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1.  Differential affinities of MinD and MinE to anionic phospholipid influence Min Patterning dynamics in vitro 
Molecular microbiology  2014;93(3):453-463.
The E. coli Min system forms a cell-pole-to-cell-pole oscillator that positions the divisome at mid-cell. The MinD ATPase binds the membrane and recruits the cell division inhibitor MinC. MinE interacts with and releases MinD (and MinC) from the membrane. The chase of MinD by MinE creates the in vivo oscillator that maintains a low level of the division inhibitor at mid-cell. In vitro reconstitution and visualization of Min proteins on a supported lipid bilayer has provided significant advances in understanding Min patterns in vivo. Here we studied the effects of flow, lipid composition, and salt concentration on Min patterning. Flow and no-flow conditions both supported Min protein patterns with somewhat different characteristics. Without flow, MinD and MinE formed spiraling waves. MinD and, to a greater extent MinE, have stronger affinities for anionic phospholipid. MinD-independent binding of MinE to anionic lipid resulted in slower and narrower waves. MinE binding to the bilayer was also more susceptible to changes in ionic strength than MinD. We find that modulating protein diffusion with flow, or membrane binding affinities with changes in lipid composition or salt concentration, can differentially affect the retention time of MinD and MinE, leading to spatiotemporal changes in Min patterning.
PMCID: PMC4116444  PMID: 24930948
2.  GIL, a new c-di-GMP binding protein domain involved in regulation of cellulose synthesis in enterobacteria 
Molecular microbiology  2014;93(3):439-452.
In contrast to numerous enzymes involved in c-di-GMP synthesis and degradation in enterobacteria, only a handful of c-di-GMP receptors/effectors have been identified. In search of new c-di-GMP receptors, we screened the Escherichia coli ASKA overexpression gene library using the Differential Radial Capillary Action of Ligand Assay (DRaCALA) with fluorescently and radioisotope-labeled c-di-GMP. We uncovered three new candidate c-di-GMP receptors in E. coli and characterized one of them, BcsE. The bcsE gene is encoded in cellulose synthase operons in representatives of Gammaproteobacteria and Betaproteobacteria. The purified BcsE proteins from E. coli, Salmonella enterica and Klebsiella pneumoniae bind c-di-GMP via the domain of unknown function, DUF2819, which is hereby designated GIL, GGDEF I-site like domain. The RxGD motif of the GIL domain is required for c-di-GMP binding, similar to the c-di-GMP-binding I-site of the diguanylate cyclase GGDEF domain. Thus, GIL is the second protein domain, after PilZ, dedicated to c-di-GMP-binding. We show that in S. enterica, BcsE is not essential for cellulose synthesis but is required for maximal cellulose production, and that c-di-GMP binding is critical for BcsE function. It appears that cellulose production in enterobacteria is controlled by a two-tiered c-di-GMP-dependent system involving BcsE and the PilZ domain containing glycosyltransferase BcsA.
PMCID: PMC4116459  PMID: 24942809
3.  Overexpression of CupB5 activates alginate overproduction in Pseudomonas aeruginosa by a novel AlgW-dependent mechanism 
Molecular microbiology  2014;93(3):415-425.
In P. aeruginosa, alginate overproduction, also known as mucoidy, is negatively regulated by the transmembrane protein MucA, which sequesters the alternative sigma factor AlgU. MucA is degraded via a proteolysis pathway that frees AlgU from sequestration, activating alginate biosynthesis. Initiation of this pathway normally requires two signals: peptide sequences in unassembled outer-membrane proteins (OMPs) activate the AlgW protease, and unassembled lipopolysaccharides bind periplasmic MucB, releasing MucA and facilitating its proteolysis by activated AlgW. To search for novel alginate regulators, we screened a transposon library in the non-mucoid reference strain PAO1, and identified a mutant that confers mucoidy through overexpression of a protein encoded by the chaperone-usher pathway gene cupB5. CupB5-dependent mucoidy occurs through the AlgU pathway and can be reversed by overexpression of MucA or MucB. In the presence of activating OMP peptides, peptides corresponding to a region of CupB5 needed for mucoidy further stimulated AlgW cleavage of MucA in vitro. Moreover, the CupB5 peptide allowed OMP-activated AlgW cleavage of MucA in the presence of the MucB inhibitor. These results support a novel mechanism for conversion to mucoidy in which the proteolytic activity of AlgW and its ability to compete with MucB for MucA is mediated by independent peptide signals.
