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1.  Developmental transitions of Coxiella burnetii grown in axenic media 
Coxiella burnetii undergoes a biphasic developmental cycle within its host cell that generates morphologically and physiologically distinct large cell variants (LCV) and small cell variants (SCV). During the lag phase of the C. burnetii growth cycle, non-replicating SCV differentiate into replicating LCV that in turn differentiate back into SCV during stationary phase. Nearly homogeneous SCV are observed in infected Vero cells after extended incubation (21 to 28 days). In the current study, we sought to establish whether C. burnetii developmental transitions in host cells are recapitulated during host cell-free (axenic) growth in first and second generation acidified citrate cysteine media (ACCM-1 and ACCM-2, respectively). We show that ACCM-2 supported developmental transitions and viability. Although ACCM-1 also supported SCV to LCV transition, LCV to SCV transition did not occur after extended incubation (21 days). Instead, C. burnetii exhibited a ghost-like appearance with bacteria containing condensed chromatin but otherwise devoid of cytoplasmic content. This phenotype correlated with a near total loss in viability between 14 and 21 days of cultivation. Transcriptional profiling of C. burnetii following 14 days of incubation revealed elevated expression of oxidative stress genes in ACCM-1 cultivated bacteria. ACCM-2 differs from ACCM-1 by the substitution of methyl-β-cyclodextrin (Mβ-CD) for fetal bovine serum. Addition of Mβ-CD to ACCM-1 at 7 days post-inoculation rescued C. burnetii viability and lowered expression of oxidative stress genes. Thus, Mβ-CD appears to alleviate oxidative stress in ACCM-2 to result in C. burnetii developmental transitions and viability that mimic host cell-cultivated organisms. Axenic cultivation of C. burnetii in ACCM-2 and new methods of genetic manipulation now allow investigation of the molecular basis of C. burnetii biphasic development.
PMCID: PMC3896121  PMID: 24286928
Q fever; Coxiella; differentiation; axenic growth; development; viability
2.  Methods to produce and safely work with large numbers of Toxoplasma gondii oocysts and bradyzoite cysts 
Two major obstacles to conducting studies with Toxoplasma gondii oocysts are the difficulty in reliably producing large numbers of this life stage and safety concerns because the oocyst is the most environmentally resistant stage of this zoonotic organism. Oocyst production requires oral infection of the definitive feline host with adequate numbers of T. gondii organisms to obtain unsporulated oocysts that are shed in the feces for 3-10 days after infection. Since the most successful and common mode of experimental infection of kittens with T. gondii is by ingestion of bradyzoite tissue cysts, the first step in successful oocyst production is to ensure a high bradyzoite tissue cyst burden in the brains of mice that can be used for the oral inoculum. We compared two methods for producing bradyzoite brain cysts in mice, by infecting them either orally or subcutaneously with oocysts. In both cases, oocysts derived from a low passage T. gondii Type II strain (M4) were used to infect eight-ten week-old Swiss Webster mice. First the number of bradyzoite cysts that were purified from infected mouse brains was compared. Then to evaluate the effect of the route of oocyst inoculation on tissue cyst distribution in mice, a second group of mice was infected with oocysts by one of each route and tissues were examined by histology. In separate experiments, brains from infected mice were used to infect kittens for oocyst production. Greater than 1.3 billion oocysts were isolated from the feces of two infected kittens in the first production and greater than 1.8 billion oocysts from three kittens in the second production. Our results demonstrate that oral delivery of oocysts to mice results in both higher cyst loads in the brain and greater cyst burdens in other tissues examined as compared to those of mice that received the same number of oocysts subcutaneously. The ultimate goal in producing large numbers of oocysts in kittens is to generate adequate amounts of starting material for oocyst studies. Given the potential risks of working with live oocysts in the laboratory, we also tested a method of oocyst inactivation by freeze-thaw treatment. This procedure proved to completely inactivate oocysts without evidence of significant alteration of the oocyst molecular integrity.
PMCID: PMC4281032  PMID: 22037023
Toxoplasma gondii; oocyst; bradyzoite cyst; production; purification; inactivation
3.  Control of gene expression in Helicobacter pylori using the Tet repressor 
Journal of microbiological methods  2013;95(3):10.1016/j.mimet.2013.09.019.
