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1.  An Improved Method for oriT-Directed Cloning and Functionalization of Large Bacterial Genomic Regions 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2013;79(16):4869-4878.
We have made significant improvements to a broad-host-range system for the cloning and manipulation of large bacterial genomic regions based on site-specific recombination between directly repeated oriT sites during conjugation. Using two suicide capture vectors carrying flanking homology regions, oriT sites are recombined on either side of the target region. Using a broad-host-range conjugation helper plasmid, the region between the oriT sites is conjugated into an Escherichia coli recipient strain, where it is circularized and maintained as a chimeric mini-F vector. The cloned target region is functionalized in multiple ways to accommodate downstream manipulation. The target region is flanked with Gateway attB sites for recombination into other vectors and by rare 18-bp I-SceI restriction sites for subcloning. The Tn7-functionalized target can also be inserted at a naturally occurring chromosomal attTn7 site(s) or maintained as a broad-host-range plasmid for complementation or heterologous expression studies. We have used the oriTn7 capture technique to clone and complement Burkholderia pseudomallei genomic regions up to 140 kb in size and have created isogenic Burkholderia strains with various combinations of genomic islands. We believe this system will greatly aid the cloning and genetic analysis of genomic islands, biosynthetic gene clusters, and large open reading frames.
PMCID: PMC3754689  PMID: 23747708
2.  Tn5/7-lux: a versatile tool for the identification and capture of promoters in Gram-negative bacteria 
BMC Microbiology  2015;15(1):17.
The combination of imaging technologies and luciferase-based bioluminescent bacterial reporter strains provide a sensitive and simple non-invasive detection method (photonic bioimaging) for the study of diverse biological processes, as well as efficacy of therapeutic interventions, in live animal models of disease. The engineering of bioluminescent bacteria required for photonic bioimaging is frequently hampered by lack of promoters suitable for strong, yet stable luciferase gene expression.
We devised a novel method for identification of constitutive native promoters in Gram-negative bacteria. The method is based on a Tn5/7 transposon that exploits the unique features of Tn5 (random transposition) and Tn7 (site-specific transposition). The transposons are designed such that Tn5 transposition will allow insertion of a promoter-less bacterial luxCDABE operon downstream of a bacterial gene promoter. Cloning of DNA fragments from luminescent isolates results in a plasmid that replicates in pir+ hosts. Sequencing of the lux-chromosomal DNA junctions on the plasmid reveals transposon insertion sites within genes or operons. The plasmid is also a mini-Tn7-lux delivery vector that can be used to introduce the promoter-lux operon fusion into other derivatives of the bacterium of interest in an isogenic fashion. Alternatively, promoter-containing sequences can be PCR-amplified from plasmid or chromosomal DNA and cloned into a series of accompanying mini-Tn7-lux vectors. The mini-Tn5/7-lux and mini-Tn7-lux vectors are equipped with diverse selection markers and thus applicable in numerous Gram-negative bacteria. Various mini-Tn5/7-lux vectors were successfully tested for transposition and promoter identification by imaging in Acinetobacter baumannii, Escherichia coli, and Burkholderia pseudomallei. Strong promoters were captured for lux expression in E. coli and A. baumannii. Some mini-Tn7-lux vectors are also equipped with attB sites for swapping of the lux operon with other reporter genes using Gateway technology.
Although mini-Tn5-lux and mini-Tn7-lux elements have previously been developed and used for bacterial promoter identification and chromosomal insertion of promoter-lux gene fusions, respectively, the newly developed mini-Tn5/7-lux and accompanying accessory plasmids streamline and accelerate the promoter discovery and bioluminescent strain engineering processes. Availability of vectors with diverse selection markers greatly extend the host-range of promoter probe and lux gene fusion vectors.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12866-015-0354-3) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4328036  PMID: 25648327
Imaging; Luciferase; Bioluminescent bacteria; Host range; Mini-Tn5/7-Lux vectors; Lux fusion vectors; Gram-negative bacteria
3.  Genomic Plasticity Enables Phenotypic Variation of Pseudomonas syringae pv. tomato DC3000 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e86628.
