Clostridium perfringens is ubiquitous in nature and is often found as a commensal of the human and animal gastrointestinal tract. It is the primary etiological agent of clostridial myonecrosis, or gas gangrene, a serious infection that results in extensive tissue necrosis due to the action of one or more potent extracellular toxins. α-toxin and perfringolysin O are the major extracellular toxins involved in the pathogenesis of gas gangrene, but histotoxic strains of C. perfringens, such as strain 13, also produce many degradative enzymes such as collagenases, hyaluronidases, sialidases and the cysteine protease, α-clostripain. The production of many of these toxins is regulated either directly or indirectly by the global VirSR two-component signal transduction system. By isolating a chromosomal mutant and carrying out microarray analysis we have identified an orphan sensor histidine kinase, which we have named ReeS (regulator of extracellular enzymes sensor). Expression of the sialidase genes nanI and nanJ was down-regulated in a reeS mutant. Since complementation with the wild-type reeS gene restored nanI and nanJ expression to wild-type levels, as shown by quantitative reverse transcription-PCR and sialidase assays we concluded that ReeS positively regulates the expression of these sialidase genes. However, mutation of the reeS gene had no significant effect on virulence in the mouse myonecrosis model. Sialidase production in C. perfringens has been previously shown to be regulated by both the VirSR system and RevR. In this report, we have analyzed a previously unknown sensor histidine kinase, ReeS, and have shown that it also is involved in controlling the expression of sialidase genes, adding further complexity to the regulatory network that controls sialidase production in C. perfringens.
The catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) enzyme metabolises catecholamines. COMT inhibitors are licensed for the adjunctive treatment of Parkinson's disease and are attractive therapeutic candidates for other neuropsychiatric conditions. COMT regulates dopamine levels in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) but plays a lesser role in the striatum. However, its significance in other brain regions is largely unknown, despite its links with a broad range of behavioural phenotypes hinting at more widespread effects. Here, we investigated the effect of acute systemic administration of the brain-penetrant COMT inhibitor tolcapone on tissue levels of dopamine, noradrenaline, and the dopamine metabolites 3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetic acid (DOPAC) and homovanillic acid (HVA). We examined PFC, striatum, hippocampus and cerebellum in the rat. We studied both males and females, given sexual dimorphisms in several aspects of COMT's function. Compared with vehicle, tolcapone significantly increased dopamine levels in the ventral hippocampus, but did not affect dopamine in other regions, nor noradrenaline in any region investigated. Tolcapone increased DOPAC and/or decreased HVA in all brain regions studied. Notably, several of the changes in DOPAC and HVA, particularly those in PFC, were more prominent in females than males. These data demonstrate that COMT alters ventral hippocampal dopamine levels, as well as regulating dopamine metabolism in all brain regions studied. They demonstrate that COMT is of significance beyond the PFC, consistent with its links with a broad range of behavioural phenotypes. Furthermore, they suggest that the impact of tolcapone may be greater in females than males, a finding which may be of clinical significance in terms of the efficacy and dosing of COMT inhibitors.
Catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) modulates dopamine in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) and influences PFC dopamine-dependent cognitive task performance. A human COMT polymorphism (Val158Met) alters enzyme activity and is associated with both the activation and functional connectivity of the PFC during task performance, particularly working memory. Here, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging and a data-driven, independent components analysis (ICA) approach to compare resting state functional connectivity within the executive control network (ECN) between young, male COMT Val158 (n = 27) and Met158 (n = 28) homozygotes. COMT genotype effects on grey matter were assessed using voxel-based morphometry. COMT genotype significantly modulated functional connectivity within the ECN, which included the head of the caudate, and anterior cingulate and frontal cortical regions. Val158 homozygotes showed greater functional connectivity between a cluster within the left ventrolateral PFC and the rest of the ECN (using a threshold of Z > 2.3 and a family-wise error cluster significance level of p < 0.05). This difference occurred in the absence of any alterations in grey matter. Our data show that COMT Val158Met affects the functional connectivity of the PFC at rest, complementing its prominent role in the activation and functional connectivity of this region during cognitive task performance. The results suggest that genotype-related differences in prefrontal dopaminergic tone result in neuroadaptive changes in basal functional connectivity, potentially including subtle COMT genotype-dependent differences in the relative coupling of task-positive and task-negative regions, which could in turn contribute to its effects on brain activation, connectivity, and behaviour.
