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1.  Mycophenolate mofetil inhibits the development of Coxsackie B3-virus-induced myocarditis in mice 
BMC Microbiology  2003;3:25.
Viral replication as well as an immunopathological component are assumed to be involved in the development of coxsackie B virus (CBV)-induced myocarditis. We observed that mycophenolic acid (MPA), the active metabolite of the immunosuppressive agent mycophenolate mofetil (MMF), inhibits coxsackie B3 virus (CBV3) replication in primary Human myocardial fibroblasts. We therefore studied whether MMF, which is thus endowed with a direct antiviral as well as immunosuppressive effect, may prevent CBV-induced myocarditis in a murine model.
Four week old C3H-mice were infected with CBV3 and received twice daily, for 7 consecutive days (from one day before to 5 days post-virus inoculation) treatment with MMF via oral gavage. Treatment with MMF resulted in a significant reduction in the development of CBV-induced myocarditis as assessed by morphometric analysis, i.e. 78% reduction when MMF was administered at 300 mg/kg/day (p < 0.001), 65% reduction at 200 mg/kg/day (p < 0.001), and 52% reduction at 100 mg/kg/day (p = 0.001). The beneficial effect could not be ascribed to inhibition of viral replication since titers of infectious virus and viral RNA in heart tissue were increased in MMF-treated animals as compared to untreated animals.
The immunosuppressive agent MMF results in an important reduction of CBV3-induced myocarditis in a murine model.
PMCID: PMC317291  PMID: 14687413
enterovirus; myocarditis; antiviral; coxsackie
2.  A DNA element recognised by the molybdenum-responsive transcription factor ModE is conserved in Proteobacteria, green sulphur bacteria and Archaea 
BMC Microbiology  2003;3:24.
The transition metal molybdenum is essential for life. Escherichia coli imports this metal into the cell in the form of molybdate ions, which are taken up via an ABC transport system. In E. coli and other Proteobacteria molybdenum metabolism and homeostasis are regulated by the molybdate-responsive transcription factor ModE.
Orthologues of ModE are widespread amongst diverse prokaryotes, but not ubiquitous. We identified probable ModE-binding sites upstream of genes implicated in molybdenum metabolism in green sulphur bacteria and methanogenic Archaea as well as in Proteobacteria. We also present evidence of horizontal transfer of nitrogen fixation genes between green sulphur bacteria and methanogenic Archaea.
Whereas most of the archaeal helix-turn-helix-containing transcription factors belong to families that are Archaea-specific, ModE is unusual in that it is found in both Archaea and Bacteria. Moreover, its cognate upstream DNA recognition sequence is also conserved between Archaea and Bacteria, despite the fundamental differences in their core transcription machinery. ModE is the third example of a transcriptional regulator with a binding signal that is conserved in Bacteria and Archaea.
PMCID: PMC317290  PMID: 14641908
3.  Diversity in coding tandem repeats in related Neisseria spp. 
BMC Microbiology  2003;3:23.
Tandem repeats contained within coding regions can mediate phase variation when the repeated units change the reading frame of the coding sequence in a copy number dependent manner. Coding tandem repeats are those which do not alter the reading frame with copy number, and the changes in copy number of these repeats may then potentially alter the function or antigenicity of the protein encoded. Three complete neisserial genomes were analyzed and compared to identify coding tandem repeats where the number of copies of the repeat will have some structural consequence for the protein. This is the first study to address coding tandem repeats that may affect protein structures using comparative genomics, combined with a population survey to investigate which show interstrain variability.
A total of 28 genes were identified. Of these, 22 contain coding tandem repeats that vary in copy number between the three sequenced strains, three strain specific genes were included for investigation on the basis of having >90% identity between repeated units, and three genes with repeated elements of >250 bp were included although no length variations were seen in the genomes. Amplification, and sequencing of repeats showing altered copy number, of these 28 coding tandem repeat containing regions, from a set of largely unrelated strains, revealed further repeat length variation in several cases.
Eighteen genes were identified which have variation in repeat copy number between strains of the same species, twelve of which show greater diversity in repeat copy number than is present in the sequenced genomes. In some cases, this may reflect a mechanism for the generation of antigenic variation, as previously described in other species. However, some of the genes identified encode proteins with cytoplasmic functions, including sugar metabolism, DNA repair, and protein production, in which repeat length variation may have other functions. Coding tandem repeats appear to represent a largely unexplored mechanism of generating diversity in the Neisseria spp.
