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1.  DNA, Cell Wall and General Oxidative Damage Underlie the Tellurite/Cefotaxime Synergistic Effect in Escherichia coli 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e79499.
The constant emergence of antibiotic multi-resistant pathogens is a concern worldwide. An alternative for bacterial treatment using nM concentrations of tellurite was recently proposed to boost antibiotic-toxicity and a synergistic effect of tellurite/cefotaxime (CTX) was described. In this work, the molecular mechanism underlying this phenomenon is proposed. Global changes of the transcriptional profile of Escherichia coli exposed to tellurite/CTX were determined by DNA microarrays. Induction of a number of stress regulators (as SoxS), genes related to oxidative damage and membrane transporters was observed. Accordingly, increased tellurite adsorption/uptake and oxidative injuries to proteins and DNA were determined in cells exposed to the mixture of toxicants, suggesting that the tellurite-mediated CTX-potentiating effect is dependent, at least in part, on oxidative stress. Thus, the synergistic tellurite-mediated CTX-potentiating effect depends on increased tellurite uptake/adsorption which results in damage to proteins, DNA and probably other macromolecules. Our findings represent a contribution to the current knowledge of bacterial physiology under antibiotic stress and can be of great interest in the development of new antibiotic-potentiating strategies.
PMCID: PMC3832599  PMID: 24260236
2.  Shigella flexneri 3a Outer Membrane Protein C Epitope Is Recognized by Human Umbilical Cord Sera and Associated with Protective Activity 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e70539.
Shigella flexneri 3a is one of the five major strains of the Shigella genus responsible for dysentery, especially among children, in regions of high poverty and poor sanitation. The outer membrane proteins (OMP) of this bacterium elicit immunological responses and are considered a prime target for vaccine development. When injected into mice they elicit a protective immunological response against a lethal dose of the pathogen. The OMPs from S. flexneri 3a were isolated and resolved by two-dimension-SDS-PAGE. Two 38-kDa spots were of particular interest since in our earlier studies OMPs of such molecular mass were found to interact with umbilical cord sera. These two spots were identified as OmpC by ESI-MS/MS spectrometry. By DNA sequencing, the ompC gene from S. flexneri 3a was identical to ompC from S. flexneri 2a [Gene Bank: 24113600]. A 3D model of OmpC was built and used to predict B-cell type (discontinuous) antigenic epitopes. Six epitopes bearing the highest score were selected and the corresponding peptides were synthesized. Only the peptides representing loop V of OmpC reacted strongly with the umbilical cord serum immunoglobulins. To determine which amino acids are essential for the antigenic activity of the epitope, the loop V was scanned with a series of dodecapeptides. The peptide RYDERY was identified as a minimal sequence for the loop V epitope. Truncation at either the C- or N-terminus rendered this peptide inactive. Apart from C-terminal tyrosine, substitution of each of the remaining five amino acids with glycine, led to a precipitous loss of immunological activity. This peptide may serve as a ligand in affinity chromatography of OmpC-specific antibodies and as a component of a vaccine designed to boost human immune defenses against enterobacterial infections.
PMCID: PMC3734276  PMID: 23940590
3.  The unexpected discovery of a novel low-oxygen-activated locus for the anoxic persistence of Burkholderia cenocepacia 
The ISME Journal  2013;7(8):1568-1581.
Burkholderia cenocepacia is a Gram-negative aerobic bacterium that belongs to a group of opportunistic pathogens displaying diverse environmental and pathogenic lifestyles. B. cenocepacia is known for its ability to cause lung infections in people with cystic fibrosis and it possesses a large 8 Mb multireplicon genome encoding a wide array of pathogenicity and fitness genes. Transcriptomic profiling across nine growth conditions was performed to identify the global gene expression changes made when B. cenocepacia changes niches from an environmental lifestyle to infection. In comparison to exponential growth, the results demonstrated that B. cenocepacia changes expression of over one-quarter of its genome during conditions of growth arrest, stationary phase and surprisingly, under reduced oxygen concentrations (6% instead of 20.9% normal atmospheric conditions). Multiple virulence factors are upregulated during these growth arrest conditions. A unique discovery from the comparative expression analysis was the identification of a distinct, co-regulated 50-gene cluster that was significantly upregulated during growth under low oxygen conditions. This gene cluster was designated the low-oxygen-activated (lxa) locus and encodes six universal stress proteins and proteins predicted to be involved in metabolism, transport, electron transfer and regulation. Deletion of the lxa locus resulted in B. cenocepacia mutants with aerobic growth deficiencies in minimal medium and compromised viability after prolonged incubation in the absence of oxygen. In summary, transcriptomic profiling of B. cenocepacia revealed an unexpected ability of aerobic Burkholderia to persist in the absence of oxygen and identified the novel lxa locus as key determinant of this important ecophysiological trait.
PMCID: PMC3721108  PMID: 23486248
anoxia; Burkholderia; pathogenicity; persistence; survival; transcriptomics
4.  Outer Membrane Permeabilization Is an Essential Step in the Killing of Gram-Negative Bacteria by the Lectin RegIIIβ 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e69901.