► We studied the impact of COMT Val158Met genotype on resting state connectivity. ► We compared resting state functional connectivity in Val/Val vs. Met/Met men. ► We focussed on the predominantly prefrontal (PFC) executive control network (ECN). ► The ECN was identified using a group ICA approach. ► We found greater resting PFC functional connectivity in Val/Val vs. Met/Met men.
Resting state network; Dopamine; Working memory; Prefrontal cortex; Polymorphism; fMRI
Pramanicin (PMC) is an antifungal agent that was previously demonstrated to exhibit antiangiogenic and anticancer properties in a few in vitro studies. We initially screened a number of PMC analogs for their cytotoxic effects on HCT116 human colon cancer cells. PMC-A, the analog with the most potent antiproliferative effect was chosen to further interrogate the underlying mechanism of action. PMC-A led to apoptosis through activation of caspase-9 and -3. The apoptotic nature of cell death was confirmed by abrogation of cell death with pretreatment with specific caspase inhibitors. Stress-related MAPKs JNK and p38 were both activated concomittantly with the intrinsic apoptotic pathway. Moreover, pharmacological inhibition of p38 proved to attenuate the cell death induction while pretreatment with JNK inhibitor did not exhibit a protective effect. Resistance of Bax −/− cells and the protective nature of caspase-9 inhibition indicate that mitochondria play a central role in PMC-A induced apoptosis. Early post-exposure elevation of cellular Bim and Bax was followed by a marginal Bcl-2 depletion and Bid cleavage. Further analysis revealed that Bcl-2 downregulation occurs at the mRNA level and is critical to mediate PMC-A induced apoptosis, as ectopic Bcl-2 expression substantially spared the cells from death. Conversely, forced expression of Bim proved to significantly increase cell death. In addition, analyses of p53−/− cells demonstrated that Bcl-2/Bim/Bax modulation and MAPK activations take place independently of p53 expression. Taken together, p53-independent transcriptional Bcl-2 downregulation and p38 signaling appear to be the key modulatory events in PMC-A induced apoptosis.
Sphingosine-1-phospate (S1P) and S1P receptor agonists elicit mechanism-based effects on cardiovascular function in vivo. Indeed, FTY720 (non-selective S1PX receptor agonist) produces modest hypertension in patients (2–3 mmHg in 1-yr trial) as well as acute bradycardia independent of changes in blood pressure. However, the precise receptor subtypes responsible is controversial, likely dependent upon the cardiovascular response in question (e.g. bradycardia, hypertension), and perhaps even species-dependent since functional differences in rodent, rabbit, and human have been suggested. Thus, we characterized the S1P receptor subtype specificity for each compound in vitro and, in vivo, the cardiovascular effects of FTY720 and the more selective S1P1,5 agonist, BAF312, were tested during acute i.v. infusion in anesthetized rats and after oral administration for 10 days in telemetry-instrumented conscious rats. Acute i.v. infusion of FTY720 (0.1, 0.3, 1.0 mg/kg/20 min) or BAF312 (0.5, 1.5, 5.0 mg/kg/20 min) elicited acute bradycardia in anesthetized rats demonstrating an S1P1 mediated mechanism-of-action. However, while FTY720 (0.5, 1.5, 5.0 mg/kg/d) elicited dose-dependent hypertension after multiple days of oral administration in rat at clinically relevant plasma concentrations (24-hr mean blood pressure = 8.4, 12.8, 16.2 mmHg above baseline vs. 3 mmHg in vehicle controls), BAF312 (0.3, 3.0, 30.0 mg/kg/d) had no significant effect on blood pressure at any dose tested suggesting that hypertension produced by FTY720 is mediated S1P3 receptors. In summary, in vitro selectivity results in combination with studies performed in anesthetized and conscious rats administered two clinically tested S1P agonists, FTY720 or BAF312, suggest that S1P1 receptors mediate bradycardia while hypertension is mediated by S1P3 receptor activation.
Microparticles (MPs) are submicron vesicles shed by activated or apoptotic cells, including platelets and monocytes. Increased circulating MPs are associated with thrombosis; however, their role in thrombogenesis is poorly understood.
To determine how MPs promote thrombin generation and modulate fibrin density and stability.
Platelets and monocytes were isolated from healthy donors. Platelets were stimulated with calcium ionophore, thrombin receptor agonist peptide (TRAP), or TRAP/convulxin. Monocytes and human monocytic THP-1 cells were stimulated with lipopolysaccharide. MPs were isolated, washed by high-speed centrifugation, and assessed by transmission electron microscopy, nanoparticle tracking analysis, flow cytometry, tissue factor (TF) activity, prothrombinase activity, thrombin generation, and clot formation, density, and stability.
