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1.  Two TIR-like domain containing proteins in a newly emerging zoonotic Staphylococcus aureus strain sequence type 398 are potential virulence factors by impacting on the host innate immune response 
Staphylococcus aureus, sequence type (ST) 398, is an emerging pathogen and the leading cause of livestock-associated methicillin-resistant S. aureus infections in Europe and North America. This strain is characterized by high promiscuity in terms of host-species and also lacks several traditional S. aureus virulence factors. This does not, however, explain the apparent ease with which it crosses species-barriers. Recently, TIR-domain containing proteins (Tcps) which inhibit the innate immune response were identified in some Gram-negative bacteria. Here we report the presence of two proteins, S. aureus TIR-like Protein 1 (SaTlp1) and S. aureus TIR-like Protein 2 (SaTlp2), expressed by ST398 which contain domain of unknown function 1863 (DUF1863), similar to the Toll/IL-1 receptor (TIR) domain. In contrast to the Tcps in Gram-negative bacteria, our data suggest that SaTlp1 and SaTlp2 increase activation of the transcription factor NF-κB as well as downstream pro-inflammatory cytokines and immune effectors. To assess the role of both proteins as potential virulence factors knock-out mutants were created. These showed a slightly enhanced survival rate in a murine infectious model compared to the wild-type strain at one dose. Our data suggest that both proteins may act as factors contributing to the enhanced ability of ST398 to cross species-barriers.
PMCID: PMC4260764  PMID: 25538689
TLR signaling; Staphylococcus aureus; bacterial proteins; TCP; innate immune response; mouse model
2.  Escherichia coli- and Staphylococcus aureus-induced mastitis differentially modulate transcriptional responses in neighbouring uninfected bovine mammary gland quarters 
BMC Genomics  2013;14:36.
The most important disease of dairy cattle is mastitis, caused by the infection of the mammary gland by various micro-organisms. Although the transcriptional response of bovine mammary gland cells to in vitro infection has been studied, the interplay and consequences of these responses in the in vivo environment of the mammary gland are less clear. Previously mammary gland quarters were considered to be unaffected by events occurring in neighbouring quarters. More recently infection of individual quarters with mastitis causing pathogens, especially Escherichia coli, has been shown to influence the physiology of neighbouring uninfected quarters. Therefore, the transcriptional responses of uninfected mammary gland quarters adjacent to quarters infected with two major mastitis causing pathogens, E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus, were compared.
The bacteriologically sterile, within-animal control quarters exhibited a transcriptional response to the infection of neighbouring quarters. The greatest response was associated with E. coli infection, while a weaker, yet significant, response occurred during S. aureus infection. The transcriptional responses of these uninfected quarters included the enhanced expression of many genes previously associated with mammary gland infections. Comparison of the transcriptional response of uninfected quarters to S. aureus and E. coli infection identified 187 differentially expressed genes, which were particularly associated with cellular responses, e.g. response to stress. The most affected network identified by Ingenuity Pathway analysis has the immunosuppressor transforming growth factor beta 1 (TGFB1) at its hub and largely consists of genes more highly expressed in control quarters from S. aureus infected cows.
Uninfected mammary gland quarters reacted to the infection of neighbouring quarters and the responses were dependent on pathogen type. Therefore, bovine udder quarters exhibit interdependence and should not be considered as separate functional entities. This suggests that mastitis pathogens not only interact directly with host mammary cells, but also influence discrete sites some distance away, which will affect their response to the subsequent spread of the infection. Understanding the underlying mechanisms may provide further clues for ways to control mammary gland infections. These results also have implications for the design of experimental studies investigating immune regulatory mechanisms in the bovine mammary gland.
PMCID: PMC3598231  PMID: 23324411
Bovine; Mastitis; Escherichia coli; Staphylococcus aureus; Microarray
3.  Interaction of C/EBP-beta and NF-Y factors constrains activity levels of the nutritionally controlled promoter IA expressing the acetyl-CoA carboxylase-alpha gene in cattle 
BMC Molecular Biology  2012;13:21.
