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1.  WSSV ie1 promoter is more efficient than CMV promoter to express H5 hemagglutinin from influenza virus in baculovirus as a chicken vaccine 
BMC Microbiology  2008;8:238.
The worldwide outbreak of influenza A (H5N1) viruses among poultry species and humans highlighted the need to develop efficacious and safe vaccines based on efficient and scaleable production.
White spot syndrome virus (WSSV) immediate-early promoter one (ie1) was shown to be a stronger promoter for gene expression in insect cells compared with Cytomegalovirus immediate-early (CMV) promoter in luciferase assays. In an attempt to improve expression efficiency, a recombinant baculovirus was constructed expressing hemagglutinin (HA) of H5N1 influenza virus under the control of WSSV ie1 promoter. HA expression in SF9 cells increased significantly with baculovirus under WSSV ie1 promoter, compared with CMV promoter based on HA contents and hemagglutination activity. Further, immunization with baculovirus under WSSV ie1 promoter in chickens elicited higher level anti-HA antibodies compared to CMV promoter, as indicated in hemagglutination inhibition, virus neutralization and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays. By immunohistochemistry, strong HA antigen expression was observed in different chicken organs with vaccination of WSSV ie1 promoter controlled baculovirus, confirming higher efficiency in HA expression by WSSV ie1 promoter.
The production of H5 HA by baculovirus was enhanced with WSSV ie1 promoter, especially compared with CMV promoter. This contributed to effective elicitation of HA-specific antibody in vaccinated chickens. This study provides an alternative choice for baculovirus based vaccine production.
PMCID: PMC2631607  PMID: 19116038
2.  Universal ligation-detection-reaction microarray applied for compost microbes 
BMC Microbiology  2008;8:237.
Composting is one of the methods utilised in recycling organic communal waste. The composting process is dependent on aerobic microbial activity and proceeds through a succession of different phases each dominated by certain microorganisms. In this study, a ligation-detection-reaction (LDR) based microarray method was adapted for species-level detection of compost microbes characteristic of each stage of the composting process. LDR utilises the specificity of the ligase enzyme to covalently join two adjacently hybridised probes. A zip-oligo is attached to the 3'-end of one probe and fluorescent label to the 5'-end of the other probe. Upon ligation, the probes are combined in the same molecule and can be detected in a specific location on a universal microarray with complementary zip-oligos enabling equivalent hybridisation conditions for all probes. The method was applied to samples from Nordic composting facilities after testing and optimisation with fungal pure cultures and environmental clones.
Probes targeted for fungi were able to detect 0.1 fmol of target ribosomal PCR product in an artificial reaction mixture containing 100 ng competing fungal ribosomal internal transcribed spacer (ITS) area or herring sperm DNA. The detection level was therefore approximately 0.04% of total DNA. Clone libraries were constructed from eight compost samples. The LDR microarray results were in concordance with the clone library sequencing results. In addition a control probe was used to monitor the per-spot hybridisation efficiency on the array.
This study demonstrates that the LDR microarray method is capable of sensitive and accurate species-level detection from a complex microbial community. The method can detect key species from compost samples, making it a basis for a tool for compost process monitoring in industrial facilities.
PMCID: PMC2648982  PMID: 19116002
3.  DNA-microarrays identification of Streptococcus mutans genes associated with biofilm thickness 
BMC Microbiology  2008;8:236.
A biofilm is a complex community of microorganisms that develop on surfaces in diverse environments. The thickness of the biofilm plays a crucial role in the physiology of the immobilized bacteria. The most cariogenic bacteria, mutans streptococci, are common inhabitants of a dental biofilm community. In this study, DNA-microarray analysis was used to identify differentially expressed genes associated with the thickness of S. mutans biofilms.
Comparative transcriptome analyses indicated that expression of 29 genes was differentially altered in 400- vs. 100-microns depth and 39 genes in 200- vs. 100-microns biofilms. Only 10 S. mutans genes showed differential expression in both 400- vs. 100-microns and 200- vs. 100-microns biofilms. All of these genes were upregulated.
As sucrose is a predominant factor in oral biofilm development, its influence was evaluated on selected genes expression in the various depths of biofilms. The presence of sucrose did not noticeably change the regulation of these genes in 400- vs. 100-microns and/or 200- vs. 100-microns biofilms tested by real-time RT-PCR.
Furthermore, we analyzed the expression profile of selected biofilm thickness associated genes in the luxS- mutant strain. The expression of those genes was not radically changed in the mutant strain compared to wild-type bacteria in planktonic condition. Only slight downregulation was recorded in SMU.2146c, SMU.574, SMU.609, and SMU.987 genes expression in luxS- bacteria in biofilm vs. planktonic environments.
These findings reveal genes associated with the thickness of biofilms of S. mutans. Expression of these genes is apparently not regulated directly by luxS and is not necessarily influenced by the presence of sucrose in the growth media.
PMCID: PMC2647549  PMID: 19114020
4.  The Vacuolar ATPase from Entamoeba histolytica: Molecular cloning of the gene encoding for the B subunit and subcellular localization of the protein 
BMC Microbiology  2008;8:235.
Entamoeba histolytica is a professional phagocytic cell where the vacuolar ATPase plays a key role. This enzyme is a multisubunit complex that regulates pH in many subcellular compartments, even in those that are not measurably acidic. It participates in a wide variety of cellular processes such as endocytosis, intracellular transport and membrane fusion. The presence of a vacuolar type H+-ATPase in E. histolytica trophozoites has been inferred previously from inhibition assays of its activity, the isolation of the Ehvma1 and Ehvma3 genes, and by proteomic analysis of purified phagosomes.