Whole genome sequencing revealed the presence of a genomic anomaly in the region of 4.7 to 4.9 Mb of the Pseudomonas syringae pv. tomato (Pst) DC3000 genome. The average read depth coverage of Pst DC3000 whole genome sequencing results suggested that a 165 kb segment of the chromosome had doubled in copy number. Further analysis confirmed the 165 kb duplication and that the two copies were arranged as a direct tandem repeat. Examination of the corresponding locus in Pst NCPPB1106, the parent strain of Pst DC3000, suggested that the 165 kb duplication most likely formed after the two strains diverged via transposition of an ISPsy5 insertion sequence (IS) followed by unequal crossing over between ISPsy5 elements at each end of the duplicated region. Deletion of one copy of the 165 kb region demonstrated that the duplication facilitated enhanced growth in some culture conditions, but did not affect pathogenic growth in host tomato plants. These types of chromosomal structures are predicted to be unstable and we have observed resolution of the 165 kb duplication to single copy and its subsequent re-duplication. These data demonstrate the role of IS elements in recombination events that facilitate genomic reorganization in P. syringae.
PMCID: PMC3916326  PMID: 24516535
4.  Pseudomonas syringae pv. tomato DC3000 CmaL (PSPTO4723), a DUF1330 Family Member, Is Needed To Produce l-allo-Isoleucine, a Precursor for the Phytotoxin Coronatine 
Journal of Bacteriology  2013;195(2):287-296.
Pseudomonas syringae pv. tomato DC3000 produces the phytotoxin coronatine, a major determinant of the leaf chlorosis associated with DC3000 pathogenesis. The DC3000 PSPTO4723 (cmaL) gene is located in a genomic region encoding type III effectors; however, it promotes chlorosis in the model plant Nicotiana benthamiana in a manner independent of type III secretion. Coronatine is produced by the ligation of two moieties, coronafacic acid (CFA) and coronamic acid (CMA), which are produced by biosynthetic pathways encoded in separate operons. Cross-feeding experiments, performed in N. benthamiana with cfa, cma, and cmaL mutants, implicate CmaL in CMA production. Furthermore, analysis of bacterial supernatants under coronatine-inducing conditions revealed that mutants lacking either the cma operon or cmaL accumulate CFA rather than coronatine, supporting a role for CmaL in the regulation or biosynthesis of CMA. CmaL does not appear to regulate CMA production, since the expression of proteins with known roles in CMA production is unaltered in cmaL mutants. Rather, CmaL is needed for the first step in CMA synthesis, as evidenced by the fact that wild-type levels of coronatine production are restored to a ΔcmaL mutant when it is supplemented with 50 μg/ml l-allo-isoleucine, the starting unit for CMA production. cmaL is found in all other sequenced P. syringae strains with coronatine biosynthesis genes. This characterization of CmaL identifies a critical missing factor in coronatine production and provides a foundation for further investigation of a member of the widespread DUF1330 protein family.
PMCID: PMC3553850  PMID: 23144243
5.  φX216, a P2-like bacteriophage with broad Burkholderia pseudomallei and B. mallei strain infectivity 
BMC Microbiology  2012;12:289.
Burkholderia pseudomallei and B. mallei are closely related Category B Select Agents of bioterrorism and the causative agents of the diseases melioidosis and glanders, respectively. Rapid phage-based diagnostic tools would greatly benefit early recognition and treatment of these diseases. There is extensive strain-to-strain variation in B. pseudomallei genome content due in part to the presence or absence of integrated prophages. Several phages have previously been isolated from B. pseudomallei lysogens, for example φK96243, φ1026b and φ52237.
