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1.  Pseudomonas aeruginosa β-lactamase induction requires two permeases, AmpG and AmpP 
BMC Microbiology  2010;10:328.
In Enterobacteriaceae, β-lactam antibiotic resistance involves murein recycling intermediates. Murein recycling is a complex process with discrete steps taking place in the periplasm and the cytoplasm. The AmpG permease is critical to this process as it transports N-acetylglucosamine anhydrous N-acetylmuramyl peptides across the inner membrane. In Pseudomonadaceae, this intrinsic mechanism remains to be elucidated. Since the mechanism involves two cellular compartments, the characterization of transporters is crucial to establish the link.
Pseudomonas aeruginosa PAO1 has two ampG paralogs, PA4218 (ampP) and PA4393 (ampG). Topology analysis using β-galactosidase and alkaline phosphatase fusions indicates ampP and ampG encode proteins which possess 10 and 14 transmembrane helices, respectively, that could potentially transport substrates. Both ampP and ampG are required for maximum expression of β-lactamase, but complementation and kinetic experiments suggest they act independently to play different roles. Mutation of ampG affects resistance to a subset of β-lactam antibiotics. Low-levels of β-lactamase induction occur independently of either ampP or ampG. Both ampG and ampP are the second members of two independent two-gene operons. Analysis of the ampG and ampP operon expression using β-galactosidase transcriptional fusions showed that in PAO1, ampG operon expression is β-lactam and ampR-independent, while ampP operon expression is β-lactam and ampR-dependent. β-lactam-dependent expression of the ampP operon and independent expression of the ampG operon is also dependent upon ampP.
In P. aeruginosa, β-lactamase induction occurs in at least three ways, induction at low β-lactam concentrations by an as yet uncharacterized pathway, at intermediate concentrations by an ampP and ampG dependent pathway, and at high concentrations where although both ampP and ampG play a role, ampG may be of greater importance. Both ampP and ampG are required for maximum induction. Similar to ampC, ampP expression is inducible in an ampR-dependent manner. Importantly, ampP expression is autoregulated and ampP also regulates expression of ampG. Both AmpG and AmpP have topologies consistent with functions in transport. Together, these data suggest that the mechanism of β-lactam resistance of P. aeruginosa is distinct from well characterized systems in Enterobacteriaceae and involves a highly complicated interaction between these putative permeases and known Amp proteins.
PMCID: PMC3022710  PMID: 21192796
2.  The Vibrio parahaemolyticus Type III Secretion Systems manipulate host cell MAPK for critical steps in pathogenesis 
BMC Microbiology  2010;10:329.
Vibrio parahaemolyticus is a food-borne pathogen causing inflammation of the gastrointestinal epithelium. Pathogenic strains of this bacterium possess two Type III Secretion Systems (TTSS) that deliver effector proteins into host cells. In order to better understand human host cell responses to V. parahaemolyticus, the modulation of Mitogen Activated Protein Kinase (MAPK) activation in epithelial cells by an O3:K6 clinical isolate, RIMD2210633, was investigated. The importance of MAPK activation for the ability of the bacterium to be cytotoxic and to induce secretion of Interleukin-8 (IL-8) was determined.
V. parahaemolyticus deployed its TTSS1 to induce activation of the JNK, p38 and ERK MAPK in human epithelial cells. VP1680 was identified as the TTSS1 effector protein responsible for MAPK activation in Caco-2 cells and the activation of JNK and ERK by this protein was important in induction of host cell death. V. parahaemolyticus actively induced IL-8 secretion in a response mediated by TTSS1. A role for VP1680 and for the ERK signalling pathway in the stimulation of IL-8 production in epithelial cells by V. parahaemolyticus was established. Interestingly, TTSS2 inhibited IL-8 mRNA transcription at early stages of interaction between the bacterium and the cell.
This study demonstrated that V. parahaemolyticus activates the three major MAPK signalling pathways in intestinal epithelial cells in a TTSS1-dependent manner that involves the TTSS1 effector VP1680. Furthermore VP1680 and JNK and ERK activation were needed for maximal cytotoxicity of the bacterium. It was shown that V. parahaemolyticus is a strong inducer of IL-8 secretion and that induction reflects a balance between the effects of TTSS1 and TTSS2. Increases in IL-8 secretion were mediated by TTSS1 and VP1680, and augmented by ERK activation. These results shed light on the mechanisms of bacterial pathogenesis mediated by TTSS and suggest significant roles for MAPK signalling during infection with V. parahaemolyticus.
PMCID: PMC3022711  PMID: 21192810
3.  Complementary monoclonal antibody-based dot ELISA for universal detection of H5 avian influenza virus 
BMC Microbiology  2010;10:330.
Rapid diagnosis and surveillance for H5 subtype viruses are critical for the control of H5N1 infection.
In this study, H5 Dot ELISA, a rapid test for the detection of avian H5N1 influenza virus, was developed with two complementary H5 monoclonal antibodies. HA sequencing of escape mutants followed by epitope mapping revealed that the two Mabs target the epitope component (189th amino acid) on the HA protein but are specific for different amino acids (189Lys or 189Arg). Gene alignment indicated that these two amino acids are the most frequent types on this position among all of the H5 AIV reported in GeneBank. These two H5 Mabs were used together in a dot ELISA to detect H5 viral antigen. The detection limit of the developed test for multiple clades of H5N1 viruses, including clades 0, 1, 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 4, 7, and 8, was less than 0.5 hemagglutinin units. The specificity of the optimized dot ELISA was examined by using 100 H5 strains, including H5N1 HPAI strains from multiple clades, 36 non-H5N1 viruses, and 4 influenza B viruses. No cross-reactivity was observed for any of the non-H5N1 viruses tested. Among 200 random poultry samples, the test gave 100% positive results for all of the twelve RT-PCR-positive samples.