The C-type lectin RegIIIβ can kill certain Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria. The susceptibility of S. Typhimurium depends on the bacterial growth phase, i.e., bacteria from the logarithmic growth phase do bind RegIIIβ and are subsequently killed. Lipid A is one of the bacterial targets for RegIIIβ. However, at the molecular level, it is not understood how RegIIIβ interacts with and kills Gram-negative bacteria. Here, we show that RegIIIβ interacts with Gram-negative bacteria in two distinct steps. Initially, it binds to surface-exposed lipid A. The lipid A can be shielded by the O-antigen of lipopolysaccharide (LPS), as indicated by the exquisite susceptibility of wbaP mutants to RegIIIβ-mediated killing. Increased cell viability after incubation with an anti-lipid A antibody also supports this conclusion. This RegIIIβ-binding permeabilizes the outer membrane to hydrophobic dyes like Ethidium bromide or to bulky bacteriolytic enzymes like lysozyme. Conversely, compromising the outer membrane integrity by the mild detergent Triton X-100 enhances the antibacterial effect of RegIIIβ. Based on our observations, we conclude that RegIIIβ interacts with Gram-negative bacteria in two subsequent steps. Initially, it binds to the outer membrane thus leading to outer membrane permeabilization. This initial step is necessary for RegIIIβ to reach a second, still not well understood target site (presumably localized in the periplasm or the cytoplasmic membrane), thereby triggering bacterial death. This provides novel insights into the outer membrane-step of the bactericidal mechanism of RegIIIβ.
PMCID: PMC3726741  PMID: 23922847
5.  Chemical Communication of Antibiotic Resistance by a Highly Resistant Subpopulation of Bacterial Cells 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e68874.
The overall antibiotic resistance of a bacterial population results from the combination of a wide range of susceptibilities displayed by subsets of bacterial cells. Bacterial heteroresistance to antibiotics has been documented for several opportunistic Gram-negative bacteria, but the mechanism of heteroresistance is unclear. We use Burkholderia cenocepacia as a model opportunistic bacterium to investigate the implications of heterogeneity in the response to the antimicrobial peptide polymyxin B (PmB) and also other bactericidal antibiotics. Here, we report that B. cenocepacia is heteroresistant to PmB. Population analysis profiling also identified B. cenocepacia subpopulations arising from a seemingly homogenous culture that are resistant to higher levels of polymyxin B than the rest of the cells in the culture, and can protect the more sensitive cells from killing, as well as sensitive bacteria from other species, such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Escherichia coli. Communication of resistance depended on upregulation of putrescine synthesis and YceI, a widely conserved low-molecular weight secreted protein. Deletion of genes for the synthesis of putrescine and YceI abrogate protection, while pharmacologic inhibition of putrescine synthesis reduced resistance to polymyxin B. Polyamines and YceI were also required for heteroresistance of B. cenocepacia to various bactericidal antibiotics. We propose that putrescine and YceI resemble "danger" infochemicals whose increased production by a bacterial subpopulation, becoming more resistant to bactericidal antibiotics, communicates higher level of resistance to more sensitive members of the population of the same or different species.
PMCID: PMC3700957  PMID: 23844246
6.  Activation of the Pyrin Inflammasome by Intracellular Burkholderia cenocepacia 
Burkholderia cenocepacia is an opportunistic pathogen that causes chronic infection and induces progressive respiratory inflammation in cystic fibrosis patients. Recognition of bacteria by mononuclear cells generally results in the activation of caspase-1 and processing of IL-1β, a major proinflammatory cytokine. In this study, we report that human pyrin is required to detect intracellular B. cenocepacia leading to IL-1β processing and release. This inflammatory response involves the host adapter molecule ASC and the bacterial type VI secretion system (T6SS). Human monocytes and THP-1 cells stably expressing either small interfering RNA against pyrin or YFP–pyrin and ASC (YFP–ASC) were infected with B. cenocepacia and analyzed for inflammasome activation. B. cenocepacia efficiently activates the inflammasome and IL-1β release in monocytes and THP-1. Suppression of pyrin levels in monocytes and THP-1 cells reduced caspase-1 activation and IL-1β release in response to B. cenocepacia challenge. In contrast, overexpression of pyrin or ASC induced a robust IL-1β response to B. cenocepacia, which correlated with enhanced host cell death. Inflammasome activation was significantly reduced in cells infected with T6SS-defective mutants of B. cenocepacia, suggesting that the inflammatory reaction is likely induced by an as yet uncharacterized effector(s) of the T6SS. Together, we show for the first time, to our knowledge, that in human mononuclear cells infected with B. cenocepacia, pyrin associates with caspase-1 and ASC forming an inflammasome that upregulates mononuclear cell IL-1β processing and release.
PMCID: PMC3482472  PMID: 22368275
7.  Dam Methylation Participates in the Regulation of PmrA/PmrB and RcsC/RcsD/RcsB Two Component Regulatory Systems in Salmonella enterica Serovar Enteritidis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e56474.
