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1.  Characterization of the Trichomonas vaginalis surface-associated AP65 and binding domain interacting with trichomonads and host cells 
BMC Microbiology  2007;7:116.
AP65 is a prominent adhesin of Trichomonas vaginalis that mediates binding of parasites to host vaginal epithelial cells (VECs). AP65 with no secretion signal sequence, membrane targeting peptide, and anchoring motif was recently found to be secreted.
We first wanted to demonstrate surface association of AP65 to the parasite followed by the identification of the binding epitope interacting with both organisms and VECs. AP65 was found to bind to trichomonads, but not to trypsin-treated parasites, in an auto-ligand assay, suggesting the existence of a surface protein associating with AP65. Since rabbit antiserum IgG antibodies reactive with epitopes localized to the N-terminal region of AP65 inhibit the attachment of live parasites to VECs, we hypothesized that the binding domain was localized to this region. We subcloned five overlapping fragments of AP65 called c1 through c5, and expression of recombinant clones was confirmed with antibodies to AP65. Each purified recombinant protein was then tested for binding activity using an established ligand assay, and fragment c1 with the first twenty-five amino acids in the N-terminal domain was required for binding to VECs and, surprisingly, also to parasites. Importantly, c1 competed with the binding of AP65 to both cells types.
T. vaginalis AP65 is a secreted, surface-associated protein and a model is proposed to explain how this secreted protein functions as an adhesin.
PMCID: PMC2222631  PMID: 18158858
2.  Quantitative determination by real-time PCR of four vaginal Lactobacillus species, Gardnerella vaginalis and Atopobium vaginae indicates an inverse relationship between L. gasseri and L. iners 
BMC Microbiology  2007;7:115.
Most studies of the vaginal microflora have been based on culture or on qualitative molecular techniques. Here we applied existing real-time PCR formats for Lactobacillus crispatus, L. gasseri and Gardnerella vaginalis and developed new formats for Atopobium vaginae, L. iners and L. jensenii to obtain a quantitative non culture-based determination of these species in 71 vaginal samples from 32 pregnant and 28 non-pregnant women aged between 18 and 45 years.
The 71 vaginal microflora samples of these women were categorized, using the Ison and Hay criteria, as refined by Verhelst et al. (2005), as follows: grade Ia: 8 samples, grade Iab: 10, grade Ib: 13, grade I-like: 10, grade II: 11, grade III: 12 and grade IV: 7.
L. crispatus was found in all but 5 samples and was the most frequent Lactobacillus species detected. A significantly lower concentration of L. crispatus was found in grades II (p < 0.0001) and III (p = 0.002) compared to grade I. L. jensenii was found in all grades but showed higher concentration in grade Iab than in grade Ia (p = 0.024). A. vaginae and G. vaginalis were present in high concentrations in grade III, with log10 median concentrations (log10 MC), respectively of 9.0 and 9.2 cells/ml. Twenty (38.5%) of the 52 G. vaginalis positive samples were also positive for A. vaginae. In grade II we found almost no L. iners (log10 MC: 0/ml) but a high concentration of L. gasseri (log10 MC: 8.7/ml). By contrast, in grade III we found a high concentration of L. iners (log10 MC: 8.3/ml) and a low concentration of L. gasseri (log10 MC: 0/ml). These results show a negative association between L. gasseri and L. iners (r = -0.397, p = 0.001) and between L. gasseri and A. vaginae (r = -0.408, p < 0.0001).
In our study we found a clear negative association between L. iners and L. gasseri and between A. vaginae and L. gasseri. Our results do not provide support for the generally held proposition that grade II is an intermediate stage between grades I and III, because L. gasseri, abundant in grade II is not predominant in grade III, whereas L. iners, abundant in grade III is present only in low numbers in grade II samples.
PMCID: PMC2233628  PMID: 18093311
3.  Identification of a human immunodominant B-cell epitope within the immunoglobulin A1 protease of Streptococcus pneumoniae 
BMC Microbiology  2007;7:113.
The IgA1 protease of Streptococcus pneumoniae is a proteolytic enzyme that specifically cleaves the hinge regions of human IgA1, which dominates most mucosal surfaces and is the major IgA isotype in serum. This protease is expressed in all of the known pneumococcal strains and plays a major role in pathogen's resistance to the host immune response. The present work was focused at identifying the immunodominant regions of pneumococcal IgA1 protease recognized by the human antibody response.
An antigenic sequence corresponding to amino acids 420–457 (epiA) of the iga gene product was identified by screening a pneumococcal phage display library with patients' sera. The epiA peptide is conserved in all pneumococci and in two out of three S. mitis strains, while it is not present in other oral streptococci so far sequenced. This epitope was specifically recognized by antibodies present in sera from 90% of healthy adults, thus representing an important target of the humoral response to S. pneumoniae and S. mitis infection. Moreover, sera from 68% of children less than 4 years old reacted with the epiA peptide, indicating that the human immune response against streptococcal antigens occurs during childhood.
The broad and specific recognition of the epiA polypeptide by human sera demonstrate that the pneumococcal IgA1 protease contains an immunodominant B-cell epitope. The use of phage display libraries to identify microbe or disease-specific antigens recognized by human sera is a valuable approach to epitope discovery.
PMCID: PMC2225412  PMID: 18088426
4.  Genetic characterization of psp encoding the DING protein in Pseudomonas fluorescens SBW25 
BMC Microbiology  2007;7:114.
DING proteins constitute a conserved and broadly distributed set of proteins found in bacteria, fungi, plants and animals (including humans). Characterization of DING proteins from animal and plant tissues indicated ligand-binding ability suggesting a role for DING proteins in cell signaling and biomineralization. Surprisingly, the genes encoding DING proteins in eukaryotes have not been identified in the eukaryotic genome or EST databases. Recent discovery of a DING homologue (named Psp here) in the genome of Pseudomonas fluorescens SBW25 provided a unique opportunity to investigate the physiological roles of DING proteins. P. fluorescens SBW25 is a model bacterium that can efficiently colonize plant surfaces and enhance plant health. In this report we genetically characterize Psp with a focus on conditions under which psp is expressed and the protein exported.
