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2.  Nitrogen Assimilation in Escherichia coli: Putting Molecular Data into a Systems Perspective 
We present a comprehensive overview of the hierarchical network of intracellular processes revolving around central nitrogen metabolism in Escherichia coli. The hierarchy intertwines transport, metabolism, signaling leading to posttranslational modification, and transcription. The protein components of the network include an ammonium transporter (AmtB), a glutamine transporter (GlnHPQ), two ammonium assimilation pathways (glutamine synthetase [GS]-glutamate synthase [glutamine 2-oxoglutarate amidotransferase {GOGAT}] and glutamate dehydrogenase [GDH]), the two bifunctional enzymes adenylyl transferase/adenylyl-removing enzyme (ATase) and uridylyl transferase/uridylyl-removing enzyme (UTase), the two trimeric signal transduction proteins (GlnB and GlnK), the two-component regulatory system composed of the histidine protein kinase nitrogen regulator II (NRII) and the response nitrogen regulator I (NRI), three global transcriptional regulators called nitrogen assimilation control (Nac) protein, leucine-responsive regulatory protein (Lrp), and cyclic AMP (cAMP) receptor protein (Crp), the glutaminases, and the nitrogen-phosphotransferase system. First, the structural and molecular knowledge on these proteins is reviewed. Thereafter, the activities of the components as they engage together in transport, metabolism, signal transduction, and transcription and their regulation are discussed. Next, old and new molecular data and physiological data are put into a common perspective on integral cellular functioning, especially with the aim of resolving counterintuitive or paradoxical processes featured in nitrogen assimilation. Finally, we articulate what still remains to be discovered and what general lessons can be learned from the vast amounts of data that are available now.
PMCID: PMC3973380  PMID: 24296575
3.  Host-Directed Therapeutics for Tuberculosis: Can We Harness the Host? 
Treatment of tuberculosis (TB) remains challenging, with lengthy treatment durations and complex drug regimens that are toxic and difficult to administer. Similar to the vast majority of antibiotics, drugs for Mycobacterium tuberculosis are directed against microbial targets. Although more effective drugs that target the bacterium may lead to faster cure of patients, it is possible that a biological limit will be reached that can be overcome only by adopting a fundamentally new treatment approach. TB regimens might be improved by including agents that target host pathways. Recent work on host-pathogen interactions, host immunity, and host-directed interventions suggests that supplementing anti-TB therapy with host modulators may lead to shorter treatment times, a reduction in lung damage caused by the disease, and a lower risk of relapse or reinfection. We undertook this review to identify molecular pathways of the host that may be amenable to modulation by small molecules for the treatment of TB. Although several approaches to augmenting standard TB treatment have been proposed, only a few have been explored in detail or advanced to preclinical and clinical studies. Our review focuses on molecular targets and inhibitory small molecules that function within the macrophage or other myeloid cells, on host inflammatory pathways, or at the level of TB-induced lung pathology.
PMCID: PMC3973381  PMID: 24296574
4.  The Singular Quest for a Universal Tree of Life 
Carl Woese developed a unique research program, based on rRNA, for discerning bacterial relationships and constructing a universal tree of life. Woese's interest in the evolution of the genetic code led to him to investigate the deep roots of evolution, develop the concept of the progenote, and conceive of the Archaea. In so doing, he and his colleagues at the University of Illinois in Urbana revolutionized microbiology and brought the classification of microbes into an evolutionary framework. Woese also provided definitive evidence for the role of symbiosis in the evolution of the eukaryotic cell while underscoring the importance of lateral gene transfer in microbial evolution. Woese and colleagues' proposal of three fundamental domains of life was brought forward in direct conflict with the prokaryote-eukaryote dichotomy. Together with several colleagues and associates, he brought together diverse evidence to support the rRNA evidence for the fundamentally tripartite nature of life. This paper aims to provide insight into his accomplishments, how he achieved them, and his place in the history of biology.
