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1.  Sequence-Based Analysis of the Intestinal Microbiota of Sows and Their Offspring Fed Genetically Modified Maize Expressing a Truncated Form of Bacillus thuringiensis Cry1Ab Protein (Bt Maize) 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2013;79(24):7735-7744.
The aim was to investigate transgenerational effects of feeding genetically modified (GM) maize expressing a truncated form of Bacillus thuringiensis Cry1Ab protein (Bt maize) to sows and their offspring on maternal and offspring intestinal microbiota. Sows were assigned to either non-GM or GM maize dietary treatments during gestation and lactation. At weaning, offspring were assigned within sow treatment to non-GM or GM maize diets for 115 days, as follows: (i) non-GM maize-fed sow/non-GM maize-fed offspring (non-GM/non-GM), (ii) non-GM maize-fed sow/GM maize-fed offspring (non-GM/GM), (iii) GM maize-fed sow/non-GM maize-fed offspring (GM/non-GM), and (iv) GM maize-fed sow/GM maize-fed offspring (GM/GM). Offspring of GM maize-fed sows had higher counts of fecal total anaerobes and Enterobacteriaceae at days 70 and 100 postweaning, respectively. At day 115 postweaning, GM/non-GM offspring had lower ileal Enterobacteriaceae counts than non-GM/non-GM or GM/GM offspring and lower ileal total anaerobes than pigs on the other treatments. GM maize-fed offspring also had higher ileal total anaerobe counts than non-GM maize-fed offspring, and cecal total anaerobes were lower in non-GM/GM and GM/non-GM offspring than in those from the non-GM/non-GM treatment. The only differences observed for major bacterial phyla using 16S rRNA gene sequencing were that fecal Proteobacteria were less abundant in GM maize-fed sows prior to farrowing and in offspring at weaning, with fecal Firmicutes more abundant in offspring. While other differences occurred, they were not observed consistently in offspring, were mostly encountered for low-abundance, low-frequency bacterial taxa, and were not associated with pathology. Therefore, their biological relevance is questionable. This confirms the lack of adverse effects of GM maize on the intestinal microbiota of pigs, even following transgenerational consumption.
PMCID: PMC3837803  PMID: 24096421
2.  Gut microbial diversity is reduced and is associated with colonic inflammation in a piglet model of short bowel syndrome 
Gut Microbes  2013;4(3):212-221.
Background and objectives
Following small bowel resection (SBR), the luminal environment is altered, which contributes to clinical manifestations of short bowel syndrome (SBS) including malabsorption, mucosal inflammation and bacterial overgrowth. However, the impact of SBR on the colon has not been well-defined. The aims of this study were to characterize the colonic microbiota following SBR and to assess the impact of SBR on mucosal inflammation in the colon.
Analysis of the colonic microbiota demonstrated that there was a significant level of dysbiosis both two and six weeks post-SBR, particularly in the phylum Firmicutes, coupled with a decrease in overall bacterial diversity in the colon. This decrease in diversity was associated with an increase in colonic inflammation six weeks post-surgery.
Female (4-week old) piglets (5−6/group) received a 75% SBR, a transection (sham) or no surgery. Compositional analysis of the colonic microbiota was performed by high-throughput sequencing, two- and six-weeks post-surgery. The gene expression of the pro-inflammatory cytokines interleukin (IL)-1β, IL-6, IL-8, IL-18 and tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α in the colonic mucosa was assessed by qRT-PCR and the number of macrophages and percentage inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) staining in the colonic epithelium were quantified by immunohistochemistry.
SBR significantly decreased the diversity of the colonic microbiota and this was associated with an increase in colonic mucosal inflammation. This study supports the hypothesis that SBR has a significant impact on the colon and that this may play an important role in defining clinical outcome.
PMCID: PMC3669166  PMID: 23549027
short bowel syndrome; mucosal immunology; colonic microbiota; high-throughput sequencing; bacterial diversity; small bowel resection
3.  The Genome of the Predominant Equine Lactobacillus Species, Lactobacillus equi, Is Reflective of Its Lifestyle Adaptations to an Herbivorous Host 
Genome Announcements  2014;2(1):e01155-13.
We report the draft genome sequence of Lactobacillus equi strain DPC6820, isolated from equine feces. L. equi is a predominant Lactobacillus species in the horse hindgut microbiota. An examination of the genome identified genes and enzymes highlighting L. equi adaptations to the herbivorous gastrointestinal tract of the horse, including fructan hydrolases. This genome sequence may help us further understand the microbial ecology of the equine hindgut and the influence lactobacilli have on it.
