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4.  Interactions between Head Blight Pathogens: Consequences for Disease Development and Toxin Production in Wheat Spikes 
Head blight (HB) is one of the most damaging diseases on wheat, inducing significant yield losses and toxin accumulation in grains. Fungal pathogens responsible for HB include the genus Microdochium, with two species, and the toxin producer genus Fusarium, with several species. Field studies and surveys show that two or more species can coexist within a same field and coinfect the same plant or the same spike. In the current study, we investigated how the concomitant presence of F. graminearum and another of the HB complex species influences the spike colonization and the toxin production by the fungi. To study these interactions, 17 well-characterized isolates representing five species were inoculated alone or in pairs on wheat spikes in greenhouse and field experiments. The fungal DNA in the grains was estimated by quantitative PCR and toxin contents (deoxynivalenol and nivalenol) by ultraperformance liquid chromatography-UV detection-tandem mass spectrometry. The responses of the different isolates to the presence of a competitor were variable and isolate specific more than species specific. The development of the most aggressive isolates was either unchanged or a slightly increased, while the development of the less aggressive isolates was reduced. The main outcome of the study was that no trend of increased toxin production was observed in coinoculations compared to single inoculations. On the contrary, the amount of toxin produced was often lower than expected in coinoculations. We thus conclude against the hypothesis that the co-occurrence of several HB-causing species in the same field might aggravate the risk linked to fusarium toxins in wheat production.
doi:10.1128/AEM.02879-14
PMCID: PMC4292474  PMID: 25416772
5.  Adaptation Genomics of a Small-Colony Variant in a Pseudomonas chlororaphis 30-84 Biofilm 
The rhizosphere-colonizing bacterium Pseudomonas chlororaphis 30-84 is an effective biological control agent against take-all disease of wheat. In this study, we characterize a small-colony variant (SCV) isolated from a P. chlororaphis 30-84 biofilm. The SCV exhibited pleiotropic phenotypes, including small cell size, slow growth and motility, low levels of phenazine production, and increased biofilm formation and resistance to antimicrobials. To better understand the genetic alterations underlying these phenotypes, RNA and whole-genome sequencing analyses were conducted comparing an SCV to the wild-type strain. Of the genome's 5,971 genes, transcriptomic profiling indicated that 1,098 (18.4%) have undergone substantial reprograming of gene expression in the SCV. Whole-genome sequence analysis revealed multiple alterations in the SCV, including mutations in yfiR (cyclic-di-GMP production), fusA (elongation factor), and cyoE (heme synthesis) and a 70-kb deletion. Genetic analysis revealed that the yfiR locus plays a major role in controlling SCV phenotypes, including colony size, growth, motility, and biofilm formation. Moreover, a point mutation in the fusA gene contributed to kanamycin resistance. Interestingly, the SCV can partially switch back to wild-type morphologies under specific conditions. Our data also support the idea that phenotypic switching in P. chlororaphis is not due to simple genetic reversions but may involve multiple secondary mutations. The emergence of these highly adherent and antibiotic-resistant SCVs within the biofilm might play key roles in P. chlororaphis natural persistence.
doi:10.1128/AEM.02617-14
PMCID: PMC4292466  PMID: 25416762
6.  Identification of a Wide Range of Motifs Inhibitory to Shiga Toxin by Affinity-Driven Screening of Customized Divalent Peptides Synthesized on a Membrane 
Shiga toxin (Stx), a major virulence factor of enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli, binds to target cells through a multivalent interaction between its B-subunit pentamer and the cell surface receptor globotriaosylceramide, resulting in a remarkable increase in its binding affinity. This phenomenon is referred to as the “clustering effect.” Previously, we developed a multivalent peptide library that can exert the clustering effect and identified Stx neutralizers with tetravalent peptides by screening this library for high-affinity binding to the specific receptor-binding site of the B subunit. However, this technique yielded only a limited number of binding motifs, with some redundancy in amino acid selectivity. In this study, we established a novel technique to synthesize up to 384 divalent peptides whose structures were customized to exert the clustering effect on the B subunit on a single cellulose membrane. By targeting Stx1a, a major Stx subtype, the customized divalent peptides were screened to identify high-affinity binding motifs. The sequences of the peptides were designed based on information obtained from the multivalent peptide library technique. A total of 64 candidate motifs were successfully identified, and 11 of these were selected to synthesize tetravalent forms of the peptides. All of the synthesized tetravalent peptides bound to the B subunit with high affinities and effectively inhibited the cytotoxicity of Stx1a in Vero cells. Thus, the combination of the two techniques results in greatly improved efficiency in identifying biologically active neutralizers of Stx.