We have isolated a P2-like bacteriophage, φX216, which infects 78% of all B. pseudomallei strains tested. φX216 also infects B. mallei, but not other Burkholderia species, including the closely related B. thailandensis and B. oklahomensis. The nature of the φX216 host receptor remains unclear but evidence indicates that in B. mallei φX216 uses lipopolysaccharide O-antigen but a different receptor in B. pseudomallei. The 37,637 bp genome of φX216 encodes 47 predicted open reading frames and shares 99.8% pairwise identity and an identical strain host range with bacteriophage φ52237. Closely related P2-like prophages appear to be widely distributed among B. pseudomallei strains but both φX216 and φ52237 readily infect prophage carrying strains.
The broad strain infectivity and high specificity for B. pseudomallei and B. mallei indicate that φX216 will provide a good platform for the development of phage-based diagnostics for these bacteria.
PMCID: PMC3548686  PMID: 23217012
Bacteriophage; Burkholderia pseudomallei; B. mallei; P2; Prophage distribution; Phage-based diagnostics
6.  Burkholderia pseudomallei Known Siderophores and Hemin Uptake Are Dispensable for Lethal Murine Melioidosis 
Burkholderia pseudomallei is a mostly saprophytic bacterium, but can infect humans where it causes the difficult-to-manage disease melioidosis. Even with proper diagnosis and prompt therapeutic interventions mortality rates still range from >20% in Northern Australia to over 40% in Thailand. Surprisingly little is yet known about how B. pseudomallei infects, invades and survives within its hosts, and virtually nothing is known about the contribution of critical nutrients such as iron to the bacterium's pathogenesis. It was previously assumed that B. pseudomallei used iron-acquisition systems commonly found in other bacteria, for example siderophores. However, our previous discovery of a clinical isolate carrying a large chromosomal deletion missing the entire malleobactin gene cluster encoding the bacterium's major high-affinity siderophore while still being fully virulent in a murine melioidosis model suggested that other iron-acquisition systems might make contributions to virulence. Here, we deleted the major siderophore malleobactin (mba) and pyochelin (pch) gene clusters in strain 1710b and revealed a residual siderophore activity which was unrelated to other known Burkholderia siderophores such as cepabactin and cepaciachelin, and not due to increased secretion of chelators such as citrate. Deletion of the two hemin uptake loci, hmu and hem, showed that Hmu is required for utilization of hemin and hemoglobin and that Hem cannot complement a Hmu deficiency. Prolonged incubation of a hmu hem mutant in hemoglobin-containing minimal medium yielded variants able to utilize hemoglobin and hemin suggesting alternate pathways for utilization of these two host iron sources. Lactoferrin utilization was dependent on malleobactin, but not pyochelin synthesis and/or uptake. A mba pch hmu hem quadruple mutant could use ferritin as an iron source and upon intranasal infection was lethal in an acute murine melioidosis model. These data suggest that B. pseudomallei may employ a novel ferritin-iron acquisition pathway as a means to sustain in vivo growth.
Author Summary
Burkholderia pseudomallei is the etiologic agent of melioidosis, a multifaceted deadly and difficult to treat disease of equatorial regions of the world. Disease manifestations range from acute infections to long term chronic infections. The factors by which this bacterium causes disease are not yet well understood. Studies thus far focused on elucidation of the roles of traditional virulence factors such as secreted proteins and exopolysaccharides, but virtually nothing is known about the roles of nutrient acquisition systems in B. pseudomallei's survival in its mammalian hosts. One nutrient that is essential for bacterial metabolism and pathogenicity is iron. As free iron is not readily available in nature, bacteria developed numerous mechanisms for iron acquisition from abiotic and biotic sources. These mechanisms include siderophores and hemin/hemoglobin utilization systems, and it is therefore not too surprising that mutants defective in these systems are often impaired in virulence. In this study we show that defined B. pseudomallei mutants defective in siderophore and hemin/hemoglobin utilization systems remain fully lethal in a murine melioidosis model and present evidence for in vitro ferritin-iron acquisition which may be one or perhaps the main means by which this pathogen sustains in vivo growth.