PMCID: PMC3894277  PMID: 24435863
4.  Movers and shakers 
Gut Microbes  2013;4(1):4-16.
The human intestinal microbiota is one of the most densely populated ecosystems on Earth, containing up to 1013 bacteria/g and in some respects can be considered an organ itself given its role in human health. Bacteriophages (phages) are the most abundant replicating entities on the planet and thrive wherever their bacterial hosts exist. They undoubtedly influence the dominant microbial populations in many ecosystems including the human intestine. Within this setting, lysogeny appears to be the preferred life cycle, presumably due to nutrient limitations and lack of suitable hosts protected in biofilms, hence the predator/prey dynamic observed in many ecosystems is absent. On the other hand, free virulent phages in the gut are more common among sufferers of intestinal diseases and have been shown to increase with antibiotic usage. Many of these phages evolve from prophages of intestinal bacteria and emerge under conditions where their bacterial hosts encounter stress suggesting that prophages can significantly alter the microbial community composition. Based on these observations, we propose the “community shuffling” model which hypothesizes that prophage induction contributes to intestinal dysbiosis by altering the ratio of symbionts to pathobionts, enabling pathobiont niche reoccupation. The consequences of the increased phage load on the mammalian immune system are also addressed. While this is an area of intestinal biology which has received little attention, this review assembles evidence from the literature which supports the role of phages as one of the biological drivers behind the composition of the gut microbiota.
PMCID: PMC3555884  PMID: 23022738
gut; microbiota; bacteriophages; phages; prophages; induction; community shuffling
5.  Metabolism of Four α-Glycosidic Linkage-Containing Oligosaccharides by Bifidobacterium breve UCC2003 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2013;79(20):6280-6292.
Members of the genus Bifidobacterium are common inhabitants of the gastrointestinal tracts of humans and other mammals, where they ferment many diet-derived carbohydrates that cannot be digested by their hosts. To extend our understanding of bifidobacterial carbohydrate utilization, we investigated the molecular mechanisms by which 11 strains of Bifidobacterium breve metabolize four distinct α-glucose- and/or α-galactose-containing oligosaccharides, namely, raffinose, stachyose, melibiose, and melezitose. Here we demonstrate that all B. breve strains examined possess the ability to utilize raffinose, stachyose, and melibiose. However, the ability to metabolize melezitose was not common to all B. breve strains tested. Transcriptomic and functional genomic approaches identified a gene cluster dedicated to the metabolism of α-galactose-containing carbohydrates, while an adjacent gene cluster, dedicated to the metabolism of α-glucose-containing melezitose, was identified in strains that are able to use this carbohydrate.
PMCID: PMC3811189  PMID: 23913435
6.  Ribosomally synthesized and post-translationally modified peptide natural products: overview and recommendations for a universal nomenclature 
Natural product reports  2013;30(1):108-160.
This review presents recommended nomenclature for the biosynthesis of ribosomally synthesized and post-translationally modified peptides (RiPPs), a rapidly growing class of natural products. The current knowledge regarding the biosynthesis of the >20 distinct compound classes is also reviewed, and commonalities are discussed.
PMCID: PMC3954855  PMID: 23165928
7.  Bactofencin A, a New Type of Cationic Bacteriocin with Unusual Immunity 
mBio  2013;4(6):e00498-13.
Bacteriocin production is an important probiotic trait of intestinal bacteria. In this study, we identify a new type of bacteriocin, bactofencin A, produced by a porcine intestinal isolate Lactobacillus salivarius DPC6502, and assess its potency against pathogenic species including Staphylococcus aureus and Listeria monocytogenes. Genome sequencing of the bacteriocin producer revealed bfnA, which encodes the mature and highly basic (pI 10.59), 22-amino-acid defensin-like peptide. Matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization–time of flight (MALDI-TOF) mass spectral analysis determined that bactofencin A has a molecular mass of 2,782 Da and contains two cysteine residues that form an intramolecular disulfide bond. Although an ABC transporter and transport accessory protein were also present within the bacteriocin gene cluster, a classical bacteriocin immunity gene was not detected. Interestingly, a dltB homologue was identified downstream of bfnA. DltB is usually encoded within the dlt operon of many Gram-positive bacteria. It is responsible for d-alanylation of teichoic acids in the cell wall and has previously been associated with bacterial resistance to cationic antimicrobial peptides. Heterologous expression of this gene conferred bactofencin A-specific immunity on sensitive strains of L. salivarius and S. aureus (although not L. monocytogenes), establishing its role in bacteriocin immunity. An analysis of the distribution of bfnA revealed that it was present in four additional isolates derived from porcine origin and absent from five human isolates, suggesting that its distribution is host specific. Given its novelty, we anticipate that bactofencin A represents the prototype of a new class of bacteriocins characterized as being cationic, with a DltB homologue providing a cognate immunity function.
