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1.  Application of bacteriophages for detection of foodborne pathogens 
Bacteriophage  2014;4(1):e28137.
Bacterial contamination of food products presents a challenge for the food industry and poses a high risk for the consumer. Despite increasing awareness and improved hygiene measures, foodborne pathogens remain a threat for public health, and novel methods for detection of these organisms are needed. Bacteriophages represent ideal tools for diagnostic assays because of their high target cell specificity, inherent signal-amplifying properties, easy and inexpensive production, and robustness. Every stage of the phage lytic multiplication cycle, from the initial recognition of the host cell to the final lysis event, may be harnessed in several ways for the purpose of bacterial detection. Besides intact phage particles, phage-derived affinity molecules such as cell wall binding domains and receptor binding proteins can serve for this purpose. This review provides an overview of existing phage-based technologies for detection of foodborne pathogens, and highlights the most recent developments in this field, with particular emphasis on phage-based biosensors.
PMCID: PMC3919822  PMID: 24533229
foodborne pathogens; bacterial detection; diagnostics; reporter phage; biosensor; phage amplification; cell wall binding domain; receptor binding protein
2.  Novel Giant Siphovirus from Bacillus anthracis Features Unusual Genome Characteristics 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e85972.
Here we present vB_BanS-Tsamsa, a novel temperate phage isolated from Bacillus anthracis, the agent responsible for anthrax infections in wildlife, livestock and humans. Tsamsa phage is a giant siphovirus (order Caudovirales), featuring a long, flexible and non-contractile tail of 440 nm (not including baseplate structure) and an isometric head of 82 nm in diameter. We induced Tsamsa phage in samples from two different carcass sites in Etosha National Park, Namibia. The Tsamsa phage genome is the largest sequenced Bacillus siphovirus, containing 168,876 bp and 272 ORFs. The genome features an integrase/recombinase enzyme, indicative of a temperate lifestyle. Among bacterial strains tested, the phage infected only certain members of the Bacillus cereus sensu lato group (B. anthracis, B. cereus and B. thuringiensis) and exhibited moderate specificity for B. anthracis. Tsamsa lysed seven out of 25 B. cereus strains, two out of five B. thuringiensis strains and six out of seven B. anthracis strains tested. It did not lyse B. anthracis PAK-1, an atypical strain that is also resistant to both gamma phage and cherry phage. The Tsamsa endolysin features a broader lytic spectrum than the phage host range, indicating possible use of the enzyme in Bacillus biocontrol.
PMCID: PMC3903500  PMID: 24475065
3.  Genome Sequence of Salmonella bongori Strain N268-08 
Genome Announcements  2013;1(6):e01018-13.
PMCID: PMC3861422  PMID: 24336369
4.  Wall Teichoic Acids Restrict Access of Bacteriophage Endolysin Ply118, Ply511, and PlyP40 Cell Wall Binding Domains to the Listeria monocytogenes Peptidoglycan 
Journal of Bacteriology  2012;194(23):6498-6506.
The C-terminal cell wall binding domains (CBDs) of phage endolysins direct the enzymes to their binding ligands on the bacterial cell wall with high affinity and specificity. The Listeria monocytogenes Ply118, Ply511, and PlyP40 endolysins feature related CBDs which recognize the directly cross-linked peptidoglycan backbone structure of Listeria. However, decoration with fluorescently labeled CBDs primarily occurs at the poles and septal regions of the rod-shaped cells. To elucidate the potential role of secondary cell wall-associated carbohydrates such as the abundant wall teichoic acid (WTA) on this phenomenon, we investigated CBD binding using L. monocytogenes serovar 1/2 and 4 cells deficient in WTA. Mutants were obtained by deletion of two redundant tagO homologues, whose products catalyze synthesis of the WTA linkage unit. While inactivation of either tagO1 (EGDe lmo0959) or tagO2 (EGDe lmo2519) alone did not affect WTA content, removal of both alleles following conditional complementation yielded WTA-deficient Listeria cells. Substitution of tagO from an isopropyl-β-d-thiogalactopyranoside-inducible single-copy integration vector restored the original phenotype. Although WTA-deficient cells are viable, they featured severe growth inhibition and an unusual coccoid morphology. In contrast to CBDs from other Listeria phage endolysins which directly utilize WTA as binding ligand, the data presented here show that WTAs are not required for attachment of CBD118, CBD511, and CBDP40. Instead, lack of the cell wall polymers enables unrestricted spatial access of CBDs to the cell wall surface, indicating that the abundant WTA can negatively regulate sidewall localization of the cell wall binding domains.