PMCID: PMC4116675  PMID: 24913916
Pseudomonas aeruginosa; alginate; MucA; MucB; CupB5; signal transduction
4.  Functional Mapping of Community Acquired Respiratory Distress Syndrome (CARDS) Toxin of Mycoplasma pneumoniae Defines Regions with ADP-ribosyltransferase, Vacuolating, and Receptor-Binding Activities 
Molecular microbiology  2014;93(3):568-581.
Community-acquired respiratory distress syndrome (CARDS) toxin from Mycoplasma pneumoniae is a 591 amino acid virulence factor with ADP-ribosyltransferase (ADPRT) and vacuolating activities. It is expressed at low levels during in vitro growth and at high levels during colonization of the lung. Exposure of experimental animals to purified recombinant CARDS toxin alone is sufficient to recapitulate the cytopathology and inflammatory responses associated with M. pneumoniae infection in humans and animals. Here, by molecular modeling, serial truncations and site-directed mutagenesis, we show that the N-terminal region is essential for ADP-ribosylating activity. Also, by systematic truncation and limited proteolysis experiments we identified a portion of the C-terminal region that mediates toxin binding to mammalian cell surfaces and subsequent internalization. In addition, the C-terminal region alone induces vacuolization in a manner similar to full-length toxin. Together, these data suggest that CARDS toxin has a unique architecture with functionally separable N-terminal and C-terminal domains.
PMCID: PMC4116743  PMID: 24948331
ADP-ribosyltransferase; NAD-glycohydrolase; asthma; CARDS toxin; Mycoplasma pneumoniae; molecular modeling
5.  Evolution of hypervirulence by a MRSA clone through acquisition of a transposable element 
Molecular microbiology  2014;93(4):664-681.
Staphylococcus aureus has evolved as a pathogen that causes a range of diseases in humans. There are two dominant modes of evolution thought to explain most of the virulence differences between strains. First, virulence genes may be acquired from other organisms. Second, mutations may cause changes in the regulation and expression of genes. Here we describe an evolutionary event in which transposition of an IS element has a direct impact on virulence gene regulation resulting in hypervirulence. Whole genome analysis of a methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) strain USA500 revealed acquisition of a transposable element (IS256) that is absent from close relatives of this strain. Of the multiple copies of IS256 found in the USA500 genome, one was inserted in the promoter sequence of repressor of toxins (Rot), a master transcriptional regulator responsible for the expression of virulence factors in S. aureus. We show that insertion into the rot promoter by IS256 results in the derepression of cytotoxin expression and increased virulence. Taken together, this work provides new insight into evolutionary strategies by which S. aureus is able to modify its virulence properties and demonstrates a novel mechanism by which horizontal gene transfer directly impacts virulence through altering toxin regulation.
PMCID: PMC4127135  PMID: 24962815
MRSA; transposon; IS256; Rot; pathogenesis
6.  Magnesium-dependent processes are targets of bacterial manganese toxicity 
Molecular microbiology  2014;93(4):736-747.
A Bradyrhizobium japonicum mutant defective in the gene encoding the high affinity Mn2+ transporter MntH has a severe growth phenotype under manganese limitation. Here, we isolated suppressor mutants of an mntH strain that grew under manganese limitation, and activities of high affinity Mn2+ transport and Mn2+-dependent enzymes were partially rescued. The suppressor strains harbor gain-of-function mutations in the gene encoding the Mg2+ channel MgtE. The MgtE variants likely allow Mn2+ entry via loss of a gating mechanism that normally holds the transporter in the closed state when cellular Mg2+ levels are high. Both MgtE-dependent and -independent suppressor phenotypes were recapitulated by magnesium-limited growth of the mntH strain. Growth studies of wild type cells suggest that manganese is toxic to cells when environmental magnesium is low. Moreover, extracellular manganese and magnesium levels were manipulated to inhibit growth without substantially altering the intracellular content of either metal, implying that manganese toxicity depends on its cellular distribution rather than the absolute concentration. Mg2+-dependent enzyme activities were found to be inhibited or stimulated by Mn2+. We conclude that Mn2+ can occupy Mg2+-binding sites in cells, and suggest that Mg2+-dependent processes are targets of manganese toxicity.
PMCID: PMC4127137  PMID: 24975873
7.  CarD integrates three functional modules to promote efficient transcription, antibiotic tolerance, and pathogenesis in mycobacteria 
Molecular microbiology  2014;93(4):682-697.