This study describes the identification, purification, and characterization of bactofencin A, a novel type of bacteriocin produced by L. salivarius DPC6502. Interestingly, bactofencin A is not similar to any other known bacteriocin but instead shares similarity with eukaryotic cationic antimicrobial peptides, and here, we demonstrate that it inhibits two medically significant pathogens. Genome sequence analysis of the producing strain also revealed the presence of an atypical dltB homologue in the bacteriocin gene cluster, which was lacking a classical bacteriocin immunity gene. Furthermore, cloning this gene rendered sensitive strains resistant to the bacteriocin, thereby establishing its role in providing cognate bacteriocin immunity. Four additional L. salivarius isolates, also of porcine origin, were found to contain the bacteriocin biosynthesis genes and successfully produced bactofencin A, while these genes were absent from five human-derived strains investigated.
PMCID: PMC3809560  PMID: 24169573
8.  Streptolysin S-like virulence factors: the continuing sagA 
Nature reviews. Microbiology  2011;9(9):670-681.
Streptolysin S (SLS) is a potent cytolytic toxin and virulence factor produced by nearly all Streptococcus pyogenes strains. Despite a 100-year history of research on this toxin, it has only recently been established that SLS represents the archetypal example of an extended family of post-translationally modified virulence factors also produced by some other streptococci and Gram-positive pathogens, such as Listeria monocytogenes and Clostridium botulinum. In this Review we describe the identification, genetics, biochemistry and various functions of SLS. We also discuss the shared features of the virulence-associated SLS-like peptides, as well as their place within the rapidly expanding family of thiazole/oxazole-modified microcins (TOMMs).
PMCID: PMC3928602  PMID: 21822292
9.  Protein Quality and the Protein to Carbohydrate Ratio within a High Fat Diet Influences Energy Balance and the Gut Microbiota In C57BL/6J Mice 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e88904.
Macronutrient quality and composition are important determinants of energy balance and the gut microbiota. Here, we investigated how changes to protein quality (casein versus whey protein isolate; WPI) and the protein to carbohydrate (P/C) ratio within a high fat diet (HFD) impacts on these parameters. Mice were fed a low fat diet (10% kJ) or a high fat diet (HFD; 45% kJ) for 21 weeks with either casein (20% kJ, HFD) or WPI at 20%, 30% or 40% kJ. In comparison to casein, WPI at a similar energy content normalised energy intake, increased lean mass and caused a trend towards a reduction in fat mass (P = 0.08), but the protein challenge did not alter oxygen consumption or locomotor activity. WPI reduced HFD-induced plasma leptin and liver triacylglycerol, and partially attenuated the reduction in adipose FASN mRNA in HFD-fed mice. High throughput sequence-based analysis of faecal microbial populations revealed microbiota in the HFD-20% WPI group clustering closely with HFD controls, although WPI specifically increased Lactobacillaceae/Lactobacillus and decreased Clostridiaceae/Clostridium in HFD-fed mice. There was no effect of increasing the P/C ratio on energy intake, but the highest ratio reduced HFD-induced weight gain, fat mass and plasma triacylglycerol, non-esterified fatty acids, glucose and leptin levels, while it increased lean mass and oxygen consumption. Similar effects were observed on adipose mRNA expression, where the highest ratio reduced HFD-associated expression of UCP-2, TNFα and CD68 and increased the diet-associated expression of β3-AR, LPL, IR, IRS-1 and GLUT4. The P/C ratio also impacted on gut microbiota, with populations in the 30/40% WPI groups clustering together and away from the 20% WPI group. Taken together, our data show that increasing the P/C ratio has a dramatic effect on energy balance and the composition of gut microbiota, which is distinct from that caused by changes to protein quality.
PMCID: PMC3919831  PMID: 24520424
10.  A degenerate PCR-based strategy as a means of identifying homologues of aminoglycoside and β-lactam resistance genes in the gut microbiota 
BMC Microbiology  2014;14:25.