PMCID: PMC3497465  PMID: 23002226
5.  Listeria phages 
Bacteriophage  2013;3(3):e26861.
Listeria is an important foodborne pathogen and the causative agent of Listeriosis, a potentially fatal infection. Several hundred Listeria bacteriophages have been described over the past decades, but only few have actually been characterized in some detail, and genome sequences are available for less than twenty of them. We here present an overview of what is currently known about Listeria phage genomics, their role in host evolution and pathogenicity, and their various applications in biotechnology and diagnostics.
PMCID: PMC3827098  PMID: 24251077
CRISPR; Mosaic genomes; biocontrol; comK; endolysin; homologous recombination; pathogen detection; reporter phage
6.  Genome Sequence of Salmonella bongori Strain N268-08, a Rare Clinical Isolate 
Genome Announcements  2013;1(4):e00580-13.
Salmonella bongori is a close relative of the highly virulent members of S. enterica subspecies enterica, encompassing more than 2,500 serovars, most of which cause human salmonellosis, one of the leading food-borne illnesses. S. bongori is only very rarely implicated in infections. We here present the sequence of a clinical isolate from Switzerland, S. bongori strain N268-08.
PMCID: PMC3751601  PMID: 23969046
7.  Bacteriophage endolysins as novel antimicrobials 
Future microbiology  2012;7(10):1147-1171.
Endolysins are enzymes used by bacteriophages at the end of their replication cycle to degrade the peptidoglycan of the bacterial host from within, resulting in cell lysis and release of progeny virions. Due to the absence of an outer membrane in the Gram-positive bacterial cell wall, endolysins can access the peptidoglycan and destroy these organisms when applied externally, making them interesting antimicrobial candidates, particularly in light of increasing bacterial drug resistance. This article reviews the modular structure of these enzymes, in which cell wall binding and catalytic functions are separated, as well as their mechanism of action, lytic activity and potential as antimicrobials. It particularly focuses on molecular engineering as a means of optimizing endolysins for specific applications, highlights new developments that may render these proteins active against Gram-negative and intracellular pathogens and summarizes the most recent applications of endolysins in the fields of medicine, food safety, agriculture and biotechnology.
PMCID: PMC3563964  PMID: 23030422
antimicrobial; bacteriophage; detection; endolysin; lysis; peptidoglycan hydrolase; protein engineering
8.  Bacteriophage P70: Unique Morphology and Unrelatedness to Other Listeria Bacteriophages 
Journal of Virology  2012;86(23):13099-13102.
Listeria monocytogenes is an important food-borne pathogen, and its bacteriophages find many uses in detection and biocontrol of its host. The novel broad-host-range virulent phage P70 has a unique morphology with an elongated capsid. Its genome sequence was determined by a hybrid sequencing strategy employing Sanger and PacBio techniques. The P70 genome contains 67,170 bp and 119 open reading frames (ORFs). Our analyses suggest that P70 represents an archetype of virus unrelated to other known Listeria bacteriophages.
PMCID: PMC3497695  PMID: 22993158
9.  Reporter bacteriophage A511::celB transduces a hyperthermostable glycosidase from Pyrococcus furiosus for rapid and simple detection of viable Listeria cells 
Bacteriophage  2011;1(3):143-151.
