Understanding the diversity, composition, structure, function, and dynamics of human microbiomes in individual human hosts is crucial to reveal human-microbial interactions, especially for patients with microbially mediated disorders, but challenging due to the high diversity of the human microbiome. Here we have developed a functional gene-based microarray for profiling human microbiomes (HuMiChip) with 36,802 probes targeting 50,007 protein coding sequences for 139 key functional gene families. Computational evaluation suggested all probes included are highly specific to their target sequences. HuMiChip was used to analyze human oral and gut microbiomes, showing significantly different functional gene profiles between oral and gut microbiome. Obvious shifts of microbial functional structure and composition were observed for both patients with dental caries and periodontitis from moderate to advanced stages, suggesting a progressive change of microbial communities in response to the diseases. Consistent gene family profiles were observed by both HuMiChip and next generation sequencing technologies. Additionally, HuMiChip was able to detect gene families at as low as 0.001% relative abundance. The results indicate that the developed HuMiChip is a useful and effective tool for functional profiling of human microbiomes.
The classic organization by Socransky and coworkers categorized the oral bacteria of the subgingival plaque into different complexes. Treponema denticola, Porphyromonas gingivalis and Tannerella forsythia are grouped into the red complex that is highly correlated with periodontal disease. Socransky's work closely associates red with orange complex species such as Fusobacterium nucleatum and Prevotella intermedia but not with members of the other complexes. While the relationship between species contained by these complexes is in part supported by their ability to physically attach to each other, the physiological consequences of these interactions and associations are less clear. In this study, we employed T. denticola as a model organism to analyze contact-dependent responses to interactions with species belonging to the same complex (P. gingivalis and T. forsythia), the closely associated orange complex (using F. nucleatum and P. intermedia as representatives) and the unconnected yellow complex (using Streptococcus sanguinis and S. gordonii as representatives). RNA was extracted from T. denticola alone as well as after pairwise co-incubation for 5 hrs with representatives of the different complexes, and the respective gene expression profiles were determined using microarrays. Numerous genes related to motility, metabolism, transport, outer membrane and hypothetical proteins were differentially regulated in T. denticola in the presence of the tested partner species. Further analysis revealed a significant overlap in the affected genes and we identified a general response to the presence of other species, those specific to two of the three complexes as well as individual complexes. Most interestingly, many predicted major antigens (e.g. flagella, Msp, CTLP) were suppressed in responses that included red complex species indicating that the presence of the most closely associated species induces immune-evasive strategies. In summary, the data presented here provide an in-depth understanding of the transcriptional responses triggered by contact-dependent interactions between microorganisms inhabiting the periodontal pocket.
Saliva contains various microbes and host biological components that could be used for caries risk assessment. This review focuses on the research topics that connect dental caries with saliva, including both the microbial and host components within saliva.
Streptococcus mutans is generally considered to be the principal etiological agent for dental caries. Many of the proteins necessary for its colonization of the oral cavity and pathogenesis are exported to the cell surface or the extracellular matrix, a process that requires the assistance of the export machineries. Bioinformatic analysis revealed that the S. mutans genome contains a prsA gene, whose counterparts in other gram positive bacteria, including Bacillus and Lactococcus encode functions involved in protein post-export. In this study, we constructed a PrsA-deficient derivative of S. mutans and demonstrated that the prsA mutant displayed an altered cell wall/ membrane protein profile as well as cell surface related phenotypes, including auto-aggregation, increased surface hydrophobicity, and abnormal biofilm formation. Further analysis revealed that the disruption of the prsA gene resulted in reduced insoluble glucan production by cell surface localized glucosyltransferases, and mutacin as well as cell surface-display of a heterologous expressed GFP fusion to the cell surface protein SpaP. Our study suggested that PrsA in S. mutans encodes functions similar to the ones identified in Bacillus, and thus is likely involved in protein post-export.
foldase protein PrsA; protein secretion; Streptococcus mutans
Exopolysaccharide (EPS) of Myxococcus xanthus is a well-regulated cell surface component. In addition to its known functions for social motility and fruiting body formation on solid surfaces, EPS has also been proposed to play a role in multi-cellular clumping in liquid medium, though this phenomenon has not been well studied. In this report, we confirmed that M. xanthus clumps formed in liquid were correlated with EPS levels and demonstrated that the EPS encased cell clumps exhibited biofilm-like structures. The clumps protected the cells at physiologically relevant EPS concentrations, while cells lacking EPS exhibited significant reduction in long-term viability and resistance to stressful conditions. However, excess EPS production was counterproductive to vegetative growth and viable cell recovery declined in extended late stationary phase as cells became trapped in the matrix of clumps. Therefore, optimal EPS production by M. xanthus is important for normal physiological functions in liquid.