MPs from monocytes (M-MPs) and platelets (PMPs) had similar shapes and diameters (100–300 nm). M-MPs had TF activity (16.7±2.4 pM TF/106 MP), supported prothrombinase activity, and triggered shorter thrombin generation lag times than buffer controls (5.4±0.5 versus 84.2±4.8 min, respectively). Compared to controls, M-MPs supported faster fibrin formation (0.24±0.24 versus 76.7±15.1 mOD/min, respectively), 38% higher fibrin network density, and higher clot stability (3.8-fold higher turbidity in the presence of tissue plasminogen activator). In contrast, PMPs did not have TF activity and supported 2.8-fold lower prothrombinase activity than M-MPs. PMPs supported contact-dependent thrombin generation, but did not independently increase fibrin network density or stability. Interestingly, PMPs increased rates of thrombin generation and fibrin formation (1.7- and 1.3-fold, respectively) when mixed with THP-1-derived MPs.
MPs from platelets and monocytes differentially modulate clot formation, structure and stability, suggesting unique contributions to thrombosis.
fibrinogen; microparticle; phosphatidylserine; thrombosis; tissue factor
Understanding multicellular fungal structures is important for designing better strategies against human fungal pathogens. For example, the ability to form multicellular biofilms is a key virulence property of the yeast Candida albicans. C. albicans biofilms form on indwelling medical devices and are drug resistant, causing serious infections in hospital settings. Multicellular fungal communities are heterogeneous, consisting of cells experiencing different environments. Heterogeneity is likely important for the phenotypic characteristics of communities, yet it is poorly understood. Here we used colonies of the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae as a model fungal multicellular structure. We fractionated the outside colony layers from the cells in the center by FACS, using a Cit1-GFP marker expressed exclusively on the outside. Transcriptomics analysis of the two subpopulations revealed that the outside colony layers are actively growing by fermentative metabolism, while the cells residing on the inside are in a resting state and experience changes to mitochondrial activity. Our data shows several parallels with C. albicans biofilms providing insight into the contributions of heterogeneity to biofilm phenotypes. Hallmarks of C. albicans biofilms – the expression of ribosome and translation functions and activation of glycolysis and ergosterol biosynthesis occur on the outside of colonies, while expression of genes associates with sulfur assimilation is observed in the colony center. Cell wall restructuring occurs in biofilms, and cell wall functions are enriched in both fractions: the outside cells display enrichment of cell wall biosynthesis enzymes and cell wall proteins, while the inside cells express cell wall degrading enzymes. Our study also suggests that noncoding transcription and posttranscriptional mRNA regulation play important roles during growth of yeast in colonies, setting the scene for investigating these pathways in the development of multicellular fungal communities.
Prion Proteins (PrP) are among a small number of proteins for which large numbers of NMR ensembles have been resolved for sequence mutants and diverse species. Here, we perform a comprehensive principle components analysis (PCA) on the tertiary structures of PrP globular proteins to discern PrP subdomains that exhibit conformational change in response to point mutations and clade-specific evolutionary sequence mutation trends. This is to our knowledge the first such large-scale analysis of multiple NMR ensembles of protein structures, and the first study of its kind for PrPs. We conducted PCA on human (n = 11), mouse (n = 14), and wildtype (n = 21) sets of PrP globular structures, from which we identified five conformationally variable subdomains within PrP. PCA shows that different non-local patterns and rankings of variable subdomains arise for different pathogenic mutants. These subdomains may thus be key areas for initiating PrP conversion during disease. Furthermore, we have observed the conformational clustering of divergent TSE-non-susceptible species pairs; these non-phylogenetic clusterings indicate structural solutions towards TSE resistance that do not necessarily coincide with evolutionary divergence. We discuss the novelty of our approach and the importance of PrP subdomains in structural conversion during disease.
