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1.  Novel Mycobacterium tuberculosis Complex Isolate from a Wild Chimpanzee 
Emerging Infectious Diseases  2013;19(6):969-976.
Tuberculosis (TB) is caused by gram-positive bacteria known as the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex (MTBC). MTBC include several human-associated lineages and several variants adapted to domestic and, more rarely, wild animal species. We report an M. tuberculosis strain isolated from a wild chimpanzee in Côte d’Ivoire that was shown by comparative genomic and phylogenomic analyses to belong to a new lineage of MTBC, closer to the human-associated lineage 6 (also known as M. africanum West Africa 2) than to the other classical animal-associated MTBC strains. These results show that the general view of the genetic diversity of MTBC is limited and support the possibility that other MTBC variants exist, particularly in wild mammals in Africa. Exploring this diversity is crucial to the understanding of the biology and evolutionary history of this widespread infectious disease.
doi:10.3201/eid1906.121012
PMCID: PMC3713819  PMID: 23735084
tuberculosis and other mycobacteria; bacteria; Mycobacterium tuberculosis; MTBC; wild chimpanzee; zoonoses; nonhuman primate; infection; lineage; M. tuberculosis; tuberculosis; TB; Africa; mammals
2.  Illegitimate recombination: An efficient method for random mutagenesis in Mycobacterium avium subsp. hominissuis 
BMC Microbiology  2012;12:204.
Background
The genus Mycobacterium (M.) comprises highly pathogenic bacteria such as M. tuberculosis as well as environmental opportunistic bacteria called non-tuberculous mycobacteria (NTM). While the incidence of tuberculosis is declining in the developed world, infection rates by NTM are increasing. NTM are ubiquitous and have been isolated from soil, natural water sources, tap water, biofilms, aerosols, dust and sawdust. Lung infections as well as lymphadenitis are most often caused by M. avium subsp. hominissuis (MAH), which is considered to be among the clinically most important NTM. Only few virulence genes from M. avium have been defined among other things due to difficulties in generating M. avium mutants. More efforts in developing new methods for mutagenesis of M. avium and identification of virulence-associated genes are therefore needed.
Results
We developed a random mutagenesis method based on illegitimate recombination and integration of a Hygromycin-resistance marker. Screening for mutations possibly affecting virulence was performed by monitoring of pH resistance, colony morphology, cytokine induction in infected macrophages and intracellular persistence. Out of 50 randomly chosen Hygromycin-resistant colonies, four revealed to be affected in virulence-related traits. The mutated genes were MAV_4334 (nitroreductase family protein), MAV_5106 (phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase), MAV_1778 (GTP-binding protein LepA) and MAV_3128 (lysyl-tRNA synthetase LysS).
Conclusions
We established a random mutagenesis method for MAH that can be easily carried out and combined it with a set of phenotypic screening methods for the identification of virulence-associated mutants. By this method, four new MAH genes were identified that may be involved in virulence.
doi:10.1186/1471-2180-12-204
PMCID: PMC3511198  PMID: 22966811
Mycobacterium; Mycobacterium avium subsp. hominissuis; Non-tuberculous mycobacteria; Virulence; Mutagenesis; Illegitimate recombination
3.  The role of the mycobacterial DNA-binding protein 1 (MDP1) from Mycobacterium bovis BCG in host cell interaction 
BMC Microbiology  2012;12:165.
Background
Mycobacterium tuberculosis differs from most pathogens in its ability to multiply inside monocytes and to persist during long periods of time within granuloma in a status of latency. A class of proteins called mycobacterial histone-like proteins has been associated with regulation of replication and latency, but their precise role in the infection process has yet to be uncovered. Our study aimed at defining the impact of the histone-like protein MDP1 from M. bovis BCG (mycobacterial DNA-binding protein 1, corresponding to Rv2986c from M. tuberculosis) on early steps of infection.
Results
Previously, a BCG (Bacillus Calmette Guérin) strain had been generated by antisense-technique exhibiting reduced MDP1 expression. This strain was now used to analyse the impact of reduced amount of MDP1 on the interaction with human blood monocytes, macrophage lines and PBMC (peripheral blood mononuclear cells). MDP1 was revealed to be required for growth at acidic pH and for intracellular replication in human blood monocytes. Down-regulation of MDP1 resulted in reduced secretion of the cytokine IL-1β by infected human PBMC. In addition, a reduction of MDP1 expression had a major impact on the formation of fused multi-nucleated macrophages. In monocyte preparations from human blood as well as in human and mouse macrophage cell lines, both the percentage of multi-nucleated cells and the number of nuclei per cell were much enhanced when the monocytes were infected with BCG expressing less MDP1.