The lack of a versatile system to control gene expression in Helicobacter pylori has hampered efforts to study H. pylori physiology and pathogenesis. To overcome these limitations, we evaluated the utility of an inducible system based on the well-characterized Tet repressor (TetR) and Tet operator (tetO). As validation of this system, we introduced three copies of tetO into the promoter region upstream of the cagUT operon (encoding two virulence factors required for function of the H. pylori Cag type IV secretion system) and expressed tetR by introducing a codon-optimized gene into the chromosomal ureA locus. Introduction of the tetO copies upstream of cagUT did not disrupt promoter activity, as determined by immunoblotting for CagT. The subsequent introduction of tetR, however, did repress CagT synthesis. Production of CagT was restored when strains were cultured in the presence of the inducer, anhydrotetracycline. To demonstrate one potential application of this new tool, we analyzed the function of the Cag type IV secretion system. When the modified H. pylori strains were co-cultured with AGS cells, activity of the Cag type IV secretion system was dependent on the presence of anhydrotetracycline as evidenced by inducer-dependent induction of IL-8 secretion, CagA translocation, and appearance of type IV secretion system pili at the bacteria-host interface. These studies demonstrate the effectiveness of the tetR-tetO system to control gene expression in H. pylori and provide an improved system for studying H. pylori physiology and pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3856897  PMID: 24113399
Helicobacter pylori genetics/physiology; Bacterial gene expression/regulation; Bacterial genetic engineering; Genetic promoter regions
4.  Prevalence and phylogenetic analysis of haemoplasmas from cats infected with multiple species 
Mycoplasma haemofelis (Mhf), ‘Candidatus Mycoplasma haemominutum’ (CMhm) and ‘Candidatus Mycoplasma turicensis’ (CMt) are agents of feline haemoplasmosis and can induce anaemia in cats. This study aimed to determine the prevalence and phylogeny of haemoplasma species in cats from Brazil's capital and surrounding areas, and whether correlation with haematological abnormalities existed. Feline haemoplasmas were found in 13.8% of 432 cats. CMhm was the most prevalent species (in 13.8% of cats), followed by Mhf (11.1%) and CMt (4.4%). Over 80% of haemoplasma-infected cats harboured two or more feline haemoplasma species: 7.1% of cats were co-infected with Mhf/CMhm, 0.4% with CMhm/CMt and 3.9% with Mhf/CMhm/CMt. Male gender was significantly associated with haemoplasma infections. No association was found between qPCR haemoplasma status and haematological variables, however CMhm relative copy numbers were correlated with red blood cell (RBC) numbers and packed cell volume (PCV). Haemoplasma 16S rRNA gene sequences (> 1 Kb) were derived from co-infected cats using novel haemoplasma species-specific primers. This allowed 16S rRNA gene sequences to be obtained despite the high level of co-infection, which precluded the use of universal 16S rRNA gene primers. Within each species, the Mhf, CMhm and CMt sequences showed > 99.8%, > 98.5% and > 98.8% identity, respectively. The Mhf, CMhm and CMt sequences showed > 99.2%, > 98.4% and > 97.8% identity, respectively, with GenBank sequences. Phylogenetic analysis showed all Mhf sequences to reside in a single clade, whereas the CMhm and CMt sequences each grouped into three distinct subclades. These phylogeny findings suggest the existence of different CMhm and CMt strains.
•Over 80% of haemoplasma-infected cats had more than one haemoplasma species.•The use of species-specific primers allowed derivation of 16S rDNA sequences from co-infected cats.•Male gender was significantly associated with haemoplasma infection.•Phylogenetic analysis showed subclade formation within two of the haemoplasma species sequences.
PMCID: PMC4263531  PMID: 25447887
Haemoplasmas; Brazil; Cats; Prevalence; Co-infections
5.  Minimization of chloroplast contamination in 16S rRNA gene pyrosequencing of insect herbivore bacterial communities 
Chloroplast sequence contamination in 16S ribosomal RNA gene (16S) analyses can be particularly problematic when sampling microbial communities in plants and folivorous arthropods. We previously encountered high levels of plastid contamination in herbivorous insect samples when we used the predominant 454 pyrosequencing 16S methodologies described in the literature. 799F, a primer previously found to exclude chloroplast sequences, was modified to enhance its efficacy, and we describe, in detail, our methodology throughout amplicon pyrosequencing. Thirteen versions of 799F were assessed for the exclusion of chloroplast sequences from our samples. We found that a shift in the mismatch between 799F and chloroplast 16S resulted in significant reduction of chloroplast reads. Our results also indicate that amplifying sequences from environmental samples in a two-step PCR process, with the addition of the multiplex identifiers and 454 adapters in a second round of PCR, further improved primer specificity. Primers that included 3′ phosphorothioate bonds, which were designed to block primer degradation, did not amplify consistently across samples. The different forward primers do not appear to bias the bacterial communities detected. We provide a methodological framework for reducing chloroplast reads in high-throughput sequencing data sets that can be applied to a number of environmental samples and sequencing techniques.