Considering that the test is convenient for field use, this H5 Dot ELISA can be used for on-site detection of H5N1 infection in clinical or environmental specimens and facilitate the investigation of H5N1 influenza outbreaks and surveillance in poultry.
PMCID: PMC3023680  PMID: 21192824
4.  The prevalence of gene duplications and their ancient origin in Rhodobacter sphaeroides 2.4.1 
BMC Microbiology  2010;10:331.
Rhodobacter sphaeroides 2.4.1 is a metabolically versatile organism that belongs to α-3 subdivision of Proteobacteria. The present study was to identify the extent, history, and role of gene duplications in R. sphaeroides 2.4.1, an organism that possesses two chromosomes.
A protein similarity search (BLASTP) identified 1247 orfs (~29.4% of the total protein coding orfs) that are present in 2 or more copies, 37.5% (234 gene-pairs) of which exist in duplicate copies. The distribution of the duplicate gene-pairs in all Clusters of Orthologous Groups (COGs) differed significantly when compared to the COG distribution across the whole genome. Location plots revealed clusters of gene duplications that possessed the same COG classification. Phylogenetic analyses were performed to determine a tree topology predicting either a Type-A or Type-B phylogenetic relationship. A Type-A phylogenetic relationship shows that a copy of the protein-pair matches more with an ortholog from a species closely related to R. sphaeroides while a Type-B relationship predicts the highest match between both copies of the R. sphaeroides protein-pair. The results revealed that ~77% of the proteins exhibited a Type-A phylogenetic relationship demonstrating the ancient origin of these gene duplications. Additional analyses on three other strains of R. sphaeroides revealed varying levels of gene loss and retention in these strains. Also, analyses on common gene pairs among the four strains revealed that these genes experience similar functional constraints and undergo purifying selection.
Although the results suggest that the level of gene duplication in organisms with complex genome structuring (more than one chromosome) seems to be not markedly different from that in organisms with only a single chromosome, these duplications may have aided in genome reorganization in this group of eubacteria prior to the formation of R. sphaeroides as gene duplications involved in specialized functions might have contributed to complex genomic development.
PMCID: PMC3024229  PMID: 21192830
5.  Regulation of Polar Peptidoglycan Biosynthesis by Wag31 Phosphorylation in Mycobacteria 
BMC Microbiology  2010;10:327.
Sensing and responding to environmental changes is a central aspect of cell division regulation. Mycobacterium tuberculosis contains eleven Ser/Thr kinases, two of which, PknA and PknB, are key signaling molecules that regulate cell division/morphology. One substrate of these kinases is Wag31, and we previously showed that partial depletion of Wag31 caused morphological changes indicative of cell wall defects, and that the phosphorylation state of Wag31 affected cell growth in mycobacteria. In the present study, we further characterized the role of the Wag31 phosphorylation in polar peptidoglycan biosynthesis.
We demonstrate that the differential growth among cells expressing different wag31 alleles (wild-type, phosphoablative, or phosphomimetic) is caused by, at least in part, dissimilar nascent peptidoglycan biosynthesis. The phosphorylation state of Wag31 is found to be important for protein-protein interactions between the Wag31 molecules, and thus, for its polar localization. Consistent with these results, cells expressing a phosphomimetic wag31 allele have a higher enzymatic activity in the peptidoglycan biosynthetic pathway.
The Wag31Mtb phosphorylation is a novel molecular mechanism by which Wag31Mtb regulates peptidoglycan synthesis and thus, optimal growth in mycobacteria.
PMCID: PMC3019181  PMID: 21190553
6.  Eukaryotic signaling pathways targeted by Salmonella effector protein AvrA in intestinal infection in vivo 
BMC Microbiology  2010;10:326.
The Salmonella AvrA gene is present in 80% of Salmonella enterica serovar strains. AvrA protein mimics the activities of some eukaryotic proteins and uses these activities to the pathogen's advantage by debilitating the target cells, such as intestinal epithelial cells. Therefore, it is important to understand how AvrA works in targeting eukaryotic signaling pathways in intestinal infection in vivo. In this study, we hypothesized that AvrA interacts with multiple stress pathways in eukaryotic cells to manipulate the host defense system. A whole genome approach combined with bioinformatics assays was used to investigate the in vivo genetic responses of the mouse colon to Salmonella with or without AvrA protein expression in the early stage (8 hours) and late stage (4 days). Specifically, we examined the gene expression profiles in mouse colon as it responded to pathogenic Salmonella stain SL1344 (with AvrA expression) or SB1117 (without AvrA expression).
We identified the eukaryotic targets of AvrA and the cell signaling pathways regulated by AvrA in vivo. We found that pathways, such as mTOR, NF-kappaB, platelet-derived growth factors, vascular endothelial growth factor, oxidative phosphorylation, and mitogen-activated protein kinase signaling are specifically regulated by AvrA in vivo and are associated with inflammation, anti-apoptosis, and proliferation. At the early stage of Salmonella infection, AvrA mainly targeted pathways related to nuclear receptor signaling and oxidative phosphorylation. At the late stage of Salmonella infection, AvrA is associated with interferon-gamma responses.
Both early and late phases of the host response exhibit remarkable specificity for the AvrA+ Salmonella. Our studies provide new insights into the eukaryotic molecular cascade that combats Salmonella-associated intestinal infection in vivo.
PMCID: PMC3027599  PMID: 21182782
7.  Rapid Leptospira identification by direct sequencing of the diagnostic PCR products in New Caledonia 
BMC Microbiology  2010;10:325.
Most of the current knowledge of leptospirosis epidemiology originates from serological results obtained with the reference Microscopic Agglutination Test (MAT). However, inconsistencies and weaknesses of this diagnostic technique are evident. A growing use of PCR has improved the early diagnosis of leptospirosis but a drawback is that it cannot provide information on the infecting Leptospira strain which provides important epidemiologic data. Our work is aimed at evaluating if the sequence polymorphism of diagnostic PCR products could be used to identify the infecting Leptospira strains in the New Caledonian environment.