We report the isolation and characterization of the Ehvma2 gene, which encodes for the subunit B of the vacuolar ATPase. This polypeptide is a 55.3 kDa highly conserved protein with 34 to 80% identity to orthologous proteins from other species. Particularly, in silico studies showed that EhV-ATPase subunit B displays 78% identity and 90% similarity to its Dictyostelium ortholog. A 462 bp DNA fragment of the Ehvma2 gene was expressed in bacteria and recombinant polypeptide was used to raise mouse polyclonal antibodies. EhV-ATPase subunit B antibodies detected a 55 kDa band in whole cell extracts and in an enriched fraction of DNA-containing organelles named EhkOs. The V-ATPase subunit B was located by immunofluorescence and confocal microscopy in many vesicles, in phagosomes, plasma membrane and in EhkOs. We also identified the genes encoding for the majority of the V-ATPase subunits in the E. histolytica genome, and proposed a putative model for this proton pump.
We have isolated the Ehvma2 gene which encodes for the V-ATPase subunit B from the E. histolytica clone A. This gene has a 154 bp intron and encodes for a highly conserved polypeptide. Specific antibodies localized EhV-ATPase subunit B in many vesicles, phagosomes, plasma membrane and in EhkOs. Most of the orthologous genes encoding for the EhV-ATPase subunits were found in the E. histolytica genome, indicating the conserved nature of V-ATPase in this parasite.
PMCID: PMC2629482  PMID: 19108705
5.  Comparison of the MicroScan, VITEK 2, and Crystal GP with 16S rRNA sequencing and MicroSeq 500 v2.0 analysis for coagulase-negative Staphylococci 
BMC Microbiology  2008;8:233.
Three phenotypic identification systems (MicroScan, VITEK 2, and Crystal GP) were evaluated for their accuracy to identify coagulase-negative staphylococci (CNS). A total of 120 clinical isolates confirmed to be CNS via 16S rRNA sequencing and analysis with the MicroSeq 500 v2.0 database were assessed.
The MicroScan, VITEK 2, and Crystal GP systems correctly identified 82.5%, 87.5%, and 67.5% of the isolates, respectively. Misidentification was the main problem in MicroScan (10.8%) and Crystal GP (23.3%) systems, whereas the main problem of VITEK 2 was low-level discrimination (7.5%).
None of the 3 phenotypic systems tested could accurately and reliably identify CNS at the species level. Further verifications such as biochemical testing or 16S rRNA sequencing together with analysis using a comparable database might be helpful in this regard.
PMCID: PMC2633347  PMID: 19105808
6.  Mycobacterium tuberculosis interactome analysis unravels potential pathways to drug resistance 
BMC Microbiology  2008;8:234.
Emergence of drug resistant varieties of tuberculosis is posing a major threat to global tuberculosis eradication programmes. Although several approaches have been explored to counter resistance, there has been limited success due to a lack of understanding of how resistance emerges in bacteria upon drug treatment. A systems level analysis of the proteins involved is essential to gain insights into the routes required for emergence of drug resistance.
We derive a genome-scale protein-protein interaction network for Mycobacterium tuberculosis H37Rv from the STRING database, with proteins as nodes and interactions as edges. A set of proteins involved in both intrinsic and extrinsic drug resistance mechanisms are identified from literature. We then compute shortest paths from different drug targets to the set of resistance proteins in the protein-protein interactome, to derive a sub-network relevant to study emergence of drug resistance. The shortest paths are then scored and ranked based on a new scheme that considers (a) drug-induced gene upregulation data, from microarray experiments reported in literature, for the individual nodes and (b) edge-hubness, a network parameter which signifies centrality of a given edge in the network. High-scoring paths identified from this analysis indicate most plausible pathways for the emergence of drug resistance. Different targets appear to have different propensities for four drug resistance mechanisms. A new concept of 'co-targets' has been proposed to counter drug resistance, co-targets being defined as protein(s) that need to be simultaneously inhibited along with the intended target(s), to check emergence of resistance to a given drug.
The study leads to the identification of possible pathways for drug resistance, providing novel insights into the problem of resistance. Knowledge of important proteins in such pathways enables identification of appropriate 'co-targets', best examples being RecA, Rv0823c, Rv0892 and DnaE1, for drugs targeting the mycolic acid pathway. Insights obtained about the propensity of a drug to trigger resistance will be useful both for more careful identification of drug targets as well as to identify target-co-target pairs, both implementable in early stages of drug discovery itself. This approach is also inherently generic, likely to significantly impact drug discovery.
PMCID: PMC2649132  PMID: 19105810
7.  Plant growth promotion and Penicillium citrinum 
BMC Microbiology  2008;8:231.
Endophytic fungi are known plant symbionts. They produce a variety of beneficial metabolites for plant growth and survival, as well as defend their hosts from attack of certain pathogens. Coastal dunes are nutrient deficient and offer harsh, saline environment for the existing flora and fauna. Endophytic fungi may play an important role in plant survival by enhancing nutrient uptake and producing growth-promoting metabolites such as gibberellins and auxins. We screened roots of Ixeris repenes (L.) A. Gray, a common dune plant, for the isolation of gibberellin secreting endophytic fungi.