PMCID: PMC4133986  PMID: 23968645
insect; symbiosis; 454 pyrosequencing; 16S rRNA gene; chloroplast
6.  An in vivo crosslinking system for identifying mycobacterial protein–protein interactions 
The analysis of protein–protein interactions in Mycobacterium tuberculosis has the potential to shed light on the functions of the large number of predicted open-reading frames annotated as conserved hypothetical proteins. We have developed a formaldehyde crosslinking system to detect in vivo interactions in mycobacteria. Our Gateway-adapted vector system uses three promoter strengths, including constitutive and regulatable versions, for the expression of target proteins with either an N- or C-terminal His–Strep–Strep tag. Tandem affinity purification using the His- and Strep-tags is well-suited to the isolation of protein complexes with a high purity and no detectable background. We have validated this approach using the well-described pyruvate dehydrogenase complex.
•We have developed vectors for in vivo cross linking studies in mycobacteria.•The Gateway-adapted vector system provides three promoter strengths.•Proteins can be expressed with an N- or C-terminal His–Strep–Strep tag.•The system was validated using the pyruvate dehydrogenase complex.
PMCID: PMC4169665  PMID: 25034228
Mycobacterium tuberculosis; Tandem affinity purification; Formaldehyde crosslinking; Pyruvate dehydrogenase; AceE
7.  Semi-automated protocol for purification of Mycobacterium leprae from tissues using the gentleMACS™ Octo Dissociator 
Mycobacterium leprae, etiologic agent of leprosy, is propagated in athymic nude mouse footpads (FPs). The current purification protocol is tedious and physically demanding. A simpler, semi-automated protocol was developed using gentleMACS™ Octo Dissociator. The gentleMACS protocol provided a very effective means for purification of highly viable M. leprae from tissue.
•A gentleMACs protocol was developed for purification of Mycobacterium leprae.•The current hand-held homogenization technique is tedious and physically demanding.•Both protocols were compared using infected mouse footpad tissues.•Both protocols produced highly viable, metabolically active M. leprae from host tissue.•The gentleMACS protocol was less tedious, physically demanding and time-consuming.
PMCID: PMC4169666  PMID: 25019518
Leprosy; gentleMACS Dissociator; Mouse footpad tissue; Mycobacterium leprae; Purification
8.  MSClust: A Multi-Seeds Based Clustering Algorithm for microbiome profiling using 16S rRNA Sequence 
Recent developments of next generation sequencing technologies have led to rapid accumulation of 16s rRNA sequences for microbiome profiling. One key step in data processing is to cluster short sequences into operational taxonomic units (OTUs). Although many methods have been proposed for OTU inferences, a major challenge is the balance between inference accuracy and computational efficiency, where inference accuracy is often sacrificed to accommodate the need to analyze large numbers of sequences. Inspired by the hierarchical clustering method and a modified greedy network clustering algorithm, we propose a novel multi-seeds based heuristic clustering method, named MSClust, for OTU inference. MSClust first adaptively selects multi-seeds instead of one seed for each candidate cluster, and the reads are then processed using a greedy clustering strategy. Through many numerical examples, we demonstrate that MSClust enjoys less memory usage, and better biological accuracy compared to existing heuristic clustering methods while preserving efficiency and scalability.