Reporter bacteriophages for detection of pathogenic bacteria offer fast and sensitive screening for live bacterial targets. We present a novel strategy employing a gene encoding a hyperthermophilic enzyme, permitting the use of various substrates and assay formats. The celB gene from the hyperthermophilic archaeon Pyrococcus furiosus specifying an extremely thermostable β-glycosidase was inserted into the genome of the broad host range, virulent Listeria phage A511 by homologous recombination. It is expressed at the end of the infectious cycle, under control of the strong major capsid gene promoter Pcps. Infection of Listeria with A511::celB results in strong gene expression and synthesis of a fully functional β-glycosidase. The reporter phage was tested for detection of viable Listeria cells with different chromogenic, fluorescent or chemiluminescent substrates. The best signal-to-noise ratio and sufficiently high sensitivity was obtained using the inexpensive substrate 4-Methylumbelliferyl-α-D-Glucopyranoside (MUG). The reporter phage assay is simple to perform and can be completed in about 6 h. Phage infection, as well as the subsequent temperature shift, enzymatic substrate conversion and signal recordings are independent from each other and may be performed separately. The detection limit for viable Listeria monocytogenes in an assay format adapted to 96-well microplates was 7.2 × 102 cells per well, corresponding to 6 × 103 cfu per ml in suspension. Application of the A511::celB protocol to Listeria in spiked chocolate milk and salmon demonstrate the usefulness of the reporter phage for rapid detection of low numbers of the bacteria (10 cfu/g or less) in contaminated foods.
PMCID: PMC3225779  PMID: 22164348
Listeria monocytogenes; reporter bacteriophage; Pyrococcus furiosus; glycosidase; celB; rapid methods; food safety
10.  Listeria monocytogenes tyrosine phosphatases affect wall teichoic acid composition and phage resistance 
FEMS microbiology letters  2011;326(2):151-160.
Protein tyrosine phosphatase (PTP)-like proteins exist in many bacteria and are segregated into two major groups: low molecular weight, and conventional. The latter group also has activity as phosphoinositide phosphatases. These two kinds of PTP are suggested to be involved in many aspects of bacterial physiology including stress response, DNA binding proteins, virulence and capsule/cell wall production.
By annotation Listeria monocytogenes possesses two potential low molecular weight and two conventional PTPs. Using L. monocytogenes wild-type (WT) strain 10403S, we have created an in-frame deletion mutant lacking all four PTPs, as well as four additional complemented strains harboring each of the PTPs. No major physiological differences were observed between the WT and the mutant lacking all four PTPs. However, the deletion mutant strain was resistant to Listeria phages A511 and P35, and sensitive to other Listeria phages. This was attributed to reduced attachment to the cell wall. The mutant lacking all PTPs was found to lack N-acetylglucosamine in its wall teichoic acid. Phage sensitivity and attachment was rescued in a complemented strain harboring a low molecular weight PTP (LMRG1707).
PMCID: PMC3241885  PMID: 22092439
Phage resistance; tyrosine phosphatase; Listeria monocytogenes
11.  Bacteriophage biocontrol of Listeria monocytogenes on soft ripened white mold and red-smear cheeses 
Bacteriophage  2011;1(2):94-100.
Soft-ripened cheeses belong to the type of food most often contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, and they have been implicated in several outbreaks of listeriosis. Bacteriophages represent an attractive way to combat foodborne pathogens without affecting other properties of the food. We used the broad host range, virulent Listeria phage A511 for control of L. monocytogenes during the production and ripening phases of both types of soft-ripened cheeses, white mold (Camembert-type) cheese, as well as washed-rind cheese with a red-smear surface (Limburger-type). The surfaces of young, unripened cheese were inoculated with 101–103 cfu/cm2 L. monocytogenes strains Scott A (serovar 4b) or CNL 103/2005 (serovar 1/2a). Phage was applied at defined time points thereafter, in single or repeated treatments, at 3 × 108 or 1 × 109 pfu/cm2. With Scott A (103 cfu/cm2) and a single dose of A511 (3 × 108 pfu/cm2) on camembert-type cheese, viable counts dropped 2.5 logs at the end of the 21 day ripening period. Repeated phage application did not further inhibit the bacteria, whereas a single higher dose (1 × 109 pfu/cm2) was found to be more effective. On red-smear cheese ripened for 22 days, Listeria counts were down by more than 3 logs. Repeated application of A511 further delayed re-growth of Listeria, but did not affect bacterial counts after 22 days. With lower initial Listeria contamination (101–102 cfu/cm2), viable counts dropped below the limit of detection, corresponding to more than 6 logs reduction compared to the control. Our data clearly demonstrate the potential of bacteriophage for biocontrol of L. monocytogenes in soft cheese.