The potential for the human gut microbiota to serve as a reservoir for antibiotic resistance genes has been the subject of recent discussion. However, this has yet to be investigated using a rapid PCR-based approach. In light of this, here we aim to determine if degenerate PCR primers can detect aminoglycoside and β-lactam resistance genes in the gut microbiota of healthy adults, without the need for an initial culture-based screen for resistant isolates. In doing so, we would determine if the gut microbiota of healthy adults, lacking recent antibiotic exposure, is a reservoir for resistance genes.
The strategy employed resulted in the identification of numerous aminoglycoside (acetylation, adenylation and phosphorylation) and β-lactam (including blaOXA, blaTEM, blaSHV and blaCTX-M) resistance gene homologues. On the basis of homology, it would appear that these genes originated from different bacterial taxa, with members of the Enterobacteriaceae being a particularly rich source. The results demonstrate that, even in the absence of recent antibiotic exposure, the human gut microbiota is a considerable reservoir for antibiotic resistance genes.
This study has demonstrated that the gut can be a significant source of aminoglycoside and β-lactam resistance genes, even in the absence of recent antibiotic exposure. The results also demonstrate that PCR-based approaches can be successfully applied to detect antibiotic resistance genes in the human gut microbiota, without the need to isolate resistant strains. This approach could also be used to rapidly screen other complex environments for target genes.
PMCID: PMC3917905  PMID: 24499167
Antibiotic resistance; Aminoglycosides; β-lactam; Gut microbiota; PCR
11.  Subspecies diversity in bacteriocin production by intestinal Lactobacillus salivarius strains 
Gut Microbes  2012;3(5):468-473.
A recent comparative genomic hybridization study in our laboratory revealed considerable plasticity within the bacteriocin locus of gastrointestinal strains of Lactobacillus salivarius. Most notably, these analyses led to the identification of two novel unmodified bacteriocins, salivaricin L and salivaricin T, produced by the neonatal isolate L. salivarius DPC6488 with immunity, regulatory and export systems analogous to those of abp118, a two-component bacteriocin produced by the well characterized reference strain L. salivarius UCC118. In this addendum we discuss the intraspecific diversity of our seven bacteriocin-producing L. salivarius isolates on a genome-wide level, and more specifically, with respect to their salivaricin loci.
PMCID: PMC3466502  PMID: 22892690
Lactobacillus salivarius; bacteriocin; comparative genomic hybridization; probiotic; salivaricin
12.  Phages of non-dairy lactococci: isolation and characterization of ΦL47, a phage infecting the grass isolate Lactococcus lactis ssp. cremoris DPC6860 
Lactococci isolated from non-dairy sources have been found to possess enhanced metabolic activity when compared to dairy strains. These capabilities may be harnessed through the use of these strains as starter or adjunct cultures to produce more diverse flavor profiles in cheese and other dairy products. To understand the interactions between these organisms and the phages that infect them, a number of phages were isolated against lactococcal strains of non-dairy origin. One such phage, ΦL47, was isolated from a sewage sample using the grass isolate L. lactis ssp. cremoris DPC6860 as a host. Visualization of phage virions by transmission electron microscopy established that this phage belongs to the family Siphoviridae and possesses a long tail fiber, previously unseen in dairy lactococcal phages. Determination of the lytic spectrum revealed a broader than expected host range, with ΦL47 capable of infecting 4 industrial dairy strains, including ML8, HP and 310, and 3 additional non-dairy isolates. Whole genome sequencing of ΦL47 revealed a dsDNA genome of 128, 546 bp, making it the largest sequenced lactococcal phage to date. In total, 190 open reading frames (ORFs) were identified, and comparative analysis revealed that the predicted products of 117 of these ORFs shared greater than 50% amino acid identity with those of L. lactis phage Φ949, a phage isolated from cheese whey. Despite their different ecological niches, the genomic content and organization of ΦL47 and Φ949 are quite similar, with both containing 4 gene clusters oriented in different transcriptional directions. Other features that distinguish ΦL47 from Φ949 and other lactococcal phages, in addition to the presence of the tail fiber and the genome length, include a low GC content (32.5%) and a high number of predicted tRNA genes (8). Comparative genome analysis supports the conclusion that ΦL47 is a new member of the 949 lactococcal phage group which currently includes the dairy Φ949.
PMCID: PMC3888941  PMID: 24454309
Lactococcus lactis; non-dairy; phage; tail fiber; genome
13.  Antimicrobials 
Gut Microbes  2013;4(1):48-53.