The absence of Dam in Salmonella enterica serovar Enteritidis causes a defect in lipopolysaccharide (LPS) pattern associated to a reduced expression of wzz gene. Wzz is the chain length regulator of the LPS O-antigen. Here we investigated whether Dam regulates wzz gene expression through its two known regulators, PmrA and RcsB. Thus, the expression of rcsB and pmrA was monitored by quantitative real-time RT-PCR and Western blotting using fusions with 3×FLAG tag in wild type (wt) and dam strains of S. Enteritidis. Dam regulated the expression of both rcsB and pmrA genes; nevertheless, the defect in LPS pattern was only related to a diminished expression of RcsB. Interestingly, regulation of wzz in serovar Enteritidis differed from that reported earlier for serovar Typhimurium; RcsB induces wzz expression in both serovars, whereas PmrA induces wzz in S. Typhimurium but represses it in serovar Enteritidis. Moreover, we found that in S. Enteritidis there is an interaction between both wzz regulators: RcsB stimulates the expression of pmrA and PmrA represses the expression of rcsB. Our results would be an example of differential regulation of orthologous genes expression, providing differences in phenotypic traits between closely related bacterial serovars.
PMCID: PMC3572086  PMID: 23418573
8.  O:2-CRM197 Conjugates against Salmonella Paratyphi A 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e47039.
Enteric fevers remain a common and serious disease, affecting mainly children and adolescents in developing countries. Salmonella enterica serovar Typhi was believed to cause most enteric fever episodes, but several recent reports have shown an increasing incidence of S. Paratyphi A, encouraging the development of a bivalent vaccine to protect against both serovars, especially considering that at present there is no vaccine against S. Paratyphi A. The O-specific polysaccharide (O:2) of S. Paratyphi A is a protective antigen and clinical data have previously demonstrated the potential of using O:2 conjugate vaccines. Here we describe a new conjugation chemistry to link O:2 and the carrier protein CRM197, using the terminus 3-deoxy-D-manno-octulosonic acid (KDO), thus leaving the O:2 chain unmodified. The new conjugates were tested in mice and compared with other O:2-antigen conjugates, synthesized adopting previously described methods that use CRM197 as carrier protein. The newly developed conjugation chemistry yielded immunogenic conjugates with strong serum bactericidal activity against S. Paratyphi A.
PMCID: PMC3492368  PMID: 23144798
9.  Functional Characterization of UDP-Glucose:Undecaprenyl-Phosphate Glucose-1-Phosphate Transferases of Escherichia coli and Caulobacter crescentus 
Journal of Bacteriology  2012;194(10):2646-2657.
Escherichia coli K-12 WcaJ and the Caulobacter crescentus HfsE, PssY, and PssZ enzymes are predicted to initiate the synthesis of colanic acid (CA) capsule and holdfast polysaccharide, respectively. These proteins belong to a prokaryotic family of membrane enzymes that catalyze the formation of a phosphoanhydride bond joining a hexose-1-phosphate with undecaprenyl phosphate (Und-P). In this study, in vivo complementation assays of an E. coli K-12 wcaJ mutant demonstrated that WcaJ and PssY can complement CA synthesis. Furthermore, WcaJ can restore holdfast production in C. crescentus. In vitro transferase assays demonstrated that both WcaJ and PssY utilize UDP-glucose but not UDP-galactose. However, in a strain of Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium deficient in the WbaP O antigen initiating galactosyltransferase, complementation with WcaJ or PssY resulted in O-antigen production. Gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) analysis of the lipopolysaccharide (LPS) revealed the attachment of both CA and O-antigen molecules to lipid A-core oligosaccharide (OS). Therefore, while UDP-glucose is the preferred substrate of WcaJ and PssY, these enzymes can also utilize UDP-galactose. This unexpected feature of WcaJ and PssY may help to map specific residues responsible for the nucleotide diphosphate specificity of these or similar enzymes. Also, the reconstitution of O-antigen synthesis in Salmonella, CA capsule synthesis in E. coli, and holdfast synthesis provide biological assays of high sensitivity to examine the sugar-1-phosphate transferase specificity of heterologous proteins.
PMCID: PMC3347215  PMID: 22408159
10.  Autophagy stimulation by rapamycin suppresses lung inflammation and infection by Burkholderia cenocepacia in a model of cystic fibrosis 
Autophagy  2011;7(11):1359-1370.