PMCID: PMC3278646  PMID: 22334865
Listeria monocytogenes; bacteriophage; food safety; soft-ripened cheese
12.  The Opportunistic Pathogen Listeria monocytogenes: Pathogenicity and Interaction with the Mucosal Immune System 
Listeria monocytogenes is an opportunistic foodborne pathogen causing listeriosis, an often fatal infection leading to meningitis, sepsis, or infection of the fetus and abortion in susceptible individuals. It was recently found that the bacterium can also cause acute, self-limiting febrile gastroenteritis in healthy individuals. In the intestinal tract, L. monocytogenes penetrates the mucosa directly via enterocytes, or indirectly via invasion of Peyer's patches. Animal models for L. monocytogenes infection have provided many insights into the mechanisms of pathogenesis, and the development of new model systems has allowed the investigation of factors that influence adaptation to the gastrointestinal environment as well as adhesion to and invasion of the intestinal mucosa. The mucosal surfaces of the gastrointestinal tract are permanently exposed to an enormous antigenic load derived from the gastrointestinal microbiota present in the human bowel. The integrity of the important epithelial barrier is maintained by the mucosal immune system and its interaction with the commensal flora via pattern recognition receptors (PRRs). Here, we discuss recent advances in our understanding of the interaction of L. monocytogenes with the host immune system that triggers the antibacterial immune responses on the mucosal surfaces of the human gastrointestinal tract.
PMCID: PMC3003996  PMID: 21188219
13.  Rhamnose-Inducible Gene Expression in Listeria monocytogenes 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(8):e43444.
Acid production from rhamnose is a characteristic phenotype of Listeria monocytogenes. We report the identification of the rhamnose transport and utilization operon located at lmo2846 to lmo2851, including the rhamnose-dependent promoter Prha. Expression of reporter genes under control of Prha on a single copy integration vector demonstrated its suitability for inducible gene expression in L. monocytogenes. Transcription initiation from Prha is dose dependent, and a concentration as low as 100 µM rhamnose was found sufficient for induction. Moreover, Prha is subject to glucose catabolite repression, which provides additional options for strict control of expression. Infection of human THP1 macrophages revealed that Prha is repressed in intracellular L. monocytogenes, which is explained by the absence of rhamnose in the cytosol and possible interference by catabolite repression. The Prha promoter provides a novel and useful tool for triggering gene expression in extracellular L. monocytogenes, whereas intracellular conditions prevent transcription from this promoter.
PMCID: PMC3425472  PMID: 22927968
14.  Intracellular Vesicles as Reproduction Elements in Cell Wall-Deficient L-Form Bacteria 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(6):e38514.
Cell wall-deficient bacteria, or L-forms, represent an extreme example of bacterial plasticity. Stable L-forms can multiply and propagate indefinitely in the absence of a cell wall. Data presented here are consistent with the model that intracellular vesicles in Listeria monocytogenes L-form cells represent the actual viable reproductive elements. First, small intracellular vesicles are formed along the mother cell cytoplasmic membrane, originating from local phospholipid accumulation. During growth, daughter vesicles incorporate a small volume of the cellular cytoplasm, and accumulate within volume-expanding mother cells. Confocal Raman microspectroscopy demonstrated the presence of nucleic acids and proteins in all intracellular vesicles, but only a fraction of which reveals metabolic activity. Following collapse of the mother cell and release of the daughter vesicles, they can establish their own membrane potential required for respiratory and metabolic processes. Premature depolarization of the surrounding membrane promotes activation of daughter cell metabolism prior to release. Based on genome resequencing of L-forms and comparison to the parental strain, we found no evidence for predisposing mutations that might be required for L-form transition. Further investigations revealed that propagation by intracellular budding not only occurs in Listeria species, but also in L-form cells generated from different Enterococcus species. From a more general viewpoint, this type of multiplication mechanism seems reminiscent of the physicochemical self-reproducing properties of abiotic lipid vesicles used to study the primordial reproduction pathways of putative prokaryotic precursor cells.
