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1.  IgG Protease Mac/IdeS Is Not Essential for Phagocyte Resistance or Mouse Virulence of M1T1 Group A Streptococcus 
mBio  2013;4(4):e00499-13.
The Mac/IdeS protein of group A Streptococcus (GAS) is a secreted cysteine protease with cleavage specificity for IgG and is highly expressed in the GAS serotype M1T1 clone, which is the serotype most frequently isolated from patients with life-threatening invasive infections. While studies of Mac/IdeS with recombinant protein have shown that the protein can potentially prevent opsonophagocytosis of GAS by neutrophils, the role of the protein in immune evasion as physiologically produced by the living organism has not been studied. Here we examined the contribution of Mac/IdeS to invasive GAS disease by generating a mutant lacking Mac/IdeS in the hyperinvasive M1T1 background. While Mac/IdeS was highly expressed and proteolytically active in the hyperinvasive strain, elimination of the bacterial protease did not significantly influence GAS phagocytic uptake, oxidative-burst induction, cathelicidin sensitivity, resistance to neutrophil or macrophage killing, or pathogenicity in pre- or postimmune mouse infectious challenges. We conclude that in the highly virulent M1T1 background, Mac/IdeS is not essential for either phagocyte resistance or virulence. Given the conservation of Mac/IdeS and homologues across GAS strains, it is possible that Mac/IdeS serves another important function in GAS ecology or contributes to virulence in other strain backgrounds.
Group A Streptococcus (GAS) causes human infections ranging from strep throat to life-threatening conditions such as flesh-eating disease and toxic shock syndrome. Common disease-associated clones of GAS can cause both mild and severe infections because of a characteristic mutation and subsequent change in the expression of several genes that develops under host immune selection. One of these genes encodes Mac/IdeS, a protease that has been shown to cleave antibodies important to the immune defense system. In this study, we found that while Mac/IdeS is highly expressed in hypervirulent GAS, it does not significantly contribute to the ability of the bacteria to survive white blood cell killing or produce invasive infection in the mouse. These data underscore the importance of correlating studies on virulence factor function with physiologic expression levels and the complexity of streptococcal pathogenesis and contribute to our overall understanding of how GAS causes disease.
PMCID: PMC3735186  PMID: 23900173
2.  Novel Role for the yceGH Tellurite Resistance Genes in the Pathogenesis of Bacillus anthracis 
Infection and Immunity  2014;82(3):1132-1140.
Bacillus anthracis, the causative agent of anthrax, relies on multiple virulence factors to subvert the host immune defense. Using Caenorhabditis elegans as an infection model, we screened approximately 5,000 transposon mutants of B. anthracis Sterne for decreased virulence. One of the attenuated mutants resulted in loss of expression of yceG and yceH, the last two genes in a six-gene cluster of tellurite resistance genes. We generated an analogous insertional mutant to confirm the phenotype and characterize the role of yceGH in resistance to host defenses. Loss of yceGH rendered the mutants more sensitive to tellurite toxicity as well as to host defenses such as reactive oxygen species and the cathelicidin family of antimicrobial peptides. Additionally, we see decreased survival in mammalian models of infection, including human whole blood and in mice. We identify a novel role for the yceGH genes in B. anthracis Sterne virulence and suggest that C. elegans is a useful infection model to study anthrax pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3957989  PMID: 24366250
3.  A New Pharmacological Agent (AKB-4924) Stabilizes Hypoxia Inducible Factor (HIF) and Increases Skin Innate Defenses Against Bacterial Infection 
Hypoxia inducible factor-1 (HIF-1) is a transcription factor that is a major regulator of energy homeostasis and cellular adaptation to low oxygen stress. HIF-1 is also activated in response to bacterial pathogens and supports the innate immune response of both phagocytes and keratinocytes. In this work, we show that a new pharmacological compound AKB-4924 (Akebia Therapeutics) increases HIF-1α levels and enhances the antibacterial activity of phagocytes and keratinocytes against both methicillin-sensitive and -resistant strains of Staphylococcus aureus in vitro. AKB-4924 is also effective in stimulating the killing capacity of keratinocytes against the important opportunistic skin pathogens Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Acinitobacter baumanii. The effect of AKB-4924 is mediated through the activity of host cells, as the compound exerts no direct antimicrobial activity. Administered locally as a single agent, AKB-4924 limits S. aureus proliferation and lesion formation in a mouse skin abscess model. This approach to pharmacologically boost the innate immune response via HIF-1 stabilization may serve as a useful adjunctive treatment for antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections.
PMCID: PMC3606899  PMID: 22371073
Hypoxia inducible factor-1 (HIF-1); innate immunity; Staphylococcus aureus; bacterial infection; antibiotic-resistant bacteria
4.  Novel role of the transcription factor HIF-1α in the formation of mast cell extracellular traps 
The Biochemical journal  2012;446(1):159-163.
PMCID: PMC3606900  PMID: 22738198
mast cells; extracellular traps; HIF-1α; Staphylococcus aureus; innate immunity; antimicrobial
5.  Regulation of ATG4B Stability by RNF5 Limits Basal Levels of Autophagy and Influences Susceptibility to Bacterial Infection 
PLoS Genetics  2012;8(10):e1003007.