We isolated 15 endophytic fungi from the roots of Ixeris repenes and screened them for growth promoting secondary metabolites. The fungal isolate IR-3-3 gave maximum plant growth when applied to waito-c rice and Atriplex gemelinii seedlings. Analysis of the culture filtrate of IR-3-3 showed the presence of physiologically active gibberellins, GA1, GA3, GA4 and GA7 (1.95 ng/ml, 3.83 ng/ml, 6.03 ng/ml and 2.35 ng/ml, respectively) along with other physiologically inactive GA5, GA9, GA12, GA15, GA19, GA20 and, GA24. The plant growth promotion and gibberellin producing capacity of IR-3-3 was much higher than the wild type Gibberella fujikuroi, which was taken as control during present study. GA5, a precursor of bioactive GA3 was reported for the first time in fungi. The fungal isolate IR-3-3 was identified as a new strain of Penicillium citrinum (named as P. citrinum KACC43900) through phylogenetic analysis of 18S rDNA sequence.
Isolation of new strain of Penicillium citrinum from the sand dune flora is interesting as information on the presence of Pencillium species in coastal sand dunes is limited. The plant growth promoting ability of this fungal strain may help in conservation and revegetation of the rapidly eroding sand dune flora. Penicillium citrinum is already known for producing mycotoxin citrinin and cellulose digesting enzymes like cellulase and endoglucanase, as well as xylulase. Gibberellins producing ability of this fungus and the discovery about the presence of GA5 will open new aspects of research and investigations.
PMCID: PMC2631606  PMID: 19099608
8.  Imbalances in faecal and duodenal Bifidobacterium species composition in active and non-active coeliac disease 
BMC Microbiology  2008;8:232.
Gut bifidobacteria are believed to influence immune-related diseases. The objective of this study was to assess the possible relationships between the gut bifidobacteria composition and coeliac disease (CD) in children.
A total of 48 faecal samples (30 and 18 samples from active and no active CD patients, respectively) and 33 duodenal biopsy specimens of CD patients (25 and 8 samples from active and non-active CD patients, respectively) were analysed. Samples (30 faecal samples and 8 biopsies) from a control age-matched group of children were also included for comparative purposes. Gut Bifidobacterium genus and species were analyzed by real-time PCR.
Active and non-active CD patients showed lower numbers of total Bifidobacterium and B. longum species in faeces and duodenal biopsies than controls, and these differences were particularly remarkable between active CD patients and controls. B. catenulatum prevalence was higher in biopsies of controls than in those of active and non-active CD patients, whereas B. dentium prevalence was higher in faeces of non-active CD patients than in controls. Correlations between levels of Bifidobacterium and B. longum species in faecal and biopsy samples were detected in both CD patients and controls.
Reductions in total Bifidobacterium and B. longum populations were associated with both active and non-active CD when compared to controls. These bacterial groups could constitute novel targets for adjuvant dietary therapies although the confirmation of this hypothesis would require further investigations.
PMCID: PMC2635381  PMID: 19102766
9.  Assessment of genetic and functional diversity of phosphate solubilizing fluorescent pseudomonads isolated from rhizospheric soil 
BMC Microbiology  2008;8:230.
Phosphorus is an essential macronutrient for the growth of plants. However, in most soils a large portion of phosphorus becomes insoluble and therefore, unavailable to plants. Knowledge on biodiversity of phosphate-solubilizing fluorescent pseudomonads is essential to understand their ecological role and their utilization in sustainable agriculture.
Of 443 fluorescent pseudomonad strains tested, 80 strains (18%) showed positive for the solubilization of tri-calcium phosphate (Ca3(PO4)2) by the formation of visible dissolution halos on Pikovskaya's agar. These phosphate solubilizing strains showed high variability in utilizing various carbon sources. Numerical taxonomy of the phosphate solubilizing strains based on their carbon source utilization profiles resulted into three major phenons at a 0.76 similarity coefficient level. Genotypic analyses of strains by BOX (bacterial repetitive BOX element)-polymerase chain reaction (PCR) resulted into three distinct genomic clusters and 26 distinct BOX profiles at a 80% similarity level. On the basis of phenotypic characterization and 16S rRNA gene phylogenetic analyses strains were identified as Pseudomonas aeruginosa, P. mosselii, P. monteilii, P. plecoglossicida, P. putida, P. fulva and P. fluorescens. These phosphate solubilizing strains also showed the production of plant growth promoting enzymes, hormones and exhibited antagonism against phytopathogenic fungi that attack on various crops. Gene specific primers have identified the putative antibiotic producing strains. These putative strains were grown in fermentation media and production of antibiotics was confirmed by thin layer chromatography (TLC) and high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC).
Present study revealed a high degree of functional and genetic diversity among the phosphate solubilizing fluorescent pseudomonad bacteria. Due to their innate potential of producing an array of plant growth promoting enzymes, hormones and antifungal metabolites these phosphate solubilizing strains are considered to play a vital role in plant growth promotion, disease suppression and subsequent enhancement of yield.
PMCID: PMC2625360  PMID: 19099598
10.  Mannose binding lectin plays a crucial role in innate immunity against yeast by enhanced complement activation and enhanced uptake of polymorphonuclear cells 
BMC Microbiology  2008;8:229.
