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1.  Colistin Resistance in Acinetobacter baumannii Is Mediated by Complete Loss of Lipopolysaccharide Production ▿  
Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy  2010;54(12):4971-4977.
Infections caused by multidrug-resistant (MDR) Gram-negative bacteria represent a major global health problem. Polymyxin antibiotics such as colistin have resurfaced as effective last-resort antimicrobials for use against MDR Gram-negative pathogens, including Acinetobacter baumannii. Here we show that A. baumannii can rapidly develop resistance to polymyxin antibiotics by complete loss of the initial binding target, the lipid A component of lipopolysaccharide (LPS), which has long been considered to be essential for the viability of Gram-negative bacteria. We characterized 13 independent colistin-resistant derivatives of A. baumannii type strain ATCC 19606 and showed that all contained mutations within one of the first three genes of the lipid A biosynthesis pathway: lpxA, lpxC, and lpxD. All of these mutations resulted in the complete loss of LPS production. Furthermore, we showed that loss of LPS occurs in a colistin-resistant clinical isolate of A. baumannii. This is the first report of a spontaneously occurring, lipopolysaccharide-deficient, Gram-negative bacterium.
PMCID: PMC2981238  PMID: 20855724
2.  Global metabolic analyses identify key differences in metabolite levels between polymyxin-susceptible and polymyxin-resistant Acinetobacter baumannii 
Scientific Reports  2016;6:22287.
Multidrug-resistant Acinetobacter baumannii presents a global medical crisis and polymyxins are used as the last-line therapy. This study aimed to identify metabolic differences between polymyxin-susceptible and polymyxin-resistant A. baumannii using untargeted metabolomics. The metabolome of each A. baumannii strain was measured using liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry. Multivariate and univariate statistics and pathway analyses were employed to elucidate metabolic differences between the polymyxin-susceptible and -resistant A. baumannii strains. Significant differences were identified between the metabolic profiles of the polymyxin-susceptible and -resistant A. baumannii strains. The lipopolysaccharide (LPS) deficient, polymyxin-resistant 19606R showed perturbation in specific amino acid and carbohydrate metabolites, particularly pentose phosphate pathway (PPP) and tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle intermediates. Levels of nucleotides were lower in the LPS-deficient 19606R. Furthermore, 19606R exhibited a shift in its glycerophospholipid profile towards increased abundance of short-chain lipids compared to the parent polymyxin-susceptible ATCC 19606. In contrast, in a pair of clinical isolates 03–149.1 (polymyxin-susceptible) and 03–149.2 (polymyxin-resistant, due to modification of lipid A), minor metabolic differences were identified. Notably, peptidoglycan biosynthesis metabolites were significantly depleted in both of the aforementioned polymyxin-resistant strains. This is the first comparative untargeted metabolomics study to show substantial differences in the metabolic profiles of the polymyxin-susceptible and -resistant A. baumannii.
PMCID: PMC4770286  PMID: 26924392
3.  Burkholderia pseudomallei Type III Secretion System Cluster 3 ATPase BsaS, a Chemotherapeutic Target for Small-Molecule ATPase Inhibitors 
Infection and Immunity  2015;83(4):1276-1285.
Melioidosis is an infectious disease of high mortality for humans and other animal species; it is prevalent in tropical regions worldwide. The pathogenesis of melioidosis depends on the ability of its causative agent, the Gram-negative bacterium Burkholderia pseudomallei, to enter and survive in host cells. B. pseudomallei can escape from the phagosome into the cytosol of phagocytic cells where it replicates and acquires actin-mediated motility, avoiding killing by the autophagy-dependent process, LC3 (microtubule-associated protein light chain 3)-associated phagocytosis (LAP). The type III secretion system cluster 3 (TTSS3) facilitates bacterial escape from phagosomes, although the mechanism has not been fully elucidated. Given the recent identification of small-molecule inhibitors of the TTSS ATPase, we sought to determine the potential of the predicted TTSS3 ATPase, encoded by bsaS, as a target for chemotherapeutic treatment of infection. A B. pseudomallei bsaS deletion mutant was generated and used as a control against which to assess the effect of inhibitor treatment. Infection of RAW 264.7 cells with wild-type bacteria and subsequent treatment with the ATPase inhibitor compound 939 resulted in reduced intracellular bacterial survival, reduced escape from phagosomes, and increased colocalization with both LC3 and the lysosomal marker LAMP1 (lysosome-associated membrane protein 1). These changes were similar to those observed for infection of RAW 264.7 cells with the bsaS deletion mutant. We propose that treatment with the ATPase inhibitor compound 939 decreased intracellular bacterial survival through a reduced ability of bacteria to escape from phagosomes and increased killing via LAP. Therefore, small-molecule inhibitors of the TTSS3 ATPase have potential as therapeutic treatments against melioidosis.
PMCID: PMC4363454  PMID: 25605762
4.  Development of a Rapid Multiplex PCR Assay To Genotype Pasteurella multocida Strains by Use of the Lipopolysaccharide Outer Core Biosynthesis Locus 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2014;53(2):477-485.
