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1.  Symbiotic Adaptation Drives Genome Streamlining of the Cyanobacterial Sponge Symbiont “Candidatus Synechococcus spongiarum” 
mBio  2014;5(2):e00079-14.
ABSTRACT
“Candidatus Synechococcus spongiarum” is a cyanobacterial symbiont widely distributed in sponges, but its functions at the genome level remain unknown. Here, we obtained the draft genome (1.66 Mbp, 90% estimated genome recovery) of “Ca. Synechococcus spongiarum” strain SH4 inhabiting the Red Sea sponge Carteriospongia foliascens. Phylogenomic analysis revealed a high dissimilarity between SH4 and free-living cyanobacterial strains. Essential functions, such as photosynthesis, the citric acid cycle, and DNA replication, were detected in SH4. Eukaryoticlike domains that play important roles in sponge-symbiont interactions were identified exclusively in the symbiont. However, SH4 could not biosynthesize methionine and polyamines and had lost partial genes encoding low-molecular-weight peptides of the photosynthesis complex, antioxidant enzymes, DNA repair enzymes, and proteins involved in resistance to environmental toxins and in biosynthesis of capsular and extracellular polysaccharides. These genetic modifications imply that “Ca. Synechococcus spongiarum” SH4 represents a low-light-adapted cyanobacterial symbiont and has undergone genome streamlining to adapt to the sponge’s mild intercellular environment.
IMPORTANCE
Although the diversity of sponge-associated microbes has been widely studied, genome-level research on sponge symbionts and their symbiotic mechanisms is rare because they are unculturable. “Candidatus Synechococcus spongiarum” is a widely distributed uncultivated cyanobacterial sponge symbiont. The genome of this symbiont will help to characterize its evolutionary relationship and functional dissimilarity to closely related free-living cyanobacterial strains. Knowledge of its adaptive mechanism to the sponge host also depends on the genome-level research. The data presented here provided an alternative strategy to obtain the draft genome of “Ca. Synechococcus spongiarum” strain SH4 and provide insight into its evolutionary and functional features.
doi:10.1128/mBio.00079-14
PMCID: PMC3977351  PMID: 24692632
2.  Microevolution During Serial Mouse Passage Demonstrates FRE3 as a Virulence Adaptation Gene in Cryptococcus neoformans 
mBio  2014;5(2):e00941-14.
ABSTRACT
Passage in mice of opportunistic pathogens such as Cryptococcus neoformans is known to increase virulence, but little is known about the molecular mechanisms involved in virulence adaptation. Serial mouse passage of nine environmental strains of serotype A C. neoformans identified two highly adapted virulent strains that showed a 4-fold reduction in time to death after four passages. Transcriptome sequencing expression studies demonstrated increased expression of a FRE3-encoded iron reductase in the two strains but not in a control strain that did not demonstrate increased virulence during mouse passage. FRE3 was shown to express an iron reductase activity and to play a role in iron-dependent growth of C. neoformans. Overexpression of FRE3 in the two original environmental strains increased growth in the macrophage cell line J774.16 and increased virulence. These data demonstrate a role for FRE3 in the virulence of C. neoformans and demonstrate how the increased expression of such a “virulence acquisition gene” during the environment-to-mammal transition, can optimize the virulence of environmental strains in mammalian hosts.
IMPORTANCE
Cryptococcus neoformans is a significant global fungal pathogen that also resides in the environment. Recent studies have suggested that the organism may undergo microevolution in the host. However, little is known about the permitted genetic changes facilitating the adaptation of environmental strains to mammalian hosts. The present studies subjected environmental strains isolated from several metropolitan areas of the United States to serial passages in mice. Transcriptome sequencing expression studies identified the increased expression of an iron reductase gene, FRE3, in two strains that adapted in mice to become highly virulent, and overexpression of FRE3 recapitulated the increased virulence after mouse passage. Iron reductase in yeast is important to iron uptake in a large number of microbial pathogens. These studies demonstrate the capacity of C. neoformans to show reproducible changes in the expression levels of small numbers of genes termed “virulence adaptation genes” to effectively increase pathogenicity during the environment-to-mammal transition.
doi:10.1128/mBio.00941-14
PMCID: PMC3977352  PMID: 24692633
3.  RIG-I Detects mRNA of Intracellular Salmonella enterica Serovar Typhimurium during Bacterial Infection 
mBio  2014;5(2):e01006-14.
ABSTRACT
The cytoplasmic helicase RIG-I is an established sensor for viral 5′-triphosphorylated RNA species. Recently, RIG-I was also implicated in the detection of intracellular bacteria. However, little is known about the host cell specificity of this process and the bacterial pathogen-associated molecular pattern (PAMP) that activates RIG-I. Here we show that RNA of Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium activates production of beta interferon in a RIG-I-dependent fashion only in nonphagocytic cells. In phagocytic cells, RIG-I is obsolete for detection of Salmonella infection. We further demonstrate that Salmonella mRNA reaches the cytoplasm during infection and is thus accessible for RIG-I. The results from next-generation sequencing analysis of RIG-I-associated RNA suggest that coding bacterial mRNAs represent the activating PAMP.
IMPORTANCE
S. Typhimurium is a major food-borne pathogen. After fecal-oral transmission, it can infect epithelial cells in the gut as well as immune cells (mainly macrophages, dendritic cells, and M cells). The innate host immune system relies on a growing number of sensors that detect pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs) to launch a first broad-spectrum response to invading pathogens. Successful detection of a given pathogen depends on colocalization of host sensors and PAMPs as well as potential countermeasures of the pathogen during infection. RIG-I-like helicases were mainly associated with detection of RNA viruses. Our work shows that S. Typhimurium is detected by RIG-I during infection specifically in nonimmune cells.
doi:10.1128/mBio.01006-14
PMCID: PMC3977358  PMID: 24692634
4.  Metatranscriptomics of the Human Oral Microbiome during Health and Disease 
mBio  2014;5(2):e01012-14.
ABSTRACT
The human microbiome plays important roles in health, but when disrupted, these same indigenous microbes can cause disease. The composition of the microbiome changes during the transition from health to disease; however, these changes are often not conserved among patients. Since microbiome-associated diseases like periodontitis cause similar patient symptoms despite interpatient variability in microbial community composition, we hypothesized that human-associated microbial communities undergo conserved changes in metabolism during disease. Here, we used patient-matched healthy and diseased samples to compare gene expression of 160,000 genes in healthy and diseased periodontal communities. We show that health- and disease-associated communities exhibit defined differences in metabolism that are conserved between patients. In contrast, the metabolic gene expression of individual species was highly variable between patients. These results demonstrate that despite high interpatient variability in microbial composition, disease-associated communities display conserved metabolic profiles that are generally accomplished by a patient-specific cohort of microbes.
