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author:("Shi, wenchuan")
1.  Oligomerization of the Response Regulator ComE from Streptococcus mutans Is Affected by Phosphorylation 
Journal of Bacteriology  2012;194(5):1127-1135.
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.
PMCID: PMC3294772  PMID: 22210762
2.  Characterization of DNA Binding Sites of the ComE Response Regulator from Streptococcus mutans▿† 
Journal of Bacteriology  2011;193(14):3642-3652.
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.
PMCID: PMC3133340  PMID: 21602345
3.  Natural Transformation of Myxococcus xanthus▿† 
Journal of Bacteriology  2011;193(9):2122-2132.
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.
PMCID: PMC3133062  PMID: 21378184
4.  Three-Dimensional Macromolecular Organization of Cryofixed Myxococcus xanthus Biofilms as Revealed by Electron Microscopic Tomography ▿ †  
Journal of Bacteriology  2009;191(7):2077-2082.
Despite the fact that most bacteria grow in biofilms in natural and pathogenic ecosystems, very little is known about the ultrastructure of their component cells or about the details of their community architecture. We used high-pressure freezing and freeze-substitution to minimize the artifacts of chemical fixation, sample aggregation, and sample extraction. As a further innovation we have, for the first time in biofilm research, used electron tomography and three-dimensional (3D) visualization to better resolve the macromolecular 3D ultrastructure of a biofilm. This combination of superb specimen preparation and greatly improved resolution in the z axis has opened a window in studies of Myxococcus xanthus cell ultrastructure and biofilm community architecture. New structural information on the chromatin body, cytoplasmic organization, membrane apposition between adjacent cells, and structure and distribution of pili and vesicles in the biofilm matrix is presented.
PMCID: PMC2655519  PMID: 19168614
5.  SO-LAAO, a Novel l-Amino Acid Oxidase That Enables Streptococcus oligofermentans To Outcompete Streptococcus mutans by Generating H2O2 from Peptone▿ † 
Journal of Bacteriology  2008;190(13):4716-4721.
We previously demonstrated that Streptococcus oligofermentans suppressed the growth of Streptococcus mutans, the primary cariogenic pathogen, by producing hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) through lactate oxidase activity. In this study, we found that the lox mutant of S. oligofermentans regained the inhibition while growing on peptone-rich plates. Further studies demonstrated that the H2O2 produced on peptone by S. oligofermentans was mainly derived from seven l-amino acids, i.e., l-aspartic acid, l-tryptophan, l-lysine, l-isoleucine, l-arginine, l-asparagine, and l-glutamine, indicating the possible existence of l-amino acid oxidase (LAAO) that can produce H2O2 from l-amino acids. Through searching the S. oligofermentans genome for open reading frames with a conserved flavin adenine dinucleotide binding motif that exists in the known LAAOs, including those of snake venom, fungi, and bacteria, a putative LAAO gene, assigned as aaoSo, was cloned and overexpressed in Escherichia coli. The purified protein, SO-LAAO, showed a molecular mass of 43 kDa in sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis and catalyzed H2O2 formation from the seven l-amino acids determined above, thus confirming its LAAO activity. The SO-LAAO identified in S. oligofermentans differed evidently from the known LAAOs in both substrate profile and sequence, suggesting that it could represent a novel LAAO. An aaoSo mutant of S. oligofermentans did lose H2O2 formation from the seven l-amino acids, further verifying its function as an LAAO. Furthermore, the inhibition by S. oligofermentans of S. mutans in a peptone-rich mixed-species biofilm was greatly reduced for the aaoSo mutant, indicating the gene's importance in interspecies competition.
PMCID: PMC2446784  PMID: 18469105
6.  β-d-Allose Inhibits Fruiting Body Formation and Sporulation in Myxococcus xanthus▿  
Journal of Bacteriology  2006;189(1):169-178.
Myxococcus xanthus, a gram-negative soil bacterium, responds to amino acid starvation by entering a process of multicellular development which culminates in the assembly of spore-filled fruiting bodies. Previous studies utilizing developmental inhibitors (such as methionine, lysine, or threonine) have revealed important clues about the mechanisms involved in fruiting body formation. We used Biolog phenotype microarrays to screen 384 chemicals for complete inhibition of fruiting body development in M. xanthus. Here, we report the identification of a novel inhibitor of fruiting body formation and sporulation, β-d-allose. β-d-Allose, a rare sugar, is a member of the aldohexose family and a C3 epimer of glucose. Our studies show that β-d-allose does not affect cell growth, viability, agglutination, or motility. However, β-galactosidase reporters demonstrate that genes activated between 4 and 14 h of development show significantly lower expression levels in the presence of β-d-allose. Furthermore, inhibition of fruiting body formation occurs only when β-d-allose is added to submerged cultures before 12 h of development. In competition studies, high concentrations of galactose and xylose antagonize the nonfruiting response to β-d-allose, while glucose is capable of partial antagonism. Finally, a magellan-4 transposon mutagenesis screen identified glcK, a putative glucokinase gene, required for β-d-allose-mediated inhibition of fruiting body formation. Subsequent glucokinase activity assays of the glcK mutant further supported the role of this protein in glucose phosphorylation.
