The pathogenesis of bacteraemia after challenge with one million pneumococci of three isogenic variants was investigated. Sequential analyses of blood samples indicated that most episodes of bacteraemia were monoclonal events providing compelling evidence for a single bacterial cell bottleneck at the origin of invasive disease. With respect to host determinants, results identified novel properties of splenic macrophages and a role for neutrophils in early clearance of pneumococci. Concerning microbial factors, whole genome sequencing provided genetic evidence for the clonal origin of the bacteraemia and identified SNPs in distinct sub-units of F0/F1 ATPase in the majority of the ex vivo isolates. When compared to parental organisms of the inoculum, ex-vivo pneumococci with mutant alleles of the F0/F1 ATPase had acquired the capacity to grow at low pH at the cost of the capacity to grow at high pH. Although founded by a single cell, the genotypes of pneumococci in septicaemic mice indicate strong selective pressure for fitness, emphasising the within-host complexity of the pathogenesis of invasive disease.
Decades of research on bacterial sepsis have been devoted to analysing the steps that lead from a local event, either carriage or a localised infection, to systemic disease. Our work analyses in depth the events determining systemic infection by one of the main human pathogens, Streptococcus pneumoniae. Consistent with similar findings on the pathogenesis of bacteraemia due to other commensal pathogens, our results show that after an intravenous inoculum of a million pneumococci, the resulting septicaemia is often founded by a single bacterial cell. Investigation into the nature of this monoclonal infection identified strong within-host selective pressure for metabolic fitness during outgrowth of the bacterial population.
Primary T-cell activation at mucosal sites is of utmost importance for the development of vaccination strategies. T-cell priming after vaginal immunization, with ovalbumin and CpG oligodeoxynucleotide adjuvant as model vaccine formulation, was studied in vivo in hormone-synchronized mice and compared to the one induced by the nasal route. Twenty-four hours after both vaginal or nasal immunization, antigen-loaded dendritic cells were detected within the respective draining lymph nodes. Vaginal immunization elicited a strong recruitment of antigen-specific CD4+ T cells into draining lymph nodes that was more rapid than the one observed following nasal immunization. T-cell clonal expansion was first detected in iliac lymph nodes, draining the genital tract, and proliferated T cells disseminated towards distal lymph nodes and spleen similarly to what observed following nasal immunization. T cells were indeed activated by the antigen encounter and acquired homing molecules essential to disseminate towards distal lymphoid organs as confirmed by the modulation of CD45RB, CD69, CD44 and CD62L marker expression. A multi-type Galton Watson branching process, previously used for in vitro analysis of T-cell proliferation, was applied to model in vivo CFSE proliferation data in draining lymph nodes 57 hours following immunization, in order to calculate the probabilistic decision of a cell to enter in division, rest in quiescence or migrate/die. The modelling analysis indicated that the probability of a cell to proliferate was higher following vaginal than nasal immunization. All together these data show that vaginal immunization, despite the absence of an organized mucosal associated inductive site in the genital tract, is very efficient in priming antigen-specific CD4+ T cells and inducing their dissemination from draining lymph nodes towards distal lymphoid organs.
Pneumococcal meningitis (PM) is a life-threatening disease with a high case-fatality rate and elevated risk for serious neurological sequelae. In this study, we investigated the contribution of three major virulence factors of Streptococcus pneumoniae, the capsule, pneumococcal surface protein A (PspA) and C (PspC), to the pathogenesis of experimental PM.
Mice were challenged by the intracranial route with the serotype 4 TIGR4 strain (wt) and three isogenic mutants devoid of PspA, PspC, and the capsule. Survival, bacterial counts, and brain histology were carried out. To study the interaction between S. pneumoniae mutants and microglia, phagocytosis and survival experiments were performed using the BV2 mouse microglial cell line.