doi:10.1128/AEM.03517-14
PMCID: PMC4292467  PMID: 25452283
7.  Population Genetic Analysis of Streptomyces albidoflavus Reveals Habitat Barriers to Homologous Recombination in the Diversification of Streptomycetes 
Examining the population structure and the influence of recombination and ecology on microbial populations makes great sense for understanding microbial evolution and speciation. Streptomycetes are a diverse group of bacteria that are widely distributed in nature and a rich source of useful bioactive compounds; however, they are rarely subjected to population genetic investigations. In this study, we applied a five-gene-based multilocus sequence analysis (MLSA) scheme to 41 strains of Streptomyces albidoflavus derived from diverse sources, mainly insects, sea, and soil. Frequent recombination was detected in S. albidoflavus, supported by multiple lines of evidence from the pairwise homoplasy index (Φw) test, phylogenetic discordance, the Shimodaira-Hasegawa (SH) test, and network analysis, underpinning the predominance of homologous recombination within Streptomyces species. A strong habitat signal was also observed in both phylogenetic and Structure 2.3.3 analyses, indicating the importance of ecological difference in shaping the population structure. Moreover, all three habitat-associated groups, particularly the entomic group, demonstrated significantly reduced levels of gene flow with one another, generally revealing habitat barriers to recombination. Therefore, a combined effect of homologous recombination and ecology is inferred for S. albidoflavus, where dynamic evolution is at least partly balanced by the extent that differential distributions of strains among habitats limit genetic exchange. Our study stresses the significance of ecology in microbial speciation and reveals the coexistence of homologous recombination and ecological divergence in the evolution of streptomycetes.
doi:10.1128/AEM.02925-14
PMCID: PMC4292468  PMID: 25416769
8.  The Geoglobus acetivorans Genome: Fe(III) Reduction, Acetate Utilization, Autotrophic Growth, and Degradation of Aromatic Compounds in a Hyperthermophilic Archaeon 
Geoglobus acetivorans is a hyperthermophilic anaerobic euryarchaeon of the order Archaeoglobales isolated from deep-sea hydrothermal vents. A unique physiological feature of the members of the genus Geoglobus is their obligate dependence on Fe(III) reduction, which plays an important role in the geochemistry of hydrothermal systems. The features of this organism and its complete 1,860,815-bp genome sequence are described in this report. Genome analysis revealed pathways enabling oxidation of molecular hydrogen, proteinaceous substrates, fatty acids, aromatic compounds, n-alkanes, and organic acids, including acetate, through anaerobic respiration linked to Fe(III) reduction. Consistent with the inability of G. acetivorans to grow on carbohydrates, the modified Embden-Meyerhof pathway encoded by the genome is incomplete. Autotrophic CO2 fixation is enabled by the Wood-Ljungdahl pathway. Reduction of insoluble poorly crystalline Fe(III) oxide depends on the transfer of electrons from the quinone pool to multiheme c-type cytochromes exposed on the cell surface. Direct contact of the cells and Fe(III) oxide particles could be facilitated by pilus-like appendages. Genome analysis indicated the presence of metabolic pathways for anaerobic degradation of aromatic compounds and n-alkanes, although an ability of G. acetivorans to grow on these substrates was not observed in laboratory experiments. Overall, our results suggest that Geoglobus species could play an important role in microbial communities of deep-sea hydrothermal vents as lithoautotrophic producers. An additional role as decomposers would close the biogeochemical cycle of carbon through complete mineralization of various organic compounds via Fe(III) respiration.