Although the basic mechanisms of prokaryotic transcription are conserved, it has become evident that some bacteria require additional factors to allow for efficient gene transcription. CarD is an RNA polymerase (RNAP) binding protein conserved in numerous bacterial species and essential in mycobacteria. Despite the importance of CarD, its function at transcription complexes remains unclear. We have generated a panel of mutations that individually target three independent functional modules of CarD: the RNAP interaction domain, the DNA binding domain, and a conserved tryptophan residue. We have dissected the roles of each functional module in CarD activity and built a model where each module contributes to stabilizing RNAP-promoter complexes. Our work highlights the requirement of all three modules of CarD in the obligate pathogen Mycobacterium tuberculosis, but not in Mycobacterium smegmatis. We also report divergent use of the CarD functional modules in resisting oxidative stress and pigmentation. These studies provide new information regarding the functional domains involved in transcriptional regulation by CarD while also improving understanding of the physiology of M. tuberculosis.
PMCID: PMC4127138  PMID: 24962732
Infection; Mycobacteria; Stress Response; Transcription; Tuberculosis; rRNA
8.  Adaptor bypass mutations of Bacillus subtilis spx suggest a mechanism for YjbH-enhanced proteolysis of the regulator Spx by ClpXP 
Molecular microbiology  2014;93(3):426-438.
The global regulator, Spx, is under proteolytic control exerted by the adaptor YjbH and ATP-dependent protease ClpXP in Bacillus subtilis. While YjbH is observed to bind the Spx C-terminus, YjbH shows little affinity for ClpXP, indicating adaptor activity that does not operate by tethering. Chimeric proteins derived from B. subtilis AbrB and the Spx C-terminus showed that a 28 residue C-terminal section of Spx (AbrB28), but not the last 12 or 16 residues (AbrB12, AbrB16), was required for YjbH interaction and for ClpXP proteolysis, although the rate of AbrB28 proteolysis was not affected by YjbH addition. The result suggested that the YjbH-targeted 28 residue segment of the Spx C-terminus bears a ClpXP-recognition element(s) that is hidden in the intact Spx protein. Residue substitutions in the conserved helix α6 of the C-terminal region generated Spx substrates that were degraded by ClpXP at accelerated rates compared to wild type Spx, and showed reduced dependency on the YjbH activity. The residue substitutions also weakened the interaction between Spx and YjbH. The results suggest a model in which YjbH, through interaction with residues of α6 helix, exposes the C-terminus of Spx for recognition and proteolysis by ClpXP.
PMCID: PMC4128009  PMID: 24942655
YjbH; Spx; ClpXP; proteolysis; Bacillus subtilis
9.  A Vacuolar-H+-Pyrophosphatase (TgVP1) is Required for Microneme Secretion, Host Cell Invasion, and Extracellular Survival of Toxoplasma gondii 
Molecular microbiology  2014;93(4):698-712.
The vacuolar proton pyrophosphatase (H+-PPase) of Toxoplasma gondii (TgVP1), a membrane proton pump, localizes to acidocalcisomes and a novel lysosome-like compartment termed plant-like vacuole (PLV) or vacuolar compartment (VAC). We report the characterization of a T. gondii null mutant for the TgVP1 gene. Propagation of these mutants decreased significantly because of deficient attachment and invasion of host cells, which correlated with deficient microneme secretion. Processing of cathepsin L (CPL) in these mutants was deficient only when the parasites were incubated in the presence of low concentrations of the vacuolar H+-ATPase (V-H+-ATPase) inhibitor bafilomycin A1, suggesting that either TgVP1 or the T. gondii V-H+-ATPase (TgVATPase) are sufficient to support CPL processing. The lack of TgVP1 did not affect processing of micronemal proteins, indicating that it does not contribute to proMIC maturations. The TgVP1 null mutants were more sensitive to extracellular conditions and were less virulent in mice. We demonstrate that T. gondii tachyzoites possess regulatory volume decrease capability during hypo-osmotic stress and this ability is impaired in TgVP1 null mutants implicating TgVP1 in osmoregulation. We hypothesize that osmoregulation is needed for host cell invasion and that TgVP1 plays a role during the normal lytic cycle of T. gondii.
PMCID: PMC4159726  PMID: 24975633
10.  Pathological phenotypes and in vivo DNA cleavage by unrestrained activity of a phosphorothioate-based restriction system in Salmonella 
Molecular microbiology  2014;93(4):776-785.