PMCID: PMC3895816  PMID: 23899776
Clustering Algorithms; Operational Taxonomy Unit (OTU); Next-generation Sequencing; Seeds-Selection; 16S rRNA Reads
9.  Cloning-independent plasmid construction for genetic studies in streptococci 
Shuttle plasmids are among the few routinely utilized tools in the Streptococcus mutans genetic system that still require the use of classical cloning methodologies and intermediate hosts for genetic manipulation. Accordingly, it typically requires considerably less time and effort to introduce mutations onto the S. mutans chromosome than it does to construct shuttle vectors for expressing genes in trans. Occasionally, shuttle vector constructs also exhibit toxicity in E. coli, which prevents their proper assembly. To circumvent these limitations, we modified a prolonged overlap extension PCR (POE-PCR) protocol to facilitate direct plasmid assembly in S. mutans. Using solely PCR, we created the reporter vector pZX7, which contains a single minimal streptococcal replication origin and harbors a spectinomycin resistance cassette and the gusA gene encoding β-glucuronidase. We compared the efficiency of pZX7 assembly using multiple strains of S. mutans and were able to obtain from 5×103 – 2×105 CFU/μg PCR product. Likewise, we used pZX7 to further demonstrate that Streptococcus sanguinis and Streptococcus gordonii are also excellent hosts for cloning-independent plasmid assembly, which suggests that this system is likely to function in numerous other streptococci. Consequently, it should be possible to completely forgo the use of E. coli – Streptococcus shuttle vectors in many streptococcal species, thereby decreasing the time and effort required to assemble constructs and eliminating any toxicity issues associated with intermediate hosts.
PMCID: PMC3720822  PMID: 23673081
Streptococcus mutans; Streptococcus sanguinis; Streptococcus gordonii; shuttle vector; overlap extension PCR
10.  Ribosomal proteins as biomarkers for bacterial identification by mass spectrometry in the clinical microbiology laboratory 
Whole-cell matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization–time of flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF MS) is a rapid method for identification of microorganisms that is increasingly used in microbiology laboratories. This identification is based on the comparison of the tested isolate mass spectrum with reference databases. Using Neisseria meningitidis as a model organism, we showed that in one of the available databases, the Andromas database, 10 of the 13 species-specific biomarkers correspond to ribosomal proteins. Remarkably, one biomarker, ribosomal protein L32, was subject to inter-strain variability. The analysis of the ribosomal protein patterns of 100 isolates for which whole genome sequences were available, confirmed the presence of inter-strain variability in the molecular weight of 29 ribosomal proteins, thus establishing a correlation between the sequence type (ST) and/or clonal complex (CC) of each strain and its ribosomal protein pattern. Since the molecular weight of three of the variable ribosomal proteins (L30, L31 and L32) was included in the spectral window observed by MALDI-TOF MS in clinical microbiology, i.e., 3640–12000 m/z, we were able by analyzing the molecular weight of these three ribosomal proteins to classify each strain in one of six subgroups, each of these subgroups corresponding to specific STs and/or CCs. Their detection by MALDI-TOF allows therefore a quick typing of N. meningitidis isolates.
PMCID: PMC3980635  PMID: 23916798
Mass spectrometry; Ribosomal proteins; Biomarkers; Neisseria meningitidis
11.  A genetic approach for the identification of exosporium assembly determinants of Bacillus anthracis 
The exosporium is the outermost layer of spores of the zoonotic pathogen Bacillus anthracis. The composition of the exosporium and its functions are only partly understood. Because this outer spore layer is refractive to traditional biochemical analysis, a genetic approach is needed in order to define the proteins which comprise this important spore layer and its assembly pathway. We have created a novel genetic screening system for the identification and isolation of mutants with defects in exosporium assembly during B. anthracis spore maturation. The system is based on the targeting sequence of the BclA exosporium nap layer glycoprotein and a fluorescent reporter. By utilizing this screening system and gene inactivation with Tn916, several novel putative exosporium-associated determinants were identified. A sampling of the mutants obtained was further characterized, confirming their exosporium defect and validating the utility of this screen to identify novel spore determinants in the genome of this pathogen.