doi:10.1128/AEM.02705-14
PMCID: PMC4292469  PMID: 25416759
9.  A Regulatory Feedback Loop between RpoS and SpoT Supports the Survival of Legionella pneumophila in Water 
Legionella pneumophila is a waterborne pathogen, and survival in the aquatic environment is central to its transmission to humans. Therefore, identifying genes required for its survival in water could help prevent Legionnaires' disease outbreaks. In the present study, we investigate the role of the sigma factor RpoS in promoting survival in water, where L. pneumophila experiences severe nutrient deprivation. The rpoS mutant showed a strong survival defect compared to the wild-type strain in defined water medium. The transcriptome of the rpoS mutant during exposure to water revealed that RpoS represses genes associated with replication, translation, and transcription, suggesting that the mutant fails to shut down major metabolic programs. In addition, the rpoS mutant is transcriptionally more active than the wild-type strain after water exposure. This could be explained by a misregulation of the stringent response in the rpoS mutant. Indeed, the rpoS mutant shows an increased expression of spoT and a corresponding decrease in the level of (p)ppGpp, which is due to the presence of a negative feedback loop between RpoS and SpoT. Therefore, the lack of RpoS causes an aberrant regulation of the stringent response, which prevents the induction of a successful response to starvation.
doi:10.1128/AEM.03132-14
PMCID: PMC4292471  PMID: 25416763
10.  Potential Contribution of Anammox to Nitrogen Loss from Paddy Soils in Southern China 
The anaerobic oxidation of ammonium (anammox) process has been observed in diverse terrestrial ecosystems, while the contribution of anammox to N2 production in paddy soils is not well documented. In this study, the anammox activity and the abundance and diversity of anammox bacteria were investigated to assess the anammox potential of 12 typical paddy soils collected in southern China. Anammox bacteria related to “Candidatus Brocadia” and “Candidatus Kuenenia” and two novel unidentified clusters were detected, with “Candidatus Brocadia” comprising 50% of the anammox population. The prevalence of the anammox was confirmed by the quantitative PCR results based on hydrazine synthase (hzsB) genes, which showed that the abundance ranged from 1.16 × 104 to 9.65 × 104 copies per gram of dry weight. The anammox rates measured by the isotope-pairing technique ranged from 0.27 to 5.25 nmol N per gram of soil per hour in these paddy soils, which contributed 0.6 to 15% to soil N2 production. It is estimated that a total loss of 2.50 × 106 Mg N per year is linked to anammox in the paddy fields in southern China, which implied that ca. 10% of the applied ammonia fertilizers is lost via the anammox process. Anammox activity was significantly correlated with the abundance of hzsB genes, soil nitrate concentration, and C/N ratio. Additionally, ammonia concentration and pH were found to be significantly correlated with the anammox bacterial structure.
doi:10.1128/AEM.02664-14
PMCID: PMC4292472  PMID: 25416768
11.  Substrate-Induced Radical Formation in 4-Hydroxybutyryl Coenzyme A Dehydratase from Clostridium aminobutyricum 
4-Hydroxybutyryl-coenzyme A (CoA) dehydratase (4HBD) from Clostridium aminobutyricum catalyzes the reversible dehydration of 4-hydroxybutyryl-CoA to crotonyl-CoA and the irreversible isomerization of vinylacetyl-CoA to crotonyl-CoA. 4HBD is an oxygen-sensitive homotetrameric enzyme with one [4Fe-4S]2+ cluster and one flavin adenine dinucleotide (FAD) in each subunit. Upon the addition of crotonyl-CoA or the analogues butyryl-CoA, acetyl-CoA, and CoA, UV-visible light and electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) spectroscopy revealed an internal one-electron transfer to FAD and the [4Fe-4S]2+ cluster prior to hydration. We describe an active recombinant 4HBD and variants produced in Escherichia coli. The variants of the cluster ligands (H292C [histidine at position 292 is replaced by cysteine], H292E, C99A, C103A, and C299A) had no measurable dehydratase activity and were composed of monomers, dimers, and tetramers. Variants of other potential catalytic residues were composed only of tetramers and exhibited either no measurable (E257Q, E455Q, and Y296W) hydratase activity or <1% (Y296F and T190V) dehydratase activity. The E455Q variant but not the Y296F or E257Q variant displayed the same spectral changes as the wild-type enzyme after the addition of crotonyl-CoA but at a much lower rate. The results suggest that upon the addition of a substrate, Y296 is deprotonated by E455 and reduces FAD to FADH·, aided by protonation from E257 via T190. In contrast to FADH·, the tyrosyl radical could not be detected by EPR spectroscopy. FADH· appears to initiate the radical dehydration via an allylic ketyl radical that was proposed 19 years ago. The mode of radical generation in 4HBD is without precedent in anaerobic radical chemistry. It differs largely from that in enzymes, which use coenzyme B12, S-adenosylmethionine, ATP-driven electron transfer, or flavin-based electron bifurcation for this purpose.