Mannose binding lectin (MBL) is an important host defence protein against opportunistic fungal pathogens. This carbohydrate-binding protein, an opsonin and lectin pathway activator, binds through multiple lectin domains to the repeating sugar arrays displayed on the surface of a wide range of clinically relevant microbial species. We investigated the contribution of MBL to antifungal innate immunity towards C. parapsilosis in vitro.
High avidity binding was observed between MBL and C. albicans and C. parapsilosis. Addition of MBL to MBL deficient serum increased the deposition of C4 and C3b and enhanced the uptake of C. albicans, C. parapsilosis and acapsular C. neoformans by polymorphonuclear cells (PMNs). Compared to other microorganisms, such as Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus and Cryptococcus neoformans, C. parapsilosis and Candida albicans were potent activators of the lectin pathway.
Our results suggest that MBL plays a crucial role in the innate immunity against infections caused by yeast by increasing uptake by PMN.
PMCID: PMC2627907  PMID: 19094203
11.  Analysis of the role of 13 major fimbrial subunits in colonisation of the chicken intestines by Salmonella enterica serovar Enteritidis reveals a role for a novel locus 
BMC Microbiology  2008;8:228.
Salmonella enterica is a facultative intracellular pathogen of worldwide importance. Over 2,500 serovars exist and infections in humans and animals may produce a spectrum of symptoms from enteritis to typhoid depending on serovar- and host-specific factors. S. Enteritidis is the most prevalent non-typhoidal serovar isolated from humans with acute diarrhoeal illness in many countries. Human infections are frequently associated with direct or indirect contact with contaminated poultry meat or eggs owing to the ability of the organism to persist in the avian intestinal and reproductive tract. The molecular mechanisms underlying colonisation of poultry by S. Enteritidis are ill-defined. Targeted and genome-wide mutagenesis of S. Typhimurium has revealed conserved and host-specific roles for selected fimbriae in intestinal colonisation of different hosts. Here we report the first systematic analysis of each chromosomally-encoded major fimbrial subunit of S. Enteritidis in intestinal colonisation of chickens.
The repertoire, organisation and sequence of the fimbrial operons within members of S. enterica were compared. No single fimbrial locus could be correlated with the differential virulence and host range of serovars by comparison of available genome sequences. Fimbrial operons were highly conserved among serovars in respect of gene number, order and sequence, with the exception of safA. Thirteen predicted major fimbrial subunit genes were separately inactivated by lambda Red recombinase-mediated linear recombination followed by P22/int transduction. The magnitude and duration of intestinal colonisation by mutant and parent strains was measured after oral inoculation of out-bred chickens. Whilst the majority of S. Enteritidis major fimbrial subunit genes played no significant role in colonisation of the avian intestines, mutations affecting pegA in two different S. Enteritidis strains produced statistically significant attenuation. Plasmid-mediated trans-complementation partially restored the colonisation phenotype.
We describe the fimbrial gene repertoire of the predominant non-typhoidal S. enterica serovar affecting humans and the role played by each predicted major fimbrial subunit in intestinal colonisation of the primary reservoir. Our data support a role for PegA in the colonisation of poultry by S. Enteritidis and aid the design of improved vaccines.
PMCID: PMC2644700  PMID: 19091138
12.  Characterization of the ompL1 gene of pathogenic Leptospira species in China and cross-immunogenicity of the OmpL1 protein 
BMC Microbiology  2008;8:223.
The usefulness of available vaccine and serological tests for leptospirosis is limited by the low cross-reactivity of antigens from numerous serovars of pathogenic Leptospira spp. Identification of genus-specific protein antigens (GP-Ag) of Leptospira would be important for development of universal vaccines and serodiagnostic methods. OmpL1, a transmembrane porin of pathogenic leptospires, was identified as a possible GP-Ag, but its sequence diversity and immune cross-reactivity among different serovars of pathogenic leptospires remains largely unknown.
PCR analysis demonstrated that the ompL1 gene existed in all 15 official Chinese standard strains as well as 163 clinical strains of pathogenic leptospires isolated in China. In the standard strains, the ompL1 gene could be divided into three groups (ompL1/1, ompL1/2 and ompL1/3) according to their sequence identities. Immune electron microscopy demonstrated that all products of the different gene types of ompL1 are located on the surface of leptospires. The microscopic agglutination test revealed extensive yet distinct cross-immunoagglutination among the antisera against recombinant OmpL1 (rOmpL1) and leptospiral strains belonging to different ompL1 gene types. These cross-immunoreactions were further verified by ELISAs using the OmpL1 proteins as the coated antigens in serum samples from 385 leptospirosis patients. All the antisera against rOmpL1 proteins could inhibit L. interrogans strain Lai from adhering to J774A.1 cells. Furthermore, immunization of guinea pigs with each of the rOmpL1 proteins could cause cross-immunoprotection against lethal challenge with leptospires from different ompL1 gene types.
Three types of the ompL1 gene are present in pathogenic leptospires in China. OmpL1 is an immunoprotective GP-Ag which should be considered in the design of new universal vaccines and serodiagnostic methods against leptospirosis.
PMCID: PMC2632671  PMID: 19087358
13.  Response of the cytoplasmic and membrane proteome of Corynebacterium glutamicum ATCC 13032 to pH changes 
BMC Microbiology  2008;8:225.