Myxococcus xanthus; exopolysaccharide; vegetative growth; stress survival; stationary phase recovery
Our knowledge of microbial diversity in the human oral cavity has vastly expanded during the last two decades of research. However, much of what is known about the behavior of oral species to date derives from pure culture approaches and the studies combining several cultivated species, which likely does not fully reflect their function in complex microbial communities. It has been shown in studies with a limited number of cultivated species that early oral biofilm development occurs in a successional manner and that continuous low pH can lead to an enrichment of aciduric species. Observations that in vitro grown plaque biofilm microcosms can maintain similar pH profiles in response to carbohydrate addition as plaque in vivo suggests a complex microbial community can be established in the laboratory. In light of this, our primary goal was to develop a robust in vitro biofilm-model system from a pooled saliva inoculum in order to study the stability, reproducibility, and development of the oral microbiome, and its dynamic response to environmental changes from the community to the molecular level.
Comparative metagenomic analyses confirmed a high similarity of metabolic potential in biofilms to recently available oral metagenomes from healthy subjects as part of the Human Microbiome Project. A time-series metagenomic analysis of the taxonomic community composition in biofilms revealed that the proportions of major species at 3 hours of growth are maintained during 48 hours of biofilm development. By employing deep pyrosequencing of the 16S rRNA gene to investigate this biofilm model with regards to bacterial taxonomic diversity, we show a high reproducibility of the taxonomic carriage and proportions between: 1) individual biofilm samples; 2) biofilm batches grown at different dates; 3) DNA extraction techniques and 4) research laboratories.
Our study demonstrates that we now have the capability to grow stable oral microbial in vitro biofilms containing more than one hundred operational taxonomic units (OTU) which represent 60-80% of the original inoculum OTU richness. Previously uncultivated Human Oral Taxa (HOT) were identified in the biofilms and contributed to approximately one-third of the totally captured 16S rRNA gene diversity. To our knowledge, this represents the highest oral bacterial diversity reported for an in vitro model system so far. This robust model will help investigate currently uncultivated species and the known virulence properties for many oral pathogens not solely restricted to pure culture systems, but within multi-species biofilms.
In vitro model; Biofilm; Oral microbiome; Saliva; Streptococcus; Lactobacillus; Uncultivated bacteria
The Clp/HSP100 family of molecular chaperones is ubiquitous in both prokaryotes and eukaryotes. These proteins play important roles in refolding, disaggregating and degrading proteins damaged by stress. As a subclass of the Clp/HSP100 family, ClpB has been shown to be involved in various stress responses as well as other functions in bacteria. In the present study, we investigated the role of a predicted ClpB-encoding gene, MXAN5092, in the stress response during vegetative growth and development of Myxococcus xanthus. Transcriptional analysis confirmed induction of this clpB homologue under different stress conditions, and further phenotypic analysis revealed that an in-frame deletion mutant of MXAN5092 was more sensitive to various stress treatments than the wild-type strain during vegetative growth. Moreover, the absence of the MXAN5092 gene resulted in decreased heat tolerance of myxospores, indicating the involvement of this clpB homologue in the stress response during the development of myxospores. The M. xanthus recombinant ClpB (MXAN5092) protein also showed a general chaperone activity in vitro. Overall, our genetic and phenotypic analysis of the predicted ATP-dependent chaperone protein ClpB (MXAN5092) demonstrated that it functions as a chaperone protein and plays an important role in cellular stress tolerance during both vegetative growth and development of M. xanthus.