IMPORTANCE
The human microbiome project has shown that shifts in our microbiota are associated with many diseases, including obesity, Crohn’s disease, diabetes, and periodontitis. While changes in microbial populations are apparent during these diseases, the species associated with each disease can vary from patient to patient. Taking into account this interpatient variability, we hypothesized that specific microbiota-associated diseases would be marked by conserved microbial community behaviors. Here, we use gene expression analyses of patient-matched healthy and diseased human periodontal plaque to show that microbial communities have highly conserved metabolic gene expression profiles, whereas individual species within the community do not. Furthermore, disease-associated communities exhibit conserved changes in metabolic and virulence gene expression.
doi:10.1128/mBio.01012-14
PMCID: PMC3977359  PMID: 24692635
5.  Regulatory Protein BBD18 of the Lyme Disease Spirochete: Essential Role During Tick Acquisition? 
mBio  2014;5(2):e01017-14.
ABSTRACT
The Lyme disease spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi senses and responds to environmental cues as it transits between the tick vector and vertebrate host. Failure to properly adapt can block transmission of the spirochete and persistence in either vector or host. We previously identified BBD18, a novel plasmid-encoded protein of B. burgdorferi, as a putative repressor of the host-essential factor OspC. In this study, we investigate the in vivo role of BBD18 as a regulatory protein, using an experimental mouse-tick model system that closely resembles the natural infectious cycle of B. burgdorferi. We show that spirochetes that have been engineered to constitutively produce BBD18 can colonize and persist in ticks but do not infect mice when introduced by either tick bite or needle inoculation. Conversely, spirochetes lacking BBD18 can persistently infect mice but are not acquired by feeding ticks. Through site-directed mutagenesis, we have demonstrated that abrogation of spirochete infection in mice by overexpression of BBD18 occurs only with bbd18 alleles that can suppress OspC synthesis. Finally, we demonstrate that BBD18-mediated regulation does not utilize a previously described ospC operator sequence required by B. burgdorferi for persistence in immunocompetent mice. These data lead us to conclude that BBD18 does not represent the putative repressor utilized by B. burgdorferi for the specific downregulation of OspC in the mammalian host. Rather, we suggest that BBD18 exhibits features more consistent with those of a global regulatory protein whose critical role occurs during spirochete acquisition by feeding ticks.
IMPORTANCE
Lyme disease, caused by Borrelia burgdorferi, is the most common arthropod-borne disease in North America. B. burgdorferi is transmitted to humans and other vertebrate hosts by ticks as they take a blood meal. Transmission between vectors and hosts requires the bacterium to sense changes in the environment and adapt. However, the mechanisms involved in this process are not well understood. By determining how B. burgdorferi cycles between two very different environments, we can potentially establish novel ways to interfere with transmission and limit infection of this vector-borne pathogen. We are studying a regulatory protein called BBD18 that we recently described. We found that too much BBD18 interferes with the spirochete’s ability to establish infection in mice, whereas too little BBD18 appears to prevent colonization in ticks. Our study provides new insight into key elements of the infectious cycle of the Lyme disease spirochete.
doi:10.1128/mBio.01017-14
PMCID: PMC3977360  PMID: 24692636
6.  Discovering Functions of Unannotated Genes from a Transcriptome Survey of Wild Fungal Isolates 
mBio  2014;5(2):e01046-13.
ABSTRACT
Most fungal genomes are poorly annotated, and many fungal traits of industrial and biomedical relevance are not well suited to classical genetic screens. Assigning genes to phenotypes on a genomic scale thus remains an urgent need in the field. We developed an approach to infer gene function from expression profiles of wild fungal isolates, and we applied our strategy to the filamentous fungus Neurospora crassa. Using transcriptome measurements in 70 strains from two well-defined clades of this microbe, we first identified 2,247 cases in which the expression of an unannotated gene rose and fell across N. crassa strains in parallel with the expression of well-characterized genes. We then used image analysis of hyphal morphologies, quantitative growth assays, and expression profiling to test the functions of four genes predicted from our population analyses. The results revealed two factors that influenced regulation of metabolism of nonpreferred carbon and nitrogen sources, a gene that governed hyphal architecture, and a gene that mediated amino acid starvation resistance. These findings validate the power of our population-transcriptomic approach for inference of novel gene function, and we suggest that this strategy will be of broad utility for genome-scale annotation in many fungal systems.
IMPORTANCE
Some fungal species cause deadly infections in humans or crop plants, and other fungi are workhorses of industrial chemistry, including the production of biofuels. Advances in medical and industrial mycology require an understanding of the genes that control fungal traits. We developed a method to infer functions of uncharacterized genes by observing correlated expression of their mRNAs with those of known genes across wild fungal isolates. We applied this strategy to a filamentous fungus and predicted functions for thousands of unknown genes. In four cases, we experimentally validated the predictions from our method, discovering novel genes involved in the metabolism of nutrient sources relevant for biofuel production, as well as colony morphology and starvation resistance. Our strategy is straightforward, inexpensive, and applicable for predicting gene function in many fungal species.
doi:10.1128/mBio.01046-13
PMCID: PMC3977361  PMID: 24692637
7.  Competitive Fitness in Coronaviruses Is Not Correlated with Size or Number of Double-Membrane Vesicles under Reduced-Temperature Growth Conditions 
mBio  2014;5(2):e01107-13.
ABSTRACT
Positive-stranded viruses synthesize their RNA in membrane-bound organelles, but it is not clear how this benefits the virus or the host. For coronaviruses, these organelles take the form of double-membrane vesicles (DMVs) interconnected by a convoluted membrane network. We used electron microscopy to identify murine coronaviruses with mutations in nsp3 and nsp14 that replicated normally while producing only half the normal amount of DMVs under low-temperature growth conditions. Viruses with mutations in nsp5 and nsp16 produced small DMVs but also replicated normally. Quantitative reverse transcriptase PCR (RT-PCR) confirmed that the most strongly affected of these, the nsp3 mutant, produced more viral RNA than wild-type virus. Competitive growth assays were carried out in both continuous and primary cells to better understand the contribution of DMVs to viral fitness. Surprisingly, several viruses that produced fewer or smaller DMVs showed a higher fitness than wild-type virus at the reduced temperature, suggesting that larger and more numerous DMVs do not necessarily confer a competitive advantage in primary or continuous cell culture. For the first time, this directly demonstrates that replication and organelle formation may be, at least in part, studied separately during infection with positive-stranded RNA virus.