doi:10.1128/AEM.03099-14
PMCID: PMC4292473  PMID: 25452282
12.  Few Highly Abundant Operational Taxonomic Units Dominate within Rumen Methanogenic Archaeal Species in New Zealand Sheep and Cattle 
Sequencing and analyses of 16S rRNA gene amplicons were performed to estimate the composition of the rumen methanogen community in 252 samples from eight cohorts of sheep and cattle, separated into 16 different sample groups by diet, and to determine which methanogens are most prominent in the rumens of farmed New Zealand ruminants. Methanobacteriales (relative abundance ± standard deviation, 89.6% ± 9.8%) and Methanomassiliicoccales (10.4% ± 9.8%) were the two major orders and contributed 99.98% (±0.1%) to the rumen methanogen communities in the samples. Sequences from Methanobacteriales were almost entirely from only four different species (or clades of very closely related species). Each was detectable in at least 89% of the samples. These four species or clades were the Methanobrevibacter gottschalkii clade and Methanobrevibacter ruminantium clade with a mean abundance of 42.4% (±19.5% standard deviation) and 32.9% (±18.8%), respectively, and Methanosphaera sp. ISO3-F5 (8.2% ± 6.7%) and Methanosphaera sp. group5 (5.6% ± 5.7%). These four species or clades appeared to be primarily represented by only one or, in one case, two dominant sequence types per species or clade when the sequences were grouped into operational taxonomic units (OTUs) at 99% sequence identity. The mean relative abundance of Methanomassiliicoccales in the samples was relatively low but exceeded 40% in some of the treatment groups. Animal feed affected the apparent methanogen community structure of both orders, as evident from differences in relative abundances of the major OTUs in animals under different feeding regimens.
doi:10.1128/AEM.03018-14
PMCID: PMC4292475  PMID: 25416771
13.  Novel Variant Serotype of Streptococcus suis Isolated from Piglets with Meningitis 
Streptococcus suis is an emerging zoonotic pathogen causing severe infections in pigs and humans. In previous studies, 33 serotypes of S. suis have been identified using serum agglutination. Here, we describe a novel S. suis strain, CZ130302, isolated from an outbreak of acute piglet meningitis in eastern China. Strong pathogenicity of meningitis caused by strain CZ130302 was reproduced in the BALB/c mouse model. The strain showed a high fatality rate (8/10), higher than those for known virulent serotype 2 strains P1/7 (1/10) and 9801 (2/10). Cell adhesion assay results with bEnd.3 and HEp2 cells showed that CZ130302 was significantly close to P1/7 and 9801. Both the agglutination test and its complementary test showed that strain CZ130302 had no strong cross-reaction with the other 33 S. suis serotypes. The multiplex PCR assays revealed no specified bands for all four sets used to detect the other 33 serotypes. In addition, genetic analysis of the whole cps gene clusters of all serotypes was performed in this study. The results of comparative genomics showed that the cps gene cluster of CZ130302, which was not previously reported, showed no homology to the gene sequences of the other strains. Especially, the wzy, wzx, and acetyltransferase genes of strain CZ130302 are phylogenetically distinct from strains of the other 33 serotypes. Therefore, this study suggested that strain CZ130302 represents a novel variant serotype of S. suis (designated serotype Chz) which has a high potential to be virulent and associated with meningitis in animals.