Obesity is associated with a number of serious health consequences, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and a variety of cancers among others and has been repeatedly shown to be associated with a higher risk of mortality. The relatively recent discovery that the composition and metabolic activity of the gut microbiota may affect the risk of developing obesity and related disorders has led to an explosion of interest in this distinct research field. A corollary of these findings would suggest that modulation of gut microbial populations can have beneficial effects with respect to controlling obesity. In this addendum, we summarize our recent data, showing that therapeutic manipulation of the microbiota using different antimicrobial strategies may be a useful approach for the management of obesity and metabolic conditions. In addition, we will explore some of the mechanisms that may contribute to microbiota-induced susceptibility to obesity and metabolic diseases.
PMCID: PMC3555886  PMID: 23018760
obesity; antimicrobials; gut microbiota; firmicutes; metabolic disease
14.  Draft Genome Sequence of Lactobacillus crispatus EM-LC1, an Isolate with Antimicrobial Activity Cultured from an Elderly Subject 
Genome Announcements  2013;1(6):e01070-13.
Here we report the 1.86-Mb draft genome sequence of Lactobacillus crispatus EM-LC1, a fecal isolate with antimicrobial activity. This genome sequence is expected to provide insights into the antimicrobial activity of L. crispatus and improve our knowledge of its potential probiotic traits.
PMCID: PMC3868860  PMID: 24356836
15.  In Silico Assigned Resistance Genes Confer Bifidobacterium with Partial Resistance to Aminoglycosides but Not to Β-Lactams 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e82653.
Bifidobacteria have received significant attention due to their contribution to human gut health and the use of specific strains as probiotics. It is thus not surprising that there has also been significant interest with respect to their antibiotic resistance profile. Numerous culture-based studies have demonstrated that bifidobacteria are resistant to the majority of aminoglycosides, but are sensitive to β-lactams. However, limited research exists with respect to the genetic basis for the resistance of bifidobacteria to aminoglycosides. Here we performed an in-depth in silico analysis of putative Bifidobacterium-encoded aminoglycoside resistance proteins and β-lactamases and assess the contribution of these proteins to antibiotic resistance. The in silico-based screen detected putative aminoglycoside and β-lactam resistance proteins across the Bifidobacterium genus. Laboratory-based investigations of a number of representative bifidobacteria strains confirmed that despite containing putative β-lactamases, these strains were sensitive to β-lactams. In contrast, all strains were resistant to the aminoglycosides tested. To assess the contribution of genes encoding putative aminoglycoside resistance proteins in Bifidobacterium sp. two genes, namely Bbr_0651 and Bbr_1586, were targeted for insertional inactivation in B. breve UCC2003. As compared to the wild-type, the UCC2003 insertion mutant strains exhibited decreased resistance to gentamycin, kanamycin and streptomycin. This study highlights the associated risks of relying on the in silico assignment of gene function. Although several putative β-lactam resistance proteins are located in bifidobacteria, their presence does not coincide with resistance to these antibiotics. In contrast however, this approach has resulted in the identification of two loci that contribute to the aminoglycoside resistance of B. breve UCC2003 and, potentially, many other bifidobacteria.
PMCID: PMC3855789  PMID: 24324818
16.  Analysis of Anti-Clostridium difficile Activity of Thuricin CD, Vancomycin, Metronidazole, Ramoplanin, and Actagardine, both Singly and in Paired Combinations 
Due to the ongoing problem of recurrence of Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea following antibiotic treatment, there is an urgent need for alternative treatment options. We assessed the MICs of five antimicrobials singly and in combinations against a range of C. difficile clinical isolates. Ramoplanin-actagardine combinations were particularly effective, with partial synergistic/additive effects observed against 61.5% of C. difficile strains tested.
PMCID: PMC3716125  PMID: 23571539
17.  Intensive Mutagenesis of the Nisin Hinge Leads to the Rational Design of Enhanced Derivatives 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e79563.