IMPORTANCE
The viruses that cause severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), poliomyelitis, and hepatitis C all replicate in double-membrane vesicles (DMVs). The big question about DMVs is why they exist in the first place. In this study, we looked at thousands of infected cells and identified two coronavirus mutants that made half as many organelles as normal and two others that made typical numbers but smaller organelles. Despite differences in DMV size and number, all four mutants replicated as efficiently as wild-type virus. To better understand the relative importance of replicative organelles, we carried out competitive fitness experiments. None of these viruses was found to be significantly less fit than wild-type, and two were actually fitter in tests in two kinds of cells. This suggests that viruses have evolved to have tremendous plasticity in the ability to form membrane-associated replication complexes and that large and numerous DMVs are not exclusively associated with efficient coronavirus replication.
doi:10.1128/mBio.01107-13
PMCID: PMC3977362  PMID: 24692638
8.  Shear Forces Enhance Toxoplasma gondii Tachyzoite Motility on Vascular Endothelium 
mBio  2014;5(2):e01111-13.
ABSTRACT
Toxoplasma gondii is a highly successful parasite that infects approximately one-third of the human population and can cause fatal disease in immunocompromised individuals. Systemic parasite dissemination to organs such as the brain and eye is critical to pathogenesis. T. gondii can disseminate via the circulation, and both intracellular and extracellular modes of transport have been proposed. However, the processes by which extracellular tachyzoites adhere to and migrate across vascular endothelium under the conditions of rapidly flowing blood remain unknown. We used microfluidics and time-lapse fluorescence microscopy to examine the interactions between extracellular T. gondii and primary human endothelial cells under conditions of physiologic shear stress. Remarkably, tachyzoites adhered to and glided on human vascular endothelium under shear stress conditions. Compared to static conditions, shear stress enhanced T. gondii helical gliding, resulting in a significantly greater displacement, and increased the percentage of tachyzoites that invaded or migrated across the endothelium. The intensity of the shear forces (from 0.5 to 10 dynes/cm2) influenced both initial and sustained adhesion to endothelium. By examining tachyzoites deficient in the T. gondii adhesion protein MIC2, we found that MIC2 contributed to initial adhesion but was not required for adhesion strengthening. These data suggest that under fluidic conditions, T. gondii adhesion to endothelium may be mediated by a multistep cascade of interactions that is governed by unique combinations of adhesion molecules. This work provides novel information about tachyzoite interactions with vascular endothelium and contributes to our understanding of T. gondii dissemination in the infected host.
IMPORTANCE
Toxoplasma gondii is a global parasite pathogen that can cause fatal disease in immunocompromised individuals. An unresolved question is how the parasites circulate in the body to tissues to cause disease. T. gondii parasites are found in the bloodstream of infected animals and patients, and they have been shown to adhere to and cross the endothelial cells that line blood vessel walls. To investigate these interactions, we devised a microfluidic system to visualize parasites interacting with vascular endothelium under conditions similar to those found in the bloodstream. Interestingly, parasite migration was significantly influenced by the mechanical force of shear flow. Furthermore, we identified a role for the parasite surface protein MIC2 in the initial phase of adhesion. Our study is the first to document T. gondii interactions with endothelium under shear stress conditions and provides a foundation for future studies on the molecules that mediate parasite interaction with the vasculature.
doi:10.1128/mBio.01111-13
PMCID: PMC3977363  PMID: 24692639
9.  The Pathogen Candida albicans Hijacks Pyroptosis for Escape from Macrophages 
mBio  2014;5(2):e00003-14.
ABSTRACT
The fungal pathogen Candida albicans causes macrophage death and escapes, but the molecular mechanisms remained unknown. Here we used live-cell imaging to monitor the interaction of C. albicans with macrophages and show that C. albicans kills macrophages in two temporally and mechanistically distinct phases. Early upon phagocytosis, C. albicans triggers pyroptosis, a proinflammatory macrophage death. Pyroptosis is controlled by the developmental yeast-to-hypha transition of Candida. When pyroptosis is inactivated, wild-type C. albicans hyphae cause significantly less macrophage killing for up to 8 h postphagocytosis. After the first 8 h, a second macrophage-killing phase is initiated. This second phase depends on robust hyphal formation but is mechanistically distinct from pyroptosis. The transcriptional regulator Mediator is necessary for morphogenesis of C. albicans in macrophages and the establishment of the wild-type surface architecture of hyphae that together mediate activation of macrophage cell death. Our data suggest that the defects of the Mediator mutants in causing macrophage death are caused, at least in part, by reduced activation of pyroptosis. A Mediator mutant that forms hyphae of apparently wild-type morphology but is defective in triggering early macrophage death shows a breakdown of cell surface architecture and reduced exposed 1,3 β-glucan in hyphae. Our report shows how Candida uses host and pathogen pathways for macrophage killing. The current model of mechanical piercing of macrophages by C. albicans hyphae should be revised to include activation of pyroptosis by hyphae as an important mechanism mediating macrophage cell death upon C. albicans infection.
IMPORTANCE
Upon phagocytosis by macrophages, Candida albicans can transition to the hyphal form, which causes macrophage death and enables fungal escape. The current model is that the highly polarized growth of hyphae results in macrophage piercing. This model is challenged by recent reports of C. albicans mutants that form hyphae of wild-type morphology but are defective in killing macrophages. We show that C. albicans causes macrophage cell death by at least two mechanisms. Phase 1 killing (first 6 to 8 h) depends on the activation of the pyroptotic programmed host cell death by fungal hyphae. Phase 2 (up to 24 h) is rapid and depends on robust hyphal formation but is independent of pyroptosis. Our data provide a new model for how the interplay between fungal morphogenesis and activation of a host cell death pathway mediates macrophage killing by C. albicans hyphae.
doi:10.1128/mBio.00003-14
PMCID: PMC3977349  PMID: 24667705
10.  A Mouse Model for Betacoronavirus Subgroup 2c Using a Bat Coronavirus Strain HKU5 Variant 
mBio  2014;5(2):e00047-14.
