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1.  Illegitimate recombination: An efficient method for random mutagenesis in Mycobacterium avium subsp. hominissuis 
BMC Microbiology  2012;12:204.
Background
The genus Mycobacterium (M.) comprises highly pathogenic bacteria such as M. tuberculosis as well as environmental opportunistic bacteria called non-tuberculous mycobacteria (NTM). While the incidence of tuberculosis is declining in the developed world, infection rates by NTM are increasing. NTM are ubiquitous and have been isolated from soil, natural water sources, tap water, biofilms, aerosols, dust and sawdust. Lung infections as well as lymphadenitis are most often caused by M. avium subsp. hominissuis (MAH), which is considered to be among the clinically most important NTM. Only few virulence genes from M. avium have been defined among other things due to difficulties in generating M. avium mutants. More efforts in developing new methods for mutagenesis of M. avium and identification of virulence-associated genes are therefore needed.
Results
We developed a random mutagenesis method based on illegitimate recombination and integration of a Hygromycin-resistance marker. Screening for mutations possibly affecting virulence was performed by monitoring of pH resistance, colony morphology, cytokine induction in infected macrophages and intracellular persistence. Out of 50 randomly chosen Hygromycin-resistant colonies, four revealed to be affected in virulence-related traits. The mutated genes were MAV_4334 (nitroreductase family protein), MAV_5106 (phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase), MAV_1778 (GTP-binding protein LepA) and MAV_3128 (lysyl-tRNA synthetase LysS).
Conclusions
We established a random mutagenesis method for MAH that can be easily carried out and combined it with a set of phenotypic screening methods for the identification of virulence-associated mutants. By this method, four new MAH genes were identified that may be involved in virulence.
doi:10.1186/1471-2180-12-204
PMCID: PMC3511198  PMID: 22966811
Mycobacterium; Mycobacterium avium subsp. hominissuis; Non-tuberculous mycobacteria; Virulence; Mutagenesis; Illegitimate recombination
2.  The role of the mycobacterial DNA-binding protein 1 (MDP1) from Mycobacterium bovis BCG in host cell interaction 
BMC Microbiology  2012;12:165.
Background
Mycobacterium tuberculosis differs from most pathogens in its ability to multiply inside monocytes and to persist during long periods of time within granuloma in a status of latency. A class of proteins called mycobacterial histone-like proteins has been associated with regulation of replication and latency, but their precise role in the infection process has yet to be uncovered. Our study aimed at defining the impact of the histone-like protein MDP1 from M. bovis BCG (mycobacterial DNA-binding protein 1, corresponding to Rv2986c from M. tuberculosis) on early steps of infection.
Results
Previously, a BCG (Bacillus Calmette Guérin) strain had been generated by antisense-technique exhibiting reduced MDP1 expression. This strain was now used to analyse the impact of reduced amount of MDP1 on the interaction with human blood monocytes, macrophage lines and PBMC (peripheral blood mononuclear cells). MDP1 was revealed to be required for growth at acidic pH and for intracellular replication in human blood monocytes. Down-regulation of MDP1 resulted in reduced secretion of the cytokine IL-1β by infected human PBMC. In addition, a reduction of MDP1 expression had a major impact on the formation of fused multi-nucleated macrophages. In monocyte preparations from human blood as well as in human and mouse macrophage cell lines, both the percentage of multi-nucleated cells and the number of nuclei per cell were much enhanced when the monocytes were infected with BCG expressing less MDP1.
Conclusion
MDP1 from M. bovis BCG affects the growth at acidic pH and the intracellular replication in human monocytes. It furthermore affects cytokine secretion by host cells, and the formation of fused multi-nucleated macrophages. Our results suggest an important role of MDP1 in persistent infection.
doi:10.1186/1471-2180-12-165
PMCID: PMC3438132  PMID: 22863261
Mycobacterium; Tuberculosis; Mycobacterial DNA-binding protein 1; MDP1; DNA-binding protein; Histone-like protein; Latency; Granuloma; Virulence; Host interaction
3.  Characterisation of porin genes from Mycobacterium fortuitum and their impact on growth 
BMC Microbiology  2009;9:31.
Background
Highly pathogenic mycobacteria like Mycobacterium tuberculosis are characterised by their slow growth and their ability to reside and multiply in the very hostile phagosomal environment and a correlation between the growth rate of mycobacteria and their pathogenicity has been hypothesised. Here, porin genes from M. fortuitum were cloned and characterised to address their impact on the growth rate of fast-growing and pathogenic mycobacteria.
