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1.  SJP-L-5, a novel small-molecule compound, inhibits HIV-1 infection by blocking viral DNA nuclear entry 
BMC Microbiology  2015;15:274.
Small-molecule compounds that inhibit human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) infection can be used not only as drug candidates, but also as reagents to dissect the life cycle of the virus. Thus, it is desirable to have an arsenal of such compounds that inhibit HIV-1 infection by various mechanisms. Until now, only a few small-molecule compounds that inhibit nuclear entry of viral DNA have been documented.
We identified a novel, small-molecule compound, SJP-L-5, that inhibits HIV-1 infection. SJP-L-5 is a nitrogen-containing, biphenyl compound whose synthesis was based on the dibenzocyclooctadiene lignan gomisin M2, an anti-HIV bioactive compound isolated from Schisandra micrantha A. C. Smith. SJP-L-5 displayed relatively low cytotoxicity (50 % cytoxicity concentrations were greater than 200 μg/ml) and high antiviral activity against a variety of HIV strains (50 % effective concentrations (EC50)) of HIV-1 laboratory-adapted strains ranged from 0.16–0.97 μg/ml; EC50s of primary isolates ranged from 1.96–5.33 μg/ml). Analyses of the viral DNA synthesis indicated that SJP-L-5 specifically blocks the entry of the HIV-1 pre-integration complex (PIC) into the nucleus. Further results implicated that SJP-L-5 inhibits the disassembly of HIV-1 particulate capsid in the cytoplasm of the infected cells.
SJP-L-5 is a novel small-molecule compound that inhibits HIV-1 nuclear entry by blocking the disassembly of the viral core.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12866-015-0605-3) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4667461  PMID: 26630969
HIV-1; Pre-integration complex; Nuclear entry; Capsid; SJP-L-5
2.  Growth and metabolism of Beauveria bassiana spores and mycelia 
BMC Microbiology  2015;15:267.
Fungi are ubiquitous in nature and have evolved over time to colonize a wide range of ecosystems including pest control. To date, most research has focused on the hypocrealean genera Beauveria bassiana, which is a typical filamentous fungus with a high potential for insect control. The morphology and components of fungi are important during the spores germination and outgrow to mycelia. However, to the best of our knowledge, there is no report on the morphology and components of B. bassiana spores and mycelia. In the work, the growth and metabolism of Beauveria bassiana spores and mycelia were studied. High performance liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (HPLC-MS) was employed to study the metabolism of B. bassiana spores and mycelia. Principal component analysis (PCA) based on HPLC-MS was conducted to study the different components of the spores and mycelia of the fungus. Metabolic network was established based on HPLC-MS and KEGG database.
Through Gompertz model based on macroscopic and microscopic techniques, spore elongation length was found to increase exponentially until approximately 23.1 h after cultivation, and then growth became linear. In the metabolic network, the decrease of glyoxylate, pyruvate, fumarate, alanine, succinate, oxaloacetate, dihydrothymine, ribulose, acetylcarnitine, fructose-1, 6-bisphosphate, mycosporin glutamicol, and the increase of betaine, carnitine, ergothioneine, sphingosine, dimethyl guanosine, glycerophospholipids, and in spores indicated that the change of the metabolin can keep spores in inactive conditions, protect spores against harmful effects and survive longer.
Analysis of the metabolic pathway in which these components participate can reveal the metabolic difference between spores and mycelia, which provide the tools for understand and control the process of of spores germination and outgrow to mycelia.
PMCID: PMC4652391  PMID: 26581712
Beauveria bassiana; Gompertz model; PCA; HPLC-MC; Metabolism
3.  Lactobacillus acidophilus attenuates Salmonella-induced intestinal inflammation via TGF-β signaling 
BMC Microbiology  2015;15:203.
Salmonella is a common intestinal pathogen that causes acute and chronic inflammatory response. Probiotics reduce inflammatory cytokine production and serve as beneficial commensal microorganisms in the human gastrointestinal tract. TGF-β (transforming growth factor β)/SMAD and NF-κB signaling play important roles in inflammation in intestinal cells. However, the involvement of the signaling in regulating inflammation between Salmonella and probiotics is not fully understood.
L. acidophilus and prebiotic inulin were used to treat human intestinal Caco-2 cells prior to infection with Salmonella. The cells were harvested to examine the cytokines and MIR21 expression with immunoblotting and real-time PCR. NF-κB and SMAD3/4 reporter vectors were transfected into cells to monitor inflammation and TGF-β1 signaling, respectively.
In this study, we showed that the probiotic L. acidophilus decreased Salmonella-induced NF-κB activation in human intestinal Caco-2 cells. Expression of the inflammatory cytokines, TNF-α and IL-8, in L. acidophilus-pretreated cells was also significantly lower than that in cells infected with Salmonella alone. Moreover, TGF-β1 and MIR21 expression was elevated in cells pretreated with L. acidophilus or synbiotic, a combination of inulin and L. acidophilus, compared to that in untreated cells or cells infected with S. typhimurium alone. By contrast, expression of SMAD7, a target of MIR21, was accordingly reduced in cells treated with L. acidophilus or synbiotics. Consistent with TGF-β1/MIR21 and SMAD7 expression, SMAD3/4 transcriptional activity was significantly higher in the cells treated with L. acidophilus or synbiotics. Furthermore, TGF-β1 antibody antagonized the SMAD3/4 and NF-κB transcriptional activity modulated by L. acidophilus in intestinal cells.
Our results suggest that the TGF-β1/MIR21 signaling pathway may be involved in the suppressive effects of L. acidophilus on inflammation caused by S. typhimurium in intestinal Caco-2 cells.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12866-015-0546-x) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4596496  PMID: 26446848
L. acidophilus; Synbiotics; Salmonella; TGF-b; NF-κB; MIR21; SMAD
4.  Broad protection with an inactivated vaccine against primary-isolated lethal enterovirus 71 infection in newborn mice 
BMC Microbiology  2015;15:139.