Both the lfb1 and secY diagnostic PCR products displayed a sequence polymorphism that could prove useful in presumptively identifying the infecting leptospire. Using both this polymorphism and MLST results with New Caledonian isolates and clinical samples, we confirmed the epidemiological relevance of the sequence-based identification of Leptospira strains. Additionally, we identified one cluster of L. interrogans that contained no reference strain and one cluster of L. borgpetersenii found only in the introduced Rusa deer Cervus timorensis russa that is its probable reservoir.
The sequence polymorphism of diagnostic PCR products proved useful in presumptively identifying the infecting Leptospira strains. This could contribute to a better understanding of leptospirosis epidemiology by providing epidemiological information that cannot be directly attained from the use of PCR as an early diagnostic test for leptospirosis.
PMCID: PMC3022709  PMID: 21176235
8.  Comparative proteomic analysis of Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium ppGpp-deficient mutant to identify a novel virulence protein required for intracellular survival in macrophages 
BMC Microbiology  2010;10:324.
The global ppGpp-mediated stringent response in pathogenic bacteria plays an important role in the pathogenesis of bacterial infections. In Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium (S. Typhimurium), several genes, including virulence genes, are regulated by ppGpp when bacteria are under the stringent response. To understand the control of virulence genes by ppGpp in S. Typhimurium, agarose 2-dimensional electrophoresis (2-DE) combined with mass spectrometry was used and a comprehensive 2-DE reference map of amino acid-starved S. Typhimurium strain SH100, a derivative of ATCC 14028, was established.
Of the 366 examined spots, 269 proteins were successfully identified. The comparative analysis of the wild-type and ppGpp0 mutant strains revealed 55 proteins, the expression patterns of which were affected by ppGpp. Using a mouse infection model, we further identified a novel virulence-associated factor, STM3169, from the ppGpp-regulated and Salmonella-specific proteins. In addition, Salmonella strains carrying mutations in the gene encoding STM3169 showed growth defects and impaired growth within macrophage-like RAW264.7 cells. Furthermore, we found that expression of stm3169 was controlled by ppGpp and SsrB, a response regulator of the two-component system located on Salmonella pathogenicity island 2.
A proteomic approach using a 2-DE reference map can prove a powerful tool for analyzing virulence factors and the regulatory network involved in Salmonella pathogenesis. Our results also provide evidence of a global response mediated by ppGpp in S. enterica.
PMCID: PMC3022708  PMID: 21176126
9.  MicroDSC study of Staphylococcus epidermidis growth 
BMC Microbiology  2010;10:322.
A microcalorimetric study was carried out using a Staphylococcus epidermidis population to determine the reproducibility of bacterial growth and the variability of the results within certain experimental parameters (temperature, bacterial concentration, sample thermal history). Reproducibility tests were performed as series of experiments within the same conditions using either freshly prepared populations or samples kept in cold storage. In both cases, the samples were obtained by serial dilution from a concentrated TSB bacterial inoculum incubated overnight.
The results show that experiments are fairly reproducible and that specimens can be preserved at low temperatures (1 - 2°C) at least 4 days. The thermal signal variations at different temperatures and initial bacterial concentrations obey a set of rules that we identified.
Our study adds to the accumulating data and confirms available results of isothermal microcalorimetry applications in microbiology and can be used to standardize this method for either research or clinical setting.
PMCID: PMC3018406  PMID: 21162759
10.  Superoxide dismutase is upregulated in Staphylococcus aureus following protoporphyrin-mediated photodynamic inactivation and does not directly influence the response to photodynamic treatment 
BMC Microbiology  2010;10:323.
Staphylococcus aureus, a major human pathogen causes a wide range of disease syndromes. The most dangerous are methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) strains, resistant not only to all β-lactam antibiotics but also to other antimicrobials. An alarming increase in antibiotic resistance spreading among pathogenic bacteria inclines to search for alternative therapeutic options, for which resistance can not be developed easily. Among others, photodynamic inactivation (PDI) of S. aureus is a promising option. Photodynamic inactivation is based on a concept that a non toxic chemical, called a photosensitizer upon excitation with light of an appropriate wavelength is activated. As a consequence singlet oxygen and other reactive oxygen species (e.g. superoxide anion) are produced, which are responsible for the cytotoxic effect towards bacterial cells. As strain-dependence in photodynamic inactivation of S. aureus was observed, determination of the molecular marker(s) underlying the mechanism of the bacterial response to PDI treatment would be of great clinical importance. We examined the role of superoxide dismutases (Sod) in photodynamic inactivation of S. aureus as enzymes responsible for oxidative stress resistance.
The effectiveness of photodynamic inactivation towards S. aureus and its Sod isogenic mutants deprived of either of the two superoxide dismutase activities, namely SodA or SodM or both of them showed similar results, regardless of the Sod status in TSB medium. On the contrary, in the CL medium (without Mn++ ions) the double SodAM mutant was highly susceptible to photodynamic inactivation. Among 8 clinical isolates of S. aureus analyzed (4 MRSA and 4 MSSA), strains highly resistant and strains highly vulnerable to photodynamic inactivation were noticed. We observed that Sod activity as well as sodA and sodM transcript level increases after protoporphyrin IX-based photodynamic treatment but only in PDI-sensitive strains.
We confirmed that porphyrin-based photokilling efficacy is a strain-dependent phenomenon. We showed that oxidative stress sensitivity caused by the lack of both Sod enzymes can be relieved in the presence of Mn ions and partially in the presence of Fe ions. The fact that Sod activity increase is observed only in PDI-susceptible cells emphasizes that this is probably not a direct factor affecting S. aureus vulnerability to porphyrin-based PDI.