The enzyme acetyl-CoA carboxylase-alpha (ACC-α) is rate limiting for de novo fatty acid synthesis. Among the four promoters expressing the bovine gene, promoter IA (PIA) is dominantly active in lipogenic tissues. This promoter is in principal repressed but activated under favorable nutritional conditions. Previous analyses already coarsely delineated the repressive elements on the distal promoter but did not resolve the molecular nature of the repressor. Knowledge about the molecular functioning of this repressor is fundamental to understanding the nutrition mediated regulation of PIA activity. We analyzed here the molecular mechanism calibrating PIA activity.
We finely mapped the repressor binding sites in reporter gene assays and demonstrate together with Electrophoretic Mobility Shift Assays that nuclear factor-Y (NF-Y) and CCAAT/enhancer binding protein-β (C/EBPβ) each separately repress PIA activity by binding to their cognate low affinity sites, located on distal elements of the promoter. Simultaneous binding of both factors results in strongest repression. Paradoxically, over expression of NFY factors, but also - and even more so - of C/EBPβ significantly activated the promoter when bound to high affinity sites on the proximal promoter. However, co-transfection experiments revealed that NF-Y may eventually diminish the strong stimulatory effect of C/EBPβ at the proximal PIA in a dose dependent fashion. We validated by chromatin immunoprecipitation, that NF-Y and C/EBP factors may physically interact.
The proximal promoter segment of PIA appears to be principally in an active state, since even minute concentrations of both, NF-Y and C/EBPβ factors can saturate the high affinity activator sites. Higher factor concentrations will saturate the low affinity repressive sites on the distal promoter resulting in reduced and calibrated promoter activity. Based on measurements of the mRNA concentrations of those factors in different tissues we propose that the interplay of both factors may set tissue-specific limits for PIA activity.
PMCID: PMC3441787  PMID: 22738246
ACC-alpha; Bos taurus; CCAAT-enhancer binding protein; Fat synthesis; Gene regulation; Nuclear factor Y
4.  Lipopolysaccharide priming enhances expression of effectors of immune defence while decreasing expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines in mammary epithelia cells from cows 
BMC Genomics  2012;13:17.
Udder infections with environmental pathogens like Escherichia coli are a serious problem for the dairy industry. Reduction of incidence and severity of mastitis is desirable and mild priming of the immune system either through vaccination or with low doses of immune stimulants such as lipopolysaccharide LPS was previously found to dampen detrimental effects of a subsequent infection. Monocytes/macrophages are known to develop tolerance towards the endotoxin LPS (endotoxin tolerance, ET) as adaptation strategy to prevent exuberant inflammation.
We have recently observed that infusion of 1 μg of LPS into the quarter of an udder effectively protected for several days against an experimentally elicited mastitis. We have modelled this process in primary cultures of mammary epithelial cells (MEC) from the cow. MEC are by far the most abundant cells in the healthy udder coming into contact with invading pathogens and little is known about their role in establishing ET.
We primed primary MEC cultures for 12 h with LPS (100 ng/ml) and stimulated three cultures either 12 h or 42 h later with 107/ml particles of heat inactivated E. coli bacteria for six hours. Priming-related alterations in the global transcriptome of those cells were quantified with Affymetrix microarrays. LPS priming alone caused differential expression of 40 genes and mediated significantly different response to a subsequent E. coli challenge of 226 genes. Expression of 38 genes was enhanced while that of 188 was decreased. Higher expressed were anti-microbial factors (β-defensin LAP, SLPI), cell and tissue protecting factors (DAF, MUC1, TGM1, TGM3) as well as mediators of the sentinel function of MEC (CCL5, CXCL8). Dampened was the expression of potentially harmful pro-inflammatory master cytokines (IL1B, IL6, TNF-α) and immune effectors (NOS2, matrix metalloproteases). Functional network analysis highlighted the reduced expression of IL1B and of IRF7 as key to this modulation.
