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1.  A Critical Role for the cccA Gene Product, Cytochrome c2, in Diverting Electrons from Aerobic Respiration to Denitrification in Neisseria gonorrhoeae 
Journal of Bacteriology  2013;195(11):2518-2529.
Neisseria gonorrhoeae is a microaerophile that, when oxygen availability is limited, supplements aerobic respiration with a truncated denitrification pathway, nitrite reduction to nitrous oxide. We demonstrate that the cccA gene of Neisseria gonorrhoeae strain F62 (accession number NG0292) is expressed, but the product, cytochrome c2, accumulates to only low levels. Nevertheless, a cccA mutant reduced nitrite at about half the rate of the parent strain. We previously reported that cytochromes c4 and c5 transfer electrons to cytochrome oxidase cbb3 by two independent pathways and that the CcoP subunit of cytochrome oxidase cbb3 transfers electrons to nitrite. We show that mutants defective in either cytochrome c4 or c5 also reduce nitrite more slowly than the parent. By combining mutations in cccA (Δc2), cycA (Δc4), cycB (Δc5), and ccoP (ccoP-C368A), we demonstrate that cytochrome c2 is required for electron transfer from cytochrome c4 via the third heme group of CcoP to the nitrite reductase, AniA, and that cytochrome c5 transfers electrons to nitrite reductase by an independent pathway. We propose that cytochrome c2 forms a complex with cytochrome oxidase. If so, the redox state of cytochrome c2 might regulate electron transfer to nitrite or oxygen. However, our data are more consistent with a mechanism in which cytochrome c2 and the CcoQ subunit of cytochrome oxidase form alternative complexes that preferentially catalyze nitrite and oxygen reduction, respectively. Comparison with the much simpler electron transfer pathway for nitrite reduction in the meningococcus provides fascinating insights into niche adaptation within the pathogenic neisseriae.
PMCID: PMC3676072  PMID: 23543713
2.  Progressive Anatomical Closure of Foramen Ovale in Normal Neonatal Mouse Hearts 
In the prenatal heart, right-to-left atrial shunting of blood through the foramen ovale is essential for proper circulation. After birth, as the pulmonary circulation is established, the foramen ovale functionally closes as a result of changes in the relative pressure of the two atrial chambers, ensuring the separation of oxygen depleted venous blood in the right atrium from the oxygenated blood entering the left atrium. Little is known regarding the process of anatomical closure of the foramen ovale in the postnatal heart. Genetically engineered mouse models are powerful tools to study heart development and to reveal mechanisms underlying cardiac anomalies, including defects in atrioventricular septation. Using three-dimensional reconstructions of serial sectioned hearts at early postnatal Days 2–7, we show a progressive reduction in the size of the interatrial communication throughout this period and complete closure by postnatal Day 7. Furthermore we demonstrate that fusion of the septum primum and septum secundum occurs between 4 weeks and 3 months of age. This study provides a standard timeline for morphological closure of the right– left atrial communication and fusion between the atrial septa in normal mouse hearts.
PMCID: PMC3336211  PMID: 22354769
mouse; heart defects; congenital; ASD; PFO
3.  Impaired cortical mitochondrial function following TBI precedes behavioral changes 
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) pathophysiology can be attributed to either the immediate, primary physical injury, or the delayed, secondary injury which begins minutes to hours after the initial injury and can persist for several months or longer. Because these secondary cascades are delayed and last for a significant time period post-TBI, they are primary research targets for new therapeutics. To investigate changes in mitochondrial function after a brain injury, both the cortical impact site and ipsilateral hippocampus of adult male rats 7 and 17 days after a controlled cortical impact (CCI) injury were examined. State 3, state 4, and uncoupler-stimulated rates of oxygen consumption, respiratory control ratios (RCRs) were measured and membrane potential quantified, and all were significantly decreased in 7 day post-TBI cortical mitochondria. By contrast, hippocampal mitochondria at 7 days showed only non-significant decreases in rates of oxygen consumption and membrane potential. NADH oxidase activities measured in disrupted mitochondria were normal in both injured cortex and hippocampus at 7 days post-CCI. Respiratory and phosphorylation capacities at 17 days post-CCI were comparable to naïve animals for both cortical and hippocampus mitochondria. However, unlike oxidative phosphorylation, membrane potential of mitochondria in the cortical lining of the impact site did not recover at 17 days, suggesting that while diminished cortical membrane potential at 17 days does not adversely affect mitochondrial capacity to synthesize ATP, it may negatively impact other membrane potential-sensitive mitochondrial functions. Memory status, as assessed by a passive avoidance paradigm, was not significantly impaired until 17 days after injury. These results indicate pronounced disturbances in cortical mitochondrial function 7 days after CCI which precede the behavioral impairment observed at 17 days.