Circulating enterovirus 71 (EV-A71)-associated hand, foot, and mouth disease is on the rise in the Asian-Pacific region. Although animal models have been developed using mouse-adapted EV-A71 strains, mouse models using primary EV-A71 isolates are scarce. Lethal animal models with circulating EV-A71 infection would contribute to studies of pathogenesis as well as vaccine development and evaluation.
In this study, we established a lethal mouse model using primary EV-A71 isolates from patients infected with serotypes that are currently circulating in humans. We also characterized the dose-dependent virulence and pathologic changes of circulating EV-A71 in this mouse model. Most importantly, we have established this mouse model as a suitable system for EV-A71 vaccine evaluation. An inactivated EV-A71 vaccine candidate offered complete protection from death induced by various circulating EV-A71 viruses to neonatal mice that were born to immunized female mice. The sera of the immunized dams and their pups showed higher neutralization titers against multiple circulating EV-A71 viruses.
Thus, our newly established animal model using primary EV-A71 isolates is helpful for future studies on viral pathogenesis and vaccine and drug development.
PMCID: PMC4501189  PMID: 26169371
Enterovirus 71; Mouse model; Vaccine candidate
5.  Starch and starch hydrolysates are favorable carbon sources for Bifidobacteria in the human gut 
BMC Microbiology  2015;15:54.
Bifidobacteria are key commensals in human gut, and their abundance is associated with the health of their hosts. Although they are dominant in infant gut, their number becomes lower in adult gut. The changes of the diet are considered to be main reason for this difference. Large amounts of whole-genomic sequence data of bifidobacteria make it possible to elucidate the genetic interpretation of their adaptation to the nutrient environment. Among the nutrients in human gut, starch is a highly fermentable substrate and can exert beneficial effects by increasing bifidobacteria and/or being fermented to short chain fatty acids.
In order to determine the potential substrate preference of bifidobacteria, we compared the glycoside hydrolase (GH) profiles of a pooled-bifidobacterial genome (PBG) with a representative microbiome (RM) of the human gut. In bifidobacterial genomes, only 15% of GHs contained signal peptides, suggesting their weakness in utilization of complex carbohydrate, such as plant cell wall polysaccharides. However, compared with other intestinal bacteria, bifidobacteiral genomes encoded more GH genes for degrading starch and starch hydrolysates, indicating that they have genetic advantages in utilizing these substrates. Bifidobacterium longum subsp. longum BBMN68 isolated from centenarian’s faeces was used as a model strain to further investigate the carbohydrate utilization. The pathway for degrading starch and starch hydrolysates was the only complete pathway for complex carbohydrates in human gut. It is noteworthy that all of the GH genes for degrading starch and starch hydrolysates in the BBMN68 genome were conserved in all studied bifidobacterial strains. The in silico analyses of BBMN68 were further confirmed by growth experiments, proteomic and real-time quantitative PCR (RT-PCR) analyses.
Our results demonstrated that starch and starch hydrolysates were the most universal and favorable carbon sources for bifidobacteria. The low amount of these carbon sources in adult intestine was speculated to contribute to the low relative abundance of bifidobacteria.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12866-015-0362-3) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4349234  PMID: 25887661
Bifidobacteria; Starch; Nutrient-niche; Adaptation; Gemomics
6.  Global transcriptome analysis of Mesorhizobium alhagi CCNWXJ12-2 under salt stress 
BMC Microbiology  2014;14:319.
Mesorhizobium alhagi CCNWXJ12-2 is a α-proteobacterium which could be able to fix nitrogen in the nodules formed with Alhagi sparsifolia in northwest of China. Desiccation and high salinity are the two major environmental problems faced by M. alhagi CCNWXJ12-2. In order to identify genes involved in salt-stress adaption, a global transcriptional analysis of M. alhagi CCNWXJ12-2 growing under salt-free and high salt conditions was carried out. The next generation sequencing technology, RNA-Seq, was used to obtain the transcription profiles.
We have compared the transcriptome of M. alhagi growing in TY medium under high salt conditions (0.4 M NaCl) with salt free conditions as a control. A total of 1,849 differentially expressed genes (fold change ≧ 2) were identified and 933 genes were downregulated while 916 genes were upregulated under high salt condition. Except for the upregulation of some genes proven to be involved in salt resistance, we found that the expression levels of protein secretion systems were changed under high salt condition and the expression levels of some heat shock proteins were reduced by salt stress. Notably, a gene encoding YadA domain-containing protein (yadA), a gene encoding trimethylamine methyltransferase (mttB) and a gene encoding formate--tetrahydrofolate ligase (fhs) were highly upregulated. Growth analysis of the three gene knockout mutants under salt stress demonstrated that yadA was involved in salt resistance while the other two were not.
To our knowledge, this is the first report about transcriptome analysis of a rhizobia using RNA-Seq to elucidate the salt resistance mechanism. Our results showed the complex mechanism of bacterial adaption to salt stress and it was a systematic work for bacteria to cope with the high salinity environmental problems. Therefore, these results could be helpful for further investigation of the bacterial salt resistance mechanism.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12866-014-0319-y) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4302635  PMID: 25539655
Salt stress; RNA-Seq; Secretion system; Chaperones; Mesorhizobium alhagi
7.  Investigation of a new acetogen isolated from an enrichment of the tammar wallaby forestomach 
BMC Microbiology  2014;14:314.
Forestomach fermentation in Australian marsupials such as wallabies and kangaroos, though analogous to rumen fermentation, results in lower methane emissions. Insights into hydrogenotrophy in these systems could help in devising strategies to reduce ruminal methanogenesis. Reductive acetogenesis may be a significant hydrogen sink in these systems and previous molecular analyses have revealed a novel diversity of putative acetogens in the tammar wallaby forestomach.