Prion Proteins (PrP) cause a variety of incurable TSE diseases, and are among a small number of proteins for which large numbers of NMR ensembles have been resolved for sequence mutants and diverse species. Here, we perform a comprehensive PCA study to assess conformational variation and discern the landscape of the PrP structural response to sequence mutation. This is to our knowledge the first large-scale analysis of multiple NMR ensembles for a specific protein, and the first study to perform a multivariate PCA on the native globular structures of PrP. We conducted exhaustive PCA on three PrP subsets: human and mouse subsets that include structures of sequence mutants, and the set of wild-type PrP (16 PrP species). PCA shows that different non-local patterns of variable subdomains arise for different pathogenic mutants. These subdomains may thus be key areas for initiating PrP conversion during disease. Furthermore, we observed that some evolutionarily divergent species that are non-susceptible to TSEs have surprising structural similarities in their PrPs. We discuss the novelty of our approach with respect to prions, and the advantage of this analysis as a fast, reliable starting point to identify interesting domains that may warrant further experimental and computational analysis.
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.
Most brain gene expression studies of schizophrenia have been conducted in the frontal cortex or hippocampus. The extent to which alterations occur in other cortical regions is not well established. We investigated primary visual cortex (Brodmann area 17) from the Stanley Neuropathology Consortium collection of tissue from 60 subjects with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression, or controls. We first carried out a preliminary array screen of pooled RNA, and then used RT-PCR to quantify five mRNAs which the array identified as differentially expressed in schizophrenia (myelin basic protein [MBP], myelin-oligodendrocyte glycoprotein [MOG], β-actin [ACTB], thymosin β-10 [TB10], and superior cervical ganglion-10 [SCG10]). Reduced mRNA levels were confirmed by RT-PCR for MBP, ACTB and TB10. The MBP reduction was limited to transcripts containing exon 2. ACTB and TB10 mRNAs were also decreased in bipolar disorder. None of the transcripts were altered in subjects with major depression. Reduced MBP mRNA in schizophrenia replicates findings in other brain regions and is consistent with oligodendrocyte involvement in the disorder. The decreases in expression of ACTB, and the actin-binding protein gene TB10, suggest changes in cytoskeletal organisation. The findings confirm that the primary visual cortex shows molecular alterations in schizophrenia and extend the evidence for a widespread, rather than focal, cortical pathophysiology.
Catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) metabolizes dopamine. The COMT Val158Met polymorphism influences its activity, and multiple neural correlates of this genotype on dopaminergic phenotypes, especially working memory, have been reported. COMT activity can also be regulated pharmacologically by COMT inhibitors. The inverted-U relationship between cortical dopamine signaling and working memory predicts that the effects of COMT inhibition will differ according to COMT genotype.
Thirty-four COMT Met158Met (Met-COMT) and 33 COMT Val158Val (Val-COMT) men were given a single 200-mg dose of the brain-penetrant COMT inhibitor tolcapone or placebo in a randomized, double-blind, between-subjects design. They completed the N-back task of working memory and a gambling task.
In the placebo group, Met-COMT subjects outperformed Val-COMT subjects on the 2- back, and they were more risk averse. Tolcapone had opposite effects in the two genotype groups: it worsened N-back performance in Met-COMT subjects but enhanced it in Val-COMT subjects. Tolcapone made Met-COMT subjects less risk averse but Val-COMT subjects more so. In both tasks, tolcapone reversed the baseline genotype differences.
Depending on genotype, COMT inhibition can enhance or impair working memory and increase or decrease risky decision making. To our knowledge, the data are the clearest demonstration to date that the direction of effect of a drug can be influenced by a polymorphism in its target gene. The results support the inverted-U model of dopamine function. The findings are of translational relevance, because COMT inhibitors are used in the adjunctive treatment of Parkinson's disease and are under evaluation in schizophrenia and other disorders.
Catechol-o-methyltransferase; decision making; pharmacogenetics; polymorphism; tolcapone; working memory
Several lines of evidence implicate 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT, serotonin) in the pathophysiology of mood disorders and suicide. However, it is unclear whether these conditions include morphological involvement of the dorsal raphe nucleus (DRN), the origin of most forebrain 5-HT innervation.
We used morphometric, immunohistochemical, and molecular methods to compare the DRN in post-mortem tissue of 50 subjects (13 controls, 14 major depressive disorder [MDD], 13 bipolar disorder, 10 schizophrenia; 17 of the cases died by suicide). NeuN and PH8 antibodies were used to assess all neurons and serotonergic neurons respectively; 5-HT1A autoreceptor expression was investigated by regional and cellular in situ hybridization. Measurements were made at three rostrocaudal levels of the DRN.
In MDD, the area of the DRN was decreased. In bipolar disorder, serotonergic neuronal size was decreased. Suicide was associated with an increased DRN area, and with a higher density but decreased size of serotonergic neurons. Total neuronal density and 5-HT1A receptor mRNA abundance were unaffected by diagnosis or suicide. No changes were seen in schizophrenia.
