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1.  Streptococcus iniae SF1: Complete Genome Sequence, Proteomic Profile, and Immunoprotective Antigens 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e91324.
Streptococcus iniae is a Gram-positive bacterium that is reckoned one of the most severe aquaculture pathogens. It has a broad host range among farmed marine and freshwater fish and can also cause zoonotic infection in humans. Here we report for the first time the complete genome sequence as well as the host factor-induced proteomic profile of a pathogenic S. iniae strain, SF1, a serotype I isolate from diseased fish. SF1 possesses a single chromosome of 2,149,844 base pairs, which contains 2,125 predicted protein coding sequences (CDS), 12 rRNA genes, and 45 tRNA genes. Among the protein-encoding CDS are genes involved in resource acquisition and utilization, signal sensing and transduction, carbohydrate metabolism, and defense against host immune response. Potential virulence genes include those encoding adhesins, autolysins, toxins, exoenzymes, and proteases. In addition, two putative prophages and a CRISPR-Cas system were found in the genome, the latter containing a CRISPR locus and four cas genes. Proteomic analysis detected 21 secreted proteins whose expressions were induced by host serum. Five of the serum-responsive proteins were subjected to immunoprotective analysis, which revealed that two of the proteins were highly protective against lethal S. iniae challenge when used as purified recombinant subunit vaccines. Taken together, these results provide an important molecular basis for future study of S. iniae in various aspects, in particular those related to pathogenesis and disease control.
PMCID: PMC3951389  PMID: 24621602
2.  Novel LanT Associated Lantibiotic Clusters Identified by Genome Database Mining 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e91352.
Frequent use of antibiotics has led to the emergence of antibiotic resistance in bacteria. Lantibiotic compounds are ribosomally synthesized antimicrobial peptides against which bacteria are not able to produce resistance, hence making them a good alternative to antibiotics. Nisin is the oldest and the most widely used lantibiotic, in food preservation, without having developed any significant resistance against it. Having their antimicrobial potential and a limited number, there is a need to identify novel lantibiotics.
Identification of novel lantibiotic biosynthetic clusters from an ever increasing database of bacterial genomes, can provide a major lead in this direction. In order to achieve this, a strategy was adopted to identify novel lantibiotic biosynthetic clusters by screening the sequenced genomes for LanT homolog, which is a conserved lantibiotic transporter specific to type IB clusters. This strategy resulted in identification of 54 bacterial strains containing the LanT homologs, which are not the known lantibiotic producers. Of these, 24 strains were subjected to a detailed bioinformatic analysis to identify genes encoding for precursor peptides, modification enzyme, immunity and quorum sensing proteins. Eight clusters having two LanM determinants, similar to haloduracin and lichenicidin were identified, along with 13 clusters having a single LanM determinant as in mersacidin biosynthetic cluster. Besides these, orphan LanT homologs were also identified which might be associated with novel bacteriocins, encoded somewhere else in the genome. Three identified gene clusters had a C39 domain containing LanT transporter, associated with the LanBC proteins and double glycine type precursor peptides, the only known example of such a cluster is that of salivaricin.
This study led to the identification of 8 novel putative two-component lantibiotic clusters along with 13 having a single LanM and 3 with LanBC genes. Putative lantibiotic clusters identified here hold the potential for the discovery of novel lantibiotic(s).
PMCID: PMC3951391  PMID: 24621781
3.  Analysis of the Promoters Involved in Enterocin AS-48 Expression 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e90603.
The enterocin AS-48 is the best characterized antibacterial circular protein in prokaryotes. It is a hydrophobic and cationic bacteriocin, which is ribosomally synthesized by enterococcal cells and post-translationally cyclized by a head-to-tail peptide bond. The production of and immunity towards AS-48 depend upon the coordinated expression of ten genes organized in two operons, as-48ABC (where genes encoding enzymes with processing, secretion, and immunity functions are adjacent to the structural as-48A gene) and as-48C1DD1EFGH. The current study describes the identification of the promoters involved in AS-48 expression. Seven putative promoters have been here amplified, and separately inserted into the promoter-probe vector pTLR1, to create transcriptional fusions with the mCherry gene used as a reporter. The activity of these promoter regions was assessed measuring the expression of the fluorescent mCherry protein using the constitutive pneumococcal promoter PX as a reference. Our results revealed that only three promoters PA, P2(2) and PD1 were recognized in Enterococcus faecalis, Lactococcus lactis and Escherichia coli, in the conditions tested. The maximal fluorescence was obtained with PX in all the strains, followed by the P2(2) promoter, which level of fluorescence was 2-fold compared to PA and 4-fold compared to PD1. Analysis of putative factors influencing the promoter activity in single and double transformants in E. faecalis JH2-2 demonstrated that, in general, a better expression was achieved in presence of pAM401-81. In addition, the P2(2) promoter could be regulated in a negative fashion by genes existing in the native pMB-2 plasmid other than those of the as-48 cluster, while the pH seems to affect differently the as-48 promoter expression.