Pasteurella multocida is a Gram-negative bacterial pathogen that is the causative agent of a wide range of diseases in many animal species, including humans. A widely used method for differentiation of P. multocida strains involves the Heddleston serotyping scheme. This scheme was developed in the early 1970s and classifies P. multocida strains into 16 somatic or lipopolysaccharide (LPS) serovars using an agar gel diffusion precipitin test. However, this gel diffusion assay is problematic, with difficulties reported in accuracy, reproducibility, and the sourcing of quality serovar-specific antisera. Using our knowledge of the genetics of LPS biosynthesis in P. multocida, we have developed a multiplex PCR (mPCR) that is able to differentiate strains based on the genetic organization of the LPS outer core biosynthesis loci. The accuracy of the LPS-mPCR was compared with classical Heddleston serotyping using LPS compositional data as the “gold standard.” The LPS-mPCR correctly typed 57 of 58 isolates; Heddleston serotyping was able to correctly and unambiguously type only 20 of the 58 isolates. We conclude that our LPS-mPCR is a highly accurate LPS genotyping method that should replace the Heddleston serotyping scheme for the classification of P. multocida strains.
PMCID: PMC4298526  PMID: 25428149
5.  The Burkholderia pseudomallei Proteins BapA and BapC Are Secreted TTSS3 Effectors and BapB Levels Modulate Expression of BopE 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(12):e0143916.
Many Gram-negative pathogens use a type III secretion system (TTSS) for the injection of bacterial effector proteins into host cells. The injected effector proteins play direct roles in modulation of host cell pathways for bacterial benefit. Burkholderia pseudomallei, the causative agent of melioidosis, expresses three different TTSSs. One of these systems, the TTSS3, is essential for escape from host endosomes and therefore intracellular survival and replication. Here we have characterized three putative TTSS3 proteins; namely BapA, BapB and BapC. By employing a tetracysteine (TC)-FlAsH™ labelling technique to monitor the secretion of TC-tagged fusion proteins, BapA and BapC were shown to be secreted during in vitro growth in a TTSS3-dependant manner, suggesting a role as TTSS3 effectors. Furthermore, we constructed B. pseudomallei bapA, bapB and bapC mutants and used the well-characterized TTSS3 effector BopE as a marker of secretion to show that BapA, BapB and BapC are not essential for the secretion process. However, BopE transcription and secretion were significantly increased in the bapB mutant, suggesting that BapB levels modulate BopE expression. In a BALB/c mouse model of acute melioidosis, the bapA, bapB and bapC mutants showed a minor reduction of in vivo fitness. Thus, this study defines BapA and BapC as novel TTSS3 effectors, BapB as a regulator of BopE production, and all three as necessary for full B. pseudomallei in vivo fitness.
PMCID: PMC4666416  PMID: 26624293
6.  Pasteurella multocida Heddleston Serovar 3 and 4 Strains Share a Common Lipopolysaccharide Biosynthesis Locus but Display both Inter- and Intrastrain Lipopolysaccharide Heterogeneity 
Journal of Bacteriology  2013;195(21):4854-4864.
Pasteurella multocida is a Gram-negative multispecies pathogen and the causative agent of fowl cholera, a serious disease of poultry which can present in both acute and chronic forms. The major outer membrane component lipopolysaccharide (LPS) is both an important virulence factor and a major immunogen. Our previous studies determined the LPS structures expressed by different P. multocida strains and revealed that a number of strains belonging to different serovars contain the same LPS biosynthesis locus but express different LPS structures due to mutations within glycosyltransferase genes. In this study, we report the full LPS structure of the serovar 4 type strain, P1662, and reveal that it shares the same LPS outer core biosynthesis locus, L3, with the serovar 3 strains P1059 and Pm70. Using directed mutagenesis, the role of each glycosyltransferase gene in LPS outer core assembly was determined. LPS structural analysis of 23 Australian field isolates that contain the L3 locus revealed that at least six different LPS outer core structures can be produced as a result of mutations within the LPS glycosyltransferase genes. Moreover, some field isolates produce multiple but related LPS glycoforms simultaneously, and three LPS outer core structures are remarkably similar to the globo series of vertebrate glycosphingolipids. Our in-depth analysis showing the genetics and full range of P. multocida lipopolysaccharide structures will facilitate the improvement of typing systems and the prediction of the protective efficacy of vaccines.
PMCID: PMC3807493  PMID: 23974032
7.  Comparative Genomic Analysis of Asian Haemorrhagic Septicaemia-Associated Strains of Pasteurella multocida Identifies More than 90 Haemorrhagic Septicaemia-Specific Genes 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(7):e0130296.