PMCID: PMC3912469  PMID: 24550822
traumatic brain injury; energy metabolism; mitochondria; oxidative phosphorylation; animal behavior
4.  Language organization and reorganization in epilepsy 
Neuropsychology review  2011;21(3):240-251.
The vast majority of healthy individuals are left hemisphere dominant for language; however, individuals with left hemisphere epilepsy have a higher likelihood of atypical language organization. The cerebral organization of language in epilepsy has been studied with invasive procedures such as Wada testing and electrical cortical stimulation mapping (ESM), and more recently, with noninvasive neuroimaging techniques such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Investigators have used these techniques to explore the influence of unique clinical features inherent in epilepsy that might contribute to the reorganization of language, such as location of seizure onset, age of seizure onset, and extent of interictal epileptiform activity. In this paper, we review the contribution of these and other clinical variables to the lateralization and localization of language in epilepsy, and how these patient-related variables affect the results from these three different, yet complementary methodologies. Unlike the abrupt language changes that occur following acute brain injury with disruption of established language circuits, converging evidence suggests that the chronic nature of epileptic activity can result in a developmental shift of language from the left to the right hemisphere or re-routing of language pathways from traditional to non-traditional areas within the dominant left hemisphere. Clinical variables have been shown to contribute to cerebral language reorganization in the setting of chronic seizure disorders, yet such factors have not been reliable predictors of altered language networks in individual patients, underscoring the need for language lateralization and localization procedures when definitive identification of language cortex is necessary for clinical care.
PMCID: PMC3193181  PMID: 21842185
5.  A generalised module for the selective extracellular accumulation of recombinant proteins 
It is widely believed that laboratory strains of Escherichia coli, including those used for industrial production of proteins, do not secrete proteins to the extracellular milieu.
Here, we report the development of a generalised module, based on an E. coli autotransporter secretion system, for the production of extracellular recombinant proteins. We demonstrate that a wide variety of structurally diverse proteins can be secreted as soluble proteins when linked to the autotransporter module. Yields were comparable to those achieved with other bacterial secretion systems.
The advantage of this module is that it relies on a relatively simple and easily manipulated secretion system, exhibits no apparent limitation to the size of the secreted protein and can deliver proteins to the extracellular environment at levels of purity and yields sufficient for many biotechnological applications.
PMCID: PMC3419692  PMID: 22640772
Autotransporter; Escherhichia coli; Recombinant protein production; Secretion
6.  Differential Role of Nkx2-5 in Activation of the Atrial Natriuretic Factor Gene in the Developing versus Failing Heart ▿ †  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2011;31(22):4633-4645.
Atrial natriuretic factor (ANF) is abundantly expressed in atrial cardiomyocytes throughout ontogeny and in ventricular cardiomyocytes in the developing heart. However, during cardiac failure and hypertrophy, ANF expression can reappear in adult ventricular cardiomyocytes. The transcription factor Nkx2-5 is one of the major transactivators of the ANF gene in the developing heart. We identified Nkx2-5 binding at three 5′ regulatory elements (kb −34, −31, and −21) and at the proximal ANF promoter by ChIP assay using neonatal mouse cardiomyocytes. 3C analysis revealed close proximity between the distal elements and the promoter region. A 5.8-kb fragment consisting of these elements transactivated a reporter gene in vivo recapitulating endogenous ANF expression, which was markedly reduced in tamoxifen-inducible Nkx2-5 gene knockout mice. However, expression of a reporter gene was increased and expanded toward the outer compact layer in the absence of the transcription repressor Hey2, similar to endogenous ANF expression. Functional Nkx2-5 and Hey2 binding sites separated by 59 bp were identified in the −34 kb element in neonatal cardiomyocytes. In adult hearts, this fragment did not respond to pressure overload, and ANF was induced in the absence of Nkx2-5. These results demonstrate that Nkx2-5 and its responsive cis-regulatory DNA elements are essential for ANF expression selectively in the developing heart.
