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1.  Transcriptome analysis of Vibrio parahaemolyticus in type III secretion system 1 inducing conditions 
Vibrio parahaemolyticus is an emerging bacterial pathogen capable of causing inflammatory gastroenteritis, wound infections, and septicemia. As a food-borne illness, infection is most frequently associated with the consumption of raw or undercooked seafood, particularly shellfish. It is the primary cause of Vibrio-associated food-borne illness in the United States and the leading cause of food-borne illness in Japan. The larger of its two chromosomes harbors a set of genes encoding type III section system 1 (T3SS1), a virulence factor present in all V. parahaemolyticus strains that is similar to the Yersinia ysc T3SS. T3SS1 translocates effector proteins into eukaryotic cells where they induce changes to cellular physiology and modulate host-pathogen interactions. T3SS1 is also responsible for cytotoxicity toward several different cultured cell lines as well as mortality in a mouse model. Herein we used RNA-seq to obtain global transcriptome patterns of V. parahaemolyticus under conditions that either induce [growth in Dulbecco's Modified Eagle Medium (DMEM) media, in trans expression of transcriptional regulator exsA] or repress T3SS1 expression (growth in LB-S media, in trans exsD expression) and during infection of HeLa cells over time. Comparative transcriptomic analysis demonstrated notable differences in the expression patterns under inducing conditions and was also used to generate an expression profile of V. parahaemolyticus during infection of HeLa cells. In addition, we identified several new genes that are associated with T3SS1 expression and may warrant further study.
PMCID: PMC3895804  PMID: 24478989
Vibrio parahaemolyticus; type III secretion system; T3SS; RNA-seq
2.  Transition metal ions at the crossroads of mucosal immunity and microbial pathogenesis 
Transition metal ions are essential micronutrients for all living organisms. In mammals, these ions are often protein-bound and sequestered within cells, limiting their availability to microbes. Moreover, in response to infection, mammalian hosts further reduce the availability of metal nutrients by activating epithelial cells and recruiting neutrophils, both of which release metal-binding proteins with antimicrobial function. Microorganisms, in turn, have evolved sophisticated systems to overcome these limitations and acquire the metal ions essential for their growth. Here we review some of the mechanisms employed by the host and by pathogenic microorganisms to compete for transition metal ions, with a discussion of how evading “nutritional immunity” benefits pathogens. Furthermore, we provide new insights on the mechanisms of host-microbe competition for metal ions in the mucosa, particularly in the inflamed gut.
PMCID: PMC3900919  PMID: 24478990
infection; nutritional immunity; iron; zinc; manganese; lipocalin-2; calprotectin; S100 proteins
3.  Post-transcriptional regulation of gene expression in bacterial pathogens by toxin-antitoxin systems 
Toxin-antitoxin (TA) systems are small genetic elements ubiquitous in prokaryotic genomes that encode toxic proteins targeting various vital cellular functions. Typically, toxin activity is controlled by adjacently encoded protein or RNA antitoxins and unleashed as a consequence of genetic fluctuations or stressful conditions. Whereas some TA systems interfere with replication or cell wall synthesis, most of them influence transcriptional and post-transcriptional gene regulation. Antitoxin proteins often act as DNA binding transcriptional regulators and many TA toxins exhibit endoribonuclease activity to selectively degrade different RNA species and thus alter gene expression patterns. Some TA RNases cleave tRNA, tmRNAs or rRNAs, whereas most commonly mRNAs either in association with the ribosome or as free transcripts, are targeted. Examples are provided on how TA toxins differentially shape gene expression in bacterial pathogens by creating specialized ribosomes or by altering the transcriptome and how this may be tied in the control of pathogenicity factors.
PMCID: PMC3905216  PMID: 24524029
toxin-antitoxin system; TA system; RNase; gene regulation; translation inhibition; pathogenicity; review
4.  Marine medicinal glycomics 
Glycomics is an international initiative aimed to understand the structure and function of the glycans from a given type of cell, tissue, organism, kingdom or even environment, as found under certain conditions. Glycomics is one of the latest areas of intense biological research. Glycans of marine sources are unique in terms of structure and function. They differ considerably from those of terrestrial origin. This review discusses the most known marine glycans of potential therapeutic properties. They are chitin, chitosan, and sulfated polysaccharides named glycosaminoglycans, sulfated fucans, and sulfated galactans. Their medical actions are very broad. When certain structural requirements are found, these glycans can exhibit beneficial effects in inflammation, coagulation, thrombosis, cancer growth/metastasis, and vascular biology. Both structure and therapeutic mechanisms of action of these marine glycans are discussed here in straight context with the current glycomic age through a project suggestively named marine medicinal glycomics.