PMCID: PMC3022707  PMID: 21167031
11.  Streptococcal collagen-like surface protein 1 promotes adhesion to the respiratory epithelial cell 
BMC Microbiology  2010;10:320.
Collagen-like surface proteins Scl1 and Scl2 on Streptococcus pyogenes contain contiguous Gly-X-X triplet amino acid motifs, the characteristic structure of human collagen. Although the potential role of Scl1 in adhesion has been studied, the conclusions may be affected by the use of different S. pyogenes strains and their carriages of various adhesins. To explore the bona fide nature of Scl1 in adherence to human epithelial cells without the potential interference of other streptococcal surface factors, we constructed a scl1 isogenic mutant from the Scl2-defective S. pyogenes strain and a Scl1-expressed Escherichia coli.
Loss of Scl1 in a Scl2-defective S. pyogenes strain dramatically decreased the adhesion of bacteria to HEp-2 human epithelial cells. Expression of Scl1 on the surface of the heterologous bacteria E. coli significantly increased adhesion to HEp-2. The increase in adhesion was nullified when Scl1-expressed E. coli was pre-incubated with proteases or antibodies against recombinant Scl1 (rScl1) protein. Treatment of HEp-2 cells with rScl protein or pronase drastically reduced the binding capability of Scl1-expressed E. coli. These findings suggest that the adhesion is mediated through Scl1 on bacterial surface and protein receptor(s) on epithelial cells. Further blocking of potential integrins revealed significant contributions of α2 and β1 integrins in Scl1-mediated binding to epithelial cells.
Together, these results underscore the importance of Scl1 in the virulence of S. pyogenes and implicate Scl1 as an adhesin during pathogenesis of streptococcal infection.
PMCID: PMC3022705  PMID: 21159159
12.  Quinone-dependent D-lactate dehydrogenase Dld (Cg1027) is essential for growth of Corynebacterium glutamicum on D-lactate 
BMC Microbiology  2010;10:321.
Corynebacterium glutamicum is able to grow with lactate as sole or combined carbon and energy source. Quinone-dependent L-lactate dehydrogenase LldD is known to be essential for utilization of L-lactate by C. glutamicum. D-lactate also serves as sole carbon source for C. glutamicum ATCC 13032.
Here, the gene cg1027 was shown to encode the quinone-dependent D-lactate dehydrogenase (Dld) by enzymatic analysis of the protein purified from recombinant E. coli. The absorption spectrum of purified Dld indicated the presence of FAD as bound cofactor. Inactivation of dld resulted in the loss of the ability to grow with D-lactate, which could be restored by plasmid-borne expression of dld. Heterologous expression of dld from C. glutamicum ATCC 13032 in C. efficiens enabled this species to grow with D-lactate as sole carbon source. Homologs of dld of C. glutamicum ATCC 13032 are not encoded in the sequenced genomes of other corynebacteria and mycobacteria. However, the dld locus of C. glutamicum ATCC 13032 shares 2367 bp of 2372 bp identical nucleotides with the dld locus of Propionibacterium freudenreichii subsp. shermanii, a bacterium used in Swiss-type cheese making. Both loci are flanked by insertion sequences of the same family suggesting a possible event of horizontal gene transfer.
Cg1067 encodes quinone-dependent D-lactate dehydrogenase Dld of Corynebacterium glutamicum. Dld is essential for growth with D-lactate as sole carbon source. The genomic region of dld likely has been acquired by horizontal gene transfer.
PMCID: PMC3022706  PMID: 21159175
13.  Identification and evaluation of the role of the manganese efflux protein in Deinococcus radiodurans 
BMC Microbiology  2010;10:319.
Deinococcus radiodurans accumulates high levels of manganese ions, and this is believed to be correlated with the radiation resistance ability of this microorganism. However, the maintenance of manganese ion homeostasis in D. radiodurans remains to be investigated.
In this study, we identified the manganese efflux protein (MntE) in D. radiodurans. The null mutant of mntE was more sensitive than the wild-type strain to manganese ions, and the growth of the mntE mutant was delayed in manganese-supplemented media. Furthermore, there was a substantial increase in the in vivo concentration of manganese ions. Consistent with these characteristics, the mntE mutant was more resistant to H2O2, ultraviolet rays, and γ-radiation. The intracellular protein oxidation (carbonylation) level of the mutant strain was remarkably lower than that of the wild-type strain.
Our results indicated that dr1236 is indeed a mntE homologue and is indispensable for maintaining manganese homeostasis in D. radiodurans. The data also provide additional evidence for the involvement of intracellular manganese ions in the radiation resistance of D. radiodurans.
PMCID: PMC3016326  PMID: 21156049
14.  Directed evolution and targeted mutagenesis to murinize listeria monocytogenes internalin A for enhanced infectivity in the murine oral infection model 
BMC Microbiology  2010;10:318.
Internalin A (InlA) is a critical virulence factor which mediates the initiation of Listeria monocytogenes infection by the oral route in permissive hosts. The interaction of InlA with the host cell ligand E-cadherin efficiently stimulates L. monocytogenes entry into human enterocytes, but has only a limited interaction with murine cells.
We have created a surface display library of randomly mutated InlA in a non-invasive heterologous host Lactococcus lactis in order to create and screen novel variants of this invasion factor. After sequential passage through a murine cell line (CT-26), multiple clones with enhanced invasion characteristics were identified. Competitive index experiments were conducted in mice using selected mutations introduced into L. monocytogenes EGD-e background. A novel single amino acid change was identified which enhanced virulence by the oral route in the murine model and will form the basis of further engineering approaches. As a control a previously described EGD-InlAm murinized strain was also re-created as part of this study with minor modifications and designated EGD-e InlAm*. The strain was created using a procedure that minimizes the likelihood of secondary mutations and incorporates Listeria-optimized codons encoding the altered amino acids. L. monocytogenes EGD-e InlAm* yielded consistently higher level murine infections by the oral route when compared to EGD-e, but did not display the two-fold increased invasion into a human cell line that was previously described for the EGD-InlAm strain.
