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1.  Global analysis of mRNA stability in Mycobacterium tuberculosis 
Nucleic Acids Research  2012;41(1):509-517.
Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) is a highly successful pathogen that infects over a billion people. As with most organisms, MTB adapts to stress by modifying its transcriptional profile. Remodeling of the transcriptome requires both altering the transcription rate and clearing away the existing mRNA through degradation, a process that can be directly regulated in response to stress. To understand better how MTB adapts to the harsh environs of the human host, we performed a global survey of the decay rates of MTB mRNA transcripts. Decay rates were measured for 2139 of the ∼4000 MTB genes, which displayed an average half-life of 9.5 min. This is nearly twice the average mRNA half-life of other prokaryotic organisms where these measurements have been made. The transcriptome was further stabilized in response to lowered temperature and hypoxic stress. The generally stable transcriptome described here, and the additional stabilization in response to physiologically relevant stresses, has far-ranging implications for how this pathogen is able to adapt in its human host.
PMCID: PMC3592478  PMID: 23125364
2.  Mapping and manipulating the Mycobacterium tuberculosis transcriptome using a transcription factor overexpression-derived regulatory network 
Genome Biology  2014;15(11):502.
Mycobacterium tuberculosis senses and responds to the shifting and hostile landscape of the host. To characterize the underlying intertwined gene regulatory network governed by approximately 200 transcription factors of M. tuberculosis, we have assayed the global transcriptional consequences of overexpressing each transcription factor from an inducible promoter.
We cloned and overexpressed 206 transcription factors in M. tuberculosis to identify the regulatory signature of each. We identified 9,335 regulatory consequences of overexpressing each of 183 transcription factors, providing evidence of regulation for 70% of the M. tuberculosis genome. These transcriptional signatures agree well with previously described M. tuberculosis regulons. The number of genes differentially regulated by transcription factor overexpression varied from hundreds of genes to none, with the majority of expression changes repressing basal transcription. Exploring the global transcriptional maps of transcription factor overexpressing (TFOE) strains, we predicted and validated the phenotype of a regulator that reduces susceptibility to a first line anti-tubercular drug, isoniazid. We also combined the TFOE data with an existing model of M. tuberculosis metabolism to predict the growth rates of individual TFOE strains with high fidelity.
This work has led to a systems-level framework describing the transcriptome of a devastating bacterial pathogen, characterized the transcriptional influence of nearly all individual transcription factors in M. tuberculosis, and demonstrated the utility of this resource. These results will stimulate additional systems-level and hypothesis-driven efforts to understand M. tuberculosis adaptations that promote disease.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13059-014-0502-3) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4249609  PMID: 25380655
3.  Bioinformatic and empirical analysis of novel hypoxia-inducible targets of the human antituberculosis T cell response1 
We analyzed whole genome based transcriptional profiles of Mycobacterium tuberculosis subjected to prolonged hypoxia to guide the discovery of novel potential antigens, by a combined bioinformatic and empirical approach. We analysed the fold induction of the 100 most highly induced genes at 7 days of hypoxia, as well as transcript abundance, peptide binding prediction (ProPred) adjusted for population specific MHC class II allele frequency, and by literature search. 26 candidate genes were selected by this bioinformatic approach and evaluated empirically using IFN-gamma and IL-2 ELISpot using immunodominant antigens (Acr-1, CFP-10, ESAT-6) as references. 23 of 26 proteins induced an IFN-γ response in PBMC of persons with active or latent tuberculosis (LTBI). Five novel immunodominant proteins: Rv1957, Rv1954c, Rv1955, Rv2022c and Rv1471 were identified that induced responses similar to CFP-10 and ESAT-6 in both magnitude and frequency. IL-2 responses were of lower magnitude than IFN-gamma. Only moderate evidence of infection stage specific recognition of antigens was observed. Reconciliation of bioinformatic and empirical hierarchies of immunodominance revealed that antigens could be predicted, providing transcriptomic data was combined with peptide binding prediction adjusted by population specific MHC class II allele frequency.
PMCID: PMC3519923  PMID: 23169589
4.  Hypoxia Induces an Immunodominant Target of Tuberculosis Specific T Cells Absent from Common BCG Vaccines 
PLoS Pathogens  2010;6(12):e1001237.