PMCID: PMC3942455  PMID: 24594763
4.  Comparative Genomic Characterization of Three Streptococcus parauberis Strains in Fish Pathogen, as Assessed by Wide-Genome Analyses 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e80395.
Streptococcus parauberis, which is the main causative agent of streptococcosis among olive flounder (Paralichthys olivaceus) in northeast Asia, can be distinctly divided into two groups (type I and type II) by an agglutination test. Here, the whole genome sequences of two Japanese strains (KRS-02083 and KRS-02109) were determined and compared with the previously determined genome of a Korean strain (KCTC 11537). The genomes of S. parauberis are intermediate in size and have lower GC contents than those of other streptococci. We annotated 2,236 and 2,048 genes in KRS-02083 and KRS-02109, respectively. Our results revealed that the three S. parauberis strains contain different genomic insertions and deletions. In particular, the genomes of Korean and Japanese strains encode different factors for sugar utilization; the former encodes the phosphotransferase system (PTS) for sorbose, whereas the latter encodes proteins for lactose hydrolysis, respectively. And the KRS-02109 strain, specifically, was the type II strain found to be able to resist phage infection through the clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)/Cas system and which might contribute valuably to serologically distribution. Thus, our genome-wide association study shows that polymorphisms can affect pathogen responses, providing insight into biological/biochemical pathways and phylogenetic diversity.
PMCID: PMC3832376  PMID: 24260382
5.  Deep Sequencing Identifies Ethnicity-Specific Bacterial Signatures in the Oral Microbiome 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e77287.
Oral infections have a strong ethnic predilection; suggesting that ethnicity is a critical determinant of oral microbial colonization. Dental plaque and saliva samples from 192 subjects belonging to four major ethnicities in the United States were analyzed using terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism (t-RFLP) and 16S pyrosequencing. Ethnicity-specific clustering of microbial communities was apparent in saliva and subgingival biofilms, and a machine-learning classifier was capable of identifying an individual’s ethnicity from subgingival microbial signatures. The classifier identified African Americans with a 100% sensitivity and 74% specificity and Caucasians with a 50% sensitivity and 91% specificity. The data demonstrates a significant association between ethnic affiliation and the composition of the oral microbiome; to the extent that these microbial signatures appear to be capable of discriminating between ethnicities.
PMCID: PMC3806732  PMID: 24194878
6.  Discovery of a New Genetic Variant of Methionine Aminopeptidase from Streptococci with Possible Post-Translational Modifications: Biochemical and Structural Characterization 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e75207.
Protein N-terminal methionine excision is an essential co-translational process that occurs in the cytoplasm of all organisms. About 60-70% of the newly synthesized proteins undergo this modification. Enzyme responsible for the removal of initiator methionine is methionine aminopeptidase (MetAP), which is a dinuclear metalloprotease. This protein is conserved through all forms of life from bacteria to human except viruses. MetAP is classified into two isoforms, Type I and II. Removal of the map gene or chemical inhibition is lethal to bacteria and to human cell lines, suggesting that MetAP could be a good drug target. In the present study we describe the discovery of a new genetic variant of the Type I MetAP that is present predominantly in the streptococci bacteria. There are two inserts (insert one: 27 amino acids and insert two: four residues) within the catalytic domain. Possible glycosylation and phosphorylation posttranslational modification sites are identified in the ‘insert one’. Biochemical characterization suggests that this enzyme behaves similar to other MetAPs in terms of substrate specificity. Crystal structure Type Ia MetAP from Streptococcus pneumoniae (SpMetAP1a) revealed that it contains two molecules in the asymmetric unit and well ordered inserts with structural features that corroborate the possible posttranslational modification. Both the new inserts found in the SpMetAP1a structurally align with the P-X-X-P motif found in the M. tuberculosis and human Type I MetAPs as well as the 60 amino acid insert in the human Type II enzyme suggesting possible common function. In addition, one of the β-hairpins within in the catalytic domain undergoes a flip placing a residue which is essential for enzyme activity away from the active site and the β-hairpin loop of this secondary structure in the active site obstructing substrate binding. This is the first example of a MetAP crystallizing in the inactive form.