Methanogen-inhibited enrichment cultures prepared from tammar wallaby forestomach contents consumed hydrogen and produced primarily acetate. Functional gene (formyltetrahydrofolate synthetase and acetyl-CoA synthase) analyses revealed a restricted diversity of Clostridiales species as the putative acetogens in the cultures. A new acetogen (growth on H2/CO2 with acetate as primary end product) designated isolate TWA4, was obtained from the cultures. Isolate TWA4 classified within the Lachnospiraceae and demonstrated >97% rrs identity to previously isolated kangaroo acetogens. Isolate TWA4 was a potent hydrogenotroph and demonstrated excellent mixotrophic growth (concomitant consumption of hydrogen during heterotrophic growth) with glycerol. Mixotrophic growth of isolate TWA4 on glycerol resulted in increased cell densities and acetate production compared to autotrophic growth. Co-cultures with an autotrophic methanogen Methanobrevibacter smithii revealed that isolate TWA4 performed reductive acetogenesis under high hydrogen concentration (>5 mM), but not at low concentrations. Under heterotrophic growth conditions, isolate TWA4 did not significantly stimulate methanogenesis in a co-culture with M. smithii contrary to the expectation for organisms growing fermentatively.
The unique properties of tammar wallaby acetogens might be contributing factors to reduced methanogen numbers and methane emissions from tammar wallaby forestomach fermentation, compared to ruminal fermentation. The macropod forestomach may be a useful source of acetogens for future strategies to reduce methane emissions from ruminants, particularly if these strategies also include some level of methane suppression and/or acetogen stimulation, for example by harnessing mixotrophic growth capabilities
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12866-014-0314-3) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4275979  PMID: 25495654
Acetogen; Acetogenesis; Tammar wallaby; Rumen; Methanogenesis
8.  Mechanisms of action for 2-phenylethanol isolated from Kloeckera apiculata in control of Penicillium molds of citrus fruits 
BMC Microbiology  2014;14:242.
Green and blue mold decay, caused by Penicillium digitatum and P. italicum, respectively, are important postharvest diseases of citrus. Biocontrol by microbes is an alternative to synthetic fungicide application. In this study, the antagonistic yeast strain Kloeckera apiculata 34–9 was used to investigate the action mechanisms involved in the biocontrol of postharvest diseases.
An antifungal substance, 2-phenylethanol (PEA), was isolated from K. apiculata and demonstrated to have antimicrobial activity against selected phytopathogenic fungi. Experiments on P. italicum cells identified the mitochondria and the nucleus as particularly sensitive to inhibition. Regulation of P. italicum gene expression was investigated using RNA-Seq. PEA up-regulated genes involved with the peroxisome, regulation of autophagy, phosphatidylinositol signaling system, protein processing in endoplasmic reticulum, fatty acid metabolism, and inhibited ribosome, RNA polymerase, DNA replication, amino acid biosynthesis, aminoacyl-tRNA biosynthesis and cell cycle. Inhibitory responses revealed by RNA-Seq suggest that PEA might compete for attachment on the active site of phenylalanyl-tRNA synthetase (PheRS).
This study provided new insight on the mode of action of biocontrol yeast agents in controlling postharvest pathogenic fungi.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12866-014-0242-2) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4177429  PMID: 25230758
Biological control; Penicillium; Kloeckera apiculata; Antifungal compound; 2-phenylethanol (PEA); Postharvest
9.  Differential efficiency in exogenous DNA acquisition among closely related Salmonella strains: implications in bacterial speciation 
BMC Microbiology  2014;14:157.
Acquisition of exogenous genetic material is a key event in bacterial speciation. It seems reasonable to assume that recombination of the incoming DNA into genome would be more efficient with higher levels of relatedness between the DNA donor and recipient. If so, bacterial speciation would be a smooth process, leading to a continuous spectrum of genomic divergence of bacteria, which, however, is not the case as shown by recent findings. The goal of this study was todetermine if DNA transfer efficiency is correlated with the levels of sequence identity.
To compare the relative efficiency of exogenous DNA acquisition among closely related bacteria, we carried out phage-mediated transduction and plasmid-mediated transformation in representative Salmonella strains with different levels of relatedness. We found that the efficiency was remarkably variable even among genetically almost identical bacteria. Although there was a general tendency that more closely related DNA donor-recipient pairs had higher transduction efficiency, transformation efficiency exhibited over a thousand times difference among the closely related Salmonella strains.
DNA acquisition efficiency is greatly variable among bacteria that have as high as over 99% identical genetic background, suggesting that bacterial speciation involves highly complex processes affected not only by whether beneficial exogenous DNA may exist in the environment but also the “readiness” of the bacteria to accept it.
PMCID: PMC4094785  PMID: 24928416
Bacterial speciation; Homologous recombination; Salmonella; Transduction; Transformation
10.  High prevalence of Cfr-producing Staphylococcus species in retail meat in Guangzhou, China 
BMC Microbiology  2014;14:151.
The emergence and wide distribution of the transferable gene for linezolid resistance, cfr, in staphylococci of human and animal origins is of great concern as it poses a serious threat to the public health. In the present study, we investigated the emergence and presence of the multiresistance gene, cfr, in retail meat sourced from supermarkets and free markets of Guangzhou, China.
A total of 118 pork and chicken samples, collected from Guangzhou markets, were screened by PCR for cfr. Twenty-two Staphylococcus isolates obtained from 12 pork and 10 chicken samples harbored cfr. The 22 cfr-positive staphylococci isolates, including Staphylococcus equorum (n = 8), Staphylococcus simulans (n = 7), Staphylococcus cohnii (n = 4), and Staphylococcus sciuri (n = 3), exhibited 17 major SmaI pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) patterns. In 14 isolates, cfr was located on the plasmids. Sequence analysis revealed that the genetic structures (including ΔtnpA of Tn558, IS21-558, ΔtnpB, and tnpC of Tn558, orf138, fexA) of cfr in plasmid pHNTLD18 of a S. sciuri strain and in the plasmid pHNLKJC2 (including rep, Δpre/mob, cfr, pre/mob and partial ermC) of a S. equorum strain were identical or similar to the corresponding regions of some plasmids in staphylococcal species of animal and human origins.