Nisin A is the most extensively studied lantibiotic and has been used as a preservative by the food industry since 1953. This 34 amino acid peptide contains three dehydrated amino acids and five thioether rings. These rings, resulting from one lanthionine and four methyllanthionine bridges, confer the peptide with its unique structure. Nisin A has two mechanisms of action, with the N-terminal domain of the peptide inhibiting cell wall synthesis through lipid II binding and the C-terminal domain responsible for pore-formation. The focus of this study is the three amino acid ‘hinge’ region (N 20, M 21 and K 22) which separates these two domains and allows for conformational flexibility. As all lantibiotics are gene encoded, novel variants can be generated through manipulation of the corresponding gene. A number of derivatives in which the hinge region was altered have previously been shown to possess enhanced antimicrobial activity. Here we take this approach further by employing simultaneous, indiscriminate site-saturation mutagenesis of all three hinge residues to create a novel bank of nisin derivative producers. Screening of this bank revealed that producers of peptides with hinge regions consisting of AAK, NAI and SLS displayed enhanced bioactivity against a variety of targets. These and other results suggested a preference for small, chiral amino acids within the hinge region, leading to the design and creation of producers of peptides with hinges consisting of AAA and SAA. These producers, and the corresponding peptides, exhibited enhanced bioactivity against Lactococcus lactis HP, Streptococcus agalactiae ATCC 13813, Mycobacterium smegmatis MC2155 and Staphylococcus aureus RF122 and thus represent the first example of nisin derivatives that possess enhanced activity as a consequence of rational design.
PMCID: PMC3823697  PMID: 24244524
18.  The Effect of Dietary Supplementation with Spent Cider Yeast on the Swine Distal Gut Microbiome 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e75714.
There is an increasing need for alternatives to antibiotics for promoting animal health, given the increasing problems associated with antibiotic resistance. In this regard, we evaluated spent cider yeast as a potential probiotic for modifying the gut microbiota in weanling pigs using pyrosequencing of 16S rRNA gene libraries.
Methodology and Principal Findings
Piglets aged 24–26 days were assigned to one of two study groups; control (n = 12) and treatment (n = 12). The control animals were fed with a basal diet and the treatment animals were fed with basal diet in combination with cider yeast supplement (500 ml cider yeast containing ∼7.6 log CFU/ml) for 21 days. Faecal samples were collected for 16s rRNA gene compositional analysis. 16S rRNA compositional sequencing analysis of the faecal samples collected from day 0 and day 21 revealed marked differences in microbial diversity at both the phylum and genus levels between the control and treatment groups. This analysis confirmed that levels of Salmonella and Escherichia were significantly decreased in the treatment group, compared with the control (P<0.001). This data suggest a positive influence of dietary supplementation with live cider yeast on the microbial diversity of the pig distal gut.
The effect of dietary cider yeast on porcine gut microbial communities was characterized for the first time using 16S rRNA gene compositional sequencing. Dietary cider yeast can potentially alter the gut microbiota, however such changes depend on their endogenous microbiota that causes a divergence in relative response to that given diet.
PMCID: PMC3794030  PMID: 24130736
19.  Microbial Composition of Human Appendices from Patients following Appendectomy 
mBio  2013;4(1):e00366-12.
The human appendix has historically been considered a vestige of evolutionary development with an unknown function. While limited data are available on the microbial composition of the appendix, it has been postulated that this organ could serve as a microbial reservoir for repopulating the gastrointestinal tract in times of necessity. We aimed to explore the microbial composition of the human appendix, using high-throughput sequencing of the 16S rRNA gene V4 region. Seven patients, 5 to 25 years of age, presenting with symptoms of acute appendicitis were included in this study. Results showed considerable diversity and interindividual variability among the microbial composition of the appendix samples. In general, however, Firmicutes was the dominant phylum, with the majority of additional sequences being assigned at various levels to Proteobacteria, Bacteroidetes, Actinobacteria, and Fusobacteria. Despite the large diversity in the microbiota found within the appendix, however, a few major families and genera were found to comprise the majority of the sequences present. Interestingly, also, certain taxa not generally associated with the human intestine, including the oral pathogens Gemella, Parvimonas, and Fusobacterium, were identified among the appendix samples. The prevalence of genera such as Fusobacterium could also be linked to the severity of inflammation of the organ. We conclude that the human appendix contains a robust and varied microbiota distinct from the microbiotas in other niches within the human microbiome. The microbial composition of the human appendix is subject to extreme variability and comprises a diversity of biota that may play an important, as-yet-unknown role in human health.
There are currently limited data available on the microbial composition of the human appendix. It has been suggested, however, that it may serve as a “safe house” for commensal bacteria that can reinoculate the gut at need. The present study is the first comprehensive view of the microbial composition of the appendix as determined by high-throughput sequencing. We have determined that the human appendix contains a wealth of microbes, including members of 15 phyla. Important information regarding the associated bacterial diversity of the appendix which will help determine the role, if any, the appendix microbiota has in human health is presented.