The first step in bacteriophage infection is recognition and binding to the host receptor, which is mediated by the phage receptor binding protein (RBP). Different RBPs can lead to differential host specificity. In many bacteriophages, such as Escherichia coli and Lactococcal phages, RBPs have been identified as the tail fiber or protruding baseplate proteins. However, the tail fiber-dependent host specificity in Pseudomonas aeruginosa phages has not been well studied. This study aimed to identify and investigate the binding specificity of the RBP of P. aeruginosa phages PaP1 and JG004. These two phages share high DNA sequence homology but exhibit different host specificities. A spontaneous mutant phage was isolated and exhibited broader host range compared with the parental phage JG004. Sequencing of its putative tail fiber and baseplate region indicated a single point mutation in ORF84 (a putative tail fiber gene), which resulted in the replacement of a positively charged lysine (K) by an uncharged asparagine (N). We further demonstrated that the replacement of the tail fiber gene (ORF69) of PaP1 with the corresponding gene from phage JG004 resulted in a recombinant phage that displayed altered host specificity. Our study revealed the tail fiber-dependent host specificity in P. aeruginosa phages and provided an effective tool for its alteration. These contributions may have potential value in phage therapy.
Acyl homoserine lactone (AHL)-based quorum sensing commonly refers to cell density-dependent regulatory mechanisms found in bacteria. However, beyond bacteria, this cell-to-cell communication mechanism is poorly understood. Here we show that a methanogenic archaeon, Methanosaeta harundinacea 6Ac, encodes an active quorum sensing system that is used to regulate cell assembly and carbon metabolic flux. The methanogen 6Ac showed a cell density-dependent physiology transition, which was related to the AHL present in the spent culture and the filI gene-encoded AHL synthase. Through extensive chemical analyses, a new class of carboxylated AHLs synthesized by FilI protein was identified. These carboxylated AHLs facilitated the transition from a short cell to filamentous growth, with an altered carbon metabolic flux that favoured the conversion of acetate to methane and a reduced yield in cellular biomass. The transcriptomes of the filaments and the short cell forms differed with gene expression profiles consistent with the physiology. In the filaments, genes encoding the initial enzymes in the methanogenesis pathway were upregulated, whereas those for cellular carbon assimilation were downregulated. A luxI–luxR ortholog filI–filR was present in the genome of strain 6Ac. The carboxylated AHLs were also detected in other methanogen cultures and putative filI orthologs were identified in other methanogenic genomes as well. This discovery of AHL-based quorum sensing systems in methanogenic archaea implies that quorum sensing mechanisms are universal among prokaryotes.
carboxylated acyl homoserine lactones; filI-encoded AHL synthase; methanogenic archaea; physiology transition; quorum sensing
Acidogenicity and aciduricity are the main virulence factors of the cavity-causing bacterium Streptococcus mutans. Monitoring at the individual cell level the temporal and spatial distribution of acid produced by this important oral pathogen is central for our understanding of these key virulence factors especially when S. mutans resides in multi-species microbial communities. In this study, we explored the application of pH-sensitive green fluorescent proteins (pHluorins) to investigate these important features. Ecliptic pHluorin was functionally displayed on the cell surface of S. mutans as a fusion protein with SpaP. The resulting strain (O87) was used to monitor temporal and spatial pH changes in the microenvironment of S. mutans cells under both planktonic and biofilm conditions. Using strain O87, we revealed a rapid pH drop in the microenviroment of S. mutans microcolonies prior to the decrease in the macro-environment pH following sucrose fermentation. Meanwhile, a non-uniform pH distribution was observed within S. mutans biofilms, reflecting differences in microbial metabolic activity. Furthermore, strain O87 was successfully used to monitor the S. mutans acid production profiles within dual- and multispecies oral biofilms. Based on these findings, the ecliptic pHluorin allows us to investigate in vivo and in situ acid production and distribution by the cariogenic species S. mutans.
Type IV pili (TFP) and exopolysaccharides (EPS) are important components for social behaviors in Myxococcus xanthus, including gliding motility and fruiting body formation. Although specific interactions between TFP and EPS have been proposed, direct observations of these interactions under native condition have not yet been made. In this study, we found that a truncated PilA protein (PilACt) which only contains the C-terminal domain (amino acids 32-208) is sufficient for EPS binding in vitro. Furthermore, an enhanced green fluorescent protein (eGFP) and PilACt fusion protein was constructed and used to label the native EPS in M. xanthus. Under confocal laser scanning microscope, the eGFP-PilACt-bound fruiting bodies, trail structures and biofilms exhibited similar patterns as the wheat germ agglutinin lectin (WGA)-labeled EPS structures. This study showed that eGFP-PilACt fusion protein was able to efficiently label the EPS of M. xanthus and for the first time provided evidence for the direct interaction between the PilA protein and EPS under native conditions.