PMCID: PMC3973382  PMID: 24296570
5.  Editorial Board 
PMCID: PMC3973383
6.  Mx Proteins: Antiviral Gatekeepers That Restrain the Uninvited 
Fifty years after the discovery of the mouse Mx1 gene, researchers are still trying to understand the molecular details of the antiviral mechanisms mediated by Mx proteins. Mx proteins are evolutionarily conserved dynamin-like large GTPases, and GTPase activity is required for their antiviral activity. The expression of Mx genes is controlled by type I and type III interferons. A phylogenetic analysis revealed that Mx genes are present in almost all vertebrates, usually in one to three copies. Mx proteins are best known for inhibiting negative-stranded RNA viruses, but they also inhibit other virus families. Recent structural analyses provide hints about the antiviral mechanisms of Mx proteins, but it is not known how they can suppress such a wide variety of viruses lacking an obvious common molecular pattern. Perhaps they interact with a (partially) symmetrical invading oligomeric structure, such as a viral ribonucleoprotein complex. Such an interaction may be of a fairly low affinity, in line with the broad target specificity of Mx proteins, yet it would be strong enough to instigate Mx oligomerization and ring assembly. Such a model is compatible with the broad “substrate” specificity of Mx proteins: depending on the size of the invading viral ribonucleoprotein complexes that need to be wrapped, the assembly process would consume the necessary amount of Mx precursor molecules. These Mx ring structures might then act as energy-consuming wrenches to disassemble the viral target structure.
PMCID: PMC3973384  PMID: 24296571
7.  Salmonella Pathogenicity and Host Adaptation in Chicken-Associated Serovars 
Enteric pathogens such as Salmonella enterica cause significant morbidity and mortality. S. enterica serovars are a diverse group of pathogens that have evolved to survive in a wide range of environments and across multiple hosts. S. enterica serovars such as S. Typhi, S. Dublin, and S. Gallinarum have a restricted host range, in which they are typically associated with one or a few host species, while S. Enteritidis and S. Typhimurium have broad host ranges. This review examines how S. enterica has evolved through adaptation to different host environments, especially as related to the chicken host, and continues to be an important human pathogen. Several factors impact host range, and these include the acquisition of genes via horizontal gene transfer with plasmids, transposons, and phages, which can potentially expand host range, and the loss of genes or their function, which would reduce the range of hosts that the organism can infect. S. Gallinarum, with a limited host range, has a large number of pseudogenes in its genome compared to broader-host-range serovars. S. enterica serovars such as S. Kentucky and S. Heidelberg also often have plasmids that may help them colonize poultry more efficiently. The ability to colonize different hosts also involves interactions with the host's immune system and commensal organisms that are present. Thus, the factors that impact the ability of Salmonella to colonize a particular host species, such as chickens, are complex and multifactorial, involving the host, the pathogen, and extrinsic pressures. It is the interplay of these factors which leads to the differences in host ranges that we observe today.
PMCID: PMC3973385  PMID: 24296573
8.  Variations in Virulence and Molecular Biology among Emerging Strains of Clostridium difficile 
Clostridium difficile is a Gram-positive, spore-forming organism which infects and colonizes the large intestine, produces potent toxins, triggers inflammation, and causes significant systemic complications. Treating C. difficile infection (CDI) has always been difficult, because the disease is both caused and resolved by antibiotic treatment. For three and a half decades, C. difficile has presented a treatment challenge to clinicians, and the situation took a turn for the worse about 10 years ago. An increase in epidemic outbreaks related to CDI was first noticed around 2003, and these outbreaks correlated with a sudden increase in the mortality rate of this illness. Further studies discovered that these changes in CDI epidemiology were associated with the rapid emergence of hypervirulent strains of C. difficile, now collectively referred to as NAP1/BI/027 strains. The discovery of new epidemic strains of C. difficile has provided a unique opportunity for retrospective and prospective studies that have sought to understand how these strains have essentially replaced more historical strains as a major cause of CDI. Moreover, detailed studies on the pathogenesis of NAP1/BI/027 strains are leading to new hypotheses on how this emerging strain causes severe disease and is more commonly associated with epidemics. In this review, we provide an overview of CDI, discuss critical mechanisms of C. difficile virulence, and explain how differences in virulence-associated factors between historical and newly emerging strains might explain the hypervirulence exhibited by this pathogen during the past decade.