PMCID: PMC1797229  PMID: 17056749
7.  Competition and Coexistence between Streptococcus mutans and Streptococcus sanguinis in the Dental Biofilm 
Journal of Bacteriology  2005;187(21):7193-7203.
The human mucosal surface is colonized by the indigenous microflora, which normally maintains an ecological balance among different species. Certain environmental or biological factors, however, may trigger disruption of this balance, leading to microbial diseases. In this study, we used two oral bacterial species, Streptococcus mutans and Streptococcus sanguinis (formerly S. sanguis), as a model to probe the possible mechanisms of competition/coexistence between different species which occupy the same ecological niche. We show that the two species engage in a multitude of antagonistic interactions temporally and spatially; occupation of a niche by one species precludes colonization by the other, while simultaneous colonization by both species results in coexistence. Environmental conditions, such as cell density, nutritional availability, and pH, play important roles in determining the outcome of these interactions. Genetic and biochemical analyses reveal that these interspecies interactions are possibly mediated through a well-regulated production of chemicals, such as bacteriocins (produced by S. mutans) and hydrogen peroxide (produced by S. sanguinis). Consistent with the phenotypic characteristics, production of bacteriocins and H2O2 are regulated by environmental conditions, as well as by juxtaposition of the two species. These sophisticated interspecies interactions could play an essential part in balancing competition/coexistence within multispecies microbial communities.
PMCID: PMC1272965  PMID: 16237003
8.  Divergent Regulatory Pathways Control A and S Motility in Myxococcus xanthus through FrzE, a CheA-CheY Fusion Protein†  
Journal of Bacteriology  2005;187(5):1716-1723.
Myxococcus xanthus moves on solid surfaces by using two gliding motility systems, A motility for individual-cell movement and S motility for coordinated group movements. The frz genes encode chemotaxis homologues that control the cellular reversal frequency of both motility systems. One of the components of the core Frz signal transduction pathway, FrzE, is homologous to both CheA and CheY from the enteric bacteria and is therefore a novel CheA-CheY fusion protein. In this study, we investigated the role of this fusion protein, in particular, the CheY domain (FrzECheY). FrzECheY retains all of the highly conserved residues of the CheY superfamily of response regulators, including Asp709, analogous to phosphoaccepting Asp57 of Escherichia coli CheY. While in-frame deletion of the entire frzE gene caused both motility systems to show a hyporeversal phenotype, in-frame deletion of the FrzECheY domain resulted in divergent phenotypes for the two motility systems: hyperreversals of the A-motility system and hyporeversals of the S-motility system. To further investigate the role of FrzECheY in A and S motility, point mutations were constructed such that the putative phosphoaccepting residue, Asp709, was changed from D to A (and was therefore never subject to phosphorylation) or E (possibly mimicking constitutive phosphorylation). The D709A mutant showed hyperreversals for both motilities, while the D709E mutant showed hyperreversals for A motility and hyporeversal for S motility. These results show that the FrzECheY domain plays a critical signaling role in coordinating A and S motility. On the basis of the phenotypic analyses of the frzE mutants generated in this study, a model is proposed for the divergent signal transduction through FrzE in controlling and coordinating A and S motility in M. xanthus.
PMCID: PMC1064013  PMID: 15716443
9.  A CheW Homologue Is Required for Myxococcus xanthus Fruiting Body Development, Social Gliding Motility, and Fibril Biogenesis 
Journal of Bacteriology  2002;184(20):5654-5660.
In bacteria with multiple sets of chemotaxis genes, the deletion of homologous genes or even different genes in the same operon can result in disparate phenotypes. Myxococcus xanthus is a bacterium with multiple sets of chemotaxis genes and/or homologues. It was shown previously that difA and difE, encoding homologues of the methyl-accepting chemoreceptor protein (MCP) and the CheA kinase, respectively, are required for M. xanthus social gliding (S) motility and development. Both difA and difE mutants were also defective in the biogenesis of the cell surface appendages known as extracellular matrix fibrils. In this study, we investigated the roles of the CheW homologue encoded by difC, a gene at the same locus as difA and difE. We showed that difC mutations resulted in defects in M. xanthus developmental aggregation, sporulation, and S motility. We demonstrated that difC is indispensable for wild-type cellular cohesion and fibril biogenesis but not for pilus production. We further illustrated the ectopic complementation of a difC in-frame deletion by a wild-type difC. The identical phenotypes of difA, difC, and difE mutants are consistent and supportive of the hypothesis that the Dif chemotaxis homologues constitute a chemotaxis-like signal transduction pathway that regulates M. xanthus fibril biogenesis and S motility.