ABSTRACT
Cross-species transmission of zoonotic coronaviruses (CoVs) can result in pandemic disease outbreaks. Middle East respiratory syndrome CoV (MERS-CoV), identified in 2012, has caused 182 cases to date, with ~43% mortality, and no small animal model has been reported. MERS-CoV and Pipistrellus bat coronavirus (BtCoV) strain HKU5 of Betacoronavirus (β-CoV) subgroup 2c share >65% identity at the amino acid level in several regions, including nonstructural protein 5 (nsp5) and the nucleocapsid (N) protein, which are significant drug and vaccine targets. BtCoV HKU5 has been described in silico but has not been shown to replicate in culture, thus hampering drug and vaccine studies against subgroup 2c β-CoVs. We report the synthetic reconstruction and testing of BtCoV HKU5 containing the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)-CoV spike (S) glycoprotein ectodomain (BtCoV HKU5-SE). This virus replicates efficiently in cell culture and in young and aged mice, where the virus targets airway and alveolar epithelial cells. Unlike some subgroup 2b SARS-CoV vaccines that elicit a strong eosinophilia following challenge, we demonstrate that BtCoV HKU5 and MERS-CoV N-expressing Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus replicon particle (VRP) vaccines do not cause extensive eosinophilia following BtCoV HKU5-SE challenge. Passage of BtCoV HKU5-SE in young mice resulted in enhanced virulence, causing 20% weight loss, diffuse alveolar damage, and hyaline membrane formation in aged mice. Passaged virus was characterized by mutations in the nsp13, nsp14, open reading frame 5 (ORF5) and M genes. Finally, we identified an inhibitor active against the nsp5 proteases of subgroup 2c β-CoVs. Synthetic-genome platforms capable of reconstituting emerging zoonotic viral pathogens or their phylogenetic relatives provide new strategies for identifying broad-based therapeutics, evaluating vaccine outcomes, and studying viral pathogenesis.
IMPORTANCE
The 2012 outbreak of MERS-CoV raises the specter of another global epidemic, similar to the 2003 SARS-CoV epidemic. MERS-CoV is related to BtCoV HKU5 in target regions that are essential for drug and vaccine testing. Because no small animal model exists to evaluate MERS-CoV pathogenesis or to test vaccines, we constructed a recombinant BtCoV HKU5 that expressed a region of the SARS-CoV spike (S) glycoprotein, thereby allowing the recombinant virus to grow in cell culture and in mice. We show that this recombinant virus targets airway epithelial cells and causes disease in aged mice. We use this platform to (i) identify a broad-spectrum antiviral that can potentially inhibit viruses closely related to MERS-CoV, (ii) demonstrate the absence of increased eosinophilic immune pathology for MERS-CoV N protein-based vaccines, and (iii) mouse adapt this virus to identify viral genetic determinants of cross-species transmission and virulence. This study holds significance as a strategy to control newly emerging viruses.
doi:10.1128/mBio.00047-14
PMCID: PMC3977350  PMID: 24667706
11.  Coupling Between Protein Level Selection and Codon Usage Optimization in the Evolution of Bacteria and Archaea 
mBio  2014;5(2):e00956-14.
ABSTRACT
The relationship between the selection affecting codon usage and selection on protein sequences of orthologous genes in diverse groups of bacteria and archaea was examined by using the Alignable Tight Genome Clusters database of prokaryote genomes. The codon usage bias is generally low, with 57.5% of the gene-specific optimal codon frequencies (Fopt) being below 0.55. This apparent weak selection on codon usage contrasts with the strong purifying selection on amino acid sequences, with 65.8% of the gene-specific dN/dS ratios being below 0.1. For most of the genomes compared, a limited but statistically significant negative correlation between Fopt and dN/dS was observed, which is indicative of a link between selection on protein sequence and selection on codon usage. The strength of the coupling between the protein level selection and codon usage bias showed a strong positive correlation with the genomic GC content. Combined with previous observations on the selection for GC-rich codons in bacteria and archaea with GC-rich genomes, these findings suggest that selection for translational fine-tuning could be an important factor in microbial evolution that drives the evolution of genome GC content away from mutational equilibrium. This type of selection is particularly pronounced in slowly evolving, “high-status” genes. A significantly stronger link between the two aspects of selection is observed in free-living bacteria than in parasitic bacteria and in genes encoding metabolic enzymes and transporters than in informational genes. These differences might reflect the special importance of translational fine-tuning for the adaptability of gene expression to environmental changes. The results of this work establish the coupling between protein level selection and selection for translational optimization as a distinct and potentially important factor in microbial evolution.
IMPORTANCE
Selection affects the evolution of microbial genomes at many levels, including both the structure of proteins and the regulation of their production. Here we demonstrate the coupling between the selection on protein sequences and the optimization of codon usage in a broad range of bacteria and archaea. The strength of this coupling varies over a wide range and strongly and positively correlates with the genomic GC content. The cause(s) of the evolution of high GC content is a long-standing open question, given the universal mutational bias toward AT. We propose that optimization of codon usage could be one of the key factors that determine the evolution of GC-rich genomes. This work establishes the coupling between selection at the level of protein sequence and at the level of codon choice optimization as a distinct aspect of genome evolution.
doi:10.1128/mBio.00956-14
PMCID: PMC3977353  PMID: 24667707
12.  Comparison of Widely Used Listeria monocytogenes Strains EGD, 10403S, and EGD-e Highlights Genomic Differences Underlying Variations in Pathogenicity 
mBio  2014;5(2):e00969-14.
ABSTRACT
For nearly 3 decades, listeriologists and immunologists have used mainly three strains of the same serovar (1/2a) to analyze the virulence of the bacterial pathogen Listeria monocytogenes. The genomes of two of these strains, EGD-e and 10403S, were released in 2001 and 2008, respectively. Here we report the genome sequence of the third reference strain, EGD, and extensive genomic and phenotypic comparisons of the three strains. Strikingly, EGD-e is genetically highly distinct from EGD (29,016 single nucleotide polymorphisms [SNPs]) and 10403S (30,296 SNPs), and is more related to serovar 1/2c than 1/2a strains. We also found that while EGD and 10403S strains are genetically very close (317 SNPs), EGD has a point mutation in the transcriptional regulator PrfA (PrfA*), leading to constitutive expression of several major virulence genes. We generated an EGD-e PrfA* mutant and showed that EGD behaves like this strain in vitro, with slower growth in broth and higher invasiveness in human cells than those of EGD-e and 10403S. In contrast, bacterial counts in blood, liver, and spleen during infection in mice revealed that EGD and 10403S are less virulent than EGD-e, which is itself less virulent than EGD-e PrfA*. Thus, constitutive expression of PrfA-regulated virulence genes does not appear to provide a significant advantage to the EGD strain during infection in vivo, highlighting the fact that in vitro invasion assays are not sufficient for evaluating the pathogenic potential of L. monocytogenes strains. Together, our results pave the way for deciphering unexplained differences or discrepancies in experiments using different L. monocytogenes strains.