PMCID: PMC3209251  PMID: 21930795
7.  A microplate technique to simultaneously assay calcium accumulation in endoplasmic reticulum and SERCA release of inorganic phosphate 
Traditional analyses of calcium homeostasis have separately quantified either calcium accumulation or release mechanisms. To define the system as a whole, however, requires multiple experimental techniques to examine both accumulation and release. Here we describe a technique that couples the simultaneous quantification of radio-labeled calcium accumulation in endoplasmic reticulum (ER) microsomes with the release of inorganic phosphate (Pi) by the hydrolytic activity of sarco-endoplasmic reticulum calcium ATPase (SERCA) all in the convenience of a 96-well format.
PMCID: PMC3388579  PMID: 22472432
Calcium; SERCA activity; Microsomes; Inorganic phosphate; Malachite green
8.  Craniotomy: True Sham for Traumatic Brain Injury, or a Sham of a Sham? 
Journal of Neurotrauma  2011;28(3):359-369.
Neurological dysfunction after traumatic brain injury (TBI) is caused by both the primary injury and a secondary cascade of biochemical and metabolic events. Since TBI can be caused by a variety of mechanisms, numerous models have been developed to facilitate its study. The most prevalent models are controlled cortical impact and fluid percussion injury. Both typically use “sham” (craniotomy alone) animals as controls. However, the sham operation is objectively damaging, and we hypothesized that the craniotomy itself may cause a unique brain injury distinct from the impact injury. To test this hypothesis, 38 adult female rats were assigned to one of three groups: control (anesthesia only); craniotomy performed by manual trephine; or craniotomy performed by electric dental drill. The rats were then subjected to behavioral testing, imaging analysis, and quantification of cortical concentrations of cytokines. Both craniotomy methods generate visible MRI lesions that persist for 14 days. The initial lesion generated by the drill technique is significantly larger than that generated by the trephine. Behavioral data mirrored lesion volume. For example, drill rats have significantly impaired sensory and motor responses compared to trephine or naïve rats. Finally, of the seven tested cytokines, KC-GRO and IFN-γ showed significant increases in both craniotomy models compared to naïve rats. We conclude that the traditional sham operation as a control confers profound proinflammatory, morphological, and behavioral damage, which confounds interpretation of conventional experimental brain injury models. Any experimental design incorporating “sham” procedures should distinguish among sham, experimentally injured, and healthy/naïve animals, to help reduce confounding factors.
PMCID: PMC3057208  PMID: 21190398
craniotomy; cytokines; magnetic resonance imaging; Neurological Severity Scale; traumatic brain injury
9.  The cytokine temporal profile in rat cortex after controlled cortical impact 
Cerebral inflammatory responses may initiate secondary cascades following traumatic brain injury (TBI). Changes in the expression of both cytokines and chemokines may activate, regulate, and recruit innate and adaptive immune cells associated with secondary degeneration, as well as alter a host of other cellular processes. In this study, we quantified the temporal expression of a large set of inflammatory mediators in rat cortical tissue after brain injury. Following a controlled cortical impact (CCI) on young adult male rats, cortical and hippocampal tissue of the injured hemisphere and matching contralateral material was harvested at early (4, 12, and 24 hours) and extended (3 and 7 days) time points post-procedure. Naïve rats that received only anesthesia were used as controls. Processed brain homogenates were assayed for chemokine and cytokine levels utilizing an electrochemiluminescence-based multiplex ELISA platform. The temporal profile of cortical tissue samples revealed a multi-phasic injury response following brain injury. CXCL1, IFN-γ, TNF-α levels significantly peaked at four hours post-injury compared to levels found in naïve or contralateral tissue. CXCL1, IFN-γ, and TNF-α levels were then observed to decrease at least 3-fold by 12 hours post-injury. IL-1β, IL-4, and IL-13 levels were also significantly elevated at four hours post-injury although their expression did not decrease more than 3-fold for up to 24 hours post-injury. Additionally, IL-1β and IL-4 levels displayed a biphasic temporal profile in response to injury, which may suggest their involvement in adaptive immune responses. Interestingly, peak levels of CCL2 and CCL20 were not observed until after four hours post-injury. CCL2 levels in injured cortical tissue were significantly higher than peak levels of any other inflammatory mediator measured, thus suggesting a possible use as a biomarker. Fully elucidating chemokine and cytokine signaling properties after brain injury may provide increased insight into a number of secondary cascade events that are initiated or regulated by inflammatory responses.