Prokaryotes protect their genomes from foreign DNA with a diversity of defense mechanisms, including a widespread restriction-modification (R-M) system involving phosphorothioate (PT) modification of the DNA backbone. Unlike classical R-M systems, highly partial PT-modification of consensus motifs in bacterial genomes suggests an unusual mechanism of PT-dependent restriction. In Salmonella enterica, PT modification is mediated by four genes dptB-E, while restriction involves additional three genes dptF-H. Here, we performed a series of studies to characterize the PT-dependent restriction, and found that it presented several features distinct with traditional R-M systems. The presence of restriction genes in a PT-deficient mutant was not lethal, but instead resulted in several pathological phenotypes. Subsequent transcriptional profiling revealed the expression of >600 genes was affected by restriction enzymes in cells lacking PT, including induction of bacteriophage, SOS response and DNA repair-related genes. These transcriptional responses are consistent with the observation that restriction enzymes caused extensive DNA cleavage in the absence of PT modifications in vivo. However, over-expression of restriction genes was lethal to the host in spite of the presence PT modifications. These results point to an unusual mechanism of PT-dependent DNA cleavage by restriction enzymes in the face of partial PT modification.
PMCID: PMC4414249  PMID: 25040300
11.  Co-ordinated regulation of the extracytoplasmic stress factor, sigmaE, with other Escherichia coli sigma factors by (p)ppGpp and DksA may be achieved by specific regulation of individual holoenzymes 
Molecular microbiology  2014;93(3):479-493.
The E. coli alternative sigma factor, σE, transcribes genes required to maintain the cell envelope and is activated by conditions that destabilize the envelope. σE is also activated during entry into stationary phase in the absence of envelope stress by the alarmone (p)ppGpp. (p)ppGpp controls a large regulatory network, reducing expression of σ70-dependent genes required for rapid growth and activating σ70-dependent and alternative sigma factor-dependent genes required for stress survival. The DksA protein often potentiates the effects of (p)ppGpp. Here we examine regulation of σE by (p)ppGpp and DksA following starvation for nutrients. We find that (p)ppGpp is required for increased σE activity under all conditions tested, but the requirement for DksA varies. DksA is required during amino acid starvation, but is dispensable during phosphate starvation. In contrast, regulation of σS is (p)ppGpp- and DksA-dependent under all conditions tested, while negative regulation of σ70 is DksA- but not (p)ppGpp-dependent during phosphate starvation, yet requires both factors during amino acid starvation. These findings suggest that the mechanism of transcriptional regulation by (p)ppGpp and/or DksA cannot yet be explained by a unifying model and is specific to individual promoters, individual holoenzymes, and specific starvation conditions.
PMCID: PMC4497380  PMID: 24946009
12.  Substrate delivery by the AAA+ ClpX and ClpC1 unfoldases activates the mycobacterial ClpP1P2 peptidase 
Molecular microbiology  2014;93(4):617-628.
Mycobacterial Clp-family proteases function via collaboration of the heteromeric ClpP1P2 peptidase with a AAA+ partner, ClpX or ClpC1. These enzymes are essential for M. tuberculosis viability and are validated antibacterial drug targets, but the requirements for assembly and regulation of functional proteolytic complexes are poorly understood. Here, we report the reconstitution of protein degradation by mycobacterial Clp proteases in vitro and describe novel features of these enzymes that distinguish them from orthologs in other bacteria. Both ClpX and ClpC1 catalyze ATP-dependent unfolding and degradation of native protein substrates in conjunction with ClpP1P2, but neither mediates protein degradation with just ClpP1 or ClpP2. ClpP1P2 alone has negligible peptidase activity, but is strongly stimulated by translocation of protein substrates into ClpP1P2 by either AAA+ partner. Interestingly, our results support a model in which both binding of a AAA+ partner and protein-substrate delivery are required to stabilize active ClpP1P2. Our model has implications for therapeutically targeting ClpP1P2 in dormant M. tuberculosis, and our reconstituted systems should facilitate identification of novel Clp protease inhibitors and activators.
PMCID: PMC4131744  PMID: 24976069
13.  Identification of essential Alphaproteobacterial genes reveals operational variability in conserved developmental and cell cycle systems 
Molecular microbiology  2014;93(4):713-735.