IMPORTANCE
Over the past 3 decades, Listeria has become a model organism for host-pathogen interactions, leading to critical discoveries in a broad range of fields, including bacterial gene regulation, cell biology, and bacterial pathophysiology. Scientists studying Listeria use primarily three pathogenic strains: EGD, EGD-e, and 10403S. Despite many studies on EGD, it is the only one of the three strains whose genome has not been sequenced. Here we report the sequence of its genome and a series of important genomic and phenotypic differences between the three strains, in particular, a critical mutation in EGD’s PrfA, the main regulator of Listeria virulence. Our results show that the three strains display differences which may play an important role in the virulence differences observed between the strains. Our findings will be of critical relevance to listeriologists and immunologists who have used or may use Listeria as a tool to study the pathophysiology of listeriosis and immune responses.
doi:10.1128/mBio.00969-14
PMCID: PMC3977354  PMID: 24667708
13.  A Poly-N-Acetylglucosamine−Shiga Toxin Broad-Spectrum Conjugate Vaccine for Shiga Toxin-Producing Escherichia coli 
mBio  2014;5(2):e00974-14.
ABSTRACT
Many pathogens produce the β-(1−6)-linked poly-N-acetylglucosamine (PNAG) surface polysaccharide that is being developed as a broadly protective antimicrobial vaccine. However, it is unknown whether systemically injected PNAG vaccines or antibodies would provide protective immunity against pathogens confined to the gastrointestinal tract such as Shiga toxin (Stx)-producing Escherichia coli (STEC), an important group of gastrointestinal (GI) pathogens for which effective immunotherapeutics are lacking. To ascertain whether systemic IgG antibody to PNAG impacts this infectious situation, a vaccine consisting of a synthetic nonamer of nonacetylated PNAG, 9GlcNH2, conjugated to the Shiga toxin 1b subunit (9GlcNH2-Stx1b) was produced. Rabbit antibodies raised to the conjugate vaccine were tested for bacterial killing and toxin neutralization in vitro and protection against infection in infant mice. Cell surface PNAG was detected on all 9 STEC isolates tested, representing 6 STEC serogroups, including E. coli O157:H7. Antibody to the 9GlcNH2-Stx1b conjugate neutralized Stx1 potently and Stx2 modestly. For O157:H7 and O104:H4 STEC strains, antibodies elicited by the 9GlcNH2-Stx1b conjugate possessed opsonic killing and bactericidal activity. Following intraperitoneal injection, antibodies to both PNAG and Stx were needed for infant mouse protection against O157 STEC. These antibodies also mediated protection against the Stx2-producing O104:H4 strain that was the cause of a recent outbreak in Germany, although sufficient doses of antibody to PNAG alone were protective against this strain in infant mice. Our observations suggest that vaccination against both PNAG and Stx, using a construct such as the 9GlcNH2-Stx1b conjugate vaccine, would be protective against a broad range of STEC serogroups.
IMPORTANCE
The presence of poly-N-acetylglucosamine (PNAG) on many pathogens presents an opportunity to target this one structure with a multispecies vaccine. Whether antibodies to PNAG can protect against pathogens confined to the gastrointestinal tract is not known. As Shiga toxin (Stx)-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) bacteria are serious causes of infection whose virulence is dependent on elaboration of Stx, we prepared a vaccine containing a synthetic nonamer of PNAG (9GlcNH2) conjugated to Shiga toxin 1b subunit (9GlcNH2-Stx1b) to evaluate bacterial killing, toxin neutralization, and protective efficacy in infant mice. All nine (100%) clinical strains of STEC from different serogroups expressed PNAG. Vaccine-induced antibody mediated in vitro killing of STEC and neutralization of both Stx1 and Stx2. Passive administration of antibody to the conjugate showed protection requiring immunity to both PNAG and Stx for O157 strains, although for an O104 strain, antibody to PNAG alone was protective. Immunity to PNAG may contribute to protection against STEC infections.
doi:10.1128/mBio.00974-14
PMCID: PMC3977355  PMID: 24667709
15.  Is Virology Dead? 
mBio  2014;5(2):e01003-14.
doi:10.1128/mBio.01003-14
PMCID: PMC3977357  PMID: 24667711
16.  Causes for the Persistence of Impact Factor Mania 
mBio  2014;5(2):e00064-14.
ABSTRACT
Numerous essays have addressed the misuse of the journal impact factor for judging the value of science, but the practice continues, primarily as a result of the actions of scientists themselves. This seemingly irrational behavior is referred to as “impact factor mania.” Although the literature on the impact factor is extensive, little has been written on the underlying causes of impact factor mania. In this perspective, we consider the reasons for the persistence of impact factor mania and its pernicious effects on science. We conclude that impact factor mania persists because it confers significant benefits to individual scientists and journals. Impact factor mania is a variation of the economic theory known as the “tragedy of the commons,” in which scientists act rationally in their own self-interests despite the detrimental consequences of their actions on the overall scientific enterprise. Various measures to reduce the influence of the impact factor are considered.
IMPORTANCE
Science and scientists are currently afflicted by an epidemic of mania manifested by associating the value of research with the journal where the work is published rather than the content of the work itself. The mania is causing profound distortions in the way science is done that are deleterious to the overall scientific enterprise. In this essay, we consider the forces responsible for the persistence of the mania and conclude that it is maintained because it disproportionately benefits elements of the scientific enterprise, including certain well-established scientists, journals, and administrative interests. Our essay suggests steps that can be taken to deal with this debilitating and destructive epidemic.
doi:10.1128/mBio.00064-14
PMCID: PMC3967521  PMID: 24643863
17.  Anti-Granulocyte-Macrophage Colony-Stimulating Factor Autoantibodies Are a Risk Factor for Central Nervous System Infection by Cryptococcus gattii in Otherwise Immunocompetent Patients 
mBio  2014;5(2):e00912-14.