PMCID: PMC305346  PMID: 14611665
4.  Functional profiling of mercuric reductase (mer A) genes in biofilm communities of a technical scale biocatalyzer 
BMC Microbiology  2003;3:22.
Bacterial mercury resistance is based on enzymatic reduction of ionic mercury to elemental mercury and has recently been demonstrated to be applicable for industrial wastewater clean-up. The long-term monitoring of such biocatalyser systems requires a cultivation independent functional community profiling method targeting the key enzyme of the process, the merA gene coding for the mercuric reductase. We report on the development of a profiling method for merA and its application to monitor changes in the functional diversity of the biofilm community of a technical scale biocatalyzer over 8 months of on-site operation.
Based on an alignment of 30 merA sequences from Gram negative bacteria, conserved primers were designed for amplification of merA fragments with an optimized PCR protocol. The resulting amplicons of approximately 280 bp were separated by thermogradient gelelectrophoresis (TGGE), resulting in strain specific fingerprints for mercury resistant Gram negative isolates with different merA sequences. The merA profiling of the biofilm community from a technical biocatalyzer showed persistence of some and loss of other inoculum strains as well as the appearance of new bands, resulting in an overall increase of the functional diversity of the biofilm community. One predominant new band of the merA community profile was also detected in a biocatalyzer effluent isolate, which was identified as Pseudomonas aeruginosa. The isolated strain showed lower mercury reduction rates in liquid culture than the inoculum strains but was apparently highly competitive in the biofilm environment of the biocatalyzer where moderate mercury levels were prevailing.
The merA profiling technique allowed to monitor the ongoing selection for better adapted strains during the operation of a biocatalyzer and to direct their subsequent isolation. In such a way, a predominant mercury reducing Ps. aeruginosa strain was identified by its unique mercuric reductase gene.
PMCID: PMC270059  PMID: 14577839
5.  Type III secretion proteins PcrV and PcrG from Pseudomonas aeruginosa form a 1:1 complex through high affinity interactions 
BMC Microbiology  2003;3:21.
Pseudomonas aeruginosa, an increasingly prevalent opportunistic pathogen, utilizes a type III secretion system for injection of toxins into host cells in order to initiate infection. A crucial component of this system is PcrV, which is essential for cytotoxicity and is found both within the bacterial cytoplasm and localized extracellularly, suggesting that it may play more than one role in Pseudomonas infectivity. LcrV, the homolog of PcrV in Yersinia, has been proposed to participate in effector secretion regulation by interacting with LcrG, which may act as a secretion blocker. Although PcrV also recognizes PcrG within the bacterial cytoplasm, the roles played by the two proteins in type III secretion in Pseudomonas may be different from the ones suggested for their Yersinia counterparts.
In this work, we demonstrate by native mass spectrometry that PcrV and PcrG expressed and purified from E. coli form a 1:1 complex in vitro. Circular dichroism results indicate that PcrG is highly unstable in the absence of PcrV; in contrast, both PcrV alone and the PcrV:PcrG complex have high structural integrity. Surface plasmon resonance measurements show that PcrV interacts with PcrG with nanomolar affinity (15.6 nM) and rapid kinetics, an observation which is valid both for the full-length form of PcrG (residues 1–98) as well as a form which lacks the C-terminal 24 residues, which are predicted to have low secondary structure content.
PcrV is a crucial component of the type III secretion system of Pseudomonas, but the way in which it participates in toxin secretion is not understood. Here we have characterized the interaction between PcrV and PcrG in vitro, and shown that PcrG is highly unstable. However, it associates readily with PcrV through a region located within its first 74 amino acids to form a high affinity complex. The fact that PcrV associates and dissociates quickly from an unstable molecule points to the transient nature of a PcrV:PcrG complex. These results are in agreement with analyses from pcrV deletion mutants which suggest that PcrV:PcrG may play a different role in effector secretion than the one described for the LcrV:LcrG complex in Yersinia.
PMCID: PMC270082  PMID: 14565848
type III secretion; interactions; pathogen
6.  Cloaked similarity between HIV-1 and SARS-CoV suggests an anti-SARS strategy 
BMC Microbiology  2003;3:20.
Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is a febrile respiratory illness. The disease has been etiologically linked to a novel coronavirus that has been named the SARS-associated coronavirus (SARS-CoV), whose genome was recently sequenced. Since it is a member of the Coronaviridae, its spike protein (S2) is believed to play a central role in viral entry by facilitating fusion between the viral and host cell membranes. The protein responsible for viral-induced membrane fusion of HIV-1 (gp41) differs in length, and has no sequence homology with S2.
Sequence analysis reveals that the two viral proteins share the sequence motifs that construct their active conformation. These include (1) an N-terminal leucine/isoleucine zipper-like sequence, and (2) a C-terminal heptad repeat located upstream of (3) an aromatic residue-rich region juxtaposed to the (4) transmembrane segment.
This study points to a similar mode of action for the two viral proteins, suggesting that anti-viral strategy that targets the viral-induced membrane fusion step can be adopted from HIV-1 to SARS-CoV. Recently the FDA approved Enfuvirtide, a synthetic peptide corresponding to the C-terminal heptad repeat of HIV-1 gp41, as an anti-AIDS agent. Enfuvirtide and C34, another anti HIV-1 peptide, exert their inhibitory activity by binding to a leucine/isoleucine zipper-like sequence in gp41, thus inhibiting a conformational change of gp41 required for its activation. We suggest that peptides corresponding to the C-terminal heptad repeat of the S2 protein may serve as inhibitors for SARS-CoV entry.
PMCID: PMC222911  PMID: 14499001
7.  Evaluation of five DNA extraction methods for purification of DNA from atherosclerotic tissue and estimation of prevalence of Chlamydia pneumoniae in tissue from a Danish population undergoing vascular repair 
BMC Microbiology  2003;3:19.
To date PCR detection of Chlamydia pneumoniae DNA in atherosclerotic lesions from Danish patients has been unsuccessful. To establish whether non-detection was caused by a suboptimal DNA extraction method, we tested five different DNA extraction methods for purification of DNA from atherosclerotic tissue.
The five different DNA extraction methods were tested on homogenate of atherosclerotic tissue spiked with C. pneumoniae DNA or EB, on pure C. pneumoniae DNA samples and on whole C. pneumoniae EB. Recovery of DNA was measured with a C. pneumoniae-specific quantitative real-time PCR. A DNA extraction method based on DNA-binding to spin columns with a silica-gel membrane (DNeasy Tissue kit) showed the highest recovery rate for the tissue samples and pure DNA samples. However, an automated extraction method based on magnetic glass particles (MagNA Pure) performed best on intact EB and atherosclerotic tissue spiked with EB. The DNeasy Tissue kit and MagNA Pure methods and the highly sensitive real-time PCR were subsequently used on 78 atherosclerotic tissue samples from Danish patients undergoing vascular repair. None of the samples were positive for C. pneumoniae DNA. The atherosclerotic samples were tested for inhibition by spiking with two different, known amounts of C. pneumoniae DNA and no samples showed inhibition.
As a highly sensitive PCR method and an optimised DNA extraction method were used, non-detection in atherosclerotic tissue from the Danish population was probably not caused by use of inappropriate methods. However, more samples may need to be analysed per patient to be completely certain on this. Possible methodological and epidemiological reasons for non-detection of C. pneumoniae DNA in atherosclerotic tissue from the Danish population are discussed. Further testing of DNA extraction methods is needed as this study has shown considerable intra- and inter-method variation in DNA recovery.
PMCID: PMC201026  PMID: 12952556
Chlamydia pneumoniae; atherosclerotic tissue; DNA extraction; real-time PCR
8.  The dynamic behavior of bacterial macrofibers growing with one end prevented from rotating: variation in shaft rotation along the fiber's length, and supercoil movement on a solid surface toward the constrained end 
BMC Microbiology  2003;3:18.
Bacterial macrofibers twist as they grow, writhe, supercoil and wind up into plectonemic structures (helical forms the individual filaments of which cannot be taken apart without unwinding) that eventually carry loops at both of their ends. Terminal loops rotate about the axis of a fiber's shaft in contrary directions at increasing rate as the shaft elongates. Theory suggests that rotation rates should vary linearly along the length of a fiber ranging from maxima at the loop ends to zero at an intermediate point. Blocking rotation at one end of a fiber should lead to a single gradient: zero at the blocked end to maximum at the free end. We tested this conclusion by measuring directly the rotation at various distances along fiber length from the blocked end. The movement of supercoils over a solid surface was also measured in tethered macrofibers.