PMCID: PMC3265961  PMID: 22291617
traumatic brain injury; cytokines; inflammation; IL-8; inflammatory response
10.  Glucose-6-phosphate reduces calcium accumulation in rat brain endoplasmic reticulum 
Brain cells expend large amounts of energy sequestering calcium (Ca2+), while loss of Ca2+ compartmentalization leads to cell damage or death. Upon cell entry, glucose is converted to glucose-6-phosphate (G6P), a parent substrate to several metabolic major pathways, including glycolysis. In several tissues, G6P alters the ability of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) to sequester Ca2+. This led to the hypothesis that G6P regulates Ca2+ accumulation by acting as an endogenous ligand for sarco-endoplasmic reticulum calcium ATPase (SERCA). Whole brain ER microsomes were pooled from adult male Sprague-Dawley rats. Using radio-isotopic assays, 45Ca2+ accumulation was quantified following incubation with increasing amounts of G6P, in the presence or absence of thapsigargin, a potent SERCA inhibitor. To qualitatively assess SERCA activity, the simultaneous release of inorganic phosphate (Pi) coupled with Ca2+ accumulation was quantified. Addition of G6P significantly and decreased Ca2+ accumulation in a dose-dependent fashion (1–10 mM). The reduction in Ca2+ accumulation was not significantly different that seen with addition of thapsigargin. Addition of glucose-1-phosphate or fructose-6-phosphate, or other glucose metabolic pathway intermediates, had no effect on Ca2+ accumulation. Further, the release of Pi was markedly decreased, indicating G6P-mediated SERCA inhibition as the responsible mechanism for reduced Ca2+ uptake. Simultaneous addition of thapsigargin and G6P did decrease inorganic phosphate in comparison to either treatment alone, which suggests that the two treatments have different mechanisms of action. Therefore, G6P may be a novel, endogenous regulator of SERCA activity. Additionally, pathological conditions observed during disease states that disrupt glucose homeostasis, may be attributable to Ca2+ dystasis caused by altered G6P regulation of SERCA activity.
PMCID: PMC3330244  PMID: 22529775
glucose-6-phosphate; G6P; calcium; SERCA; microsome; endoplasmic reticulum; thapsigargin; brain
11.  Expression of mitochondrial branched-chain aminotransferase and α-keto-acid dehydrogenase in rat brain: implications for neurotransmitter metabolism 
In the brain, metabolism of the essential branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) leucine, isoleucine, and valine, is regulated in part by protein synthesis requirements. Excess BCAAs are catabolized or excreted. The first step in BCAA catabolism is catalyzed by the branched chain aminotransferase (BCAT) isozymes, mitochondrial BCATm and cytosolic BCATc. A product of this reaction, glutamate, is the major excitatory neurotransmitter and precursor of the major inhibitory neurotransmitter γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA). The BCATs are thought to participate in a α-keto-acid nitrogen shuttle that provides nitrogen for synthesis of glutamate from α-ketoglutarate. The branched-chain α-keto acid dehydrogenase enzyme complex (BCKDC) catalyzes the second, irreversible step in BCAA metabolism, which is oxidative decarboxylation of the branched-chain α-keto acid (BCKA) products of the BCAT reaction. Maple Syrup Urine Disease (MSUD) results from genetic defects in BCKDC, which leads to accumulation of toxic levels of BCAAs and BCKAs that result in brain swelling. Immunolocalization of BCATm and BCKDC in rats revealed that BCATm is present in astrocytes in white matter and in neuropil, while BCKDC is expressed only in neurons. BCATm appears uniformly distributed in astrocyte cell bodies throughout the brain. The segregation of BCATm to astrocytes and BCKDC to neurons provides further support for the existence of a BCAA-dependent glial-neuronal nitrogen shuttle since the data show that BCKAs produced by glial BCATm must be exported to neurons. Additionally, the neuronal localization of BCKDC suggests that MSUD is a neuronal defect involving insufficient oxidation of BCKAs, with secondary effects extending beyond the neuron.
PMCID: PMC3361127  PMID: 22654736
glutamate; gamma-amino butyric acid; MSUD; branched chain aminotransferase; traumatic brain injury; branched chain amino acid
12.  A systems biology approach sheds new light on Escherichia coli acid resistance 
Nucleic Acids Research  2011;39(17):7512-7528.
