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1.  Rapid Detection of Viable Bacillus anthracis Spores in Environmental Samples by Using Engineered Reporter Phages 
Bacillus anthracis, the causative agent of anthrax, was utilized as a bioterrorism agent in 2001 when spores were distributed via the U.S. postal system. In responding to this event, the Federal Bureau of Investigation used traditional bacterial culture viability assays to ascertain the extent of contamination of the postal facilities within 24 to 48 h of environmental sample acquisition. Here, we describe a low-complexity, second-generation reporter phage assay for the rapid detection of viable B. anthracis spores in environmental samples. The assay uses an engineered B. anthracis reporter phage (Wβ::luxAB-2) which transduces bioluminescence to infected cells. To facilitate low-level environmental detection and maximize the signal response, expression of luxAB in an earlier version of the reporter phage (Wβ::luxAB-1) was optimized. These alterations prolonged signal kinetics, increased light output, and improved assay sensitivity. Using Wβ::luxAB-2, detection of B. anthracis spores was 1 CFU in 8 h from pure cultures and as low as 10 CFU/g in sterile soil but increased to 105 CFU/g in unprocessed soil due to an unstable signal and the presence of competing bacteria. Inclusion of semiselective medium, mediated by a phage-expressed antibiotic resistance gene, maintained signal stability and enabled the detection of 104 CFU/g in 6 h. The assay does not require spore extraction and relies on the phage infecting germinating cells directly in the soil sample. This reporter phage displays promise for the rapid detection of low levels of spores on clean surfaces and also in grossly contaminated environmental samples from complex matrices such as soils.
PMCID: PMC4959503  PMID: 26873316
2.  “Light-tagged” bacteriophage as a diagnostic tool for the detection of phytopathogens 
Bioengineered  2013;4(1):50-54.
Detection of the phytopathogen Pseudomonas cannabina pv alisalensis, the causal agent of bacterial blight of crucifers is essential for managing this disease. A phage-based diagnostic assay was developed that detects and identifies P. cannabina pv alisalensis from cultures and diseased plant specimens. A recombinant “light-tagged” reporter phage was generated by integrating the luxAB genes into the P. cannabina pv alisalensis phage PBSPCA1 genome. PBSPCA1::luxAB is viable, stable and detects P. cannabina pv alisalensis within minutes and with high sensitivity by conferring a bioluminescent signal. Detection is dependent on cell viability since cells treated with a bactericidal disinfectant are unable to elicit a signal. Importantly, the reporter phage detects P. cannabina pv alisalensis from diseased plant specimens indicating the potential of the diagnostic for disease identification. The reporter phage displays promise for the rapid and specific diagnostic detection of cultivated isolates, and infected plant specimens.
PMCID: PMC3566022  PMID: 22990589
disease; phytopathogen; crucifers; reporter phage; diagnostic; bioluminescence
3.  Rapid identification and antibiotic susceptibility testing of Yersinia pestis using bioluminescent reporter phage 
The rapid identification and antibiotic susceptibility testing of Yersinia pestis is paramount for a positive prognosis. We previously engineered a Y. pestis-specific ‘bioluminescent’ reporter phage for the identification of Y. pestis. In this study, we generated an improved reporter phage and evaluated the ability of this phage to provide direct and rapid susceptibility testing. Compared to the first generation reporter, the second generation reporter exhibited a 100-fold increase in signal strength, leading to a 10-fold increase in assay sensitivity. Y. pestis antimicrobial testing in the presence of the reporter elicited bioluminescent signals that were drug concentration-dependent, and produced susceptibility profiles that mirrored the standard CLSI method. The phage-generated susceptibility profiles, however, were obtained within hours in contrast to days with the conventional method.
PMCID: PMC3367068  PMID: 22579583
plague; reporter phage; detection; bioluminescence; antibiotic susceptibility testing
4.  Development of an Engineered Bioluminescent Reporter Phage for Detection of Bacterial Blight of Crucifers 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2012;78(10):3592-3598.