PMCID: PMC3973386  PMID: 24296572
10.  Editorial Board 
PMCID: PMC3811604
11.  Ecology, Diversity, and Evolution of Magnetotactic Bacteria 
Magnetotactic bacteria (MTB) are widespread, motile, diverse prokaryotes that biomineralize a unique organelle called the magnetosome. Magnetosomes consist of a nano-sized crystal of a magnetic iron mineral that is enveloped by a lipid bilayer membrane. In cells of almost all MTB, magnetosomes are organized as a well-ordered chain. The magnetosome chain causes the cell to behave like a motile, miniature compass needle where the cell aligns and swims parallel to magnetic field lines. MTB are found in almost all types of aquatic environments, where they can account for an important part of the bacterial biomass. The genes responsible for magnetosome biomineralization are organized as clusters in the genomes of MTB, in some as a magnetosome genomic island. The functions of a number of magnetosome genes and their associated proteins in magnetosome synthesis and construction of the magnetosome chain have now been elucidated. The origin of magnetotaxis appears to be monophyletic; that is, it developed in a common ancestor to all MTB, although horizontal gene transfer of magnetosome genes also appears to play a role in their distribution. The purpose of this review, based on recent progress in this field, is focused on the diversity and the ecology of the MTB and also the evolution and transfer of the molecular determinants involved in magnetosome formation.
PMCID: PMC3811606  PMID: 24006473
12.  Functions, Compositions, and Evolution of the Two Types of Carboxysomes: Polyhedral Microcompartments That Facilitate CO2 Fixation in Cyanobacteria and Some Proteobacteria 
Cyanobacteria are the globally dominant photoautotrophic lineage. Their success is dependent on a set of adaptations collectively termed the CO2-concentrating mechanism (CCM). The purpose of the CCM is to support effective CO2 fixation by enhancing the chemical conditions in the vicinity of the primary CO2-fixing enzyme, d-ribulose 1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase (RubisCO), to promote the carboxylase reaction and suppress the oxygenase reaction. In cyanobacteria and some proteobacteria, this is achieved by encapsulation of RubisCO within carboxysomes, which are examples of a group of proteinaceous bodies called bacterial microcompartments. Carboxysomes encapsulate the CO2-fixing enzyme within the selectively permeable protein shell and simultaneously encapsulate a carbonic anhydrase enzyme for CO2 supply from a cytoplasmic bicarbonate pool. These bodies appear to have arisen twice and undergone a process of convergent evolution. While the gross structures of all known carboxysomes are ostensibly very similar, with shared gross features such as a selectively permeable shell layer, each type of carboxysome encapsulates a phyletically distinct form of RubisCO enzyme. Furthermore, the specific proteins forming structures such as the protein shell or the inner RubisCO matrix are not identical between carboxysome types. Each type has evolutionarily distinct forms of the same proteins, as well as proteins that are entirely unrelated to one another. In light of recent developments in the study of carboxysome structure and function, we present this review to summarize the knowledge of the structure and function of both types of carboxysome. We also endeavor to cast light on differing evolutionary trajectories which may have led to the differences observed in extant carboxysomes.
PMCID: PMC3811607  PMID: 24006469
13.  Mechanism of Homologous Recombination and Implications for Aging-Related Deletions in Mitochondrial DNA 
Homologous recombination is a universal process, conserved from bacteriophage to human, which is important for the repair of double-strand DNA breaks. Recombination in mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) was documented more than 4 decades ago, but the underlying molecular mechanism has remained elusive. Recent studies have revealed the presence of a Rad52-type recombination system of bacteriophage origin in mitochondria, which operates by a single-strand annealing mechanism independent of the canonical RecA/Rad51-type recombinases. Increasing evidence supports the notion that, like in bacteriophages, mtDNA inheritance is a coordinated interplay between recombination, repair, and replication. These findings could have profound implications for understanding the mechanism of mtDNA inheritance and the generation of mtDNA deletions in aging cells.