PMCID: PMC3790777  PMID: 24124477
7.  Competence in Streptococcus pneumoniae Is a Response to an Increasing Mutational Burden 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e72613.
Competence for genetic transformation in Streptococcus pneumoniae has previously been described as a quorum-sensing trait regulated by a secreted peptide pheromone. Recently we demonstrated that competence is also activated by reduction in the accuracy of protein biosynthesis. We have now investigated whether errors upstream of translation in the form of random genomic mutations can provide a similar stimulus. Here we show that generation of a mutator phenotype in S. pneumoniae through deletions of mutX, hexA or hexB enhanced the expression of competence. Similarly, chemical mutagenesis with the nucleotide analog dPTP promoted development of competence. To investigate the relationship between mutational load and the activation of competence, replicate lineages of the mutX strain were serially passaged under conditions of relaxed selection allowing random accumulation of secondary mutations. Competence increased with propagation in these lineages but not in control lineages having wild-type mutX. Resequencing of these derived strains revealed between 1 and 9 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) per lineage, which were broadly distributed across the genome and did not involve known regulators of competence. Notably, the frequency of competence development among the sequenced strains correlated significantly with the number of nonsynonymous mutations that had been acquired. Together, these observations provide support for the hypothesis that competence in S. pneumoniae is regulated in response to the accumulated burden of coding mutations in the bacterial genome. In contrast to previously described DNA damage response systems that are activated by physical lesions in the chromosome, this pneumococcal pathway may represent a unique stress response system that monitors the coding integrity of the genome.
PMCID: PMC3742669  PMID: 23967325
8.  ClpL Is Required for Folding of CtsR in Streptococcus mutans 
Journal of Bacteriology  2013;195(3):576-584.
ClpL, a member of the HSP100 family, is widely distributed in Gram-positive bacteria but is absent in Gram-negative bacteria. Although ClpL is involved in various cellular processes, such as the stress tolerance response, long-term survival, virulence, and antibiotic resistance, the detailed molecular mechanisms are largely unclear. Here we report that ClpL acts as a chaperone to properly fold CtsR, a stress response repressor, and prevents it from forming protein aggregates in Streptococcus mutans. In vitro, ClpL was able to successfully refold urea-denatured CtsR but not aggregated proteins. We suggest that ClpL recognizes primarily soluble but denatured substrates and prevents the formation of large protein aggregates. We also found that in vivo, the C-terminal D2-small domain of ClpL is essential for the observed chaperone activity. Since ClpL widely contributes to various cellular functions, we speculate that ClpL chaperone activity is necessary to maintain cellular homeostasis.
PMCID: PMC3554016  PMID: 23204456
9.  Effect of Licochalcone A on Growth and Properties of Streptococcus suis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e67728.
Streptococcus suis (S.suis) is an important emerging worldwide pig pathogen and zoonotic agent with rapid evolution of virulence and drug resistance. In this study, we wanted to investigate the effect of licochalcone A on growth and properties of Streptococcus suis. The antimicrobial activity of licochalcone A was tested by growth inhibition assay and the minimal inhibitory concentrations (MICs) also were determined. The effect of licochalcone A on S.suis biofilm formation was characterized by crystal violet staining. The effect of licochalcone A on suilysin secretion was evaluated by titration of hemolytic activity. To understand the antimicrobial effect, gene expression profile of S.suis treated by licochalcone A was analyzed by DNA microarray. Our results demonstrated that licochalcone A showed antimicrobial activity on S.suis with MICs of 4 µg/ml for S.suis serotype 2 strains and 8 µg/ml for S.suis serotype 7 strains. Biofilm formation was inhibited by 30–40% in the presence of licochalcone A (3 µg/ml) and suilysin secretion was also significantly inhibited in the presence of licochalcone A (1.5 µg/ml). The gene expression profile of S.suis in the presence of licochalcone A showed that 132 genes were differentially regulated, and we analyzed the regulated genes in the aspect of the bacterial cell cycle control. Among the deregulated genes, the genes responsible for the mass doubling was increased expression, but the genes responsible for DNA replication and cell division were inhibited the expression. So, we think the regulation of the cell cycle genes might provide a mechanistic understanding of licochalcone A mediated antimicrobial effect against S.suis.
PMCID: PMC3720849  PMID: 23935843
10.  Comparative Genomic Analyses of Streptococcus pseudopneumoniae Provide Insight into Virulence and Commensalism Dynamics 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e65670.
