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1.  Reassessment of the Listeria monocytogenes pan-genome reveals dynamic integration hotspots and mobile genetic elements as major components of the accessory genome 
BMC Genomics  2013;14:47.
Listeria monocytogenes is an important food-borne pathogen and model organism for host-pathogen interaction, thus representing an invaluable target considering research on the forces governing the evolution of such microbes. The diversity of this species has not been exhaustively explored yet, as previous efforts have focused on analyses of serotypes primarily implicated in human listeriosis. We conducted complete genome sequencing of 11 strains employing 454 GS FLX technology, thereby achieving full coverage of all serotypes including the first complete strains of serotypes 1/2b, 3c, 3b, 4c, 4d, and 4e. These were comparatively analyzed in conjunction with publicly available data and assessed for pathogenicity in the Galleria mellonella insect model.
The species pan-genome of L. monocytogenes is highly stable but open, suggesting an ability to adapt to new niches by generating or including new genetic information. The majority of gene-scale differences represented by the accessory genome resulted from nine hyper variable hotspots, a similar number of different prophages, three transposons (Tn916, Tn554, IS3-like), and two mobilizable islands. Only a subset of strains showed CRISPR/Cas bacteriophage resistance systems of different subtypes, suggesting a supplementary function in maintenance of chromosomal stability. Multiple phylogenetic branches of the genus Listeria imply long common histories of strains of each lineage as revealed by a SNP-based core genome tree highlighting the impact of small mutations for the evolution of species L. monocytogenes. Frequent loss or truncation of genes described to be vital for virulence or pathogenicity was confirmed as a recurring pattern, especially for strains belonging to lineages III and II. New candidate genes implicated in virulence function were predicted based on functional domains and phylogenetic distribution. A comparative analysis of small regulatory RNA candidates supports observations of a differential distribution of trans-encoded RNA, hinting at a diverse range of adaptations and regulatory impact.
This study determined commonly occurring hyper variable hotspots and mobile elements as primary effectors of quantitative gene-scale evolution of species L. monocytogenes, while gene decay and SNPs seem to represent major factors influencing long-term evolution. The discovery of common and disparately distributed genes considering lineages, serogroups, serotypes and strains of species L. monocytogenes will assist in diagnostic, phylogenetic and functional research, supported by the comparative genomic GECO-LisDB analysis server (
PMCID: PMC3556495  PMID: 23339658
2.  Identification of novel growth phase- and media-dependent small non-coding RNAs in Streptococcus pyogenes M49 using intergenic tiling arrays 
BMC Genomics  2012;13:550.
Small non-coding RNAs (sRNAs) have attracted attention as a new class of gene regulators in both eukaryotes and bacteria. Genome-wide screening methods have been successfully applied in Gram-negative bacteria to identify sRNA regulators. Many sRNAs are well characterized, including their target mRNAs and mode of action. In comparison, little is known about sRNAs in Gram-positive pathogens. In this study, we identified novel sRNAs in the exclusively human pathogen Streptococcus pyogenes M49 (Group A Streptococcus, GAS M49), employing a whole genome intergenic tiling array approach. GAS is an important pathogen that causes diseases ranging from mild superficial infections of the skin and mucous membranes of the naso-pharynx, to severe toxic and invasive diseases.
We identified 55 putative sRNAs in GAS M49 that were expressed during growth. Of these, 42 were novel. Some of the newly-identified sRNAs belonged to one of the common non-coding RNA families described in the Rfam database. Comparison of the results of our screen with the outcome of two recently published bioinformatics tools showed a low level of overlap between putative sRNA genes. Previously, 40 potential sRNAs have been reported to be expressed in a GAS M1T1 serotype, as detected by a whole genome intergenic tiling array approach. Our screen detected 12 putative sRNA genes that were expressed in both strains. Twenty sRNA candidates appeared to be regulated in a medium-dependent fashion, while eight sRNA genes were regulated throughout growth in chemically defined medium. Expression of candidate genes was verified by reverse transcriptase-qPCR. For a subset of sRNAs, the transcriptional start was determined by 5′ rapid amplification of cDNA ends-PCR (RACE-PCR) analysis.