doi:10.1128/AEM.02962-14
PMCID: PMC4292476  PMID: 25416757
14.  The Role of Host Phylogeny Varies in Shaping Microbial Diversity in the Hindguts of Lower Termites 
The hindguts of lower termites and Cryptocercus cockroaches are home to a distinct community of archaea, bacteria, and protists (primarily parabasalids and some oxymonads). Within a host species, the composition of these hindgut communities appears relatively stable, but the evolutionary and ecological factors structuring community composition and stability are poorly understood, as are differential impacts of these factors on protists, bacteria, and archaea. We analyzed the microbial composition of parabasalids and bacteria in the hindguts of Cryptocercus punctulatus and 23 species spanning 4 families of lower termites by pyrosequencing variable regions of the small-subunit rRNA gene. Especially for the parabasalids, these data revealed undiscovered taxa and provided a phylogenetic basis for a more accurate understanding of diversity, diversification, and community composition. The composition of the parabasalid communities was found to be strongly structured by the phylogeny of their hosts, indicating the importance of historical effects, although exceptions were also identified. Particularly, spirotrichonymphids and trichonymphids likely were transferred between host lineages. In contrast, host phylogeny was not sufficient to explain the majority of bacterial community composition, but the compositions of the Bacteroidetes, Elusimicrobia, Tenericutes, Spirochaetes, and Synergistes were structured by host phylogeny perhaps due to their symbiotic associations with protists. All together, historical effects probably resulting from vertical inheritance have had a prominent role in structuring the hindgut communities, especially of the parabasalids, but dispersal and environmental acquisition have played a larger role in community composition than previously expected.
doi:10.1128/AEM.02945-14
PMCID: PMC4292477  PMID: 25452280
15.  Effects of Eliminating Pyruvate Node Pathways and of Coexpression of Heterogeneous Carboxylation Enzymes on Succinate Production by Enterobacter aerogenes 
Lowering the pH in bacterium-based succinate fermentation is considered a feasible approach to reduce total production costs. Newly isolated Enterobacter aerogenes strain AJ110637, a rapid carbon source assimilator under weakly acidic (pH 5.0) conditions, was selected as a platform for succinate production. Our previous work showed that the ΔadhE/PCK strain, developed from AJ110637 with inactivated ethanol dehydrogenase and introduced Actinobacillus succinogenes phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase (PCK), generated succinate as a major product of anaerobic mixed-acid fermentation from glucose under weakly acidic conditions (pH <6.2). To further improve the production of succinate by the ΔadhE/PCK strain, metabolically engineered strains were designed based on the elimination of pathways that produced undesirable products and the introduction of two carboxylation pathways from phosphoenolpyruvate and pyruvate to oxaloacetate. The highest production of succinate was observed with strain ES04/PCK+PYC, which had inactivated ethanol, lactate, acetate, and 2,3-butanediol pathways and coexpressed PCK and Corynebacterium glutamicum pyruvate carboxylase (PYC). This strain produced succinate from glucose with over 70% yield (gram per gram) without any measurable formation of ethanol, lactate, or 2,3-butanediol under weakly acidic conditions. The impact of lowering the pH from 7.0 to 5.5 on succinate production in this strain was evaluated under pH-controlled batch culture conditions and showed that the lower pH decreased the succinate titer but increased its yield. These findings can be applied to identify additional engineering targets to increase succinate production.
doi:10.1128/AEM.03213-14
PMCID: PMC4292478  PMID: 25416770
16.  Pseudomonas Strains Naturally Associated with Potato Plants Produce Volatiles with High Potential for Inhibition of Phytophthora infestans 
Bacteria emit volatile organic compounds with a wide range of effects on bacteria, fungi, plants, and animals. The antifungal potential of bacterial volatiles has been investigated with a broad span of phytopathogenic organisms, yet the reaction of oomycetes to these volatile signals is largely unknown. For instance, the response of the late blight-causing agent and most devastating oomycete pathogen worldwide, Phytophthora infestans, to bacterial volatiles has not been assessed so far. In this work, we analyzed this response and compared it to that of selected fungal and bacterial potato pathogens, using newly isolated, potato-associated bacterial strains as volatile emitters. P. infestans was highly susceptible to bacterial volatiles, while fungal and bacterial pathogens were less sensitive. Cyanogenic Pseudomonas strains were the most active, leading to complete growth inhibition, yet noncyanogenic ones also produced antioomycete volatiles. Headspace analysis of the emitted volatiles revealed 1-undecene as a compound produced by strains inducing volatile-mediated P. infestans growth inhibition. Supplying pure 1-undecene to P. infestans significantly reduced mycelial growth, sporangium formation, germination, and zoospore release in a dose-dependent manner. This work demonstrates the high sensitivity of P. infestans to bacterial volatiles and opens new perspectives for sustainable control of this devastating pathogen.
