When grown on glucose and beta-glucosides, S. pneumoniae shows sequential use of sugars resulting in diauxic growth with variable time extent of the lag phase separating the biphasic growth curve. The pneumococcal beta-glucoside uptake locus containing the PTS transporter spr0276-82, is regulated by a multi-domain transcriptional regulator CelR. In this work, we address the contribution of phosphorylation of the phosphorylable cysteine in the EIIB domain of CelR to diauxic lag. Utilising site-directed mutagenesis of the phosphorylable amino acids in the EIIB and EIIA domains of CelR, we show that the EIIB domain activation is linked to the duration of the lag phase. Analysis of mutants for other PTS systems indicates that a second beta-glucoside PTS (spr0505), not able to support growth on cellobiose, is responsible for the lag during diauxic growth. A mathematical model of the process is devised together with a nonlinear identification procedure which provides model parameter estimates characterizing the single phases of bacterial growth. Parameter identification performed on data recorded in appropriate experiments on mutants allows for establishing a relationship between a specific model parameter, the EIIB domain and the time extent of the diauxic lag. The experimental results and the related insights provided by the mathematical model provide evidence that the conflicting activation of the CelR regulator is at the origin of the lag phase during sequential growth on glucose and cellobiose. This data is the first description of diauxic lag regulation involving two PTS and a multidomain regulator and could serve as a promising approach for studying the S. pneumoniae growth process on complex carbon sources as possibly encountered in the human host.
Sialic acid (N-acetylneuraminic acid; NeuNAc) is one of the most important carbohydrates for Streptococcus pneumoniae due of its role as a carbon and energy source, receptor for adhesion and invasion and molecular signal for promotion of biofilm formation, nasopharyngeal carriage and invasion of the lung.
In this work, NeuNAc and its metabolic derivative N-acetyl mannosamine (ManNAc) were used to analyze regulatory mechanisms of the neuraminidase locus expression. Genomic and metabolic comparison to Streptococcus mitis, Streptococcus oralis, Streptococcus gordonii and Streptococcus sanguinis elucidates the metabolic association of the two amino sugars to different parts of the locus coding for the two main pneumococcal neuraminidases and confirms the substrate specificity of the respective ABC transporters. Quantitative gene expression analysis shows repression of the locus by glucose and induction of all predicted transcriptional units by ManNAc and NeuNAc, each inducing with higher efficiency the operon encoding for the transporter with higher specificity for the respective amino sugar. Cytofluorimetric analysis demonstrated enhanced surface exposure of NanA on pneumococci grown in NeuNAc and ManNAc and an activity assay allowed to quantify approximately twelve times as much neuraminidase activity on induced cells as opposed to glucose grown cells.
The present data increase the understanding of metabolic regulation of the nanAB locus and indicate that experiments aimed at the elucidation of the relevance of neuraminidases in pneumococcal virulence should possibly not be carried out on bacteria grown in glucose containing media.
Sialic acid; Metabolic regulation; Carbon catabolite repression
The success of Streptococcus pneumoniae (the pneumococcus) as a pulmonary pathogen is related to its restriction of innate immune responses by respiratory epithelial cells. The mechanisms used to overcome this restriction are incompletely elucidated. Pulmonary chemokine expression involves complex cellular and molecular networks, involving the pulmonary epithelium, but the specific cellular interactions and the cytokines that control them are incompletely defined. We show that serotype 2 or 4 pneumococci induce only modest levels of CXCL8 expression from epithelial cell lines, even in the absence of a polysaccharide capsule. In contrast, coculture of A549 cells with the macrophage-like THP-1 cell line, differentiated with vitamin D, or monocyte-derived macrophages enhanced CXCL8 release. Supernatants from the THP-1 cell line prime A549 cells to release CXCL8 at levels similar to cocultures. Interleukin-1Ra (IL-1Ra) inhibits CXCL8 release from cocultures and reduces the activity of macrophage-conditioned media, but inhibition of tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) had only a minimal effect on CXCL8 release. Release of IL-1β but not TNF-α was upregulated in cocultures. IL-1 type 1 receptor knockout C57BL/6 and BALB/c mice confirmed the importance of IL-1 signaling in CXC chemokine expression and neutrophil recruitment in vivo. In fulminant disease, increased IL-1 signaling resulted in increased neutrophils in the airway and more invasive disease. These results demonstrate that IL-1 is an important component of the cellular network involving macrophages and epithelial cells, which facilitates CXC chemokine expression and aids neutrophil recruitment during pneumococcal pneumonia. They also highlight a potential clinical role for anti-IL-1 treatment to limit excessive neutrophilic inflammation in the lung.