Bacterial blight, caused by the phytopathogen Pseudomonas cannabina pv. alisalensis, is an emerging disease afflicting important members of the Brassicaceae family. The disease is often misdiagnosed as pepper spot, a much less severe disease caused by the related pathogen Pseudomonas syringae pv. maculicola. We have developed a phage-based diagnostic that can both identify and detect the causative agent of bacterial blight and differentiate the two pathogens. A recombinant “light”-tagged reporter phage was generated by integrating bacterial luxAB genes encoding luciferase into the genome of P. cannabina pv. alisalensis phage PBSPCA1. The PBSPCA1::luxAB reporter phage is viable and stable and retains properties similar to those of the wild-type phage. PBSPCA1::luxAB rapidly and sensitively detects P. cannabina pv. alisalensis by conferring a bioluminescent signal response to cultured cells. Detection is dependent on cell viability. Other bacterial pathogens of Brassica species such as P. syringae pv. maculicola, Pseudomonas marginalis, Pectobacterium carotovorum, Xanthomonas campestris pv. campestris, and X. campestris pv. raphani either do not produce a response or produce significantly attenuated signals with the reporter phage. Importantly, the reporter phage detects P. cannabina pv. alisalensis on diseased plant specimens, indicating its potential for disease diagnosis.
PMCID: PMC3346373  PMID: 22427491
5.  Phage-based platforms for the clinical detection of human bacterial pathogens 
Bacteriophage  2012;2(2):105-283.
Bacteriophages (phages) have been utilized for decades as a means for uniquely identifying their target bacteria. Due to their inherent natural specificity, ease of use, and straightforward production, phage possess a number of desirable attributes which makes them particularly suited as bacterial detectors. As a result, extensive research has been conducted into the development of phage, or phage-derived products to expedite the detection of human pathogens. However, very few phage-based diagnostics have transitioned from the research lab into a clinical diagnostic tool. Herein we review the phage-based platforms that are currently used for the detection of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Yersinia pestis, Bacillus anthracis and Staphylococcus aureus in the clinical field. We briefly describe the disease, the current diagnostic options, and the role phage diagnostics play in identifying the cause of infection, and determining antibiotic susceptibility.
PMCID: PMC3442824  PMID: 23050221
clinical diagnosis; bacterial detection; phage; reporter; bioluminescence; infectious disease; species identification
6.  Diagnostic Bioluminescent Phage for Detection of Yersinia pestis▿  
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2009;47(12):3887-3894.
Yersinia pestis is the etiological agent of the plague. Because of the disease's inherent communicability, rapid clinical course, and high mortality, it is critical that an outbreak, whether it is natural or deliberate, be detected and diagnosed quickly. The objective of this research was to generate a recombinant luxAB (“light”)-tagged reporter phage that can detect Y. pestis by rapidly and specifically conferring a bioluminescent signal response to these cells. The bacterial luxAB reporter genes were integrated into a noncoding region of the CDC plague-diagnostic phage φA1122 by homologous recombination. The identity and fitness of the recombinant phage were assessed through PCR analysis and lysis assays and functionally verified by the ability to transduce a bioluminescent signal to recipient cells. The reporter phage conferred a bioluminescent phenotype to Y. pestis within 12 min of infection at 28°C. The signal response time and signal strength were dependent on the number of cells present. A positive signal was obtained from 102 cells within 60 min. A signal response was not detectable with Escherichia coli, although a weak signal (100-fold lower than that with Y. pestis) was obtained with 1 (of 10) Yersinia enterocolitica strains and 2 (of 10) Yersinia pseudotuberculosis strains at the restrictive temperature. Importantly, serum did not prevent the ability of the reporter phage to infect Y. pestis, nor did it significantly quench the resulting bioluminescent signal. Collectively, the results indicate that the reporter phage displays promise for the rapid and specific diagnostic detection of cultivated Y. pestis isolates or infected clinical specimens.
