Recent recommendations by the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) to redact key methodological details of two studies involving mammal-to-mammal transmission of the H5N1 (H5) subtype influenza viruses, has led to a temporary moratorium on all research involving live H5N1 or H5 HA reassortant viruses shown to be transmissible in ferrets. Herein, I review the events which led to this impasse and comment on their impact.
With world wide data predicted to exceed 40 trillion gigabytes by 2020, big data storage is a very real and escalating problem. Herein, we discuss the utility of synthetic DNA as a robust and eco-friendly archival data storage solution of the future.
An overwhelming array of structural variants has evolved from a comparatively small number of protein structural domains; which has in turn facilitated an expanse of functional derivatives. Herein, I review the primary mechanisms which have contributed to the vastness of our existing, and expanding, protein repertoires. Protein function prediction strategies, both sequence and structure based, are also discussed and their associated strengths and weaknesses assessed.
circular permutation; combination; divergence; evolution; gene duplication; homology-based transfer; ontologies; protein domains; protein function; sequence and structure motifs
Metagenomics is a powerful tool that allows for the culture-independent analysis of
complex microbial communities. One of the most complex and dense microbial ecosystems
known is that of the human distal colon, with cell densities reaching up to
1012 per gram of faeces. With the majority of species as yet uncultured,
there are an enormous number of novel genes awaiting discovery. In the current study, we
conducted a functional screen of a metagenomic library of the human gut microbiota for
potential salt-tolerant clones. Using transposon mutagenesis, three genes were identified
from a single clone exhibiting high levels of identity to a species from the genus
Collinsella (closest relative being Collinsella aerofaciens)
(COLAER_01955, COLAER_01957 and COLAER_01981), a high G+C, Gram-positive member of
the Actinobacteria commonly found in the human gut. The encoded proteins exhibit a strong
similarity to GalE, MurB and MazG. Furthermore, pyrosequencing and bioinformatic analysis
of two additional fosmid clones revealed the presence of an additional galE and
mazG gene, with the highest level of genetic identity to Akkermansia
muciniphila and Eggerthella sp. YY7918, respectively. Cloning and
heterologous expression of the genes in the osmosensitive strain, Escherichia
coli MKH13, resulted in increased salt tolerance of the transformed cells. It is
hoped that the identification of atypical salt tolerance genes will help to further
elucidate novel salt tolerance mechanisms, and will assist our increased understanding how
resident bacteria cope with the osmolarity of the gastrointestinal tract.
; human gut microbiome; metagenomics; salt tolerance
The recent detection and isolation of C. ureolyticus from patients with diarrhoeal illness and inflammatory bowel diseases warrants further investigation into its role as an emerging pathogen of the human gastrointestinal tract. Regarding the pathogenic mechanisms employed by this species we provide the first whole genome analysis of two C. ureolyticus isolates including the type strain. Comparative analysis, subtractive hybridisation and gene ontology searches against other Campylobacter species identifies the high degree of heterogenicity between C. ureolyticus isolates, in addition to the identification of 106 putative virulence associated factors, 52 of which are predicted to be secreted. Such factors encompass each of the known virulence tactics of pathogenic Campylobacter spp. including adhesion and colonisation (CadF, PEB1, IcmF and FlpA), invasion (ciaB and 16 virB-virD4 genes) and toxin production (S-layer RTX and ZOT). Herein, we provide the first virulence catalogue for C. ureolyticus, the components of which theoretically provide this emerging species with sufficient arsenal to establish pathology.
Acinetobacter baumannii is an opportunistic bacterial pathogen primarily associated with hospital-acquired infections. The recent increase in incidence, largely associated with infected combat troops returning from conflict zones, coupled with a dramatic increase in the incidence of multidrug-resistant (MDR) strains, has significantly raised the profile of this emerging opportunistic pathogen. Herein, we provide an overview of the pathogen, discuss some of the major factors that have led to its clinical prominence and outline some of the novel therapeutic strategies currently in development.
Acinetobacter baumannii; antibiotic; infection; pathogen; stress; virulence
Recently we reported a role for compatible solute uptake in mediating bile tolerance and increased gastrointestinal persistence in the foodborne pathogen Listeria monocytogenes.1 Herein, we review the evolution in our understanding of how these low molecular weight molecules contribute to growth and survival of the pathogen both inside and outside the body, and how this stress survival mechanism may ultimately be used to target and kill the pathogen.
listeria; compatible solutes; betaine; carnitine; bile
Herein we review the most recent advances in probiotic research and applications with particular emphasis on the novel concept of patho-biotechnology: the application of pathogen-derived (ex vivo and in vivo) stress survival strategies for the design of more technologically robust and effective probiotic cultures with improved biotechnological and clinical applications.