M. tuberculosis (MTB) species-specific antigenic determinants of the human T cell response are important for immunodiagnosis and vaccination. As hypoxia is a stimulus in chronic tuberculosis infection, we analyzed transcriptional profiles of MTB subject to 168 hours of hypoxia to test the hypothesis that upregulation by hypoxia might result in gene products being recognized as antigens. We identified upregulation of two region of difference (RD) 11 (Rv2658C and Rv2659c), and one RD2 (Rv1986) absent from commonly used BCG strains. In MTB infected persons, the IL-2 ELISpot response to Rv1986 peptides was several times greater than the corresponding IFN-γ response to the reference immunodominant ESAT-6 or CFP-10 antigens. The IL-2 response was confined to two epitopic regions containing residues 61–80 and 161–180. The biggest population of IL-2 secreting T cells was single cytokine positive central memory T cells. The IL-2 response to live MTB bacilli lacking Rv1986 was significantly lower than the response to wild type or mutant complemented with Rv1986. In addition, the IL-2 response to Rv1986 was significantly lower in HIV-TB co-infected persons than in HIV uninfected persons, and significantly increased during antiretroviral therapy. These findings demonstrate that Rv1986 is an immunodominant target of memory T cells and is therefore of relevance when considering the partial efficacy of currently used BCG vaccines and provide evidence for a clinical trial comparing BCG strains.
Author Summary
Mycobacterium tuberculosis (the cause of tuberculosis) can persist for many years in humans without causing disease but has the potential to reactivate. One of the conditions the bacterium must survive in these circumstances is hypoxia. In order to do so, the bacterium uses a characteristic set of genes that help alter its metabolism. It follows that the products of such genes may encode protein antigens that can be recognized by the immune response. We therefore analyzed gene response patterns of tuberculosis subject to prolonged hypoxia as a guide to the discovery of new antigens that might be useful as vaccines or diagnostic agents. Amongst the genes most strongly increased by low oxygen levels, one was identified (known as Rv1986) that is missing from most strains of the tuberculosis vaccine Mycobacterium bovis BCG. When we analyzed human immune responses to this protein in tuberculosis infected people our experiments showed it was particularly well recognized by cells that produce a chemical messenger (cytokine) called interleukin-2. Interleukin-2 is important for long-term immunological memory. The BCG vaccine is only partially effective and our experiments therefore suggest one of the reasons could be that an important immunological target is missing from many strains. Further evaluation of BCG strains in which Rv1986 is present or absent is therefore warranted in the hope that this might improve the efficacy of existing or new tuberculosis vaccines.
PMCID: PMC3009603  PMID: 21203487
5.  Characterization of a Clp Protease Gene Regulator and the Reaeration Response in Mycobacterium tuberculosis 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(7):e11622.
Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) enters a non-replicating state when exposed to low oxygen tension, a condition the bacillus encounters in granulomas during infection. Determining how mycobacteria enter and maintain this state is a major focus of research. However, from a public health standpoint the importance of latent TB is its ability to reactivate. The mechanism by which mycobacteria return to a replicating state upon re-exposure to favorable conditions is not understood. In this study, we utilized reaeration from a defined hypoxia model to characterize the adaptive response of MTB following a return to favorable growth conditions. Global transcriptional analysis identified the ∼100 gene Reaeration Response, induced relative to both log-phase and hypoxic MTB. This response includes chaperones and proteases, as well as the transcription factor Rv2745c, which we characterize as a Clp protease gene regulator (ClgR) orthologue. During reaeration, genes repressed during hypoxia are also upregulated in a wave of transcription that includes genes crucial to transcription, translation and oxidative phosphorylation and culminates in bacterial replication. In sum, this study defines a new transcriptional response of MTB with potential relevance to disease, and implicates ClgR as a regulator involved in resumption of replication following hypoxia.
PMCID: PMC2905415  PMID: 20661284
6.  The Enduring Hypoxic Response of Mycobacterium tuberculosis 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(1):e1502.
A significant body of evidence accumulated over the last century suggests a link between hypoxic microenvironments within the infected host and the latent phase of tuberculosis. Studies to test this correlation have identified the M. tuberculosis initial hypoxic response, controlled by the two-component response regulator DosR. The initial hypoxic response is completely blocked in a dosR deletion mutant.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We show here that a dosR deletion mutant enters bacteriostasis in response to in vitro hypoxia with only a relatively mild decrease in viability. In the murine infection model, the phenotype of the mutant was indistinguishable from that of the parent strain. These results suggested that additional genes may be essential for entry into and maintenance of bacteriostasis. Detailed microarray analysis of oxygen starved cultures revealed that DosR regulon induction is transient, with induction of nearly half the genes returning to baseline within 24 hours. In addition, a larger, sustained wave of gene expression follows the DosR-mediated initial hypoxic response. This Enduring Hypoxic Response (EHR) consists of 230 genes significantly induced at four and seven days of hypoxia but not at initial time points. These genes include a surprising number of transcriptional regulators that could control the program of bacteriostasis. We found that the EHR is independent of the DosR-mediated initial hypoxic response, as EHR expression is virtually unaltered in the dosR mutant.
Our results suggest a reassessment of the role of DosR and the initial hypoxic response in MTB physiology. Instead of a primary role in survival of hypoxia induced bacteriostasis, DosR may regulate a response that is largely optional in vitro and in mouse infections. Analysis of the EHR should help elucidate the key regulatory factors and enzymatic machinery exploited by M. tuberculosis for long-term bacteriostasis in the face of oxygen deprivation.