The cell cycle of Caulobacter crescentus is controlled by a complex signaling network that coordinates events. Genome sequencing has revealed many C. crescentus cell cycle genes are conserved in other Alphaproteobacteria, but it is not clear to what extent their function is conserved. As many cell cycle regulatory genes are essential in C. crescentus, the essential genes of two Alphaproteobacteria, Agrobacterium tumefaciens (Rhizobiales) and Brevundimonas subvibrioides (Caulobacterales), were elucidated to identify changes in cell cycle protein function over different phylogenetic distances as demonstrated by changes in essentiality. The results show the majority of conserved essential genes are involved in critical cell cycle processes. Changes in component essentiality reflect major changes in lifestyle, such as divisome components in A. tumefaciens resulting from that organism’s different growth pattern. Larger variability of essentiality was observed in cell cycle regulators, suggesting regulatory mechanisms are more customizable than the processes they regulate. Examples include variability in the essentiality of divJ and divK spatial cell cycle regulators, and non-essentiality of the highly conserved and usually essential DNA methyltransferase CcrM. These results show that while essential cell functions are conserved across varying genetic distance, much of a given organism’s essential gene pool is specific to that organism.
PMCID: PMC4132054  PMID: 24975755
Alphaproteobacteria; Caulobacter; TnSeq; essential genes
14.  Copper binding in IscA inhibits iron-sulfur cluster assembly in Escherichia coli 
Molecular microbiology  2014;93(4):629-644.
Among the iron-sulfur cluster assembly proteins encoded by gene cluster iscSUA-hscBA-fdx in Escherichia coli, IscA has a unique and strong iron binding activity and can provide iron for iron-sulfur cluster assembly in proteins in vitro. Deletion of IscA and its paralogue SufA results in an E. coli mutant that fails to assemble [4Fe-4S] clusters in proteins under aerobic conditions, suggesting that IscA has a crucial role for iron-sulfur cluster biogenesis. Here we report that among the iron-sulfur cluster assembly proteins, IscA also has a strong and specific binding activity for Cu(I) in vivo and in vitro. The Cu(I) center in IscA is stable and resistant to oxidation under aerobic conditions. Mutation of the conserved cysteine residues that are essential for the iron binding in IscA abolishes the copper binding activity, indicating that copper and iron may share the same binding site in the protein. Additional studies reveal that copper can compete with iron for the metal binding site in IscA and effectively inhibits the IscA-mediated [4Fe-4S] cluster assembly in E. coli cells. The results suggest that copper may not only attack the [4Fe-4S] clusters in dehydratases, but also block the [4Fe-4S] cluster assembly in proteins by targeting IscA in cells.
PMCID: PMC4132641  PMID: 24946160
IscA; copper toxicity; iron-sulfur cluster assembly
15.  The Yersinia pestis Siderophore, Yersiniabactin, and the ZnuABC system both contribute to Zinc acquisition and the development of lethal septicemic plague in mice 
Molecular microbiology  2014;93(4):759-775.
Bacterial pathogens must overcome host sequestration of zinc (Zn2+), an essential micronutrient, during the infectious disease process. While the mechanisms to acquire chelated Zn2+ by bacteria are largely undefined, many pathogens rely upon the ZnuABC family of ABC transporters. Here we show that in Yersinia pestis, irp2, a gene encoding the synthetase (HMWP2) for the siderophore yersiniabactin (Ybt) is required for growth under Zn2+-deficient conditions in a strain lacking ZnuABC. Moreover, growth stimulation with exogenous, purified apo-Ybt provides evidence that Ybt may serve as a zincophore for Zn2+ acquisition. Studies with the Zn2+-dependent transcriptional reporter znuA∷lacZ indicate that the ability to synthesize Ybt affects the levels of intracellular Zn2+. However, the outer membrane receptor Psn and TonB as well as the inner membrane (IM) ABC transporter YbtPQ, that are required for Fe3+ acquisition by Ybt, are not needed for Ybt-dependent Zn2+ uptake. In contrast, the predicted IM protein YbtX, a member of the Major Facilitator Superfamily, was essential for Ybt-dependent Zn2+ uptake. Finally, we show that the ZnuABC system and the Ybt synthetase HMWP2, presumably by Ybt synthesis, both contribute to the development of a lethal infection in a septicemic plague mouse model.
PMCID: PMC4132657  PMID: 24979062
16.  The Ins and Outs of Bacterial Iron Metabolism 
Molecular microbiology  2014;93(4):609-616.
Iron is a critical nutrient for the growth and survival of most bacterial species. Accordingly, much attention has been paid to the mechanisms by which host organisms sequester iron from invading bacteria and how bacteria acquire iron from their environment. However, under oxidative stress conditions such as those encountered within phagocytic cells during the host immune response, iron is released from proteins and can act as a catalyst for Fenton chemistry to produce cytotoxic reactive oxygen species. The transitory efflux of free intracellular iron may be beneficial to bacteria under such conditions. The recent discovery of putative iron efflux transporters in Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium is discussed in the context of cellular iron homeostasis.