PMCID: PMC3602209  PMID: 23411372
Bacillus anthracis; spore; exosporium; mutagenesis; transposon
12.  Analysis of Artifacts Suggests DGGE Should Not Be Used For Quantitative Diversity Analysis 
PCR-denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (PCR-DGGE) is widely used in microbial ecology for the analysis of comparative community structure. However, artifacts generated during PCR-DGGE of mixed template communities impede the application of this technique to quantitative analysis of community diversity. The objective of the current study was to employ an artificial bacterial community to document and analyze artifacts associated with multiband signatures and preferential template amplification and to highlight their impacts on the use of this technique for quantitative diversity analysis. Six bacterial species (three Betaproteobacteria, two Alphaproteobacteria, and one Firmicutes) were amplified individually and in combinations with primers targeting the V7/V8 region of the 16S rRNA gene. Two of the six isolates produced multiband profiles demonstrating that band number does not correlate directly with α-diversity. Analysis of the multiple bands from one of these isolates confirmed that both bands had identical sequences which lead to the hypothesis that the multiband pattern resulted from two distinct structural conformations of the same amplicon. In addition, consistent preferential amplification was demonstrated following pairwise amplifications of the six isolates. DGGE and real time PCR analysis identified primer mismatch and PCR inhibition due to 16S rDNA secondary structure as the most probable causes of preferential amplification patterns. Reproducible DGGE community profiles generated in this study confirm that PCR-DGGE provides an excellent high-throughput tool for comparative community structure analysis, but that method-specific artifacts preclude its use for accurate comparative diversity analysis.
PMCID: PMC3957434  PMID: 23313091
Multitemplate PCR; DGGE artifact; Preferential amplification; Microbial diversity
13.  A mucosal model to study microbial biofilm development and anti-biofilm therapeutics 
Biofilms are a sessile colony of bacteria which adhere to and persist on surfaces. The ability of bacteria to form biofilms is considered a virulence factor, and in fact is central to the pathogenesis of some organisms. Biofilms are inherently resistant to chemotherapy and host immune responses. Clinically, biofilms are considered a primary cause of a majority of infections, such as otitis media, pneumonia in cystic fibrosis patients and endocarditis. However, the vast majority of the data on biofilm formation comes from traditional microtiter-based or flow displacement assays with no consideration given to host factors. These assays, which have been a valuable tool in high-throughput screening for biofilm-related factors, do not mimic a host-pathogen interaction and may contribute to an inappropriate estimation of the role of some factors in clinical biofilm formation. We describe the development of a novel ex vivo model of biofilm formation on a mucosal surface by an important mucosal pathogen, methicillin resistant S. aureus (MRSA). This model is being used for the identification of microbial virulence factors important in mucosal biofilm formation and novel anti-biofilm therapies.
PMCID: PMC3570591  PMID: 23246911
14.  A New Standard-Based Polynomial Interpolation (SBPIn) Method to Address Gel-to-Gel Variability for the Comparison of Multiple Denaturing Gradient Gel Electrophoresis Profile Matrices 
The Standard-Based Polynomial Interpolation (SBPIn) method is a new simple three-step protocol proposed to address common gel-to-gel variations for the comparison of sample profiles across multiple DGGE gels. The advantages of this method include no requirement for additional software or modification of the standard DGGE protocol.
PMCID: PMC3570647  PMID: 23234884
DGGE; Gel-to-Gel Variations; Microbial Ecology; Community Fingerprint; Molecular Standard
15.  Signature-tagging of a bacterial isolate demonstrates phenotypic variability of the progeny in vivo in the absence of defined mutations 
Awareness of the high degree of redundancy that occurs in several nutrient uptake pathways of H. influenzae led us to attempt to develop a quantitative STM method that could identify both null mutants and mutants with decreased fitness that remain viable in vivo. To accomplish this task we designed a modified STM approach that utilized a set of signature tagged wild-type (STWT) strains (in a single genetic background) as carriers for mutations in genes of interest located elsewhere in the genome. Each STWT strain differed from the others by insertion of a unique, Q-PCR-detectable, seven base pair tag into the same redundant gene locus. Initially ten STWTs were created and characterized in vitro and in vivo. As anticipated, the STWT strains were not significantly different in their in vitro growth. However, in the chinchilla model of otitis media, certain STWTs outgrew others by several orders of magnitude in mixed infections. Removal of the predominant STWT resulted in its replacement by a different predominant STWT on retesting. Unexpectedly we observed that the STWT exhibiting the greatest proliferation was animal dependent. These findings identify an inherent inability of the signature tag methodologies to accurately elucidate fitness in this animal model of infection and underscore the subtleties of H. influenzae gene regulation.