LPS-primed MEC are fitter to repel pathogens and better protected against misguided attacks of the immune response. Attenuated is the exuberant expression of factors potentially promoting immunopathological processes. MEC therefore recapitulate many aspects of ET known so far from professional immune cells.
PMCID: PMC3315725  PMID: 22235868
5.  Comparative Kinetics of Escherichia coli- and Staphylococcus aureus-Specific Activation of Key Immune Pathways in Mammary Epithelial Cells Demonstrates That S. aureus Elicits a Delayed Response Dominated by Interleukin-6 (IL-6) but Not by IL-1A or Tumor Necrosis Factor Alpha▿ †  
Infection and Immunity  2010;79(2):695-707.
Infections of the udder by Escherichia coli very often elicit acute inflammation, while Staphylococcus aureus infections tend to cause mild, subclinical inflammation and persistent infections. The molecular causes underlying the different disease patterns are poorly understood. We therefore profiled the kinetics and extents of global changes in the transcriptome of primary bovine mammary epithelial cells (MEC) after challenging them with heat-inactivated preparations of E. coli or S. aureus pathogens. E. coli swiftly and strongly induced an expression of cytokines and bactericidal factors. S. aureus elicited a retarded response and failed to quickly induce an expression of bactericidal factors. Both pathogens induced similar patterns of chemokines for cell recruitment into the udder, but E. coli stimulated their synthesis much faster and stronger. The genes that are exclusively and most strongly upregulated by E. coli may be clustered into a regulatory network with tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) and interleukin-1 (IL-1) in a central position. In contrast, the expression of these master cytokines is barely regulated by S. aureus. Both pathogens quickly trigger an enhanced expression of IL-6. This is still possible after completely abrogating MyD88-dependent Toll-like receptor (TLR) signaling in MEC. The E. coli-specific strong induction of TNF-α and IL-1 expression may be causative for the severe inflammatory symptoms of animals suffering from E. coli mastitis, while the avoidance to quickly induce the synthesis of bactericidal factors may support the persistent survival of S. aureus within the udder. We suggest that S. aureus subverts the MyD88-dependent activation of immune gene expression in MEC.
PMCID: PMC3028868  PMID: 21115717
6.  Strengthening insights into host responses to mastitis infection in ruminants by combining heterogeneous microarray data sources 
BMC Genomics  2011;12:225.
Gene expression profiling studies of mastitis in ruminants have provided key but fragmented knowledge for the understanding of the disease. A systematic combination of different expression profiling studies via meta-analysis techniques has the potential to test the extensibility of conclusions based on single studies. Using the program Pointillist, we performed meta-analysis of transcription-profiling data from six independent studies of infections with mammary gland pathogens, including samples from cattle challenged in vivo with S. aureus, E. coli, and S. uberis, samples from goats challenged in vivo with S. aureus, as well as cattle macrophages and ovine dendritic cells infected in vitro with S. aureus. We combined different time points from those studies, testing different responses to mastitis infection: overall (common signature), early stage, late stage, and cattle-specific.
Ingenuity Pathway Analysis of affected genes showed that the four meta-analysis combinations share biological functions and pathways (e.g. protein ubiquitination and polyamine regulation) which are intrinsic to the general disease response. In the overall response, pathways related to immune response and inflammation, as well as biological functions related to lipid metabolism were altered. This latter observation is consistent with the milk fat content depression commonly observed during mastitis infection. Complementarities between early and late stage responses were found, with a prominence of metabolic and stress signals in the early stage and of the immune response related to the lipid metabolism in the late stage; both mechanisms apparently modulated by few genes, including XBP1 and SREBF1.
The cattle-specific response was characterized by alteration of the immune response and by modification of lipid metabolism. Comparison of E. coli and S. aureus infections in cattle in vivo revealed that affected genes showing opposite regulation had the same altered biological functions and provided evidence that E. coli caused a stronger host response.