ABSTRACT
Cryptococcosis is caused by either Cryptococcus neoformans or C. gattii. While cryptococcal meningoencephalitis is caused mostly by C. neoformans in immunocompromised patients, the risk factors remain unclear for patients with no known immune defect. Recently, anti-granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) autoantibodies were detected in the plasma of seven “immunocompetent” cryptococcosis patients, and the cryptococcal strains from these patients were reported as C. neoformans (three strains), C. gattii (one strain), and Cryptococcus (three strains not identified to the species level). We identified all three strains that had not been identified to the species level as C. gattii. Notably, the three strains that were reported as C. neoformans but were unavailable for species confirmation originated from Sothern California and Thailand where C. gattii is endemic. Most clinical laboratories designate C. neoformans without distinguishing between the two species; hence, these three strains could have been C. gattii. Since C. gattii infects more immunocompetent patients than C. neoformans, we pursued the possibility that this antibody may be more prevalent in patients infected with C. gattii than in those infected with C. neoformans. We screened the plasma of 20 healthy controls and 30 “immunocompetent” patients with cryptococcal meningoencephalitis from China and Australia (multiple ethnicities). Anti-GM-CSF autoantibodies were detected only in the plasma of seven patients infected by C. gattii and one healthy volunteer and in none infected by C. neoformans. While plasma from these C. gattii patients completely prevented GM-CSF-induced p-STAT5 in normal human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs), plasma from one healthy volunteer positive for anti-GM-CSF autoantibodies caused only partial blockage. Our results suggest that anti-GM-CSF autoantibodies may predispose otherwise immunocompetent individuals to meningoencephalitis caused by C. gattii but not necessarily to that caused by C. neoformans.
IMPORTANCE
Cryptococcal meningoencephalitis is the most serious central nervous system (CNS) infection caused by Cryptococcus neoformans or C. gattii. Cryptococcus primarily infects immunocopromised patients but is also sporadically encountered in otherwise “immunocompetent” patients with no known risk. In a recent study, anti-GM-CSF autoantibodies were detected in the plasma of seven otherwise immunocompetent patients with cryptococcal meningoencephalitis. Four of seven (57%) cryptococcal isolates from these patients were identified as C. gattii, while three strains were unavailable for species confirmation. We collected plasma from 30 otherwise healthy patients with CNS cryptococcosis in China and Australia (multiethnic) and analyzed the samples for the presence of anti-GM-CSF autoantibodies. The results suggest that anti-GM-CSF autoantibodies are a risk factor for CNS infection by C. gattii but not C. neoformans. GM-CSF may have a specific role in host defense against C. gattii, thereby elevating the importance of determining the level of anti-GM-CSF autoantibodies which can impact clinical management.
doi:10.1128/mBio.00912-14
PMCID: PMC3967522  PMID: 24643864
18.  Comparative Analysis of Salmonella Genomes Identifies a Metabolic Network for Escalating Growth in the Inflamed Gut 
mBio  2014;5(2):e00929-14.
ABSTRACT
The Salmonella genus comprises a group of pathogens associated with illnesses ranging from gastroenteritis to typhoid fever. We performed an in silico analysis of comparatively reannotated Salmonella genomes to identify genomic signatures indicative of disease potential. By removing numerous annotation inconsistencies and inaccuracies, the process of reannotation identified a network of 469 genes involved in central anaerobic metabolism, which was intact in genomes of gastrointestinal pathogens but degrading in genomes of extraintestinal pathogens. This large network contained pathways that enable gastrointestinal pathogens to utilize inflammation-derived nutrients as well as many of the biochemical reactions used for the enrichment and biochemical discrimination of Salmonella serovars. Thus, comparative genome analysis identifies a metabolic network that provides clues about the strategies for nutrient acquisition and utilization that are characteristic of gastrointestinal pathogens.
IMPORTANCE
While some Salmonella serovars cause infections that remain localized to the gut, others disseminate throughout the body. Here, we compared Salmonella genomes to identify characteristics that distinguish gastrointestinal from extraintestinal pathogens. We identified a large metabolic network that is functional in gastrointestinal pathogens but decaying in extraintestinal pathogens. While taxonomists have used traits from this network empirically for many decades for the enrichment and biochemical discrimination of Salmonella serovars, our findings suggest that it is part of a “business plan” for growth in the inflamed gastrointestinal tract. By identifying a large metabolic network characteristic of Salmonella serovars associated with gastroenteritis, our in silico analysis provides a blueprint for potential strategies to utilize inflammation-derived nutrients and edge out competing gut microbes.
doi:10.1128/mBio.00929-14
PMCID: PMC3967523  PMID: 24643865
19.  Increased Survival in B-Cell-Deficient Mice during Experimental Cerebral Malaria Suggests a Role for Circulating Immune Complexes 
mBio  2014;5(2):e00949-14.
ABSTRACT
The pathogenesis of malaria, an insect-borne disease that takes millions of lives every year, is still not fully understood. Complement receptor 1 (CR1) has been described as a receptor for Plasmodium falciparum, which causes cerebral malaria in humans. We investigated the role of CR1 in an experimental model of cerebral malaria. Transgenic mice expressing human CR1 (hCR1+) on erythrocytes were infected with Plasmodium berghei ANKA and developed cerebral malaria. No difference in survival was observed in hCR1+ mice compared to wild-type mice following infection with P. berghei ANKA; however, hCR1 detection was significantly diminished on erythrocytes between days 7 and 10 postinfection. hCR1 levels returned to baseline by day 17 postinfection in surviving animals. Immunoblot assays revealed that total erythrocyte hCR1 levels were diminished, confirming that immune complexes in association with erythrocyte hCR1 were likely removed from erythrocytes in vivo by clearance following immune adherence. Decreases in hCR1 were completely dependent on C3 expression, as mice treated with cobra venom factor (which consumes and depletes C3) retained hCR1 on erythrocytes during C3 depletion through day 7; erythrocyte hCR1 decreases were observed only when C3 levels recovered on day 9. B-cell-deficient mice exhibit a marked increase in survival following infection with P. berghei ANKA, which suggests that immune complexes play a central role in the pathogenesis of experimental cerebral malaria. Together, our findings highlight the importance of complement and immune complexes in experimental cerebral malaria.
IMPORTANCE
Cerebral malaria is a deadly complication of infection with Plasmodium falciparum. Despite its high prevalence, relatively little is understood about its pathogenesis. We have determined that immune complexes are generated and deposited on erythrocytes specifically expressing human complement receptor 1 in a mouse model of cerebral malaria. We also provide evidence demonstrating the importance of immunoglobulins in the pathogenesis of cerebral malaria in mice. These findings may have important implications in human cerebral malaria.
doi:10.1128/mBio.00949-14
PMCID: PMC3967524  PMID: 24643866
20.  Biogeochemical Forces Shape the Composition and Physiology of Polymicrobial Communities in the Cystic Fibrosis Lung 
mBio  2014;5(2):e00956-13.