Macrofibers that hung down from a floating wire inserted through a terminal loop grew vertically and produced small plectonemic structures by supercoiling along their length. Using these as markers for shaft rotation we observed a uniform gradient of initial rotation rates with slopes of 25.6°/min. mm. and 36.2°/min. mm. in two different fibers. Measurements of the distal tip rotation in a third fiber as a function of length showed increases proportional to increases in length with constant of proportionality 79.2 rad/mm. Another fiber tethered to the floor grew horizontally with a length-doubling time of 74 min, made contact periodically with the floor and supercoiled repeatedly. The supercoils moved over the floor toward the tether at approximately 0.06 mm/min, 4 times faster than the fiber growth rate. Over a period of 800 minutes the fiber grew to 23 mm in length and was entirely retracted back to the tether by a process involving 29 supercoils.
The rate at which growing bacterial macrofibers rotated about the axis of the fiber shaft measured at various locations along fibers in structures prevented from rotating at one end reveal that the rate varied linearly from zero at the blocked end to maximum at the distal end. The increasing number of twisting cells in growing fibers caused the distal end to continuously rotate faster. When the free end was intermittently prevented from rotating a torque developed which was relieved by supercoiling. On a solid surface the supercoils moved toward the end permanently blocked from rotating as a result of supercoil rolling over the surface and the formation of new supercoils that reduced fiber length between the initial supercoil and the wire tether. All of the motions are ramifications of cell growth with twist and the highly ordered multicellular state of macrofibers.
PMCID: PMC194473  PMID: 12921542
9.  Survival in acidic and alcoholic medium of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O157:H7 and non-O157:H7 isolated in Argentina 
BMC Microbiology  2003;3:17.
In spite of Argentina having one of the highest frequencies of haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS), the incidence of Escherichia coli O157:H7 is low in comparison to rates registered in the US. Isolation of several non-O157 shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) strains from cattle and foods suggests that E. coli O157:H7 is an uncommon serotype in Argentina. The present study was undertaken to compare the survival rates of selected non-O157 STEC strains under acidic and alcoholic stress conditions, using an E. coli O157:H7 strain as reference.
Growth at 37°C of E. coli O26:H11, O88:H21, O91:H21, O111:H-, O113:H21, O116:H21, O117:H7, O157:H7, O171:H2 and OX3:H21, was found to occur at pH higher than 4.0. When the strains were challenged to acid tolerance at pH as low as 2.5, viability extended beyond 8 h, but none of the bacteria, except E. coli O91:H21, could survive longer than 24 h, the autochthonous E. coli O91:H21 being the more resistant serotype. No survival was found after 24 h in Luria Bertani broth supplemented with 12% ethanol, but all these serotypes were shown to be very resistant to 6% ethanol. E. coli O91:H21 showed the highest resistance among serotypes tested.
This information is relevant in food industry, which strongly relies on the acid or alcoholic conditions to inactivate pathogens. This study revealed that stress resistance of some STEC serotypes isolated in Argentina is higher than that for E. coli O157:H7.
PMCID: PMC194472  PMID: 12914672
STEC; E. coli O157:H7; E. coli O91:H21; acid stress; ethanol; HUS; food
10.  Effects of disruption of heat shock genes on susceptibility of Escherichia coli to fluoroquinolones 
BMC Microbiology  2003;3:16.
It is well known that expression of certain bacterial genes responds rapidly to such stimuli as exposure to toxic chemicals and physical agents. It is generally believed that the proteins encoded in these genes are important for successful survival of the organism under the hostile conditions. Analogously, the proteins induced in bacterial cells exposed to antibiotics are believed to affect the organisms' susceptibility to these agents.