In order to develop an infection, diarrhogenic Escherichia coli has to pass through the stomach, where the pH can be as low as 1. Mechanisms that enable E. coli to survive in low pH are thus potentially relevant for pathogenicity. Four acid response systems involved in reducing the concentration of intracellular protons have been identified so far. However, it is still unclear to what extent the regulation of other important cellular functions may be required for survival in acid conditions. Here, we have combined molecular and phenotypic analysis of wild-type and mutant strains with computational network inference to identify molecular pathways underlying E. coli response to mild and strong acid conditions. The interpretative model we have developed led to the hypothesis that a complex transcriptional programme, dependent on the two-component system regulator OmpR and involving a switch between aerobic and anaerobic metabolism, may be key for survival. Experimental validation has shown that the OmpR is responsible for controlling a sizeable component of the transcriptional programme to acid exposure. Moreover, we found that a ΔompR strain was unable to mount any transcriptional response to acid exposure and had one of the strongest acid sensitive phenotype observed.
PMCID: PMC3177180  PMID: 21690099
13.  Four PCR primers necessary for the detection of periplasmic nitrate reductase genes in all groups of Proteobacteria and in environmental DNA 
Biochemical Society Transactions  2011;39(Pt 1):321-326.
Generic primers are available for detecting bacterial genes required for almost every reaction of the biological nitrogen cycle, the one notable exception being napA (gene for the molybdoprotein of the periplasmic nitrate reductase) encoding periplasmic nitrate reductases. Using an iterative approach, we report the first successful design of three forward oligonucleotide primers and one reverse primer that, in three separate PCRs, can amplify napA DNA from all five groups of Proteobacteria. All 140 napA sequences currently listed in the NCBI (National Center for Biotechnology Information) database are predicted to be amplified by one or more of these primer pairs. We demonstrate that two pairs of these primers also amplify PCR products of the predicted sizes from DNA isolated from human faeces, confirming their ability to direct the amplification of napA fragments from mixed populations. Analysis of the resulting amplicons by high-throughput sequencing will enable a good estimate to be made of both the range and relative abundance of nitrate-reducing bacteria in any community, subject only to any unavoidable bias inherent in a PCR approach to molecular characterization of a highly diverse target.
PMCID: PMC3064403  PMID: 21265796
community DNA; degenerate universal primer; detection of napA genes; napA in faecal DNA; periplasmic nitrate reductase
14.  Organization of the Electron Transfer Chain to Oxygen in the Obligate Human Pathogen Neisseria gonorrhoeae: Roles for Cytochromes c4 and c5, but Not Cytochrome c2, in Oxygen Reduction▿ †  
Journal of Bacteriology  2010;192(9):2395-2406.
Although Neisseria gonorrhoeae is a prolific source of eight c-type cytochromes, little is known about how its electron transfer pathways to oxygen are organized. In this study, the roles in the respiratory chain to oxygen of cytochromes c2, c4, and c5, encoded by the genes cccA, cycA, and cycB, respectively, have been investigated. Single mutations in genes for either cytochrome c4 or c5 resulted in an increased sensitivity to growth inhibition by excess oxygen and small decreases in the respiratory capacity of the parent, which were complemented by the chromosomal integration of an ectopic, isopropyl-β-d-thiogalactopyranoside (IPTG)-inducible copy of the cycA or cycB gene. In contrast, a cccA mutant reduced oxygen slightly more rapidly than the parent, suggesting that cccA is expressed but cytochrome c2 is not involved in electron transfer to cytochrome oxidase. The deletion of cccA increased the sensitivity of the cycB mutant to excess oxygen but decreased the sensitivity of the cycA mutant. Despite many attempts, a double mutant defective in both cytochromes c4 and c5 could not be isolated. However, a strain with the ectopically encoded, IPTG-inducible cycB gene with deletions in both cycA and cycB was constructed: the growth and survival of this strain were dependent upon the addition of IPTG, so gonococcal survival is dependent upon the synthesis of either cytochrome c4 or c5. These results define the gonococcal electron transfer chain to oxygen in which cytochromes c4 and c5, but not cytochrome c2, provide alternative pathways for electron transfer from the cytochrome bc1 complex to the terminal oxidase cytochrome cbb3.