PMCID: PMC139594  PMID: 12270823
10.  Construction and Characterization of a cheA Mutant of Treponema denticola 
Journal of Bacteriology  2002;184(11):3130-3134.
The Treponema denticola cheA gene, encoding the central kinase of the general chemotaxis pathway, was analyzed for its role in chemotaxis and tissue penetration. The cheA gene was interrupted by insertion of an ermF-ermAM gene cassette. Reverse transcription-PCR confirmed that the other downstream chemotaxis genes within the same operon (cheW, cheX, and cheY) were still expressed in the cheA mutant strain. Lack of cheA resulted in decreased swarming on soft-agar swarm plates and failure to respond chemotactically to a mixture of nutrients. Behavioral analyses using video microscopy revealed that the cheA mutant exhibited coordinated cell movement. The cellular reversal frequency, however, was severely reduced, indicating that CheA in T. denticola mainly controls cellular reversal and that active chemotaxis signaling input is not required for coordination of flagellar rotation at both cell poles.
PMCID: PMC135053  PMID: 12003957
11.  Mapping of Myxococcus xanthus Social Motility dsp Mutations to the dif Genes 
Journal of Bacteriology  2002;184(5):1462-1465.
Myxococcus xanthus dsp and dif mutants have similar phenotypes in that they are deficient in social motility and fruiting body development. We compared the two loci by genetic mapping, complementation with a cosmid clone, DNA sequencing, and gene disruption and found that 16 of the 18 dsp alleles map to the dif genes. Another dsp allele contains a mutation in the sglK gene. About 36.6 kb around the dsp-dif locus was sequenced and annotated, and 50% of the genes are novel.
PMCID: PMC134841  PMID: 11844780
12.  Analyses of mrp Genes during Myxococcus xanthus Development 
Journal of Bacteriology  2001;183(23):6733-6739.
Myxococcus xanthus is a gram-negative soil bacterium that undergoes development under starvation conditions. Our previous study identified a new genetic locus, mrp, which is required for both fruiting body formation and sporulation. The locus encodes two transcripts: mrpAB, which consists of a histidine kinase and an NtrC-like response regulator, and mrpC, a cyclic AMP receptor protein family transcription activator. In this study, we used genetic and biochemical analyses to investigate the possible interactions between the mrp genes and other known developmental genes and events. These studies show that the mrp genes possibly function after A-signaling and (p)ppGpp but before C-signaling and that they regulate various early and late developmental genes and events.
PMCID: PMC95511  PMID: 11698359
13.  Genetic Studies of mrp, a Locus Essential for Cellular Aggregation and Sporulation of Myxococcus xanthus 
Journal of Bacteriology  2001;183(16):4786-4795.
Under starvation conditions, Myxococcus xanthus undergoes a complex developmental process which includes cellular aggregation and sporulation. A transposon insertion mutant (the Tn5-Ω280 mutant) with defects in both aggregation and sporulation was analyzed in this study. The Tn5-Ω280 mutant was found to have a disrupted NtrC-like response regulator designated Myxococcus regulatory protein B (mrpB). Further sequencing analyses revealed a histidine kinase homolog (mrpA) immediately upstream of mrpB and a cyclic AMP receptor protein-like transcriptional regulator (mrpC) downstream of mrpB. In-frame deletion analyses revealed that both the mrpB and mrpC genes were required for cellular aggregation and sporulation but that only mrpA was required for sporulation only. Site-specific mutagenesis of the putative phosphorylation site of MrpB, D58, showed that a D58A mutation caused defects in both aggregation and sporulation but that a D58E mutation resulted in only a sporulation defect. Further genetic and molecular analyses with reporter genes and reverse transcription-PCR indicated that mrpA and mrpB are cotranscribed but that mrpC is transcribed independently and that all of these genes are developmentally regulated. In addition, MrpB is essential for transcription of mrpC and MrpC regulates its own transcription. These data indicate that Mrp proteins are important components required for M. xanthus development. The complicated interaction between Mrp proteins may play an important role in regulating developmental gene expression in M. xanthus.
PMCID: PMC99533  PMID: 11466282
14.  Myxococcus xanthus dif Genes Are Required for Biogenesis of Cell Surface Fibrils Essential for Social Gliding Motility 
Journal of Bacteriology  2000;182(20):5793-5798.