Psp is closely related to the periplasmic Pi binding component of the ABC-type phosphate transporter system (Pst). psp is flanked by a gene cluster predicted to function as a type II protein secretion system (Hxc). Deletion analysis combined with chromosomally integrated 'lacZ fusions showed that both psp and pstC are induced by Pi limitation and that pstC is required for competitive growth of the bacterium in Pi limited medium. hxcR is not regulated by Pi limitation. Psp was detected (using anti-DING serum) in the supernatant of wild-type culture but was greatly reduced in the supernatant of an isogenic strain carrying an hxcR mutation (ΔhxcR). A promoter fusion between hxcR and a promoterless copy of a gene ('dapB) essential for growth in the plant environment showed that expression of hxcR is elevated during colonization of sugar beet seedlings. A similar analysis of psp showed that it is not induced in the plant environment.
Psp gene is expressed under conditions of Pi limitation. It is an exoprotein secreted mainly via the Hxc type II secretion system, whose expression is elevated on plant surfaces. We propose that Psp is involved in extracellular scavenging of phosphates, which are subsequently taken up by the cell-bound Pst transport system.
PMCID: PMC2225411  PMID: 18088430
5.  A nanoplex PCR assay for the rapid detection of vancomycin and bifunctional aminoglycoside resistance genes in Enterococcus species 
BMC Microbiology  2007;7:112.
Enterococci have emerged as a significant cause of nosocomial infections in many parts of the world over the last decade. The most common enterococci strains present in clinical isolates are E. faecalis and E. faecium which have acquired resistant to either gentamicin or vancomycin. The conventional culture test takes 2–5 days to yield complete information of the organism and its antibiotic sensitivity pattern. Hence our present study was focused on developing a nanoplex PCR assay for the rapid detection of vancomycin and bifunctional aminoglycoside resistant enterococci (V-BiA-RE). This assay simultaneously detects 8 genes namely 16S rRNA of Enterococcus genus, ddl of E. faecalis and E. faecium, aacA-aphD that encodes high level gentamicin resistance (HLGR), multilevel vancomycin resistant genotypes such as vanA, vanB, vanC and vanD and one internal control gene.
Unique and specific primer pairs were designed to amplify the 8 genes. The specificity of the primers was confirmed by DNA sequencing of the nanoplex PCR products and BLAST analysis. The sensitivity and specificity of V-BiA-RE nanoplex PCR assay was evaluated against the conventional culture method. The analytical sensitivity of the assay was found to be 1 ng at the DNA level while the analytical specificity was evaluated with 43 reference enterococci and non-enterococcal strains and was found to be 100%. The diagnostic accuracy was determined using 159 clinical specimens, which showed that 97% of the clinical isolates belonged to E. faecalis, of which 26% showed the HLGR genotype, but none were vancomycin resistant. The presence of an internal control in the V-BiA-RE nanoplex PCR assay helped us to rule out false negative cases.
The nanoplex PCR assay is robust and can give results within 4 hours about the 8 genes that are essential for the identification of the most common Enterococcus spp. and their antibiotic sensitivity pattern. The PCR assay developed in this study can be used as an effective surveillance tool to study the prevalence of enterococci and their antibiotic resistance pattern in hospitals and farm animals.
PMCID: PMC2241610  PMID: 18070365
6.  Expressed Sequence Tags from the oomycete Plasmopara halstedii, an obligate parasite of the sunflower 
BMC Microbiology  2007;7:110.
Sunflower downy mildew is a major disease caused by the obligatory biotrophic oomycete Plasmopara halstedii. Little is known about the molecular mechanisms underlying its pathogenicity. In this study we used a genomics approach to gain a first insight into the transcriptome of P. halstedii.
To identify genes from the obligatory biotrophic oomycete Plasmopara halstedii that are expressed during infection in sunflower (Helianthus annuus L.) we employed the suppression subtraction hybridization (SSH) method from sunflower seedlings infected by P. halstedii. Using this method and random sequencing of clones, a total of 602 expressed sequence tags (ESTs) corresponding to 230 unique sequence sets were identified. To determine the origin of the unisequences, PCR primers were designed to amplify these gene fragments from genomic DNA isolated either from P. halstedii sporangia or from Helianthus annuus. Only 145 nonredundant ESTs which correspond to a total of 373 ESTs (67.7%) proved to be derived from P. halstedii genes and that are expressed during infection in sunflower. A set of 87 nonredundant sequences were identified as showing matches to sequences deposited in public databases. Nevertheless, about 7% of the ESTs seem to be unique to P. halstedii without any homolog in any public database.
A summary of the assignment of nonredundant ESTs to functional categories as well as their relative abundance is listed and discussed. Annotation of the ESTs revealed a number of genes that could function in virulence. We provide a first glimpse into the gene content of P. halstedii. These resources should accelerate research on this important pathogen.
PMCID: PMC2242796  PMID: 18062809
7.  Chlamydia pneumoniae aggravates vein graft intimal hyperplasia in a rat model 
BMC Microbiology  2007;7:111.
Along with angioplasty, autologus vein grafts are commonly used for artery bypass grafting in patients with advanced arterial stenosis and drug-resistant angina pectoris. Although initially a successful procedure, long-term functionality is limited due to proliferation and migration of smooth muscle cells. Like in atherosclerosis, common chronic infections caused by viruses and bacteria may contribute to this process of vein graft failure. Here we investigated the possible role of Chlamydia pneumoniae (Cpn) in the pathogenesis of venous graft failure in an experimental animal model. In 2 groups (n = 10 rats/group), an epigastric vein-to-common femoral artery interposition graft was placed. Immediately thereafter, rats were infected with Cpn (5*108 IFU) or injected with control solutions. Rats were sacrificed three weeks after surgery and the grafts were harvested for morphometrical and immunohistochemical analysis.