Streptococcus pseudopneumoniae (SPPN) is a recently described species of the viridans group streptococci (VGS). Although the pathogenic potential of S. pseudopneumoniae remains uncertain, it is most commonly isolated from patients with underlying medical conditions, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. S. pseudopneumoniae can be distinguished from the closely related species, S. pneumoniae and S. mitis, by phenotypic characteristics, including optochin resistance in the presence of 5% CO2, bile insolubility, and the lack of the pneumococcal capsule. Previously, we reported the draft genome sequence of S. pseudopneumoniae IS7493, a clinical isolate obtained from an immunocompromised patient with documented pneumonia. Here, we use comparative genomics approaches to identify similarities and key differences between S. pseudopneumoniae IS7493, S. pneumoniae and S. mitis. The genome structure of S. pseudopneumoniae IS7493 is most closely related to that of S. pneumoniae R6, but several recombination events are evident. Analysis of gene content reveals numerous unique features that distinguish S. pseudopneumoniae from other streptococci. The presence of loci for competence, iron transport, pneumolysin production and antimicrobial resistance reinforce the phylogenetic position of S. pseudopneumoniae as an intermediate species between S. pneumoniae and S. mitis. Additionally, the presence of several virulence factors and antibiotic resistance mechanisms suggest the potential of this commensal species to become pathogenic or to contribute to increasing antibiotic resistance levels seen among the VGS.
PMCID: PMC3686770  PMID: 23840352
11.  Structural and Functional Analysis of the N-terminal Domain of the Streptococcus gordonii Adhesin Sgo0707 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e63768.
The commensal Streptococcus gordonii expresses numerous surface adhesins with which it interacts with other microorganisms, host cells and salivary proteins to initiate dental plaque formation. However, this Gram-positive bacterium can also spread to non-oral sites such as the heart valves and cause infective endocarditis. One of its surface adhesins, Sgo0707, is a large protein composed of a non-repetitive N-terminal region followed by several C-terminal repeat domains and a cell wall sorting motif. Here we present the crystal structure of the Sgo0707 N-terminal domains, refined to 2.1 Å resolution. The model consists of two domains, N1 and N2. The largest domain, N1, comprises a putative binding cleft with a single cysteine located in its centre and exhibits an unexpected structural similarity to the variable domains of the streptococcal Antigen I/II adhesins. The N2-domain has an IgG-like fold commonly found among Gram-positive surface adhesins. Binding studies performed on S. gordonii wild-type and a Sgo0707 deficient mutant show that the Sgo0707 adhesin is involved in binding to type-1 collagen and to oral keratinocytes.
PMCID: PMC3656908  PMID: 23691093
12.  An Extracelluar Protease, SepM, Generates Functional Competence-Stimulating Peptide in Streptococcus mutans UA159 
Journal of Bacteriology  2012;194(21):5886-5896.
Cell-cell communication in Gram-positive bacteria often depends on the production of extracellular peptides. The cariogenic bacterium Streptococcus mutans employs so-called competence-stimulating peptide (CSP) to stimulate mutacin (bacteriocin) production and competence development through the activation of the ComDE two-component pathway. In S. mutans, CSP is secreted as a 21-residue peptide; however, mass spectrometric analysis of culture supernatant indicates the presence of an 18-residue proteolytically cleaved species. In this study, using a transposon mutagenesis screening, we identified a cell surface protease that is involved in the processing of 21-residue CSP to generate the 18-residue CSP. We named this protease SepM for streptococcal extracellular protease required for mutacin production. We showed that the truncated 18-residue peptide is the biologically active form and that the specific postexport cleavage is a prerequisite to activate the ComDE two-component signal transduction pathway. We also showed that the CSP and the mutacins are exported outside the cell by the same ABC transporter, NlmTE. Our study further confirmed that the ComDE two-component system is absolutely necessary for mutacin production in S. mutans.
PMCID: PMC3486099  PMID: 22923597
13.  A Six-Month Prospective Study to Find Out the Treatment Outcome, Prognosis and Offending Drugs in Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis from an Urban Institution in Kolkata 
Indian Journal of Dermatology  2013;58(3):191-193.