ABSTRACT
The cystic fibrosis (CF) lung contains thick mucus colonized by opportunistic pathogens which adapt to the CF lung environment over decades. The difficulty associated with sampling airways has impeded a thorough examination of the biochemical microhabitats these pathogens are exposed to. An indirect approach is to study the responses of microbial communities to these microhabitats, facilitated by high-throughput sequencing of microbial DNA and RNA from sputum samples. Microbial metagenomes and metatranscriptomes were sequenced from multiple CF patients, and the reads were assigned taxonomy and function through sequence homology to NCBI and the Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes (KEGG) database hierarchies. For a comparison, saliva microbial metagenomes from the Human Microbiome Project (HMP) were also analyzed. These analyses identified that functions encoded and expressed by CF microbes were significantly enriched for amino acid catabolism, folate biosynthesis, and lipoic acid biosynthesis. The data indicate that the community uses oxidative phosphorylation as a major energy source but that terminal electron acceptors were diverse. Nitrate reduction was the most abundant anaerobic respiratory pathway, and genes for nitrate reductase were largely assigned to Pseudomonas and Rothia. Although many reductive pathways of the nitrogen cycle were present, the cycle was incomplete, because the oxidative pathways were absent. Due to the abundant amino acid catabolism and incomplete nitrogen cycle, the CF microbial community appears to accumulate ammonia. This finding was verified experimentally using a CF bronchiole culture model system. The data also revealed abundant sensing and transport of iron, ammonium, zinc, and other metals along with a low-oxygen environment. This study reveals the core biochemistry and physiology of the CF microbiome.
IMPORTANCE
The cystic fibrosis (CF) microbial community is complex and adapts to the environmental conditions of the lung over the lifetime of a CF patient. This analysis illustrates the core functions of the CF microbial community in the context of CF lung biochemistry. There are many studies of the metabolism and physiology of individual microbes within the CF lung, but none that collectively analyze data from the whole microbiome. Understanding the core metabolism of microbes that inhabit the CF lung can provide new targets for novel therapies. The fundamental processes that CF pathogens rely on for survival may represent an Achilles heel for this pathogenic community. Novel therapies that are designed to disrupt understudied survival strategies of the CF microbial community may succeed against otherwise untreatable or antibiotic-resistant microbes.
doi:10.1128/mBio.00956-13
PMCID: PMC3967525  PMID: 24643867
21.  Autophagy Facilitates Salmonella Replication in HeLa Cells 
mBio  2014;5(2):e00865-14.
ABSTRACT
Autophagy is a process whereby a double-membrane structure (autophagosome) engulfs unnecessary cytosolic proteins, organelles, and invading pathogens and delivers them to the lysosome for degradation. We examined the fate of cytosolic Salmonella targeted by autophagy and found that autophagy-targeted Salmonella present in the cytosol of HeLa cells correlates with intracellular bacterial replication. Real-time analyses revealed that a subset of cytosolic Salmonella extensively associates with autophagy components p62 and/or LC3 and replicates quickly, whereas intravacuolar Salmonella shows no or very limited association with p62 or LC3 and replicates much more slowly. Replication of cytosolic Salmonella in HeLa cells is significantly decreased when autophagy components are depleted. Eventually, hyperreplication of cytosolic Salmonella potentiates cell detachment, facilitating the dissemination of Salmonella to neighboring cells. We propose that Salmonella benefits from autophagy for its cytosolic replication in HeLa cells.
IMPORTANCE
As a host defense system, autophagy is known to target a population of Salmonella for degradation and hence restricting Salmonella replication. In contrast to this concept, a recent report showed that knockdown of Rab1, a GTPase required for autophagy of Salmonella, decreases Salmonella replication in HeLa cells. Here, we have reexamined the fate of Salmonella targeted by autophagy by various cell biology-based assays. We found that the association of autophagy components with cytosolic Salmonella increases shortly after initiation of intracellular bacterial replication. Furthermore, through a live-cell imaging method, a subset of cytosolic Salmonella was found to be extensively associated with autophagy components p62 and/or LC3, and they replicated quickly. Most importantly, depletion of autophagy components significantly reduced the replication of cytosolic Salmonella in HeLa cells. Hence, in contrast to previous reports, we propose that autophagy facilitates Salmonella replication in the cytosol of HeLa cells.
doi:10.1128/mBio.00865-14
PMCID: PMC3952155  PMID: 24618251
22.  Selective Association of Outer Surface Lipoproteins with the Lipid Rafts of Borrelia burgdorferi 
mBio  2014;5(2):e00899-14.
ABSTRACT
Borrelia burgdorferi contains unique cholesterol-glycolipid-rich lipid rafts that are associated with lipoproteins. These complexes suggest the existence of macromolecular structures that have not been reported for prokaryotes. Outer surface lipoproteins OspA, OspB, and OspC were studied for their participation in the formation of lipid rafts. Single-gene deletion mutants with deletions of ∆ospA, ∆ospB, and ∆ospC and a spontaneous gene mutant, strain B313, which does not express OspA and OspB, were used to establish their structural roles in the lipid rafts. All mutant strains used in this study produced detergent-resistant membranes, a common characteristic of lipid rafts, and had similar lipid and protein slot blot profiles. Lipoproteins OspA and OspB but not OspC were shown to be associated with lipid rafts by transmission electron microscopy. When the ability to form lipid rafts in live B. burgdorferi spirochetes was measured by fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET), strain B313 showed a statistically significant lower level of segregation into ordered and disordered membrane domains than did the wild-type and the other single-deletion mutants. The transformation of a B313 strain with a shuttle plasmid containing ospA restored the phenotype shared by the wild type and the single-deletion mutants, demonstrating that OspA and OspB have redundant functions. In contrast, a transformed B313 overexpressing OspC neither rescued the FRET nor colocalized with the lipid rafts. Because these lipoproteins are expressed at different stages of the life cycle of B. burgdorferi, their selective association is likely to have an important role in the structure of prokaryotic lipid rafts and in the organism’s adaptation to changing environments.
IMPORTANCE
Lipid rafts are cholesterol-rich clusters within the membranes of cells. Lipid rafts contain proteins that have functions in sensing the cell environment and transmitting signals. Although selective proteins are present in lipid rafts, little is known about their structural contribution to these domains. Borrelia burgdorferi, the agent of Lyme disease, has lipid rafts, which are novel structures in bacteria. Here, we have shown that the raft-associated lipoproteins OspA and OspB selectively contribute to lipid rafts. A similar but non-raft-associated lipoprotein, OspC, cannot substitute for the role of OspA and OspB. In this study, we have demonstrated that lipoprotein association with lipid rafts is selective, further suggesting a functional adaptation to different stages of the spirochete life cycle. The results of this study are of broader importance and can serve as a model for other bacteria that also possess cholesterol in their membranes and, therefore, may share lipid raft traits with Borrelia.
doi:10.1128/mBio.00899-14
PMCID: PMC3952156  PMID: 24618252
23.  Virus-Induced Transcriptional Changes in the Brain Include the Differential Expression of Genes Associated with Interferon, Apoptosis, Interleukin 17 Receptor A, and Glutamate Signaling as Well as Flavivirus-Specific Upregulation of tRNA Synthetases 
mBio  2014;5(2):e00902-14.