PMCID: PMC2786668  PMID: 19828743
7.  Candida albicans-Conditioned Medium Protects Yeast Cells from Oxidative Stress: a Possible Link between Quorum Sensing and Oxidative Stress Resistance 
Eukaryotic Cell  2005;4(10):1654-1661.
Candida albicans, the most frequent fungal pathogen of humans, encounters high levels of oxidants following ingestion by professional phagocytes and through contact with hydrogen peroxide-producing bacteria. In this study, we provide evidence that C. albicans is able to coordinately regulate the oxidative stress response at the global cell population level by releasing protective molecules into the surrounding medium. We demonstrate that conditioned medium, which is defined as a filter-sterilized supernatant from a C. albicans stationary-phase culture, is able to protect yeast cells from both hydrogen peroxide and superoxide anion-generating agents. Exponential-phase yeast cells preexposed to conditioned medium were able to survive levels of oxidative stress that would normally kill actively growing yeast cells. Heat treatment, digestion with proteinase K, pH adjustment, or the addition of the oxidant scavenger alpha-tocopherol did not alter the ability of conditioned medium to induce a protective response. Farnesol, a heat-stable quorum-sensing molecule (QSM) that is insensitive to proteolytic enzymes and is unaffected by pH extremes, is partly responsible for this protective response. In contrast, the QSM tyrosol did not alter the sensitivity of C. albicans cells to oxidants. Relative reverse transcription-PCR analysis indicates that Candida-conditioned growth medium induces the expression of CAT1, SOD1, SOD2, and SOD4, suggesting that protection may be mediated through the transcriptional regulation of antioxidant-encoding genes. Together, these data suggest a link between the quorum-sensing molecule farnesol and the oxidative stress response in C. albicans.
PMCID: PMC1265892  PMID: 16215173
8.  Susceptibility of Germfree Phagocyte Oxidase- and Nitric Oxide Synthase 2-Deficient Mice, Defective in the Production of Reactive Metabolites of Both Oxygen and Nitrogen, to Mucosal and Systemic Candidiasis of Endogenous Origin  
Infection and Immunity  2005;73(3):1313-1320.
Mice deficient for phagocyte oxidase (Phox) and nitric oxide synthase 2 (NOS2) (gp91phox−/−/NOS2−/−), defective in the production of both reactive oxygen intermediates (ROI) and reactive nitrogen intermediates (RNI), were used to investigate the role of phagocytic cells during mucosal and systemic candidiasis of endogenous origin. The alimentary tracts of germfree mice were colonized with Candida albicans wild type or each of two hyphal signaling-defective mutants (efg1/efg1 and efg1/efg1 cph1/cph1). All Candida-colonized gp91phox−/−/NOS2−/− mice were moribund within 12 to 15 days after oral inoculation. C. albicans wild-type and mutant strains colonized the alimentary tracts equally well and were able to translocate, most likely via Peyer's patches and mesenteric lymph nodes, to the internal organs and trigger the formation of abscesses; however, the wild-type and mutant strains did not survive in the abscessed murine tissues. Surprisingly, there was no significant difference in the ability of peritoneal exudate cells from gp91phox−/−/NOS2−/−, NOS2−/−, gp91phox−/−, or immunocompetent C57BL/6 mice to kill C. albicans in vitro. This suggests that anti-Candida factors other than ROI and RNI can control the growth of C. albicans and that gp91phox−/−/NOS2−/− mice die due to the inability of the host to control its inflammatory response to Candida. Correspondingly, reverse transcription-PCR analysis showed increased expression of the cytokines gamma interferon, tumor necrosis factor alpha, and the chemokines MIP-2 and KC at the site of infection, while interleukin-15 expression remained relatively unchanged between germfree and infected tissues. These studies indicate that defects in ROI and RNI enabled C. albicans to translocate and disseminate to the internal organs, resulting in an uncontrolled immune response, severe pathology, and death; however, ROI and RNI were not required for the killing of phagocytized C. albicans, indicating that other anti-Candida factors either compensate or are sufficient for the killing of phagocytized Candida.