The results show that mood disorders and suicide are associated with differential, limited morphological alterations of the DRN. The contrasting influences of MDD and suicide may explain some of the discrepancies between previous studies, since their design precluded detection of the effect.
5-HT1A receptor; HTR1A; Morphometry; Serotonin; Tryptophan hydroxylase
Prions are units of propagation of an altered state of a protein or proteins; prions can propagate from organism to organism, through cooption of other protein copies. Prions contain no necessary nucleic acids, and are important both as both pathogenic agents, and as a potential force in epigenetic phenomena. The original prions were derived from a misfolded form of the mammalian Prion Protein PrP. Infection by these prions causes neurodegenerative diseases. Other prions cause non-Mendelian inheritance in budding yeast, and sometimes act as diseases of yeast. We report the bioinformatic construction of the PrionHome, a database of >2000 prion-related sequences. The data was collated from various public and private resources and filtered for redundancy. The data was then processed according to a transparent classification system of prionogenic sequences (i.e., sequences that can make prions), prionoids (i.e., proteins that propagate like prions between individual cells), and other prion-related phenomena. There are eight PrionHome classifications for sequences. The first four classifications are derived from experimental observations: prionogenic sequences, prionoids, other prion-related phenomena, and prion interactors. The second four classifications are derived from sequence analysis: orthologs, paralogs, pseudogenes, and candidate-prionogenic sequences. Database entries list: supporting information for PrionHome classifications, prion-determinant areas (where relevant), and disordered and compositionally-biased regions. Also included are literature references for the PrionHome classifications, transcripts and genomic coordinates, and structural data (including comparative models made for the PrionHome from manually curated alignments). We provide database usage examples for both vertebrate and fungal prion contexts. Using the database data, we have performed a detailed analysis of the compositional biases in known budding-yeast prionogenic sequences, showing that the only abundant bias pattern is for asparagine bias with subsidiary serine bias. We anticipate that this database will be a useful experimental aid and reference resource. It is freely available at: http://libaio.biol.mcgill.ca/prion.
Assessment of embryo viability is a key component of in vitro fertilization (IVF) and currently relies largely on embryo morphology and cleavage rate. In this study, we used receiver operating characteristic (ROC) analysis to compare the Viability Score (generated by metabolomic profiling of spent embryo culture media using near infrared (NIR) spectroscopy) to morphologic grading for predicting pregnancy in women undergoing single embryo transfer (SET) on day 5.
A total of 198 spent embryo culture media samples were collected in four IVF centers located in the USA, Europe and Australia. First, 137 samples (training set) were analyzed by NIR to develop an algorithm that generates a Viability Score predictive of pregnancy for each sample. Next, 61 samples (validation set) were analyzed by observers blinded to embryo morphology and IVF outcome, using the Day 5 algorithm generated with the training set. Pregnancy was defined as fetal cardiac activity (FCA) at 12 weeks of gestation.
The Area Under the Curve (AUC) was greater for the metabolomic Viability Score compared to Morphology [Training set: 0.75 versus 0.55, p = 0.0011; Validation set: 0.68 versus 0.50, P = 0.021], and for a Composite score (obtained using a model combining Viability Score with morphologic grading), compared to morphology alone [0.74 versus 0.50, p = 0.004].
Our findings suggest that Viability Score alone or in combination with morphologic grading has the potential to be a better classifier for pregnancy outcome than morphology alone in women undergoing SET on day 5.
ROC analysis; Assisted reproductive technologies; ART; In vitro fertilization; IVF; Morphologic grade; Metabolomics; Viability Score
Group II metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluR2 and mGluR3, encoded by GRM2 and GRM3) are implicated in hippocampal function and cognition, and in the pathophysiology and treatment of schizophrenia and other psychiatric disorders. However, pharmacological and behavioral studies with group II mGluR agonists and antagonists have produced complex results. Here, we studied hippocampus-dependent memory in GRM2/3 double knockout (GRM2/3−/−) mice in an iterative sequence of experiments. We found that they were impaired on appetitively motivated spatial reference and working memory tasks, and on a spatial novelty preference task that relies on animals' exploratory drive, but were unimpaired on aversively motivated spatial memory paradigms. GRM2/3−/− mice also performed normally on an appetitively motivated, non-spatial, visual discrimination task. These results likely reflect an interaction between GRM2/3 genotype and the arousal-inducing properties of the experimental paradigm. The deficit seen on appetitive and exploratory spatial memory tasks may be absent in aversive tasks because the latter induce higher levels of arousal, which rescue spatial learning. Consistent with an altered arousal–cognition relationship in GRM2/3−/− mice, injection stress worsened appetitively motivated, spatial working memory in wild-types, but enhanced performance in GRM2/3−/− mice. GRM2/3−/− mice were also hypoactive in response to amphetamine. This fractionation of hippocampus-dependent memory depending on the appetitive-aversive context is to our knowledge unique, and suggests a role for group II mGluRs at the interface of arousal and cognition. These arousal-dependent effects may explain apparently conflicting data from previous studies, and have translational relevance for the involvement of these receptors in schizophrenia and other disorders.