PMCID: PMC3905220  PMID: 24524028
carbohydrate-based drug development; chitin; chitosan; glycosaminoglycans; sulfated fucans; sulfated galactans
5.  HMGB1 in severe soft tissue infections caused by Streptococcus pyogenes 
Extracellular High Mobility Group Box 1 (HMGB1) has been associated with acute and chronic inflammatory conditions. However, little is known about HMGB1 in necrotizing bacterial infections. We hypothesized that the local HMGB1 response is excessive in severe soft tissue infections (STIs), which are characterized by necrosis and hyperinflammation. To explore this, tissue biopsies were collected from patients with varying severity of Streptococcus pyogenes skin and STIs, including erysipelas, cellulitis, and necrotizing fasciitis. Tissue sections were immunostained for HMGB1, S. pyogenes, and inflammatory cell infiltrates and results quantified by acquired computerized image analysis (ACIA). HMGB1 expression increased in parallel to disease severity and was significantly higher in necrotizing fasciitis than in erysipelas (p = 0.0023). Confocal microscopy of sections co-stained for HMGB1 and cell markers revealed both extracellular and cytoplasmic HMGB1, the latter of which was found predominantly in macrophages. To further verify macrophages as main source of activation triggered HMGB1 release, human macrophages were infected with clinical S. pyogenes isolates. The results demonstrated infection triggered release of HMGB1. Dual staining's visualized HMGB1 in areas close to, but not overlapping, with neutrophils, indicating a potential chemotactic role. In vitro transmigration experiments showed a chemotactic effect of HMGB1 on neutrophils. The data furthermore provided in vivo support that HGMB1 may form immunostimulatory complexes with IL-1β. Taken together, the findings provide the first in vivo evidence that HMGB1 is abundant at the local site of severe bacterial STIs and its levels correlated to severity of infections; hence, indicating its potential value as a biomarker for tissue pathology.
PMCID: PMC3906589  PMID: 24524027
HMGB1; soft tissue infections; Streptococcus pyogenes; necrosis; inflammation
6.  Pathogen intelligence 
Different species inhabit different sensory worlds and thus have evolved diverse means of processing information, learning and memory. In the escalated arms race with host defense, each pathogenic bacterium not only has evolved its individual cellular sensing and behavior, but also collective sensing, interbacterial communication, distributed information processing, joint decision making, dissociative behavior, and the phenotypic and genotypic heterogeneity necessary for epidemiologic success. Moreover, pathogenic populations take advantage of dormancy strategies and rapid evolutionary speed, which allow them to save co-generated intelligent traits in a collective genomic memory. This review discusses how these mechanisms add further levels of complexity to bacterial pathogenicity and transmission, and how mining for these mechanisms could help to develop new anti-infective strategies.
PMCID: PMC3907765  PMID: 24551600
pathogen intelligence; information processing; cooperative behavior; heterogeneity; dormancy; biofilm; learning; memory
7.  Virulence profiling of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli recovered from domestic farm animals in Northwestern Mexico 
Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) is a zoonotic enteric pathogen that causes human gastrointestinal illnesses. The present study characterized the virulence profiles of O157 and non-O157 STEC strains, recovered from domestic animals in small rural farms within the agricultural Culiacan Valley in Mexico. Virulence genes coding for adhesins, cytotoxins, proteases, subtypes of Shiga toxin (Stx), and other effectors were identified in the STEC strains by PCR. The genotyping analysis revealed the presence of the effectors nleA, nleB, nleE, and nleH1-2, espK, and espN in the O157:H7 and O111:H8 STEC strains. Furthermore, the genes encoding the autoagglutinating adhesin (Saa) and subtilase (SubA) were exclusively identified in the O8:H19 eae-negative strains. The adhesin (iha) and the silent hemolysin (sheA) genes were detected in 79% of the O157 and non-O157 strains. To examine the relative toxicities of the STEC strains, a fluorescent Vero cell line, Vero-d2EGFPs, was employed to measure the inhibition of protein synthesis by Stx. Analysis of culture supernatants from serotype O8:H19 strains with the stx gene profile stx1a, stx2a, and stx2c and serotypes O75:H8 and O146:H8 strains with the stx gene profile stx1a, stx1c, and stx2b, resulted in a significant reduction in the Vero-d2EGFP fluorescent signal. These observations suggest that these non-O157 strains may have an enhanced ability to inhibit protein synthesis in Vero cells. Interestingly, analysis of the stx2c-positive O157:H7 strains resulted in a high fluorescent signal, indicating a reduced toxicity in the Vero-d2EGFP cells. These findings indicate that the O157 and non-O157 STEC strains, recovered in the Culiacan Valley, display distinct virulence profiles and relative toxicities in mammalian cells and have provided information for evaluating risks associated with zoonotic STEC in this agricultural region in Mexico.