Toxic epidermal necrolysis is the life-threatening dermatological emergency, most often an adverse cutaneous drug reaction with high mortality. A 6-month prospective study was conducted in our institution to find out the offending drugs, to assess the prognosis on admission using SCORTEN: Severity of illness score and to find out the treatment outcome. Anticonvulsants, NSAIDs and sulphonamides are the common offending agents; but in our study, 2 were due to homeopathic medicines. Out of 20 patients, on the date of admission SCORTEN prognostic score was 2 in 11 patients, 3 in 8 patients and 4 in 1 patient. Eighteen patients were treated with dexamethasone intramuscular injection and 2 patients got intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG). All patients survived without any mortality. Though improvement was slightly faster with IVIG, early administration of corticosteroids was also of encouraging efficacy and should be considered in developing countries due to low cost. No mortality in our study suggests need to validate the SCORTEN index in our country in a large number of patients.
PMCID: PMC3667280  PMID: 23723468
SCORTEN; treatment outcome; toxic epidermal necrolysis
14.  Role of LytF and AtlS in eDNA Release by Streptococcus gordonii 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e62339.
Extracellular DNA (eDNA) is an important component of the biofilm matrix produced by many bacteria. In general, the release of eDNA is associated with the activity of muralytic enzymes leading to obvious cell lysis. In the Gram-positive oral commensal Streptococcus gordonii, eDNA release is dependent on pyruvate oxidase generated hydrogen peroxide (H2O2). Addition of H2O2 to cells grown under conditions non-permissive for H2O2 production causes eDNA release. Furthermore, eDNA release is maximal under aerobic growth conditions known to induce pyruvate oxidase gene expression and H2O2 production. Obvious cell lysis, however, does not occur. Two enzymes have been recently associated with eDNA release in S. gordonii. The autolysin AtlS and the competence regulated murein hydrolase LytF. In the present report, we investigated the role of both proteins in the H2O2 dependent eDNA release process. Single and double mutants in the respective genes for LytF and AtlS released less eDNA under normal growth conditions, but the AtlS mutant was still inducible for eDNA release by external H2O2. Moreover, we showed that the AtlS mutation interfered with the ability of S. gordonii to produce eDNA release inducing amounts of H2O2. Our data support a role of LytF in the H2O2 eDNA dependent release of S. gordonii as part of the competence stress pathway responding to oxidative stress.
PMCID: PMC3634736  PMID: 23638042
15.  Transcriptional Regulation of a Bacteriophage Encoded Extracellular DNase (Spd-3) by Rgg in Streptococcus pyogenes 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e61312.
The Streptococcus pyogenes transcriptional regulator Rgg controls the expression of virulence-associated genes encoded both within the core genome and within horizontally transmissible DNA such as temperate bacteriophage. Previously, we showed that Rgg binds to the non-coding DNA upstream of the bacteriophage gene encoding an extracellular DNase Spd-3. In the current study, we further characterized Rgg-mediated regulation of spd-3 expression. Two spd-3 transcripts were identified by northern blotting. The 5′ ends were 27 and 594 nucleotides upstream of the start codon as determined with primer extension analysis and 5′ RACE (rapid amplification of c-DNA ends), respectively. Results obtained with gel shift assays showed that purified Rgg bound specifically to non-coding DNA containing the promoters of both transcripts. Transcriptional fusion analyses confirmed the presence of Rgg-repressible promoters within these DNA regions. In addition, repression was associated with direct DNA binding by Rgg as determined with chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) coupled with quantitative PCR (qPCR). The results show that the chromosomally encoded transcriptional regulator, Rgg, directly represses both bacteriophage promoters controlling the expression of Spd-3. The results provide new information regarding the regulation of prophage encoded virulence factors of S. pyogenes and highlight the complex evolutionary history of S. pyogenes and temperate bacteriophage.
PMCID: PMC3629212  PMID: 23613830
16.  Phenotypic Heterogeneity of Genomically-Diverse Isolates of Streptococcus mutans 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e61358.
High coverage, whole genome shotgun (WGS) sequencing of 57 geographically- and genetically-diverse isolates of Streptococcus mutans from individuals of known dental caries status was recently completed. Of the 57 sequenced strains, fifteen isolates, were selected based primarily on differences in gene content and phenotypic characteristics known to affect virulence and compared with the reference strain UA159. A high degree of variability in these properties was observed between strains, with a broad spectrum of sensitivities to low pH, oxidative stress (air and paraquat) and exposure to competence stimulating peptide (CSP). Significant differences in autolytic behavior and in biofilm development in glucose or sucrose were also observed. Natural genetic competence varied among isolates, and this was correlated to the presence or absence of competence genes, comCDE and comX, and to bacteriocins. In general strains that lacked the ability to become competent possessed fewer genes for bacteriocins and immunity proteins or contained polymorphic variants of these genes. WGS sequence analysis of the pan-genome revealed, for the first time, components of a Type VII secretion system in several S. mutans strains, as well as two putative ORFs that encode possible collagen binding proteins located upstream of the cnm gene, which is associated with host cell invasiveness. The virulence of these particular strains was assessed in a wax-worm model. This is the first study to combine a comprehensive analysis of key virulence-related phenotypes with extensive genomic analysis of a pathogen that evolved closely with humans. Our analysis highlights the phenotypic diversity of S. mutans isolates and indicates that the species has evolved a variety of adaptive strategies to persist in the human oral cavity and, when conditions are favorable, to initiate disease.