We demonstrated that Escherichia coli cells exposed to levofloxacin (LVFX), a fluoroquinolone (FQ), induce the syntheses of heat shock proteins and RecA. To examine whether the heat shock proteins affect the bactericidal action of FQs, we constructed E. coli strains with mutations in various heat shock genes and tested their susceptibility to FQs. Mutations in dnaK, groEL, and lon increased this susceptibility; the lon mutant exhibited the greatest effects. The increased susceptibility of the lon mutant was corroborated by experiments in which the gene encoding the cell division inhibitor, SulA, was subsequently disrupted. SulA is induced by the SOS response and degraded by the Lon protease. The findings suggest that the hypersusceptibility of the lon mutant to FQs could be due to abnormally high levels of SulA protein resulting from the depletion of Lon and the continuous induction of the SOS response in the presence of FQs.
The present results show that the bactericidal action of FQs is moderately affected by the DnaK and GroEL chaperones and strongly affected by the Lon protease. FQs have contributed successfully to the treatment of various bacterial infections, but their widespread use and often misuse, coupled with emerging resistance, have gradually compromised their utility. Our results suggest that agents capable of inhibiting the Lon protease have potential for combination therapy with FQs.
PMCID: PMC184496  PMID: 12911840
11.  Brucella 'HOOF-Prints': strain typing by multi-locus analysis of variable number tandem repeats (VNTRs) 
BMC Microbiology  2003;3:15.
Currently, there are very few tools available for subtyping Brucella isolates for epidemiological trace-back. Subtyping is difficult because of the genetic homogeneity within the genus. Sequencing of the genomes from three Brucella species has facilitated the search for DNA sequence variability. Recently, hypervariability among short tandem repeat sequences has been exploited for strain-typing of several bacterial pathogens.
An eight-base pair tandem repeat sequence was discovered in nine genomic loci of the B. abortus genome. Eight loci were hypervariable among the three Brucella species. A PCR-based method was developed to identify the number of repeat units (alleles) at each locus, generating strain-specific fingerprints. None of the loci exhibited species- or biovar-specific alleles. Sometimes, a species or biovar contained a specific allele at one or more loci, but the allele also occurred in other species or biovars. The technique successfully differentiated the type strains for all Brucella species and biovars, among unrelated B. abortus biovar 1 field isolates in cattle, and among B. abortus strains isolated from bison and elk. Isolates from the same herd or from short-term in vitro passage exhibited little or no variability in fingerprint pattern. Sometimes, isolates from an animal would have multiple alleles at a locus, possibly from mixed infections in enzootic areas, residual disease from incomplete depopulation of an infected herd or molecular evolution within the strain. Therefore, a mixed population or a pool of colonies from each animal and/or tissue was tested.
This paper describes a new method for fingerprinting Brucella isolates based on multi-locus characterization of a variable number, eight-base pair, tandem repeat. We have named this technique "HOOF-Prints" for Hypervariable Octameric Oligonucleotide Finger-Prints. The technique is highly discriminatory among Brucella species, among previously characterized Brucella strains, and among unrelated field isolates that could not be differentiated by classical methods. The method is rapid and the results are reproducible. HOOF-Printing will be most useful as a follow-up test after identification by established methods since we did not find species-specific or biovar-specific alleles. Nonetheless, this technology provides a significant advancement in brucellosis epidemiology, and consequently, will help to eliminate this disease worldwide.
PMCID: PMC183870  PMID: 12857351
12.  The three extra-cellular zinc metalloproteinases of Streptococcus pneumoniae have a different impact on virulence in mice 
BMC Microbiology  2003;3:14.
Streptococcus pneumoniae possesses large zinc metalloproteinases on its surface. To analyse the importance in virulence of three of these metalloproteinases, intranasal challenge of MF1 outbred mice was carried out using a range of infecting doses of wild type and knock-out pneumococcal mutant strains, in order to compare mice survival.
Observation of survival percentages over time and detection of LD50s of knock out mutants in the proteinase genes in comparison to the type 4 TIGR4 wild type strain revealed two major aspects: i) Iga and ZmpB, present in all strains of S. pneumoniae, strongly contribute to virulence in mice; (ii) ZmpC, only present in about 25% of pneumococcal strains, has a lower influence on virulence in mice.
These data suggest Iga, ZmpB and ZmpC as candidate surface proteins responsible for pneumococcal infection and potentially involved in distinct stages of pneumococcal disease.