The aerotolerant anaerobe Streptococcus pneumoniae is part of the normal nasopharyngeal microbiota of humans and one of the most important invasive pathogens. A genomic survey allowed establishing the occurrence of twenty-one phosphotransferase systems, seven carbohydrate uptake ABC transporters, one sodium∶solute symporter and a permease, underlining an exceptionally high capacity for uptake of carbohydrate substrates. Despite high genomic variability, combined phenotypic and genomic analysis of twenty sequenced strains did assign the substrate specificity only to two uptake systems. Systematic analysis of mutants for most carbohydrate transporters enabled us to assign a phenotype and substrate specificity to twenty-three transport systems. For five putative transporters for galactose, pentoses, ribonucleosides and sulphated glycans activity was inferred, but not experimentally confirmed and only one transport system remains with an unknown substrate and lack of any functional annotation. Using a metabolic approach, 80% of the thirty-two fermentable carbon substrates were assigned to the corresponding transporter. The complexity and robustness of sugar uptake is underlined by the finding that many transporters have multiple substrates, and many sugars are transported by more than one system. The present work permits to draw a functional map of the complete arsenal of carbohydrate utilisation proteins of pneumococci, allows re-annotation of genomic data and might serve as a reference for related species. These data provide tools for specific investigation of the roles of the different carbon substrates on pneumococcal physiology in the host during carriage and invasive infection.
Priming of T cells is a key event in vaccination, since it bears a decisive influence on the type and magnitude of the immune response. T-cell priming after mucosal immunization via the nasal route was studied by investigating the distribution of antigen-loaded antigen presenting cells (APCs) and primed antigen-specific T cells. Nasal immunization studies were conducted using the model protein antigen ovalbumin (OVA) plus CpG oligodeoxynucleotide adjuvant. Trafficking of antigen-specific primed T cells was analyzed in vivo after adoptive transfer of OVA-specific transgenic T cells in the presence or absence of fingolimod, a drug that causes lymphocytes sequestration within lymph nodes. Antigen-loaded APCs were observed in mediastinal lymph nodes, draining the respiratory tract, but not in distal lymph nodes. Antigen-specific proliferating T cells were first observed within draining lymph nodes, and later in distal iliac and mesenteric lymph nodes and in the spleen. The presence at distal sites was due to migration of locally primed T cells as shown by fingolimod treatment that caused a drastic reduction of proliferated T cells in non-draining lymph nodes and an accumulation of extensively divided T cells within draining lymph nodes. Homing of nasally primed T cells in distal iliac lymph nodes was CD62L-dependent, while entry into mesenteric lymph nodes depended on both CD62L and α4β7, as shown by in vivo antibody-mediated inhibition of T-cell trafficking. These data, elucidating the trafficking of antigen-specific primed T cells to non-draining peripheral and mucosa-associated lymph nodes following nasal immunization, provide relevant insights for the design of vaccination strategies based on mucosal priming.
Different models for biofilm in Streptococcus pneumoniae have been described in literature. To permit comparison of experimental data, we characterised the impact of the pneumococcal quorum-sensing competence system on biofilm formation in three models. For this scope, we used two microtiter and one continuous culture biofilm system.
In both microtiter models the competence system influences stability and structure of biofilm in the late attachment phase and synthetic competence stimulating peptide (CSP) restored wild type phenotypes in the comC mutants unable to produce the peptide. Early attachment of single cells to well bottoms was found for both systems to be competence independent, while later phases, including microcolony formation correlated to an intact competence system. The continuous culture biofilm model was not affected by mutations in the competence locus, but deletion of capsule had a significant impact in this model.
Since biofilm remains a largely uncharacterised multi-parameter phenotype it appears to be advisable to exploit more than one model in order to draw conclusion of possible relevance of specific genotypes on pneumococcal physiology.