PMCID: PMC3628994  PMID: 23613838
17.  Gene Regulation by CcpA and Catabolite Repression Explored by RNA-Seq in Streptococcus mutans 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e60465.
A bacterial transcriptome of the primary etiological agent of human dental caries, Streptococcus mutans, is described here using deep RNA sequencing. Differential expression profiles of the transcriptome in the context of carbohydrate source, and of the presence or absence of the catabolite control protein CcpA, revealed good agreement with previously-published DNA microarrays. In addition, RNA-seq considerably expanded the repertoire of DNA sequences that showed statistically-significant changes in expression as a function of the presence of CcpA and growth carbohydrate. Novel mRNAs and small RNAs were identified, some of which were differentially expressed in conditions tested in this study, suggesting that the function of the S. mutans CcpA protein and the influence of carbohydrate sources has a more substantial impact on gene regulation than previously appreciated. Likewise, the data reveal that the mechanisms underlying prioritization of carbohydrate utilization are more diverse than what is currently understood. Collectively, this study demonstrates the validity of RNA-seq as a potentially more-powerful alternative to DNA microarrays in studying gene regulation in S. mutans because of the capacity of this approach to yield a more precise landscape of transcriptomic changes in response to specific mutations and growth conditions.
PMCID: PMC3610829  PMID: 23555977
18.  Complete Genome Sequence of Streptococcus mutans GS-5, a Serotype c Strain 
Journal of Bacteriology  2012;194(17):4787-4788.
Streptococcus mutans, a principal causative agent of dental caries, is considered to be the most cariogenic among all oral streptococci. Of the four S. mutans serotypes (c, e, f, and k), serotype c strains predominate in the oral cavity. Here, we present the complete genome sequence of S. mutans GS-5, a serotype c strain originally isolated from human carious lesions, which is extensively used as a laboratory strain worldwide.
PMCID: PMC3415521  PMID: 22887682
19.  Investigating Acid Production by Streptococcus mutans with a Surface-Displayed pH-Sensitive Green Fluorescent Protein 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e57182.
Acidogenicity and aciduricity are the main virulence factors of the cavity-causing bacterium Streptococcus mutans. Monitoring at the individual cell level the temporal and spatial distribution of acid produced by this important oral pathogen is central for our understanding of these key virulence factors especially when S. mutans resides in multi-species microbial communities. In this study, we explored the application of pH-sensitive green fluorescent proteins (pHluorins) to investigate these important features. Ecliptic pHluorin was functionally displayed on the cell surface of S. mutans as a fusion protein with SpaP. The resulting strain (O87) was used to monitor temporal and spatial pH changes in the microenvironment of S. mutans cells under both planktonic and biofilm conditions. Using strain O87, we revealed a rapid pH drop in the microenviroment of S. mutans microcolonies prior to the decrease in the macro-environment pH following sucrose fermentation. Meanwhile, a non-uniform pH distribution was observed within S. mutans biofilms, reflecting differences in microbial metabolic activity. Furthermore, strain O87 was successfully used to monitor the S. mutans acid production profiles within dual- and multispecies oral biofilms. Based on these findings, the ecliptic pHluorin allows us to investigate in vivo and in situ acid production and distribution by the cariogenic species S. mutans.
PMCID: PMC3585301  PMID: 23468929
20.  Two-Component System Response Regulators Involved in Virulence of Streptococcus pneumoniae TIGR4 in Infective Endocarditis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e54320.