Cpn administration immediately after vein grafting resulted in a significant increase in medial cross-sectional area, wall thickness and total wall area. There were no significant differences in T-cell or macrophage influx. Likewise, although positive immunostaining for both HSP60 and CRP could be detected, no differences were found between groups. Based on the observation that the number of cells/μm2 was also not altered, we conclude that Cpn infection stimulates smooth muscle cell proliferation by hereunto unknown molecular mechanisms, resulting in a significant increase in intimal hyperplasia.
In conclusion, in a well defined animal model we present here for the first time evidence for a role of Chlamydia pneumoniae in the process of venous graft failure.
PMCID: PMC2222630  PMID: 18062811
8.  Phylogenetic analysis of Shiga toxin 1 and Shiga toxin 2 genes associated with disease outbreaks 
BMC Microbiology  2007;7:109.
Shiga toxins 1 and 2 (Stx1 and Stx2) are bacteriophage-encoded proteins that have been associated with hemorrhagic colitis, hemolytic uremic syndrome and other severe disease conditions. Stx1 and Stx2 are genetically and immunologically distinct but share the same compound toxin structure, method of entry and enzymatic function.
Phylogenetic analysis was performed using Stx1 and Stx2 amino acid and nucleotide sequences from 41 strains of Escherichia coli, along with known stx sequences available from GenBank. The analysis confirmed the Stx1 and Stx2 divergence, and showed that there is generally more sequence variation among stx2 genes than stx1. The phylograms showed generally flat topologies among our strains' stx1 and stx2 genes. In the stx2 gene, 39.5% of the amino acid sites display very low nonsynonymous to synonymous substitution ratios.
The stx1 and stx2 genes used in this phylogenetic study show sequence conservation with no significant divergence with respect to place or time. These data could indicate that Shiga toxins are experiencing purifying selection.
PMCID: PMC2211750  PMID: 18053224
9.  Bacterial flora-typing with targeted, chip-based Pyrosequencing 
BMC Microbiology  2007;7:108.
The metagenomic analysis of microbial communities holds the potential to improve our understanding of the role of microbes in clinical conditions. Recent, dramatic improvements in DNA sequencing throughput and cost will enable such analyses on individuals. However, such advances in throughput generally come at the cost of shorter read-lengths, limiting the discriminatory power of each read. In particular, classifying the microbial content of samples by sequencing the < 1,600 bp 16S rRNA gene will be affected by such limitations.
We describe a method for identifying the phylogenetic content of bacterial samples using high-throughput Pyrosequencing targeted at the 16S rRNA gene. Our analysis is adapted to the shorter read-lengths of such technology and uses a database of 16S rDNA to determine the most specific phylogenetic classification for reads, resulting in a weighted phylogenetic tree characterizing the content of the sample. We present results for six samples obtained from the human vagina during pregnancy that corroborates previous studies using conventional techniques.
Next, we analyze the power of our method to classify reads at each level of the phylogeny using simulation experiments. We assess the impacts of read-length and database completeness on our method, and predict how we do as technology improves and more bacteria are sequenced. Finally, we study the utility of targeting specific 16S variable regions and show that such an approach considerably improves results for certain types of microbial samples. Using simulation, our method can be used to determine the most informative variable region.
This study provides positive validation of the effectiveness of targeting 16S metagenomes using short-read sequencing technology. Our methodology allows us to infer the most specific assignment of the sequence reads within the phylogeny, and to identify the most discriminative variable region to target. The analysis of high-throughput Pyrosequencing on human flora samples will accelerate the study of the relationship between the microbial world and ourselves.
PMCID: PMC2244631  PMID: 18047683
10.  Functional, genetic and bioinformatic characterization of a calcium/calmodulin kinase gene in Sporothrix schenckii 
BMC Microbiology  2007;7:107.
Sporothrix schenckii is a pathogenic, dimorphic fungus, the etiological agent of sporotrichosis, a subcutaneous lymphatic mycosis. Dimorphism in S. schenckii responds to second messengers such as cAMP and calcium, suggesting the possible involvement of a calcium/calmodulin kinase in its regulation. In this study we describe a novel calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase gene in S. schenckii, sscmk1, and the effects of inhibitors of calmodulin and calcium/calmodulin kinases on the yeast to mycelium transition and the yeast cell cycle.
Using the PCR homology approach a new member of the calcium/calmodulin kinase family, SSCMK1, was identified in this fungus. The cDNA sequence of sscmk1 revealed an open reading frame of 1,221 nucleotides encoding a 407 amino acid protein with a predicted molecular weight of 45.6 kDa. The genomic sequence of sscmk1 revealed the same ORF interrupted by five introns. Bioinformatic analyses of SSCMK1 showed that this protein had the distinctive features that characterize a calcium/calmodulin protein kinase: a serine/threonine protein kinase domain and a calmodulin-binding domain. When compared to homologues from seven species of filamentous fungi, SSCMK1 showed substantial similarities, except for a large and highly variable region that encompasses positions 330 – 380 of the multiple sequence alignment. Inhibition studies using calmodulin inhibitor W-7, and calcium/calmodulin kinase inhibitors, KN-62 and lavendustin C, were found to inhibit budding by cells induced to re-enter the yeast cell cycle and to favor the yeast to mycelium transition.
This study constitutes the first evidence of the presence of a calcium/calmodulin kinase-encoding gene in S. schenckii and its possible involvement as an effector of dimorphism in this fungus. These results suggest that a calcium/calmodulin dependent signaling pathway could be involved in the regulation of dimorphism in this fungus. The results suggest that the calcium/calmodulin kinases of yeasts are evolutionarily distinct from those in filamentous fungi.