This meta-analysis approach reinforces previous findings but also reveals several novel themes, including the involvement of genes, biological functions, and pathways that were not identified in individual studies. As such, it provides an interesting proof of principle for future studies combining information from diverse heterogeneous sources.
PMCID: PMC3118214  PMID: 21569310
Meta-analysis; microarray analysis; mastitis infection; lipid metabolism; immune response
7.  Dual effect of a single nucleotide polymorphism in the first intron of the porcine Secreted phosphoprotein 1 gene: allele-specific binding of C/EBP beta and activation of aberrant splicing 
BMC Molecular Biology  2009;10:96.
Secreted phosphoprotein 1 (SPP1 or Osteopontin, OPN) is a multifunctional matricellular glycoprotein involved in development and regeneration of skeletal muscle. Previously, we have demonstrated that porcine SPP1 shows breed-related differential mRNA expression during myogenesis. With the aim to identify putative contributing cis-regulatory DNA variation we resequenced the 5' upstream region of the gene in the respective breeds Pietrain and Duroc. We found two single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP; [GenBank:M84121]: g.1804C>T and g.3836A>G). We focused our investigation on the SNP g.3836A>G, because in silico analysis and knowledge about the regulation of SPP1 suggested an effect of this SNP on a CCAAT/enhancer binding protein beta (C/EBPβ) responsive transcriptional enhancer.
Using electrophoretic mobility shift assay we demonstrated that, similar to human SPP1, the 3' terminal end of the first intron of porcine SPP1 harbors a C/EBPβ binding site and showed that this binding site is negatively affected by the mutant G allele. Genotyping of 48 fetuses per breed revealed that the G allele segregated exclusively in Duroc fetuses with a frequency of 57 percent. Using real-time quantitative PCR we showed that, consistent with its negative effect on a transcriptional enhancer element, the G allele tends to decrease mRNA abundance of SPP1 in the fetal musculus longissimus dorsi (~1.3 fold; P ≥ 0.1).
Moreover, we showed that the SNP g.3836A>G leads to ubiquitous aberrant splicing of the first intron by generating a de novo and activating a cryptic splice acceptor site. Aberrantly spliced transcripts comprise about half of the SPP1 messages expressed by the G allele. Both aberrant splice variants differ from the native transcript by insertions in the leader sequences which do not change the reading frame of SPP1.
At the 3' terminal end of the first intron of the porcine SPP1 we identified a unique, dually functional SNP g.3836A>G. This SNP affects the function of the SPP1 gene at the DNA level by affecting a C/EBPβ binding site and at the RNA level by activating aberrant splicing of the first intron, and thus represents an interesting DNA-marker to study phenotypic effects of SPP1 DNA-variation.
PMCID: PMC2773772  PMID: 19845957
8.  Assessment of the immune capacity of mammary epithelial cells: comparison with mammary tissue after challenge with Escherichia coli  
Veterinary Research  2009;40(4):31.
We examined the repertoire and extent of inflammation dependent gene regulation in a bovine mammary epithelial cell (MEC) model, to better understand the contribution of the MEC in the immune defence of the udder. We challenged primary cultures of MEC from cows with heat inactivated Escherichia coli pathogens and used Affymetrix DNA-microarrays to profile challenge related alterations in their transcriptome. Compared to acute mastitis, the most prominently activated genes comprise those encoding chemokines, interleukins, beta-defensins, serum amyloid A and haptoglobin. Hence, the MEC exert sentinel as well as effector functions of innate immune defence. E. coli stimulated a larger fraction of genes (30%) in the MEC belonging to the functional category Inflammatory Response than we recorded with the same microarrays during acute mastitis in the udder (17%). This observation underscores the exquisite immune capacity of MEC. To more closely examine the adequacy of immunological regulation in MEC, we compared the inflammation dependent regulation of factors contributing to the complement system between the udder versus the MEC. In the MEC we observed only up regulation of several complement factor-encoding genes. Mastitis, in contrast, in the udder strongly down regulates such genes encoding factors contributing to both, the classical pathway of complement activation and the Membrane Attack Complex, while the expression of factors contributing to the alternative pathway may be enhanced. This functionally polarized regulation of the complex complement pathway is not reflected in the MEC models.
