both via Western blot analysis and immunofluorescence confocal microscopy. These IgGs could be utilized as imaging tools that localize to areas of specific protein production within a biofilm. This work illustrates that immunogenic, cell wall-associated, biofilm-upregulated proteins are promising for in vitro visualization of biofilm growth, architecture, and space-function relationships.
PMCID: PMC2075055  PMID: 17720840

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