We have used both site-directed mutagenesis and directed evolution to create variants of InlA which may inform future structure-function analyses of this protein. During the course of the study we engineered a murinized strain of L. monocytogenes EGD-e which shows reproducibly higher infectivity in the intragastric murine infection model than the wild type, but does not display enhanced entry into human cells as previously observed. This murinized L. monocytogenes strain will provide a useful tool for the analysis of the gastrointestinal phase of listeriosis.
PMCID: PMC3016325  PMID: 21144051
15.  Lactobacillus plantarum MB452 enhances the function of the intestinal barrier by increasing the expression levels of genes involved in tight junction formation 
BMC Microbiology  2010;10:316.
Intestinal barrier function is important for preserving health, as a compromised barrier allows antigen entry and can induce inflammatory diseases. Probiotic bacteria can play a role in enhancing intestinal barrier function; however, the mechanisms are not fully understood. Existing studies have focused on the ability of probiotics to prevent alterations to tight junctions in disease models, and have been restricted to a few tight junction bridging proteins. No studies have previously investigated the effect of probiotic bacteria on healthy intestinal epithelial cell genes involved in the whole tight junction signalling pathway, including those encoding for bridging, plaque and dual location tight junction proteins. Alteration of tight junction signalling in healthy humans is a potential mechanism that could lead to the strengthening of the intestinal barrier, resulting in limiting the ability of antigens to enter the body and potentially triggering undesirable immune responses.
The effect of Lactobacillus plantarum MB452 on tight junction integrity was determined by measuring trans-epithelial electrical resistance (TEER) across Caco-2 cell layers. L. plantarum MB452 caused a dose-dependent TEER increase across Caco-2 cell monolayers compared to control medium. Gene expression was compared in Caco-2 cells untreated or treated with L. plantarum MB452 for 10 hours. Caco-2 cell RNA was hybridised to human oligonucleotide arrays. Data was analysed using linear models and differently expressed genes were examined using pathway analysis tools. Nineteen tight junction-related genes had altered expression levels in response to L. plantarum MB452 (modified-P < 0.05, fold-change > 1.2), including those encoding occludin and its associated plaque proteins that anchor it to the cytoskeleton. L. plantarum MB452 also caused changes in tubulin and proteasome gene expression levels which may be linked to intestinal barrier function. Caco-2 tight junctions were visualised by fluorescent microscopy of immuno-stained occludin, zona occludens (ZO)-1, ZO-2 and cingulin. Caco-2 cells treated with L. plantarum MB452 had higher intensity fluorescence of each of the four tight junction proteins compared to untreated controls.
This research indicates that enhancing the expression of genes involved in tight junction signalling is a possible mechanism by which L. plantarum MB452 improves intestinal barrier function.
PMCID: PMC3004893  PMID: 21143932
16.  Interaction of the heterotrimeric G protein alpha subunit SSG-1 of Sporothrix schenckii with proteins related to stress response and fungal pathogenicity using a yeast two-hybrid assay 
BMC Microbiology  2010;10:317.
Important biological processes require selective and orderly protein-protein interactions at every level of the signalling cascades. G proteins are a family of heterotrimeric GTPases that effect eukaryotic signal transduction through the coupling of cell surface receptors to cytoplasmic effector proteins. They have been associated with growth and pathogenicity in many fungi through gene knock-out studies. In Sporothrix schenckii, a pathogenic, dimorphic fungus, we previously identified a pertussis sensitive G alpha subunit, SSG-1. In this work we inquire into its interactions with other proteins.
Using the yeast two-hybrid technique, we identified protein-protein interactions between SSG-1 and other important cellular proteins. The interactions were corroborated using co-immuneprecipitation. Using these techniques we identified a Fe/Mn superoxide dismutase (SOD), a glyceraldehyde-3-P dehydrogenase (GAPDH) and two ion transport proteins, a siderophore-iron transporter belonging to the Major Facilitator Superfamily (MFS) and a divalent-cation transporter of the Nramp (natural resistance-associated macrophage protein) family as interacting with SSG-1. The cDNA's encoding these proteins were sequenced and bioinformatic macromolecular sequence analyses were used for the correct classification and functional assignment.
This study constitutes the first report of the interaction of a fungal G alpha inhibitory subunit with SOD, GAPDH, and two metal ion transporters. The identification of such important proteins as partners of a G alpha subunit in this fungus suggests possible mechanisms through which this G protein can affect pathogenicity and survival under conditions of environmental stress or inside the human host. The two ion transporters identified in this work are the first to be reported in S. schenckii and the first time they are identified as interacting with fungal G protein alpha subunits. The association of G protein alpha subunits to transport molecules reinforces the role of G proteins in the response to environmental signals and also highlights the involvement of fungal G protein alpha subunits in nutrient sensing in S. schenckii. These interactions suggest that these permeases could function as transceptors for G proteins in fungi.
PMCID: PMC3018405  PMID: 21143936
17.  Reliable detection of Bacillus anthracis, Francisella tularensis and Yersinia pestis by using multiplex qPCR including internal controls for nucleic acid extraction and amplification 
BMC Microbiology  2010;10:314.
Several pathogens could seriously affect public health if not recognized timely. To reduce the impact of such highly pathogenic micro-organisms, rapid and accurate diagnostic tools are needed for their detection in various samples, including environmental samples.