Type IV Pilin; Exopolysaccharides; Biofilm; Fruiting body; Confocal laser scanning microscopy; eGFP
One intriguing discovery in modern microbiology is the extensive presence of extracellular DNA (eDNA) within biofilms of various bacterial species. Although several biological functions have been suggested for eDNA, including involvement in biofilm formation, the detailed mechanism of eDNA integration into biofilm architecture is still poorly understood. In the biofilms formed by Myxococcus xanthus, a Gram-negative soil bacterium with complex morphogenesis and social behaviors, DNA was found within both extracted and native extracellular matrices (ECM). Further examination revealed that these eDNA molecules formed well organized structures that were similar in appearance to the organization of exopolysaccharides (EPS) in ECM. Biochemical and image analyses confirmed that eDNA bound to and colocalized with EPS within the ECM of starvation biofilms and fruiting bodies. In addition, ECM containing eDNA exhibited greater physical strength and biological stress resistance compared to DNase I treated ECM. Taken together, these findings demonstrate that DNA interacts with EPS and strengthens biofilm structures in M. xanthus.
As part of the human gastrointestinal tract, the oral cavity represents a complex biological system and harbors diverse bacterial species. Unlike the gut microbiota which is often considered a health asset, studies of the oral commensal microbial flora have been largely limited to their implication in oral diseases such as dental caries and periodontal diseases; Little emphasis has been given to their potential beneficial roles, especially the protective effects against oral colonization by foreign/pathogenic bacteria. In this study, we used the salivary microbiota derived from healthy human subjects to investigate protective effects against the colonization and integration of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, an opportunistic bacterial pathogen, into developing and pre-formed salivary biofilms. When co-cultivated in saliva medium, P. aeruginosa persisted in the planktonic phase, but failed to integrate into salivary microbial community during biofilm formation. Furthermore, in the saliva medium supplemented with 0.05% (w/v) sucrose, the oral flora inhibited the growth of P. aeruginosa by producing lactic acid. More interestingly, while pre-formed salivary biofilms were able to prevent P. aeruginosa colonization, the same biofilms recovered from mild chlorhexidine gluconate treatment displayed a shift in microbial composition and showed a drastic reduction in protection. Our study indicates that normal oral communities with balanced microbial compositions could be important in effectively preventing the integration of foreign/pathogenic bacterial species, such as P. aeruginosa.
bacterial interference; microbial flora; oral cavity; Pseudomonas aeruginosa; salivary biofilm
Streptococcus mutans is considered a major causative of tooth decay due to it’s ability to rapidly metabolize carbohydrates such as sucrose. One prominent excreted end product of sucrose metabolism is lactic acid. Lactic acid causes a decrease in the pH of the oral environment with subsequent demineralization of the tooth enamel. Biologically relevant bacteria-induced enamel demineralization was studied.
Optical profiling was used to measure tooth enamel decay with vertical resolution under one nanometer and lateral features with optical resolution as a result of S. mutans biofilm exposure. Comparison measurements were made using AFM.
After 72 hr of biofilm exposure the enamel displayed an 8-fold increase in the observed roughness average, (Ra), as calculated over the entire measured array. Similarly, the average root mean square (RMS) roughness, RRMS, of the enamel before and after biofilm exposure for 3 days displayed a 7-fold increase. Further, the direct effect of chemically induced enamel demineralization using biologically relevant organic acids was shown. Optical profiles of the enamel surface after addition of a 30% lactic acid solution showed a significant alteration in the surface topography with a corresponding increase in respective surface roughness statistics. Similar measurements with 10% citric acid over seconds and minutes give insight into the demineralization process by providing quantitative measures for erosion rates: comparing surface height and roughness as metrics.