Streptococci resident in the oral cavity have been linked to infective endocarditis (IE). While other viridans streptococci are commonly studied in relation to IE, less research has been focused on Streptococcus pneumoniae. We established for the first time an animal model of S. pneumoniae IE, and examined the virulence of the TIGR4 strain in this model. We hypothesized that two-component systems (TCS) may mediate S. pneumoniae TIGR4 strain virulence in IE and examined TCS response regulator (RR) mutants of TIGR4 in vivo with the IE model. Thirteen of the 14 RR protein genes were mutagenized, excluding only the essential gene SP_1227. The requirement of the 13 RRs for S. pneumoniae competitiveness in the IE model was assessed in vivo through use of quantitative real-time PCR (qPCR) and competitive index assays. Using real-time PCR, several RR mutants were detected at significantly lower levels in infected heart valves compared with a control strain suggesting the respective RRs are candidate virulence factors for IE. The virulence reduction of the ΔciaR mutant was further confirmed by competitive index assay. Our data suggest that CiaR is a virulence factor of S. pneumoniae strain TIGR4 for IE.
PMCID: PMC3546988  PMID: 23342132
21.  Characterization of a Streptococcus mutans Intergenic Region Containing a Small Toxic Peptide and Its cis-Encoded Antisense Small RNA Antitoxin 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e54291.
Toxin-antitoxin (TA) modules consist of a pair of genes that encode two components: a protein toxin and an antitoxin, which may be in the form of either a labile protein or an antisense small RNA. Here we describe, to the best of our knowledge, the first functional chromosomal type I TA system in streptococci. Our model organism is the oral pathogen Streptococcus mutans. Our results showed that the genome of S. mutans UA159 reference strain harbors a previously unannotated Fst-like toxin (Fst-Sm) and its cis-encoded small RNA antitoxin (srSm) converging towards the end of the toxin gene in IGR176, a small intergenic region of 318 nt. Fst-Sm is a small hydrophobic peptide of 32 amino acid residues with homology to the Fst toxin family. Transcripts of ∼200 nt and ∼70 nt specific to fst-Sm mRNA and srSm RNA, respectively, were detected by Northern blot analysis throughout S. mutans growth. The toxin mRNA was considerably more stable than its cognate antitoxin. The half-life of srSm RNA was determined to be ∼30 min, while fst-Sm mRNA had a half-life of ∼90 min. Both fst-Sm and srSm RNAs were transcribed across direct tandem repeats providing a region of complementarity for inhibition of toxin translation. Overproduction of Fst-Sm had a toxic effect on E. coli and S. mutans cells which can be neutralized by coexpression of srSm RNA. Deletion of fst-Sm/srSm locus or overexpression of Fst-Sm/srSm had no effect on S. mutans cell growth in liquid medium and no differences in the total biofilm biomass were noted. In contrast, mild-overproduction of Fst-Sm/srSm type I TA system decreases the levels of persister cells tolerant to bacterial cell wall synthesis inhibitors.
PMCID: PMC3543317  PMID: 23326602
22.  SMU.152 Acts as an Immunity Protein for Mutacin IV 
Journal of Bacteriology  2012;194(13):3486-3494.
Streptococcus mutans, a principal causative agent of dental caries, secretes antimicrobial peptides known as mutacins to suppress the growth of competing species to establish a successful colonization. S. mutans UA159, a sequenced strain, produces at least two major mutacins, mutacins IV and V. Mutacin IV is a two-peptide mutacin encoded by nlmAB genes, which are mapped just upstream of a putative immunity-encoding gene SMU.152. Here we explored the function of SMU.152 as an immunity protein. We observed that overexpression of SMU.152 in two sensitive host strains converted the strains to become immune to mutacin IV. To identify the residues that are important for immunity function, we sequentially deleted residues from the C-terminal region of SMU.152. We observed that deletion of as few as seven amino acids, all of which are highly charged (KRRSKNK), drastically reduced the immunity function of the protein. Furthermore, we identified two other putative immunity proteins, SMU.1909 and SMU.925, which lack the last four charged residues (SKNK) that are present in SMU.152 but contain the KRR residues. Synthetic addition of SKNK residues to either SMU.1909 or SMU.925 to reconstitute the KRRSKNK motif and expressing these constructs in sensitive cells rendered the cells resistant to mutacin IV. We also demonstrated that deletion of Man-PTS system from a sensitive strain made the cells partially resistant to mutacin IV, indicating that the Man-PTS system plays a role in mutacin IV recognition.
PMCID: PMC3434736  PMID: 22505686
23.  Pilus Biogenesis in Lactococcus lactis: Molecular Characterization and Role in Aggregation and Biofilm Formation 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(12):e50989.
