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1.  Decrypting the H-NS-dependent regulatory cascade of acid stress resistance in Escherichia coli 
BMC Microbiology  2010;10:273.
H-NS regulates the acid stress resistance. The present study aimed to characterize the H-NS-dependent cascade governing the acid stress resistance pathways and to define the interplay between the different regulators.
We combined mutational, phenotypic and gene expression analyses, to unravel the regulatory hierarchy in acid resistance involving H-NS, RcsB-P/GadE complex, HdfR, CadC, AdiY regulators, and DNA-binding assays to separate direct effects from indirect ones. RcsB-P/GadE regulatory complex, the general direct regulator of glutamate-, arginine- and lysine-dependent acid resistance pathways plays a central role in the regulatory cascade. However, H-NS also directly controls specific regulators of these pathways (e.g. cadC) and genes involved in general stress resistance (hdeAB, hdeD, dps, adiY). Finally, we found that in addition to H-NS and RcsB, a third regulator, HdfR, inversely controls glutamate-dependent acid resistance pathway and motility.
H-NS lies near the top of the hierarchy orchestrating acid response centred on RcsB-P/GadE regulatory complex, the general direct regulator of glutamate-, arginine- and lysine-dependent acid resistance pathways.
PMCID: PMC2984483  PMID: 21034467
2.  Spx mediates oxidative stress regulation of the methionine sulfoxide reductases operon in Bacillus subtilis 
BMC Microbiology  2008;8:128.
All aerobically grown living cells are exposed to oxidative damage by reactive oxygen species (ROS). A major damage by ROS to proteins is caused by covalent modifications of methionine residues giving methionine sulfoxide (Met-SO). Methionine sulfoxide reductases are enzymes able to regenerate methionine and restore protein function after oxidative damage.
We characterized the methionine sulfoxide reductase genes msrA and msrB in Bacillus subtilis, forming an operon transcribed from a single sigma A-dependent promoter. The msrAB operon was specifically induced by oxidative stress caused by paraquat (PQ) but not by H2O2. Spx, a global oxidative stress regulator in B. subtilis, is primarily responsible for this PQ-specific induction of msrAB expression. In support of this finding, an spx deletion mutant is extremely sensitive to PQ, and increased expression of msrA was identified in a clpX mutant in which Spx accumulated. However, the Spx effect was also visible under conditions where the protein did not accumulate (PQ treatment), suggesting a specific molecular effect at the level of the Spx protein. Indeed, the CXXC motif of Spx was found essential for its function in the PQ-specific induction of msrAB expression. PQ caused a modification of Spx requiring at least one of the cysteines of the CXXC motif of Spx. The PQ modified form of Spx showed a dynamic change in vivo.
The Spx mediated PQ-specific regulation pathway of the msrAB operon in B. subtilis is reported. Our results suggest that PQ induced the expression of msrAB partially through an oxidation on Spx via modification of its CXXC motif.
PMCID: PMC2518928  PMID: 18662407
3.  Structure-based discovery of inhibitors of the YycG histidine kinase: New chemical leads to combat Staphylococcus epidermidis infections 
BMC Microbiology  2006;6:96.
Coagulase-negative Staphylococcus epidermidis has become a major frequent cause of infections in relation to the use of implanted medical devices. The pathogenicity of S. epidermidis has been attributed to its capacity to form biofilms on surfaces of medical devices, which greatly increases its resistance to many conventional antibiotics and often results in chronic infection. It has an urgent need to design novel antibiotics against staphylococci infections, especially those can kill cells embedded in biofilm.
In this report, a series of novel inhibitors of the histidine kinase (HK) YycG protein of S. epidermidis were discovered first using structure-based virtual screening (SBVS) from a small molecular lead-compound library, followed by experimental validation. Of the 76 candidates derived by SBVS targeting of the homolog model of the YycG HATPase_c domain of S. epidermidis, seven compounds displayed significant activity in inhibiting S. epidermidis growth. Furthermore, five of them displayed bactericidal effects on both planktonic and biofilm cells of S. epidermidis. Except for one, the compounds were found to bind to the YycG protein and to inhibit its auto-phosphorylation in vitro, indicating that they are potential inhibitors of the YycG/YycF two-component system (TCS), which is essential in S. epidermidis. Importantly, all these compounds did not affect the stability of mammalian cells nor hemolytic activities at the concentrations used in our study.