PMCID: PMC2242797  PMID: 18047672
11.  Phylogenomics and signature proteins for the alpha Proteobacteria and its main groups 
BMC Microbiology  2007;7:106.
Alpha proteobacteria are one of the largest and most extensively studied groups within bacteria. However, for these bacteria as a whole and for all of its major subgroups (viz. Rhizobiales, Rhodobacterales, Rhodospirillales, Rickettsiales, Sphingomonadales and Caulobacterales), very few or no distinctive molecular or biochemical characteristics are known.
We have carried out comprehensive phylogenomic analyses by means of Blastp and PSI-Blast searches on the open reading frames in the genomes of several α-proteobacteria (viz. Bradyrhizobium japonicum, Brucella suis, Caulobacter crescentus, Gluconobacter oxydans, Mesorhizobium loti, Nitrobacter winogradskyi, Novosphingobium aromaticivorans, Rhodobacter sphaeroides 2.4.1, Silicibacter sp. TM1040, Rhodospirillum rubrum and Wolbachia (Drosophila) endosymbiont). These studies have identified several proteins that are distinctive characteristics of all α-proteobacteria, as well as numerous proteins that are unique repertoires of all of its main orders (viz. Rhizobiales, Rhodobacterales, Rhodospirillales, Rickettsiales, Sphingomonadales and Caulobacterales) and many families (viz. Rickettsiaceae, Anaplasmataceae, Rhodospirillaceae, Acetobacteraceae, Bradyrhiozobiaceae, Brucellaceae and Bartonellaceae). Many other proteins that are present at different phylogenetic depths in α-proteobacteria provide important information regarding their evolution. The evolutionary relationships among α-proteobacteria as deduced from these studies are in excellent agreement with their branching pattern in the phylogenetic trees and character compatibility cliques based on concatenated sequences for many conserved proteins. These studies provide evidence that the major groups within α-proteobacteria have diverged in the following order: (Rickettsiales(Rhodospirillales (Sphingomonadales (Rhodobacterales (Caulobacterales-Parvularculales (Rhizobiales)))))). We also describe two conserved inserts in DNA Gyrase B and RNA polymerase beta subunit that are distinctive characteristics of the Sphingomonadales and Rhodosprilllales species, respectively. The results presented here also provide support for the grouping of Hyphomonadaceae and Parvularcula species with the Caulobacterales and the placement of Stappia aggregata with the Rhizobiaceae group.
The α-proteobacteria-specific proteins and indels described here provide novel and powerful means for the taxonomic, biochemical and molecular biological studies on these bacteria. Their functional studies should prove helpful in identifying novel biochemical and physiological characteristics that are unique to these bacteria.
PMCID: PMC2241609  PMID: 18045498
12.  DprA/Smf protein localizes at the DNA uptake machinery in competent Bacillus subtilis cells 
BMC Microbiology  2007;7:105.
DprA is a widely conserved bacterial protein and has been shown to confer an important function during transformation in competent cells, possibly through protection of incoming DNA. B. subtilis DprA (called Smf) and has been shown to play an important role during transformation with chromosomal DNA, but its mode of action is unknown.
We show that B. subtilis DprA/Smf is more important for transformation with plasmid DNA than with chromosomal DNA. A functional Smf-YFP fusion localized as discrete foci to the cell pole in a subset of cells grown to competence, dependent on the ComK master transcription factor. Smf-YFP foci colocalized with ComGA-CFP. However, a considerable number of cells having high ComK activity contained Smf dispersed throughout the cytosol and lacked a polar Smf assembly. The absence of polar Smf-YFP foci in these cells strongly correlated with the absence of ComGA-CFP foci, and comGA mutant cells mostly lacked polar Smf-YFP foci. Smf formed polar assemblies in the absence of RecA, and RecA formed dynamic threads after addition of DNA in a smf deletion strain. Upon addition of DNA, Smf-YFP foci relocalized from the poles to the cell centre, dependent on the presence of RecA protein.
Our data show that Smf is recruited to the polar competence machinery, and that polar Smf assembly requires a functional DNA uptake complex. High ComK levels drive expression of Smf in 20% of all cells grown to competence, but not all competent cells contain a polar DNA uptake machinery, showing that ComK activity is necessary but not sufficient to achieve assembly of the uptake machinery in all cells. Smf and RecA localize independently of each other, in agreement with our finding that Smf is much more important for plasmid transformation than RecA, but RecA influences the dynamic localization pattern of Smf. Our data show that DprA/Smf acts downstream of the DNA uptake machinery, and support the idea that Smf protects incoming ssDNA, possibly in conjunction with RecA.
PMCID: PMC2216020  PMID: 18045469
13.  Improved protocols for functional analysis in the pathogenic fungus Aspergillus flavus 
BMC Microbiology  2007;7:104.
An available whole genome sequence for Aspergillus flavus provides the opportunity to characterize factors involved in pathogenicity and to elucidate the regulatory networks involved in aflatoxin biosynthesis. Functional analysis of genes within the genome is greatly facilitated by the ability to disrupt or mis-express target genes and then evaluate their result on the phenotype of the fungus. Large-scale functional analysis requires an efficient genetic transformation system and the ability to readily select transformants with altered expression, and usually requires generation of double (or multi) gene deletion strains or the use of prototrophic strains. However, dominant selectable markers, an efficient transformation system and an efficient screening system for transformants in A. flavus are absent.
The efficiency of the genetic transformation system for A. flavus based on uracil auxotrophy was improved. In addition, A. flavus was shown to be sensitive to the antibiotic, phleomycin. Transformation of A. flavus with the ble gene for resistance to phleomycin resulted in stable transformants when selected on 100 μg/ml phleomycin. We also compared the phleomycin system with one based on complementation for uracil auxotrophy which was confirmed by uracil and 5-fluoroorotic acid selection and via transformation with the pyr4 gene from Neurospora crassa and pyrG gene from A. nidulans in A. flavus NRRL 3357. A transformation protocol using pyr4 as a selectable marker resulted in site specific disruption of a target gene. A rapid and convenient colony PCR method for screening genetically altered transformants was also developed in this study.