To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study to report the presence of the multiresistance gene, cfr, in animal meat. A high occurrence of cfr was observed in the tested retail meat samples. Thus, it is important to monitor the presence of cfr in animal foods in China.
PMCID: PMC4059476  PMID: 24913069
Plasmids; Linezolid; Staphylococcus spp; Food safety; Resistance epidemiology
11.  Identification of latent tuberculosis infection-related microRNAs in human U937 macrophages expressing Mycobacterium tuberculosis Hsp16.3 
BMC Microbiology  2014;14:37.
Latent tuberculosis infection (LTBI) relies on a homeostasis of macrophages and Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb). The small heat shock protein, Mtb Hsp16.3 (also known as latency-associated antigen), plays an important role in Mtb persistence within macrophages. However, the mechanism of LTBI remains elusive. The aim of this study was to delineate LTBI-related miRNA expression in U937 macrophages expressing Mtb Hsp16.3 protein. U937 macrophages were infected with an integrase-deficient Lentivirus vector to transiently express Mtb Hsp16.3, and green fluorescent protein (GFP) as a control. We used a microRNA (miRNA) microarray chip containing more than 1000 probes to identify the significant differentially expressed miRNAs in the infected U937 cells, and employed real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR) for validation. Furthermore, we confirmed these candidate LTBI-related miRNAs in peripheral blood mononuclear cells from subjects with LTBI and in healthy control individuals. Functional annotation prediction of miRNA target genes and pathway enrichment analyses were used to explore the putative links between these miRNAs and LTBI.
Analysis of the miRNA expression profile identified 149 miRNAs that were differentially expressed in U937 macrophages expressing Mtb Hsp16.3 compared with the control expressing GFP. The expression level of seven miRNAs (miR-424-5p, miR-493-5p, miR-296-5p, miR-27b-3p, miR-377-5p, miR-3680-5p, miR-191-5p) were validated by qRT-PCR. The expression level of four miRNAs (miR-424-5p, miR-27b-3p, miR-377-5p, miR-3680-5p) in the peripheral blood mononuclear cells samples from LTBI and healthy participants reflected the altered patterns observed in the microarray profile. The bioinformatic analyses suggest that the miRNAs may regulate Mtb latent infection by affecting the development of macrophage cells.
The results suggest that miRNA expression may play a considerable role in the pathogenesis of LTBI, and this would increase our understanding of the molecular basis of Hsp16.3-facilitated Mtb survival in macrophages.
PMCID: PMC3925440  PMID: 24521422
microRNAs; Macrophages; Mycobacterium; Tuberculosis; Small heat shock protein; Latent tuberculosis infection
12.  A multi-omic analysis of an Enterococcus faecium mutant reveals specific genetic mutations and dramatic changes in mRNA and protein expression 
BMC Microbiology  2013;13:304.
For a long time, Enterococcus faecium was considered a harmless commensal of the mammalian gastrointestinal (GI) tract and was used as a probiotic in fermented foods. In recent decades, E. faecium has been recognised as an opportunistic pathogen that causes diseases such as neonatal meningitis, urinary tract infections, bacteremia, bacterial endocarditis and diverticulitis. E. faecium could be taken into space with astronauts and exposed to the space environment. Thus, it is necessary to observe the phenotypic and molecular changes of E. faecium after spaceflight.
An E. faecium mutant with biochemical features that are different from those of the wild-type strain was obtained from subculture after flight on the SHENZHOU-8 spacecraft. To understand the underlying mechanism causing these changes, the whole genomes of both the mutant and the WT strains were sequenced using Illumina technology. The genomic comparison revealed that dprA, a recombination-mediator gene, and arpU, a gene associated with cell wall growth, were mutated. Comparative transcriptomic and proteomic analyses showed that differentially expressed genes or proteins were involved with replication, recombination, repair, cell wall biogenesis, glycometabolism, lipid metabolism, amino acid metabolism, predicted general function and energy production/conversion.
This study analysed the comprehensive genomic, transcriptomic and proteomic changes of an E. faecium mutant from subcultures that were loaded on the SHENZHOU-8 spacecraft. The implications of these gene mutations and expression changes and their underlying mechanisms should be investigated in the future. We hope that the current exploration of multiple “-omics” analyses of this E. faecium mutant will provide clues for future studies on this opportunistic pathogen.
PMCID: PMC3879163  PMID: 24373636
E. faecium; Genome; Transcriptome; Proteome; Multi-omics
13.  Assessment of hypermucoviscosity as a virulence factor for experimental Klebsiella pneumoniae infections: comparative virulence analysis with hypermucoviscosity-negative strain 
BMC Microbiology  2011;11:50.
Klebsiella pneumoniae displaying the hypermucoviscosity (HV) phenotype are considered more virulent than HV-negative strains. Nevertheless, the emergence of tissue-abscesses-associated HV-negative isolates motivated us to re-evaluate the role of HV-phenotype.
Instead of genetically manipulating the HV-phenotype of K. pneumoniae, we selected two clinically isolated K1 strains, 1112 (HV-positive) and 1084 (HV-negative), to avoid possible interference from defects in the capsule. These well-encapsulated strains with similar genetic backgrounds were used for comparative analysis of bacterial virulence in a pneumoniae or a liver abscess model generated in either naïve or diabetic mice. In the pneumonia model, the HV-positive strain 1112 proliferated to higher loads in the lungs and blood of naïve mice, but was less prone to disseminate into the blood of diabetic mice compared to the HV-negative strain 1084. In the liver abscess model, 1084 was as potent as 1112 in inducing liver abscesses in both the naïve and diabetic mice. The 1084-infected diabetic mice were more inclined to develop bacteremia and had a higher mortality rate than those infected by 1112. A mini-Tn5 mutant of 1112, isolated due to its loss of HV-phenotype, was avirulent to mice.