PMCID: PMC3383733  PMID: 22745846
7.  A simple method for construction of pir+ Enterobacterial hosts for maintenance of R6K replicon plasmids 
BMC Research Notes  2012;5:157.
The R6K replicon is one of the best studied bacterial plasmid replicons. Replication of the R6K plasmid and derivatives harboring its γ origin of replication (oriR6Kγ) is dependent on the pir gene-encoded π protein. Originally encoded by R6K, this protein is usually provided in trans in hosts engineered to support replication of plasmids harboring oriR6Kγ. In Escherichia coli this is commonly achieved by chromosomal integration of pir either via lysogenization with a λpir phage or homologous recombination at a pre-determined locus.
Current methods for construction of host strains for oriR6Kγ-containing plasmids involve procedures that do not allow selection for presence of the pir gene and require cumbersome and time-consuming screening steps. In this study, we established a mini-Tn7-based method for rapid and reliable construction of pir+ host strains. Using a curable mini-Tn7 delivery plasmid, pir expressing derivatives of several commonly used E. coli cloning and mobilizer strains were isolated using both the wild-type pir+ gene as well as the copy-up pir-116 allele. In addition, we isolated pir+ and pir-116 expressing derivatives of a clinical isolate of Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium. In both E. coli and S. enterica serovar Typhimurium, the presence of the pir+ wild-type or pir-116 alleles allowed the replication of oriR6Kγ-containing plasmids.
A mini-Tn7 system was employed for rapid and reliable engineering of E. coli and S. enterica serovar Typhimurium host strains for plasmids containing oriR6Kγ. Since mini-Tn7 elements transpose in most, if not all, Gram negative bacteria, we anticipate that with relatively minor modifications this newly established method will for the first time allow engineering of other bacterial species to enable replication of plasmids with oriR6Kγ.
PMCID: PMC3338088  PMID: 22433797
8.  In vivo Bioluminescence Imaging of Burkholderia mallei Respiratory Infection and Treatment in the Mouse Model 
Bioluminescent imaging (BLI) technology is a powerful tool for monitoring infectious disease progression and treatment approaches. BLI is particularly useful for tracking fastidious intracellular pathogens that might be difficult to recover from certain organs. Burkholderia mallei, the causative agent of glanders, is a facultative intracellular pathogen and has been classified by the CDC as a Category B select agent due to its highly infectious nature and potential use as a biological weapon. Very little is known regarding pathogenesis or treatment of glanders. We investigated the use of bioluminescent reporter constructs to monitor the dynamics of infection as well as the efficacy of therapeutics for B. mallei in real-time. A stable luminescent reporter B. mallei strain was created using the pUTmini-Tn5::luxKm2 plasmid and used to monitor glanders in the BALB/c murine model. Mice were infected via the intranasal route with 5 × 103 bacteria and monitored by BLI at 24, 48, and 72 h. We verified that our reporter construct maintained similar virulence and growth kinetics compared to wild-type B. mallei and confirmed that it maintains luminescent stability in the presence or absence of antibiotic selection. The luminescent signal was initially seen in the lungs, and progressed to the liver and spleen over the course of infection. We demonstrated that antibiotic treatment 24 h post-infection resulted in reduction of bioluminescence that can be attributed to decreased bacterial burden in target organs. These findings suggest that BLI can be used to monitor disease progression and efficacy of therapeutics during glanders infections. Finally, we report an alternative method to mini-Tn5::luxKm2 transposon using mini-Tn7-lux elements that insert site-specifically at known genomic attachment sites and that can also be used to tag bacteria.