PMCID: PMC2198943  PMID: 18231589
7.  Genes Required for Intrinsic Multidrug Resistance in Mycobacterium avium 
Genes required for intrinsic multidrug resistance by Mycobacterium avium were identified by screening a library of transposon insertion mutants for the inability to grow in the presence of ciprofloxacin, clarithromycin, and penicillin at subinhibitory concentrations. Two genes, pks12 and Maa2520, were disrupted in multiple drug-susceptible mutants. The pks12 gene (Maa1979), which may be cotranscribed with a downstream gene (Maa1980), is widely conserved in the actinomycetes. Its ortholog in Mycobacterium tuberculosis is a polyketide synthase required for the synthesis of dimycocerosyl phthiocerol, a major cell wall lipid. Mutants of M. avium with insertions into pks12 exhibited altered colony morphology and were drug susceptible, but they grew as well as the wild type did in vitro and intracellularly within THP-1 cells. A pks12 mutant of M. tuberculosis was moderately more susceptible to clarithromycin than was its parent strain; however, susceptibility to ciprofloxacin and penicillin was not altered. M. avium complex (MAC) and M. tuberculosis appear to have different genetic mechanisms for resisting the effects of these antibiotics, with pks12 playing a relatively more significant role in MAC. The second genetic locus identified in this study, Maa2520, is a conserved hypothetical gene with orthologs in M. tuberculosis and Mycobacterium leprae. It is immediately upstream of Maa2521, which may code for an exported protein. Mutants with insertions at this locus were susceptible to multiple antibiotics and slow growing in vitro and were unable to survive intracellularly within THP-1 cells. Like pks12 mutants, they exhibited increased Congo red binding, an indirect indication of cell wall modifications. Maa2520 and pks12 are the first genes to be linked by mutation to intrinsic drug resistance in MAC.
PMCID: PMC514743  PMID: 15328105
8.  Inducible Azole Resistance Associated with a Heterogeneous Phenotype in Candida albicans 
The development of azole resistance in Candida albicans is most problematic in patients with AIDS who receive long courses of drug for therapy or prevention of oral candidiasis. Recently, the rapid development of resistance was noted in other immunosuppressed patients who developed disseminated candidiasis despite fluconazole prophylaxis. One of these series of C. albicans isolates became resistant, with an associated increase in mRNA specific for a CDR ATP-binding cassette transporter efflux pump (K. A. Marr, C. N. Lyons, T. R. Rustad, R. A. Bowden, and T. C. White, Antimicrob. Agents Chemother. 42:2584–2589, 1998). Here we study this series of C. albicans isolates further and examine the mechanism of azole resistance in a second series of C. albicans isolates that caused disseminated infection in a recipient of bone marrow transplantation. The susceptible isolates in both series become resistant to fluconazole after serial growth in the presence of drug, while the resistant isolates in both series become susceptible after serial transfer in the absence of drug. Population analysis of the inducible, transiently resistant isolates reveals a heterogeneous population of fluconazole-susceptible and -resistant cells. We conclude that the rapid development of azole resistance occurs by a mechanism that involves selection of a resistant clone from a heterogeneous population of cells.
PMCID: PMC90239  PMID: 11120944
9.  The Trailing End Point Phenotype in Antifungal Susceptibility Testing Is pH Dependent 
The interpretation of end points in azole antifungal drug susceptibility testing is problematic, in part due to incomplete growth inhibition of Candida species. Such trailing growth can cause the MICs of fluconazole for some isolates to be low (<1 μg/ml) after 24 h of growth but much higher (>64 μg/ml) after 48 h. Isolates having this type of growth have been described as having a low-high phenotype. Although these isolates would be considered resistant by current National Committee of Clinical Laboratory Standards definitions, growing evidence suggests that they are susceptible in vivo. To further characterize these isolates in vitro, microdilution susceptibility testing comparing the complex defined medium RPMI 1640 to a defined minimal medium (yeast nitrogen broth) was performed. Isolates having trailing growth in MOPS (morpholinepropanesulfonic acid)-buffered RPMI 1640 (pH 7.0) were found to have clear end points in the minimal medium at its native pH of 4.5. The pH of the medium influenced the low-high phenotype, as these same isolates trailed in minimal medium adjusted to a pH of ≥6.0 but did not trail in RPMI 1640 adjusted to a pH of ≤5.0. This pH effect was independent of the medium buffering capacity, as trailing was decreased in both minimal medium and RPMI 1640 (pH 4.5) buffered in citrate. Adjustment in the pH of MOPS-buffered RPMI 1640 reduced trailing in multiple strains of Candida albicans without affecting the MICs for isolates having known susceptible (low-low) and resistant (high-high) phenotypes. Adjustment of the medium pH could be considered to eliminate trailing in azole drug susceptibility testing.
PMCID: PMC89283  PMID: 10348757

Results 1-10 (10)