These results indicate that the HV-phenotype is required for the virulence of the clinically isolated HV-positive strain 1112. The superior ability of the HV-negative stain 1084 over 1112 to cause bacteremia in diabetic mice suggests that factors other than the HV phenotype were required for the systemic dissemination of K. pneumoniae in an immunocompromised setting.
PMCID: PMC3060850  PMID: 21385400
14.  Production of enterodiol from defatted flaxseeds through biotransformation by human intestinal bacteria 
BMC Microbiology  2010;10:115.
The effects of enterolignans, e.g., enterodiol (END) and particularly its oxidation product, enterolactone (ENL), on prevention of hormone-dependent diseases, such as osteoporosis, cardiovascular diseases, hyperlipemia, breast cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer and menopausal syndrome, have attracted much attention. To date, the main way to obtain END and ENL is chemical synthesis, which is expensive and inevitably leads to environmental pollution. To explore a more economic and eco-friendly production method, we explored biotransformation of enterolignans from precursors contained in defatted flaxseeds by human intestinal bacteria.
We cultured fecal specimens from healthy young adults in media containing defatted flaxseeds and detected END from the culture supernatant. Following selection through successive subcultures of the fecal microbiota with defatted flaxseeds as the only carbon source, we obtained a bacterial consortium, designated as END-49, which contained the smallest number of bacterial types still capable of metabolizing defatted flaxseeds to produce END. Based on analysis with pulsed field gel electrophoresis, END-49 was found to consist of five genomically distinct bacterial lineages, designated Group I-V, with Group I strains dominating the culture. None of the individual Group I-V strains produced END, demonstrating that the biotransformation of substrates in defatted flaxseeds into END is a joint work by different members of the END-49 bacterial consortium. Interestingly, Group I strains produced secoisolariciresinol, an important intermediate of END production; 16S rRNA analysis of one Group I strain established its close relatedness with Klebsiella. Genomic analysis is under way to identify all members in END-49 involved in the biotransformation and the actual pathway leading to END-production.
Biotransformation is a very economic, efficient and environmentally friendly way of mass-producing enterodiol from defatted flaxseeds.
PMCID: PMC2865466  PMID: 20398397
15.  Identification of a bacteriocin and its cognate immunity factor expressed by Moraxella catarrhalis 
BMC Microbiology  2009;9:207.
Bacteriocins are antimicrobial proteins and peptides ribosomally synthesized by some bacteria which can effect both intraspecies and interspecies killing.
Moraxella catarrhalis strain E22 containing plasmid pLQ510 was shown to inhibit the growth of M. catarrhalis strain O35E. Two genes (mcbA and mcbB) in pLQ510 encoded proteins predicted to be involved in the secretion of a bacteriocin. Immediately downstream from these two genes, a very short ORF (mcbC) encoded a protein which had some homology to double-glycine bacteriocins produced by other bacteria. A second very short ORF (mcbI) immediately downstream from mcbC encoded a protein which had no significant similarity to other proteins in the databases. Cloning and expression of the mcbI gene in M. catarrhalis O35E indicated that this gene encoded the cognate immunity factor. Reverse transcriptase-PCR was used to show that the mcbA, mcbB, mcbC, and mcbI ORFs were transcriptionally linked. This four-gene cluster was subsequently shown to be present in the chromosome of several M. catarrhalis strains including O12E. Inactivation of the mcbA, mcbB, or mcbC ORFs in M. catarrhalis O12E eliminated the ability of this strain to inhibit the growth of M. catarrhalis O35E. In co-culture experiments involving a M. catarrhalis strain containing the mcbABCI locus and one which lacked this locus, the former strain became the predominant member of the culture after overnight growth in broth.
This is the first description of a bacteriocin and its cognate immunity factor produced by M. catarrhalis. The killing activity of the McbC protein raises the possibility that it might serve to lyse other M. catarrhalis strains that lack the mcbABCI locus, thereby making their DNA available for lateral gene transfer.
PMCID: PMC2761928  PMID: 19781080
16.  Functional identification of HugZ, a heme oxygenase from Helicobacter pylori 
BMC Microbiology  2008;8:226.
Iron is recognized as an important trace element, essential for most organisms including pathogenic bacteria. HugZ, a protein related to heme iron utilization, is involved in bacterial acquisition of iron from the host. We previously observed that a hugZ homologue is correlated with the adaptive colonization of Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), a major gastro-enteric pathogen. However, its exact physiological role remains unclear.
A gene homologous to hugZ, designated hp0318, identified in H. pylori ATCC 26695, exhibits 66% similarity to cj1613c of Campylobacter jejuni NCTC 11168. Soluble 6 × His fused-HugZ protein was expressed in vitro. Hemin-agrose affinity analysis indicated that the recombinant HugZ protein can bind to hemin. Absorption spectroscopy at 411 nm further revealed a heme:HugZ binding ratio of 1:1. Enzymatic assays showed that purified recombinant HugZ protein can degrade hemin into biliverdin and carbon monoxide in the presence of either ascorbic acid or NADPH and cytochrome P450 reductase. The biochemical and enzymatic characteristics agreed closely with those of Campylobacter jejuni Cj1613c protein, implying that hp0318 is a functional member of the HugZ family. A hugZ deletion mutant was obtained by homologous recombination. This mutant strain showed poor growth when hemoglobin was provided as the source of iron, partly because of its failure to utilize hemoglobin efficiently. Real-time quantitative PCR also confirmed that the expression of hugZ was regulated by iron levels.
These findings provide biochemical and genetic evidence that hugZ (hp0318) encodes a heme oxygenase involved in iron release/uptake in H. pylori.
PMCID: PMC2644699  PMID: 19091096
17.  Subtle genetic changes enhance virulence of methicillin resistant and sensitive Staphylococcus aureus 
BMC Microbiology  2007;7:99.