PMCID: PMC3162308  PMID: 21904535
bioluminescence; Burkholderia mallei; in vivo imaging; antibiotic
9.  In vitro activity of BAL30072 against Burkholderia pseudomallei 
Burkholderia pseudomallei is an intrinsically antibiotic-resistant Category B priority pathogen and the aetiological agent of melioidosis. Treatment of B. pseudomallei infection is biphasic and lengthy in order to combat the acute and chronic phases of the disease. Acute-phase treatment preferably involves an intravenous cephalosporin (ceftazidime) or a carbapenem (imipenem or meropenem). In this study, the anti-B. pseudomallei efficacy of a new monosulfactam, BAL30072, was tested against laboratory strains 1026b and 1710b and several isogenic mutant derivatives as well as a collection of clinical and environmental B. pseudomallei strains from Thailand. More than 93% of the isolates had minimal inhibitory concentrations (MICs) in the range 0.004–0.016 μg/mL. For the laboratory strain 1026b, the MIC of BAL30072 was 0.008 μg/mL, comparable with the MICs of 1.5 μg/mL for ceftazidime, 0.5 μg/mL for imipenem and 1 μg/mL for meropenem. Time–kill curves revealed that BAL30072 was rapidly bactericidal, killing >99% of bacteria in 2 h. BAL30072 activity was not significantly affected by efflux, it was only a marginal substrate of PenA β-lactamase, and activity was independent of malleobactin production and transport and the ability to transport pyochelin. In summary, BAL30072 has superior in vitro activity against B. pseudomallei compared with ceftazidime, meropenem or imipenem and it is rapidly bactericidal.
PMCID: PMC3124586  PMID: 21596528
Burkholderia pseudomallei; Melioidosis; Therapy; Monosulfactam; Efflux; Siderophore
10.  Deletions in the Repertoire of Pseudomonas syringae pv. tomato DC3000 Type III Secretion Effector Genes Reveal Functional Overlap among Effectors 
PLoS Pathogens  2009;5(4):e1000388.
The γ-proteobacterial plant pathogen Pseudomonas syringae pv. tomato DC3000 uses the type III secretion system to inject ca. 28 Avr/Hop effector proteins into plants, which enables the bacterium to grow from low inoculum levels to produce bacterial speck symptoms in tomato, Arabidopsis thaliana, and (when lacking hopQ1-1) Nicotiana benthamiana. The effectors are collectively essential but individually dispensable for the ability of the bacteria to defeat defenses, grow, and produce symptoms in plants. Eighteen of the effector genes are clustered in six genomic islands/islets. Combinatorial deletions involving these clusters and two of the remaining effector genes revealed a redundancy-based structure in the effector repertoire, such that some deletions diminished growth in N. benthamiana only in combination with other deletions. Much of the ability of DC3000 to grow in N. benthamiana was found to be due to five effectors in two redundant-effector groups (REGs), which appear to separately target two high-level processes in plant defense: perception of external pathogen signals (AvrPto and AvrPtoB) and deployment of antimicrobial factors (AvrE, HopM1, HopR1). Further support for the membership of HopR1 in the same REG as AvrE was gained through bioinformatic analysis, revealing the existence of an AvrE/DspA/E/HopR effector superfamily, which has representatives in virtually all groups of proteobacterial plant pathogens that deploy type III effectors.
Author Summary
Pseudomonas syringae is a Gram-negative plant pathogen that defeats plant defenses through effector proteins that are injected into plant cells via the type III secretion system. P. syringae strains are assigned to pathovars based largely on their host of origin. P. syringae pv. tomato DC3000 causes bacterial speck of tomato and has become a model for studying bacterium–plant interactions because it also attacks the experimentally amenable plants Arabidopsis thaliana and (if one effector acting as an avirulence determinant is removed) Nicotiana benthamiana. Genome sequence–enabled studies have revealed that strains in different pathovars harbor large (15–30) effector repertoires, which are surprisingly diverse and show no obvious correlation with host range. In search of rules governing the composition of effector repertoires in individual strains, we constructed combinatorial deletions involving 20 of the 28 effectors deployed by D3000. The pattern of growth defects resulting from these mutations suggests an architecture in the effector repertoire involving redundant targeting of a few vulnerable plant defense processes and compensatory redundancies in these defenses.