Experimental animal models of bacterial meningitis are useful to study the host-pathogen interactions occurring at the cerebral level and to analyze the pathogenetic mechanisms behind this life-threatening disease. In this study, we have developed a mouse model of meningococcal meningitis based on the intracisternal inoculation of bacteria. Experiments were performed with mouse-passaged serogroup C Neisseria meningitidis. Survival and clinical parameters of infected mice and microbiological and histological analysis of the brain demonstrated the establishment of meningitis with features comparable to those of the disease in humans. When using low bacterial inocula, meningococcal replication in the brain was very efficient, with a 1,000-fold increase of viable counts in 18 h. Meningococci were also found in the blood, spleens, and livers of infected mice, and bacterial loads in different organs were dependent on the infectious dose. As glutamate uptake from the host has been implicated in meningococcal virulence, mice were infected intracisternally with an isogenic strain deficient in the ABC-type l-glutamate transporter GltT. Noticeably, the mutant was attenuated in virulence in mixed infections, indicating that wild-type bacteria outcompeted the GltT-deficient meningococci. The data show that the GltT transporter plays a role in meningitis and concomitant systemic infection, suggesting that meningococci may use l-glutamate as a nutrient source and as a precursor to synthesize the antioxidant glutathione.
Summary: Streptococcus pneumoniae is a colonizer of human nasopharynx, but it is also an important pathogen responsible for high morbidity, high mortality, numerous disabilities, and high health costs throughout the world. Major diseases caused by S. pneumoniae are otitis media, pneumonia, sepsis, and meningitis. Despite the availability of antibiotics and vaccines, pneumococcal infections still have high mortality rates, especially in risk groups. For this reason, there is an exceptionally extensive research effort worldwide to better understand the diseases caused by the pneumococcus, with the aim of developing improved therapeutics and vaccines. Animal experimentation is an essential tool to study the pathogenesis of infectious diseases and test novel drugs and vaccines. This article reviews both historical and innovative laboratory pneumococcal animal models that have vastly added to knowledge of (i) mechanisms of infection, pathogenesis, and immunity; (ii) efficacies of antimicrobials; and (iii) screening of vaccine candidates. A comprehensive description of the techniques applied to induce disease is provided, the advantages and limitations of mouse, rat, and rabbit models used to mimic pneumonia, sepsis, and meningitis are discussed, and a section on otitis media models is also included. The choice of appropriate animal models for in vivo studies is a key element for improved understanding of pneumococcal disease.
The primary activation of T-helper and T-cytotoxic cells following mucosal immunization with recombinant Streptococcus gordonii was studied in vivo by adoptive transfer of ovalbumin (OVA)-specific transgenic CD8+ (OT-I) and CD4+ (OT-II) T cells. A recombinant strain, expressing on the surface the vaccine antigen Ag85B-ESAT-6 from Mycobacterium tuberculosis fused to OVA T-helper and T-cytotoxic epitopes (peptides 323 to 339 and 257 to 264), was constructed and used to immunize C57BL/6 mice by the intranasal route. Recombinant, but not wild-type, bacteria induced OVA-specific CD4+ and CD8+ T-cell clonal expansion in cervical lymph nodes, lung, and spleen. OVA-specific CD4+ and CD8+ T-cell proliferation appeared first in cervical lymph nodes and later in the spleen, suggesting a possible migration of activated cells from the inductive site to the systemic district. A significant correlation between the percentages of CD4+ and CD8+ proliferating T cells was observed for each animal. The expression of CD69, CD44, and CD45RB on proliferating T lymphocytes changed as a function of the cell division number, confirming T-cell activation following the antigen encounter. These data indicate that intranasal immunization with recombinant S. gordonii is capable of inducing primary activation of naive antigen-specific CD4+ and CD8+ T cells, both locally and systemically.
Pneumococcal surface protein C (PspC) is a virulence factor of Streptococcus pneumoniae previously shown to play a role in bacterial adherence, invasion, and evasion of complement. We investigated the role of this protein in our murine models of pneumococcal pneumonia with different pneumococcal strains. The deletion of pspC in strains of serotypes 2, 3, and 19F did not significantly alter host survival times in the pneumonia model. In contrast, pspC deletion significantly reduced the virulence of the serotype 4 strain, TIGR4, in both the pneumonia and bacteremia models. Therefore, pspC is a systemic and pulmonary virulence determinant for S. pneumoniae, but its effects are influenced by the pneumococcal strain. Finally, pneumonia infection of complement-deficient (C3−/−) mice enhanced pspC virulence, illustrating that PspC-mediated complement evasion contributes to virulence. However, other functions of PspC also contribute to virulence, as demonstrated by the finding that the pspC-deficient TIGR4 mutant was still attenuated relative to the wild-type parent, even in the absence of C3.