PMCID: PMC1064974  PMID: 15731028
9.  Development of a Thermally Regulated Broad-Spectrum Promoter System for Use in Pathogenic Gram-Positive Species 
Selectively regulating gene expression is an essential molecular tool that is lacking for many pathogenic gram-positive bacteria. In this report, we describe the evaluation of a series of promoters regulated by the bacteriophage P1 temperature-sensitive C1 repressor in Enterococcus faecium, Enterococcus faecalis, and Staphylococcus aureus. Using the lacZ gene to monitor gene expression, we examined the strength, basal expression, and induced expression of synthetic promoters carrying C1 operator sites. The promoters exhibited extremely low basal expression and, under inducing conditions, gave high levels of expression (100- to 1,000-fold induction). We demonstrate that the promoter system could be modulated by temperature and showed rapid induction and that the mechanism of regulation occurred at the level of transcription. Controlled expression with the same constructs was also demonstrated in the gram-negative bacterium Escherichia coli. However, low basal expression and the ability to achieve derepression were dependent on both the number of mismatches in the C1 operator sites and the promoter driving c1 expression. Since the promoters were designed to contain conserved promoter elements from gram-positive species and were constructed in a broad-host-range plasmid, this system will provide a new opportunity for controlled gene expression in a variety of gram-positive bacteria.
PMCID: PMC161472  PMID: 12788740
10.  Use of Genetically Engineered Phage To Deliver Antimicrobial Agents to Bacteria: an Alternative Therapy for Treatment of Bacterial Infections 
The emergence and increasing prevalence of multidrug-resistant bacterial pathogens emphasizes the need for new and innovative antimicrobial strategies. Lytic phages, which kill their host following amplification and release of progeny phage into the environment, may offer an alternative strategy for combating bacterial infections. In this study, however, we describe the use of a nonlytic phage to specifically target and deliver DNA encoding bactericidal proteins to bacteria. To test the concept of using phage as a lethal-agent delivery vehicle, we used the M13 phagemid system and the addiction toxins Gef and ChpBK. Phage delivery of lethal-agent phagemids reduced target bacterial numbers by several orders of magnitude in vitro and in a bacteremic mouse model of infection. Given the powerful genetic engineering tools available and the present knowledge in phage biology, this technology may have potential use in antimicrobial therapies and DNA vaccine development.
PMCID: PMC152521  PMID: 12654662
11.  Detection of Candida albicans mRNA from Formalin-Fixed, Paraffin-Embedded Mouse Tissues by Nested Reverse Transcription-PCR 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2003;41(2):831-834.
Histopathology archives represent a vast source of infectious disease specimens that can be used to elucidate important disease processes. In this report, we describe a method to detect Candida albicans gene expression from infected, formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded mouse tissue. By use of glass beads to break open the fungal cells and proteinase K treatment, RNA was extracted routinely from tissue sections that had been fixed for up to 72 h. Upon reverse transcription of the RNA and nested PCR, the procedure detected C. albicans “housekeeping” and putative virulence genes.
PMCID: PMC149710  PMID: 12574294
12.  Controlled Expression in Klebsiella pneumoniae and Shigella flexneri Using a Bacteriophage P1-Derived C1-Regulated Promoter System 
Journal of Bacteriology  2001;183(23):6947-6950.
The utility of promoters regulated by the bacteriophage P1 temperature-sensitive C1 repressor was examined in Shigella flexneri and Klebsiella pneumoniae. Promoters carrying C1 operator sites driving LacZ expression had induction/repression ratios of up to 240-fold in S. flexneri and up to 50-fold in K. pneumoniae. The promoters exhibited remarkably low basal expression, demonstrated modulation by temperature, and showed rapid induction. This system will provide a new opportunity for controlled gene expression in enteric gram-negative bacteria.
PMCID: PMC95537  PMID: 11698385

Results 1-12 (12)