PMCID: PMC2863483  PMID: 20154126
15.  Regulation by Nucleoid-Associated Proteins at the Escherichia coli nir Operon Promoter▿  
Journal of Bacteriology  2008;190(21):7258-7267.
The Escherichia coli K-12 nir operon promoter can be fully activated by binding of the regulator of fumarate and nitrate reduction (FNR) to a site centered at position −41.5 upstream of the transcript start, and this activation is modulated by upstream binding of the integration host factor (IHF) and Fis (factor for inversion stimulation) proteins. Thus, transcription initiation is repressed by the binding of IHF and Fis to sites centered at position −88 (IHF I) and position −142 (Fis I) and activated by IHF binding to a site at position −115 (IHF II). Here, we have exploited mutational analysis and biochemistry to investigate the actions of IHF and Fis at these sites. We show that the effects of IHF and Fis are position dependent and that IHF II functions independently of IHF I and Fis I. Using in vitro assays, we report that IHF and Fis repress transcription initiation by interfering with RNA polymerase binding. Differences in the upstream IHF and Fis binding sites at the nir promoter in related enteric bacteria fix the level of nir operon expression under anaerobic growth conditions.
PMCID: PMC2580697  PMID: 18757534
16.  Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms That Cause Structural Changes in the Cyclic AMP Receptor Protein Transcriptional Regulator of the Tuberculosis Vaccine Strain Mycobacterium bovis BCG Alter Global Gene Expression without Attenuating Growth▿  
Infection and Immunity  2008;76(5):2227-2234.
Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) are present in the global transcriptional regulator cyclic AMP (cAMP) receptor protein (CRP) of the attenuated vaccine strain Mycobacterium bovis, bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG). We have found that these SNPs resulted in small but significant changes in the expression of a number of genes in M. tuberculosis when a deletion of the Rv3676 CRP was complemented by the BCG allele, compared to complementation by the M. tuberculosis allele. We can explain these changes in gene expression by modeling the structure of the mycobacterial protein on the known structure of CRP from Escherichia coli. Thus, the SNP change in the DNA-binding domain, Lys178, is predicted to form a hydrogen bond with the phosphate backbone of the DNA, as does the equivalent residue in E. coli, whereas Glu178 in M. tuberculosis/M. bovis does not, thus explaining the stronger binding reported for CRP of BCG to CRP-binding sites in mycobacterial DNA. In contrast, the SNP change in the nucleotide binding domain (Leu47Pro) is predicted to result in the loss of one hydrogen bond, which is accommodated by the structure, and would not therefore be expected to cause any change in function relating to cAMP binding. The BCG allele fully complemented the growth defect caused by the deletion of the Rv3676 protein in M. tuberculosis, both in vitro and in macrophage and mouse infections, suggesting that these SNPs do not play any role in the attenuation of BCG. However, they may have allowed BCG to grow better under the in vitro-selective conditions used in its derivation from the M. bovis wild type.
PMCID: PMC2346674  PMID: 18332206
17.  Widespread Distribution in Pathogenic Bacteria of Di-Iron Proteins That Repair Oxidative and Nitrosative Damage to Iron-Sulfur Centers▿ †  
Journal of Bacteriology  2008;190(6):2004-2013.
Expression of two genes of unknown function, Staphylococcus aureus scdA and Neisseria gonorrhoeae dnrN, is induced by exposure to oxidative or nitrosative stress. We show that DnrN and ScdA are di-iron proteins that protect their hosts from damage caused by exposure to nitric oxide and to hydrogen peroxide. Loss of FNR-dependent activation of aniA expression and NsrR-dependent repression of norB and dnrN expression on exposure to NO was restored in the gonococcal parent strain but not in a dnrN mutant, suggesting that DnrN is necessary for the repair of NO damage to the gonococcal transcription factors, FNR and NsrR. Restoration of aconitase activity destroyed by exposure of S. aureus to NO or H2O2 required a functional scdA gene. Electron paramagnetic resonance spectra of recombinant ScdA purified from Escherichia coli confirmed the presence of a di-iron center. The recombinant scdA plasmid, but not recombinant plasmids encoding the complete Escherichia coli sufABCDSE or iscRSUAhscBAfdx operons, complemented repair defects of an E. coli ytfE mutant. Analysis of the protein sequence database revealed the importance of the two proteins based on the widespread distribution of highly conserved homologues in both gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria that are human pathogens. We provide in vivo and in vitro evidence that Fe-S clusters damaged by exposure to NO and H2O2 can be repaired by this new protein family, for which we propose the name repair of iron centers, or RIC, proteins.