PMCID: PMC3908320  PMID: 24551599
Escherichia coli; STEC; virulence genes; Shiga toxin; Vero cells; Mexico; zoonosis; foodborne pathogen
8.  Pathogenic adaptations to host-derived antibacterial copper 
Recent findings suggest that both host and pathogen manipulate copper content in infected host niches during infections. In this review, we summarize recent developments that implicate copper resistance as an important determinant of bacterial fitness at the host-pathogen interface. An essential mammalian nutrient, copper cycles between copper (I) (Cu+) in its reduced form and copper (II) (Cu2+) in its oxidized form under physiologic conditions. Cu+ is significantly more bactericidal than Cu2+ due to its ability to freely penetrate bacterial membranes and inactivate intracellular iron-sulfur clusters. Copper ions can also catalyze reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation, which may further contribute to their toxicity. Transporters, chaperones, redox proteins, receptors and transcription factors and even siderophores affect copper accumulation and distribution in both pathogenic microbes and their human hosts. This review will briefly cover evidence for copper as a mammalian antibacterial effector, the possible reasons for this toxicity, and pathogenic resistance mechanisms directed against it.
PMCID: PMC3909829  PMID: 24551598
copper; pathogenesis; yersiniabactin; copper tolerance; metal biology; copper resistance
9.  Listeria monocytogenes: survival and adaptation in the gastrointestinal tract 
The foodborne pathogen Listeria monocytogenes has the capacity to survive and grow in a diverse range of natural environments. The transition from a food environment to the gastrointestinal tract begins a process of adaptation that may culminate in invasive systemic disease. Here we describe recent advances in our understanding of how L. monocytogenes adapts to the gastrointestinal environment prior to initiating systemic infection. We will discuss mechanisms used by the pathogen to survive encounters with acidic environments (which include the glutamate decarboxylase and arginine deiminase systems), and those which enable the organism to cope with bile acids (including bile salt hydrolase) and competition with the resident microbiota. An increased understanding of how the pathogen survives in this environment is likely to inform the future design of novel prophylactic approaches that exploit specific pharmabiotics; including probiotics, prebiotics, or phages.
PMCID: PMC3913888  PMID: 24551601
Listeria; stress; acid; bile; gastrointestinal; virulence; pathogenesis; infection
10.  A murine oral model for Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis infection and immunomodulation with Lactobacillus casei ATCC 334 
Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis (M. paratuberculosis) the causative agent of Johne's disease, is one of the most serious infectious diseases in dairy cattle worldwide. Due to the chronic nature of this disease and no feasible control strategy, it is essential to have an efficient animal model which is representative of the natural route of infection as well as a viable treatment option. In this report, we evaluated the effect of different doses of M. paratuberculosis in their ability to colonize murine tissues following oral delivery and the ability of Lactobacillus casei ATCC 334, a nascent probiotic, to combat paratuberculosis. Oral inoculation of mice was able to establish paratuberculosis in a dose-dependent manner. Two consecutive doses of approximately 109 CFU per mouse resulted in a disseminated infection, whereas lower doses were not efficient to establish infection. All inoculated mice were colonized with M. paratuberculosis, maintained infection for up to 24 weeks post infection and generated immune responses that reflect M. paratuberculosis infection in cattle. Notably, oral administration of L. casei ATCC 334 did not reduce the level of M. paratuberculosis colonization in treated animals. Interestingly, cytokine responses and histology indicated a trend for the immunomodulation and reduction of pathology in animals receiving L. casei ATCC 334 treatment. Overall, a reproducible oral model of paratuberculosis in mice was established that could be used for future vaccine experiments. Although the L. casei ATCC 334 was not a promising candidate for controlling paratuberculosis, we established a protocol to screen other probiotic candidates.