PMCID: PMC3811608  PMID: 24006472
14.  The TetR Family of Regulators 
The most common prokaryotic signal transduction mechanisms are the one-component systems in which a single polypeptide contains both a sensory domain and a DNA-binding domain. Among the >20 classes of one-component systems, the TetR family of regulators (TFRs) are widely associated with antibiotic resistance and the regulation of genes encoding small-molecule exporters. However, TFRs play a much broader role, controlling genes involved in metabolism, antibiotic production, quorum sensing, and many other aspects of prokaryotic physiology. There are several well-established model systems for understanding these important proteins, and structural studies have begun to unveil the mechanisms by which they bind DNA and recognize small-molecule ligands. The sequences for more than 200,000 TFRs are available in the public databases, and genomics studies are identifying their target genes. Three-dimensional structures have been solved for close to 200 TFRs. Comparison of these structures reveals a common overall architecture of nine conserved α helices. The most important open question concerning TFR biology is the nature and diversity of their ligands and how these relate to the biochemical processes under their control.
PMCID: PMC3811609  PMID: 24006471
15.  Type IV Pili in Gram-Positive Bacteria 
Type IV pili (T4P) are surface-exposed fibers that mediate many functions in bacteria, including locomotion, adherence to host cells, DNA uptake (competence), and protein secretion and that can act as nanowires carrying electric current. T4P are composed of a polymerized protein, pilin, and their assembly apparatuses share protein homologs with type II secretion systems in eubacteria and the flagella of archaea. T4P are found throughout Gram-negative bacterial families and have been studied most extensively in certain model Gram-negative species. Recently, it was discovered that T4P systems are also widespread among Gram-positive species, in particular the clostridia. Since Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria have many differences in cell wall architecture and other features, it is remarkable how similar the T4P core proteins are between these organisms, yet there are many key and interesting differences to be found as well. In this review, we compare the two T4P systems and identify and discuss the features they have in common and where they differ to provide a very broad-based view of T4P systems across all eubacterial species.
PMCID: PMC3811610  PMID: 24006467
16.  Patterns and Processes of Microbial Community Assembly 
Recent research has expanded our understanding of microbial community assembly. However, the field of community ecology is inaccessible to many microbial ecologists because of inconsistent and often confusing terminology as well as unnecessarily polarizing debates. Thus, we review recent literature on microbial community assembly, using the framework of Vellend (Q. Rev. Biol. 85:183–206, 2010) in an effort to synthesize and unify these contributions. We begin by discussing patterns in microbial biogeography and then describe four basic processes (diversification, dispersal, selection, and drift) that contribute to community assembly. We also discuss different combinations of these processes and where and when they may be most important for shaping microbial communities. The spatial and temporal scales of microbial community assembly are also discussed in relation to assembly processes. Throughout this review paper, we highlight differences between microbes and macroorganisms and generate hypotheses describing how these differences may be important for community assembly. We end by discussing the implications of microbial assembly processes for ecosystem function and biodiversity.
PMCID: PMC3811611  PMID: 24006468
17.  Pathogenesis of Human Enterovirulent Bacteria: Lessons from Cultured, Fully Differentiated Human Colon Cancer Cell Lines 
Hosts are protected from attack by potentially harmful enteric microorganisms, viruses, and parasites by the polarized fully differentiated epithelial cells that make up the epithelium, providing a physical and functional barrier. Enterovirulent bacteria interact with the epithelial polarized cells lining the intestinal barrier, and some invade the cells. A better understanding of the cross talk between enterovirulent bacteria and the polarized intestinal cells has resulted in the identification of essential enterovirulent bacterial structures and virulence gene products playing pivotal roles in pathogenesis. Cultured animal cell lines and cultured human nonintestinal, undifferentiated epithelial cells have been extensively used for understanding the mechanisms by which some human enterovirulent bacteria induce intestinal disorders. Human colon carcinoma cell lines which are able to express in culture the functional and structural characteristics of mature enterocytes and goblet cells have been established, mimicking structurally and functionally an intestinal epithelial barrier. Moreover, Caco-2-derived M-like cells have been established, mimicking the bacterial capture property of M cells of Peyer's patches. This review intends to analyze the cellular and molecular mechanisms of pathogenesis of human enterovirulent bacteria observed in infected cultured human colon carcinoma enterocyte-like HT-29 subpopulations, enterocyte-like Caco-2 and clone cells, the colonic T84 cell line, HT-29 mucus-secreting cell subpopulations, and Caco-2-derived M-like cells, including cell association, cell entry, intracellular lifestyle, structural lesions at the brush border, functional lesions in enterocytes and goblet cells, functional and structural lesions at the junctional domain, and host cellular defense responses.