Results
Two genes encoding porins orthologous to MspA from M. smegmatis, porM1 and porM2, were cloned from M. fortuitum strains, which were originally isolated from human patients. Both porin genes were at least partially able to complement the mutations of a M. smegmatis mutant strain lacking the genes mspA and mspC with respect to the growth rate. PorM1 and porM2 were present in different strains of M. fortuitum including the type strain. Comparative expression analysis of porM genes revealed divergent porin expression among analysed M. fortuitum strains. Repression of the expression of porins by antisense technique decreased the growth rates of different M. fortuitum. The effects of over-expression of porM1 as well as porM2 varied depending on the strain and the concentration of antibiotic added to the medium and indicated that PorM1 and PorM2 enhance the growth of M. fortuitum strains, but also the diffusion of the antibiotic kanamycin into the cells.
Conclusion
This study demonstrates the important role of porin expression in growth as well as antibiotic susceptibility of the opportunistic bacterium M. fortuitum.
doi:10.1186/1471-2180-9-31
PMCID: PMC2651896  PMID: 19203364
4.  Detection of Balamuthia mandrillaris DNA by real-time PCR targeting the RNase P gene 
BMC Microbiology  2008;8:210.
Background
The free-living amoeba Balamuthia mandrillaris may cause fatal encephalitis both in immunocompromised and in – apparently – immunocompetent humans and other mammalian species. Rapid, specific, sensitive, and reliable detection requiring little pathogen-specific expertise is an absolute prerequisite for a successful therapy and a welcome tool for both experimental and epidemiological research.
Results
A real-time polymerase chain reaction assay using TaqMan® probes (real-time PCR) was established specifically targeting the RNase P gene of B. mandrillaris amoebae. The assay detected at least 2 (down to 0.5) genomes of B. mandrillaris grown in axenic culture. It did not react with DNA from closely related Acanthamoeba (3 species), nor with DNA from Toxoplasma gondii, Leishmania major, Pneumocystis murina, Mycobacterium bovis (BCG), human brain, various mouse organs, or from human and murine cell lines. The assay efficiently detected B. mandrillaris DNA in spiked cell cultures, spiked murine organ homogenates, B. mandrillaris-infected mice, and CNS tissue-DNA preparations from 2 patients with proven cerebral balamuthiasis. This novel primer set was successfully combined with a published set that targets the B. mandrillaris 18S rRNA gene in a duplex real-time PCR assay to ensure maximum specificity and as a precaution against false negative results.
Conclusion
A real-time PCR assay for B. mandrillaris amoebae is presented, that is highly specific, sensitive, and reliable and thus suited both for diagnosis and for research.
doi:10.1186/1471-2180-8-210
PMCID: PMC2612680  PMID: 19055756
5.  The mycobacterial DNA-binding protein 1 (MDP1) from Mycobacterium bovis BCG influences various growth characteristics 
BMC Microbiology  2008;8:91.
Background
Pathogenic mycobacteria such as M. tuberculosis, M. bovis or M. leprae are characterised by their extremely slow growth rate which plays an important role in mycobacterial virulence and eradication of the bacteria. Various limiting factors influence the generation time of mycobacteria, and the mycobacterial DNA-binding protein 1 (MDP1) has also been implicated in growth regulation. Our strategy to investigate the role of MDP1 in mycobacterial growth consisted in the generation and characterisation of a M. bovis BCG derivative expressing a MDP1-antisense gene.
Results
The expression rate of the MDP1 protein in the recombinant M. bovis BCG containing the MDP1-antisense plasmid was reduced by about 50% compared to the reference strain M. bovis BCG containing the empty vector. In comparison to this reference strain, the recombinant M. bovis BCG grew faster in broth culture and reached higher cell masses in stationary phase. Likewise its intracellular growth in mouse and human macrophages was ameliorated. Bacterial clumping in broth culture was reduced by the antisense plasmid. The antisense plasmid increased the susceptibility of the bacteria towards Ampicillin. 2-D protein gels of bacteria maintained under oxygen-poor conditions demonstrated a reduction in the number and the intensity of many protein spots in the antisense strain compared to the reference strain.
Conclusion
The MDP1 protein has a major impact on various growth characteristics of M. bovis BCG. It plays an important role in virulence-related traits such as aggregate formation and intracellular multiplication. Its impact on the protein expression in a low-oxygen atmosphere indicates a role in the adaptation to the hypoxic conditions present in the granuloma.
doi:10.1186/1471-2180-8-91
PMCID: PMC2453136  PMID: 18544159

Results 1-5 (5)