ABSTRACT
Flaviviruses, particularly Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) and West Nile virus (WNV), are important causes of virus-induced central nervous system (CNS) disease in humans. We used microarray analysis to identify cellular genes that are differentially regulated following infection of the brain with JEV (P3) or WNV (New York 99). Gene expression data for these flaviviruses were compared to those obtained following infection of the brain with reovirus (type 3 Dearing), an unrelated neurotropic virus. We found that a large number of genes were up-regulated by all three viruses (using the criteria of a change of >2-fold and a P value of <0.001), including genes associated with interferon signaling, the immune system, inflammation, and cell death/survival signaling. In addition, genes associated with glutamate signaling were down-regulated in infections with all three viruses (criteria, a >2-fold change and a P value of <0.001). These genes may serve as broad-spectrum therapeutic targets for virus-induced CNS disease. A distinct set of genes were up-regulated following flavivirus infection but not following infection with reovirus. These genes were associated with tRNA charging and may serve as therapeutic targets for flavivirus-induced CNS disease.
IMPORTANCE
Viral infections of the central nervous system (CNS) are an important cause of morbidity and mortality. Treatment options for virus-induced CNS disease are limited, and for many clinically important neurotropic viruses, no specific therapy of proven benefit is currently available. We performed microarray analysis to identify genes that are differentially regulated in the brain following virus infection in order to identify pathways that might provide novel therapeutic targets for virus-induced CNS disease. Although several studies have described gene expression changes following virus infection of the brain, this report is the first to directly compare large-scale gene expression data from different viruses. We identified genes that are differentially regulated in infection of the brain with viruses from different families and those which appear to be specific to flavivirus infections.
doi:10.1128/mBio.00902-14
PMCID: PMC3952157  PMID: 24618253
24.  Preferential Packing of Acidic Glycosidases and Proteases into Bacteroides Outer Membrane Vesicles 
mBio  2014;5(2):e00909-14.
ABSTRACT
Outer membrane vesicles (OMV) are spherical membranous structures released from the outer membrane (OM) of Gram-negative bacteria. OMV have been proposed to play several different roles during both pathogenesis and symbiosis. Despite the fact that OMV were described several decades ago, their biogenesis is a poorly characterized process. Whether OMV are produced by an active mechanism or by passive disintegration of the OM is a still matter of controversy. Bacteroides fragilis and Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron are important members of the human microbiota. In this work, we determined and compared the protein compositions of OM and OMV from B. fragilis and B. thetaiotaomicron. SDS-PAGE analysis of both fractions revealed dramatically different protein profiles. Proteomic analysis of OM and OMV in B. fragilis identified more than 40 proteins found exclusively in OMV and more than 30 proteins detectable only in the OM. The OMV-specific proteome showed a high prevalence of glycosidases and proteases, some of which were shown to be active in vitro. Similar results were obtained for B. thetaiotaomicron. Most of the OMV-exclusive proteins were acidic. Based on these results, we propose that these species possess machinery devoted to selectively pack acidic proteins into the OMV. These OMV equipped with hydrolytic enzymes could help in securing nutrients for the benefit of the whole bacterial community present in the microbiota, uncovering a novel function for bacterial OMV.
IMPORTANCE
The members of genus Bacteroides are key players in the symbiosis between the human host and the gut microbiota. It is known for its ability to degrade a wide variety of glycans that are not substrates for human glycosidases. The cleaved glycans can be utilized by Bacteroides and other microbiota members, resulting in the production of short-chain fatty acids that are beneficial for the host. Although members of the genus Bacteroides are known to secrete different hydrolases, their secretion pathways remain uncharacterized. In this article, we show that B. fragilis and B. thetaiotaomicron preferentially pack a large number of hydrolases in outer membrane vesicles (OMV). Most of these hydrolases are acidic and were detected exclusively in OMV. This suggests the presence of a molecular mechanism in Bacteroides responsible for the selection of OMV proteins based on their charge. We propose that OMV contribute to the establishment and balance of the gut microbiota.
doi:10.1128/mBio.00909-14
PMCID: PMC3952158  PMID: 24618254
25.  North American Triple Reassortant and Eurasian H1N1 Swine Influenza Viruses Do Not Readily Reassort to Generate a 2009 Pandemic H1N1-Like Virus 
mBio  2014;5(2):e00919-13.
ABSTRACT
The 2009 pandemic H1N1 virus (pH1N1) was derived through reassortment of North American triple reassortant and Eurasian avian-like swine influenza viruses (SIVs). To date, when, how and where the pH1N1 arose is not understood. To investigate viral reassortment, we coinfected cell cultures and a group of pigs with or without preexisting immunity with a Eurasian H1N1 virus, A/Swine/Spain/53207/2004 (SP04), and a North American triple reassortant H1N1 virus, A/Swine/Kansas/77778/2007 (KS07). The infected pigs were cohoused with one or two groups of contact animals to investigate viral transmission. In coinfected MDCK or PK15 continuous cell lines with KS07 and SP04 viruses, more than 20 different reassortant viruses were found. In pigs without or with preexisting immunity (immunized with commercial inactivated swine influenza vaccines) and coinfected with both viruses, six or seven reassortant viruses, as well as the parental viruses, were identified in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid samples from the lungs. Interestingly, only one or two viruses transmitted to and were detected in contact animals. No reassortant containing a gene constellation similar to that of pH1N1 virus was found in either coinfected cells or pigs, indicating that the reassortment event that resulted in the generation of this virus is a rare event that likely involved specific viral strains and/or a favorable, not-yet-understood environment.
IMPORTANCE
The 2009 pandemic-like H1N1 virus could not be reproduced either in cell cultures or in pigs coinfected with North American triple reassortant H1N1 and Eurasian H1N1 swine influenza viruses. This finding suggests that the generation of the 2009 pandemic H1N1 virus by reassortment was a rare event that likely involved specific viral strains and unknown factors. Different reassortant viruses were detected in coinfected pigs with and without preexisting immunity, indicating that host immunity plays a relevant role in driving viral reassortment of influenza A virus.
doi:10.1128/mBio.00919-13
PMCID: PMC3952159  PMID: 24618255

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