The structure of the macrolide efflux genetic assembly (mega) element, its genomic locations, and its association with other resistance determinants and genetic elements were investigated in 16 Streptococcus pneumoniae isolates carrying mef(E), of which 1 isolate also carried tet(M) and 4 isolates also carried tet(M) and erm(B). All isolates carried a mega element of similar size and structure that included the operon mef(E)-msr(D) encoding the efflux transport system. Among tetracycline-susceptible isolates, six different integration sites were identified, five of which were recognized inside open reading frames present in the R6 genome. In the five isolates also carrying tet(M), mega was inserted in different genetic contexts. In one isolate, it was part of previously described Tn916-like element Tn2009. In another isolate, mega was inserted in a transposon similar to Tn2009 that also included an erm(B) element. This new composite transposon was designated Tn2010. Neither Tn2009 nor Tn2010 could be transferred by conjugation to pneumococcal or enterococcal recipients. In the three isolates in which mega was not physically linked with tet(M), this gene was associated with erm(B) in transposon Tn3872, a Tn916-like element. Homologies between the chromosomal insertions of these composite transposons and sequences of multidrug-resistant pneumococcal genomes in the databases indicate the presence of preferential sites for the integration of composite Tn916-like elements carrying multiple resistance determinants in S. pneumoniae.
Streptococcus gordonii is a bacterial vaccine vector which has previously been shown to activate dendritic cells in vitro and to induce local and systemic immune responses in vivo. In the present study, human monocytes (THP-1 cell line and peripheral blood monocytes) were characterized following interaction with S. gordonii. Treatment of human monocytes with S. gordonii but not latex beads induced a clear up-regulation of CD83, CD40, CD80, and CD54 and the down-regulation of CD14. Furthermore, bacterial treatment stimulated an increased expression of Toll-like receptor 5 (TLR5), TLR6, and TLR7, production of the proinflammatory cytokines tumor necrosis factor alpha and interleukin 1 beta, and reduction of the phagocytic activity. This work shows that the immunostimulatory activity of S. gordonii is not restricted to induction of dendritic-cell maturation but also affects the differentiation process of human monocytes.
A DNA microarray was developed to detect bacterial genes conferring resistance to macrolides and related antibiotics. A database containing 65 nonredundant genes selected from publicly available DNA sequences was constructed and used to design 100 oligonucleotide probes that could specifically detect and discriminate all 65 genes. Probes were spotted on a glass slide, and the array was reacted with DNA templates extracted from 20 reference strains of eight different bacterial species (Streptococcus pneumoniae, Streptococcus pyogenes, Enterococcus faecalis, Enterococcus faecium, Staphylococcus aureus, Staphylococcus haemolyticus, Escherichia coli, and Bacteroides fragilis) known to harbor 29 different macrolide resistance genes. Hybridization results showed that probes reacted with, and only with, the expected DNA templates and allowed discovery of three unexpected genes, including msr(SA) in B. fragilis, an efflux gene that has not yet been described for gram-negative bacteria.
The antigen-specific primary activation of CD4+ T cells was studied in vivo by adoptive transfer of ovalbumin-specific transgenic T cells (KJ1-26+ CD4+) following intranasal immunization with recombinant Streptococcus gordonii. A strain of S. gordonii expressing on its surface a model vaccine antigen fused to the ovalbumin (OVA) peptide from position 323 to 339 was constructed and used to study the OVA-specific T-cell activation in nasal mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue (NALT), lymph nodes, and spleens of mice immunized by the intranasal route. The recombinant strain, but not the wild type, activated the OVA-specific CD4+ T-cell population in the NALT (89% of KJ1-26+ CD4+ T cells) just 3 days following immunization. In the cervical lymph nodes and in the spleen, the percentage of proliferating cells was initially low, but it reached the peak of activation at day 5 (90%). This antigen-specific clonal expansion of KJ1-26+ CD4+ T cells after intranasal immunization was obtained with live and inactivated recombinant bacteria, and it indicates that the NALT is the site of antigen-specific T-cell priming.