PMCID: PMC3368840  PMID: 22701656
15.  Inducible Clostridium perfringens bacteriophages ΦS9 and ΦS63 
Bacteriophage  2012;2(2):89-97.
Two inducible temperate bacteriophages ΦS9 and ΦS63 from Clostridium perfringens were sequenced and analyzed. Isometric heads and long non-contractile tails classify ΦS9 and ΦS63 in the Siphoviridae family, and their genomes consist of 39,457 bp (ΦS9) and 33,609 bp (ΦS63) linear dsDNA, respectively. ΦS63 has 3′-overlapping cohesive genome ends, whereas ΦS9 is the first Clostridium phage featuring an experimentally proven terminally redundant and circularly permuted genome. A total of 50 and 43 coding sequences were predicted for ΦS9 and ΦS63, respectively, organized into 6 distinct lifestyle-associated modules typical for temperate Siphoviruses. Putative functions could be assigned to 26 gene products of ΦS9, and to 25 of ΦS63. The ΦS9 attB attachment and insertion site is located in a non-coding region upstream of a putative phosphorylase gene. Interestingly, ΦS63 integrates into the 3′ part of sigK in C. perfringens, and represents the first functional skin-element-like phage described for this genus. With respect to possible effects of lysogeny, we did not obtain evidence that ΦS9 may influence sporulation of a lysogenized host. In contrast, interruption of sigK, a sporulation associated gene in various bacteria, by the ΦS63 prophage insertion is more likely to affect sporulation of its carrier.
PMCID: PMC3442830  PMID: 23050219
Clostridium perfringens; prophage; attachment site; sporulation; skin-element
16.  Novel Virulent and Broad-Host-Range Erwinia amylovora Bacteriophages Reveal a High Degree of Mosaicism and a Relationship to Enterobacteriaceae Phages ▿† 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2011;77(17):5945-5954.
A diverse set of 24 novel phages infecting the fire blight pathogen Erwinia amylovora was isolated from fruit production environments in Switzerland. Based on initial screening, four phages (L1, M7, S6, and Y2) with broad host ranges were selected for detailed characterization and genome sequencing. Phage L1 is a member of the Podoviridae, with a 39.3-kbp genome featuring invariable genome ends with direct terminal repeats. Phage S6, another podovirus, was also found to possess direct terminal repeats but has a larger genome (74.7 kbp), and the virus particle exhibits a complex tail fiber structure. Phages M7 and Y2 both belong to the Myoviridae family and feature long, contractile tails and genomes of 84.7 kbp (M7) and 56.6 kbp (Y2), respectively, with direct terminal repeats. The architecture of all four phage genomes is typical for tailed phages, i.e., organized into function-specific gene clusters. All four phages completely lack genes or functions associated with lysogeny control, which correlates well with their broad host ranges and indicates strictly lytic (virulent) lifestyles without the possibility for host lysogenization. Comparative genomics revealed that M7 is similar to E. amylovora virus ΦEa21-4, whereas L1, S6, and Y2 are unrelated to any other E. amylovora phage. Instead, they feature similarities to enterobacterial viruses T7, N4, and ΦEcoM-GJ1. In a series of laboratory experiments, we provide proof of concept that specific two-phage cocktails offer the potential for biocontrol of the pathogen.