doi:10.1128/AEM.02999-14
PMCID: PMC4292479  PMID: 25398872
17.  Transcriptomic and Physiological Insights into the Robustness of Long Filamentous Cells of Methanosaeta harundinacea, Prevalent in Upflow Anaerobic Sludge Blanket Granules 
Methanosaeta spp. are widely distributed in natural environments, and their filamentous cells contribute significantly to sludge granulation and the good performance of anaerobic reactors. A previous study indicated that Methanosaeta harundinacea 6Ac displays a quorum sensing-regulated morphological transition from short to long filaments, and more acetate is channeled into methane production in long filaments, whereas more is channeled into biomass synthesis in short filaments. Here, we performed transcriptomic and physiological analysis to gain insights into active methanogenesis in long filaments of M. harundinacea 6Ac. Both RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) and quantitative reverse transcription-PCR indicated that transcription of the genes involved in aceticlastic methanogenesis and energy metabolism was upregulated 1.2- to 10.3-fold in long filaments, while transcription of the genes for the methyl oxidative shunt was upregulated in short filaments. [2-13C]acetate trace experiments demonstrated that a relatively higher portion of the acetate methyl group was oxidized to CO2 in short filaments than in long filaments. The long filaments exhibited higher catalase activity and oxygen tolerance than the short ones, which is consistent with increased transcription of the oxidant-scavenging genes. Moreover, transcription of genes for cell surface structures was upregulated in the long filaments, and transmission electron microscopy revealed a thicker cell envelope in the filaments. RNA-seq determined a >2-fold upregulation of a variety of antistress genes in short filaments, like those encoding chaperones and DNA repair systems, which implies that the short filaments can be stressed. This study reveals the genetic basis for the prevalence of the long filamentous morphology of M. harundinacea cells in upflow anaerobic sludge blanket granules.
doi:10.1128/AEM.03092-14
PMCID: PMC4292480  PMID: 25398869
18.  Alternative Fecal Indicators and Their Empirical Relationships with Enteric Viruses, Salmonella enterica, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa in Surface Waters of a Tropical Urban Catchment 
The suitability of traditional microbial indicators (i.e., Escherichia coli and enterococci) has been challenged due to the lack of correlation with pathogens and evidence of possible regrowth in the natural environment. In this study, the relationships between alternative microbial indicators of potential human fecal contamination (Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron, Methanobrevibacter smithii, human polyomaviruses [HPyVs], and F+ and somatic coliphages) and pathogens (Salmonella spp., Pseudomonas aeruginosa, rotavirus, astrovirus, norovirus GI, norovirus GII, and adenovirus) were compared with those of traditional microbial indicators, as well as environmental parameters (temperature, conductivity, salinity, pH, dissolved oxygen, total organic carbon, total suspended solids, turbidity, total nitrogen, and total phosphorus). Water samples were collected from surface waters of urban catchments in Singapore. Salmonella and P. aeruginosa had significant positive correlations with most of the microbial indicators, especially E. coli and enterococci. Norovirus GII showed moderately strong positive correlations with most of the microbial indicators, except for HPyVs and coliphages. In general, high geometric means and significant correlations between human-specific markers and pathogens suggest the possibility of sewage contamination in some areas. The simultaneous detection of human-specific markers (i.e., B. thetaiotaomicron, M. smithii, and HPyVs) with E. coli and enterococcus supports the likelihood of recent fecal contamination, since the human-specific markers are unable to regrow in natural surface waters. Multiple-linear-regression results further confirm that the inclusion of M. smithii and HPyVs, together with traditional indicators, would better predict the occurrence of pathogens. Further study is needed to determine the applicability of such models to different geographical locations and environmental conditions.