Two main patterns of gene expression of Streptococcus pneumoniae were observed during infection in the host by quantitative real time RT-PCR; one was characteristic of bacteria in blood and one of bacteria in tissue, such as brain and lung. Gene expression in blood was characterized by increased expression of pneumolysin, pspA and hrcA, while pneumococci in tissue infection showed increased expression of neuraminidases, metalloproteinases, oxidative stress and competence genes. In vitro situations with similar expression patterns were detected in liquid culture and in a newly developed pneumococcal model of biofilm respectively. The biofilm model was dependent on addition of synthetic competence stimulating peptide (CSP) and no biofilm was formed by CSP receptor mutants. As one of the differentially expressed gene sets in vivo were the competence genes, we exploited competence-specific tools to intervene on pneumococcal virulence during infection. Induction of the competence system by the quorum-sensing peptide, CSP, not only induced biofilm formation in vitro, but also increased virulence in pneumonia in vivo. In contrast, a mutant for the ComD receptor, which did not form biofilm, also showed reduced virulence in pneumonia. These results were opposite to those found in a bacteraemic sepsis model of infection, where the competence system was downregulated. When pneumococci in the different physiological states were used directly for challenge, sessile cells grown in a biofilm were more effective in inducing meningitis and pneumonia, while planktonic cells from liquid culture were more effective in inducing sepsis. Our data enable us, using in vivo gene expression and in vivo modulation of virulence, to postulate the distinction – from the pneumococcal point of view – between two main types of disease. During bacteraemic sepsis pneumococci resemble planktonic growth, while during tissue infection, such as pneumonia or meningitis, pneumococci are in a biofilm-like state.
The emergence and spread of multidrug-resistant (MDR) Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MT) represents a worldwide health care problem because of the difficulty in treating these infections. Development of drug resistance in MT arises mainly by mutation of chromosomal genes. To investigate the evolution of a MT population during a long-lasting infection, the phenotypic and genotypic changes in the drug resistance of 10 sequential MT isolates from a noncompliant chronically infected patient were investigated. During more than 12 years of active disease, a MDR population developed; molecular typing showed one single parental strain that infected the patient and persisted throughout the disease. Molecular analysis of the drug resistance-related genes revealed that discrete subpopulations evolved over time from the parental strain by acquiring and accumulating resistance-conferring mutations to isoniazid, rifampin, and streptomycin. Overall, these observations indicate that during a chronic infection, several subpopulations may coexist in the same patient with different drug susceptibility profiles.
In the past ten years there has been a growing interest in engineering Gram-positive bacteria for biotechnological applications, including vaccine delivery and production of recombinant proteins. Usually, bacteria are manipulated using plasmid expression vectors. The major limitation of this approach is due to the fact that recombinant plasmids are often lost from the bacterial culture upon removal of antibiotic selection. We have developed a genetic system based on suicide vectors on conjugative transposons allowing stable integration of recombinant DNA into the chromosome of transformable and non-transformable Gram-positive bacteria.
The aim of this work was to select a strong chromosomal promoter from Streptococcus gordonii to improve this genetic system making it suitable for expression of single-copy recombinant genes. To achieve this task, a promoterless gene encoding a chloramphenicol acetyltransferase (cat), was randomly integrated into the S. gordonii chromosome and transformants were selected for chloramphenicol resistance. Three out of eighteen chloramphenicol resistant transformants selected exhibited 100% stability of the phenotype and only one of them, GP215, carried the cat gene integrated as a single copy. A DNA fragment of 600 base pairs exhibiting promoter activity was isolated from GP215 and sequenced. The 5' end of its corresponding mRNA was determined by primer extention analysis and the putative -10 and a -35 regions were identified. To study the possibility of using this promoter (PP) for single copy heterologous gene expression, we created transcriptional fusions of PP with genes encoding surface recombinant proteins in a vector capable of integrating into the conjugative transposon Tn916. Surface recombinant proteins whose expression was controlled by the PP promoter were detected in Tn916-containing strains of S. gordonii and Bacillus subtilis after single copy chromosomal integration of the recombinant insertion vectors into the resident Tn916. The surface recombinant protein synthesized under the control of PP was also detected in Enterococcus faecalis after conjugal transfer of a recombinant Tn916 containing the transcriptional fusion.