Community acquired (CA) methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) increasingly causes disease worldwide. USA300 has emerged as the predominant clone causing superficial and invasive infections in children and adults in the USA. Epidemiological studies suggest that USA300 is more virulent than other CA-MRSA. The genetic determinants that render virulence and dominance to USA300 remain unclear.
We sequenced the genomes of two pediatric USA300 isolates: one CA-MRSA and one CA-methicillin susceptible (MSSA), isolated at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston. DNA sequencing was performed by Sanger dideoxy whole genome shotgun (WGS) and 454 Life Sciences pyrosequencing strategies. The sequence of the USA300 MRSA strain was rigorously annotated. In USA300-MRSA 2658 chromosomal open reading frames were predicted and 3.1 and 27 kilobase (kb) plasmids were identified. USA300-MSSA contained a 20 kb plasmid with some homology to the 27 kb plasmid found in USA300-MRSA. Two regions found in US300-MRSA were absent in USA300-MSSA. One of these carried the arginine deiminase operon that appears to have been acquired from S. epidermidis. The USA300 sequence was aligned with other sequenced S. aureus genomes and regions unique to USA300 MRSA were identified.
USA300-MRSA is highly similar to other MRSA strains based on whole genome alignments and gene content, indicating that the differences in pathogenesis are due to subtle changes rather than to large-scale acquisition of virulence factor genes. The USA300 Houston isolate differs from another sequenced USA300 strain isolate, derived from a patient in San Francisco, in plasmid content and a number of sequence polymorphisms. Such differences will provide new insights into the evolution of pathogens.
PMCID: PMC2222628  PMID: 17986343
18.  Characterization of hypothetical proteins Cpn0146, 0147, 0284 & 0285 that are predicted to be in the Chlamydia pneumoniae inclusion membrane 
BMC Microbiology  2007;7:38.
Although more than 100 Chlamydia pneumoniae hypothetical proteins have been predicted to be inclusion membrane proteins, only a few have been experimentally demonstrated to be in the inclusion membrane. Using antibodies raised with fusion proteins, we characterized four such hypothetical proteins encoded by two gene clusters (Cpn0146-147 and Cpn0284-285) in the C. pneumoniae genome.
Cpn0146 and 0147 were detected in the inclusion membrane while Cpn0284 and 0285 inside inclusion and mainly associated with reticulate bodies although all four proteins contain an N-terminal bi-lobed hydrophobic region, a signature motif assigned to inclusion membrane proteins. These four hypothetical proteins were only detected in cells infected with C. pneumoniae but not other chlamydial species, with Cpn0147 at 6 hours and Cpn0146, 0284 & 0285 at 24 hours after infection. Cpn0146 & 147 but not Cpn0284 and 285 co-localized with a host cell endoplasmic reticulum marker, a property known to be possessed by some chlamydial inclusion membrane proteins, when expressed in the host cell cytosol via transgenes. However, the endoplasmic reticulum localization of the C. pneumoniae inclusion membrane proteins did not result in inhibition of the subsequent C. pneumoniae infection.
The hypothetical proteins Cpn0146 & 0147 were localized in the C. pneumoniae inclusion membrane while Cpn0284 & 0285 within the inclusion although all four were predicted to be Inc proteins, suggesting the need to experimentally characterize the predicted Inc proteins.
PMCID: PMC1878484  PMID: 17504539
19.  Genome-wide transcriptome profiling of nitrogen fixation in Paenibacillus sp. WLY78 
BMC Microbiology  2016;16:25.
Diazotrophic (nitrogen-fixing) Gram-positive and endospore-formed Paenibacillus spp. have potential uses as a bacterial fertilizer in agriculture. The transcriptional analysis of nitrogen fixation in Paenibacillus is lacking, although regulation mechanisms of nitrogen fixation have been well studied in Gram-negative diazotrophs.
Here we report a global transcriptional profiling analysis of nitrogen fixation in Paenibacillus sp. WLY78 cultured under N2-fixing condition (without O2 and NH4+) and non-N2-fixing condition (air and 100 mM NH4+). The nif (nitrogen fixation) gene operon composed of 9 genes (nifBHDKENXhesAnifV) in this bacterium was significantly up-regulated in N2-fixing condition compared to non-N2-fixing condition, indicating that nif gene transcription is strictly controlled by NH4+ and O2. qRT-PCR confirmed that these nif genes were differently expressed. Non-nif genes specifically required in nitrogen fixation, such as mod, feoAB and cys encoding transporters of Mo, Fe and S atoms, were coordinately transcribed with nif genes in N2-fixing condition. The transcript abundance of suf operon specific for synthesis of Fe-S cluster was up-regulated in N2-fixing condition, suggesting that Sul system, which takes place of nifS and nifU, plays important role in the synthesis of nitrogenase. We discover potential specific electron transporters which might provide electron from Fe protein to MoFe protein of nitrogenase. The glnR whose predicted protein might mediate nif transcription regulation by NH4+ is significantly up-regulated in N2-fixing condition. The transcription levels of nitrogen metabolism and anaerobic respiration were also analyzed.
The nif gene operon (nifBHDKENXhesAnifV) in Paenibacillus sp. WLY78 is significantly up-regulated in N2-fixing condition compared to non-N2-fixing condition. Non-nif genes specifically required in nitrogen fixation were also significantly up-regulated in N2-fixing condition. Fur and Fnr which are involved in anaerobic regulation and GlnR which might mediate nif gene transcription regulation by NH4+ were significantly up-regulated in N2-fixing condition. This study provides valuable insights into nitrogen fixation process and regulation in Gram-positive firmicutes.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12866-016-0642-6) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4774088  PMID: 26931570
Paenibacillus sp. WLY78; nif gene; Transcription; Up-regulation; Nitrogen metabolism
20.  Development of reverse-transcription loop-mediated isothermal amplification assay for rapid detection and differentiation of dengue virus serotypes 1–4 
BMC Microbiology  2015;15:265.