PMCID: PMC3506178  PMID: 23085534
Haemophilus influenzae; Signature-tagged mutagenesis; Virulence
16.  Genetic Manipulation of Pathogenicity Loci in Non-Typhimurium Salmonella 
The traditional genetic tools used in Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium rely heavily on a high-transducing mutant of bacteriophage P22. P22 recognizes its hosts by the structure of their O-antigens, which vary among serovars of Salmonella; therefore, it cannot be used in most non-Typhimurium Salmonella, including the majority of those causing food-borne illnesses in both humans and livestock. Bacteriophage P1 infects a variety of enteric bacteria, including galE mutants of serovar Typhimurium; however, the degree to which the presence of coimmune prophages, the lack of required attachment sites or the lack of host factors act as barriers to using phage P1 in natural isolates of Salmonella is unknown. Here, we show that recombineering can be used to make virtually any serovar of Salmonella susceptible to P1 infection; as a result, P1 can be utilized for facile genetic manipulation of non-Typhimurium Salmonella, including movement of very large pathogenicity islands. A toolkit for easy manipulation of non-Typhimurium serovars of Salmonella is described.
PMCID: PMC3658464  PMID: 23041268
Salmonella enterica; Recombineering; Non-Typhimurium Salmonella; Bacteriophage P1; Transduction
17.  An improved high-throughput Nile red fluorescence assay for estimating intracellular lipids in a variety of yeast species 
A rapid and inexpensive method for estimating lipid content of yeasts is needed for screening large numbers of yeasts samples. Nile red is a fluorescent lipophilic dye used for detection and quantification of intracellular lipid droplets in various biological system including algae, yeasts and filamentous fungi. However, a published assay for yeast is affected by variable diffusion across the cell membrane, and variation in the time required to reach maximal fluorescence emission. In this study, parameters that may influence the emission were varied to determine optimal assay conditions. An improved assay with a high-throughput capability was developed that includes the addition of dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) solvent to improve cell permeability, elimination of the washing step, the reduction of Nile red concentration, kinetic readings rather than single time-point reading, and utilization of a black 96-well microplate. The improved method was validated by comparison to gravimetric determination of lipid content of a broad variety of ascomycete and basidiomycete yeast species.
PMCID: PMC3478415  PMID: 22985718
Biodiesel; neutral lipids; Nile red; oleaginous yeast; kinetic reading; black microplate
18.  Development of a Lactobacillus Specific T-RFLP Method to Determine Lactobacilli Diversity in Complex Samples 
Terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism (T-RFLP) analysis has been widely used for studying microbial communities. However, most T-RFLP assays use 16S rDNA as the target and are unable to accurately characterize a microbial subpopulation. In this study, we developed a novel T-RFLP protocol based on Lactobacillus hsp60 to rapidly characterize and compare lactobacilli composition. The theoretical terminal restriction fragment (TRF) profiles were calculated from 769 Lactobacillus hsp60 sequences from online databases. In silico digestion with restriction endonucleases AluI and TacI on hsp60 amplicons generated 83 distinct TRF patterns, of which, 70 were species specific. To validate the assay, five previously sequenced lactobacilli were cultured independently, mixed at known concentrations and subjected to analysis by T-RFLP. All five strains generated the predicted TRFs and a qualitative consistent relationship was revealed. We performed the T-RFLP protocol on fecal samples from mice fed 6 different diets (n=4). Principal component analysis and agglomerative hierarchical clustering revealed that the lactobacilli community was strongly connected to dietary supplementation. Our study demonstrates the potential for using Lactobacillus specific T-RFLP to characterize lactobacilli communities in complex samples.
PMCID: PMC3478482  PMID: 22981747
terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism; Lactobacillus hsp60; community research
19.  Adaptation of the neutral bacterial comet assay to assess antimicrobial-mediated DNA double-strand breaks in Escherichia coli 
This study aimed to determine the mechanism of action of a natural antibacterial clay mineral mixture, designated CB, by investigating the induction of DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) in Escherichia coli. To quantify DNA damage upon exposure to soluble antimicrobial compounds, we modified a bacterial neutral comet assay, which primarily associates the general length of an electrophoresed chromosome, or comet, with the degree of DSB-associated DNA damage. To appropriately account for antimicrobial-mediated strand fragmentation, suitable control reactions consisting of exposures to water, ethanol, kanamycin, and bleomycin were developed and optimized for the assay. Bacterial exposure to the CB clay resulted in significantly longer comet lengths, compared to water and kanamycin exposures, suggesting that the induction of DNA DSBs contributes to the killing activity of this antibacterial clay mineral mixture. The comet assay protocol described herein provides a general technique for evaluating soluble antimicrobial-derived DNA damage and for comparing DNA fragmentation between experimental and control assays.