PMCID: PMC3811612  PMID: 24006470
18.  What a Difference a Dalton Makes: Bacterial Virulence Factors Modulate Eukaryotic Host Cell Signaling Systems via Deamidation 
Pathogenic bacteria commonly deploy enzymes to promote virulence. These enzymes can modulate the functions of host cell targets. While the actions of some enzymes can be very obvious (e.g., digesting plant cell walls), others have more subtle activities. Depending on the lifestyle of the bacteria, these subtle modifications can be crucially important for pathogenesis. In particular, if bacteria rely on a living host, subtle mechanisms to alter host cellular function are likely to dominate. Several bacterial virulence factors have evolved to use enzymatic deamidation as a subtle posttranslational mechanism to modify the functions of host protein targets. Deamidation is the irreversible conversion of the amino acids glutamine and asparagine to glutamic acid and aspartic acid, respectively. Interestingly, all currently characterized bacterial deamidases affect the function of the target protein by modifying a single glutamine residue in the sequence. Deamidation of target host proteins can disrupt host signaling and downstream processes by either activating or inactivating the target. Despite the subtlety of this modification, it has been shown to cause dramatic, context-dependent effects on host cells. Several crystal structures of bacterial deamidases have been solved. All are members of the papain-like superfamily and display a cysteine-based catalytic triad. However, these proteins form distinct structural subfamilies and feature combinations of modular domains of various functions. Based on the diverse pathogens that use deamidation as a mechanism to promote virulence and the recent identification of multiple deamidases, it is clear that this enzymatic activity is emerging as an important and widespread feature in bacterial pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3811613  PMID: 24006474
19.  Acyltransferases in Bacteria 
Long-chain-length hydrophobic acyl residues play a vital role in a multitude of essential biological structures and processes. They build the inner hydrophobic layers of biological membranes, are converted to intracellular storage compounds, and are used to modify protein properties or function as membrane anchors, to name only a few functions. Acyl thioesters are transferred by acyltransferases or transacylases to a variety of different substrates or are polymerized to lipophilic storage compounds. Lipases represent another important enzyme class dealing with fatty acyl chains; however, they cannot be regarded as acyltransferases in the strict sense. This review provides a detailed survey of the wide spectrum of bacterial acyltransferases and compares different enzyme families in regard to their catalytic mechanisms. On the basis of their studied or assumed mechanisms, most of the acyl-transferring enzymes can be divided into two groups. The majority of enzymes discussed in this review employ a conserved acyltransferase motif with an invariant histidine residue, followed by an acidic amino acid residue, and their catalytic mechanism is characterized by a noncovalent transition state. In contrast to that, lipases rely on completely different mechanism which employs a catalytic triad and functions via the formation of covalent intermediates. This is, for example, similar to the mechanism which has been suggested for polyester synthases. Consequently, although the presented enzyme types neither share homology nor have a common three-dimensional structure, and although they deal with greatly varying molecule structures, this variety is not reflected in their mechanisms, all of which rely on a catalytically active histidine residue.
PMCID: PMC3668668  PMID: 23699259
20.  The Microbiology of Malting and Brewing 
Brewing beer involves microbial activity at every stage, from raw material production and malting to stability in the package. Most of these activities are desirable, as beer is the result of a traditional food fermentation, but others represent threats to the quality of the final product and must be controlled actively through careful management, the daily task of maltsters and brewers globally. This review collates current knowledge relevant to the biology of brewing yeast, fermentation management, and the microbial ecology of beer and brewing.