We isolated and characterized a S. gordonii chromosomal promoter. We demonstrated that this promoter can be used to direct expression of heterologous genes in different Gram-positive bacteria, when integrated in a single copy into the chromosome.
Streptococcus pneumoniae, a major cause of human disease, produces a 17-mer autoinducer peptide pheromone (competence-stimulating peptide [CSP]) for the control of competence for genetic transformation. Due to previous work linking CSP to stress phenotypes, we set up an in vivo sepsis model to assay its effect on virulence. Our data demonstrate a significant increase in the rates of survival of mice, reductions of blood S. pneumoniae counts, and prolonged times to death for mice treated with CSP. In vitro the dose of CSP used in the animal model produced a transitory inhibition of growth. When a mutant with a mutation in the CSP sensor histidine kinase was assayed, no bacteriostatic phenotype was detected in vitro and no change in disease outcome was observed in vivo. The data demonstrate that CSP, which induces in vitro a temporary growth arrest through stimulation of its cognate histidine kinase receptor, is able to block systemic disease in mice. This therapeutic effect is novel, in that the drug-like effect is obtained by stimulation, rather than inhibition, of a bacterial drug target.
Streptococcus pneumoniae is the leading cause of bacterial meningitis. Pneumococcal meningitis is associated with the highest mortality among bacterial meningitis and it may also lead to neurological sequelae despite the use of antibiotic therapy. Experimental animal models of pneumococcal meningitis are important to study the pathogenesis of meningitis, the host immune response induced after infection, and the efficacy of novel drugs and vaccines.
In the present work, we describe in detail a simple, reproducible and efficient method to induce pneumococcal meningitis in outbred mice by using the intracranial subarachnoidal route of infection. Bacteria were injected into the subarachnoid space through a soft point located 3.5 mm rostral from the bregma. The model was tested with several doses of pneumococci of three capsular serotypes (2, 3 and 4), and mice survival was recorded. Lethal doses killing 50 % of animals infected with type 2, 3 and 4 S. pneumoniae were 3.2 × 10, 2.9 × 10 and 1.9 × 102 colony forming units, respectively. Characterisation of the disease caused by the type 4 strain showed that in moribund mice systemic dissemination of pneumococci to blood and spleen occurred. Histological analysis of the brain of animals infected with type 4 S. pneumoniae proved the induction of meningitis closely resembling the disease in humans.
The proposed method for inducing pneumococcal meningitis in outbred mice is easy-to-perform, fast, cost-effective, and reproducible, irrespective of the serotype of pneumococci used.
The association between the macrolide efflux gene mef(E) and the tet(M) gene was studied in two clinical strains of Streptococcus pneumoniae that belonged to serotypes 19F and 6A, respectively, and that were resistant to both tetracycline and erythromycin. The mef(E)-carrying element mega (macrolide efflux genetic assembly; 5,511 bp) was found to be inserted into a Tn916-like genetic element present in the chromosomes of the two pneumococcal strains. In both strains, mega was integrated at the same site, an open reading frame identical to orf6 of Tn916. The new composite element, Tn2009, was about 23.5 kb and, with the exception of the tet(M)-coding sequence, appeared to be identical in both strains. By sequencing of the junction fragments of Tn2009 at the site of insertion into the chromosome, it was possible to show that (i) the insertion site was identical in the two clinical strains and (ii) the integration of Tn2009 caused a 9.5 kb-deletion in the pneumococcal chromosome. It was not possible to detect the conjugal transfer of Tn2009 to a recipient pneumococcal strain; however, transfer of the whole element by transformation was shown to occur. It is possible to hypothesize that Tn2009 relies on transformation for its spread among clinical strains of S. pneumoniae.
The role of pneumococcal surface protein C (PspC; also called SpsA, CbpA, and Hic) in sepsis by Streptococcus pneumoniae was investigated in a murine infection model. The pspC gene was deleted in strains D39 (type 2) and A66 (type 3), and the mutants were tested by being injected intravenously into mice. The animals infected with the mutant strains showed a significant increase in survival, with the 50% lethal dose up to 250-fold higher than that for the wild type. Our findings indicate that PspC affords a decisive contribution to sepsis development.