PMCID: PMC3551545  PMID: 23322636
20.  The two peptide lantibiotic lacticin 3147 acts synergistically with polymyxin to inhibit Gram negative bacteria 
BMC Microbiology  2013;13:212.
The emergence of bacterial drug resistance encourages the re-evaluation of the potential of existing antimicrobials. Lantibiotics are post-translationally modified, ribosomally synthesised antimicrobial peptides with a broad spectrum antimicrobial activity. Here, we focussed on expanding the potential of lacticin 3147, one of the most studied lantibiotics and one which possesses potent activity against a wide range of Gram positive species including many nosocomial pathogens. More specifically, our aim was to investigate if lacticin 3147 activity could be enhanced when combined with a range of different clinical antibiotics.
Initial screening revealed that polymyxin B and polymyxin E (colistin) exhibited synergistic activity with lacticin 3147. Checkerboard assays were performed against a number of strains, including both Gram positive and Gram negative species. The resultant fractional inhibitory concentration (FIC) index values established that, while partial synergy was detected against Gram positive targets, synergy was obvious against Gram negative species, including Cronobacter and E. coli.
Combining lacticin 3147 with low levels of a polymyxin could provide a means of broadening target specificity of the lantibiotic, while also reducing polymyxin use due to the lower concentrations required as a result of synergy.
PMCID: PMC3849175  PMID: 24069959
Antimicrobial; Synergy; Lantibiotic; Bacteriocin; Lacticin 3147; Polymyxin
21.  Saturation mutagenesis of selected residues of the α-peptide of the lantibiotic lacticin 3147 yields a derivative with enhanced antimicrobial activity 
Microbial Biotechnology  2013;6(5):564-575.
The lantibiotic lacticin 3147 consists of two ribosomally synthesized and post-translationally modified antimicrobial peptides, Ltnα and Ltnβ, which act synergistically against a wide range of Gram-positive microorganisms. We performed saturation mutagenesis of specific residues of Ltnα to determine their functional importance. The results establish that Ltnα is more tolerant to change than previously suggested by alanine scanning mutagenesis. One substitution, LtnαH23S, was identified which improved the specific activity of lacticin 3147 against one pathogenic strain, Staphylococcus aureus NCDO1499. This represents the first occasion upon which the activity of a two peptide lantibiotic has been enhanced through bioengineering.
Funding Information Work in the authors' laboratory is supported by the Irish Government under the National Development Plan; by the Irish Research Council for Science Engineering and Technology (IRCSET); by Enterprise Ireland; and by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), through the Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre (APC) at University College Cork, Ireland, which is supported by the SFI-funded Centre for Science, Engineering and Technology (SFI-CSET) and provided P.D.C., C.H and R.P.R. with SFI Principal Investigator funding.
PMCID: PMC3918158  PMID: 23433070
22.  Identification and characterization of an oleate hydratase-encoding gene from Bifidobacterium breve 
Bioengineered  2013;4(5):313-321.
Bifidobacteria are common commensals of the mammalian gastrointestinal tract. Previous studies have suggested that a bifidobacterial myosin cross reactive antigen (MCRA) protein plays a role in bacterial stress tolerance, while this protein has also been linked to the biosynthesis of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) in bifidobacteria. In order to increase our understanding on the role of MCRA in bifidobacteria we created and analyzed an insertion mutant of the MCRA-encoding gene of B. breve NCFB 2258. Our results demonstrate that the MCRA protein of B. breve NCFB 2258 does not appear to play a role in CLA production, yet is an oleate hydratase, which contributes to bifidobacterial solvent stress protection.
PMCID: PMC3813531  PMID: 23851389
bifidobacteria; probiotic; conjugated linoleic acid; myosin cross reactive antigen; hydratase
23.  Pro-Inflammatory Flagellin Proteins of Prevalent Motile Commensal Bacteria Are Variably Abundant in the Intestinal Microbiome of Elderly Humans 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e68919.