The genome of Lactococcus lactis strain IL1403 harbors a putative pilus biogenesis cluster consisting of a sortase C gene flanked by 3 LPxTG protein encoding genes (yhgD, yhgE, and yhhB), called here pil. However, pili were not detected under standard growth conditions. Over-expression of the pil operon resulted in production and display of pili on the surface of lactococci. Functional analysis of the pilus biogenesis machinery indicated that the pilus shaft is formed by oligomers of the YhgE pilin, that the pilus cap is formed by the YhgD pilin and that YhhB is the basal pilin allowing the tethering of the pilus fibers to the cell wall. Oligomerization of pilin subunits was catalyzed by sortase C while anchoring of pili to the cell wall was mediated by sortase A. Piliated L. lactis cells exhibited an auto-aggregation phenotype in liquid cultures, which was attributed to the polymerization of major pilin, YhgE. The piliated lactococci formed thicker, more aerial biofilms compared to those produced by non-piliated bacteria. This phenotype was attributed to oligomers of YhgE. This study provides the first dissection of the pilus biogenesis machinery in a non-pathogenic Gram-positive bacterium. Analysis of natural lactococci isolates from clinical and vegetal environments showed pili production under standard growth conditions. The identification of functional pili in lactococci suggests that the changes they promote in aggregation and biofilm formation may be important for the natural lifestyle as well as for applications in which these bacteria are used.
PMCID: PMC3516528  PMID: 23236417
24.  HP0197 Contributes to CPS Synthesis and the Virulence of Streptococcus suis via CcpA 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e50987.
Streptococcus suis serotype 2 (SS2), a major swine pathogen and an emerging zoonotic agent, has greatly challenged global public health. The encoding proteins with unknown functions the bacterium encodes are an obstruction to studies of the pathogenesis. A novel surface protective antigen HP0197 is one of these proteins which have no sequence homology to any known protein. In the present study, the protein was determined to be involved in bacterial virulence through an evaluation of the isogenic mutant (Δhp0197) in both mice and pigs. The experimental infection also indicated that Δhp0197 could be cleared easily during infection, which could be attributed to the reduced thickness of the capsular polysaccharides (CPS) and the significantly reduced phagocytotic resistance. Microarrays-based comparative transcriptome analysis suggested that the suppressed expression of the operon responsible for CPS synthesis might be reversed by CcpA activity, which controlled global regulation of carbon catabolite through the binding of the CcpA and HPr-Ser-46-P to the catabolite-responsive elements (cre) of the target operons. The hypothesis was approved by the fact that the purified FLAG-tagged HPr from WT stain exhibited a higher binding activity to cre with CcpA compared to the Δhp0197 by the Electrophoretic Mobility Shift Assay, suggesting lower level of phosphorylation of the phosphocarrier protein HPr at residue Ser-46 (HPr-Ser-46P) in Δhp0197. These indicated that HP0197 could enhance CcpA activity to control the expression of genes involved in carbohydrate utilization and CPS synthesis, thus contributing to the virulence of S. suis.
PMCID: PMC3511442  PMID: 23226442
25.  Characterization of a New CAMP Factor Carried by an Integrative and Conjugative Element in Streptococcus agalactiae and Spreading in Streptococci 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e48918.
Genetic exchanges between Streptococci occur frequently and contribute to their genome diversification. Most of sequenced streptococcal genomes carry multiple mobile genetic elements including Integrative and Conjugative Elements (ICEs) that play a major role in these horizontal gene transfers. In addition to genes involved in their mobility and regulation, ICEs also carry genes that can confer selective advantages to bacteria. Numerous elements have been described in S. agalactiae especially those integrated at the 3′ end of a tRNALys encoding gene. In strain 515 of S. agalactiae, an invasive neonate human pathogen, the ICE (called 515_tRNALys) is functional and carries different putative virulence genes including one encoding a putative new CAMP factor in addition to the one previously described. This work demonstrated the functionality of this CAMP factor (CAMP factor II) in Lactococcus lactis but also in pathogenic strains of veterinary origin. The search for co-hemolytic factors in a collection of field strains revealed their presence in S. uberis, S. dysgalactiae, but also for the first time in S. equisimilis and S. bovis. Sequencing of these genes revealed the prevalence of a species-specific factor in S. uberis strains (Uberis factor) and the presence of a CAMP factor II encoding gene in S. bovis and S. equisimilis. Furthermore, most of the CAMP factor II positive strains also carried an element integrated in the tRNALys gene. This work thus describes a CAMP factor that is carried by a mobile genetic element and has spread to different streptococcal species.
PMCID: PMC3494709  PMID: 23152820

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