Autophagy is the mechanism by which cytoplasmic components and organelles are degraded by the lysosomal machinery in response to diverse stimuli including nutrient deprivation, intracellular pathogens, and multiple forms of cellular stress. Here, we show that the membrane-associated E3 ligase RNF5 regulates basal levels of autophagy by controlling the stability of a select pool of the cysteine protease ATG4B. RNF5 controls the membranal fraction of ATG4B and limits LC3 (ATG8) processing, which is required for phagophore and autophagosome formation. The association of ATG4B with—and regulation of its ubiquitination and stability by—RNF5 is seen primarily under normal growth conditions. Processing of LC3 forms, appearance of LC3-positive puncta, and p62 expression are higher in RNF5−/− MEF. RNF5 mutant, which retains its E3 ligase activity but does not associate with ATG4B, no longer affects LC3 puncta. Further, increased puncta seen in RNF5−/− using WT but not LC3 mutant, which bypasses ATG4B processing, substantiates the role of RNF5 in early phases of LC3 processing and autophagy. Similarly, RNF-5 inactivation in Caenorhabditis elegans increases the level of LGG-1/LC3::GFP puncta. RNF5−/− mice are more resistant to group A Streptococcus infection, associated with increased autophagosomes and more efficient bacterial clearance by RNF5−/− macrophages. Collectively, the RNF5-mediated control of membranalATG4B reveals a novel layer in the regulation of LC3 processing and autophagy.
Author Summary
Autophagy is an intracellular catabolic process by which a cell's own components are degraded through the lysosomal machinery. Autophagy is implicated in various cellular processes such as growth and development, cancer, and inflammation. Using biochemistry, cell biology, and genetic models, we identify a ubiquitin ligase that limits autophagy in the absence of an inducing stimulus (e.g. starvation). The control of basal autophagy is mediated by the ubiquitin ligase RNF5 through its regulation of the membrane-associated ATG4B protease. Using RNF5 mutant mice we demonstrate the implications of this regulation for host defense mechanisms that limit intracellular infection by bacterial pathogens.
PMCID: PMC3475677  PMID: 23093945
6.  Pharmacological Inhibition of the ClpXP Protease Increases Bacterial Susceptibility to Host Cathelicidin Antimicrobial Peptides and Cell Envelope-Active Antibiotics 
The ClpXP protease is a critical bacterial intracellular protease that regulates protein turnover in many bacterial species. Here we identified a pharmacological inhibitor of the ClpXP protease, F2, and evaluated its action in Bacillus anthracis and Staphylococcus aureus. We found that F2 exhibited synergistic antimicrobial activity with cathelicidin antimicrobial peptides and antibiotics that target the cell well and/or cell membrane, such as penicillin and daptomycin, in B. anthracis and drug-resistant strains of S. aureus. ClpXP inhibition represents a novel therapeutic strategy to simultaneously sensitize pathogenic bacteria to host defenses and pharmaceutical antibiotics.
PMCID: PMC3318395  PMID: 22252821
7.  Draft Genome Sequence of the Sexually Transmitted Pathogen Trichomonas vaginalis 
Science (New York, N.Y.)  2007;315(5809):207-212.
We describe the genome sequence of the protist Trichomonas vaginalis, a sexually transmitted human pathogen. Repeats and transposable elements comprise about two-thirds of the ~160-megabase genome, reflecting a recent massive expansion of genetic material. This expansion, in conjunction with the shaping of metabolic pathways that likely transpired through lateral gene transfer from bacteria, and amplification of specific gene families implicated in pathogenesis and phagocytosis of host proteins may exemplify adaptations of the parasite during its transition to a urogenital environment. The genome sequence predicts previously unknown functions for the hydrogenosome, which support a common evolutionary origin of this unusual organelle with mitochondria.
PMCID: PMC2080659  PMID: 17218520
8.  Trichomonas vaginalis Lipophosphoglycan Mutants Have Reduced Adherence and Cytotoxicity to Human Ectocervical Cells 
Eukaryotic Cell  2005;4(11):1951-1958.
The extracellular human pathogen Trichomonas vaginalis is covered by a dense glycocalyx thought to play a role in host-parasite interactions. The main component of the glycocalyx is lipophosphoglycan (LPG), a polysaccharide anchored in the plasma membrane by inositol phosphoceramide. To study the role of LPG in trichomonads, we produced T. vaginalis LPG mutants by chemical mutagenesis and lectin selection and characterized them using morphological, biochemical, and functional assays. Two independently selected LPG mutants, with growth rates comparable to that of the wild-type (parent) strain, lost the ability to bind the lectins Ricinnus comunis agglutinin I (RCA120) and wheat germ agglutinin, indicating alterations in surface galactose and glucosamine residues. LPG isolated from mutants migrated faster than parent strain LPG on sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis, suggesting the mutants had shorter LPG molecules. Dionex high-performance anion exchange chromatography with pulsed amperometric detection analyses revealed galactosamine, glucosamine, galactose, glucose, mannose/xylose, and rhamnose as the main monosaccharides of T. vaginalis parent strain LPG. LPG from both mutants showed a reduction of galactose and glucosamine, corresponding with the reduced size of their LPG molecules and inability to bind the lectins RCA120 and wheat germ agglutinin. Mutant parasites were defective in attachment to plastic, a characteristic associated with avirulent strains of T. vaginalis. Moreover, the mutants were less adherent and less cytotoxic to human vaginal ectocervical cells in vitro than the parental strain. Finally, while parent strain LPG could inhibit the attachment of parent strain parasites to vaginal cells, LPG from either mutant could not inhibit attachment. These combined results demonstrate that T. vaginalis adherence to host cells is LPG mediated and that an altered LPG leads to reduced adherence and cytotoxicity of this parasite.
PMCID: PMC1287856  PMID: 16278462

Results 1-8 (8)