We employed phleomycin resistance as a new positive selectable marker for genetic transformation of A. flavus. The experiments outlined herein constitute the first report of the use of the antibiotic phleomycin for transformation of A. flavus. Further, we demonstrated that this transformation protocol could be used for directed gene disruption in A. flavus. The significance of this is twofold. First, it allows strains to be transformed without having to generate an auxotrophic mutation, which is time consuming and may result in undesirable mutations. Second, this protocol allows for double gene knockouts when used in conjunction with existing strains with auxotrophic mutations.
To further facilitate functional analysis in this strain we developed a colony PCR-based method that is a rapid and convenient method for screening genetically altered transformants. This work will be of interest to those working on molecular biology of aflatoxin metabolism in A. flavus, especially for functional analysis using gene deletion and gene expression.
PMCID: PMC2212646  PMID: 18039373
14.  Hepatitis B virus genotypes circulating in Brazil: molecular characterization of genotype F isolates 
BMC Microbiology  2007;7:103.
Hepatitis B virus (HBV) isolates have been classified in eight genotypes, A to H, which exhibit distinct geographical distributions. Genotypes A, D and F are predominant in Brazil, a country formed by a miscegenated population, where the proportion of individuals from Caucasian, Amerindian and African origins varies by region. Genotype F, which is the most divergent, is considered indigenous to the Americas. A systematic molecular characterization of HBV isolates from different parts of the world would be invaluable in establishing HBV evolutionary origins and dispersion patterns. A large-scale study is needed to map the region-by-region distribution of the HBV genotypes in Brazil.
Genotyping by PCR-RFLP of 303 HBV isolates from HBsAg-positive blood donors showed that at least two of the three genotypes, A, D, and F, co-circulate in each of the five geographic regions of Brazil. No other genotypes were identified. Overall, genotype A was most prevalent (48.5%), and most of these isolates were classified as subgenotype A1 (138/153; 90.2%). Genotype D was the most common genotype in the South (84.2%) and Central (47.6%) regions. The prevalence of genotype F was low (13%) countrywide. Nucleotide sequencing of the S gene and a phylogenetic analysis of 32 HBV genotype F isolates showed that a great majority (28/32; 87.5%) belonged to subgenotype F2, cluster II. The deduced serotype of 31 of 32 F isolates was adw4. The remaining isolate showed a leucine-to-isoleucine substitution at position 127.
The presence of genotypes A, D and F, and the absence of other genotypes in a large cohort of HBV infected individuals may reflect the ethnic origins of the Brazilian population. The high prevalence of isolates from subgenotype A1 (of African origin) indicates that the African influx during the colonial slavery period had a major impact on the circulation of HBV genotype A currently found in Brazil. Although most genotype F isolates belonged to cluster II, the presence of some isolates belonging to clusters I (subgroup Ib) and IV suggests the existence of two or more founder viral populations of genotype F in Brazil.
PMCID: PMC2231365  PMID: 18036224
15.  Mechanisms of Legionella pneumophila-induced interleukin-8 expression in human lung epithelial cells 
BMC Microbiology  2007;7:102.
Legionella pneumophila is a facultative intracellular bacterium, capable of replicating within the phagosomes of macrophages and monocytes, but little is known about its interaction with human lung epithelial cells. We investigated the effect of L. pneumophila on the expression of interleukin-8 (IL-8) in human A549 alveolar and NCI-H292 tracheal epithelial cell lines.
Infection of L. pneumophila strain, but not heat-killed strain, resulted in upregulation of IL-8. IL-8 mRNA expression was induced immediately after the infection and its signal became gradually stronger until 24 h after infection. On the other hand, IL-8 expression in A549 cells infected with L. pneumophila lacking a functional type IV secretion system was transient. The IL-8 expression was slightly induced at 16 h and increased at 24 h after infection with flagellin-deficient Legionella. Activation of the IL-8 promoter by L. pneumophila infection occurred through the action of nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB). Transfection of dominant negative mutants of NF-κB-inducing kinase, IκB kinase and IκB inhibited L. pneumophila-mediated activation of IL-8 promoter. Treatment with hsp90 inhibitor suppressed L. pneumophila-induced IL-8 mRNA due to deactivation of NF-κB.
Collectively, these results suggest that L. pneumophila induces activation of NF-κB through an intracellular signaling pathway that involves NF-κB-inducing kinase and IκB kinase, leading to IL-8 gene transcription, and that hsp90 acts as a crucial regulator in L. pneumophila-induced IL-8 expression, presumably contributing to immune response in L. pneumophila. The presence of flagellin and a type IV secretion system are critical for Legionella to induce IL-8 expression in lung epithelial cells.
PMCID: PMC2213657  PMID: 18034886
16.  Inhibitory activity spectrum of reuterin produced by Lactobacillus reuteri against intestinal bacteria 
BMC Microbiology  2007;7:101.
Reuterin produced from glycerol by Lactobacillus reuteri, a normal inhabitant of the human intestine, is a broad-spectrum antimicrobial agent. It has been postulated that reuterin could play a role in the probiotic effects of Lb. reuteri. Reuterin is active toward enteropathogens, yeasts, fungi, protozoa and viruses, but its effect on commensal intestinal bacteria is unknown. Moreover reuterin's mode of action has not yet been elucidated. Glutathione, a powerful antioxidant, which also plays a key role in detoxifying reactive aldehydes, protects certain bacteria from oxidative stress, and could also be implicated in resistance to reuterin.