Pasteurella multocida is the primary causative agent of a range of economically important diseases in animals, including haemorrhagic septicaemia (HS), a rapidly fatal disease of ungulates. There is limited information available on the diversity of P. multocida strains that cause HS. Therefore, we determined draft genome sequences of ten disease-causing isolates and two vaccine strains and compared these genomes using a range of bioinformatic analyses. The draft genomes of the 12 HS strains were between 2,298,035 and 2,410,300 bp in length. Comparison of these genomes with the North American HS strain, M1404, and other available P. multocida genomes (Pm70, 3480, 36950 and HN06) identified a core set of 1,824 genes. A set of 96 genes was present in all HS isolates and vaccine strains examined in this study, but absent from Pm70, 3480, 36950 and HN06. Moreover, 59 genes were shared only by the Asian B:2 strains. In two Pakistani isolates, genes with high similarity to genes in the integrative and conjugative element, ICEPmu1 from strain 36950 were identified along with a range of other antimicrobial resistance genes. Phylogenetic analysis indicated that the HS strains formed clades based on their country of isolation. Future analysis of the 96 genes unique to the HS isolates will aid the identification of HS-specific virulence attributes and facilitate the development of disease-specific diagnostic tests.
PMCID: PMC4495038  PMID: 26151935
8.  Biological Cost of Different Mechanisms of Colistin Resistance and Their Impact on Virulence in Acinetobacter baumannii 
Two mechanisms of resistance to colistin have been described in Acinetobacter baumannii. One involves complete loss of lipopolysaccharide (LPS), resulting from mutations in lpxA, lpxC, or lpxD, and the second is associated with phosphoethanolamine addition to LPS, mediated through mutations in pmrAB. In order to assess the clinical impacts of both resistance mechanisms, A. baumannii ATCC 19606 and its isogenic derivatives, AL1851 ΔlpxA, AL1852 ΔlpxD, AL1842 ΔlpxC, and ATCC 19606 pmrB, were analyzed for in vitro growth rate, in vitro and in vivo competitive growth, infection of A549 respiratory alveolar epithelial cells, virulence in the Caenorhabditis elegans model, and virulence in a systemic mouse infection model. The in vitro growth rate of the lpx mutants was clearly diminished; furthermore, in vitro and in vivo competitive-growth experiments revealed a reduction in fitness for both mutant types. Infection of A549 cells with ATCC 19606 or the pmrB mutant resulted in greater loss of viability than with lpx mutants. Finally, the lpx mutants were highly attenuated in both the C. elegans and mouse infection models, while the pmrB mutant was attenuated only in the C. elegans model. In summary, while colistin resistance in A. baumannii confers a clear selective advantage in the presence of colistin treatment, it causes a noticeable cost in terms of overall fitness and virulence, with a more striking reduction associated with LPS loss than with phosphoethanolamine addition. Therefore, we hypothesize that colistin resistance mediated by changes in pmrAB will be more likely to arise in clinical settings in patients treated with colistin.
PMCID: PMC3910726  PMID: 24189257
9.  Lipopolysaccharide-Deficient Acinetobacter baumannii Shows Altered Signaling through Host Toll-Like Receptors and Increased Susceptibility to the Host Antimicrobial Peptide LL-37 
Infection and Immunity  2013;81(3):684-689.
Infections caused by multidrug-resistant Acinetobacter baumannii have emerged as a serious global health problem. We have shown previously that A. baumannii can become resistant to the last-line antibiotic colistin via the loss of lipopolysaccharide (LPS), including the lipid A anchor, from the outer membrane (J. H. Moffatt, M. Harper, P. Harrison, J. D. Hale, E. Vinogradov, T. Seemann, R. Henry, B. Crane, F. St. Michael, A. D. Cox, B. Adler, R. L. Nation, J. Li, and J. D. Boyce, Antimicrob. Agents Chemother. 54:4971–4977, 2010). Here, we show how these LPS-deficient bacteria interact with components of the host innate immune system. LPS-deficient A. baumannii stimulated 2- to 4-fold lower levels of NF-κB activation and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) secretion from immortalized murine macrophages, but it still elicited low levels of TNF-α secretion via a Toll-like receptor 2-dependent mechanism. Furthermore, we show that while LPS-deficient A. baumannii was not altered in its resistance to human serum, it showed increased susceptibility to the human antimicrobial peptide LL-37. Thus, LPS-deficient, colistin-resistant A. baumannii shows significantly altered activation of the host innate immune inflammatory response.
PMCID: PMC3584870  PMID: 23250952
10.  Beclin 1 Is Required for Starvation-Enhanced, but Not Rapamycin-Enhanced, LC3-Associated Phagocytosis of Burkholderia pseudomallei in RAW 264.7 Cells 
Infection and Immunity  2013;81(1):271-277.