PMCID: PMC2695127  PMID: 19321125
mastitis; transcriptome profiling; immune capacity; mammary epithelial cell
9.  Analysis of the real EADGENE data set: Multivariate approaches and post analysis (Open Access publication) 
The aim of this paper was to describe, and when possible compare, the multivariate methods used by the participants in the EADGENE WP1.4 workshop. The first approach was for class discovery and class prediction using evidence from the data at hand. Several teams used hierarchical clustering (HC) or principal component analysis (PCA) to identify groups of differentially expressed genes with a similar expression pattern over time points and infective agent (E. coli or S. aureus). The main result from these analyses was that HC and PCA were able to separate tissue samples taken at 24 h following E. coli infection from the other samples. The second approach identified groups of differentially co-expressed genes, by identifying clusters of genes highly correlated when animals were infected with E. coli but not correlated more than expected by chance when the infective pathogen was S. aureus. The third approach looked at differential expression of predefined gene sets. Gene sets were defined based on information retrieved from biological databases such as Gene Ontology. Based on these annotation sources the teams used either the GlobalTest or the Fisher exact test to identify differentially expressed gene sets. The main result from these analyses was that gene sets involved in immune defence responses were differentially expressed.
PMCID: PMC2682812  PMID: 18053574
bovine annotation; bovine microarray; gene set analysis; mastitis; multivariate approaches
10.  Analysis of the real EADGENE data set: Comparison of methods and guidelines for data normalisation and selection of differentially expressed genes (Open Access publication) 
A large variety of methods has been proposed in the literature for microarray data analysis. The aim of this paper was to present techniques used by the EADGENE (European Animal Disease Genomics Network of Excellence) WP1.4 participants for data quality control, normalisation and statistical methods for the detection of differentially expressed genes in order to provide some more general data analysis guidelines. All the workshop participants were given a real data set obtained in an EADGENE funded microarray study looking at the gene expression changes following artificial infection with two different mastitis causing bacteria: Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus. It was reassuring to see that most of the teams found the same main biological results. In fact, most of the differentially expressed genes were found for infection by E. coli between uninfected and 24 h challenged udder quarters. Very little transcriptional variation was observed for the bacteria S. aureus. Lists of differentially expressed genes found by the different research teams were, however, quite dependent on the method used, especially concerning the data quality control step. These analyses also emphasised a biological problem of cross-talk between infected and uninfected quarters which will have to be dealt with for further microarray studies.
PMCID: PMC2682811  PMID: 18053573
quality control; differentially expressed genes; mastitis resistance; microarray data; normalisation
11.  The EADGENE Microarray Data Analysis Workshop (Open Access publication) 
Microarray analyses have become an important tool in animal genomics. While their use is becoming widespread, there is still a lot of ongoing research regarding the analysis of microarray data. In the context of a European Network of Excellence, 31 researchers representing 14 research groups from 10 countries performed and discussed the statistical analyses of real and simulated 2-colour microarray data that were distributed among participants. The real data consisted of 48 microarrays from a disease challenge experiment in dairy cattle, while the simulated data consisted of 10 microarrays from a direct comparison of two treatments (dye-balanced). While there was broader agreement with regards to methods of microarray normalisation and significance testing, there were major differences with regards to quality control. The quality control approaches varied from none, through using statistical weights, to omitting a large number of spots or omitting entire slides. Surprisingly, these very different approaches gave quite similar results when applied to the simulated data, although not all participating groups analysed both real and simulated data. The workshop was very successful in facilitating interaction between scientists with a diverse background but a common interest in microarray analyses.
PMCID: PMC2682810  PMID: 18053572
gene expression; two colour microarray; statistical analysis

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