PMCID: PMC3914629  PMID: 24551602
pratuberculosis; oral model; probiotics; animal model; vaccine development
11.  Animal models for oral transmission of Listeria monocytogenes 
Listeria monocytogenes has been recognized as a food borne pathogen in humans since the 1980s, but we still understand very little about oral transmission of L. monocytogenes or the host factors that determine susceptibility to gastrointestinal infection, due to the lack of an appropriate small animal model of oral listeriosis. Early feeding trials suggested that many animals were highly resistant to oral infection, and the more reproducible intravenous or intraperitoneal routes of inoculation soon came to be favored. There are a fair number of previously published studies using an oral infection route, but the work varies widely in terms of bacterial strain choice, the methods used for oral transmission, and various manipulations used to enhance infectivity. This mini review summarizes the published literature using oral routes of L. monocytogenes infection and highlights recent technological advances that make oral infection a more attractive model system.
PMCID: PMC3920067  PMID: 24575393
intragastric; food borne; listeriosis; intracellular pathogen; mouse; guinea pig
12.  Nutrient salvaging and metabolism by the intracellular pathogen Legionella pneumophila 
The Gram-negative bacterium Legionella pneumophila is ubiquitous in freshwater environments as a free-swimming organism, resident of biofilms, or parasite of protozoa. If the bacterium is aerosolized and inhaled by a susceptible human host, it can infect alveolar macrophages and cause a severe pneumonia known as Legionnaires' disease. A sophisticated cell differentiation program equips L. pneumophila to persist in both extracellular and intracellular niches. During its life cycle, L. pneumophila alternates between at least two distinct forms: a transmissive form equipped to infect host cells and evade lysosomal degradation, and a replicative form that multiplies within a phagosomal compartment that it has retooled to its advantage. The efficient changeover between transmissive and replicative states is fundamental to L. pneumophila's fitness as an intracellular pathogen. The transmission and replication programs of L. pneumophila are governed by a number of metabolic cues that signal whether conditions are favorable for replication or instead trigger escape from a spent host. Several lines of experimental evidence gathered over the past decade establish strong links between metabolism, cellular differentiation, and virulence of L. pneumophila. Herein, we focus on current knowledge of the metabolic components employed by intracellular L. pneumophila for cell differentiation, nutrient salvaging and utilization of host factors. Specifically, we highlight the metabolic cues that are coupled to bacterial differentiation, nutrient acquisition systems, and the strategies utilized by L. pneumophila to exploit host metabolites for intracellular replication.
PMCID: PMC3920079  PMID: 24575391
Legionella pneumophila; differentiation; intracellular metabolism; metabolic cues; phagosomal transporters
13.  Listeria monocytogenes virulence factor secretion: don't leave the cell without a chaperone 
In Gram-positive bacteria, the secretion of proteins requires translocation of polypeptides across the bacterial membrane into the highly charged environment of the membrane-cell wall interface. Here, proteins must be folded and often further delivered across the matrix of the cell wall. While many aspects of protein secretion have been well studied in Gram-negative bacteria which possess both an inner and outer membrane, generally less attention has been given to the mechanics of protein secretion across the single cell membrane of Gram-positive bacteria. In this review, we focus on the role of a post-translocation secretion chaperone in Listeria monocytogenes known as PrsA2, and compare what is known regarding PrsA2 with PrsA homologs in other Gram-positive bacteria. PrsA2 is a member of a family of membrane-associated lipoproteins that contribute to the folding and stability of secreted proteins as they cross the bacterial membrane. PrsA2 contributes to the integrity of the L. monocytogenes cell wall as well as swimming motility and bacterial resistance to osmotic stress; however its most critical role may be its requirement for L. monocytogenes virulence and viability within host cells. A better understanding of the role of PrsA2 and PrsA-like homologs will provide insight into the dynamics of protein folding and stability in Gram-positive bacteria and may result in new strategies for optimizing protein secretion as well as inhibiting the production of virulence factors.