LC3-associated phagocytosis (LAP) of Burkholderia pseudomallei by murine macrophage (RAW 264.7) cells is an intracellular innate defense mechanism. Beclin 1, a protein with several roles in autophagic processes, is known to be recruited to phagosomal membranes as a very early event in LAP. We sought to determine whether knockdown of Beclin 1 by small interfering RNA (siRNA) would affect recruitment of LC3 and subsequent LAP of infecting B. pseudomallei. Both starvation and rapamycin treatment can induce Beclin 1-dependent autophagy. Therefore, we analyzed the consequences of Beclin 1 knockdown for LAP in infected cells that had been either starved or treated with rapamycin by determining the levels of bacterial colocalization with LC3 and intracellular survival. Concurrently, we confirmed the location of bacteria as either contained in phagosomes or free in the cytoplasm. We found that both rapamycin and starvation treatment enhanced LAP of B. pseudomallei but that the rapamycin response is Beclin 1 independent whereas the starvation response is Beclin 1 dependent.
PMCID: PMC3536138  PMID: 23115045
11.  Genomic Evidence for a Globally Distributed, Bimodal Population in the Ovine Footrot Pathogen Dichelobacter nodosus 
mBio  2014;5(5):e01821-14.
Footrot is a contagious, debilitating disease of sheep, causing major economic losses in most sheep-producing countries. The causative agent is the Gram-negative anaerobe Dichelobacter nodosus. Depending on the virulence of the infective bacterial strain, clinical signs vary from a mild interdigital dermatitis (benign footrot) to severe underrunning of the horn of the hoof (virulent footrot). The aim of this study was to investigate the genetic relationship between D. nodosus strains of different phenotypic virulences and between isolates from different geographic regions. Genome sequencing was performed on 103 D. nodosus isolates from eight different countries. Comparison of these genome sequences revealed that they were highly conserved, with >95% sequence identity. However, single nucleotide polymorphism analysis of the 31,627 nucleotides that were found to differ in one or more of the 103 sequenced isolates divided them into two distinct clades. Remarkably, this division correlated with known virulent and benign phenotypes, as well as with the single amino acid difference between the AprV2 and AprB2 proteases, which are produced by virulent and benign strains, respectively. This division was irrespective of the geographic origin of the isolates. However, within one of these clades, isolates from different geographic regions generally belonged to separate clusters. In summary, we have shown that D. nodosus has a bimodal population structure that is globally conserved and provide evidence that virulent and benign isolates represent two distinct forms of D. nodosus strains. These data have the potential to improve the diagnosis and targeted control of this economically significant disease.
The Gram-negative anaerobic bacterium Dichelobacter nodosus is the causative agent of ovine footrot, a disease of major importance to the worldwide sheep industry. The known D. nodosus virulence factors are its type IV fimbriae and extracellular serine proteases. D. nodosus strains are designated virulent or benign based on the type of disease caused under optimal climatic conditions. These isolates have similar fimbriae but distinct extracellular proteases. To determine the relationship between virulent and benign isolates and the relationship of isolates from different geographical regions, a genomic study that involved the sequencing and subsequent analysis of 103 D. nodosus isolates was undertaken. The results showed that D. nodosus isolates are highly conserved at the genomic level but that they can be divided into two distinct clades that correlate with their disease phenotypes and with a single amino acid substitution in one of the extracellular proteases.
PMCID: PMC4196234  PMID: 25271288
12.  In silico prediction of Gallibacterium anatis pan-immunogens 
Veterinary Research  2014;45(1):80.
The Gram-negative bacterium Gallibacterium anatis is a major cause of salpingitis and peritonitis in commercial egg-layers, leading to reduced egg production and increased mortality. Unfortunately, widespread multidrug resistance and antigenic diversity makes it difficult to control infections and novel prevention strategies are urgently needed. In this study, a pan-genomic reverse vaccinology (RV) approach was used to identify potential vaccine candidates. Firstly, the genomes of 10 selected Gallibacterium strains were analyzed and proteins selected on the following criteria; predicted surface-exposure or secretion, none or one transmembrane helix (TMH), and presence in six or more of the 10 genomes. In total, 42 proteins were selected. The genes encoding 27 of these proteins were successfully cloned in Escherichia coli and the proteins expressed and purified. To reduce the number of vaccine candidates for in vivo testing, each of the purified recombinant proteins was screened by ELISA for their ability to elicit a significant serological response with serum from chickens that had been infected with G. anatis. Additionally, an in silico prediction of the protective potential was carried out based on a protein property prediction method. Of the 27 proteins, two novel putative immunogens were identified; Gab_1309 and Gab_2312. Moreover, three previously characterized virulence factors; GtxA, FlfA and Gab_2156, were identified. Thus, by combining the pan-genomic RV approach with subsequent in vitro and in silico screening, we have narrowed down the pan-proteome of G. anatis to five vaccine candidates. Importantly, preliminary immunization trials indicated an in vivo protective potential of GtxA-N, FlfA and Gab_1309.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13567-014-0080-0) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4423631  PMID: 25223320
13.  Colistin-Resistant, Lipopolysaccharide-Deficient Acinetobacter baumannii Responds to Lipopolysaccharide Loss through Increased Expression of Genes Involved in the Synthesis and Transport of Lipoproteins, Phospholipids, and Poly-β-1,6-N-Acetylglucosamine 
We recently demonstrated that colistin resistance in Acinetobacter baumannii can result from mutational inactivation of genes essential for lipid A biosynthesis (Moffatt JH, et al., Antimicrob. Agents Chemother. 54:4971–4977). Consequently, strains harboring these mutations are unable to produce the major Gram-negative bacterial surface component, lipopolysaccharide (LPS). To understand how A. baumannii compensates for the lack of LPS, we compared the transcriptional profile of the A. baumannii type strain ATCC 19606 to that of an isogenic, LPS-deficient, lpxA mutant strain. The analysis of the expression profiles indicated that the LPS-deficient strain showed increased expression of many genes involved in cell envelope and membrane biogenesis. In particular, upregulated genes included those involved in the Lol lipoprotein transport system and the Mla-retrograde phospholipid transport system. In addition, genes involved in the synthesis and transport of poly-β-1,6-N-acetylglucosamine (PNAG) also were upregulated, and a corresponding increase in PNAG production was observed. The LPS-deficient strain also exhibited the reduced expression of genes predicted to encode the fimbrial subunit FimA and a type VI secretion system (T6SS). The reduced expression of genes involved in T6SS correlated with the detection of the T6SS-effector protein AssC in culture supernatants of the A. baumannii wild-type strain but not in the LPS-deficient strain. Taken together, these data show that, in response to total LPS loss, A. baumannii alters the expression of critical transport and biosynthesis systems associated with modulating the composition and structure of the bacterial surface.