PMCID: PMC2258886  PMID: 18203837
18.  Broadly sampled multigene trees of eukaryotes 
Our understanding of the eukaryotic tree of life and the tremendous diversity of microbial eukaryotes is in flux as additional genes and diverse taxa are sampled for molecular analyses. Despite instability in many analyses, there is an increasing trend to classify eukaryotic diversity into six major supergroups: the 'Amoebozoa', 'Chromalveolata', 'Excavata', 'Opisthokonta', 'Plantae', and 'Rhizaria'. Previous molecular analyses have often suffered from either a broad taxon sampling using only single-gene data or have used multigene data with a limited sample of taxa. This study has two major aims: (1) to place taxa represented by 72 sequences, 61 of which have not been characterized previously, onto a well-sampled multigene genealogy, and (2) to evaluate the support for the six putative supergroups using two taxon-rich data sets and a variety of phylogenetic approaches.
The inferred trees reveal strong support for many clades that also have defining ultrastructural or molecular characters. In contrast, we find limited to no support for most of the putative supergroups as only the 'Opisthokonta' receive strong support in our analyses. The supergroup 'Amoebozoa' has only moderate support, whereas the 'Chromalveolata', 'Excavata', 'Plantae', and 'Rhizaria' receive very limited or no support.
Our analytical approach substantiates the power of increased taxon sampling in placing diverse eukaryotic lineages within well-supported clades. At the same time, this study indicates that the six supergroup hypothesis of higher-level eukaryotic classification is likely premature. The use of a taxon-rich data set with 105 lineages, which still includes only a small fraction of the diversity of microbial eukaryotes, fails to resolve deeper phylogenetic relationships and reveals no support for four of the six proposed supergroups. Our analyses provide a point of departure for future taxon- and gene-rich analyses of the eukaryotic tree of life, which will be critical for resolving their phylogenetic interrelationships.
PMCID: PMC2249577  PMID: 18205932
19.  The Escherichia coli K-12 NarL and NarP Proteins Insulate the nrf Promoter from the Effects of Integration Host Factor▿  
Journal of Bacteriology  2006;188(21):7449-7456.
The Escherichia coli K-12 nrf operon promoter can be activated fully by the FNR protein (regulator of fumarate and nitrate reduction) binding to a site centered at position −41.5. FNR-dependent transcription is suppressed by integration host factor (IHF) binding at position −54, and this suppression is counteracted by binding of the NarL or NarP response regulator at position −74.5. The E. coli acs gene is transcribed from a divergent promoter upstream from the nrf operon promoter. Transcription from the major acsP2 promoter is dependent on the cyclic AMP receptor protein and is modulated by IHF and Fis binding at multiple sites. We show that IHF binding to one of these sites, located at position −127 with respect to the nrf promoter, has a positive effect on nrf promoter activity. This activation is dependent on the face of the DNA helix, independent of IHF binding at other locations, and found only when NarL/NarP are not bound at position −74.5. Binding of NarL/NarP appears to insulate the nrf promoter from the effects of IHF. The acs-nrf regulatory region is conserved in other pathogenic E. coli strains and related enteric bacteria but differs in Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium.
PMCID: PMC1636288  PMID: 16936015
20.  Transcription Activation at Escherichia coli FNR-Dependent Promoters by the Gonococcal FNR Protein: Effects of a Novel S18F Substitution and Comparisons with the Corresponding Substitution in E. coli FNR 
Journal of Bacteriology  2003;185(16):4734-4747.