In accord with the results of previous studies, we found little overlap between different screening methods, which underlines the fact that a comprehensive analysis of sRNAs expressed by a given organism requires the complementary use of different methods and the investigation of several environmental conditions. Despite a high conservation of sRNA genes within streptococci, the expression of sRNAs appears to be strain specific.
PMCID: PMC3542284  PMID: 23062031
Streptococcus pyogenes; Small noncoding RNAs; Virulence; Transcriptional regulation; Pathogenesis
3.  sRNAdb: A small non-coding RNA database for gram-positive bacteria 
BMC Genomics  2012;13:384.
The class of small non-coding RNA molecules (sRNA) regulates gene expression by different mechanisms and enables bacteria to mount a physiological response due to adaptation to the environment or infection. Over the last decades the number of sRNAs has been increasing rapidly. Several databases like Rfam or fRNAdb were extended to include sRNAs as a class of its own. Furthermore new specialized databases like sRNAMap (gram-negative bacteria only) and sRNATarBase (target prediction) were established. To the best of the authors’ knowledge no database focusing on sRNAs from gram-positive bacteria is publicly available so far.
In order to understand sRNA’s functional and phylogenetic relationships we have developed sRNAdb and provide tools for data analysis and visualization. The data compiled in our database is assembled from experiments as well as from bioinformatics analyses. The software enables comparison and visualization of gene loci surrounding the sRNAs of interest. To accomplish this, we use a client–server based approach. Offline versions of the database including analyses and visualization tools can easily be installed locally on the user’s computer. This feature facilitates customized local addition of unpublished sRNA candidates and related information such as promoters or terminators using tab-delimited files.
sRNAdb allows a user-friendly and comprehensive comparative analysis of sRNAs from available sequenced gram-positive prokaryotic replicons. Offline versions including analysis and visualization tools facilitate complex user specific bioinformatics analyses.
PMCID: PMC3439263  PMID: 22883983
4.  Comparative genomics and transcriptomics of lineages I, II, and III strains of Listeria monocytogenes 
BMC Genomics  2012;13:144.
Listeria monocytogenes is a food-borne pathogen that causes infections with a high-mortality rate and has served as an invaluable model for intracellular parasitism. Here, we report complete genome sequences for two L. monocytogenes strains belonging to serotype 4a (L99) and 4b (CLIP80459), and transcriptomes of representative strains from lineages I, II, and III, thereby permitting in-depth comparison of genome- and transcriptome -based data from three lineages of L. monocytogenes. Lineage III, represented by the 4a L99 genome is known to contain strains less virulent for humans.
The genome analysis of the weakly pathogenic L99 serotype 4a provides extensive evidence of virulence gene decay, including loss of several important surface proteins. The 4b CLIP80459 genome, unlike the previously sequenced 4b F2365 genome harbours an intact inlB invasion gene. These lineage I strains are characterized by the lack of prophage genes, as they share only a single prophage locus with other L. monocytogenes genomes 1/2a EGD-e and 4a L99. Comparative transcriptome analysis during intracellular growth uncovered adaptive expression level differences in lineages I, II and III of Listeria, notable amongst which was a strong intracellular induction of flagellar genes in strain 4a L99 compared to the other lineages. Furthermore, extensive differences between strains are manifest at levels of metabolic flux control and phosphorylated sugar uptake. Intriguingly, prophage gene expression was found to be a hallmark of intracellular gene expression. Deletion mutants in the single shared prophage locus of lineage II strain EGD-e 1/2a, the lma operon, revealed severe attenuation of virulence in a murine infection model.
Comparative genomics and transcriptome analysis of L. monocytogenes strains from three lineages implicate prophage genes in intracellular adaptation and indicate that gene loss and decay may have led to the emergence of attenuated lineages.