Multiplex real-time PCRs were designed for rapid and reliable detection of three major pathogens that have the potential to cause high morbidity and mortality in humans: B. anthracis, F. tularensis and Y. pestis. The developed assays detect three pathogen-specific targets, including at least one chromosomal target, and one target from B. thuringiensis which is used as an internal control for nucleic acid extraction from refractory spores as well as successful DNA amplification. Validation of the PCRs showed a high analytical sensitivity, specificity and coverage of diverse pathogen strains.
The multiplex qPCR assays that were developed allow the rapid detection of 3 pathogen-specific targets simultaneously, without compromising sensitivity. The application of B. thuringiensis spores as internal controls further reduces false negative results. This ensures highly reliable detection, while template consumption and laboratory effort are kept at a minimum
PMCID: PMC3016324  PMID: 21143837
18.  Multiple-locus variable-number tandem repeat analysis for molecular typing of Aspergillus fumigatus 
BMC Microbiology  2010;10:315.
Multiple-locus variable-number tandem repeat (VNTR) analysis (MLVA) is a prominent subtyping method to resolve closely related microbial isolates to provide information for establishing genetic patterns among isolates and to investigate disease outbreaks. The usefulness of MLVA was recently demonstrated for the avian major pathogen Chlamydophila psittaci. In the present study, we developed a similar method for another pathogen of birds: the filamentous fungus Aspergillus fumigatus.
We selected 10 VNTR markers located on 4 different chromosomes (1, 5, 6 and 8) of A. fumigatus. These markers were tested with 57 unrelated isolates from different hosts or their environment (53 isolates from avian species in France, China or Morocco, 3 isolates from humans collected at CHU Henri Mondor hospital in France and the reference strain CBS 144.89). The Simpson index for individual markers ranged from 0.5771 to 0.8530. A combined loci index calculated with all the markers yielded an index of 0.9994. In a second step, the panel of 10 markers was used in different epidemiological situations and tested on 277 isolates, including 62 isolates from birds in Guangxi province in China, 95 isolates collected in two duck farms in France and 120 environmental isolates from a turkey hatchery in France. A database was created with the results of the present study Three major clusters of isolates were defined by using the graphing algorithm termed Minimum Spanning Tree (MST). The first cluster comprised most of the avian isolates collected in the two duck farms in France, the second cluster comprised most of the avian isolates collected in poultry farms in China and the third one comprised most of the isolates collected in the turkey hatchery in France.
MLVA displayed excellent discriminatory power. The method showed a good reproducibility. MST analysis revealed an interesting clustering with a clear separation between isolates according to their geographic origin rather than their respective hosts.
PMCID: PMC3004892  PMID: 21143842
19.  Zoospore interspecific signaling promotes plant infection by Phytophthora 
BMC Microbiology  2010;10:313.
Oomycetes attack a huge variety of economically and ecologically important plants. These pathogens release, detect and respond to signal molecules to coordinate their communal behaviors including the infection process. When signal molecules are present at or above threshold level, single zoospores can infect plants. However, at the beginning of a growing season population densities of individual species are likely below those required to reach a quorum and produce threshold levels of signal molecules to trigger infection. It is unclear whether these molecules are shared among related species and what their chemistries are.
Zoospore-free fluids (ZFF) from Phytophthora capsici, P. hydropathica, P. nicotianae (ZFFnic), P. sojae (ZFFsoj) and Pythium aphanidermatum were cross tested for stimulating plant infection in three pathosystems. All ZFFs tested significantly increased infection of Catharanthus roseus by P. nicotianae. Similar cross activities were observed in infection of Lupinus polyphyllus and Glycine max by P. sojae. Only ZFFnic and ZFFsoj cross induced zoospore aggregation at a density of 2 × 103 ml-1. Pure autoinducer-2 (AI-2), a component in ZFF, caused zoospore lysis of P. nicotianae before encystment and did not stimulate plant infection at concentrations from 0.01 to 1000 μM. P. capsici transformants with a transiently silenced AI-2 synthase gene, ribose phosphate isomerase (RPI), infected Capsicum annuum seedlings at the same inoculum concentration as the wild type. Acyl-homoserine lactones (AHLs) were not detected in any ZFFs. After freeze-thaw treatments, ZFF remained active in promoting plant infection but not zoospore aggregation. Heat treatment by boiling for 5 min also did not affect the infection-stimulating property of ZFFnic.
Oomycetes produce and use different molecules to regulate zoospore aggregation and plant infection. We found that some of these signal molecules could act in an inter-specific manner, though signals for zoospore aggregation were somewhat restricted. This self-interested cooperation among related species gives individual pathogens of the same group a competitive advantage over pathogens and microbes from other groups for limited resources. These findings help to understand why these pathogens often are individually undetectable until severe disease epidemics have developed. The signal molecules for both zoospore aggregation and plant infection are distinct from AI-2 and AHL.
PMCID: PMC3016323  PMID: 21138563
20.  S. Typhimurium sseJ gene decreases the S. Typhi cytotoxicity toward cultured epithelial cells 
BMC Microbiology  2010;10:312.
Salmonella enterica serovar Typhi and Typhimurium are closely related serovars as indicated by >96% DNA sequence identity between shared genes. Nevertheless, S. Typhi is a strictly human-specific pathogen causing a systemic disease, typhoid fever. In contrast, S. Typhimurium is a broad host range pathogen causing only a self-limited gastroenteritis in immunocompetent humans. We hypothesize that these differences have arisen because some genes are unique to each serovar either gained by horizontal gene transfer or by the loss of gene activity due to mutation, such as pseudogenes. S. Typhi has 5% of genes as pseudogenes, much more than S. Typhimurium which contains 1%. As a consequence, S. Typhi lacks several protein effectors implicated in invasion, proliferation and/or translocation by the type III secretion system that are fully functional proteins in S. Typhimurium. SseJ, one of these effectors, corresponds to an acyltransferase/lipase that participates in SCV biogenesis in human epithelial cell lines and is needed for full virulence of S. Typhimurium. In S. Typhi, sseJ is a pseudogene. Therefore, we suggest that sseJ inactivation in S. Typhi has an important role in the development of the systemic infection.