Cystic fibrosis (CF) is the most common inherited lethal disease in Caucasians which results in multiorgan dysfunction. However, 85% of the deaths are due to pulmonary infections. Infection by Burkholderia cenocepacia (B. cepacia) is a particularly lethal threat to CF patients because it causes severe and persistent lung inflammation and is resistant to nearly all available antibiotics. In CFTR ΔF508 (ΔF508) mouse macrophages, B. cepacia persists in vacuoles that do not fuse with the lysosomes and mediates increased production of IL-1β. It is believed that intracellular bacterial survival contributes to the persistence of the bacterium. Here we show for the first time that in wild-type but not in ΔF508 macrophages, many B. cepacia reside in autophagosomes that fuse with lysosomes at later stages of infection. Accordingly, association and intracellular survival of B. cepacia are higher in CFTR-ΔF508 macrophages than in WT macrophages. An autophagosome is a compartment that engulfs nonfunctional organelles and parts of the cytoplasm then delivers them to the lysosome for degradation to produce nutrients during periods of starvation or stress. Furthermore, we show that B. cepacia downregulates autophagy genes in WT and ΔF508 macrophages. However, autophagy dysfunction is more pronounced in ΔF508 macrophages since they already have compromised autophagy activity. We demonstrate that the autophagystimulating agent, rapamycin markedly decreases B. cepacia infection in vitro by enhancing the clearance of B. cepacia via induced autophagy. In vivo, rapamycin decreases bacterial burden in the lungs of CF mice and drastically reduces signs of lung inflammation. Together, our studies reveal that if efficiently activated, autophagy can control B. cepacia infection and ameliorate the associated inflammation. Therefore, autophagy is a novel target for new drug development for CF patients to control B. cepacia infection and accompanying inflammation.
PMCID: PMC3359483  PMID: 21997369
autophagy; rapamycin; cystic fibrosis; host-pathogen interaction; Burkholderia cenocepacia; inflammation; macrophages
11.  The cellular level of O-antigen polymerase Wzy determines chain length regulation by WzzB and WzzpHS-2 in Shigella flexneri 2a 
Microbiology (Reading, England)  2009;155(Pt 10):3260-3269.
The lipopolysaccharide O antigen of Shigella flexneri 2a has two preferred chain lengths, a short (S-OAg) composed of an average of 17 repeated units and a very long (VL-OAg) of about 90 repeated units. These chain length distributions are controlled by the chromosomally encoded WzzB and the plasmid-encoded WzzpHS-2 proteins, respectively. In this study, genes wzzB, wzzpHS-2 and wzy (encoding the O-antigen polymerase) were cloned under the control of arabinose- and rhamnose-inducible promoters to investigate the effect of varying their relative expression levels on O antigen polysaccharide chain length distribution. Controlled expression of the chain length regulators wzzB and wzzpHS-2 revealed a dose-dependent production of each modal length. Increase in one mode resulted in a parallel decrease in the other, indicating that chain length regulators compete to control the degree of O antigen polymerization. Also, when expression of the wzy gene is low, S-OAg but not VL-OAg is produced. Production of VL-OAg requires high induction levels of wzy. Thus, the level of expression of wzy is critical in determining O antigen modal distribution. Western blot analyses of membrane proteins showed comparable high levels of the WzzB and WzzpHS-2 proteins, but very low levels of Wzy. In vivo cross-linking experiments and immunoprecipitation of membrane proteins did not detect any direct interaction between Wzy and WzzB, suggesting the possibility that these two proteins may not interact physically but rather by other means such as via translocated O antigen precursors.
PMCID: PMC3419750  PMID: 19556292 CAMSID: cams1141
12.  Burkholderia cenocepacia Type VI Secretion System Mediates Escape of Type II Secreted Proteins into the Cytoplasm of Infected Macrophages 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(7):e41726.
Burkholderia cenocepacia is an opportunistic pathogen that survives intracellularly in macrophages and causes serious respiratory infections in patients with cystic fibrosis. We have previously shown that bacterial survival occurs in bacteria-containing membrane vacuoles (BcCVs) resembling arrested autophagosomes. Intracellular bacteria stimulate IL-1β secretion in a caspase-1-dependent manner and induce dramatic changes to the actin cytoskeleton and the assembly of the NADPH oxidase complex onto the BcCV membrane. A Type 6 secretion system (T6SS) is required for these phenotypes but surprisingly it is not required for the maturation arrest of the BcCV. Here, we show that macrophages infected with B. cenocepacia employ the NLRP3 inflammasome to induce IL-1β secretion and pyroptosis. Moreover, IL-1β secretion by B. cenocepacia-infected macrophages is suppressed in deletion mutants unable to produce functional Type VI, Type IV, and Type 2 secretion systems (SS). We provide evidence that the T6SS mediates the disruption of the BcCV membrane, which allows the escape of proteins secreted by the T2SS into the macrophage cytoplasm. This was demonstrated by the activity of fusion derivatives of the T2SS-secreted metalloproteases ZmpA and ZmpB with adenylcyclase. Supporting this notion, ZmpA and ZmpB are required for efficient IL-1β secretion in a T6SS dependent manner. ZmpA and ZmpB are also required for the maturation arrest of the BcCVs and bacterial intra-macrophage survival in a T6SS-independent fashion. Our results uncover a novel mechanism for inflammasome activation that involves cooperation between two bacterial secretory pathways, and an unanticipated role for T2SS-secreted proteins in intracellular bacterial survival.