PMCID: PMC3464598  PMID: 22530965
Listeria monocytogenes; Lineage; Comparative genomics; Gene decay; Comparative transcriptomics; Flagella; Prophage; Monocin; Isogenic deletion mutants; Murine infection
5.  Universal Stress Proteins Are Important for Oxidative and Acid Stress Resistance and Growth of Listeria monocytogenes EGD-e In Vitro and In Vivo 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(9):e24965.
Pathogenic bacteria maintain a multifaceted apparatus to resist damage caused by external stimuli. As part of this, the universal stress protein A (UspA) and its homologues, initially discovered in Escherichia coli K-12 were shown to possess an important role in stress resistance and growth in several bacterial species.
Methods and Findings
We conducted a study to assess the role of three homologous proteins containing the UspA domain in the facultative intracellular human pathogen Listeria monocytogenes under different stress conditions. The growth properties of three UspA deletion mutants (Δlmo0515, Δlmo1580 and Δlmo2673) were examined either following challenge with a sublethal concentration of hydrogen peroxide or under acidic conditions. We also examined their ability for intracellular survival within murine macrophages. Virulence and growth of usp mutants were further characterized in invertebrate and vertebrate infection models.
Tolerance to acidic stress was clearly reduced in Δlmo1580 and Δlmo0515, while oxidative stress dramatically diminished growth in all mutants. Survival within macrophages was significantly decreased in Δlmo1580 and Δlmo2673 as compared to the wild-type strain. Viability of infected Galleria mellonella larvae was markedly higher when injected with Δlmo1580 or Δlmo2673 as compared to wild-type strain inoculation, indicating impaired virulence of bacteria lacking these usp genes. Finally, we observed severely restricted growth of all chromosomal deletion mutants in mice livers and spleens as compared to the load of wild-type bacteria following infection.
This work provides distinct evidence that universal stress proteins are strongly involved in listerial stress response and survival under both in vitro and in vivo growth conditions.
PMCID: PMC3184099  PMID: 21980369
6.  The intracellular sRNA transcriptome of Listeria monocytogenes during growth in macrophages 
Nucleic Acids Research  2011;39(10):4235-4248.
Small non-coding RNAs (sRNAs) are widespread effectors of post-transcriptional gene regulation in bacteria. Currently extensive information exists on the sRNAs of Listeria monocytogenes expressed during growth in extracellular environments. We used deep sequencing of cDNAs obtained from fractioned RNA (<500 nt) isolated from extracellularly growing bacteria and from L. monocytogenes infected macrophages to catalog the sRNA repertoire during intracellular bacterial growth. Here, we report on the discovery of 150 putative regulatory RNAs of which 71 have not been previously described. A total of 29 regulatory RNAs, including small non-coding antisense RNAs, are specifically expressed intracellularly. We validated highly expressed sRNAs by northern blotting and demonstrated by the construction and characterization of isogenic mutants of rli31, rli33-1 and rli50* for intracellular expressed sRNA candidates, that their expression is required for efficient growth of bacteria in macrophages. All three mutants were attenuated when assessed for growth in mouse and insect models of infection. Comparative genomic analysis revealed the presence of lineage specific sRNA candidates and the absence of sRNA loci in genomes of naturally occurring infection-attenuated bacteria, with additional loss in non-pathogenic listerial genomes. Our analyses reveal extensive sRNA expression as an important feature of bacterial regulation during intracellular growth.
PMCID: PMC3105390  PMID: 21278422
7.  Comparative genome‐wide analysis of small RNAs of major Gram‐positive pathogens: from identification to application 
Microbial biotechnology  2010;3(6):658-676.