Dengue virus (DENV), the most widely prevalent arbovirus, continues to be a threat to human health in the tropics and subtropics. Early and rapid detection of DENV infection during the acute phase of illness is crucial for proper clinical patient management and preventing the spread of infection. The aim of the current study was to develop a specific, sensitive, and robust reverse transcriptase loop-mediated isothermal amplification (RT-LAMP) assay for detection and differentiation of DENV1-4 serotypes.
The method detection primers, which were designed to target the different DENV serotypes, were identified by inspection of multiple sequence alignments of the non-structural protein (NS) 2A of DENV1, NS4B of DENV2, NS4A of DENV3 and the 3′ untranslated region of the NS protein of DENV4. No cross-reactions of the four serotypes were observed during the tests. The detection limits of the DENV1-4-specific RT-LAMP assays were approximately 10-copy templates per reaction. The RT-LAMP assays were ten-fold more sensitive than RT-PCR or real-time PCR. The diagnostic rate was 100 % for clinical strains of DENV, and 98.9 % of the DENV-infected patients whose samples were tested were detected by RT-LAMP. Importantly, no false-positives were detected with the new equipment and methodology that was used to avoid aerosol contamination of the samples.
The RT-LAMP method used in our study is specific, sensitive, and suitable for further investigation as a useful alternative to the current methods used for clinical diagnosis of DENV1-4, especially in hospitals and laboratories that lack sophisticated diagnostic systems.
PMCID: PMC4647581  PMID: 26572227
Dengue virus; Dengue serotypes 1–4; Diagnostic accuracy; Reverse transcriptase loop-mediated isothermal amplification; Serotype detection
21.  Use of multilocus sequence typing to infer genetic diversity and population structure of Lactobacillus plantarum isolates from different sources 
BMC Microbiology  2015;15:241.
Lactobacillus plantarum is a lactic acid bacterium (LAB) of considerable industrial interest since it has an important role in the production of fermented food. In the present study, the genetic diversity and population structure within 186 L. plantarum isolates was determined based on a novel MLST scheme employing eight housekeeping genes. These isolates had originated from different sources and geographic regions: 179 isolates were from our own culture collection and originated from China and Mongolia and seven isolates were type or reference isolates from other collections.
The results showed that 179 isolates and seven reference isolates could be assigned to 73 different sequence types (STs), forming ten clonal complexes (CCs) and 23 singletons. There were 158 polymorphic sites detected in total, and the nucleotide diversity per site varied from 0.00401 in clpX to 0.03220 in groEL. The minimum spanning tree analyses suggested that the evolution of L. plantarum isolates have little relationship with ecological sources have similar nucleotide diversity. Phylogenetic trees and structure indicated that there were six lineages in the L. plantarum isolates used in our study. Split-decomposition and ClonalFrame analysis indicated that recombination had occurred throughout the population of L. plantarum, but it occurred at a low frequency in these eight loci.
We deduced that L. plantarum isolates from the same ecological niches have similar genetic diversity and population structure. The MLST scheme presented in this study provides abundant sequence data for L. plantarum and enabled global comparisons of isolates associated with various environmental origins to be made. This will further advance our understanding of the microbial ecology of this industrially important LAB.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12866-015-0584-4) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4625847  PMID: 26511725
Lactobacillus plantarum; Multilocus sequence typing; Housekeeping genes; Genetic diversity; Population structure
22.  Multilocus sequence typing of Streptococcus thermophilus from naturally fermented dairy foods in China and Mongolia 
BMC Microbiology  2015;15:236.
Streptococcus thermophilus is a major dairy starter used for manufacturing of dairy products. In the present study, we developed a multilocus sequence typing (MLST) scheme for this important food bacterium. Sequences of 10 housekeeping genes (carB, clpX, dnaA, murC, murE, pepN, pepX, pyrG, recA, and rpoB) were obtained for 239 S. thermophilus strains, which were isolated from home-made fermented dairy foods in 18 different regions of Mongolia and China.
All 10 genes of S. thermophilus were sequenced, aligned, and defined sequence types (STs) using the BioNumerics Software. The nucleotide diversity was calculated by START v2.0. The population structure, phylogenetic relationships and the role of recombination were inferred using ClonalFrame v1.2, SplitsTree 4.0 and Structure v2.3.
The 239 S. thermophilus isolates and 18 reference strains could be assigned into 119 different STs, which could be further separated into 16 clonal complexes (CCs) and 38 singletons. Among the 10 loci, a total of 132 polymorphic sites were detected. The standardized index of association (IAS = 0.0916), split-decomposition and ρ/θ (relative frequency of occurrence of recombination and mutation) and r/m value (relative impact of recombination and mutation in the diversification) confirms that recombination may have occurred, but it occurred at a low frequency in these 10 loci. Phylogenetic trees indicated that there were five lineages in the S. thermophilus isolates used in our study. MSTree and ClonalFrame tree analyses suggest that the evolution of S. thermophilus isolates have little relationship with geographic locality, but revealed no association with the types of fermented dairy product. Phylogenetic analysis of 36 whole genome strains (18 S. thermophilus, 2 S. vestibularis and 16 S. salivarius strains) indicated that our MLST scheme could clearly separate three closely related species within the salivarius group and is suitable for analyzing the population structure of the other two species in the salivarius group.
Our newly developed MLST scheme improved the understanding on the genetic diversity and population structure of the S. thermophilus, as well as provided useful information for further studies on the genotyping and evolutionary research for S. thermophilus strains with global diversity.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12866-015-0551-0) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4620635  PMID: 26497818
Home-made fermented dairy foods; Streptococcus thermophilus; Multilocus sequence typing; Population genetics; Food microbiology
23.  Distribution patterns of haplotypes for symbionts from Umbilicaria esculenta and U. muehlenbergii reflect the importance of reproductive strategy in shaping population genetic structure 
BMC Microbiology  2015;15:212.