PMCID: PMC4135372  PMID: 25040830
17.  Balancing drug resistance and growth rates via compensatory mutations in the Plasmodium falciparum chloroquine resistance transporter 
Molecular microbiology  2015;97(2):381-395.
The widespread use of chloroquine to treat Plasmodium falciparum infections has resulted in the selection and dissemination of variant haplotypes of the primary resistance determinant PfCRT. These haplotypes have encountered drug pressure and within-host competition with wild-type drug-sensitive parasites. To examine these selective forces in vitro, we genetically engineered P. falciparum to express geographically diverse PfCRT haplotypes. Variant alleles from the Philippines (PH1 and PH2, which differ solely by the C72S mutation) both conferred a moderate gain of chloroquine resistance and a reduction in growth rates in vitro. Of the two, PH2 showed higher IC50 values, contrasting with reduced growth. Furthermore, a highly mutated pfcrt allele from Cambodia (Cam734) conferred moderate chloroquine resistance and enhanced growth rates, when tested against wild-type pfcrt in co-culture competition assays. These three alleles mediated cross-resistance to amodiaquine, an antimalarial drug widely used in Africa. Each allele, along with the globally prevalent Dd2 and 7G8 alleles, rendered parasites more susceptible to lumefantrine, the partner drug used in the leading first-line artemisinin-based combination therapy. These data reveal ongoing region-specific evolution of PfCRT that impacts drug susceptibility and relative fitness in settings of mixed infections, and raise important considerations about optimal agents to treat chloroquine-resistant malaria.
PMCID: PMC4511469  PMID: 25898991
malaria; PfCRT; drug accumulation; chloroquine resistance; fitness; transfection
18.  Binding of human factor H to outer membrane protein P5 of non-typeable Haemophilus influenzae contributes to complement resistance 
Molecular microbiology  2014;94(1):89-106.
Non-typeable Haemophilus influenzae is an opportunistic pathogen of the human upper respiratory tract and is often found to cause inflammatory diseases that include sinusitis, otitis media and exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. To persist in the inflammatory milieu during infection, non-typeable H. influenzae must resist the antimicrobial activity of the human complement system. Here, we used Tn-seq to identify genes important for resistance to complement-mediated killing. This screen identified outer membrane protein P5 in evasion of the alternative pathway of complement activation. Outer membrane protein P5 was shown to bind human complement regulatory protein factor H directly, thereby, preventing complement factor C3 deposition on the surface of the bacterium. Furthermore, we show that amino acid variation within surface-exposed regions within outer membrane P5 affected the level of factor H binding between individual strains.
PMCID: PMC4497536  PMID: 25091181
19.  Accumulation of heptaprenyl diphosphate sensitizes Bacillus subtilis to bacitracin: Implications for the mechanism of resistance mediated by the BceAB transporter 
Molecular microbiology  2014;93(1):37-49.
Heptaprenyl diphosphate (C35-PP) is an isoprenoid intermediate in the synthesis of both menaquinone and the sesquarterpenoids. We demonstrate that inactivation of ytpB, encoding a C35-PP utilizing enzyme required for sesquarterpenoid synthesis, leads to an increased sensitivity to bacitracin, an antibiotic that binds undecaprenyl pyrophosphate (C55-PP), a key intermediate in cell wall synthesis. Genetic studies indicate that bacitracin sensitivity is due to accumulation of C35-PP, rather than the absence of sesquarterpenoids. Sensitivity is accentuated in a ytpB menA double mutant, lacking both known C35-PP consuming enzymes, and in a ytpB strain overexpressing the HepST enzyme that synthesizes C35-PP. Conversely, sensitivity in the ytpB background is suppressed by mutation of hepST or by supplementation with 1,4-dihydroxy-2-naphthoate, a co-substrate with C35-PP for MenA. Bacitracin sensitivity results from impairment of the BceAB and BcrC resistance mechanisms by C35-PP: in a bceAB bcrC double mutant disruption of ytpB no longer increases bacitracin sensitivity. These results suggest that C35-PP inhibits both BcrC (a C55-PP phosphatase) and BceAB (an ABC transporter that confers bacitracin resistance). These findings lead to a model in which BceAB protects against bacitracin by transfer of the target, C55-PP, rather than the antibiotic across the membrane.