PMCID: PMC3921577  PMID: 24575392
PrsA; PrsA2; bacterial pathogenesis; PrfA; PPIase; foldase; LLO; cell wall
14.  Bis-indolic compounds as potential new therapeutic alternatives for tularaemia 
Francisella tularensis is the etiological agent of tularaemia and a CDC class A biological threat agent. Few antibiotic classes are currently useful in treating tularaemia, including the aminoglycosides gentamicin and streptomycin, fluoroquinolones, and tetracyclines. However, treatment failures and relapses remain frequent and F. tularensis strains resistant to antibiotics have been easily selected in vitro. In this study, we evaluated the activity of new synthetic bis-indole derivatives against this pathogen. Minimum inhibitory concentrations (MICs) of four compounds (dcm01 to dcm04) were determined for the reference strains F. tularensis subsp. holarctica LVS NCTC10857, F. tularensis subsp. novicida CIP56.12 and F. philomiragia ATCC25015, and for 41 clinical strains of F. tularensis subsp. holarctica isolated in France. Minimal bactericidal concentrations (MBCs) were determined for the dcm02 and dcm04 compounds for the LVS and two clinical strains. Killing curves were also determined for the same three strains exposed to dcm04. All tested bis-indole compounds were bacteriostatic against F. tularensis subsp. holarctica strains, with a MIC90 of 8 μg/mL for dcm01, dcm02, and dcm03, and 2 μg/mL for dcm04. Only one strain was resistant to both dcm01 and dcm03, with MICs > 32 μg/mL. In contrast, F. tularensis subsp. novicida was resistant to all derivatives and F. philomiragia was only susceptible to dcm02 and dcm04, with MICs of 16 and 4 μg/mL, respectively. MBC and killing curve experiments revealed significant bactericidal activity (i.e., 3-log reduction of the bacterial inoculum) of the dcm02 and dcm04 compounds only for the LVS strain. In conclusion, we have identified novel synthetic bis-indole compounds that are active against F. tularensis subsp. holarctica. They may be drug candidates for the development of new therapeutic alternatives for tularaemia treatment. Their further characterization is needed, especially identification of their bacterial targets.
PMCID: PMC3936198  PMID: 24579066
tularaemia; Francisella tularensis; bis-indolic compounds; antibacterial activity
15.  Regulatory network features in Listeria monocytogenes—changing the way we talk 
Our understanding of how pathogens shape their gene expression profiles in response to environmental changes is ever growing. Advances in Bioinformatics have made it possible to model complex systems and integrate data from variable sources into one large regulatory network. In these analyses, regulatory networks are typically broken down into regulatory motifs such as feed-forward loops (FFL) or auto-regulatory feedbacks, which serves to simplify the structure, while the functional implications of different regulatory motifs allow to make informed assumptions about the function of a specific regulatory pathway. Here we review the basic concepts of network features and use this language to break down the regulatory networks that govern the interactions between the main regulators of stress response, virulence, and transmission in Listeria monocytogenes. We point out the advantage that taking a “systems approach” could have for our understanding of gene functions, the detection of distant regulatory inputs, interspecies comparisons, and co-expression.
PMCID: PMC3924034  PMID: 24592357
Listeria monocytogenes; regulatory network; PrfA; SigB; network motif
16.  Cellular vaccines in listeriosis: role of the Listeria antigen GAPDH 
The use of live Listeria-based vaccines carries serious difficulties when administrated to immunocompromised individuals. However, cellular carriers have the advantage of inducing multivalent innate immunity as well as cell-mediated immune responses, constituting novel and secure vaccine strategies in listeriosis. Here, we compare the protective efficacy of dendritic cells (DCs) and macrophages and their safety. We examined the immune response of these vaccine vectors using two Listeria antigens, listeriolysin O (LLO) and glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate-dehydrogenase (GAPDH), and several epitopes such as the LLO peptides, LLO189−201 and LLO91−99 and the GAPDH peptide, GAPDH1−22. We discarded macrophages as safe vaccine vectors because they show anti-Listeria protection but also high cytotoxicity. DCs loaded with GAPDH1−22 peptide conferred higher protection and security against listeriosis than the widely explored LLO91−99 peptide. Anti-Listeria protection was related to the changes in DC maturation caused by these epitopes, with high production of interleukin-12 as well as significant levels of other Th1 cytokines such as monocyte chemotactic protein-1, tumor necrosis factor-α, and interferon-γ, and with the induction of GAPDH1−22-specific CD4+ and CD8+ immune responses. This is believed to be the first study to explore the use of a novel GAPDH antigen as a potential DC-based vaccine candidate for listeriosis, whose efficiency appears to highlight the relevance of vaccine designs containing multiple CD4+ and CD8+ epitopes.