Campylobacter jejuni and coli are collectively regarded as the most prevalent cause of bacterial foodborne illness worldwide. An emerging species, Campylobacter ureolyticus has recently been detected in patients with gastroenteritis, however, the source of this organism has, until now, remained unclear. Herein, we describe the molecular-based detection of this pathogen in bovine faeces (1/20) and unpasteurized milk (6/47) but not in poultry (chicken wings and caeca). This is, to the best of our knowledge, the first report of the presence of this potential gastrointestinal pathogen in an animal source, possibly suggesting a route for its transmission to humans.
Campylobacter; Emerging pathogen; Food chain; Reservoir; Dairy
Campylobacter; ureolyticus; Epsilonproteobacteria; Helicobacter; Arcobacter; PCR; epidemiology; volunteers; diarrhea; molecular; diagnostic; bacteria; New Zealand
With the rapid advances in sequencing technologies in recent years, the human genome is now considered incomplete without the complementing microbiome, which outnumbers human genes by a factor of one hundred. The human microbiome, and more specifically the gut microbiome, has received considerable attention and research efforts over the past decade. Many studies have identified and quantified “who is there?,” while others have determined some of their functional capacity, or “what are they doing?” In a recent study, we identified novel salt-tolerance loci from the human gut microbiome using combined functional metagenomic and bioinformatics based approaches. Herein, we discuss the identified loci, their role in salt-tolerance and their importance in the context of the gut environment. We also consider the utility and power of functional metagenomics for mining such environments for novel genes and proteins, as well as the implications and possible applications for future research.
functional metagenomics; human gut microbiome; salt tolerance; meta-biotechnology
Regulation of iron homeostasis in many pathogens is principally mediated by the ferric uptake regulator, Fur. Since acquisition of iron from the host is essential for the intracellular pathogen Listeria monocytogenes, we predicted the existence of Fur-regulated systems that support infection. We examined the contribution of nine Fur-regulated loci to the pathogenicity of L. monocytogenes in a murine model of infection. While mutating the majority of the genes failed to affect virulence, three mutants exhibited a significantly compromised virulence potential. Most striking was the role of the membrane protein we designate FrvA (Fur regulated virulence factor A; encoded by frvA [lmo0641]), which is absolutely required for the systemic phase of infection in mice and also for virulence in an alternative infection model, the Wax Moth Galleria mellonella. Further analysis of the ΔfrvA mutant revealed poor growth in iron deficient media and inhibition of growth by micromolar concentrations of haem or haemoglobin, a phenotype which may contribute to the attenuated growth of this mutant during infection. Uptake studies indicated that the ΔfrvA mutant is unaffected in the uptake of ferric citrate but demonstrates a significant increase in uptake of haem and haemin. The data suggest a potential role for FrvA as a haem exporter that functions, at least in part, to protect the cell against the potential toxicity of free haem.
The aim of this study was to use comparative modeling to predict the three-dimensional structure of the CHAPK protein (cysteine, histidine-dependent amidohydrolase/peptidase domain of the LysK endolysin, derived from bacteriophage K). Iterative PSI-BLAST searches against the Protein Data Bank (PDB) and nonredundant (nr) databases were used to populate a multiple alignment for analysis using the T-Coffee Expresso server. A consensus Maximum Parsimony phylogenetic tree with a bootstrap analysis setting of 1,000 replicates was constructed using MEGA4. Structural templates relevant to our target (CHAPK) were identified, processed in Expresso and used to generate a 3D model in the alignment mode of SWISS-MODEL. These templates were also processed in the I-TASSER web server. A Staphylococcus saprophyticus CHAP domain protein, 2K3A, was identified as the structural template in both servers. The I-TASSER server generated the CHAPK model with the best bond geometries when analyzed using PROCHECK and the most logical organization of the structure. The predicted 3D model indicates that CHAPK has a papain-like fold. Circular dichroism spectropolarimetry also indicated that CHAPK has an αβ fold, which is consistent with the model presented. The putative active site maintained a highly conserved Cys54-His117-Glu134 charge relay and an oxyanion hole residue Asn136. The residue triplet, Cys-His-Glu, is known to be a viable proteolytic triad in which we predict the Cys residue is used in a nucleophilic attack on peptide bonds at a specific site in the pentaglycine cross bridge of staphylococcal cell wall peptidoglycan. Use of comparative modeling has allowed approximation of the 3D structure of CHAPK giving information on the structure and an insight into the binding and active site of the catalytic domain. This may facilitate its development as an alternative antibacterial agent.
bacteriophage; CHAP; endolysin; in silico; peptidase; staphylococcus
Recently we reported a role for compatible solute uptake in mediating bile tolerance and increased gastrointestinal persistence in the foodborne pathogen Listeria monocytogenes. Herein, we review the evolution in our understanding of how these low molecular weight molecules contribute to growth and survival of the pathogen both inside and outside the body, and how this stress survival mechanism may ultimately be used to target and kill the pathogen.