The aim of this work was to test the activity of reuterin against a representative panel of intestinal bacteria and to study a possible correlation between intracellular low molecular weight thiols (LMW-SH) such as glutathione, hydrogen peroxide and/or reuterin sensitivity. Reuterin was produced by Lb. reuteri SD2112 in pure glycerol solution, purified and used to test the minimal inhibitory (MIC) and minimal bactericidal concentrations (MBC). Hydrogen peroxide sensitivity and intracellular LMW-SH concentration were also analysed.
Our data showed that most tested intestinal bacteria showed MIC below that for a sensitive indicator Escherichia coli (7.5–15 mM). Lactobacilli and Clostridium clostridioforme were more resistant with MIC ranging from 15 to 50 mM. No correlation between bacterial intracellular concentrations of LMW-SH, including glutathione, and reuterin or hydrogen peroxide sensitivities were found.
Our data showed that intestinal bacteria were very sensitive to reuterin and that their intracellular concentration of LMW-SH was not directly linked to their capacity to resist reuterin or hydrogen peroxide. This suggests that detoxification by LMW-SH such as glutathione is not a general mechanism and that other mechanisms are probably involved in bacterial tolerance to reuterin and hydrogene peroxide.
PMCID: PMC2222629  PMID: 17997816
17.  Identification and regulation of expression of a gene encoding a filamentous hemagglutinin-related protein in Bordetella holmesii 
BMC Microbiology  2007;7:100.
Bordetella holmesii is a human pathogen closely related to B. pertussis, the etiological agent of whooping cough. It is able to cause disease in immunocompromised patients, but also whooping cough-like symptoms in otherwise healthy individuals. However, virtually nothing was known so far about the underlying virulence mechanisms and previous attempts to identify virulence factors related to those of B. pertussis were not successful.
By use of a PCR approach we were able to identify a B. holmesii gene encoding a protein with significant sequence similarities to the filamentous hemagglutinin (FHA) of B. avium and to a lesser extent to the FHA proteins of B. pertussis, B. parapertussis, and B. bronchiseptica. For these human and animal pathogens FHA is a crucial virulence factor required for successful colonization of the host. Interestingly, the B. holmesii protein shows a relatively high overall sequence similarity with the B. avium protein, while sequence conservation with the FHA proteins of the human and mammalian pathogens is quite limited and is most prominent in signal sequences required for their export to the cell surface. In the other Bordetellae expression of the fhaB gene encoding FHA was shown to be regulated by the master regulator of virulence, the BvgAS two-component system. Recently, we identified orthologs of BvgAS in B. holmesii, and here we show that this system also contributes to regulation of fhaB expression in B. holmesii. Accordingly, the purified BvgA response regulator of B. holmesii was shown to bind specifically in the upstream region of the fhaB promoter in vitro in a manner similar to that previously described for the BvgA protein of B. pertussis. Moreover, by deletion analysis of the fhaB promoter region we show that the BvgA binding sites are relevant for in vivo transcription from this promoter in B. holmesii.
The data reported here show that B. holmesii is endowed with a factor highly related to filamentous hemagglutinin (FHA), a prominent virulence factor of the well characterized pathogenic Bordetellae. We show that like in the other Bordetellae the virulence regulatory BvgAS system is also involved in the regulation of fhaB expression in B. holmesii. Taken together these data indicate that in contrast to previous notions B. holmesii may in fact make use of virulence mechanisms related to those described for the other Bordetellae.
PMCID: PMC2225982  PMID: 17988394
18.  Subtle genetic changes enhance virulence of methicillin resistant and sensitive Staphylococcus aureus 
BMC Microbiology  2007;7:99.
Community acquired (CA) methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) increasingly causes disease worldwide. USA300 has emerged as the predominant clone causing superficial and invasive infections in children and adults in the USA. Epidemiological studies suggest that USA300 is more virulent than other CA-MRSA. The genetic determinants that render virulence and dominance to USA300 remain unclear.
We sequenced the genomes of two pediatric USA300 isolates: one CA-MRSA and one CA-methicillin susceptible (MSSA), isolated at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston. DNA sequencing was performed by Sanger dideoxy whole genome shotgun (WGS) and 454 Life Sciences pyrosequencing strategies. The sequence of the USA300 MRSA strain was rigorously annotated. In USA300-MRSA 2658 chromosomal open reading frames were predicted and 3.1 and 27 kilobase (kb) plasmids were identified. USA300-MSSA contained a 20 kb plasmid with some homology to the 27 kb plasmid found in USA300-MRSA. Two regions found in US300-MRSA were absent in USA300-MSSA. One of these carried the arginine deiminase operon that appears to have been acquired from S. epidermidis. The USA300 sequence was aligned with other sequenced S. aureus genomes and regions unique to USA300 MRSA were identified.
USA300-MRSA is highly similar to other MRSA strains based on whole genome alignments and gene content, indicating that the differences in pathogenesis are due to subtle changes rather than to large-scale acquisition of virulence factor genes. The USA300 Houston isolate differs from another sequenced USA300 strain isolate, derived from a patient in San Francisco, in plasmid content and a number of sequence polymorphisms. Such differences will provide new insights into the evolution of pathogens.
PMCID: PMC2222628  PMID: 17986343
19.  Global transcriptional response of Escherichia coli O157:H7 to growth transitions in glucose minimal medium 
BMC Microbiology  2007;7:97.
Global patterns of gene expression of Escherichia coli K-12 during growth transitions have been deeply investigated, however, comparable studies of E. coli O157:H7 have not been explored, particularly with respect to factors regulating virulence genes and genomic islands specific to this pathogen. To examine the impact of growth phase on the dynamics of the transcriptome, O157:H7 Sakai strain was cultured in MOPS minimal media (0.1% glucose), RNA harvested at 10 time points from early exponential to full stationary phase, and relative gene expression was measured by co-hybridization on high-density DNA microarrays. Expression levels of 14 genes, including those encoding Shiga toxins and other virulence factors associated with the locus of enterocyte effacement (LEE), were confirmed by Q-PCR.