Recombinant human surfactant protein D (SP-D) expressed in Escherichia coli, consisting of the head and neck regions of the native molecule, bound to all strains of Streptococcus pneumoniae that were tested, but the extent of binding varied between strains of differing capsular serotypes. The recombinant protein expressed in the yeast Pichia pastoris did not bind. Full-length native SP-D aggregated pneumococci in a calcium-dependent manner that was inhibited by maltose acting as a competitive sugar. The ability of SP-D to modulate the uptake and killing of pneumococci by human neutrophils was also addressed. Neither recombinant truncated SP-D nor native full-length SP-D enhanced the killing of pneumococci by human neutrophils. Aggregation of pneumococci varied not only between strains of the same multilocus sequence type and different serotypes but also between strains of the same serotype. However, use of recombinant strains in which the serotype had been changed showed that the degree of aggregation was influenced by the capsular type. Indeed, a 19F serotype strain which was not aggregated by SP-D did exhibit aggregation when the original isogenic strain was capsule switched to capsular serotype 3. However, although our results show that SP-D is capable of aggregating most pneumococci, no correlation between the degree of aggregation and the capsule or multilocus sequence type of the pneumococcus was clearly apparent. Therefore, although the capsule serotype is not the only determinant of aggregation by SP-D, the data presented here indicate that it does have a role to play.
Interleukin-1 (IL-1) is a cytokine involved in the initiation and amplification of the defence response in infectious and inflammatory diseases. IL-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1ra) is an inactive member of the IL-1 family and represents one of the most potent mechanisms for controlling IL-1-dependent inflammation. IL-1ra has proven effective in the therapy of acute and chronic inflammatory diseases in experimental animal models and also in preliminary clinical trials. However, optimisation of therapeutic schedules is still needed. For instance, the use of drug delivery systems targeting specific mucosal sites may be useful to improve topical bioavailability and avoid side effects associated with systemic administration.
In order to develop systems for the delivery of IL-1ra to mucosal target sites, a Streptococcus gordonii strain secreting human IL-1ra was constructed. The recombinant IL-1ra produced by S. gordonii was composed of the four amino acid residues RVFP of the fusion partner at the N-terminus, followed by the mature human IL-1ra protein. RFVP/IL-1ra displayed full biological activity in vitro in assays of inhibition of IL-1β-induced lymphocyte proliferation and was released by recombinant S. gordonii in vivo both at the vaginal and the gastrointestinal mucosa of mice. RFVP/IL-1ra appeared beneficial in the model of ulcerative colitis represented by IL-2-/- mice (knock-out for the interleukin-2 gene), as shown by the body weight increase of IL-2-/- mice locally treated with S. gordonii producing RFVP/IL-1ra.
These results indicate that recombinant S. gordonii can be successfully used as a delivery system for the selective targeting of mucosal surfaces with therapeutic proteins.
Streptococcus pneumoniae possesses large zinc metalloproteinases on its surface. To analyse the importance in virulence of three of these metalloproteinases, intranasal challenge of MF1 outbred mice was carried out using a range of infecting doses of wild type and knock-out pneumococcal mutant strains, in order to compare mice survival.
Observation of survival percentages over time and detection of LD50s of knock out mutants in the proteinase genes in comparison to the type 4 TIGR4 wild type strain revealed two major aspects: i) Iga and ZmpB, present in all strains of S. pneumoniae, strongly contribute to virulence in mice; (ii) ZmpC, only present in about 25% of pneumococcal strains, has a lower influence on virulence in mice.
These data suggest Iga, ZmpB and ZmpC as candidate surface proteins responsible for pneumococcal infection and potentially involved in distinct stages of pneumococcal disease.
A mass-screening protocol for the diagnosis of anthrax from nasal swabs based on an enrichment step in liquid medium was devised. Incubation for growth was performed in autoclavable vials and racks which allow real-time PCR analysis of sterilized cultures. A dual-color PCR was set up with primers and probes for the chromosomal marker rpoB and the plasmid marker lef. Specific primer and probe sets were designed for the differentiation of Bacillus anthracis from B. cereus and for the differentiation of the Sterne vaccine strain from field isolates and the Ames strain, which was used in the recent anthrax bioterrorist attack. The present protocol thus combines the high specificity and sensitivity of real-time PCR with excellent biosafety and the low hands-on time necessary for the processing of large numbers of samples, which is extremely important during control programs involving the processing of large numbers of samples.