Some Eubacterium and Roseburia species are among the most prevalent motile bacteria present in the intestinal microbiota of healthy adults. These flagellate species contribute “cell motility” category genes to the intestinal microbiome and flagellin proteins to the intestinal proteome. We reviewed and revised the annotation of motility genes in the genomes of six Eubacterium and Roseburia species that occur in the human intestinal microbiota and examined their respective locus organization by comparative genomics. Motility gene order was generally conserved across these loci. Five of these species harbored multiple genes for predicted flagellins. Flagellin proteins were isolated from R. inulinivorans strain A2-194 and from E. rectale strains A1-86 and M104/1. The amino-termini sequences of the R. inulinivorans and E. rectale A1-86 proteins were almost identical. These protein preparations stimulated secretion of interleukin-8 (IL-8) from human intestinal epithelial cell lines, suggesting that these flagellins were pro-inflammatory. Flagellins from the other four species were predicted to be pro-inflammatory on the basis of alignment to the consensus sequence of pro-inflammatory flagellins from the β- and γ- proteobacteria. Many fliC genes were deduced to be under the control of σ28. The relative abundance of the target Eubacterium and Roseburia species varied across shotgun metagenomes from 27 elderly individuals. Genes involved in the flagellum biogenesis pathways of these species were variably abundant in these metagenomes, suggesting that the current depth of coverage used for metagenomic sequencing (3.13–4.79 Gb total sequence in our study) insufficiently captures the functional diversity of genomes present at low (≤1%) relative abundance. E. rectale and R. inulinivorans thus appear to synthesize complex flagella composed of flagellin proteins that stimulate IL-8 production. A greater depth of sequencing, improved evenness of sequencing and improved metagenome assembly from short reads will be required to facilitate in silico analyses of complete complex biochemical pathways for low-abundance target species from shotgun metagenomes.
PMCID: PMC3720852  PMID: 23935906
24.  Clostridium difficile Carriage in Elderly Subjects and Associated Changes in the Intestinal Microbiota 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2012;50(3):867-875.
Clostridium difficile is an important nosocomial pathogen associated particularly with diarrheal disease in elderly individuals in hospitals and long-term care facilities. We examined the carriage rate of Clostridium difficile by culture as a function of fecal microbiota composition in elderly subjects recruited from the community, including outpatient, short-term respite, and long-term hospital stay subjects. The carriage rate ranged from 1.6% (n = 123) for subjects in the community, to 9.5% (n = 43) in outpatient settings, and increasing to 21% (n = 151) for patients in short- or long-term care in hospital. The dominant 072 ribotype was carried by 43% (12/28) of subjects, while the hypervirulent strain R027 (B1/NAP1/027) was isolated from 3 subjects (11%), 2 of whom displayed C. difficile associated diarrhea (CDAD) symptoms at the time of sampling. Emerging ribotypes with enhanced virulence (078 and 018) were also isolated from two asymptomatic subjects. Pyrosequencing of rRNA gene amplicons was used to determine the composition of the fecal microbiota as a surrogate for the microbial population structure of the distal intestine. Asymptomatic subjects (n = 20) from whom C. difficile was isolated showed no dramatic difference at the phylum or family taxonomic level compared to those that were culture negative (n = 252). However, in contrast, a marked reduction in microbial diversity at genus level was observed in patients who had been diagnosed with CDAD at the time of sampling and from whom C. difficile R027 was isolated.
PMCID: PMC3295116  PMID: 22162545
25.  Sequencing-Based Analysis of the Bacterial and Fungal Composition of Kefir Grains and Milks from Multiple Sources 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e69371.
Kefir is a fermented milk-based beverage to which a number of health-promoting properties have been attributed. The microbes responsible for the fermentation of milk to produce kefir consist of a complex association of bacteria and yeasts, bound within a polysaccharide matrix, known as the kefir grain. The consistency of this microbial population, and that present in the resultant beverage, has been the subject of a number of previous, almost exclusively culture-based, studies which have indicated differences depending on geographical location and culture conditions. However, culture-based identification studies are limited by virtue of only detecting species with the ability to grow on the specific medium used and thus culture-independent, molecular-based techniques offer the potential for a more comprehensive analysis of such communities. Here we describe a detailed investigation of the microbial population, both bacterial and fungal, of kefir, using high-throughput sequencing to analyse 25 kefir milks and associated grains sourced from 8 geographically distinct regions. This is the first occasion that this technology has been employed to investigate the fungal component of these populations or to reveal the microbial composition of such an extensive number of kefir grains or milks. As a result several genera and species not previously identified in kefir were revealed. Our analysis shows that the bacterial populations in kefir are dominated by 2 phyla, the Firmicutes and the Proteobacteria. It was also established that the fungal populations of kefir were dominated by the genera Kazachstania, Kluyveromyces and Naumovozyma, but that a variable sub-dominant population also exists.
PMCID: PMC3716650  PMID: 23894461

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