PMCID: PMC3486642  PMID: 22940101
E. coli; neutral comet assay; single cell gel electrophoresis; DNA double-strand breaks; antibacterial mineral leachate; antibiotic
20.  Isolation of Chlamydia trachomatis and membrane vesicles derived from host and bacteria 
The study of intracellular bacteria and nanometer-size membrane vesicles within infected host cells poses an important challenge as it is difficult to identify each distinct population in the context of the complex populations generated from active host-pathogen interactions. Here, suspension cultures of L929 cells infected with the prevalent obligate intracellular bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis strain F/Cal-IC-13 are utilized for the large scale preparation and isolation of natural membrane vesicles and bacterial forms. Cell lysis with nitrogen cavitation in combination with differential centrifugation, OptiPrep™ density gradient separation, and immunoenrichment using anti-chlamydial lipopolysaccharide antibodies and MagnaBind beads allows for the isolation of both productive and persistent bacterial forms, as well as membrane vesicles derived from the host and pathogen. We have evaluated these populations by electron microscopy and Western blot analysis for identification of biomarkers. In addition, purified persistent forms of C. trachomatis induced by ampicillin display adenosine-5'-triphosphate (ATP) transport activity, suggesting that ampicillin-induced persistent C. trachomatis organisms, at least in part, rely upon host ATP as an energy source. Importantly, several chlamydial cytotoxic and/or secreted proteins are demonstrated to be associated with these vesicles, supporting the idea that membrane vesicles are generated by Chlamydia as a means of carrying and delivering virulence factors necessary for pathogenesis. The ability to produce large-scale infections and generate distinct bacteria and host-derived populations for biochemical analysis, while reducing the burdens of time and cost have implications in all areas of chlamydiology. These protocols can be applied to other strains of C. trachomatis or other intracellular bacteria.
PMCID: PMC3492957  PMID: 22960504
Chlamydia trachomatis; membrane vesicles; intracellular bacterial infection
21.  Development of a Standardized Approach for Environmental Microbiota Investigations related to Asthma Development in Children 
Standardized studies examining environmental microbial exposure in populations at risk for asthma are necessary to improve our understanding of the role this factor plays in disease development. Here we describe studies aimed at developing guidelines for high-resolution culture-independent microbiome profiling, using a phylogenetic microarray (PhyloChip), of house dust samples in a cohort collected as part of the NIH-funded Inner City Asthma Consortium (ICAC). We demonstrate that though extracted DNA concentrations varied across dust samples, the majority produced sufficient 16S rRNA to be profiled by the array. Comparison of array and 454-pyrosequencing performed in parallel on a subset of samples, illustrated that increasingly deeper sequencing efforts validated greater numbers of array-detected taxa. Community composition agreement across samples exhibited a hierarchy in concordance, with the highest level of agreement in replicate array profiles followed by samples collected from adjacent 1×1 m2 sites in the same room, adjacent sites with different sized sampling quadrants (1×1 and 2×2 m2), different sites within homes (living and bedroom) to lowest in living room samples collected from different homes. The guidelines for sample collection and processing in this pilot study extend beyond PhyloChip based studies of house-associated microbiota, and bear relevance for other microbiome profiling approaches such as next-generation sequencing.
PMCID: PMC3615718  PMID: 22975469
Dust Microbiome; Standardized sampling; Phylogenetic microarray; 454-pyrosequencing
22.  Capillary Electrophoresis – Single Strand Conformation Polymorphism for the Detection of Multiple Mutations Leading to Tuberculosis Drug Resistance 
Drug resistant tuberculosis (TB) is a major health problem in both developed and developing countries. Mutations in the Mycobacterium (M.) tuberculosis bacterial genome, such as those to the rpoB gene and mabA-inhA promoter region, have been linked to TB drug resistance in against rifampicin and isoniazid, respectively. The rapid, accurate, and inexpensive identification of these and other mutations leading to TB drug resistance is an essential tool for improving human health. Capillary electrophoresis (CE) single strand conformation polymorphism (SSCP) can be a highly sensitive technique for the detection of genetic mutation that has not been previously explored for drug resistance mutations in M. tuberculosis. This work explores the potential of CE-SSCP through the optimization of variables such as polymer separation matrix concentration, capillary wall coating, electric field strength, and temperature on resolution of mutation detection. The successful detection of an rpoB gene mutation and two mabA-inhA promoter region mutations while simultaneously differentiating a TB-causing mycobacteria from a non-TB bacteria was accomplished using the optimum conditions of 4.5% (w/v) PDMA in a PDMA coated capillary at 20°C using a separation voltage of 278 V/cm. This multiplexed analysis that can be completed in a few hours demonstrates the potential of CE-SSCP to be an inexpensive and rapid analysis method.