C. glutamicum has traditionally been grown in neutral-pH media for amino acid production, but in a previous article we reported that this microorganism is a moderate alkaliphile since it grows optimally at pH 7.0–9.0, as shown in fermentor studies under tightly controlled pH conditions. We determined the best pH values to study differential expression of several genes after acidic or basic pH conditions (pH 6.0 for acidic expression and pH 9.0 for alkaline expression). Thus, it was interesting to perform a detailed analysis of the pH-adaptation response of the proteome of C. glutamicum ATCC 13032 to clarify the circuits involved in stress responses in this bacterium. In this paper we used the above indicated pH conditions, based on transcriptional studies, to confirm that pH adaptation results in significant changes in cytoplasmatic and membrane proteins.
The cytoplasmatic and membrane proteome of Corynebacterium glutamicum ATCC 13032 at different pH conditions (6.0, 7.0 and 9.0) was analyzed by classical 2D-electrophoresis, and by anion exchange chromatography followed by SDS-PAGE (AIEC/SDS-PAGE). A few cytoplasmatic proteins showed differential expression at the three pH values with the classical 2D-technique including a hypothetical protein cg2797, L-2.3-butanediol dehydrogenase (ButA), and catalase (KatA). The AIEC/SDS-PAGE technique revealed several membrane proteins that respond to pH changes, including the succinate dehydrogenase complex (SdhABCD), F0F1-ATP synthase complex subunits b, α and δ (AtpF, AtpH and AtpA), the nitrate reductase II α subunit (NarG), and a hypothetical secreted/membrane protein cg0752. Induction of the F0F1-ATP synthase complex β subunit (AtpD) at pH 9.0 was evidenced by Western analysis. By contrast, L-2.3-butanediol dehydrogenase (ButA), an ATPase with chaperone activity, the ATP-binding subunit (ClpC) of an ATP-dependent protease complex, a 7 TMHs hypothetical protein cg0896, a conserved hypothetical protein cg1556, and the dihydrolipoamide acyltransferase SucB, were clearly up-regulated at pH 6.0.
The observed protein changes explain the effect of the extracellular pH on the growth and physiology of C. glutamicum. Some of the proteins up-regulated at alkaline pH respond also to other stress factors suggesting that they serve to integrate the cell response to different stressing conditions.
PMCID: PMC2627906  PMID: 19091079
14.  Phenotypic and molecular characterisation of Brucella isolates from marine mammals 
BMC Microbiology  2008;8:224.
Bacteria of the genus Brucella are the causative organisms of brucellosis in animals and man. Previous characterisation of Brucella strains originating from marine mammals showed them to be distinct from the terrestrial species and likely to comprise one or more new taxa. Recently two new species comprising Brucella isolates from marine mammals, B. pinnipedialis and B. ceti, were validly published. Here we report on an extensive study of the molecular and phenotypic characteristics of marine mammal Brucella isolates and on how these characteristics relate to the newly described species.
In this study, 102 isolates of Brucella originating from eleven species of marine mammals were characterised. Results obtained by analysis using the Infrequent Restriction Site (IRS)-Derivative PCR, PCR-RFLP of outer membrane protein genes (omp) and IS711 fingerprint profiles showed good consistency with isolates originating from cetaceans, corresponding to B. ceti, falling into two clusters. These correspond to isolates with either dolphins or porpoises as their preferred host. Isolates originating predominantly from seals, and corresponding to B. pinnipedialis, cluster separately on the basis of IS711 fingerprinting and other molecular approaches and can be further subdivided, with isolates from hooded seals comprising a distinct group. There was little correlation between phenotypic characteristics used in classical Brucella biotyping and these groups.
Molecular approaches are clearly valuable in the division of marine mammal Brucella into subtypes that correlate with apparent ecological divisions, whereas conventional bioyping is of less value. The data presented here confirm that there are significant subtypes within the newly described marine mammal Brucella species and add to a body of evidence that could lead to the recognition of additional species or sub-species within this group.
PMCID: PMC2647937  PMID: 19091076
15.  Functional identification of HugZ, a heme oxygenase from Helicobacter pylori 
BMC Microbiology  2008;8:226.
Iron is recognized as an important trace element, essential for most organisms including pathogenic bacteria. HugZ, a protein related to heme iron utilization, is involved in bacterial acquisition of iron from the host. We previously observed that a hugZ homologue is correlated with the adaptive colonization of Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), a major gastro-enteric pathogen. However, its exact physiological role remains unclear.
A gene homologous to hugZ, designated hp0318, identified in H. pylori ATCC 26695, exhibits 66% similarity to cj1613c of Campylobacter jejuni NCTC 11168. Soluble 6 × His fused-HugZ protein was expressed in vitro. Hemin-agrose affinity analysis indicated that the recombinant HugZ protein can bind to hemin. Absorption spectroscopy at 411 nm further revealed a heme:HugZ binding ratio of 1:1. Enzymatic assays showed that purified recombinant HugZ protein can degrade hemin into biliverdin and carbon monoxide in the presence of either ascorbic acid or NADPH and cytochrome P450 reductase. The biochemical and enzymatic characteristics agreed closely with those of Campylobacter jejuni Cj1613c protein, implying that hp0318 is a functional member of the HugZ family. A hugZ deletion mutant was obtained by homologous recombination. This mutant strain showed poor growth when hemoglobin was provided as the source of iron, partly because of its failure to utilize hemoglobin efficiently. Real-time quantitative PCR also confirmed that the expression of hugZ was regulated by iron levels.
These findings provide biochemical and genetic evidence that hugZ (hp0318) encodes a heme oxygenase involved in iron release/uptake in H. pylori.