PMCID: PMC3405007  PMID: 22848580
13.  Akt-mediated pro-inflammatory response of mononuclear phagocytes infected with Burkholderia cenocepacia occurs by a novel GSK3β-dependent, IKK-independent mechanism 
The environmental bacterium Burkholderia cenocepacia causes opportunistic lung infections in immunocompromised individuals, particularly in patients with cystic fibrosis. Infections in these patients are associated with exacerbated inflammation leading to rapid decay of lung function and in some cases resulting in cepacia syndrome, which is characterized by a fatal acute necrotizing pneumonia and sepsis. B. cenocepacia can survive intracellularly in macrophages by altering the maturation of the phagosome, but very little is known on macrophage responses to the intracellular infection. Here, we have examined the role of the PI3K/Akt signaling pathway in B. cenocepacia-infected monocytes and macrophages. We show that PI3K/Akt activity was required for NF-κB activity and the secretion of pro-inflammatory cytokines during infection with B. cenocepacia. In contrast to previous observations in epithelial cells infected with other Gram-negative bacteria, Akt did not enhance IKK or NF-κB p65 phosphorylation but rather inhibited GSK3β, a negative regulator of NF-κB transcriptional activity. This novel mechanism of modulation of NF-κB activity may provide a unique therapeutic target for controlling excessive inflammation upon B. cenocepacia infection.
PMCID: PMC3131456  PMID: 21697459
14.  High Confidence Prediction of Essential Genes in Burkholderia Cenocepacia 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(6):e40064.
Essential genes are absolutely required for the survival of an organism. The identification of essential genes, besides being one of the most fundamental questions in biology, is also of interest for the emerging science of synthetic biology and for the development of novel antimicrobials. New antimicrobial therapies are desperately needed to treat multidrug-resistant pathogens, such as members of the Burkholderia cepacia complex.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We hypothesize that essential genes may be highly conserved within a group of evolutionary closely related organisms. Using a bioinformatics approach we determined that the core genome of the order Burkholderiales consists of 649 genes. All but two of these identified genes were located on chromosome 1 of Burkholderia cenocepacia. Although many of the 649 core genes of Burkholderiales have been shown to be essential in other bacteria, we were also able to identify a number of novel essential genes present mainly, or exclusively, within this order. The essentiality of some of the core genes, including the known essential genes infB, gyrB, ubiB, and valS, as well as the so far uncharacterized genes BCAL1882, BCAL2769, BCAL3142 and BCAL3369 has been confirmed experimentally in B. cenocepacia.
We report on the identification of essential genes using a novel bioinformatics strategy and provide bioinformatics and experimental evidence that the large majority of the identified genes are indeed essential. The essential genes identified here may represent valuable targets for the development of novel antimicrobials and their detailed study may shed new light on the functions required to support life.
PMCID: PMC3386938  PMID: 22768221
15.  Hopanoid Production Is Required for Low-pH Tolerance, Antimicrobial Resistance, and Motility in Burkholderia cenocepacia▿† 
Journal of Bacteriology  2011;193(23):6712-6723.
Hopanoids are pentacyclic triterpenoids that are thought to be bacterial surrogates for eukaryotic sterols, such as cholesterol, acting to stabilize membranes and to regulate their fluidity and permeability. To date, very few studies have evaluated the role of hopanoids in bacterial physiology. The synthesis of hopanoids depends on the enzyme squalene-hopene cyclase (Shc), which converts the linear squalene into the basic hopene structure. Deletion of the 2 genes encoding Shc enzymes in Burkholderia cenocepacia K56-2, BCAM2831 and BCAS0167, resulted in a strain that was unable to produce hopanoids, as demonstrated by gas chromatography and mass spectrometry. Complementation of the Δshc mutant with only BCAM2831 was sufficient to restore hopanoid production to wild-type levels, while introducing a copy of BCAS0167 alone into the Δshc mutant produced only very small amounts of the hopanoid peak. The Δshc mutant grew as well as the wild type in medium buffered to pH 7 and demonstrated no defect in its ability to survive and replicate within macrophages, despite transmission electron microscopy (TEM) revealing defects in the organization of the cell envelope. The Δshc mutant displayed increased sensitivity to low pH, detergent, and various antibiotics, including polymyxin B and erythromycin. Loss of hopanoid production also resulted in severe defects in both swimming and swarming motility. This suggests that hopanoid production plays an important role in the physiology of B. cenocepacia.
PMCID: PMC3232912  PMID: 21965564
16.  Global changes in gene expression by the opportunistic pathogen Burkholderia cenocepacia in response to internalization by murine macrophages 
BMC Genomics  2012;13:63.
Burkholderia cenocepacia is an opportunistic pathogen causing life-threatening infections in patients with cystic fibrosis. The bacterium survives within macrophages by interfering with endocytic trafficking and delaying the maturation of the B. cenocepacia-containing phagosome. We hypothesize that B. cenocepacia undergoes changes in gene expression after internalization by macrophages, inducing genes involved in intracellular survival and host adaptation.