doi:10.1128/AEM.02670-14
PMCID: PMC4292481  PMID: 25416765
19.  Competition between Metals for Binding to Methanobactin Enables Expression of Soluble Methane Monooxygenase in the Presence of Copper 
It is well known that copper is a key factor regulating expression of the two forms of methane monooxygenase found in proteobacterial methanotrophs. Of these forms, the cytoplasmic, or soluble, methane monooxygenase (sMMO) is expressed only at low copper concentrations. The membrane-bound, or particulate, methane monooxygenase (pMMO) is constitutively expressed with respect to copper, and such expression increases with increasing copper. Recent findings have shown that copper uptake is mediated by a modified polypeptide, or chalkophore, termed methanobactin. Although methanobactin has high specificity for copper, it can bind other metals, e.g., gold. Here we show that in Methylosinus trichosporium OB3b, sMMO is expressed and active in the presence of copper if gold is also simultaneously present. Such expression appears to be due to gold binding to methanobactin produced by M. trichosporium OB3b, thereby limiting copper uptake. Such expression and activity, however, was significantly reduced if methanobactin preloaded with copper was also added. Further, quantitative reverse transcriptase PCR (RT-qPCR) of transcripts of genes encoding polypeptides of both forms of MMO and SDS-PAGE results indicate that both sMMO and pMMO can be expressed when copper and gold are present, as gold effectively competes with copper for binding to methanobactin. Such findings suggest that under certain geochemical conditions, both forms of MMO may be expressed and active in situ. Finally, these findings also suggest strategies whereby field sites can be manipulated to enhance sMMO expression, i.e., through the addition of a metal that can compete with copper for binding to methanobactin.
doi:10.1128/AEM.03151-14
PMCID: PMC4292482  PMID: 25416758
20.  De Novo Amino Acid Biosynthesis Contributes to Salmonella enterica Growth in Alfalfa Seedling Exudates 
Salmonella enterica is a member of the plant microbiome. Growth of S. enterica in sprouting-seed exudates is rapid; however, the active metabolic networks essential in this environment are unknown. To examine the metabolic requirements of S. enterica during growth in sprouting-seed exudates, we inoculated alfalfa seeds and identified 305 S. enterica proteins extracted 24 h postinoculation from planktonic cells. Over half the proteins had known metabolic functions, and they are involved in over one-quarter of the known metabolic reactions. Ion and metabolite transport accounted for the majority of detected reactions. Proteins involved in amino acid transport and metabolism were highly represented, suggesting that amino acid metabolic networks may be important for S. enterica growth in association with roots. Amino acid auxotroph growth phenotypes agreed with the proteomic data; auxotrophs in amino acid-biosynthetic pathways that were detected in our screen developed growth defects by 48 h. When the perceived sufficiency of each amino acid was expressed as a ratio of the calculated biomass requirement to the available concentration and compared to growth of each amino acid auxotroph, a correlation between nutrient availability and bacterial growth was found. Furthermore, glutamate transport acted as a fitness factor during S. enterica growth in association with roots. Collectively, these data suggest that S. enterica metabolism is robust in the germinating-alfalfa environment; that single-amino-acid metabolic pathways are important but not essential; and that targeting central metabolic networks, rather than dedicated pathways, may be necessary to achieve dramatic impacts on bacterial growth.