PMCID: PMC3930854  PMID: 24600592
dendritic vaccines; Listeria monocytogenes; glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate-dehydrogenase
17.  Molecular mechanism of protrusion formation during cell-to-cell spread of Listeria 
The bacterial pathogen Listeria monocytogenes spreads within human tissues using a motility process dependent on the host actin cytoskeleton. Cell-to-cell spread involves the ability of motile bacteria to remodel the host plasma membrane into protrusions, which are internalized by neighboring cells. Recent results indicate that formation of Listeria protrusions in polarized human cells involves bacterial antagonism of a host signaling pathway comprised of the scaffolding protein Tuba and its effectors N-WASP and Cdc42. These three human proteins form a complex that generates tension at apical cell junctions. Listeria relieves this tension and facilitates protrusion formation by secreting a protein called InlC. InlC interacts with a Src Homology 3 (SH3) domain in Tuba, thereby displacing N-WASP from this domain. Interaction of InlC with Tuba is needed for efficient Listeria spread in cultured human cells and infected animals. Recent structural data has elucidated the mechanistic details of InlC/Tuba interaction, revealing that InlC and N-WASP compete for partly overlapping binding surfaces in the Tuba SH3 domain. InlC binds this domain with higher affinity than N-WASP, explaining how InlC is able to disrupt Tuba/N-WASP complexes.
PMCID: PMC3930863  PMID: 24600591
Listeria monocytogenes; cell-to-cell spread; protrusion; InlC; Tuba; SH3 domain; cortical tension; structural elucidation
18.  Monocyte/macrophage inflammatory response pathways to combat Francisella infection: possible therapeutic targets? 
Francisella tularensis can bypass and suppress host immune responses, even to the point of manipulating immune cell phenotypes and intercellular inflammatory networks. Strengthening these responses such that immune cells more readily identify and destroy the bacteria is likely to become a viable (and perhaps necessary) strategy for combating infections with Francisella, especially given the likelihood of antibiotic resistance in the foreseeable future. Monocytes and macrophages offer a niche wherein Francisella can invade and replicate, resulting in substantially higher bacterial load that can overcome the host. As such, understanding their responses to Francisella may uncover potential avenues of therapy that could promote a lowering of bacterial burden and clearance of infection. These response pathways include Toll-like Receptor 2 (TLR2), the caspase-1 inflammasome, Interferons, NADPH oxidase, Phosphatidylinositide 3-kinase (PI3K), and the Ras pathway. In this review we summarize the literature pertaining to the roles of these pathways during Francisella infection, with an emphasis on monocyte/macrophage responses. The therapeutic targeting of one or more such pathways may ultimately become a valuable tool for the treatment of tularemia, and several possibilities are discussed.
PMCID: PMC3930869  PMID: 24600590
Francisella; monocytes; macrophages; signaling; host response
19.  Listeria monocytogenes MDR transporters are involved in LTA synthesis and triggering of innate immunity during infection 
Multi-drug resistance (MDR) transporters are known eponymously for their ability to confer resistance to various antimicrobial drugs. However, it is likely that this is not their primary function and that MDR transporters evolved originally to play additional roles in bacterial physiology. In Listeria monocytogenes a set of MDR transporters was identified to mediate activation of innate immune responses during mammalian cell infection. This phenotype was shown to be dependent on c-di-AMP secretion, but the physiological processes underlying this phenomenon were not completely resolved. Here we describe a genetic approach taken to screen for L. monocytogenes genes or physiological pathways involved in MDR transporter-dependent triggering of the type I interferon response. We found that disruption of L. monocytogenes lipoteichoic acid (LTA) synthesis results in enhanced triggering of type I interferon responses in infected macrophage cells yet does not impact bacterial intracellular growth. This innate immune response required the MDR transporters and could be recapitulated by exposing macrophage cells to culture supernatants derived from LTA mutant bacteria. Notably, we found that the MDR transporters themselves are required for full production of LTA, an observation that links MDR transporters to LTA synthesis for the first time. In light of our findings, we propose that the MDR transporters play a role in regulating LTA synthesis, possibly via c-di-AMP efflux, a physiological function in cell wall maintenance that triggers the host innate immune system.