The Neisseria gonorrhoeae genome encodes a homologue of the Escherichia coli FNR protein (the fumarate and nitrate reductase regulator). Despite its similarity to E. coli FNR, the gonococcal FNR only partially complemented an E. coli fnr mutation. After error-prone PCR mutagenesis of the gonococcal fnr gene, we identified four mutant fnr derivatives carrying the same S18F substitution, and we showed that the mutant FNR could activate transcription from a range of class I and class II FNR-dependent promoters in E. coli. Prompted by the similarities between gonococcal and E. coli FNR, we made changes in gonococcal fnr that created substitutions that are equivalent to previously characterized substitutions in E. coli FNR. First, our experiments showed that cysteine, C116, in the gonococcal FNR, equivalent to C122 in E. coli FNR, is essential, presumably because, as in E. coli FNR, it binds to an iron-sulfur center. Second, the L22H and D148A substitutions in gonococcal FNR were made. These changes are equivalent to the L28H and D154A changes in E. coli FNR, which had been shown to increase FNR activity in the presence of oxygen. We show that the effects of these substitutions in gonococcal FNR are distinct from those of the S18F substitution. Similarly, substitutions in the putative activating regions of gonococcal FNR were made. We show that the activity of gonococcal FNR in E. coli can be increased by transplanting certain activating regions from E. coli FNR. The effects of these substitutions are additive to those due to S18F. From these data, we conclude that the effects of the S18F substitution in gonococcal FNR are distinct from the effects of the other substitutions. S18 is immediately adjacent to one of three N-terminal cysteine residues that coordinate the iron-sulfur center, and thus the S18F substitution is most likely to stabilize this center. Support for this came from complementary experiments in which we created the S24F substitution in E. coli FNR, which is equivalent to the S18F substitution in gonococcal FNR. Our results show that the S24F substitution changes the activity of E. coli FNR and that the changes are distinct from those due to previously characterized substitutions.
PMCID: PMC166479  PMID: 12896992
21.  cis- and trans-Acting Elements Involved in Regulation of aniA, the Gene Encoding the Major Anaerobically Induced Outer Membrane Protein in Neisseria gonorrhoeae 
Journal of Bacteriology  1999;181(2):541-551.
AniA (formerly Pan1) is the major anaerobically induced outer membrane protein in Neisseria gonorrhoeae. AniA has been shown to be a major antigen in patients with gonococcal disease, and we have been studying its regulation in order to understand the gonococcal response to anaerobiosis and its potential role in virulence. This study presents a genetic analysis of aniA regulation. Through deletion analysis of the upstream region, we have determined the minimal promoter region necessary for aniA expression. This 130-bp region contains a sigma 70-type promoter and an FNR (fumarate and nitrate reductase regulator protein) binding site, both of which are absolutely required for anaerobic expression. Also located in the minimal promoter region are three T-rich direct repeats and several potential NarP binding sites. This 80-bp region is required for induction by nitrite. By site-directed mutagenesis of promoter sequences, we have determined that the transcription of aniA is initiated only from the sigma 70-type promoter. The gearbox promoter, previously believed to be the major promoter, does not appear to be active during anaerobiosis. The gonococcal FNR and NarP homologs are involved in the regulation of aniA, and we demonstrate that placing aniA under the control of the tac promoter compensates for the inability of a gonococcal fnr mutant to grow anaerobically.
PMCID: PMC93408  PMID: 9882668
22.  Is the abundance of Faecalibacterium prausnitzii relevant to Crohn's disease? 
Fems Microbiology Letters  2010;310(2):138-144.
Reports that bacteria within the Firmicutes phylum, especially the species Faecalibacterium prausnitzii, are less abundant in Crohn's disease (CD) patients and supernatants from cultures of this bacterium are anti-inflammatory prompted the investigation of the possible correlations between the abundance of F. prausnitzii and the response to treatment in patients with gut diseases and healthy controls. In a randomized, double-blind trial, faeces were collected from healthy volunteers, and from patients with active CD, ulcerative colitis (UC) and irritable bowel syndrome before and after treatment. The levels of F. prausnitzii DNA in faecal suspensions were determined by PCR. Treatment by an elemental diet was effective, resulting in decreases in both the Harvey and Bradshaw index (P<0.001) and the concentrations of serum C-reactive protein (P<0.05). The total levels of F. prausnitzii in faecal samples from CD patients at presentation were lower than those in the other groups both before and after the treatment. There was no correlation between F. prausnitzii abundance and the severity of CD before treatment. Clinical improvement unexpectedly correlated with a significant decrease in the abundance of F. prausnitzii, especially the A2-165 subgroup (P<0.05). Our data suggest that a paucity of F. prausnitzii in the gastrointestinal microbial communities is likely to be a minor aetiological factor in CD: recovery following elemental diet is attributed to lower levels of gut flora.
PMCID: PMC2962807  PMID: 20695899
Crohn's disease; ulcerative colitis; irritable bowel syndrome; Faecalibacterium prausnitzii; butyrate; faecal bacteria

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