doi:10.1128/AEM.02985-14
PMCID: PMC4292483  PMID: 25416761
21.  Rapid Redox Signal Transmission by “Cable Bacteria” beneath a Photosynthetic Biofilm 
Recently, long filamentous bacteria, belonging to the family Desulfobulbaceae, were shown to induce electrical currents over long distances in the surface layer of marine sediments. These “cable bacteria” are capable of harvesting electrons from free sulfide in deeper sediment horizons and transferring these electrons along their longitudinal axes to oxygen present near the sediment-water interface. In the present work, we investigated the relationship between cable bacteria and a photosynthetic algal biofilm. In a first experiment, we investigated sediment that hosted both cable bacteria and a photosynthetic biofilm and tested the effect of an imposed diel light-dark cycle by continuously monitoring sulfide at depth. Changes in photosynthesis at the sediment surface had an immediate and repeatable effect on sulfide concentrations at depth, indicating that cable bacteria can rapidly transmit a geochemical effect to centimeters of depth in response to changing conditions at the sediment surface. We also observed a secondary response of the free sulfide at depth manifest on the time scale of hours, suggesting that cable bacteria adjust to a moving oxygen front with a regulatory or a behavioral response, such as motility. Finally, we show that on the time scale of days, the presence of an oxygenic biofilm results in a deeper and more acidic suboxic zone, indicating that a greater oxygen supply can enable cable bacteria to harvest a greater quantity of electrons from marine sediments. Rapid acclimation strategies and highly efficient electron harvesting are likely key advantages of cable bacteria, enabling their success in high sulfide generating coastal sediments.
doi:10.1128/AEM.02682-14
PMCID: PMC4292484  PMID: 25416774
22.  Editorial Board 
doi:10.1128/AEM.masthead.81-3
PMCID: PMC4292485
23.  Lipopolysaccharide O-Chain Core Region Required for Cellular Cohesion and Compaction of In Vitro and Root Biofilms Developed by Rhizobium leguminosarum 
The formation of biofilms is an important survival strategy allowing rhizobia to live on soil particles and plant roots. Within the microcolonies of the biofilm developed by Rhizobium leguminosarum, rhizobial cells interact tightly through lateral and polar connections, forming organized and compact cell aggregates. These microcolonies are embedded in a biofilm matrix, whose main component is the acidic exopolysaccharide (EPS). Our work shows that the O-chain core region of the R. leguminosarum lipopolysaccharide (LPS) (which stretches out of the cell surface) strongly influences bacterial adhesive properties and cell-cell cohesion. Mutants defective in the O chain or O-chain core moiety developed premature microcolonies in which lateral bacterial contacts were greatly reduced. Furthermore, cell-cell interactions within the microcolonies of the LPS mutants were mediated mostly through their poles, resulting in a biofilm with an altered three-dimensional structure and increased thickness. In addition, on the root epidermis and on root hairs, O-antigen core-defective strains showed altered biofilm patterns with the typical microcolony compaction impaired. Taken together, these results indicate that the surface-exposed moiety of the LPS is crucial for proper cell-to-cell interactions and for the formation of robust biofilms on different surfaces.
doi:10.1128/AEM.03175-14
PMCID: PMC4292486  PMID: 25416773
25.  High-Resolution Taxonomic Profiling of the Subgingival Microbiome for Biomarker Discovery and Periodontitis Diagnosis 
The oral microbiome plays a key role for caries, periodontitis, and systemic diseases. A method for rapid, high-resolution, robust taxonomic profiling of subgingival bacterial communities for early detection of periodontitis biomarkers would therefore be a useful tool for individualized medicine. Here, we used Illumina sequencing of the V1-V2 and V5-V6 hypervariable regions of the 16S rRNA gene. A sample stratification pipeline was developed in a pilot study of 19 individuals, 9 of whom had been diagnosed with chronic periodontitis. Five hundred twenty-three operational taxonomic units (OTUs) were obtained from the V1-V2 region and 432 from the V5-V6 region. Key periodontal pathogens like Porphyromonas gingivalis, Treponema denticola, and Tannerella forsythia could be identified at the species level with both primer sets. Principal coordinate analysis identified two outliers that were consistently independent of the hypervariable region and method of DNA extraction used. The linear discriminant analysis (LDA) effect size algorithm (LEfSe) identified 80 OTU-level biomarkers of periodontitis and 17 of health. Health- and periodontitis-related clusters of OTUs were identified using a connectivity analysis, and the results confirmed previous studies with several thousands of samples. A machine learning algorithm was developed which was trained on all but one sample and then predicted the diagnosis of the left-out sample (jackknife method). Using a combination of the 10 best biomarkers, 15 of 17 samples were correctly diagnosed. Training the algorithm on time-resolved community profiles might provide a highly sensitive tool to detect the onset of periodontitis.
doi:10.1128/AEM.03534-14
PMCID: PMC4292489  PMID: 25452281

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