Against a backdrop of increasing antibiotic resistance, and the emergence of new and evolving pathogens, clinicians are increasingly forced to consider alternative therapies - probiotics are one such alternative.
The food-borne pathogenic bacterium Listeria monocytogenes has the potential to adapt to an array of suboptimal growth environments encountered within the host. The pathogen is relatively bile tolerant and has the capacity to survive and grow within both the small intestine and the gallbladder in murine models of oral infection. We have previously demonstrated a role for the principal carnitine transport system of L. monocytogenes (OpuC) in gastrointestinal survival of the pathogen (R. Sleator, J. Wouters, C. G. M. Gahan, T. Abee, and C. Hill, Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 67:2692-2698, 2001). However, the mechanisms by which OpuC, or indeed carnitine, protects the pathogen in this environment are unclear. In the current study, systematic analysis of strains with mutations in osmolyte transporters revealed a role for OpuC in resisting the acute toxicity of bile, with a minor role also played by BetL, a secondary betaine uptake system which also exhibits a low affinity for carnitine. In addition, the toxic effects of bile on wild-type L. monocytogenes cells were ameliorated when carnitine (but not betaine) was added to the medium. lux-promoter fusions to the promoters of the genes encoding the principal osmolyte uptake systems Gbu, BetL, and OpuC and the known bile tolerance system BilE were constructed. Promoter activity for all systems was significantly induced in the presence of bile, with the opuC and bilE promoters exhibiting the highest levels of bile-dependent expression in vitro and the betL and bilE promoters showing the highest expression levels in the intestines of orally inoculated mice. A direct comparison of all osmolyte transporter mutants in a murine oral infection model confirmed a major role for OpuC in intestinal persistence and systemic invasion and a minor role for the BetL transporter in fecal carriage. This study therefore demonstrates a previously unrecognized function for osmolyte uptake systems in bile tolerance in L. monocytogenes.
While seven penicillin-binding proteins (PBPs) or PBP-like proteins have been identified either by radiolabelled penicillin binding studies or genomic analysis, only PBP3 has been considered of interest for Beta-lactams activity against Listeria monocytogenes. Herein we reveal that both PBP4 and Lmo0441 (a PBP-like protein) play a direct role in cephalosporin activity in L. monocytogenes while PBP4 additionally has a protective affect against both penicillin and carbapenem.
Gastrointestinal disease is a major cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide each year. Treatment of chronic inflammatory gastrointestinal conditions such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease is difficult due to the ambiguity surrounding their precise aetiology. Infectious gastrointestinal diseases, such as various types of diarrheal disease are also becoming increasingly difficult to treat due to the increasing dissemination of antibiotic resistance among microorganisms and the emergence of the so-called 'superbugs'. Taking into consideration these problems, the need for novel therapeutics is essential. Although described for over a century probiotics have only been extensively researched in recent years. Their use in the treatment and prevention of disease, particularly gastrointestinal disease, has yielded many successful results, some of which we outline in this review. Although promising, many probiotics are hindered by inherent physiological and technological weaknesses and often the most clinically promising strains are unusable. Consequently we discuss various strategies whereby probiotics may be engineered to create designer probiotics. Such innovative approaches include; a receptor mimicry strategy to create probiotics that target specific pathogens and toxins, a patho-biotechnology approach using pathogen-derived genes to create more robust probiotic stains with increased host and processing-associated stress tolerance profiles and meta-biotechnology, whereby, functional metagenomics may be used to identify novel genes from diverse and vastly unexplored environments, such as the human gut, for use in biotechnology and medicine.
The majority of commensal gastrointestinal bacteria used as probiotics are highly adapted to the specialised environment of the large bowel. However, unlike pathogenic bacteria; they are often inadequately equipped to endure the physicochemical stresses of gastrointestinal (GI) delivery in the host. Herein we outline a patho-biotechnology strategy to improve gastric delivery and host adaptation of a probiotic strain Bifidobacterium breve UCC2003 and the generally regarded as safe (GRAS) organism Lactococcus lactis NZ9000.
In vitro bile tolerance of both strains was significantly enhanced (P < 0.001), following heterologous expression of the Listeria monocytogenes bile resistance mechanism BilE. Strains harbouring bilE were also recovered at significantly higher levels (P < 0.001), than control strains from the faeces and intestines of mice (n = 5), following oral inoculation. Furthermore, a B. breve strain expressing bilE demonstrated increased efficacy relative to the wild-type strain in reducing oral L. monocytogenes infection in mice.
Collectively the data indicates that bile tolerance can be enhanced in Bifidobacterium and Lactococcus species through rational genetic manipulation and that this can significantly improve delivery to and colonisation of the GI tract.