These novel inhibitors of YycG histidine kinase thus are of potential value as leads for developing new antibiotics against infecting staphylococci. The structure-based virtual screening (SBVS) technology can be widely used in screening potential inhibitors of other bacterial TCSs, since it is more rapid and efficacious than traditional screening technology.
PMCID: PMC1660542  PMID: 17094812
4.  The two authentic methionine aminopeptidase genes are differentially expressed in Bacillus subtilis 
BMC Microbiology  2005;5:57.
Two putative methionine aminopeptidase genes, map (essential) and yflG (non-essential), were identified in the genome sequence of Bacillus subtilis. We investigated whether they can function as methionine aminopeptidases and further explored possible reasons for their essentiality or dispensability in B. subtilis.
In silico analysis of MAP evolution uncovered a coordinated pattern of MAP and deformylase that did not correlate with the pattern of 16S RNA evolution. Biochemical assays showed that both MAP (MAP_Bs) and YflG (YflG_Bs) from B. subtilis overproduced in Escherichia coli and obtained as pure proteins exhibited a methionine aminopeptidase activity in vitro. Compared with MAP_Bs, YflG_Bs was approximately two orders of magnitude more efficient when assayed on synthetic peptide substrates. Both map and yflG genes expressed in multi-copy plasmids could complement the function of a defective map gene in the chromosomes of both E. coli and B. subtilis. In contrast, lacZ gene transcriptional fusions showed that the promoter activity of map was 50 to 100-fold higher than that of yflG. Primer extension analysis detected the transcription start site of the yflG promoter. Further work identified that YvoA acted as a possible weak repressor of yflG expression in B. subtilis in vivo.
Both MAP_Bs and YflG_Bs are functional methionine aminopeptidases in vitro and in vivo. The high expression level of map and low expression level of yflG may account for their essentiality and dispensality in B. subtilis, respectively, when cells are grown under laboratory conditions. Their difference in activity on synthetic substrates suggests that they have different protein targets in vivo.
PMCID: PMC1266368  PMID: 16207374
5.  Bacterial variations on the methionine salvage pathway 
BMC Microbiology  2004;4:9.
The thiomethyl group of S-adenosylmethionine is often recycled as methionine from methylthioadenosine. The corresponding pathway has been unravelled in Bacillus subtilis. However methylthioadenosine is subjected to alternative degradative pathways depending on the organism.
This work uses genome in silico analysis to propose methionine salvage pathways for Klebsiella pneumoniae, Leptospira interrogans, Thermoanaerobacter tengcongensis and Xylella fastidiosa. Experiments performed with mutants of B. subtilis and Pseudomonas aeruginosa substantiate the hypotheses proposed. The enzymes that catalyze the reactions are recruited from a variety of origins. The first, ubiquitous, enzyme of the pathway, MtnA (methylthioribose-1-phosphate isomerase), belongs to a family of proteins related to eukaryotic intiation factor 2B alpha. mtnB codes for a methylthioribulose-1-phosphate dehydratase. Two reactions follow, that of an enolase and that of a phosphatase. While in B. subtilis this is performed by two distinct polypeptides, in the other organisms analyzed here an enolase-phosphatase yields 1,2-dihydroxy-3-keto-5-methylthiopentene. In the presence of dioxygen an aci-reductone dioxygenase yields the immediate precursor of methionine, ketomethylthiobutyrate. Under some conditions this enzyme produces carbon monoxide in B. subtilis, suggesting a route for a new gaseous mediator in bacteria. Ketomethylthiobutyrate is finally transaminated by an aminotransferase that exists usually as a broad specificity enzyme (often able to transaminate aromatic aminoacid keto-acid precursors or histidinol-phosphate).