PMCID: PMC3256090  PMID: 22024825
14.  Evolutionary Analysis of Burkholderia pseudomallei Identifies Putative Novel Virulence Genes, Including a Microbial Regulator of Host Cell Autophagy 
Journal of Bacteriology  2013;195(24):5487-5498.
Burkholderia pseudomallei, the causative agent of melioidosis, contains a large pathogen genome (7.2 Mb) with ∼2,000 genes of putative or unknown function. Interactions with potential hosts and environmental factors may induce rapid adaptations in these B. pseudomallei genes, which can be discerned through evolutionary analysis of multiple B. pseudomallei genomes. Here we show that several previously uncharacterized B. pseudomallei genes bearing genetic signatures of rapid adaptation (positive selection) can induce diverse cellular phenotypes when expressed in mammalian cells. Notably, several of these phenotypes are plausibly related to virulence, including multinuclear giant cell formation, apoptosis, and autophagy induction. Specifically, we show that BPSS0180, a type VI cluster-associated gene, is capable of inducing autophagy in both phagocytic and nonphagocytic mammalian cells. Following infection of macrophages, a B. pseudomallei mutant disrupted in BPSS0180 exhibited significantly decreased colocalization with LC3 and impaired intracellular survival; these phenotypes were rescued by introduction of an intact BPSS0180 gene. The results suggest that BPSS0180 may be a novel inducer of host cell autophagy that contributes to B. pseudomallei intracellular growth. More generally, our study highlights the utility of applying evolutionary principles to microbial genomes to identify novel virulence genes.
PMCID: PMC3889600  PMID: 24097950
15.  Identification of a DNA-Damage-Inducible Regulon in Acinetobacter baumannii 
Journal of Bacteriology  2013;195(24):5577-5582.
The transcriptional response of Acinetobacter baumannii, a major cause of nosocomial infections, to the DNA-damaging agent mitomycin C (MMC) was studied using DNA microarray technology. Most of the 39 genes induced by MMC were related to either prophages or encoded proteins involved in DNA repair. Electrophoretic mobility shift assays demonstrated that the product of the A. baumannii MMC-inducible umuD gene (umuDAb) specifically binds to the palindromic sequence TTGAAAATGTAACTTTTTCAA present in its promoter region. Mutations in this palindromic region abolished UmuDAb protein binding. A comparison of the promoter regions of all MMC-induced genes identified four additional transcriptional units with similar palindromic sequences recognized and specifically bound by UmuDAb. Therefore, the UmuDAb regulon consists of at least eight genes encoding seven predicted error-prone DNA polymerase V components and DddR, a protein of unknown function. Expression of these genes was not induced in the MMC-treated recA mutant. Furthermore, inactivation of the umuDAb gene resulted in the deregulation of all DNA-damage-induced genes containing the described palindromic DNA motif. Together, these findings suggest that UmuDAb is a direct regulator of the DNA damage response in A. baumannii.
PMCID: PMC3889614  PMID: 24123815
16.  The Fimbrial Protein FlfA from Gallibacterium anatis Is a Virulence Factor and Vaccine Candidate 
Infection and Immunity  2013;81(6):1964-1973.