PMCID: PMC2644699  PMID: 19091096
16.  Genomic analysis of bacteriophage ε34 of Salmonella enterica serovar Anatum (15+) 
BMC Microbiology  2008;8:227.
The presence of prophages has been an important variable in genetic exchange and divergence in most bacteria. This study reports the determination of the genomic sequence of Salmonella phage ε34, a temperate bacteriophage that was important in the early study of prophages that modify their hosts' cell surface and is of a type (P22-like) that is common in Salmonella genomes.
The sequence shows that ε34 is a mosaically related member of the P22 branch of the lambdoid phages. Its sequence is compared with the known P22-like phages and several related but previously unanalyzed prophage sequences in reported bacterial genome sequences.
These comparisons indicate that there has been little if any genetic exchange within the procapsid assembly gene cluster with P22-like E. coli/Shigella phages that are have orthologous but divergent genes in this region. Presumably this observation reflects the fact that virion assembly proteins interact intimately and divergent proteins can no longer interact. On the other hand, non-assembly genes in the "ant moron" appear to be in a state of rapid flux, and regulatory genes outside the assembly gene cluster have clearly enjoyed numerous and recent horizontal exchanges with phages outside the P22-like group. The present analysis also shows that ε34 harbors a gtrABC gene cluster which should encode the enzymatic machinery to chemically modify the host O antigen polysaccharide, thus explaining its ability to alter its host's serotype. A comprehensive comparative analysis of the known phage gtrABC gene clusters shows that they are highly mobile, having been exchanged even between phage types, and that most "bacterial" gtrABC genes lie in prophages that vary from being largely intact to highly degraded. Clearly, temperate phages are very major contributors to the O-antigen serotype of their Salmonella hosts.
PMCID: PMC2629481  PMID: 19091116
17.  Environmental rRNA inventories miss over half of protistan diversity 
BMC Microbiology  2008;8:222.
The main tool to discover novel microbial eukaryotes is the rRNA approach. This approach has important biases, including PCR discrimination against certain rRNA gene species, which makes molecular inventories skewed relative to the source communities. The degree of this bias has not been quantified, and it remains unclear whether species missed from clone libraries could be recovered by increasing sequencing efforts, or whether they cannot be detected in principle. Here we attempt to discriminate between these possibilities by statistically analysing four protistan inventories obtained using different general eukaryotic PCR primers.
We show that each PCR primer set-specific clone library is not a sample from the community diversity but rather from a fraction of this diversity. Therefore, even sequencing such clone libraries to saturation would only recover that fraction, which, according to the parametric models, varies between 17 ± 4% to 49 ± 10%, depending on the set of primers. The pooled data is thus qualitatively richer than individual libraries, even if normalized to the same sequencing effort.
The use of a single pair of primers leads to significant underestimation of the true community richness at all levels of taxonomic hierarchy. The majority of available protistan rRNA gene surveys likely sampled less than half of the target diversity, and might have completely missed the rest. The use of multiple PCR primers reduces this bias but does not necessarily eliminate it.
PMCID: PMC2625359  PMID: 19087295
18.  The Role of msa in Staphylococcus aureus Biofilm Formation 
BMC Microbiology  2008;8:221.
Staphylococcus aureus is an important pathogen that forms biofilms. The global regulator sarA is essential for biofilm formation. Since the modulator of sarA (msa) is required for full expression of sarA and regulates several virulence factors, we examined the capacity of the msa mutant to form biofilm.
We found that mutation of msa results in reduced expression of sarA in biofilm and that the msa mutant formed a weak and unstable biofilm. The msa mutant is able to adhere to surfaces and begins to form biofilm but fails to mature indicating that the defect of the msa mutant biofilm is in the accumulation stage but not in primary adhesion.
The msa gene plays an important role in biofilm development which is likely due to its role in modulating the expression of sarA. This finding is significant because it identifies a new gene that plays a role in the development of biofilm.
PMCID: PMC2648981  PMID: 19087289
19.  Fluorescent-BOX-PCR for resolving bacterial genetic diversity, endemism and biogeography 
BMC Microbiology  2008;8:220.
BOX-A1R-based repetitive extragenic palindromic-PCR (BOX-PCR) is one of the most used techniques in biogeography studies of microbial isolates. However the traditional separation of BOX-PCR patterns by agarose gel electrophoresis suffers many limitations. The aim of this research was to set up a fluorescent BOX-PCR (F-BOX-PCR) assay in which separation of PCR products is automated in a capillary electrophoresis system. F-BOX-PCR was compared with the traditional BOX-PCR using bacterial strains with different G+C content (Bacillus cereus; Escherichia coli; isolates of the family Geodermatophilaceae). Resolution, discriminatory power and reproducibility were evaluated by assaying different electrophoretic runs, PCR reactions and independent DNA extractions. BOX-PCR and F-BOX-PCR were compared for the analysis of 29 strains of Modestobacter multiseptatus isolated from three different microsites in an altered carbonatic wall from Cagliari, Italy, and 45 strains of Streptococcus thermophilus isolated from 34 samples of the hand-made, yogurt-like product Matsoni, collected in different locations in Georgia.