hippocampus; schizophrenia; metabotropic glutamate receptor; arousal; behavioral science; glutamate; animal models; schizophrenia/antipsychotics; metabotropic; arousal
Cellular microvesicles and nanovesicles (exosomes) are involved in many disease processes and have major potential as biomarkers. However, developments in this area are constrained by limitations in the technology available for their measurement. Here we report on the use of fluorescence nanoparticle tracking analysis (NTA) to rapidly size and phenotype cellular vesicles. In this system vesicles are visualized by light scattering using a light microscope. A video is taken, and the NTA software tracks the brownian motion of individual vesicles and calculates their size and total concentration. Using human placental vesicles and plasma, we have demonstrated that NTA can measure cellular vesicles as small as ∼50 nm and is far more sensitive than conventional flow cytometry (lower limit ∼300 nm). By combining NTA with fluorescence measurement we have demonstrated that vesicles can be labeled with specific antibody-conjugated quantum dots, allowing their phenotype to be determined.
From the Clinical Editor
The authors of this study utilized fluorescence nanoparticle tracking analysis (NTA) to rapidly size and phenotype cellular vesicles, demonstrating that NTA is far more sensitive than conventional flow cytometry.
Screen shot from video of light scatter of placental vesicles overlaid with a graph of vesicle size and concentration as determined by nanoparticle tracking analysis.
Microvesicles; Microparticles; Exosomes; Nanoparticle Tracking Analysis; Flow Cytometry
The HET-s prion-forming domain from the filamentous fungus Podospora anserina is gaining considerable interest since it yielded the first well-defined atomic structure of a functional amyloid fibril. This structure has been identified as a left-handed beta solenoid with a triangular hydrophobic core. To delineate the origins of the HET-s prion-forming protein and to discover other amyloid-forming proteins, we searched for all homologs of the HET-s protein in a database of protein domains and fungal genomes, using a combined application of HMM, psi-blast and pGenThreader techniques, and performed a comparative evolutionary analysis of the N-terminal alpha-helical domain and the C-terminal prion-forming domain of HET-s. By assessing the tandem evolution of both domains, we observed that the prion-forming domain is restricted to Sordariomycetes, with a marginal additional sequence homolog in Arthroderma otae as a likely case of horizontal transfer. This suggests innovation and rapid evolution of the solenoid fold in the Sordariomycetes clade. In contrast, the N-terminal domain evolves at a slower rate (in Sordariomycetes) and spans many diverse clades of fungi. We performed a full three-dimensional protein threading analysis on all identified HET-s homologs against the HET-s solenoid fold, and present detailed structural annotations for identified structural homologs to the prion-forming domain. An analysis of the physicochemical characteristics in our set of structural models indicates that the HET-s solenoid shape can be readily adopted in these homologs, but that they are all less optimized for fibril formation than the P. anserina HET-s sequence itself, due chiefly to the presence of fewer asparagine ladders and salt bridges. Our combined structural and evolutionary analysis suggests that the HET-s shape has “limited scope” for amyloidosis across the wider protein universe, compared to the ‘generic’ left-handed beta helix. We discuss the implications of our findings on future identification of amyloid-forming proteins sharing the solenoid fold.