The diversity of lichen fungal components and their photosynthetic partners reflects both ecological and evolutionary factors. In present study, molecular investigations of the internal transcribed spacer of the nuclear ribosomal DNA (ITS nrDNA) region were conducted to analyze the genetic diversity of Umbilicaria esculenta and U. muehlenbergii together with their associated green algae.
It was here demonstrated that the reproductive strategy is a principal reason for fungal selectivity to algae. U. muehlenbergii, which disperses via sexual spores, exhibits lower selectivity to its photosynthetic partners than U. esculenta, which has a vegetative reproductive strategy. The difference of genotypic diversity (both fungal and algal) between these two Umbilicaria species is low, although their nucleotide diversity can vary greatly.
The present study illustrates that lichen-forming fungi with sexual reproductive strategies are less selective with respect to their photobionts; and reveals that both sexual and vegetative reproduction allow lichens to generate similar amounts of diversity to adapt to the environments. The current study will be helpful for elucidating how lichens with different reproductive strategies adapt to changing environments.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12866-015-0527-0) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4608304  PMID: 26471277
AMOVA; Haplotype; Lichen; Mycobiont; Photobiont; Phylogenetic analysis
24.  Dissemination of fusidic acid resistance among Staphylococcus aureus clinical isolates 
BMC Microbiology  2015;15:210.
A significant trend towards increased fusidic acid (FA) resistance among Staphylococcus aureus with increased duration of use is of concern. The aim of the present study is to investigate the dissemination of fusidic acid resistance among Staphylococcus aureus clinical isolates.
The susceptibility of S. aureus isolates to antimicrobial agents was determined by disc-diffusion method. The minimal inhibitory concertrations(MICs) of fusidic acid and vacomycin for fusidic acid-resisitant isolates were determined by ager dillution method. FA resistance determinants were determined by PCR and DNA sequencing. SCCmec typing, spa typing and multi-locus sequence typing were used for the determination of molecular characteristics for S. aureus isolates.
A total of 392 non-duplicate S. aureus isolates including 181 methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) isolates, which were isolated from the clinical specimens of patients at a Chinese tertiary hospital from January, 2012 to September, 2013, were collected for investigating FA resistance. Among 392 S. aureus clinical isolates tested, 56 (14.3 %) with FA MIC values ranging from 2 μg/ml to ≥128 μg/ml were resistant to FA. The proportions of FA resistance among MRSA and MSSA isolates were 27.1 % (49/181) and 3.3 % (7/211). There was a trend of rapidly increased FA resistance among S. aureus and MRSA isolates from 5.2 % and 8.9 % in 2012 to 24.9 % and 45.1 % in 2013. Acquired FA resistance gene, fusB, was present in 73.2 % (41/56) of FA-resistant S. aureus isolates. fusC and fusA mutation were not found in any of tested isolates. A total of 9 sequence types (STs) and 12 spa types were identified among the 56 FA-resistant S. aureus isolates. ST5 accounting for 66.1 % (37/56) was the most prevalent ST. The majority (92.9 %, 52/56) of the isolates tested belonged to clonal complex 5(CC5). t2460 was the most prevalent spa type, accounting for 67.9 % (38/56) . ST5-MRSA- II-t2460 was predominant clone, accounting for 75.5 % (37/49) of FA-resistant MRSA isolates and 66.1 % (37/56) of FA-resistant S. aureus isolates. Five of 7 FA-resistant MSSA isolates belonged to ST630-MSSA.
Increased FA resistance among S. aureus isolates was found in China. fusB was predominant FA resistance determinant. The spread of CC5 clone, especially novel ST5-MRSA- II-t2460 clone with high-level resistance to FA, was responsible for the increase of FA resistance.
PMCID: PMC4604626  PMID: 26463589
Staphylococcus aureus; Fusidic acid; Resistance; Resistance determinants; Molecular characteristic
25.  Probiotic and anti-inflammatory attributes of an isolate Lactobacillus helveticus NS8 from Mongolian fermented koumiss 
BMC Microbiology  2015;15:196.
Koumiss is a traditionally fermented mare’s milk described with health-promoting potentials for decades. However, only a few studies focused on the probiotic strains isolated from koumiss. In this study, we collected koumiss samples from Inner Mongolian pasturing area of China and selected a promising strain of Lactobacillus helveticus, isolate NS8, based on the survival abilities in gastrointestinal tract (GIT) and adhesion to intestinal endothelial cells in vitro. As the ability to positively modulate host immune response is a feature of increasing importance in measuring the probiotic potential of a bacterial strain, our study mainly focus on the immunomodulatory properties of L. helveticus NS8 by using in vivo and ex vivo analyses.
L. helveticus NS8 was identified by molecular-typing methods, both at genus and species levels. As a typical food niche-specific bacteria, NS8 showed a moderate survival ability in GIT environment in vitro. However, an excellent binding capacity to the human intestinal epithelial cells, along with significant autoaggregation and cell-surface hydrophobicity was observed. Additionally, the presence of S-layer protein was responsible for the cell surface properties of this strain. NS8 was found to be rather protective against TNBS (2,4,6-trinitrobenzene sulfonic acid)-induced murine colitis. In the meantime, co-culture with NS8 induced an increased level of secretion of anti-inflammatory cytokine IL-10 in peripheral blood mono-nuclear cells (PBMCs). Furthermore, NS8 was also able to diminish the proinflammatory effects of lipopolysaccharide (LPS) in mouse macrophage cell line RAW264.7 by inducing higher levels of IL-10. Specially, adding of the purified S-layer protein didn’t influence the production of IL-10. The specific ligand-host receptor interactions on the NS8 specific immune responses need to be learned further.
In summary, L. helveticus NS8 exhibited good probiotic and particularly immunomodulatory properties, with a potential for development of functional food commercially or therapeutic adjuvant for inflammatory diseases.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12866-015-0525-2) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4591576  PMID: 26428623
L. helveticus; Anti-inflammatory effect; S-layer protein; Koumiss

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