We investigated whether the S. Typhi trans-complemented with the functional sseJ gene from S. Typhimurium (STM) affects the cytotoxicity toward cultured cell lines. It was found that S. Typhi harbouring sseJSTM presents a similar cytotoxicity level and intracellular retention/proliferation of cultured epithelial cells (HT-29 or HEp-2) as wild type S. Typhimurium. These phenotypes are significantly different from wild type S. Typhi
Based on our results we conclude that the mutation that inactivate the sseJ gene in S. Typhi resulted in evident changes in the behaviour of bacteria in contact with eukaryotic cells, plausibly contributing to the S. Typhi adaptation to the systemic infection in humans.
PMCID: PMC3004891  PMID: 21138562
21.  The effects of viral load on pseudorabies virus gene expression 
BMC Microbiology  2010;10:311.
Herpesvirus genes are classified into distinct kinetic groups on the basis of their expression dynamics during lytic growth of the virus in cultured cells at a high, typically 10 plaque-forming units/cell multiplicity of infection (MOI). It has been shown that both the host response and the success of a pathogen are dependent on the quantity of particles infecting an organism. This work is a continuation of an earlier study [1], in which we characterized the overall expression of PRV genes following low-MOI infection. In the present study, we have addressed the question of whether viral gene expressions are dependent on the multiplicity of infection by comparing gene expressions under low and high-MOI conditions.
In the present study, using a real-time RT-PCR assay, we address the question of whether the expression properties of the pseudorabies virus (PRV) genes are dependent on the number of virion particles infecting a single cell in a culture. Our analysis revealed a significant dependence of the gene expression on the MOI in most of these genes. Specifically, we found that most of the examined viral genes were expressed at a lower level at a low MOI (0.1) than at a high MOI (10) experiment in the early stage of infection; however, this trend reversed by six hour post-infection in more than half of the genes. Furthermore, in the high-MOI infection, several PRV genes substantially declined within the 4 to 6-h infection period, which was not the case in the low-MOI infection. In the low-MOI infection, the level of antisense transcript (AST), transcribed from the antiparallel DNA strand of the immediate-early 180 (ie180) gene, was comparable to that of ie180 mRNA, while in the high-MOI experiment (despite the 10 times higher copy number of the viral genome in the infected cells) the amount of AST dropped by more than two log values at the early phase of infection. Furthermore, our analysis suggests that adjacent PRV genes are under a common regulation. This is the first report on the effect of the multiplicity of infection on genome-wide gene expression of large DNA viruses, including herpesviruses.
Our results show a strong dependence of the global expression of PRV genes on the MOI. Furthermore, our data indicate a strong interrelation between the expressions of ie180 mRNA and AST, which determines the expression properties of the herpesvirus genome and possibly the replication strategy (lytic or latent infection) of the virus in certain cell types.
PMCID: PMC3016322  PMID: 21134263
22.  Multiplex quantitative PCR for detection of lower respiratory tract infection and meningitis caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae and Neisseria meningitidis 
BMC Microbiology  2010;10:310.
Streptococcus pneumoniae and Haemophilus influenzae cause pneumonia and as Neisseria meningitidis they are important agents of meningitis. Although several PCR methods have been described for these bacteria the specificity is an underestimated problem. Here we present a quantitative multiplex real-time PCR (qmPCR) for detection of S. pneumoniae (9802 gene fragment), H. influenzae (omp P6 gene) and N. meningitidis (ctrA gene). The method was evaluated on bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) samples from 156 adults with lower respiratory tract infection (LRTI) and 31 controls, and on 87 cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) samples from meningitis patients.
The analytical sensitivity was not affected by using a combined mixture of reagents and a combined DNA standard (S. pneumoniae/H. influenzae/N. meningitidis) in single tubes. By blood- and BAL-culture and S. pneumoniae urinary antigen test, S. pneumoniae and H. influenzae were aetiological agents in 21 and 31 of the LTRI patients, respectively. These pathogens were identified by qmPCR in 52 and 72 of the cases, respectively, yielding sensitivities and specificities of 95% and 75% for S. pneumoniae, and 90% and 65% for H. influenzae, respectively. When using a cut-off of 105 genome copies/mL for clinical positivity the sensitivities and specificities were 90% and 80% for S. pneumoniae, and 81% and 85% for H. influenzae, respectively. Of 44 culture negative but qmPCR positive for H. influenzae, 41 were confirmed by fucK PCR as H. influenzae. Of the 103 patients who had taken antibiotics prior to sampling, S. pneumoniae and H. influenzae were identified by culture in 6% and 20% of the cases, respectively, and by the qmPCR in 36% and 53% of the cases, respectively.
In 87 CSF samples S. pneumoniae and N. meningitidis were identified by culture and/or 16 S rRNA in 14 and 10 samples and by qmPCR in 14 and 10 samples, respectively, giving a sensitivity of 100% and a specificity of 100% for both bacteria.
The PCR provides increased sensitivity and the multiplex format facilitates diagnosis of S. pneumoniae, H. influenzae and N. meningitidis and the assay enable detection after antibiotic treatment has been installed. Quantification increases the specificity of the etiology for pneumonia.
PMCID: PMC3016321  PMID: 21129171
23.  The heme sensing response regulator HssR in Staphylococcus aureus but not the homologous RR23 in Listeria monocytogenes modulates susceptibility to the antimicrobial peptide plectasin 
BMC Microbiology  2010;10:307.