The Gram-negative bacterium Gallibacterium anatis is a major cause of salpingitis and peritonitis in egg-laying chickens, leading to decreased egg production worldwide. Widespread multidrug resistance largely prevents treatment of this organism using traditional antimicrobial agents, while antigenic diversity hampers disease prevention by classical vaccines. Thus, insight into its pathogenesis and knowledge about important virulence factors is urgently required. A key event during the colonization and invasion of mucosal surfaces is adherence, and recently, at least three F17-like fimbrial gene clusters were identified in the genomes of several G. anatis strains. The objective of this study was to characterize the putative F17-like fimbrial subunit protein FlfA from G. anatis 12656-12 and determine its importance for virulence. In vitro expression and surface exposure of FlfA was demonstrated by flow cytometry and immunofluorescence microscopy. The predicted function of FlfA as a fimbrial subunit protein was confirmed by immunogold electron microscopy. An flfA deletion mutant (ΔflfA) was generated in G. anatis 12656-12, and importantly, this mutant was significantly attenuated in the natural chicken host. Furthermore, protection against G. anatis 12656-12 could be induced by immunizing chickens with recombinant FlfA. Finally, in vitro expression of FlfA homologs was observed in a genetically diverse set of G. anatis strains, suggesting the potential of FlfA as a serotype-independent vaccine candidate This is the first study describing a fimbrial subunit protein of G. anatis with a clear potential as a vaccine antigen.
PMCID: PMC3676021  PMID: 23509151
17.  Cell surface hydrophobicity of colistin-susceptible versus -resistant Acinetobacter baumannii determined by contact angles: methodological considerations and implications 
Journal of applied microbiology  2012;113(4):940-951.
Contact angle analysis of cell surface hydrophobicity (CSH) describes the tendency of a water droplet to spread across a lawn of filtered bacterial cells. Colistin-induced disruption of the Gram-negative outer membrane necessitates hydrophobic contacts with lipopolysaccharide (LPS). We aimed to characterize the CSH of Acinetobacter baumannii using contact angles, to provide insight into the mechanism of colistin resistance.
Contact angles were analysed for five paired colistin-susceptible and -resistant A. baumannii strains. Drainage of the water droplet through bacterial layers was demonstrated to influence results. Consequently, measurements were performed 0.66-sec after droplet deposition. Colistin-resistant cells exhibited lower contact angles (38.8±2.8° to 46.8±1.3°) compared to their paired-susceptible strains (40.7±3.0° to 48.0±1.4°; ANOVA; p<0.05). Contact angles increased at stationary phase (50.3±2.9° to 61.5±2.5° and 47.4±2.0° to 50.8±3.2°, susceptible and resistant, respectively, ANOVA; p<0.05), and in response to colistin 32-mgL−1 exposure (44.5±1.5° to 50.6±2.8° and 43.5±2.2° to 48.0±2.2°, susceptible and resistant, respectively; ANOVA; p<0.05). Analysis of complemented strains constructed with an intact lpxA gene, or empty vector, highlighted the contribution of LPS to CSH.
Compositional outer-membrane variations likely account for CSH differences between A. baumannii phenotypes, which influence the hydrophobic colistin-bacterium interaction.
Important insight into the mechanism of colistin resistance has been provided. Greater consideration of contact angle mehodology is nescessary to ensure accurate analyses are performed.
PMCID: PMC3434258  PMID: 22574702
Antimicrobials; Lipopolysaccharide; Mechanism of Action
18.  Natural Transformation of Gallibacterium anatis 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2012;78(14):4914-4922.
Gallibacterium anatis is a pathogen of poultry. Very little is known about its genetics and pathogenesis. To enable the study of gene function in G. anatis, we have established methods for transformation and targeted mutagenesis. The genus Gallibacterium belongs to the Pasteurellaceae, a group with several naturally transformable members, including Haemophilus influenzae. Bioinformatics analysis identified G. anatis homologs of the H. influenzae competence genes, and natural competence was induced in G. anatis by the procedure established for H. influenzae: transfer from rich medium to the starvation medium M-IV. This procedure gave reproducibly high transformation frequencies with G. anatis chromosomal DNA and with linearized plasmid DNA carrying G. anatis sequences. Both DNA types integrated into the G. anatis chromosome by homologous recombination. Targeted mutagenesis gave transformation frequencies of >2 × 10−4 transformants CFU−1. Transformation was also efficient with circular plasmid containing no G. anatis DNA; this resulted in the establishment of a self-replicating plasmid. Nine diverse G. anatis strains were found to be naturally transformable by this procedure, suggesting that natural competence is common and the M-IV transformation procedure widely applicable for this species. The G. anatis genome is only slightly enriched for the uptake signal sequences identified in other pasteurellaceaen genomes, but G. anatis did preferentially take up its own DNA over that of Escherichia coli. Transformation by electroporation was not effective for chromosomal integration but could be used to introduce self-replicating plasmids. The findings described here provide important tools for the genetic manipulation of G. anatis.