PMCID: PMC4077933  PMID: 24806199
Bacillus subtilis; bacitracin; undecaprenyl pyrophosphate; antibiotic resistance; peptidoglycan
20.  Replication fork inhibition in seqA mutants of E. coli triggers replication fork breakage 
Molecular microbiology  2014;93(1):50-64.
SeqA protein negatively regulates replication initiation in E. coli and is also proposed to organize maturation and segregation of the newly-replicated DNA. The seqA mutants suffer from chromosomal fragmentation; since this fragmentation is attributed to defective segregation or nucleoid compaction, two-ended breaks are expected. Instead, we show that, in SeqA’s absence, chromosomes mostly suffer one-ended DNA breaks, indicating disintegration of replication forks. We further show that replication forks are unexpectedly slow in seqA mutants. Quantitative kinetics of origin and terminus replication from aligned chromosomes not only confirm origin overinitiation in seqA mutants, but also reveal terminus underreplication, indicating inhibition of replication forks. Pre/post-labeling studies of the chromosomal fragmentation in seqA mutants suggest events involving single forks, rather than pairs of forks from consecutive rounds rear-ending into each other. We suggest that, in the absence of SeqA, the sister-chromatid cohesion “safety spacer” is destabilized and completely disappears if the replication fork is inhibited, leading to segregation fork running into the inhibited replication fork and snapping it at single-stranded DNA regions.
PMCID: PMC4078979  PMID: 24806348
seqA; recA; recBC; ruvABC; ori/ter ratio; chromosomal fragmentation
21.  Extracellular Vesicles Produced by the Gram-positive Bacterium Bacillus subtilis are Disrupted by the Lipopeptide Surfactin 
Molecular microbiology  2014;93(1):183-198.
Previously, extracellular vesicle production in Gram-positive bacteria was dismissed due to the absence of an outer membrane, where Gram-negative vesicles originate, and the difficulty in envisioning how such a process could occur through the cell wall. However, recent work has shown that Gram-positive bacteria produce extracellular vesicles and that the vesicles are biologically active. In this study, we show that Bacillus subtilis produces extracellular vesicles similar in size and morphology to other bacteria, characterized vesicles using a variety of techniques, provide evidence that these vesicles are actively produced by cells, show differences in vesicle production between strains, and identified a mechanism for such differences based on vesicle disruption. We found that in wild strains of B. subtilis, surfactin disrupted vesicles while in laboratory strains harboring a mutation in the gene sfp, vesicles accumulated in the culture supernatant. Surfactin not only lysed B. subtilis vesicles, but also vesicles from Bacillus anthracis, indicating a mechanism that crossed species boundaries. To our knowledge, this is the first time a gene and a mechanism has been identified in the active disruption of extracellular vesicles and subsequent release of vesicular cargo in Gram-positive bacteria. We also identify a new mechanism of action for surfactin.
PMCID: PMC4079059  PMID: 24826903
22.  The Bacterial Septal Ring Protein RlpA is a Lytic Transglycosylase that Contributes to Rod Shape and Daughter Cell Separation in Pseudomonas aeruginosa 
Molecular microbiology  2014;93(1):113-128.
Rare lipoprotein A (RlpA) is a widely-conserved outer membrane protein of unknown function that has previously only been studied in Escherichia coli, where it localizes to the septal ring and scattered foci along the lateral wall, but mutants have no phenotypic change. Here we show rlpA mutants of Pseudomonas aeruginosa form chains of short, fat cells when grown in low osmotic strength media. These morphological defects indicate RlpA is needed for efficient separation of daughter cells and maintenance of rod shape. Analysis of peptidoglycan sacculi from an rlpA deletion mutant revealed increased tetra and hexasaccharides that lack stem peptides (hereafter called “naked glycans”). Incubation of these sacculi with purified RlpA resulted in release of naked glycans containing 1,6-anhydro N-acetylmuramic acid ends. RlpA did not degrade sacculi from wild-type cells unless the sacculi were subjected to a limited digestion with an amidase to remove some of the stem peptides. Thus, RlpA is a lytic transglycosylase with a strong preference for naked glycan strands. We propose that RlpA activity is regulated in vivo by substrate availability, and that amidases and RlpA work in tandem to degrade peptidoglycan in the division septum and lateral wall.