Antimicrobial resistance in Staphylococcus aureus is a major public health threat, compounded by emergence of strains with resistance to vancomycin and daptomycin, both last line antimicrobials. Here we have performed high throughput DNA sequencing and comparative genomics for five clinical pairs of vancomycin-susceptible (VSSA) and vancomycin-intermediate ST239 S. aureus (VISA); each pair isolated before and after vancomycin treatment failure. These comparisons revealed a frequent pattern of mutation among the VISA strains within the essential walKR two-component regulatory locus involved in control of cell wall metabolism. We then conducted bi-directional allelic exchange experiments in our clinical VSSA and VISA strains and showed that single nucleotide substitutions within either walK or walR lead to co-resistance to vancomycin and daptomycin, and caused the typical cell wall thickening observed in resistant clinical isolates. Ion Torrent genome sequencing confirmed no additional regulatory mutations had been introduced into either the walR or walK VISA mutants during the allelic exchange process. However, two potential compensatory mutations were detected within putative transport genes for the walK mutant. The minimal genetic changes in either walK or walR also attenuated virulence, reduced biofilm formation, and led to consistent transcriptional changes that suggest an important role for this regulator in control of central metabolism. This study highlights the dramatic impacts of single mutations that arise during persistent S. aureus infections and demonstrates the role played by walKR to increase drug resistance, control metabolism and alter the virulence potential of this pathogen.
The treatment of serious infections caused by Staphylococcus aureus is complicated by the development of antibiotic resistance, and recently resistance to one of the last available antibiotics to treat resistant S. aureus infections, vancomycin, has also emerged. Here we have shown using whole genome sequencing of 10 S. aureus strains and gene replacement experiments on sequential S. aureus isolates obtained during persistent bloodstream infection, how S. aureus evolved intermediate vancomycin resistance by acquiring mutations in the important regulator WalKR. Mutations in this locus were found to be common in strains of S. aureus demonstrating intermediate vancomycin resistance, and these strains also demonstrated daptomycin non-susceptibility even though this drug had never been used for treatment. Experiments to replace the mutated walK or walR into the parent strain and vice versa confirmed that these mutations were responsible for the antibiotic resistance, but also led to significant changes in virulence, biofilm formation, and regulation of metabolism within the organism. This study highlights the adaptability of S. aureus in the face of antimicrobial treatment.
The evolutionary origin of prion genes, only known to exist in the vertebrate lineage, had remained elusive until recently. Following a lead from interactome investigations of the murine prion protein, our previous bioinformatic analyses revealed the evolutionary descent of prion genes from an ancestral ZIP metal ion transporter. However, the molecular mechanism of evolution remained unexplored. Here we present a computational investigation of this question based on sequence, intron-exon, synteny and pseudogene analyses. Our data suggest that during the emergence of metazoa, a cysteine-flanked core domain was modularly inserted, or arose de novo, in a preexisting ZIP ancestor gene to generate a prion-like ectodomain in a subbranch of ZIP genes. Approximately a half-billion years later, a genomic insertion of a spliced transcript coding for such a prion-like ZIP ectodomain may have created the prion founder gene. We document that similar genomic insertions involving ZIP transcripts, and probably relying on retropositional elements, have indeed occurred more than once throughout evolution.
Pre-eclampsia is a complication of pregnancy associated with activation of coagulation. It is caused by the placenta, which sheds increased amounts of syncytiotrophoblast microvesicles (STBM) into the maternal circulation. We hypothesized that STBM could contribute to the haemostatic activation observed in pre-eclampsia.
STBM were collected by perfusion of the maternal side of placentae from healthy pregnant women and women with pre-eclampsia at caesarean section. Calibrated automated thrombography was used to assess thrombin generation triggered by STBM-borne tissue factor in platelet poor plasma (PPP). No thrombin was detected in PPP alone but the addition of STBM initiated thrombin generation in 14/16 cases. Pre-eclampsia STBM significantly shortened the lag time (LagT, P = 0.01) and time to peak thrombin generation (TTP, P = 0.005) when compared to normal STBM. Blockade of tissue factor eliminated thrombin generation, while inhibition of tissue factor pathway inhibitor significantly shortened LagT (p = 0.01) and TTP (P<0.0001), with a concomitant increase in endogenous thrombin potential.
STBM triggered thrombin generation in normal plasma in a tissue factor dependent manner, indicating that TF activity is expressed by STBM. This is more pronounced in STBM shed from pre-eclampsia placentae. As more STBM are shed in pre-eclampsia these observations give insight into the disordered haemostasis observed in this condition.