Analysis of variance (R/MAANOVA, Fs test) identified 442 (36%) of 1239 O157-specific ORFs and 2110 (59%) of 3647 backbone ORFs that changed in expression significantly over time. QT cluster analysis placed 2468 of the 2552 significant ORFs into 12 groups; each group representing a distinct expression pattern. ORFs from the largest cluster (n = 1078) decreased in expression from late exponential to early stationary phase: most of these ORFs are involved in functions associated with steady state growth. Also represented in this cluster are ORFs of the TAI island, encoding tellurite resistance and urease activity, which decreased ~4-fold. Most ORFs of the LEE pathogenicity island also decreased ~2-fold by early stationary phase. The ORFs encoding proteins secreted via the LEE encoded type III secretion system, such as tccP and espJ, also decreased in expression from exponential to stationary phase. Three of the clusters (n = 154) comprised genes that are transiently upregulated at the transition into stationary phase and included genes involved in nutrient scavenging. Upregulated genes with an increase in mRNA levels from late exponential to early stationary phase belonged to one cluster (n = 923) which includes genes involved in stress responses (e.g. gadAB, osmBC, and dps). These transcript levels remained relatively high for > 3 h in stationary phase. The Shiga toxin genes (stx1AB and stx2B) were significantly induced after transition into stationary phase.
Expression of more than 300 O157-specific ORFs, many implicated in virulence of the O157 pathogen, was modulated in a growth dependent manner. These results provide a baseline transcriptional profile that can be compared to patterns of gene expression of this important foodborne pathogen under adverse environmental conditions.
PMCID: PMC2241611  PMID: 17967175
20.  Comparative transcriptomics in Yersinia pestis: a global view of environmental modulation of gene expression 
BMC Microbiology  2007;7:96.
Environmental modulation of gene expression in Yersinia pestis is critical for its life style and pathogenesis. Using cDNA microarray technology, we have analyzed the global gene expression of this deadly pathogen when grown under different stress conditions in vitro.
To provide us with a comprehensive view of environmental modulation of global gene expression in Y. pestis, we have analyzed the gene expression profiles of 25 different stress conditions. Almost all known virulence genes of Y. pestis were differentially regulated under multiple environmental perturbations. Clustering enabled us to functionally classify co-expressed genes, including some uncharacterized genes. Collections of operons were predicted from the microarray data, and some of these were confirmed by reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). Several regulatory DNA motifs, probably recognized by the regulatory protein Fur, PurR, or Fnr, were predicted from the clustered genes, and a Fur binding site in the corresponding promoter regions was verified by electrophoretic mobility shift assay (EMSA).
The comparative transcriptomics analysis we present here not only benefits our understanding of the molecular determinants of pathogenesis and cellular regulatory circuits in Y. pestis, it also serves as a basis for integrating increasing volumes of microarray data using existing methods.
PMCID: PMC2231364  PMID: 17963531
21.  Based Upon Repeat Pattern (BURP): an algorithm to characterize the long-term evolution of Staphylococcus aureus populations based on spa polymorphisms 
BMC Microbiology  2007;7:98.
For typing of Staphylococcus aureus, DNA sequencing of the repeat region of the protein A (spa) gene is a well established discriminatory method for outbreak investigations. Recently, it was hypothesized that this region also reflects long-term epidemiology. However, no automated and objective algorithm existed to cluster different repeat regions. In this study, the Based Upon Repeat Pattern (BURP) implementation that is a heuristic variant of the newly described EDSI algorithm was investigated to infer the clonal relatedness of different spa types.
For calibration of BURP parameters, 400 representative S. aureus strains with different spa types were characterized by MLST and clustered using eBURST as "gold standard" for their phylogeny. Typing concordance analysis between eBURST and BURP clustering (spa-CC) were performed using all possible BURP parameters to determine their optimal combination. BURP was subsequently evaluated with a strain collection reflecting the breadth of diversity of S. aureus (JCM 2002; 40:4544).
In total, the 400 strains exhibited 122 different MLST types. eBURST grouped them into 23 clonal complexes (CC; 354 isolates) and 33 singletons (46 isolates). BURP clustering of spa types using all possible parameter combinations and subsequent comparison with eBURST CCs resulted in concordances ranging from 8.2 to 96.2%. However, 96.2% concordance was reached only if spa types shorter than 8 repeats were excluded, which resulted in 37% excluded spa types. Therefore, the optimal combination of the BURP parameters was "exclude spa types shorter than 5 repeats" and "cluster spa types into spa-CC if cost distances are less than 4" exhibiting 95.3% concordance to eBURST. This algorithm identified 24 spa-CCs, 40 singletons, and excluded only 7.8% spa types. Analyzing the natural population with these parameters, the comparison of whole-genome micro-array groupings (at the level of 0.31 Pearson correlation index) and spa-CCs gave a concordance of 87.1%; BURP spa-CCs vs. manually grouped spa types resulted in 95.7% concordance.
BURP is the first automated and objective tool to infer clonal relatedness from spa repeat regions. It is able to extract an evolutionary signal rather congruent to MLST and micro-array data.
PMCID: PMC2148047  PMID: 17967176
22.  Characterisation of mycobacteria isolated from slaughter cattle in pastoral regions of Uganda 
BMC Microbiology  2007;7:95.
Bovine tuberculosis is a zoonotic problem in pastoral cattle and communities in Uganda. Tuberculin tests in pastoral cattle had shown a high herd but low animal prevalence, with a high proportion of avian reactors. No work had been done to identify the mycobacterial species involved. The objective of the study was to isolate and characterise Mycobacterial species causing tuberculous lesions in slaughtered animals. Lesioned organs compatible with bovine tuberculosis in slaughtered cattle from pastoral areas in Uganda were collected and cultured to isolate mycobacteria. AccuProbe culture identification kits for the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex, M. avium complex and M. avium were used to identify the isolates. Spoligotyping and Insertion Sequence (IS) 1311 and IS1245 Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism analysis (RFLP) were used to further characterise the isolates.