Fluorophore 6-FAM proved more informative than HEX and BOX-PCR both in agarose gel electrophoresis (p < 0.004 and p < 0.00003) and in capillary electrophoresis (compared only with HEX, p < 2 × 10-7). 6-FAM- and HEX-based F-BOX-PCR respectively detected up to 12.0 and 11.3 times more fragments than BOX-PCR. Replicate separations of F-BOX-PCR showed an accuracy of the size calling of ± 0.5 bp until 500 bp, constantly decreasing to ± 10 bp at 2000 bp. Cluster analysis of F-BOX-PCR profiles grouped M. multiseptatus strains according to the microsite of isolation and S. thermophilus strains according to the geographical origin of Matsoni, but resulted intermixed when a BOX-PCR dataset was used.
F-BOX-PCR represents an improved method for addressing bacterial biogeography studies both in term of sensitivity, reproducibility and data analysis.
PMCID: PMC2625358  PMID: 19077307
20.  Acinetobacter baumannii invades epithelial cells and outer membrane protein A mediates interactions with epithelial cells 
BMC Microbiology  2008;8:216.
Acinetobacter baumannii is a nosocomial pathogen of increasing importance, but the pathogenic mechanism of this microorganism has not been fully explored. This study investigated the potential of A. baumannii to invade epithelial cells and determined the role of A. baumannii outer membrane protein A (AbOmpA) in interactions with epithelial cells.
A. baumannii invaded epithelial cells by a zipper-like mechanism, which is associated with microfilament- and microtubule-dependent uptake mechanisms. Internalized bacteria were located in the membrane-bound vacuoles. Pretreatment of recombinant AbOmpA significantly inhibited the adherence to and invasion of A. baumannii in epithelial cells. Cell invasion of isogenic AbOmpA- mutant significantly decreased as compared with wild-type bacteria. In a murine pneumonia model, wild-type bacteria exhibited a severe lung pathology and induced a high bacterial burden in blood, whereas AbOmpA- mutant was rarely detected in blood.
A. baumannii adheres to and invades epithelial cells. AbOmpA plays a major role in the interactions with epithelial cells. These findings contribute to the understanding of A. baumannii pathogenesis in the early stage of bacterial infection.
PMCID: PMC2615016  PMID: 19068136
21.  Evaluation of an in silico predicted specific and immunogenic antigen from the OmcB protein for the serodiagnosis of Chlamydia trachomatis infections 
BMC Microbiology  2008;8:217.
The OmcB protein is one of the most immunogenic proteins in C. trachomatis and C. pneumoniae infections. This protein is highly conserved leading to serum cross reactivity between the various chlamydial species. Since previous studies based on recombinant proteins failed to identify a species specific immune response against the OmcB protein, this study evaluated an in silico predicted specific and immunogenic antigen from the OmcB protein for the serodiagnosis of C. trachomatis infections.
Using the ClustalW and Antigenic programs, we have selected two predicted specific and immunogenic regions in the OmcB protein: the N-terminal (Nt) region containing three epitopes and the C-terminal (Ct) region containing two epitopes with high scores. These regions were cloned into the PinPoint Xa-1 and pGEX-6P-1 expression vectors, incorporating a biotin purification tag and a glutathione-S-transferase tag, respectively. These regions were then expressed in E. coli. Only the pGEX-6P-1 has been found suitable for serological studies as its tag showed less cross reactivity with human sera and was retained for the evaluation of the selected antigens. Only the Ct region of the protein has been found to be well expressed in E. coli and was evaluated for its ability to be recognized by human sera. 384 sera were tested for the presence of IgG antibodies to C. trachomatis by our in house microimmunofluorescence (MIF) and the developed ELISA test. Using the MIF as the reference method, the developed OmcB Ct ELISA has a high specificity (94.3%) but a low sensitivity (23.9). Our results indicate that the use of the sequence alignment tool might be useful for identifying specific regions in an immunodominant antigen. However, the two epitopes, located in the selected Ct region, of the 24 predicted in the full length OmcB protein account for approximately 25% of the serological response detected by MIF, which limits the use of the developed ELISA test when screening C. trachomatis infections.
The developed ELISA test might be used as a confirmatory test to assess the specificity of serological results found by MIF.
PMCID: PMC2615015  PMID: 19077181
22.  Pleiotropic effects of a rel mutation on stress survival of Rhizobium etli CNPAF512 
BMC Microbiology  2008;8:219.
The rel gene of Rhizobium etli (relRet), the nodulating endosymbiont of the common bean plant, determines the cellular level of the alarmone (p)ppGpp and was previously shown to affect free-living growth and symbiosis. Here, we demonstrate its role in cellular adaptation and survival in response to various stresses.
Growth of the R. etli relRet mutant was strongly reduced or abolished in the presence of elevated NaCl levels or at 37°C, compared to the wild type. In addition, depending on the cell density, decreased survival of exponentially growing or stationary phase relRet mutant cells was obtained after H2O2, heat or NaCl shock compared to the wild-type strain. Survival of unstressed stationary phase cultures was differentially affected depending on the growth medium used. Colony forming units (CFU) of relRet mutant cultures continuously decreased in minimal medium supplemented with succinate, whereas wild-type cultures stabilised at higher CFU levels. Microscopic examination of stationary phase cells indicated that the relRet mutant was unable to reach the typical coccoid morphology of the wild type in stationary phase cultures. Assessment of stress resistance of re-isolated bacteroids showed increased sensitivity of the relRet mutant to H2O2 and a slightly increased resistance to elevated temperature (45°C) or NaCl shock, compared to wild-type bacteroids.