PMCID: PMC166150  PMID: 12841855
13.  Annotation and evolutionary relationships of a small regulatory RNA gene micF and its target ompF in Yersinia species 
BMC Microbiology  2003;3:13.
micF RNA, a small regulatory RNA found in bacteria, post-transcriptionally regulates expression of outer membrane protein F (OmpF) by interaction with the ompF mRNA 5'UTR. Phylogenetic data can be useful for RNA/RNA duplex structure analyses and aid in elucidation of mechanism of regulation. However micF and associated genes, ompF and ompC are difficult to annotate because of either similarities or divergences in nucleotide sequence. We report by using sequences that represent "gene signatures" as probes, e.g., mRNA 5'UTR sequences, closely related genes can be accurately located in genomic sequences.
Alignment and search methods using NCBI BLAST programs have been used to identify micF, ompF and ompC in Yersinia pestis and Yersinia enterocolitica. By alignment with DNA sequences from other bacterial species, 5' start sites of genes and upstream transcriptional regulatory sites in promoter regions were predicted. Annotated genes from Yersinia species provide phylogenetic information on the micF regulatory system. High sequence conservation in binding sites of transcriptional regulatory factors are found in the promoter region upstream of micF and conservation in blocks of sequences as well as marked sequence variation is seen in segments of the micF RNA gene. Unexpected large differences in rates of evolution were found between the interacting RNA transcripts, micF RNA and the 5' UTR of the ompF mRNA. micF RNA/ompF mRNA 5' UTR duplex structures were modeled by the mfold program. Functional domains such as RNA/RNA interacting sites appear to display a minimum of evolutionary drift in sequence with the exception of a significant change in Y. enterocolitica micF RNA.
Newly annotated Yersinia micF and ompF genes and the resultant RNA/RNA duplex structures add strong phylogenetic support for a generalized duplex model. The alignment and search approach using 5' UTR signatures may be a model to help define other genes and their start sites when annotated genes are available in well-defined reference organisms.
PMCID: PMC166144  PMID: 12834539
gene annotation; phylogeny; RNA/RNA interactions; regulatory RNA
14.  Characterisation of methionine adenosyltransferase from Mycobacterium smegmatis and M. tuberculosis 
BMC Microbiology  2003;3:12.
Tuberculosis remains a serious world-wide health threat which requires the characterisation of novel drug targets for the development of future antimycobacterials. One of the key obstacles in the definition of new targets is the large variety of metabolic alterations that occur between cells in the active growth and chronic/dormant phases of tuberculosis. The ideal biochemical target should be active in both growth phases. Methionine adenosyltransferase, which catalyses the formation of S-adenosylmethionine from methionine and ATP, is involved in polyamine biosynthesis during active growth and is also required for the methylation and cyclopropylation of mycolipids necessary for survival in the chronic phase.
The gene encoding methionine adenosyltransferase has been cloned from Mycobacterium tuberculosis and the model organism M. smegmatis. Both enzymes retained all amino acids known to be involved in catalysing the reaction. While the M. smegmatis enzyme could be functionally expressed, the M. tuberculosis homologue was insoluble and inactive under a large variety of expression conditions. For the M. smegmatis enzyme, the Vmax for S-adenosylmethionine formation was 1.30 μmol/min/mg protein and the Km for methionine and ATP was 288 μM and 76 μM respectively. In addition, the enzyme was competitively inhibited by 8-azaguanine and azathioprine with a Ki of 4.7 mM and 3.7 mM respectively. Azathioprine inhibited the in vitro growth of M. smegmatis with a minimal inhibitory concentration (MIC) of 500 μM, while the MIC for 8-azaguanine was >1.0 mM.
The methionine adenosyltransferase from both organisms had a primary structure very similar those previously characterised in other prokaryotic and eukaryotic organisms. The kinetic properties of the M. smegmatis enzyme were also similar to known prokaryotic methionine adenosyltransferases. Inhibition of the enzyme by 8-azaguanine and azathioprine provides a starting point for the synthesis of higher affinity purine-based inhibitors.
PMCID: PMC165446  PMID: 12809568
15.  Phenotypic mixing and hiding may contribute to memory in viral quasispecies 
BMC Microbiology  2003;3:11.
In a number of recent experiments with food-and-mouth disease virus, a deleterious mutant, RED, was found to avoid extinction and remain in the population for long periods of time. Since RED characterizes the past evolutionary history of the population, this observation was called quasispecies memory. While the quasispecies theory predicts the existence of these memory genomes, there is a disagreement between the expected and observed mutant frequency values. Therefore, the origin of quasispecies memory is not fully understood.