Host defence peptides (HDPs), also known as antimicrobial peptides (AMPs), have emerged as potential new therapeutics and their antimicrobial spectrum covers a wide range of target organisms. However, the mode of action and the genetics behind the bacterial response to HDPs is incompletely understood and such knowledge is required to evaluate their potential as antimicrobial therapeutics. Plectasin is a recently discovered HDP active against Gram-positive bacteria with the human pathogen, Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) being highly susceptible and the food borne pathogen, Listeria monocytogenes (L. monocytogenes) being less sensitive. In the present study we aimed to use transposon mutagenesis to determine the genetic basis for S. aureus and L. monocytogenes susceptibility to plectasin.
In order to identify genes that provide susceptibility to plectasin we constructed bacterial transposon mutant libraries of S. aureus NCTC8325-4 and L. monocytogenes 4446 and screened for increased resistance to the peptide. No resistant mutants arose when L. monocytogenes was screened on plates containing 5 and 10 fold Minimal Inhibitory Concentration (MIC) of plectasin. However, in S. aureus, four mutants with insertion in the heme response regulator (hssR) were 2-4 fold more resistant to plectasin as compared to the wild type. The hssR mutation also enhanced resistance to the plectasin-like defensin eurocin, but not to other classes of HDPs or to other stressors tested. Addition of plectasin did not influence the expression of hssR or hrtA, a gene regulated by HssR. The genome of L. monocytogenes LO28 encodes a putative HssR homologue, RR23 (in L. monocytogenes EGD-e lmo2583) with 48% identity to the S. aureus HssR, but a mutation in the rr23 gene did not change the susceptibility of L. monocytogenes to plectasin.
S. aureus HssR, but not the homologue RR23 from L. monocytogenes, provides susceptibility to the defensins plectasin and eurocin. Our data suggest that a functional difference between response regulators HssR and RR23 is responsible for the difference in plectasin susceptibility observed between S. aureus and L. monocytogenes.
PMCID: PMC3001719  PMID: 21122114
24.  Bacteriocyte dynamics during development of a holometabolous insect, the carpenter ant Camponotus floridanus 
BMC Microbiology  2010;10:308.
The carpenter ant Camponotus floridanus harbors obligate intracellular mutualistic bacteria (Blochmannia floridanus) in specialized cells, the bacteriocytes, intercalated in their midgut tissue. The diffuse distribution of bacteriocytes over the midgut tissue is in contrast to many other insects carrying endosymbionts in specialized tissues which are often connected to the midgut but form a distinct organ, the bacteriome. C. floridanus is a holometabolous insect which undergoes a complete metamorphosis. During pupal stages a complete restructuring of the inner organs including the digestive tract takes place. So far, nothing was known about maintenance of endosymbionts during this life stage of a holometabolous insect. It was shown previously that the number of Blochmannia increases strongly during metamorphosis. This implicates an important function of Blochmannia in this developmental phase during which the animals are metabolically very active but do not have access to external food resources. Previous experiments have shown a nutritional contribution of the bacteria to host metabolism by production of essential amino acids and urease-mediated nitrogen recycling. In adult hosts the symbiosis appears to degenerate with increasing age of the animals.
We investigated the distribution and dynamics of endosymbiotic bacteria and bacteriocytes at different stages during development of the animals from larva to imago by confocal laser scanning microscopy. The number of bacteriocytes in relation to symbiont-free midgut cells varied strongly over different developmental stages. Especially during metamorphosis the relative number of bacteria-filled bacteriocytes increased strongly when the larval midgut epithelium is shed. During this developmental stage the midgut itself became a huge symbiotic organ consisting almost exclusively of cells harboring bacteria. In fact, during this phase some bacteria were also found in midgut cells other than bacteriocytes indicating a cell-invasive capacity of Blochmannia. In adult animals the number of bacteriocytes generally decreased.
During the life cycle of the animals the distribution of bacteriocytes and of Blochmannia endosymbionts is remarkably dynamic. Our data show how the endosymbiont is retained within the midgut tissue during metamorphosis thereby ensuring the maintenance of the intracellular endosymbiosis despite a massive reorganization of the midgut tissue. The transformation of the entire midgut into a symbiotic organ during pupal stages underscores the important role of Blochmannia for its host in particular during metamorphosis.
PMCID: PMC3009655  PMID: 21122115
25.  A solute-binding protein for iron transport in Streptococcus iniae 
BMC Microbiology  2010;10:309.
Streptococcus iniae (S. iniae) is a major pathogen that causes considerable morbidity and mortality in cultured fish worldwide. The pathogen's ability to adapt to the host affects the extent of infection, hence understanding the mechanisms by which S. iniae overcomes physiological stresses during infection will help to identify potential virulence determinants of streptococcal infection. Grow S. iniae under iron-restricted conditions is one approach for identifying host-specific protein expression. Iron plays an important role in many biological processes but it has low solubility under physiological condition. Many microorganisms have been shown to be able to circumvent this nutritional limitation by forming direct contacts with iron-containing proteins through ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporters. The ABC transporter superfamilies constitute many different systems that are widespread among living organisms with different functions, such as ligands translocation, mRNA translation, and DNA repair.
An ABC transporter system, named as mtsABC (metal transport system) was cloned from S. iniae HD-1, and was found to be involved in heme utilization. mtsABC is cotranscribed by three downstream genes, i.e., mtsA, mtsB, and mtsC. In this study, we cloned the first gene of the mtsABC transporter system (mtsA), and purified the corresponding recombinant protein MtsA. The analysis indicated that MtsA is a putative lipoprotein which binds to heme that can serve as an iron source for the microorganism, and is expressed in vivo during Kunming mice infection by S. iniae HD-1.
This is believed to be the first report on the cloning the ABC transporter lipoprotein from S. iniae genomic DNA. Together, our data suggested that MtsA is associated with heme, and is expressed in vivo during Kunming mice infection by S. iniae HD-1 which indicated that it can be a potential candidate for S. iniae subunit vaccine.
PMCID: PMC3014919  PMID: 21122131

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