PMCID: PMC3699206  PMID: 22884688
capillary electrophoresis; mabA-inhA; mutation detection; rpoB; SSCP; tuberculosis
23.  Improving oligonucleotide fingerprinting of rRNA genes by implementation of polony microarray technology 
Improvements to oligonucleotide fingerprinting of rRNA genes (OFRG) were obtained by implementing polony microarray technology. OFRG is an array-based method for analyzing microbial community composition. Polonies are discrete clusters of DNA, produced by solid-phase PCR in hydrogels, and derived from individual, spatially isolated DNA molecules. The advantages of a polony-based OFRG method include higher throughput and reductions in the PCR-induced errors and compositional skew inherent in all other PCR-based community composition methods, including high throughput sequencing of rRNA genes. Given the similarities between polony microarrays and certain aspects of sequencing methods such as the Illumina platform, we suggest that if concepts presented in this study were implemented in high throughput sequencing protocols, a reduction of PCR-induced errors and compositional skew may be realized.
PMCID: PMC3404216  PMID: 22640891
Oligonucleotide fingerprinting of rRNA genes; OFRG; Polony; Polonies; PCR-induced errors; High throughput sequencing
24.  Development of a rapid phage-based method for the detection of viable Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis in blood within 48 h☆ 
The aim of this study was to develop a methodology to rapidly detect viable Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis (MAP) in clinical blood samples. MAP cells spiked into commercially available blood were recovered using optimised peptide-mediated magnetic separation (PMMS) and detected using a phage-based method, and the identity of the cells detected confirmed using nested-PCR amplification of MAP signature sequences (IS900). The limit of detection was determined to be 10 MAP cells per ml of blood and was used to detect MAP present in clinical bovine blood samples. Using the PMMS-phage method there was no difference when detecting MAP from whole blood or from isolated buffy coat. MAP was detected in animals that were milk-ELISA positive (15 animals) by PMMS-phage and no MAP was detected in blood samples from an accredited Johne's disease free herd (5 animals). In a set of samples from one herd (10 animals) that came from animals with variable milk ELISA status, the PMMS-phage results agreed with the positive milk-ELISA results in all but one case. These results show that the PMMS-phage method can detect MAP present in naturally infected blood. Total assay time is 48 h and, unlike PCR-based detection tests, only viable cells are detected. A rapid method for detecting MAP in blood could further the understanding of disseminated infection in animals with Johne's disease.
•Optimisation of efficient MAP cell capture in blood using magnetic separation•Found a limit of detection of 101 pfu ml− 1 in spiked blood•Optimised a PCR to detect signature MAP DNA sequences from just one plaque•We successfully detected viable MAP in naturally infected animals within 48 h
PMCID: PMC3783900  PMID: 23811207
PMMS, Peptide mediated magnetic separation; FPTB, FASTplaqueTB assay; MP, Media Plus; Bacteriophage; Johne's disease; Magnetic separation; Paratuberculosis; Rapid detection
25.  Rapid identification and antibiotic susceptibility testing of Yersinia pestis using bioluminescent reporter phage 
The rapid identification and antibiotic susceptibility testing of Yersinia pestis is paramount for a positive prognosis. We previously engineered a Y. pestis-specific ‘bioluminescent’ reporter phage for the identification of Y. pestis. In this study, we generated an improved reporter phage and evaluated the ability of this phage to provide direct and rapid susceptibility testing. Compared to the first generation reporter, the second generation reporter exhibited a 100-fold increase in signal strength, leading to a 10-fold increase in assay sensitivity. Y. pestis antimicrobial testing in the presence of the reporter elicited bioluminescent signals that were drug concentration-dependent, and produced susceptibility profiles that mirrored the standard CLSI method. The phage-generated susceptibility profiles, however, were obtained within hours in contrast to days with the conventional method.
PMCID: PMC3367068  PMID: 22579583
plague; reporter phage; detection; bioluminescence; antibiotic susceptibility testing

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