PMCID: PMC3933815  PMID: 24611134
multidrug transporters; lipotechoic acid; c-di-AMP; type I interferon; Listeria monocytogenes
20.  Characterization of serine hydroxymethyltransferase GlyA as a potential source of D-alanine in Chlamydia pneumoniae 
For intracellular Chlamydiaceae, there is no need to withstand osmotic challenges, and a functional cell wall has not been detected in these pathogens so far. Nevertheless, penicillin inhibits cell division in Chlamydiaceae resulting in enlarged aberrant bodies, a phenomenon known as chlamydial anomaly. D-alanine is a unique and essential component in the biosynthesis of bacterial cell walls. In free-living bacteria like Escherichia coli, penicillin-binding proteins such as monofunctional transpeptidases PBP2 and PBP3, the putative targets of penicillin in Chlamydiaceae, cross-link adjacent peptidoglycan strands via meso-diaminopimelic acid and D-Ala-D-Ala moieties of pentapeptide side chains. In the absence of genes coding for alanine racemase Alr and DadX homologs, the source of D-Ala and thus the presence of substrates for PBP2 and PBP3 activity in Chlamydiaceae has puzzled researchers for years. Interestingly, Chlamydiaceae genomes encode GlyA, a serine hydroxymethyltransferase that has been shown to exhibit slow racemization of D- and L-alanine as a side reaction in E. coli. We show that GlyA from Chlamydia pneumoniae can serve as a source of D-Ala. GlyA partially reversed the D-Ala auxotrophic phenotype of an E. coli racemase double mutant. Moreover, purified chlamydial GlyA had racemase activity on L-Ala in vitro and was inhibited by D-cycloserine, identifying GlyA, besides D-Ala ligase MurC/Ddl, as an additional target of this competitive inhibitor in Chlamydiaceae. Proof of D-Ala biosynthesis in Chlamydiaceae helps to clarify the structure of cell wall precursor lipid II and the role of chlamydial penicillin-binding proteins in the development of non-dividing aberrant chlamydial bodies and persistence in the presence of penicillin.
PMCID: PMC3935232  PMID: 24616885
chlamydial anomaly; persistence; aberrant bodies; D-alanine; alanine racemase; GlyA; penicillin; D-cycloserine
21.  Chlamydia exploit the mammalian tryptophan-depletion defense strategy as a counter-defensive cue to trigger a survival state of persistence 
We previously proposed that in Chlamydiaceae rapid vegetative growth and a quiescent state of survival (persistence) depend upon alternative protein translational profiles dictated by host tryptophan (Trp) availability. These alternative profiles correspond, respectively, with a set of chlamydial proteins having higher-than-predicted contents of Trp (“Up-Trp” selection), or with another set exhibiting lower-than-predicted contents of Trp (“Down-Trp” selection). A comparative evaluation of Chlamydiaceae proteomes for Trp content has now been extended to a number of other taxon families within the Chlamydiales Order. At the Order level, elevated Trp content occurs for transporters of nucleotides, S-adenosylmethionine (SAM), dicarboxylate substrates, and Trp itself. For Trp and nucleotide transporters, this is even more pronounced in other chlamydiae families (Parachlamydiaceae, Waddliaceae, and Simkaniaceae) due to extensive paralog expansion. This suggests that intracellular Trp availability served as an ancient survival cue for enhancement or restraint of chlamydial metabolism in the common Chlamydiales ancestor. The Chlamydiaceae Family further strengthened Up-Trp selection for proteins that function in cell division, lipopolysaccharide biosynthesis, and methyltransferase reactions. Some proteins that exhibit Up-Trp selection are uniquely present in the Chlamydiaceae, e.g., cytotoxin and the paralog families of polymorphic membrane proteins (Pmp's). A striking instance of Down-Trp selection in the Chlamydiaceae is the chorismate biosynthesis pathway and the connecting menaquinone pathway. The newly recognized 1,4-dihydroxy-6-napthoate pathway of menaquinone biosynthesis operates in Chlamydiaceae, whereas the classic 2-napthoate pathway is used in the other Chlamydiales families. Because of the extreme Down-Trp selection, it would appear that menaquinone biosynthesis is particularly important to the integrity of the persistent state maintained under conditions of severe Trp limitation, and may thus be critical for perpetuation of chronic disease states.
PMCID: PMC3937554  PMID: 24616884
tryptophan; chlamydiae; persistence; menaquinone biosynthesis; Up-Trp selection; Down-Trp selection; reductive evolution
22.  The gut microbiota in mouse models of inflammatory bowel disease 
The intestine and the intestinal immune system have evolved through a symbiotic homeostasis under which a highly diverse microbial flora is maintained in the gastrointestinal tract while pathogenic bacteria are recognized and eliminated. Disruption of the balance between the immune system and the gut microbiota results in the development of multiple pathologies in humans. Inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) have been associated with alterations in the composition of intestinal flora but whether these changes are causal or result of inflammation is still under dispute. Various chemical and genetic models of IBD have been developed and utilized to elucidate the complex relationship between intestinal epithelium, immune system and the gut microbiota. In this review we describe some of the most commonly used mouse models of colitis and Crohn's disease (CD) and summarize the current knowledge of how changes in microbiota composition may affect intestinal disease pathogenesis. The pursuit of gut-microbiota interactions will no doubt continue to provide invaluable insight into the complex biology of IBD.