We examined gene expression by intracellular B. cenocepacia using selective capture of transcribed sequences (SCOTS) combined with microarray analysis. We identified 767 genes with significantly different levels of expression by intracellular bacteria, of which 330 showed increased expression and 437 showed decreased expression. Affected genes represented all aspects of cellular life including information storage and processing, cellular processes and signaling, and metabolism. In general, intracellular gene expression demonstrated a pattern of environmental sensing, bacterial response, and metabolic adaptation to the phagosomal environment. Deletion of various SCOTS-identified genes affected bacterial entry into macrophages and intracellular replication. We also show that intracellular B. cenocepacia is cytotoxic towards the macrophage host, and capable of spread to neighboring cells, a role dependent on SCOTS-identified genes. In particular, genes involved in bacterial motility, cobalamin biosynthesis, the type VI secretion system, and membrane modification contributed greatly to macrophage entry and subsequent intracellular behavior of B. cenocepacia.
B. cenocepacia enters macrophages, adapts to the phagosomal environment, replicates within a modified phagosome, and exhibits cytotoxicity towards the host cells. The analysis of the transcriptomic response of intracellular B. cenocepacia reveals that metabolic adaptation to a new niche plays a major role in the survival of B. cenocepacia in macrophages. This adaptive response does not require the expression of any specific virulence-associated factor, which is consistent with the opportunistic nature of this microorganism. Further investigation into the remaining SCOTS-identified genes will provide a more complete picture of the adaptive response of B. cenocepacia to the host cell environment.
PMCID: PMC3296584  PMID: 22321740
17.  Structure-Guided Investigation of Lipopolysaccharide O-Antigen Chain Length Regulators Reveals Regions Critical for Modal Length Control ▿ †  
Journal of Bacteriology  2011;193(15):3710-3721.
The O-antigen component of the lipopolysaccharide (LPS) represents a population of polysaccharide molecules with nonrandom (modal) chain length distribution. The number of the repeat O units in each individual O-antigen polymer depends on the Wzz chain length regulator, an inner membrane protein belonging to the polysaccharide copolymerase (PCP) family. Different Wzz proteins confer vastly different ranges of modal lengths (4 to >100 repeat units), despite having remarkably conserved structural folds. The molecular mechanism responsible for the selective preference for a certain number of O units is unknown. Guided by the three-dimensional structures of PCPs, we constructed a panel of chimeric molecules containing parts of two closely related Wzz proteins from Salmonella enterica and Shigella flexneri which confer different O-antigen chain length distributions. Analysis of the O-antigen length distribution imparted by each chimera revealed the region spanning amino acids 67 to 95 (region 67 to 95), region 200 to 255, and region 269 to 274 as primarily affecting the length distribution. We also showed that there is no synergy between these regions. In particular, region 269 to 274 also influenced chain length distribution mediated by two distantly related PCPs, WzzB and FepE. Furthermore, from the 3 regions uncovered in this study, region 269 to 274 appeared to be critical for the stability of the oligomeric form of Wzz, as determined by cross-linking experiments. Together, our data suggest that chain length determination depends on regions that likely contribute to stabilize a supramolecular complex.
PMCID: PMC3147518  PMID: 21642455
18.  Inactivation of Macrophage Rab7 by Burkholderia cenocepacia 
Journal of Innate Immunity  2010;2(6):522-533.
Strains of the Burkholderia cepacia complex can survive within macrophages by arresting the maturation of phagocytic vacuoles. The bacteria preclude fusion of the phagosome with lysosomes by a process that is poorly understood. Using murine macrophages, we investigated the stage at which maturation is arrested and analyzed the underlying mechanism. Vacuoles containing B. cenocepacia strain J2315, an isolate of the transmissible ET12 clone, recruited Rab5 and synthesized phosphatidylinositol-3-phosphate, indicating progression to the early phagosomal stage. Despite the fact that the B. cenocepacia-containing vacuoles rarely fused with lysosomes, they could nevertheless acquire the late phagosomal markers CD63 and Rab7. Fluorescence recovery after photobleaching and use of a probe that detects Rab7-guanosine triphosphate indicated that activation of Rab7 was impaired by B. cenocepacia, accounting at least in part for the inability of the vacuole to merge with lysosomes. The Rab7 defect was not due to excessive cholesterol accumulation and was confined to the infected vacuoles. Jointly, these experiments indicate that B. cenocepacia express virulence factors capable of interfering with Rab7 function and thereby with membrane traffic.
PMCID: PMC2982851  PMID: 20829607
Burkholderia; Macrophage; Phagosome; Rab7; Cystic fibrosis
19.  Transcriptional responses of Burkholderia cenocepacia to polymyxin B in isogenic strains with diverse polymyxin B resistance phenotypes 
BMC Genomics  2011;12:472.
Burkholderia cenocepacia is a Gram-negative opportunistic pathogen displaying high resistance to antimicrobial peptides and polymyxins. We identified mechanisms of resistance by analyzing transcriptional changes to polymyxin B treatment in three isogenic B. cenocepacia strains with diverse polymyxin B resistance phenotypes: the polymyxin B-resistant parental strain K56-2, a polymyxin B-sensitive K56-2 mutant strain with heptoseless lipopolysaccharide (LPS) (RSF34), and a derivative of RSF34 (RSF34 4000B) isolated through multiple rounds of selection in polymyxin B that despite having a heptoseless LPS is highly polymyxin B-resistant.