PMCID: PMC4086221  PMID: 24806796
murein; peptidoglycan hydrolase; divisome; chaining defect; SPOR domain
23.  Deletion of the cyclic di-AMP phosphodiesterase gene (cnpB) in Mycobacterium tuberculosis leads to reduced virulence in a mouse model of infection 
Molecular microbiology  2014;93(1):65-79.
Tuberculosis (TB) remains a major cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. The pathogenesis by the causative agent, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, is still not fully understood. We have previously reported that M. tuberculosis Rv3586 (disA) encodes a diadenylate cyclase, which converts ATP to cyclic di-AMP (c-di-AMP). In this study, we demonstrated that a protein encoded by Rv2837c (cnpB) possesses c-di-AMP phosphodiesterase activity and cleaves c-di-AMP exclusively to AMP. Our results showed that in M. tuberculosis, deletion of disA abolished bacterial c-di-AMP production, whereas deletion of cnpB significantly enhanced the bacterial c-di-AMP accumulation and secretion. The c-di-AMP levels in both mutants could be corrected by expressing the respective gene. We also found that macrophages infected with ΔcnpB secreted much higher levels of IFN-β than those infected with the wildtype (WT) or the complemented mutant. Interestingly, mice infected with M. tuberculosis ΔcnpB displayed significantly reduced inflammation, less bacterial burden in the lungs and spleens, and extended survival compared to those infected with the WT or the complemented mutant. These results indicate that deletion of cnpB results in attenuated virulence, which is correlated with elevated c-di-AMP levels.
PMCID: PMC4088933  PMID: 24806618
Mycobacterium tuberculosis; c-di-AMP; phosphodiesterase; diadenylate cyclase; IFN-β; virulence
24.  The three major types of CRISPR-Cas systems function independently in CRISPR RNA biogenesis in Streptococcus thermophilus 
Molecular microbiology  2014;93(1):98-112.
CRISPR-Cas systems are small RNA-based immune systems that protect prokaryotes from invaders such as viruses and plasmids. We have investigated the features and biogenesis of the CRISPR (cr)RNAs in Streptococcus thermophilus (Sth) strain DGCC7710, which possesses four different CRISPR-Cas systems including representatives from the three major types of CRISPR-Cas systems. Our results indicate that the crRNAs from each CRISPR locus are specifically processed into divergent crRNA species by Cas proteins (and non-coding RNAs) associated with the respective locus. We find that the Csm Type III-A and Cse Type I-E crRNAs are specifically processed by Cas6 and Cse3 (Cas6e), respectively, and retain an 8-nucleotide CRISPR repeat sequence tag 5′ of the invader-targeting sequence. The Cse Type I-E crRNAs also retain a 21-nucleotide 3′ repeat tag. The crRNAs from the two Csn Type II-A systems in Sth consist of a 5′-truncated targeting sequence and a 3′ tag; however these are distinct in size between the two. Moreover, the Csn1 (Cas9) protein associated with one Csn locus functions specifically in the production of crRNAs from that locus. Our findings indicate that multiple CRISPR-Cas systems can function independently in crRNA biogenesis within a given organism – an important consideration in engineering co-existing CRISPR-Cas pathways.
PMCID: PMC4095994  PMID: 24811454
CRISPR RNA biogenesis; Cas6; Cas9; tracrRNA; Streptococcus thermophilus
25.  Adapting to new threats: the generation of memory by CRISPR-Cas immune systems 
Molecular microbiology  2014;93(1):1-9.
Clustered, regularly interspaced, short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) loci and their associated genes (cas) confer bacteria and archaea with adaptive immunity against phages and other invading genetic elements. A fundamental requirement of any immune system is the ability to build a memory of past infections in order to deal more efficiently with recurrent infections. The adaptive feature of CRISPR-Cas immune systems relies on their ability to memorize DNA sequences of invading molecules and integrate them in between the repetitive sequences of the CRISPR array in the form of “spacers”. The transcription of a spacer generates a small antisense RNA that is used by RNA-guided Cas nucleases to cleave the invading nucleic acid in order to protect the cell from infection. The acquisition of new spacers allows the CRISPR-Cas immune system to rapidly adapt against new threats and is therefore termed “adaptation”. Recent studies have begun to elucidate the genetic requirements for adaptation and have demonstrated that rather than being a stochastic process, the selection of new spacers is influenced by several factors. We review here our current knowledge of the CRISPR adaptation mechanism.
PMCID: PMC4104294  PMID: 24806524
CRISPR/Cas systems; spacer acquisition; adaptation; bacteriophage; adaptive immunity; horizontal gene transfer

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