PMCID: PMC3165370  PMID: 21764969
17.  Genome Sequence of Listeria monocytogenes Scott A, a Clinical Isolate from a Food-Borne Listeriosis Outbreak▿ 
Journal of Bacteriology  2011;193(16):4284-4285.
Listeria monocytogenes is an opportunistic food-borne pathogen and the causative agent of listeriosis in animals and humans. We present the genome sequence of Listeria monocytogenes Scott A, a widely distributed and frequently used serovar 4b clinical isolate from the 1983 listeriosis outbreak in Massachusetts.
PMCID: PMC3147710  PMID: 21685277
18.  Domain shuffling and module engineering of Listeria phage endolysins for enhanced lytic activity and binding affinity 
Microbial Biotechnology  2011;4(5):651-662.
Bacteriophage endolysins are peptidoglycan hydrolases employed by the virus to lyse the host at the end of its multiplication phase. They have found many uses in biotechnology; not only as antimicrobials, but also for the development of novel diagnostic tools for rapid detection of pathogenic bacteria. These enzymes generally show a modular organization, consisting of N‐terminal enzymatically active domains (EADs) and C‐terminal cell wall‐binding domains (CBDs) which specifically target the enzymes to their substrate in the bacterial cell envelope. In this work, we used individual functional modules of Listeria phage endolysins to create fusion proteins with novel and optimized properties for labelling and lysis of Listeria cells. Chimaeras consisting of individual EAD and CBD modules from PlyPSA and Ply118 endolysins with different binding specificity and catalytic activity showed swapped properties. EAD118–CBDPSA fusion proteins exhibited up to threefold higher lytic activity than the parental endolysins. Recombineering different CBD domains targeting various Listeria cell surfaces into novel heterologous tandem proteins provided them with extended recognition and binding properties, as demonstrated by fluorescent GFP‐tagged CBD fusions. It was also possible to combine the binding specificities of different single CBDs in heterologous tandem CBD constructs such as CBD500‐P35 and CBDP35‐500, which were then able to recognize the majority of Listeria strains. Duplication of CBD500 increased the equilibrium cell wall binding affinity by approximately 50‐fold, and the enzyme featuring tandem CBD modules showed increased activity at higher ionic strength. Our results demonstrate that modular engineering of endolysins is a powerful approach for the rational design and optimization of desired functional properties of these proteins.
PMCID: PMC3819014  PMID: 21535426
19.  Rapid Analysis of Listeria monocytogenes Cell Wall Teichoic Acid Carbohydrates by ESI-MS/MS 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(6):e21500.
We report the application of electrospray ionization (ESI) mass spectrometry for compositional characterization of wall teichoic acids (WTA), a major component of Gram-positive bacterial cell walls. Tandem mass spectrometry (ESI-MS/MS) of purified and chemically hydrolyzed monomeric WTA components provided sufficient information to identify WTA monomers and their specific carbohydrate constituents. A lithium matrix was used for ionization of uncharged WTA monomers, and successfully applied to analyze the WTA molecules of four Listeria strains differing in carbohydrate substitution on a conserved polyribitol-phosphate backbone structure. Carbohydrate residues such as N-acetylglucosamine or rhamnose linked to the WTA could directly be identified by ESI-MS/MS, circumventing the need for quantitative analysis by gas chromatography. The presence of a terminal N-acetylglucosamine residue tethered to the ribitol was confirmed using fluorescently labeled wheat-germ agglutinin. In conclusion, the mass spectrometry method described here will greatly facilitate compositional analysis and characterization of teichoic acids and similar macromolecules from diverse bacterial species, and represents a significant advance in the identification of serovar-specific carbohydrates and sugar molecules on bacteria.
PMCID: PMC3127946  PMID: 21738682
20.  Brochothrix thermosphacta Bacteriophages Feature Heterogeneous and Highly Mosaic Genomes and Utilize Unique Prophage Insertion Sites ▿ †  
Journal of Bacteriology  2010;192(20):5441-5453.