PMCID: PMC3416388  PMID: 22582057
19.  Effect of colistin exposure and growth phase on the surface properties of live Acinetobacter baumannii cells examined by atomic force microscopy 
The diminishing antimicrobial development pipeline has forced the revival of colistin as a last line of defence against infections caused by multidrug-resistant Gram-negative ‘superbugs’ such as Acinetobacter baumannii. The complete loss of lipopolysaccharide (LPS) mediates colistin resistance in some A. baumannii strains. Atomic force microscopy was used to examine the surface properties of colistin-susceptible and -resistant A. baumannii strains at mid-logarithmic and stationary growth phases in liquid and in response to colistin treatment. The contribution of LPS to surface properties was investigated using A. baumannii strains constructed with and without the lpxA gene. Bacterial spring constant measurements revealed that colistin-susceptible cells were significantly stiffer than colistin-resistant cells at both growth phases (P < 0.01), whilst colistin treatment at high concentrations (32 mg/L) resulted in more rigid surfaces for both phenotypes. Multiple, large adhesive peaks frequently noted in force curves captured on colistin-susceptible cells were not evident for colistin-resistant cells. Adhesion events were markedly reduced following colistin exposure. The cell membranes of strains of both phenotypes remained intact following colistin treatment, although fine topographical details were illustrated. These studies, conducted for the first time on live A. baumannii cells in liquid, have contributed to our understanding of the action of colistin in this problematic pathogen.
PMCID: PMC3433558  PMID: 21925844
Atomic force microscopy; Colistin; Acinetobacter baumannii; Morphology; Surface properties
20.  Screening of 71 P. multocida Proteins for Protective Efficacy in a Fowl Cholera Infection Model and Characterization of the Protective Antigen PlpE 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(7):e39973.
There is a strong need for a recombinant subunit vaccine against fowl cholera. We used a reverse vaccinology approach to identify putative secreted or cell surface associated P. multocida proteins that may represent potential vaccine candidate antigens.
Principal Findings
A high-throughput cloning and expression protocol was used to express and purify 71 recombinant proteins for vaccine trials. Of the 71 proteins tested, only one, PlpE in denatured insoluble form, protected chickens against fowl cholera challenge. PlpE also elicited comparable levels of protection in mice. PlpE was localized by immunofluorescence to the bacterial cell surface, consistent with its ability to elicit a protective immune response. To explore the role of PlpE during infection and immunity, a plpE mutant was generated. The plpE mutant strain retained full virulence for mice.
These studies show that PlpE is a surface exposed protein and was the only protein of 71 tested that was able to elicit a protective immune response. However, PlpE is not an essential virulence factor. This is the first report of a denatured recombinant protein stimulating protection against fowl cholera.
PMCID: PMC3390355  PMID: 22792202
21.  Role for the Burkholderia pseudomallei Type Three Secretion System Cluster 1 bpscN Gene in Virulence ▿  
Infection and Immunity  2011;79(9):3659-3664.
Burkholderia pseudomallei, the causal agent of melioidosis, employs a number of virulence factors during its infection of mammalian cells. One such factor is the type three secretion system (TTSS), which is proposed to mediate the transport and secretion of bacterial effector molecules directly into host cells. The B. pseudomallei genome contains three TTSS gene clusters (designated TTSS1, TTSS2, and TTSS3). Previous research has indicated that neither TTSS1 nor TTSS2 is involved in B. pseudomallei virulence in a hamster infection model. We have characterized a B. pseudomallei mutant lacking expression of the predicted TTSS1 ATPase encoded by bpscN. This mutant was significantly attenuated for virulence in a respiratory melioidosis mouse model of infection. In addition, analyses in vitro showed diminished survival and replication in RAW264.7 cells and an increased level of colocalization with the autophagy marker protein LC3 but an unhindered ability to escape from phagosomes. Taken together, these data provide evidence that the TTSS1 bpscN gene product plays an important role in the intracellular survival of B. pseudomallei and the pathogenesis of murine infection.
PMCID: PMC3165474  PMID: 21768285
22.  Different surface charge of colistin-susceptible and -resistant Acinetobacter baumannii cells measured with zeta potential as a function of growth phase and colistin treatment 
Electrostatic forces mediate the initial interaction between cationic colistin and Gram-negative bacterial cells. Lipopolysaccharide (LPS) loss mediates colistin resistance in some A. baumannii strains. Our aim was to determine the surface charge of colistin-susceptible and –resistant A. baumannii as a function of growth phase and in response to polymyxin treatment.
The zeta potential of A. baumannii ATCC 19606 and 10 clinical multidrug-resistant strains (MICs 0.5–2 mg/L) was assessed. Colistin-resistant derivatives (MIC >128 mg/L) of wild-type strains were selected in the presence of 10 mg/L colistin, including the LPS-deficient lpxA mutant, ATCC 19606R. To determine the contribution of LPS to surface charge, two complemented ATCC 19606R derivatives were examined, namely ATCC 19606R + lpxA (containing an intact lpxA gene) and ATCC 19606R + V (containing empty vector). Investigations were conducted as a function of growth phase and polymyxin treatment (1, 4 and 8 mg/L).