PMCID: PMC3668669  PMID: 23699253
21.  Editorial Board 
PMCID: PMC3668670
22.  Pyrophosphate-Fueled Na+ and H+ Transport in Prokaryotes 
In its early history, life appeared to depend on pyrophosphate rather than ATP as the source of energy. Ancient membrane pyrophosphatases that couple pyrophosphate hydrolysis to active H+ transport across biological membranes (H+-pyrophosphatases) have long been known in prokaryotes, plants, and protists. Recent studies have identified two evolutionarily related and widespread prokaryotic relics that can pump Na+ (Na+-pyrophosphatase) or both Na+ and H+ (Na+,H+-pyrophosphatase). Both these transporters require Na+ for pyrophosphate hydrolysis and are further activated by K+. The determination of the three-dimensional structures of H+- and Na+-pyrophosphatases has been another recent breakthrough in the studies of these cation pumps. Structural and functional studies have highlighted the major determinants of the cation specificities of membrane pyrophosphatases and their potential use in constructing transgenic stress-resistant organisms.
PMCID: PMC3668671  PMID: 23699258
23.  The Unexpected Roles of Eukaryotic Translation Elongation Factors in RNA Virus Replication and Pathogenesis 
The prokaryotic translation elongation factors were identified as essential cofactors for RNA-dependent RNA polymerase activity of the bacteriophage Qβ more than 40 years ago. A growing body of evidence now shows that eukaryotic translation elongation factors (eEFs), predominantly eEF1A, acting in partially characterized complexes sometimes involving additional eEFs, facilitate virus replication. The functions of eEF1A as a protein chaperone and an RNA- and actin-binding protein enable its “moonlighting” roles as a virus replication cofactor. A diverse group of viruses, from human immunodeficiency type 1 and West Nile virus to tomato bushy stunt virus, have adapted to use eEFs as cofactors for viral transcription, translation, assembly, and pathogenesis. Here we review the mechanisms used by viral pathogens to usurp these abundant cellular proteins for their replication.
PMCID: PMC3668672  PMID: 23699257
24.  Role of Pore-Forming Toxins in Bacterial Infectious Diseases 
Pore-forming toxins (PFTs) are the most common bacterial cytotoxic proteins and are required for virulence in a large number of important pathogens, including Streptococcus pneumoniae, group A and B streptococci, Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, and Mycobacterium tuberculosis. PFTs generally disrupt host cell membranes, but they can have additional effects independent of pore formation. Substantial effort has been devoted to understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying the functions of certain model PFTs. Likewise, specific host pathways mediating survival and immune responses in the face of toxin-mediated cellular damage have been delineated. However, less is known about the overall functions of PFTs during infection in vivo. This review focuses on common themes in the area of PFT biology, with an emphasis on studies addressing the roles of PFTs in in vivo and ex vivo models of colonization or infection. Common functions of PFTs include disruption of epithelial barrier function and evasion of host immune responses, which contribute to bacterial growth and spreading. The widespread nature of PFTs make this group of toxins an attractive target for the development of new virulence-targeted therapies that may have broad activity against human pathogens.
PMCID: PMC3668673  PMID: 23699254
25.  Role of Factor H Binding Protein in Neisseria meningitidis Virulence and Its Potential as a Vaccine Candidate To Broadly Protect against Meningococcal Disease 
Neisseria meningitidis is a Gram-negative microorganism that exists exclusively in humans and can cause devastating invasive disease. Although capsular polysaccharide-based vaccines against serogroups A, C, Y, and W135 are widely available, the pathway to a broadly protective vaccine against serogroup B has been more complex. The last 11 years has seen the discovery and development of the N. meningitidis serogroup B (MnB) outer membrane protein factor H binding protein (fHBP) as a vaccine component. Since the initial discovery of fHBP, a tremendous amount of work has accumulated on the diversity, structure, and regulation of this important protein. fHBP has proved to be a virulence factor for N. meningitidis and a target for functional bactericidal antibodies. fHBP is critical for survival of meningococci in the human host, as it is responsible for the primary interaction with human factor H (fH). Binding of hfH by the meningococcus serves to downregulate the host alternative complement pathway and helps the organism evade host innate immunity. Preclinical studies have shown that an fHBP-based vaccine can elicit serum bactericidal antibodies capable of killing MnB, and the vaccine has shown very encouraging results in human clinical trials. This report reviews our current knowledge of fHBP. In particular, we discuss the recent advances in our understanding of fHBP, its importance to N. meningitidis, and its potential role as a vaccine for preventing MnB disease.
PMCID: PMC3668674  PMID: 23699256

Results 1-25 (538)