The strengths of optical profilometry as an analytical tool for understanding and analyzing biologically relevant processes such as biofilm induced tooth enamel demineralization were demonstrated.
enamel erosion; optical profilometry; biofilm; Streptococcus mutans; enamel demineralization; citric acid; lactic acid; AFM
We have previously characterized the interactions of the response regulator ComE from Streptococcus mutans and DNA binding sites through DNase I footprinting and electrophoretic mobility shift assay analysis. Since response regulator functions are often affected by their phosphorylation state, we investigated how phosphorylation affects the biochemical function of ComE. Unlike many response regulators, we found that the phosphorylation state of ComE does not likely play a role in DNA binding affinity but rather seems to induce the formation of an oligomeric form of the protein. The role of this oligomerization state for ComE function is discussed.
This study investigated the bacterial communities residing in the apical portion of human teeth with apical periodontitis in primary and secondary infections using a culture-independent molecular biology approach.
Root canal samples from the apical root segments of extracted teeth were collected from 18 teeth with necrotic pulp and 8 teeth with previous endodontic treatment. Samples were processed for amplification via polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and separated with denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE). Selected bands were excised from the gel and sequenced for identification.
Comparable to previous studies of entire root canals, the apical bacterial communities in primary infections were significantly more diverse than in secondary infections (p=0.0003). Inter- and intra-patient comparisons exhibited similar variations in profiles. Different roots of the same teeth with secondary infections displayed low similarity in bacterial composition, while an equivalent sample collected from primary infection contained almost identical populations. Sequencing revealed a high prevalence of fusobacteria, Actinomyces sp. and oral Anaeroglobus geminatus in both types of infection. Many secondary infections contained Burkholderiales or Pseudomonas sp. both of which represent opportunistic environmental pathogens.
Certain microorganisms exhibit similar prevalence in primary and secondary infection indicating that they are likely not eradicated during endodontic treatment. The presence of Burkholderiales and Pseudomonas sp. underscores the problem of environmental contamination. Treatment appears to affect the various root canals of multi-rooted teeth differently, resulting in local changes of the microbiota.
Apical periodontitis; endodontic infections; community profiling; polymerase chain reaction; denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis
Type IV pili (TFP) are membrane-anchored filaments with a number of important biological functions. In the model organism Myxococcus xanthus, TFP act as molecular engines that power social (S) motility through cycles of extension and retraction. TFP filaments consist of several thousand copies of a protein called PilA or pilin. PilA contains an N-terminal α-helix essential for TFP assembly and a C-terminal globular domain important for its activity. The role of the PilA sequence and its structure–function relationship in TFP-dependent S motility remain active areas of research. In this study, we identified an M. xanthus PilA mutant carrying an alanine to valine substitution at position 32 in the α-helix, which produced structurally intact but retraction-defective TFP. Characterization of this mutant and additional single-residue variants at this position in PilA demonstrated the critical role of alanine 32 in PilA stability, TFP assembly and retraction.
It is a well-recognized fact that the composition of human salivary microbial community is greatly affected by its nutritional environment. However, most studies are currently focused on major carbon or nitrogen sources with limited attention to trace elements like essential mineral ions. In this study, we examined the effect of iron availability on the bacterial profiles of an in vitro human salivary microbial community as iron is an essential trace element for the survival and proliferation of virtually all microorganisms. Analysis via a combination of PCR with denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) demonstrated a drastic change in species composition of an in vitro human salivary microbiota when iron was scavenged from the culture medium by addition of the iron chelator 2,2’- bipyridyl (Bipy). This shift in community profile was prevented by the presence of excessive ferrous iron (Fe2+). Most interestingly, under iron deficiency, the in vitro grown salivary microbial community became dominated by several hemolytic bacterial species, including Streptococcus spp., Gemella spp. and Granulicatella spp.all of which have been implicated in infective endocarditis. These data provide evidence that iron availability can modulate host-associated oral microbial communities, resulting in a microbiota with potential clinical impact.