PMCID: PMC2663052  PMID: 19381254
11.  Identification of Harpins in Pseudomonas syringae pv. tomato DC3000, Which Are Functionally Similar to HrpK1 in Promoting Translocation of Type III Secretion System Effectors▿ †  
Journal of Bacteriology  2007;189(22):8059-8072.
Harpins are a subset of type III secretion system (T3SS) substrates found in all phytopathogenic bacteria that utilize a T3SS. Pseudomonas syringae pv. tomato DC3000 was previously reported to produce two harpins, HrpZ1 and HrpW1. DC3000 was shown here to deploy two additional proteins, HopAK1 and HopP1, which have the harpin-like properties of lacking cysteine, eliciting the hypersensitive response (HR) when partially purified and infiltrated into tobacco leaves, and possessing a two-domain structure similar to that of the HrpW1 class of harpins. Unlike the single-domain harpin HrpZ1, the two-domain harpins have C-terminal enzyme-like domains: pectate lyase for HopAK1 and lytic transglycosylase for HopP1. Genetic techniques to recycle antibiotic markers were applied to DC3000 to generate a quadruple harpin gene polymutant. The polymutant was moderately reduced in the elicitation of the HR and translocation of the T3SS effector AvrPto1 fused to a Cya translocation reporter, but the mutant was unaffected in the secretion of AvrPto1-Cya. The DC3000 hrpK1 gene encodes a putative translocator in the HrpF/NopX family and was deleted in combination with the four harpin genes. The hrpK1 quadruple harpin gene polymutant was strongly reduced in HR elicitation, virulence, and translocation of AvrPto1-Cya into plant cells but not in the secretion of representative T3SS substrates in culture. HrpK1, HrpZ1, HrpW1, and HopAK1, but not HopP1, were independently capable of restoring some HR elicitation to the hrpK1 quadruple harpin gene polymutant, which suggests that a consortium of semiredundant translocators from three protein classes cooperate to form the P. syringae T3SS translocon.
PMCID: PMC2168707  PMID: 17873033
12.  Pseudomonas syringae Lytic Transglycosylases Coregulated with the Type III Secretion System Contribute to the Translocation of Effector Proteins into Plant Cells▿  
Journal of Bacteriology  2007;189(22):8277-8289.
Pseudomonas syringae translocates virulence effector proteins into plant cells via a type III secretion system (T3SS) encoded by hrp (for hypersensitive response and pathogenicity) genes. Three genes coregulated with the Hrp T3SS system in P. syringae pv. tomato DC3000 have predicted lytic transglycosylase domains: PSPTO1378 (here designated hrpH), PSPTO2678 (hopP1), and PSPTO852 (hopAJ1). hrpH is located between hrpR and avrE1 in the Hrp pathogenicity island and is carried in the functional cluster of P. syringae pv. syringae 61 hrp genes cloned in cosmid pHIR11. Strong expression of DC3000 hrpH in Escherichia coli inhibits bacterial growth unless the predicted catalytic glutamate at position 148 is mutated. Translocation tests involving C-terminal fusions with a Cya (Bordetella pertussis adenylate cyclase) reporter indicate that HrpH and HopP1, but not HopAJ1, are T3SS substrates. Pseudomonas fluorescens carrying a pHIR11 derivative lacking hrpH is poorly able to translocate effector HopA1, and this deficiency can be restored by HopP1 and HopAJ1, but not by HrpH(E148A) or HrpH1-241. DC3000 mutants lacking hrpH or hrpH, hopP1, and hopAJ1 combined are variously reduced in effector translocation, elicitation of the hypersensitive response, and virulence. However, the mutants are not reduced in secretion of T3SS substrates in culture. When produced in wild-type DC3000, the HrpH(E148A) and HrpH1-241 variants have a dominant-negative effect on the ability of DC3000 to elicit the hypersensitive response in nonhost tobacco and to grow and cause disease in host tomato. The three Hrp-associated lytic transglycosylases in DC3000 appear to have overlapping functions in contributing to T3SS functions during infection.
PMCID: PMC2168667  PMID: 17827286

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