A heptoseless LPS mutant of B. cenocepacia was passaged through multiple rounds of selection to regain high levels of polymyxin B-resistance. This process resulted in various phenotypic changes in the isolate that could contribute to polymyxin B resistance and are consistent with LPS-independent changes in the outer membrane. The transcriptional response of three B. cenocepacia strains to subinhibitory concentrations of polymyxin B was analyzed using microarray analysis and validated by quantitative Real Time-PCR. There were numerous baseline changes in expression between the three strains in the absence of polymyxin B. In both K56-2 and RSF34, similar transcriptional changes upon treatment with polymyxin B were found and included upregulation of various genes that may be involved in polymyxin B resistance and downregulation of genes required for the synthesis and operation of flagella. This last result was validated phenotypically as both swimming and swarming motility were impaired in the presence of polymyxin B. RSF34 4000B had altered the expression in a larger number of genes upon treatment with polymyxin B than either K56-2 or RSF34, but the relative fold-changes in expression were lower.
It is possible to generate polymyxin B-resistant isolates from polymyxin B-sensitive mutant strains of B. cenocepacia, likely due to the multifactorial nature of polymyxin B resistance of this bacterium. Microarray analysis showed that B. cenocepacia mounts multiple transcriptional responses following exposure to polymyxin B. Polymyxin B-regulated genes identified in this study may be required for polymyxin B resistance, which must be tested experimentally. Exposure to polymyxin B also decreases expression of flagellar genes resulting in reduced swimming and swarming motility.
PMCID: PMC3190405  PMID: 21955326
21.  Burkholderia cenocepacia BC2L-C Is a Super Lectin with Dual Specificity and Proinflammatory Activity 
PLoS Pathogens  2011;7(9):e1002238.
Lectins and adhesins are involved in bacterial adhesion to host tissues and mucus during early steps of infection. We report the characterization of BC2L-C, a soluble lectin from the opportunistic pathogen Burkholderia cenocepacia, which has two distinct domains with unique specificities and biological activities. The N-terminal domain is a novel TNF-α-like fucose-binding lectin, while the C-terminal part is similar to a superfamily of calcium-dependent bacterial lectins. The C-terminal domain displays specificity for mannose and l-glycero-d-manno-heptose. BC2L-C is therefore a superlectin that binds independently to mannose/heptose glycoconjugates and fucosylated human histo-blood group epitopes. The apo form of the C-terminal domain crystallized as a dimer, and calcium and mannose could be docked in the binding site. The whole lectin is hexameric and the overall structure, determined by electron microscopy and small angle X-ray scattering, reveals a flexible arrangement of three mannose/heptose-specific dimers flanked by two fucose-specific TNF-α-like trimers. We propose that BC2L-C binds to the bacterial surface in a mannose/heptose-dependent manner via the C-terminal domain. The TNF-α-like domain triggers IL-8 production in cultured airway epithelial cells in a carbohydrate-independent manner, and is therefore proposed to play a role in the dysregulated proinflammatory response observed in B. cenocepacia lung infections. The unique architecture of this newly recognized superlectin correlates with multiple functions including bacterial cell cross-linking, adhesion to human epithelia, and stimulation of inflammation.
Author Summary
The glycoconjugates that cover the surface of eukaryotic cells are a target for pathogens that use protein receptors for binding to the carbohydrate moieties exposed. Opportunistic bacteria such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Burkholderia species of the B. cepacia complex display a wide range of adhesins and soluble lectins that are specific for human oligosaccharides. We characterized the complex architecture of one Burkholderia cenocepacia soluble lectin, and analysed the specificity of two different lectin subdomains. We propose that one of the subdomains attaches to sugars present on the bacteria surface, enabling bacterial aggregation in microcolonies. The other subdomain attaches to sugars in human airways. In addition, this domain can elicit an inflammatory response in airways cells. Burkholderia cenocepacia causes lethal infections in cystic fibrosis patients and soluble lectins may be novel therapeutics targets.
PMCID: PMC3164656  PMID: 21909279
22.  Extreme Antimicrobial Peptide and Polymyxin B Resistance in the Genus Burkholderia 
Cationic antimicrobial peptides and polymyxins are a group of naturally occurring antibiotics that can also possess immunomodulatory activities. They are considered a new source of antibiotics for treating infections by bacteria that are resistant to conventional antibiotics. Members of the genus Burkholderia, which includes various human pathogens, are inherently resistant to antimicrobial peptides. The resistance is several orders of magnitude higher than that of other Gram-negative bacteria such as Escherichia coli, Salmonella enterica, or Pseudomonas aeruginosa. This review summarizes our current understanding of antimicrobial peptide and polymyxin B resistance in the genus Burkholderia. These bacteria possess major and minor resistance mechanisms that will be described in detail. Recent studies have revealed that many other emerging Gram-negative opportunistic pathogens may also be inherently resistant to antimicrobial peptides and polymyxins and we propose that Burkholderia sp. are a model system to investigate the molecular basis of the resistance in extremely resistant bacteria. Understanding resistance in these types of bacteria will be important if antimicrobial peptides come to be used regularly for the treatment of infections by susceptible bacteria because this may lead to increased resistance in the species that are currently susceptible and may also open up new niches for opportunistic pathogens with high inherent resistance.