Conclusion
MDP1 from M. bovis BCG affects the growth at acidic pH and the intracellular replication in human monocytes. It furthermore affects cytokine secretion by host cells, and the formation of fused multi-nucleated macrophages. Our results suggest an important role of MDP1 in persistent infection.
doi:10.1186/1471-2180-12-165
PMCID: PMC3438132  PMID: 22863261
Mycobacterium; Tuberculosis; Mycobacterial DNA-binding protein 1; MDP1; DNA-binding protein; Histone-like protein; Latency; Granuloma; Virulence; Host interaction
4.  Mycobacterium tuberculosis DosR Regulon Gene Rv0079 Encodes a Putative, ‘Dormancy Associated Translation Inhibitor (DATIN)’ 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(6):e38709.
Mycobacterium tuberculosis is a major human pathogen that has evolved survival mechanisms to persist in an immune-competent host under a dormant condition. The regulation of M. tuberculosis metabolism during latent infection is not clearly known. The dormancy survival regulon (DosR regulon) is chiefly responsible for encoding dormancy related functions of M. tuberculosis. We describe functional characterization of an important gene of DosR regulon, Rv0079, which appears to be involved in the regulation of translation through the interaction of its product with bacterial ribosomal subunits. The protein encoded by Rv0079, possibly, has an inhibitory role with respect to protein synthesis, as revealed by our experiments. We performed computational modelling and docking simulation studies involving the protein encoded by Rv0079 followed by in vitro translation and growth curve analysis experiments, involving recombinant E. coli and Bacille Calmette Guérin (BCG) strains that overexpressed Rv0079. Our observations concerning the interaction of the protein with the ribosomes are supportive of its role in regulation/inhibition of translation. We propose that the protein encoded by locus Rv0079 is a ‘dormancy associated translation inhibitor’ or DATIN.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0038709
PMCID: PMC3374827  PMID: 22719925
5.  Integrated MicroRNA-mRNA-Analysis of Human Monocyte Derived Macrophages upon Mycobacterium avium subsp. hominissuis Infection 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(5):e20258.
Background
Many efforts have been made to understand basal mechanisms of mycobacterial infections. Macrophages are the first line of host immune defence to encounter and eradicate mycobacteria. Pathogenic species have evolved different mechanisms to evade host response, e.g. by influencing macrophage apoptotic pathways. However, the underlying molecular regulation is not fully understood. A new layer of eukaryotic regulation of gene expression is constituted by microRNAs. Therefore, we present a comprehensive study for identification of these key regulators and their targets in the context of host macrophage response to mycobacterial infections.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We performed microRNA as well as mRNA expression analysis of human monocyte derived macrophages infected with several Mycobacterium avium hominissuis strains by means of microarrays as well as quantitative reverse transcription PCR (qRT-PCR). The data revealed the ability of all strains to inhibit apoptosis by transcriptional regulation of BCL2 family members. Accordingly, at 48 h after infection macrophages infected with all M. avium strains showed significantly decreased caspase 3 and 7 activities compared to the controls. Expression of let-7e, miR-29a and miR-886-5p were increased in response to mycobacterial infection at 48 h. The integrated analysis of microRNA and mRNA expression as well as target prediction pointed out regulative networks identifying caspase 3 and 7 as potential targets of let-7e and miR-29a, respectively. Consecutive reporter assays verified the regulation of caspase 3 and 7 by these microRNAs.
Conclusions/Significance
We show for the first time that mycobacterial infection of human macrophages causes a specific microRNA response. We furthermore outlined a regulatory network of potential interactions between microRNAs and mRNAs. This study provides a theoretical concept for unveiling how distinct mycobacteria could manipulate host cell response. In addition, functional relevance was confirmed by uncovering the control of major caspases 3 and 7 by let-7e and miR-29a, respectively.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0020258
PMCID: PMC3101234  PMID: 21629653
6.  Characterisation of porin genes from Mycobacterium fortuitum and their impact on growth 
BMC Microbiology  2009;9:31.
Background
Highly pathogenic mycobacteria like Mycobacterium tuberculosis are characterised by their slow growth and their ability to reside and multiply in the very hostile phagosomal environment and a correlation between the growth rate of mycobacteria and their pathogenicity has been hypothesised. Here, porin genes from M. fortuitum were cloned and characterised to address their impact on the growth rate of fast-growing and pathogenic mycobacteria.
Results
Two genes encoding porins orthologous to MspA from M. smegmatis, porM1 and porM2, were cloned from M. fortuitum strains, which were originally isolated from human patients. Both porin genes were at least partially able to complement the mutations of a M. smegmatis mutant strain lacking the genes mspA and mspC with respect to the growth rate. PorM1 and porM2 were present in different strains of M. fortuitum including the type strain. Comparative expression analysis of porM genes revealed divergent porin expression among analysed M. fortuitum strains. Repression of the expression of porins by antisense technique decreased the growth rates of different M. fortuitum. The effects of over-expression of porM1 as well as porM2 varied depending on the strain and the concentration of antibiotic added to the medium and indicated that PorM1 and PorM2 enhance the growth of M. fortuitum strains, but also the diffusion of the antibiotic kanamycin into the cells.
Conclusion
This study demonstrates the important role of porin expression in growth as well as antibiotic susceptibility of the opportunistic bacterium M. fortuitum.
doi:10.1186/1471-2180-9-31
PMCID: PMC2651896  PMID: 19203364
7.  Detection of Balamuthia mandrillaris DNA by real-time PCR targeting the RNase P gene 
BMC Microbiology  2008;8:210.