iron availability; microbial flora; oral cavity
The development of multispecies oral microbial communities involves complex intra- and interspecies interactions at various levels. The ability to adhere to the resident bacteria or the biofilm matrix and overcome community resistance are among the key factors that determine whether a bacterium can integrate into a community. In this study, we focus on community integration of Fusobacterium nucleatum, a prevalent Gram-negative oral bacterial species that is considered an important member of the oral community due to its ability to adhere to Gram-positive as well as Gram-negative species. This interaction with a variety of different species is thought to facilitate the establishment of multispecies oral microbial community. However, the majority of experiments thus far has focused on the physical adherence between two species as measured by in vitro co-aggregation assays, while the community-based effects on the integration of F. nucleatum into multispecies microbial community remains to be investigated. In this study, we demonstrated using an established in vitro mice oral microbiota (O-mix) that the viability of F. nucleatum was significantly reduced upon addition to the O-mix due to cell contact-dependent induction of hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) production by oral community. Interestingly, this inhibitory effect was significantly alleviated when F. nucleatum was allowed to adhere to its known interacting partner species (such as Streptococcus sanguinis) prior to addition. Furthermore, this aggregate formation-dependent protection was absent in the F. nucleatum mutant strain ΔFn1526 that is unable to bind to a number of Gram-positive species. More importantly, this protective effect was also observed during integration of F. nucleatum into a human salivary microbial community (S-mix). These results support the idea that by adhering to other oral microbes, such as streptococci, F. nucleatum is able to mask the surface components that are recognized by H2O2 producing oral community members. This evasion strategy prevents detection by antagonistic oral bacteria and allows integration into the developing oral microbial community.
coaggregation; Fusobacterium nucleatum; microbial flora; oral cavity; community resistance
Many human microbial infectious diseases including dental caries are polymicrobial in nature. How these complex multi-species communities evolve from a healthy to a diseased state is not well understood. Although many health- or disease-associated oral bacteria have been characterized in vitro, their physiology within the complex oral microbiome is difficult to determine with current approaches. In addition, about half of these species remain uncultivated to date with little known besides their 16S rRNA sequence. Lacking culture-based physiological analyses, the functional roles of uncultivated species will remain enigmatic despite their apparent disease correlation. To start addressing these knowledge gaps, we applied a combination of Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (MRS) with RNA and DNA based Stable Isotope Probing (SIP) to oral plaque communities from healthy children for in vitro temporal monitoring of metabolites and identification of metabolically active and inactive bacterial species.
Supragingival plaque samples from caries-free children incubated with 13C-substrates under imposed healthy (buffered, pH 7) and diseased states (pH 5.5 and pH 4.5) produced lactate as the dominant organic acid from glucose metabolism. Rapid lactate utilization upon glucose depletion was observed under pH 7 conditions. SIP analyses revealed a number of genera containing cultured and uncultivated taxa with metabolic capabilities at pH 5.5. The diversity of active species decreased significantly at pH 4.5 and was dominated by Lactobacillus and Propionibacterium species, both of which have been previously found within carious lesions from children.
Our approach allowed for identification of species that metabolize carbohydrates under different pH conditions and supports the importance of Lactobacilli and Propionibacterium in the development of childhood caries. Identification of species within healthy subjects that are active at low pH can lead to a better understanding of oral caries onset and generate appropriate targets for preventative measures in the early stages.
The specifically targeted antimicrobial peptide (STAMP) C16G2 was developed to target the cariogenic oral pathogen Streptococcus mutans. Because the design of this peptide was novel, we sought to better understand the mechanism through which it functioned. Compared to antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) with wide spectra of activity, the STAMP C16G2 has demonstrated specificity for S. mutans in a mixed-culture environment, resulting in the complete killing of S. mutans while having minimal effect on the other streptococci. In the current study, we sought to further confirm the selectivity of C16G2 and also compare its membrane activity to that of melittin B, a classical toxic AMP, in order to determine the STAMP's mechanism of cell killing. Disruption of S. mutans cell membranes by C16G2 was demonstrated by increased SYTOX green uptake and ATP efflux from the cells similar to those of melittin B. Treatment with C16G2 also resulted in a loss of membrane potential as measured by DiSC(3)5 fluorescence. In comparison, the individual moieties of C16G2 demonstrated no specificity and limited antimicrobial activity compared to those of the STAMP C16G2. The data suggest that C16G2 has a mechanism of action similar to that of traditional AMPs and kills S. mutans through disruption of the cell membrane, allowing small molecules to leak out of the cell, which is followed by a loss of membrane potential and cell death. Interestingly, this membrane activity is rapid and potent against S. mutans, but not other noncariogenic oral streptococci.