Of the 61 lesioned organs and tissues cultured, 19 isolates were identified as M. bovis, 3 as M. avium subsp.hominissuis, 1 as M. intracellulare, 1 as a mixed culture of M. bovis and M. avium sp. and 1 as M. avium sp. and unidentified mycobacteria. Eleven other mycobacteria outside the tuberculosis and avium complex groups were also isolated. Ten new spoligopatterns grouped into three clusters were identified from M. bovis isolates. Two of the three M. avium subsp.hominissuis isolates showed similar patterns on the IS1311 RFLP but all were different on the IS1245 RFLP.
The isolation of M. bovis confirms the ongoing infection with spoligotypes unique to Uganda. Isolation of environmental mycobacteria could explain the high avian or non specific tuberculin reactor patterns commonly observed in pastoral cattle and suggests their pathogenic or opportunistic role in the infection of cattle with disseminated bovine tuberculous lesions.
PMCID: PMC2140064  PMID: 17961243
23.  luxRI homologs are universally present in the genus Aeromonas 
BMC Microbiology  2007;7:93.
Aeromonas spp. have been regarded as "emerging pathogens". Aeromonads possess multifactorial virulence and the production of many of these virulence determinants is associated with high cell density, a phenomenon that might be regulated by quorum sensing. However, only two species of the genus are reported to possess the luxRI quorum sensing gene homologs. The purpose of this study was to investigate if the luxRI homologs are universally present in the Aeromonas strains collected from various culture collections, clinical laboratories and field studies.
Of all the 73 Aeromonas strains used in the study, seventy-one strains elicited acyl-homoserine lactone-mediated response in multiple biosensor strains. However, dot blot hybridization revealed that the luxRI homologs are present in all the strains. PCR amplification and sequencing revealed that the luxRI homologs shared a very high percentage sequence similarity. No evidence for lateral gene transfer of the luxRI homologs between aeromonads and other genera was noted.
We propose that the luxRI quorum sensing gene homologs are universally present in the genus Aeromonas independently from their origin. This study is the first genus-wide report of the taxonomic distribution of the luxRI homologs.
PMCID: PMC2180181  PMID: 17953777
24.  Cirrhosis-induced defects in innate pulmonary defenses against Streptococcus pneumoniae 
BMC Microbiology  2007;7:94.
The risk of mortality from pneumonia caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae is increased in patients with cirrhosis. However, the specific pneumococcal virulence factors and host immune defects responsible for this finding have not been clearly established. This study used a cirrhotic rat model of pneumococcal pneumonia to identify defect(s) in innate pulmonary defenses in the cirrhotic host and to determine the impact of the pneumococcal toxin pneumolysin on these defenses in the setting of severe cirrhosis.
No cirrhosis-associated defects in mucociliary clearance of pneumococci were found in these studies, but early intrapulmonary killing of the organisms before the arrival of neutrophils was significantly impaired. This defect was exacerbated by pneumolysin production in cirrhotic but not in control rats. Neutrophil-mediated killing of a particularly virulent type 3 pneumococcal strain also was significantly diminished within the lungs of cirrhotic rats with ascites. Levels of lysozyme and complement component C3 were both significantly reduced in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid from cirrhotic rats. Finally, complement deposition was reduced on the surface of pneumococci recovered from the lungs of cirrhotic rats in comparison to organisms recovered from the lungs of control animals.
Increased mortality from pneumococcal pneumonia in this cirrhotic host is related to defects in both early pre-neutrophil- and later neutrophil-mediated pulmonary killing of the organisms. The fact that pneumolysin production impaired pre-neutrophil-mediated pneumococcal killing in cirrhotic but not control rats suggests that pneumolysin may be particularly detrimental to this defense mechanism in the severely cirrhotic host. The decrease in neutrophil-mediated killing of pneumococci within the lungs of the cirrhotic host is related to insufficient deposition of host proteins such as complement C3 on their surfaces. Pneumolysin likely plays a role in complement consumption within the lungs. Our studies, however, were unable to determine whether pneumolysin more negatively impacted this defense mechanism in cirrhotic than in control rats. These findings contribute to our understanding of the defects in innate pulmonary defenses that lead to increased mortality from pneumococcal pneumonia in the severely cirrhotic host. They also suggest that pneumolysin may be a particularly potent pneumococcal virulence factor in the setting of cirrhosis.
PMCID: PMC2140065  PMID: 17956621
25.  Ecological study of Paracoccidioides brasiliensis in soil: growth ability, conidia production and molecular detection 
BMC Microbiology  2007;7:92.
Paracoccidioides brasiliensis ecology is not completely understood, although several pieces of evidence point to the soil as its most probable habitat. The present study aimed to investigate the fungal growth, conidia production and molecular pathogen detection in different soil conditions.
Soils samples of clayey, sandy and medium textures were collected from ground surface and the interior of armadillo burrows in a hyperendemic area of Paracoccidioidomycosis. P. brasiliensis was inoculated in soil with controlled humidity and in culture medium containing soil extracts. The molecular detection was carried out by Nested PCR, using panfungal and species specific primers from the ITS-5.8S rDNA region.
The soil texture does not affect fungus development and the growth is more abundant on/in soil saturated with water. Some soil samples inhibited the development of P. brasiliensis, especially those that contain high values of Exchangeable Aluminum (H+Al) in their composition. Some isolates produced a large number of conidia, mainly in soil-extract agar medium. The molecular detection was positive only in samples collected from armadillo burrows, both in sandy and clayey soil.
P. brasiliensis may grow and produce the infectious conidia in sandy and clayey soil, containing high water content, mainly in wild animal burrows, but without high values of H+Al.
PMCID: PMC2180180  PMID: 17953742

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