A functional methionine salvage pathway was experimentally demonstrated, for the first time, in P. aeruginosa. Apparently, methionine salvage pathways are frequent in Bacteria (and in Eukarya), with recruitment of different polypeptides to perform the needed reactions (an ancestor of a translation initiation factor and RuBisCO, as an enolase, in some Firmicutes). Many are highly dependent on the presence of oxygen, suggesting that the ecological niche may play an important role for the existence and/or metabolic steps of the pathway, even in phylogenetically related bacteria. Further work is needed to uncover the corresponding steps when dioxygen is scarce or absent (this is important to explore the presence of the pathway in Archaea). The thermophile T. tengcongensis, that thrives in the absence of oxygen, appears to possess the pathway. It will be an interesting link to uncover the missing reactions in anaerobic environments.
PMCID: PMC395828  PMID: 15102328
6.  The methionine salvage pathway in Bacillus subtilis 
BMC Microbiology  2002;2:8.
Polyamine synthesis produces methylthioadenosine, which has to be disposed of. The cell recycles it into methionine through methylthioribose (MTR). Very little was known about MTR recycling for methionine salvage in Bacillus subtilis.
Using in silico genome analysis and transposon mutagenesis in B. subtilis we have experimentally uncovered the major steps of the dioxygen-dependent methionine salvage pathway, which, although similar to that found in Klebsiella pneumoniae, recruited for its implementation some entirely different proteins. The promoters of the genes have been identified by primer extension, and gene expression was analyzed by Northern blotting and lacZ reporter gene expression. Among the most remarkable discoveries in this pathway is the role of an analog of ribulose diphosphate carboxylase (Rubisco, the plant enzyme used in the Calvin cycle which recovers carbon dioxide from the atmosphere) as a major step in MTR recycling.
A complete methionine salvage pathway exists in B. subtilis. This pathway is chemically similar to that in K. pneumoniae, but recruited different proteins to this purpose. In particular, a paralogue or Rubisco, MtnW, is used at one of the steps in the pathway. A major observation is that in the absence of MtnW, MTR becomes extremely toxic to the cell, opening an unexpected target for new antimicrobial drugs. In addition to methionine salvage, this pathway protects B. subtilis against dioxygen produced by its natural biotope, the surface of leaves (phylloplane).
PMCID: PMC113757  PMID: 12022921
7.  MtnK, methylthioribose kinase, is a starvation-induced protein in Bacillus subtilis 
BMC Microbiology  2001;1:15.
Methylthioadenosine, the main by-product of spermidine synthesis, is degraded in Bacillus subtilis as adenine and methylthioribose. The latter is an excellent sulfur source and the precursor of quorum-sensing signalling molecules. Nothing was known about methylthioribose recycling in this organism.
Using trifluoromethylthioribose as a toxic analog to select for resistant mutants, we demonstrate that methylthioribose is first phosphorylated by MtnK, methylthioribose kinase, the product of gene mtnK (formerly ykrT), expressed as an operon with mtnS (formerly ykrS) in an abundant transcript with a S-box leader sequence. Although participating in methylthioribose recycling, the function of mtnS remained elusive. We also show that MtnK synthesis is boosted under starvation condition, in the following decreasing order: carbon-, sulfur- and nitrogen-starvation. We finally show that this enzyme is part of the family Pfam 01633 (choline kinases) which belongs to a large cluster of orthologs comprizing antibiotic aminoglycoside kinases and protein serine/threonine kinases.
The first step of methylthioribose recycling is phosphoryltaion by MTR kinase, coded by the mtnK (formerly ykrT) gene. Analysis of the neighbourhood of mtnK demonstrates that genes located in its immediate vicinity (now named mtnUVWXYZ, formerly ykrUVWXYZ) are also required for methylthioribose recycling.
PMCID: PMC55331  PMID: 11545674

Results 1-7 (7)