Virulence of the PspC mutant was comparable to that of TIGR4. In contrast, survival of animals challenged with the PspA mutant was significantly increased compared with the wt, and the mutant was also impaired at replicating in the brain and blood of infected mice. Brain histology indicated that all strains, except for the unencapsulated mutant, caused PM. Analysis of inflammation and damage in the brain of mice infected with TIGR4 or its unencapsulated mutant demonstrated that the rough strain was unable to induce inflammation and neuronal injury, even at high challenge doses. Results with BV2 cells showed no differences in phagocytic uptake between wt and mutants. In survival assays, however, the PspA mutant showed significantly reduced survival in microglia compared with the wt.
PspA contributed to PM pathogenesis possibly by interacting with microglia at early infection stages, while PspC had limited importance in the disease. The rough mutant did not cause brain inflammation, neuronal damage or mouse death, strengthening the key role of the capsule in PM.
Experimental pneumococcal meningitis; Microglia; PspA; PspC; Capsule
The pneumococcal chromosome encodes about 140 transporters, many of which are predicted to be involved in efflux. In order to critically evaluate pneumococcal efflux, a series of transporter mutants were constructed, and their phenotypes were assayed by disk diffusion, microdilution drug susceptibility testing (MIC testing), growth of cultures at sub-MIC concentrations, and phenotype microarray analysis. Mutants with mutations in seven ATP binding cassette (ABC) transporters, three multiantimicrobial extrusion (MATE) family efflux pumps, and one major facilitator superfamily (MFS) transporter were obtained in Streptococcus pneumoniae strain DP1004. The susceptibility of these 11 mutants to over 250 different substances was compared to that of the parent strain. Of the tested transporters, only the ABC transporter PatAB (SP2073-5) presented a clear multidrug resistance (MDR) profile, as the mutant showed significantly increased susceptibility to ethidium bromide, acriflavine, and berberine. Among the other transporters analyzed, the mutants devoid of the MATE efflux pump SP2065 exhibited reduced susceptibility to novobiocin, and those with mutations of the MATE family DinF transport system (SP1939) exhibited increased susceptibility to moxifloxacin, ciprofloxacin, and levofloxacin. This change in quinolone MIC was found to be independent from the competence-mediated effect of quinolones on the cinA-recA-dinF operon. Furthermore, the dinF mutant, in contrast to the parental strain, allowed selection for quinolone-resistant mutants when exposed to moxifloxacin. These data confirm the clear MDR profile of the PatAB ABC transporter and suggest for the MATE DinF a phenotype associated with quinolone susceptibility, particularly for moxifloxacin.
A PCR-microarray assay was developed in which PCR primers and hybridization probes were designed for the 16S rRNA genes of 16 clinically relevant mycobacteria and for IS6110 of Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The assay, based on a multiplex PCR followed by hybridization with oligonucleotide probes, was tested against 16 Mycobacterium species and 70 clinical samples.
Combinations of different delivery routes for priming and boosting represent vaccination strategies that can modulate magnitude, quality, and localization of the immune response. A murine model was used to study T cell clonal expansion following intranasal (IN) or subcutaneous (SC) priming, and secondary immune responses after boosting by either homologous or heterologous routes. T cell primary activation was studied by using the adoptive transfer model of ovalbumin-specific transgenic CD4+ T cells. Both IN and SC immunization efficiently elicited, in the respective draining lymph nodes, primary clonal expansion of antigen-specific CD4+ T cells that disseminated toward distal lymph nodes (mesenteric and iliac) and the spleen. After boosting, a significant serum IgG response was induced in all groups independent of the combination of immunization routes used, while significant levels of local IgA were detected only in mice boosted by the IN route. Mucosal priming drove a stronger Th1 polarization than the systemic route, as shown by serum IgG subclass analysis. IFN-gamma production was observed in splenocytes of all groups, while prime-boost vaccine combinations that included the mucosal route, yielded higher levels of IL-17. Memory lymphocytes were identified in both spleen and draining lymph nodes in all immunized mice, with the highest number of IL-2 producing cells detected in mice primed and boosted by the nasal route. This work shows the critical role of immunization routes in modulating quality and localization of immune responses in prime-boost vaccine strategies.
prime-boost; T cell priming; mucosal immune response; nasal immunization; subcutaneous immunization; cytokines
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.