In Streptococcus mutans, both competence and bacteriocin production are controlled by ComC and the ComED two-component signal transduction system. Recent studies of S. mutans suggested that purified ComE binds to two 11-bp direct repeats in the nlmC-comC promoter region, where ComE activates nlmC and represses comC. In this work, quantitative binding studies and DNase I footprinting analysis were performed to calculate the equilibrium dissociation constant and further characterize the binding site of ComE. We found that ComE protects sequences inclusive of both direct repeats, has an equilibrium dissociation constant in the nanomolar range, and binds to these two direct repeats cooperatively. Furthermore, similar direct repeats were found upstream of cslAB, comED, comX, ftf, vicRKX, gtfD, gtfB, gtfC, and gbpB. Quantitative binding studies were performed on each of these sequences and showed that only cslAB has a similar specificity and high affinity for ComE as that seen with the upstream region of comC. A mutational analysis of the binding sequences showed that ComE does not require both repeats to bind DNA with high affinity, suggesting that single site sequences in the genome may be targets for ComE-mediated regulation. Based on the mutational analysis and DNase I footprinting analysis, we propose a consensus ComE binding site, TCBTAAAYSGT.
Myxococcus xanthus belongs to the delta class of the proteobacteria and is notable for its complex life-style with social behaviors and relatively large genome. Although previous observations have suggested the existence of horizontal gene transfer in M. xanthus, its ability to take up exogenous DNA via natural transformation has not been experimentally demonstrated. In this study, we achieved natural transformation in M. xanthus using the autonomously replicating myxobacterial plasmid pZJY41 as donor DNA. M. xanthus exopolysaccharide (EPS) was shown to be an extracellular barrier for transformation. Cells deficient in EPS production, e.g., mutant strains carrying ΔdifA or ΔepsA, became naturally transformable. Among the inner barriers to transformation were restriction-modification systems in M. xanthus, which could be partially overcome by methylating DNA in vitro using cell extracts of M. xanthus prior to transformation. In addition, the incubation time of DNA with cells and the presence of divalent magnesium ion affected transformation frequency of M. xanthus. Furthermore, we also observed a potential involvement of the type IV pilus system in the DNA uptake machinery of M. xanthus. The natural transformation was totally eliminated in the ΔpilQ/epsA and Δtgl/epsA mutants, and null mutation of pilB or pilC in an ΔepsA background diminished the transformation rate. Our study, to the best of our knowledge, provides the first example of a naturally transformable species among deltaproteobacteria.
Finding unique peptides to target specific biological surfaces is crucial to basic research and technology development, though methods based on biological arrays or large libraries limit the speed and ease with which these necessary compounds can be found. We reasoned that because biological surfaces, such as cell surfaces, mineralized tissues, and various extracellular matrices have unique molecular compositions, they present unique physicochemical signatures to the surrounding medium which could be probed by peptides with appropriately corresponding physicochemical properties. To test this hypothesis, a naïve pilot library of 36 peptides, varying in their hydrophobicity and charge, was arranged in a two-dimensional matrix and screened against various biological surfaces. While the number of peptides in the matrix library was very small, we obtained “hits” against all biological surfaces probed. Sequence refinement of the “hits” led to peptides with markedly higher specificity and binding activity against screened biological surfaces. Genetic studies revealed that peptide binding to bacteria was mediated, at least in some cases, by specific cell-surface molecules, while examination of human tooth sections showed that this method can be used to derive peptides with highly specific binding to human tissue.
Identifying essential factors in cellular interactions and organized movement of cells is important in predicting behavioral phenotypes exhibited by many bacterial cells. We chose to study Myxococcus xanthus, a soil bacterium whose individual cell behavior changes while in groups, leading to spontaneous formation of aggregation center during the early stage of fruiting body development. In this paper, we develop a cell-based computational model that solely relies on experimentally determined parameters to investigate minimal elements required to produce the observed social behaviors in M. xanthus. The model verifies previously known essential parameters and identifies one novel parameter, the active turning, which we define as the ability and tendency of a cell to turn to a certain angle without the presence of any obvious external factors. The simulation is able to produce both gliding pattern and spontaneous aggregation center formation as observed in experiments. The model is tested against several known M. xanthus mutants and our modification of parameter values relevant for the individual mutants produces good phenotypic agreements. This outcome indicates the strong predictive potential of our model for the social behaviors of uncharacterized mutants and their expected phenotypes during development.