Wild-type cells exhibited a greater negative charge (−60.5 ± 2.36 to −26.2 ± 2.56 mV) thancolistin-resistant cells (−49.2 ± 3.09 to −19.1 ± 2.80 mV) at mid-log phase (ANOVA, P < 0.05). Opposing growth-phase trends were observed for both phenotypes: wild-type cells displayed reduced negative charge and colistin-resistant cells displayed increased negative charge at stationary compared with mid-logarithmic phase. Polymyxin exposure resulted in a concentration-dependent increase in zeta potential. Examination of ATCC 19606R and complemented strains supported the importance of LPS in determining surface charge, suggesting a potential mechanism of colistin resistance.
Zeta potential differences between A. baumannii phenotypes probably reflect compositional outer-membrane variations that impact the electrostatic component of colistin activity.
PMCID: PMC3001852  PMID: 21081544
physicochemical properties; Gram-negative; polymyxin
23.  Insertion Sequence ISAba11 Is Involved in Colistin Resistance and Loss of Lipopolysaccharide in Acinetobacter baumannii▿ 
Infections caused by Acinetobacter baumannii are of increasing concern, largely due to the multidrug resistance of many strains. Here we show that insertion sequence ISAba11 movement can result in inactivation of the A. baumannii lipid A biosynthesis genes lpxA and lpxC, resulting in the complete loss of lipopolysaccharide production and high-level colistin resistance.
PMCID: PMC3101452  PMID: 21402838
24.  Necrotic Enteritis-Derived Clostridium perfringens Strain with Three Closely Related Independently Conjugative Toxin and Antibiotic Resistance Plasmids 
mBio  2011;2(5):e00190-11.
The pathogenesis of avian necrotic enteritis involves NetB, a pore-forming toxin produced by virulent avian isolates of Clostridium perfringens type A. To determine the location and mobility of the netB structural gene, we examined a derivative of the tetracycline-resistant necrotic enteritis strain EHE-NE18, in which netB was insertionally inactivated by the chloramphenicol and thiamphenicol resistance gene catP. Both tetracycline and thiamphenicol resistance could be transferred either together or separately to a recipient strain in plate matings. The separate transconjugants could act as donors in subsequent matings, which demonstrated that the tetracycline resistance determinant and the netB gene were present on different conjugative elements. Large plasmids were isolated from the transconjugants and analyzed by high-throughput sequencing. Analysis of the resultant data indicated that there were actually three large conjugative plasmids present in the original strain, each with its own toxin or antibiotic resistance locus. Each plasmid contained a highly conserved 40-kb region that included plasmid replication and transfer regions that were closely related to the 47-kb conjugative tetracycline resistance plasmid pCW3 from C. perfringens. The plasmids were as follows: (i) a conjugative 49-kb tetracycline resistance plasmid that was very similar to pCW3, (ii) a conjugative 82-kb plasmid that contained the netB gene and other potential virulence genes, and (iii) a 70-kb plasmid that carried the cpb2 gene, which encodes a different pore-forming toxin, beta2 toxin.
The anaerobic bacterium Clostridium perfringens can cause an avian gastrointestinal disease known as necrotic enteritis. Disease pathogenesis is not well understood, although the plasmid-encoded pore-forming toxin NetB, is an important virulence factor. In this work, we have shown that the plasmid that carries the netB gene is conjugative and has a 40-kb region that is very similar to replication and transfer regions found within each of the sequenced conjugative plasmids from C. perfringens. We also showed that this strain contained two additional large plasmids that were also conjugative and carried a similar 40-kb region. One of these plasmids encoded beta2 toxin, and the other encoded tetracycline resistance. To our knowledge, this is the first report of a bacterial strain that carries three closely related but different independently conjugative plasmids. These results have significant implications for our understanding of the transmission of virulence and antibiotic resistance genes in pathogenic bacteria.
PMCID: PMC3181468  PMID: 21954306
25.  Strategies for Intracellular Survival of Burkholderia pseudomallei 
Burkholderia pseudomallei is the causative agent of melioidosis, a disease with high mortality that is prevalent in tropical regions of the world. A key component of the pathogenesis of melioidosis is the ability of B. pseudomallei to enter, survive, and replicate within mammalian host cells. For non-phagocytic cells, bacterial adhesins have been identified both on the bacterial surface and associated with Type 4 pili. Cell invasion involves components of one or more of the three Type 3 Secretion System clusters, which also mediate, at least in part, the escape of bacteria from the endosome into the cytoplasm, where bacteria move by actin-based motility. The mechanism of actin-based motility is not clearly understood, but appears to differ from characterized mechanisms in other bacterial species. A small proportion of intracellular bacteria is targeted by host cell autophagy, involving direct recruitment of LC3 to endosomes rather than through uptake by canonical autophagosomes. However, the majority of bacterial cells are able to circumvent autophagy and other intracellular defense mechanisms such as the induction of inducible nitric oxide synthase, and then replicate in the cytoplasm and spread to adjacent cells via membrane fusion, resulting in the formation of multi-nucleated giant cells. A potential role for host cell ubiquitin in the autophagic response to bacterial infection has recently been proposed.
PMCID: PMC3159172  PMID: 22007185
melioidosis; Burkholderia; pathogenesis; adhesion; intracellular survival; autophagy; ubiquitination

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