The relRet gene is an important factor in regulating rhizobial physiology, during free-living growth as well as in symbiotic conditions. Additionally, differential responses to several stresses applied to bacteroids and free-living exponential or stationary phase cells point to essential physiological differences between the different states.
PMCID: PMC2631030  PMID: 19077212
23.  Intragenic tandem repeat variation between Legionella pneumophila strains 
BMC Microbiology  2008;8:218.
Bacterial genomes harbour a large number of tandem repeats, yet the possible phenotypic effects of those found within the coding region of genes are only beginning to be examined. Evidence exists from other organisms that these repeats can be involved in the evolution of new genes, gene regulation, adaptation, resistance to environmental stresses, and avoidance of the immune system.
In this study, we have investigated the presence and variability in copy number of intragenic tandemly repeated sequences in the genome of Legionella pneumophila, the etiological agent of a severe pneumonia known as Legionnaires' disease. Within the genome of the Philadelphia strain, we have identified 26 intragenic tandem repeat sequences using conservative selection criteria. Of these, seven were "polymorphic" in terms of repeat copy number between a large number of L. pneumophila serogroup 1 strains. These strains were collected from a wide variety of environments and patients in several geographical regions. Within this panel of strains, all but one of these seven genes exhibited statistically different patterns in repeat copy number between samples from different origins (environmental, clinical, and hot springs).
These results support the hypothesis that intragenic tandem repeats could play a role in virulence and adaptation to different environments. While tandem repeats are an increasingly popular focus of molecular typing studies in prokaryotes, including in L. pneumophila, this study is the first examining the difference in tandem repeat distribution as a function of clinical or environmental origin.
PMCID: PMC2639597  PMID: 19077205
24.  Rapid dissemination of Francisella tularensis and the effect of route of infection 
BMC Microbiology  2008;8:215.
Francisella tularensis subsp. tularensis is classified as a Category A bioweapon that is capable of establishing a lethal infection in humans upon inhalation of very few organisms. However, the virulence mechanisms of this organism are not well characterized. Francisella tularensis subsp. novicida, which is an equally virulent subspecies in mice, was used in concert with a microPET scanner to better understand its temporal dissemination in vivo upon intranasal infection and how such dissemination compares with other routes of infection. Adult mice were inoculated intranasally with F. tularensis subsp. novicida radiolabeled with 64Cu and imaged by microPET at 0.25, 2 and 20 hours post-infection.
64Cu labeled F. tularensis subsp. novicida administered intranasally or intratracheally were visualized in the respiratory tract and stomach at 0.25 hours post infection. By 20 hours, there was significant tropism to the lung compared with other tissues. In contrast, the images of radiolabeled F. tularensis subsp. novicida when administered intragastrically, intradermally, intraperitoneally and intravenouslly were more generally limited to the gastrointestinal system, site of inoculation, liver and spleen respectively. MicroPET images correlated with the biodistribution of isotope and bacterial burdens in analyzed tissues.
Our findings suggest that Francisella has a differential tissue tropism depending on the route of entry and that the virulence of Francisella by the pulmonary route is associated with a rapid bacteremia and an early preferential tropism to the lung. In addition, the use of the microPET device allowed us to identify the cecum as a novel site of colonization of Francisella tularensis subsp. novicida in mice.
PMCID: PMC2651876  PMID: 19068128
25.  Insecticidal genes of Yersinia spp.: taxonomical distribution, contribution to toxicity towards Manduca sexta and Galleria mellonella, and evolution 
BMC Microbiology  2008;8:214.
Toxin complex (Tc) proteins termed TcaABC, TcdAB, and TccABC with insecticidal activity are present in a variety of bacteria including the yersiniae.
The tc gene sequences of thirteen Yersinia strains were compared, revealing a high degree of gene order conservation, but also remarkable differences with respect to pseudogenes, sequence variability and gene duplications. Outside the tc pathogenicity island (tc-PAIYe) of Y. enterocolitica strain W22703, a pseudogene (tccC2'/3') encoding proteins with homology to TccC and similarity to tyrosine phosphatases at its C-terminus was identified. PCR analysis revealed the presence of the tc-PAIYe and of tccC2'/3'-homologues in all biotype 2–5 strains tested, and their absence in most representatives of biotypes 1A and 1B. Phylogenetic analysis of 39 TccC sequences indicates the presence of the tc-PAIYe in an ancestor of Yersinia. Oral uptake experiments with Manduca sexta revealed a higher larvae lethality of Yersinia strains harbouring the tc-PAIYe in comparison to strains lacking this island. Following subcutaneous infection of Galleria mellonella larvae with five non-human pathogenic Yersinia spp. and four Y. enterocolitica strains, we observed a remarkable variability of their insecticidal activity ranging from 20% (Y. kristensenii) to 90% (Y. enterocolitica strain 2594) dead larvae after five days. Strain W22703 and its tcaA deletion mutant did not exhibit a significantly different toxicity towards G. mellonella. These data confirm a role of TcaA upon oral uptake only, and suggest the presence of further insecticidal determinants in Yersinia strains formerly unknown to kill insects.
This study investigated the tc gene distribution among yersiniae and the phylogenetic relationship between TccC proteins, thus contributing novel aspects to the current discussion about the evolution of insecticidal toxins in the genus Yersinia. The toxic potential of several Yersinia spp. towards M. sexta and G. mellonella demonstrated here for the first time points to insects as a natural reservoir for yersiniae.
PMCID: PMC2613401  PMID: 19063735

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