Community-associated methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (CA-MRSA) USA300 has spread rapidly across North America, and CA-MRSA is also increasing in Australia. However, the dominant Australian CA-MRSA strain, ST93-IV [2B] appears distantly related to USA300 despite strikingly similar clinical and epidemiological profiles. Here, we compared the virulence of a recent Australian ST93 isolate (JKD6159) to other MRSA, including USA300, and found that JKD6159 was the most virulent in a mouse skin infection model. We fully sequenced the genome of JKD6159 and confirmed that JKD6159 is a distinct clone with 7616 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) distinguishing this strain from all other S. aureus genomes. Despite its high virulence there were surprisingly few virulence determinants. However, genes encoding α-hemolysin, Panton-Valentine leukocidin (PVL) and α-type phenol soluble modulins were present. Genome comparisons revealed 32 additional CDS in JKD6159 but none appeared to encode new virulence factors, suggesting that this clone's enhanced pathogenicity could lie within subtler genome changes, such as SNPs within regulatory genes. To investigate the role of accessory genome elements in CA-MRSA epidemiology, we next sequenced three additional Australian non-ST93 CA-MRSA strains and compared them with JKD6159, 19 completed S. aureus genomes and 59 additional S. aureus genomes for which unassembled genome sequence data was publicly available (82 genomes in total). These comparisons showed that despite its distinctive genotype, JKD6159 and other CA-MRSA clones (including USA300) share a conserved repertoire of three notable accessory elements (SSCmecIV, PVL prophage, and pMW2). This study demonstrates that the genetically distinct ST93 CA-MRSA from Australia is highly virulent. Our comparisons of geographically and genetically diverse CA-MRSA genomes suggest that apparent convergent evolution in CA-MRSA may be better explained by the rapid dissemination of a highly conserved accessory genome from a common source.
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.
Neuregulin 1 (NRG1) is a growth factor involved in neurodevelopment and plasticity. It is a schizophrenia candidate gene, and hippocampal expression of the NRG1 type I isoform is increased in the disorder. We have studied transgenic mice overexpressing NRG1 type I (NRG1tg-type I) and their wild-type littermates and measured hippocampal electrophysiological and behavioral phenotypes. Young NRG1tg-type I mice showed normal memory performance, but in older NRG1tg-type I mice, hippocampus-dependent spatial working memory was selectively impaired. Hippocampal slice preparations from NRG1tg-type I mice exhibited a reduced frequency of carbachol-induced gamma oscillations and an increased tendency to epileptiform activity. Long-term potentiation in NRG1tg-type I mice was normal. The results provide evidence that NRG1 type I impacts on hippocampal function and circuitry. The effects are likely mediated via inhibitory interneurons and may be relevant to the involvement of NRG1 in schizophrenia. However, the findings, in concert with those from other genetic and pharmacological manipulations of NRG1, emphasize the complex and pleiotropic nature of the gene, even with regard to a single isoform.
gamma oscillation; hippocampus; neuregulin; schizophrenia; synaptic plasticity
Sheep were sensitized by repeated infection with Haemonchus contortus L3, followed by a 12 week rest period, and an abomasal cannula was surgically implanted in all sheep. Seven of the sensitized sheep were subsequently challenged with 50 000 H. contortus L3 while 4 control sheep were challenged with saline. Biopsy samples were taken using a fibreoptic endoscope on days 0, 1, 2, 3, 5, 7 and 28 after challenge and leukocyte subpopulations quantified by (immuno)histology. Differential blood cell counts were performed on the same days. At the end of the trial, sheep showed significantly reduced worm burdens compared to unsensitized control sheep, confirming their resistance status. Both blood and tissue eosinophils, as well as tissue γδ TCR+ cells were rapidly elevated by day 1 post L3 challenge (pc), peaking at day 3 pc. There was a slight increase in tissue CD4 T cells at day 2 pc, peaking at day 3 pc while no significant changes in CD8 T cells were observed. B cells (CD45R+) increased later into challenged tissues with a peak at 5 days pc. All tissue lymphocyte subpopulations as well as tissue and blood eosinophils were reduced by day 7 pc before increasing again at day 28 pc, suggesting separate responses to larval and adult antigens. In contrast, globule leukocytes and mucosal mast cells only showed one peak at day 5 pc and 28 pc, respectively. Unexpectedly, globule leukocytes correlated significantly with tissue eosinophils but not mucosal mast cells. The results are consistent with an early eosinophil-mediated killing of L3, possibly recruited by IL-5 produced by γδ T cells. In contrast to post-mortem studies, abomasal cannulation allowed sequential analysis of both early and late time points in the same animal, providing a more complete picture of cellular interactions at both peripheral and local sites, and their correlation with the different stages of parasite development.
nematode; immunity; sheep; eosinophil