In the recent years, the number of drug‐ and multi‐drug‐resistant microbial strains has increased rapidly. Therefore, the need to identify innovative approaches for development of novel anti‐infectives and new therapeutic targets is of high priority in global health care. The detection of small RNAs (sRNAs) in bacteria has attracted considerable attention as an emerging class of new gene expression regulators. Several experimental technologies to predict sRNA have been established for the Gram‐negative model organism Escherichia coli. In many respects, sRNA screens in this model system have set a blueprint for the global and functional identification of sRNAs for Gram‐positive microbes, but the functional role of sRNAs in colonization and pathogenicity for Listeria monocytogenes, Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus pyogenes, Enterococcus faecalis and Clostridium difficile is almost completely unknown. Here, we report the current knowledge about the sRNAs of these socioeconomically relevant Gram‐positive pathogens, overview the state‐of‐the‐art high‐throughput sRNA screening methods and summarize bioinformatics approaches for genome‐wide sRNA identification and target prediction. Finally, we discuss the use of modified peptide nucleic acids (PNAs) as a novel tool to inactivate potential sRNA and their applications in rapid and specific detection of pathogenic bacteria.
PMCID: PMC3815340  PMID: 21255362
8.  Complete Genome Sequence of Listeria seeligeri, a Nonpathogenic Member of the Genus Listeria▿  
Journal of Bacteriology  2010;192(5):1473-1474.
We report the complete and annotated genome sequence of the nonpathogenic Listeria seeligeri SLCC3954 serovar 1/2b type strain harboring the smallest completely sequenced genome of the genus Listeria.
PMCID: PMC2820865  PMID: 20061480
9.  Novel Bacterial Artificial Chromosome Vector pUvBBAC for Use in Studies of the Functional Genomics of Listeria spp.▿ ‡  
Bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) vectors are important tools for microbial genome research. We constructed a novel BAC vector, pUvBBAC, for replication in both gram-negative and gram-positive bacterial hosts. The pUvBBAC vector was used to generate a BAC library for the facultative intracellular pathogen Listeria monocytogenes EGD-e. The library had insert sizes ranging from 68 to 178 kb. We identified two recombinant BACs from the L. monocytogenes pUvBBAC library that each contained the entire virulence gene cluster (vgc) of L. monocytogenes and transferred them to a nonpathogenic Listeria innocua strain. Recombinant L. innocua strains harboring pUvBBAC+vgc1 and pUvBBAC+vgc2 produced the vgc-specific listeriolysin (LLO) and actin assembly protein ActA and represent the first reported cloning of the vgc locus in its entirety. The use of the novel broad-host-range BAC vector pUvBBAC extends the versatility of this technology and provides a powerful platform for detailed functional genomics of gram-positive bacteria as well as its use in explorative functional metagenomics.
PMCID: PMC2268298  PMID: 18223114
10.  Whole-Genome Sequence of Listeria welshimeri Reveals Common Steps in Genome Reduction with Listeria innocua as Compared to Listeria monocytogenes▿ †  
Journal of Bacteriology  2006;188(21):7405-7415.
We present the complete genome sequence of Listeria welshimeri, a nonpathogenic member of the genus Listeria. Listeria welshimeri harbors a circular chromosome of 2,814,130 bp with 2,780 open reading frames. Comparative genomic analysis of chromosomal regions between L. welshimeri, Listeria innocua, and Listeria monocytogenes shows strong overall conservation of synteny, with the exception of the translocation of an FoF1 ATP synthase. The smaller size of the L. welshimeri genome is the result of deletions in all of the genes involved in virulence and of “fitness” genes required for intracellular survival, transcription factors, and LPXTG- and LRR-containing proteins as well as 55 genes involved in carbohydrate transport and metabolism. In total, 482 genes are absent from L. welshimeri relative to L. monocytogenes. Of these, 249 deletions are commonly absent in both L. welshimeri and L. innocua, suggesting similar genome evolutionary paths from an ancestor. We also identified 311 genes specific to L. welshimeri that are absent in the other two species, indicating gene expansion in L. welshimeri, including horizontal gene transfer. The species L. welshimeri appears to have been derived from early evolutionary events and an ancestor more compact than L. monocytogenes that led to the emergence of nonpathogenic Listeria spp.
PMCID: PMC1636279  PMID: 16936040

Results 1-10 (10)