Brochothrix belongs to the low-GC branch of Gram-positive bacteria (Firmicutes), closely related to Listeria, Staphylococcus, Clostridium, and Bacillus. Brochothrix thermosphacta is a nonproteolytic food spoilage organism, adapted to growth in vacuum-packaged meats. We report the first genome sequences and characterization of Brochothrix bacteriophages. Phage A9 is a myovirus with an 89-nm capsid diameter and a 171-nm contractile tail; it belongs to the Spounavirinae subfamily and shares significant homologies with Listeria phage A511, Staphylococcus phage Twort, and others. The A9 unit genome is 127 kb long with 11-kb terminal redundancy; it encodes 198 proteins and 6 tRNAs. Phages BL3 and NF5 are temperate siphoviruses with a head diameter of 56 to 59 nm. The BL3 tail is 270 nm long, whereas NF5 features a short tail of only 94 nm. The NF5 genome (36.95 kb) encodes 57 gene products, BL3 (41.52 kb) encodes 65 products, and both are arranged in life cycle-specific modules. Surprisingly, BL3 and NF5 show little relatedness to Listeria phages but rather demonstrate relatedness to lactococcal phages. Peptide mass fingerprinting of viral proteins indicate programmed −1 translational frameshifts in the NF5 capsid and the BL3 major tail protein. Both NF5 and BL3 feature circularly permuted, terminally redundant genomes, packaged by a headful mechanism, and integrases of the serine (BL3) and tyrosine (NF5) types. They utilize unique target sequences not previously described: BL3 inserts into the 3′ end of a RNA methyltransferase, whereas NF5 integrates into the 5′-terminal part of a putative histidinol-phosphatase. Interestingly, both genes are reconstituted by phage sequence.
PMCID: PMC2950505  PMID: 20709901
21.  Rapid Multiplex Detection and Differentiation of Listeria Cells by Use of Fluorescent Phage Endolysin Cell Wall Binding Domains▿ †  
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2010;76(17):5745-5756.
The genus Listeria comprises food-borne pathogens associated with severe infections and a high mortality rate. Endolysins from bacteriophages infecting Listeria are promising tools for both their detection and control. These proteins feature a modular organization, consisting of an N-terminal enzymatically active domain (EAD), which contributes lytic activity, and a C-terminal cell wall binding domain (CBD), which targets the lysin to its substrate. Sequence comparison among 12 different endolysins revealed high diversity among the enzyme's functional domains and allowed classification of their CBDs into two major groups and five subclasses. This diversity is reflected in various binding properties, as determined by cell wall binding assays using CBDs fused to fluorescent marker proteins. Although some proteins exhibited a broad binding range and recognize Listeria strains representing all serovars, others target specific serovars only. The CBDs also differed with respect to the number and distribution of ligands recognized on the cells, as well as their binding affinities. Surface plasmon resonance analysis revealed equilibrium affinities in the pico- to nanomolar ranges for all proteins except CBD006, which is due to an internal truncation. Rapid multiplexed detection and differentiation of Listeria strains in mixed bacterial cultures was possible by combining CBDs of different binding specificities with fluorescent markers of various colors. In addition, cells of different Listeria strains could be recovered from artificially contaminated milk or cheese by CBD-based magnetic separation by using broad-range CBDP40 and subsequently identified after incubation with two differently colored CBD fusion proteins of higher specificity.
PMCID: PMC2935047  PMID: 20622130
22.  The Case of Botulinum Toxin in Milk: Experimental Data▿ †  
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2010;76(10):3293-3300.