PMCID: PMC3143681  PMID: 21811491
Burkholderia; antimicrobial peptides; polymyxin; outer membrane; lipopolysaccharide; antibiotics; bacterial resistance mechanisms
23.  Membrane Topology and Identification of Critical Amino Acid Residues in the Wzx O-Antigen Translocase from Escherichia coli O157:H4 ▿  
Journal of Bacteriology  2010;192(23):6160-6171.
Wzx belongs to a family of membrane proteins involved in the translocation of isoprenoid lipid-linked glycans, which is loosely related to members of the major facilitator superfamily. Despite Wzx homologs performing a conserved function, it has been difficult to pinpoint specific motifs of functional significance in their amino acid sequences. Here, we elucidate the topology of the Escherichia coli O157 Wzx (WzxEcO157) by a combination of bioinformatics and substituted cysteine scanning mutagenesis, as well as targeted deletion-fusions to green fluorescent protein and alkaline phosphatase. We conclude that WzxEcO157 consists of 12 transmembrane (TM) helices and six periplasmic and five cytosolic loops, with N and C termini facing the cytoplasm. Four TM helices (II, IV, X, and XI) contain polar residues (aspartic acid or lysine), and they may form part of a relatively hydrophilic core. Thirty-five amino acid replacements to alanine or serine were targeted to five native cysteines and most of the aspartic acid, arginine, and lysine residues. From these, only replacements of aspartic acid-85, aspartic acid-326, arginine-298, and lysine-419 resulted in a protein unable to support O-antigen production. Aspartic acid-85 and lysine-419 are located in TM helices II and XI, while arginine-298 and aspartic acid-326 are located in periplasmic and cytosolic loops 4, respectively. Further analysis revealed that the charge at these positions is required for Wzx function since conservative substitutions maintaining the same charge polarity resulted in a functional protein, whereas those reversing or eliminating polarity abolished function. We propose that the functional requirement of charged residues at both sides of the membrane and in two TM helices could be important to allow the passage of the Und-PP-linked saccharide substrate across the membrane.
PMCID: PMC2981206  PMID: 20870764
24.  A Decade of Burkholderia cenocepacia Virulence Determinant Research▿  
Infection and Immunity  2010;78(10):4088-4100.
The Burkholderia cepacia complex (Bcc) is a group of genetically related environmental bacteria that can cause chronic opportunistic infections in patients with cystic fibrosis (CF) and other underlying diseases. These infections are difficult to treat due to the inherent resistance of the bacteria to antibiotics. Bacteria can spread between CF patients through social contact and sometimes cause cepacia syndrome, a fatal pneumonia accompanied by septicemia. Burkholderia cenocepacia has been the focus of attention because initially it was the most common Bcc species isolated from patients with CF in North America and Europe. Today, B. cenocepacia, along with Burkholderia multivorans, is the most prevalent Bcc species in patients with CF. Given the progress that has been made in our understanding of B. cenocepacia over the past decade, we thought that it was an appropriate time to review our knowledge of the pathogenesis of B. cenocepacia, paying particular attention to the characterization of virulence determinants and the new tools that have been developed to study them. A common theme emerging from these studies is that B. cenocepacia establishes chronic infections in immunocompromised patients, which depend more on determinants mediating host niche adaptation than those involved directly in host cells and tissue damage.
PMCID: PMC2950345  PMID: 20643851
25.  Extreme Antimicrobial Peptide and Polymyxin B Resistance in the Genus Burkholderia 
Cationic antimicrobial peptides and polymyxins are a group of naturally occurring antibiotics that can also possess immunomodulatory activities. They are considered a new source of antibiotics for treating infections by bacteria that are resistant to conventional antibiotics. Members of the genus Burkholderia, which includes various human pathogens, are inherently resistant to antimicrobial peptides. The resistance is several orders of magnitude higher than that of other Gram-negative bacteria such as Escherichia coli, Salmonella enterica, or Pseudomonas aeruginosa. This review summarizes our current understanding of antimicrobial peptide and polymyxin B resistance in the genus Burkholderia. These bacteria possess major and minor resistance mechanisms that will be described in detail. Recent studies have revealed that many other emerging Gram-negative opportunistic pathogens may also be inherently resistant to antimicrobial peptides and polymyxins and we propose that Burkholderia sp. are a model system to investigate the molecular basis of the resistance in extremely resistant bacteria. Understanding resistance in these types of bacteria will be important if antimicrobial peptides come to be used regularly for the treatment of infections by susceptible bacteria because this may lead to increased resistance in the species that are currently susceptible and may also open up new niches for opportunistic pathogens with high inherent resistance.
PMCID: PMC3417367  PMID: 22919572
Burkholderia; antimicrobial peptides; polymyxin; outer membrane; lipopolysaccharide; antibiotics; bacterial resistance mechanisms

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