PMCID: PMC3937555  PMID: 24616886
microbiota; colitis; mouse models; IBD; Crohn's disease
23.  Kanizsa illusory contours appearing in the plasmodium pattern of Physarum polycephalum 
The plasmodium of Physarum polycephalum is often used in the implementation of non-linear computation to solve optimization problems, and this organismal feature was not used in this analysis to compute perception and/or sensation in humans. In this paper, we focused on the Kanizsa illusion, which is a well-known visual illusion resulting from the differentiation-integration of the visual field, and compared the illusion with the adaptive network in the plasmodium of P. polycephalum. We demonstrated that the network pattern mimicking the Kanizsa illusion can be produced by an asynchronous automata-fashioned model of the foraging slime mold and by the real plasmodia of P. polycephalum. Because the protoplasm of the plasmodium is transported depending on both local and global computation, it may contain differentiation-integration processes. In this sense, we can extend the idea of perception and computation.
PMCID: PMC3937557  PMID: 24616883
Physarum; unconventional computing; Kanizsa illusion; asynchronous automata
24.  What's in a word: the use, misuse, and abuse of the word “persistence” in Chlamydia biology 
The word persistence was used by Chlamydia researchers almost as soon as Chlamydia research was born to reflect the propensity of chlamydiae to cause inapparent infection in their hosts, from birds to humans. More recently, the term persistence has been used, misused, and sometimes abused amidst in vitro and in vivo studies that aim to mimick the ability of chlamydiae to emerge from the presumed inapparent state into clinically detectable infection and disease. Here, I have attempted to provide a global perspective on the state of research on chlamydial persistence, revisiting old observations that may warrant a new look, critically evaluating more recent observations and their shortcomings, and including recent developments that may help redefine chlamydiae as pathogens—or not—of both animals and humans.
PMCID: PMC3940941  PMID: 24624366
Chlamydia; persistence; recurrence; commensalism; aberrant body
25.  Prevalence of shiga toxin producing Escherichia coli, Salmonella enterica, and Listeria monocytogenes at public access watershed sites in a California Central Coast agricultural region 
Produce contaminated with enteric pathogens is a major source of foodborne illness in the United States. Lakes, streams, rivers, and ponds were sampled with Moore swabs bi-monthly for over 2 years at 30 locations in the vicinity of a leafy green growing region on the Central California Coast and screened for Shiga toxin producing Escherichia coli (STEC), Salmonella enterica, and Listeria monocytogenes to evaluate the prevalence and persistence of pathogen subtypes. The prevalence of STEC from 1386 samples was 11%; 110 samples (8%) contained E. coli O157:H7 with the highest prevalence occurring close to cattle operations. Non-O157 STEC isolates represented major clinical O-types and 57% contained both shiga toxin types 1 and 2 and intimin. Multiple Locus Variable Number Tandem Repeat Analysis of STEC isolates indicated prevalent strains during the period of study. Notably, Salmonella was present at high levels throughout the sampling region with 65% prevalence in 1405 samples resulting in 996 isolates with slightly lower prevalence in late autumn. There were 2, 8, and 14 sites that were Salmonella-positive over 90, 80, and 70% of the time, respectively. The serotypes identified most often were 6,8:d:-, Typhimurium, and Give. Interestingly, analysis by Pulsed Field Gel Electrophoresis indicated persistence and transport of pulsotypes in the region over several years. In this original study of L. monocytogenes in the region prevalence was 43% of 1405 samples resulting in 635 individual isolates. Over 85% of the isolates belonged to serotype 4b with serotypes 1/2a, 1/2b, 3a, 4d with 4e representing the rest, and there were 12 and 2 sites that were positive over 50 and 80% of the time, respectively. Although surface water is not directly used for irrigation in this region, transport to the produce can occur by other means. This environmental survey assesses initial contamination levels toward an understanding of transport leading to produce recalls or outbreaks.
PMCID: PMC3940966  PMID: 24624367
STEC O157:57; STEC non-O157; Salmonella; Listeria monocytogenes; watersheds; agriculture; leafy-vegetable production; prevalence

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