Myxococcus xanthus social (S) gliding motility has been previously reported by us to require the chemotaxis homologues encoded by the dif genes. In addition, two cell surface structures, type IV pili and extracellular matrix fibrils, are also critical to M. xanthus S motility. We have demonstrated here that M. xanthus dif genes are required for the biogenesis of fibrils but not for that of type IV pili. Furthermore, the developmental defects of dif mutants can be partially rescued by the addition of isolated fibril materials. Along with the chemotaxis genes of various swarming bacteria and the pilGHIJ genes of the twitching bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa, the M. xanthus dif genes belong to a unique class of bacterial chemotaxis genes or homologues implicated in the biogenesis of structures required for bacterial surface locomotion. Genetic studies indicate that the dif genes are linked to the M. xanthus dsp region, a locus known to be crucial for M. xanthus fibril biogenesis and S gliding.
PMCID: PMC94702  PMID: 11004179
15.  Methylation of FrzCD Defines a Discrete Step in the Developmental Program of Myxococcus xanthus 
Journal of Bacteriology  1998;180(21):5765-5768.
Myxococcus xanthus is a gram-negative soil bacterium which undergoes fruiting body formation during starvation. The frz signal transduction system has been found to play an important role in this process. FrzCD, a methyl-accepting taxis protein homologue, shows modulated methylation during cellular aggregation, which is thought to be part of an adaptation response to an aggregation signal. In this study, we assayed FrzCD methylation in many known and newly isolated mutants defective in fruiting body formation to determine a possible relationship between the methylation response and fruiting morphology. The results of our analysis indicated that the developmental mutants could be divided into two groups based on their ability to show normal FrzCD methylation during development. Many mutants blocked early in development, i.e., nonaggregating or abnormally aggregating mutants, showed poor FrzCD methylation. The well-characterized asg, bsg, csg, and esg mutants were found to be of this type. The defects in FrzCD methylation of these signaling mutants could be partially rescued by extracellular complementation with wild-type cells or addition of chemicals which restore their fruiting body formation. Mutants blocked in late development, i.e., translucent mounds, showed normal FrzCD methylation. Surprisingly, some mutants blocked in early development also exhibited a normal level of FrzCD methylation. The characterized mutants in this group were found to be defective in social motility. This indicates that FrzCD methylation defines a discrete step in the development of M. xanthus and that social motility mutants are not blocked in these early developmental steps.
PMCID: PMC107640  PMID: 9791131
16.  Chemotaxis in Borrelia burgdorferi 
Journal of Bacteriology  1998;180(2):231-235.
Borrelia burgdorferi is a motile spirochete which has been identified as the causative microorganism in Lyme disease. The physiological functions which govern the motility of this organism have not been elucidated. In this study, we found that motility of B. burgdorferi required an environment similar to interstitial fluid (e.g., pH 7.6 and 0.15 M NaCl). Several methods were used to detect and measure chemotaxis of B. burgdorferi. A number of chemical compounds and mixtures were surveyed for the ability to induce positive and negative chemotaxis of B. burgdorferi. Rabbit serum was found to be an attractant for B. burgdorferi, while ethanol and butanol were found to be repellents. Unlike some free-living spirochetes (e.g., Spirochaeta aurantia), B. burgdorferi did not exhibit any observable chemotaxis to common sugars or amino acids. A method was developed to produce spirochete cells with a self-entangled end. These cells enabled us to study the rotation of a single flagellar bundle in response to chemoattractants or repellents. The study shows that the frequency and duration for pausing of flagella are important for chemotaxis of B. burgdorferi.
PMCID: PMC106876  PMID: 9440510
17.  A DnaK Homolog in Myxococcus xanthus Is Involved in Social Motility and Fruiting Body Formation 
Journal of Bacteriology  1998;180(2):218-224.
Myxococcus xanthus is a gram-negative soil bacterium which exhibits a complex life cycle and social behavior. In this study, two developmental mutants of M. xanthus were isolated through Tn5 transposon mutagenesis. The mutants were found to be defective in cellular aggregation as well as in sporulation. Further phenotypic characterization indicated that the mutants were defective in social motility but normal in directed cell movements. Both mutations were cloned by a transposon-tagging method. Sequence analysis indicated that both insertions occurred in the same gene, which encodes a homolog of DnaK. Unlike the dnaK genes in other bacteria, this M. xanthus homolog appears not to be regulated by temperature or heat shock and is constitutively expressed during vegetative growth and under starvation. The defects of the mutants indicate that this DnaK homolog is important for the social motility and development of M. xanthus.
PMCID: PMC106874  PMID: 9440508

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