Botulinum neurotoxin (BoNT) is the most toxic substance known to man and the causative agent of botulism. Due to its high toxicity and the availability of the producing organism Clostridium botulinum, BoNT is regarded as a potential biological warfare agent. Because of the mild pasteurization process, as well as rapid product distribution and consumption, the milk supply chain has long been considered a potential target of a bioterrorist attack. Since, to our knowledge, no empirical data on the inactivation of BoNT in milk during pasteurization are available at this time, we investigated the activities of BoNT type A (BoNT/A) and BoNT/B, as well as their respective complexes, during a laboratory-scale pasteurization process. When we monitored milk alkaline phosphatase activity, which is an industry-accepted parameter of successfully completed pasteurization, our method proved comparable to the industrial process. After heating raw milk spiked with a set amount of BoNT/A or BoNT/B or one of their respective complexes, the structural integrity of the toxin was determined by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and its functional activity by mouse bioassay. We demonstrated that standard pasteurization at 72°C for 15 s inactivates at least 99.99% of BoNT/A and BoNT/B and at least 99.5% of their respective complexes. Our results suggest that if BoNTs or their complexes were deliberately released into the milk supply chain, standard pasteurization conditions would reduce their activity much more dramatically than originally anticipated and thus lower the threat level of the widely discussed “BoNT in milk” scenario.
PMCID: PMC2869135  PMID: 20363798
23.  Comparative Genome Analysis of Listeria Bacteriophages Reveals Extensive Mosaicism, Programmed Translational Frameshifting, and a Novel Prophage Insertion Site▿ †  
Journal of Bacteriology  2009;191(23):7206-7215.
The genomes of six Listeria bacteriophages were sequenced and analyzed. Phages A006, A500, B025, P35, and P40 are members of the Siphoviridae and contain double-stranded DNA genomes of between 35.6 kb and 42.7 kb. Phage B054 is a unique myovirus and features a 48.2-kb genome. Phage B025 features 3′ overlapping single-stranded genome ends, whereas the other viruses contain collections of terminally redundant, circularly permuted DNA molecules. Phages P35 and P40 have a broad host range and lack lysogeny functions, correlating with their virulent lifestyle. Phages A500, A006, and B025 integrate into bacterial tRNA genes, whereas B054 targets the 3′ end of translation elongation factor gene tsf. This is the first reported case of phage integration into such an evolutionarily conserved genetic element. Peptide fingerprinting of viral proteins revealed that both A118 and A500 utilize +1 and −1 programmed translational frameshifting for generating major capsid and tail shaft proteins with C termini of different lengths. In both cases, the unusual +1 frameshift at the 3′ ends of the tsh coding sequences is induced by overlapping proline codons and cis-acting shifty stops. Although Listeria phage genomes feature a conserved organization, they also show extensive mosaicism within the genome building blocks. Of particular interest is B025, which harbors a collection of modules and sequences with relatedness not only to other Listeria phages but also to viruses infecting other members of the Firmicutes. In conclusion, our results yield insights into the composition and diversity of Listeria phages and provide new information on their function, genome adaptation, and evolution.
PMCID: PMC2786548  PMID: 19783628
24.  Complete Nucleotide Sequence and Molecular Characterization of Bacillus Phage TP21 and its Relatedness to Other Phages with the Same Name 
Viruses  2010;2(4):961-971.
Three different Bacillus bacteriophages designated TP21 are known from the literature. We have determined the sequence and structure of the TP21-L genome, and compared it to the other phages. The genome is 37.5 kb in size, possesses fixed invariable genome ends and features the typical modular organization of a temperate siphovirus. TP21-L is neither identical to TP21 isolated by Thorne (TP21-T), as shown by a PCR-based approach nor to TP21 isolated by He et al. (TP21-H), as estimated from phage dimensions. For reasons of clarity, we suggest renaming the different TP21 isolates.
PMCID: PMC3185655  PMID: 21994663
TP21; Bacillus; bacteriophage
25.  Antimicrobial Properties of a Novel Silver-Silica Nanocomposite Material▿  
Nanotechnology enables development and production of novel silver-based composite materials. We used in vitro tests to demonstrate the antimicrobial activity of a silver-silica nanocomposite compared to the activities of conventional materials, such as silver nitrate and silver zeolite. A silver-silica-containing polystyrene material was manufactured and shown to possess strong antimicrobial properties.
PMCID: PMC2681698  PMID: 19270121

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