Background
The free-living amoeba Balamuthia mandrillaris may cause fatal encephalitis both in immunocompromised and in – apparently – immunocompetent humans and other mammalian species. Rapid, specific, sensitive, and reliable detection requiring little pathogen-specific expertise is an absolute prerequisite for a successful therapy and a welcome tool for both experimental and epidemiological research.
Results
A real-time polymerase chain reaction assay using TaqMan® probes (real-time PCR) was established specifically targeting the RNase P gene of B. mandrillaris amoebae. The assay detected at least 2 (down to 0.5) genomes of B. mandrillaris grown in axenic culture. It did not react with DNA from closely related Acanthamoeba (3 species), nor with DNA from Toxoplasma gondii, Leishmania major, Pneumocystis murina, Mycobacterium bovis (BCG), human brain, various mouse organs, or from human and murine cell lines. The assay efficiently detected B. mandrillaris DNA in spiked cell cultures, spiked murine organ homogenates, B. mandrillaris-infected mice, and CNS tissue-DNA preparations from 2 patients with proven cerebral balamuthiasis. This novel primer set was successfully combined with a published set that targets the B. mandrillaris 18S rRNA gene in a duplex real-time PCR assay to ensure maximum specificity and as a precaution against false negative results.
Conclusion
A real-time PCR assay for B. mandrillaris amoebae is presented, that is highly specific, sensitive, and reliable and thus suited both for diagnosis and for research.
doi:10.1186/1471-2180-8-210
PMCID: PMC2612680  PMID: 19055756
8.  The mycobacterial DNA-binding protein 1 (MDP1) from Mycobacterium bovis BCG influences various growth characteristics 
BMC Microbiology  2008;8:91.
Background
Pathogenic mycobacteria such as M. tuberculosis, M. bovis or M. leprae are characterised by their extremely slow growth rate which plays an important role in mycobacterial virulence and eradication of the bacteria. Various limiting factors influence the generation time of mycobacteria, and the mycobacterial DNA-binding protein 1 (MDP1) has also been implicated in growth regulation. Our strategy to investigate the role of MDP1 in mycobacterial growth consisted in the generation and characterisation of a M. bovis BCG derivative expressing a MDP1-antisense gene.
Results
The expression rate of the MDP1 protein in the recombinant M. bovis BCG containing the MDP1-antisense plasmid was reduced by about 50% compared to the reference strain M. bovis BCG containing the empty vector. In comparison to this reference strain, the recombinant M. bovis BCG grew faster in broth culture and reached higher cell masses in stationary phase. Likewise its intracellular growth in mouse and human macrophages was ameliorated. Bacterial clumping in broth culture was reduced by the antisense plasmid. The antisense plasmid increased the susceptibility of the bacteria towards Ampicillin. 2-D protein gels of bacteria maintained under oxygen-poor conditions demonstrated a reduction in the number and the intensity of many protein spots in the antisense strain compared to the reference strain.
Conclusion
The MDP1 protein has a major impact on various growth characteristics of M. bovis BCG. It plays an important role in virulence-related traits such as aggregate formation and intracellular multiplication. Its impact on the protein expression in a low-oxygen atmosphere indicates a role in the adaptation to the hypoxic conditions present in the granuloma.
doi:10.1186/1471-2180-8-91
PMCID: PMC2453136  PMID: 18544159
9.  Viral promoters can initiate expression of toxin genes introduced into Escherichia coli 
BMC Biotechnology  2005;5:19.
Background
The expression of recombinant proteins in eukaryotic cells requires the fusion of the coding region to a promoter functional in the eukaryotic cell line. Viral promoters are very often used for this purpose. The preceding cloning procedures are usually performed in Escherichia coli and it is therefore of interest if the foreign promoter results in an expression of the gene in bacteria. In the case molecules toxic for humans are to be expressed, this knowledge is indispensable for the specification of safety measures.
Results
We selected five frequently used viral promoters and quantified their activity in E. coli with a reporter system. Only the promoter from the thymidine kinase gene from HSV1 showed no activity, while the polyhedrin promoter from baculovirus, the early immediate CMV promoter, the early SV40 promoter and the 5' LTR promoter from HIV-1 directed gene expression in E. coli. The determination of transcription start sites in the immediate early CMV promoter and the polyhedrin promoter confirmed the existence of bacterial -10 and -35 consensus sequences. The importance of this heterologous gene expression for safety considerations was further supported by analysing fusions between the aforementioned promoters and a promoter-less cytotoxin gene.
Conclusion
According to our results a high percentage of viral promoters have the ability of initiating gene expression in E. coli. The degree of such heterologous gene expression can be sufficient for the expression of toxin genes and must therefore be considered when defining safety measures for the handling of corresponding genetically modified organisms.
doi:10.1186/1472-6750-5-19
PMCID: PMC1181807  PMID: 15967027

Results 1-9 (9)