We propose and analyze a simple model of complementation between the wild type virus and a mutant that has an impaired ability of cell entry, the likely cause of fitness differences between wild type and RED mutants. The mutant will go extinct unless it is recreated from the wild type through mutations. However, under phenotypic mixing-and-hiding as a mechanism of complementation, the time to extinction in the absence of mutations increases with increasing multiplicity of infection (m.o.i.). If the RED mutant is constantly recreated by mutations, then its frequency at equilibrium under selection-mutation balance also increases with increasing m.o.i. At high m.o.i., a large fraction of mutant genomes are encapsidated with wild-type protein, which enables them to infect cells as efficiently as the wild type virions, and thus increases their fitness to the wild-type level. Moreover, even at low m.o.i. the equilibrium frequency of the mutant is higher than predicted by the standard quasispecies model, because a fraction of mutant virions generated from wild-type parents will also be encapsidated by wild-type protein.
Our model predicts that phenotypic hiding will strongly influence the population dynamics of viruses, particularly at high m.o.i., and will also have important effects on the mutation-selection balance at low m.o.i. The delay in mutant extinction and increase in mutant frequencies at equilibrium may, at least in part, explain memory in quasispecies populations.
PMCID: PMC165440  PMID: 12795816
16.  Genomic homogeneity between Mycobacterium avium subsp. avium and Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis belies their divergent growth rates 
BMC Microbiology  2003;3:10.
Mycobacterium avium subspecies avium (M. avium) is frequently encountered in the environment, but also causes infections in animals and immunocompromised patients. In contrast, Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis (M. paratuberculosis) is a slow-growing organism that is the causative agent of Johne's disease in cattle and chronic granulomatous infections in a variety of other ruminant hosts. Yet we show that despite their divergent phenotypes and the diseases they present, the genomes of M. avium and M. paratuberculosis share greater than 97% nucleotide identity over large (25 kb) genomic regions analyzed in this study.
To characterize genome similarity between these two subspecies as well as attempt to understand their different growth rates, we designed oligonucleotide primers from M. avium sequence to amplify 15 minimally overlapping fragments of M. paratuberculosis genomic DNA encompassing the chromosomal origin of replication. These strategies resulted in the successful amplification and sequencing of a contiguous 11-kb fragment containing the putative Mycobacterium paratuberculosis origin of replication (oriC). This fragment contained 11 predicted open reading frames that showed a conserved gene order in the oriC locus when compared with several other Gram-positive bacteria. In addition, a GC skew analysis identified the origin of chromosomal replication which lies between the genes dnaA and dnaN. The presence of multiple DnaA boxes and the ATP-binding site in dnaA were also found in M. paratuberculosis. The strong nucleotide identity of M. avium and M. paratuberculosis in the region surrounding the origin of chromosomal replication led us to compare other areas of these genomes. A DNA homology matrix of 2 million nucleotides from each genome revealed strong synteny with only a few sequences present in one genome but absent in the other. Finally, the 16s rRNA gene from these two subspecies is 100% identical.
We present for the first time, a description of the oriC region in M. paratuberculosis. In addition, genomic comparisons between these two mycobacterial subspecies suggest that differences in the oriC region may not be significant enough to account for the diverse bacterial replication rates. Finally, the few genetic differences present outside the origin of chromosomal replication in each genome may be responsible for the diverse growth rates or phenotypes observed between the avium and paratuberculosis subspecies.
PMCID: PMC156888  PMID: 12740027
17.  Profilin is required for viral morphogenesis, syncytium formation, and cell-specific stress fiber induction by respiratory syncytial virus 
BMC Microbiology  2003;3:9.
Actin is required for the gene expression and morphogenesis of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), a clinically important Pneumovirus of the Paramyxoviridae family. In HEp-2 cells, RSV infection also induces actin stress fibers, which may be important in the immunopathology of the RSV disease. Profilin, a major regulator of actin polymerization, stimulates viral transcription in vitro. Thus, we tested the role of profilin in RSV growth and RSV-actin interactions in cultured cells (ex vivo).
We tested three cell lines: HEp-2 (human), A549 (human), and L2 (rat). In all three, RSV grew well and produced fused cells (syncytium), and two RSV proteins, namely, the phosphoprotein P and the nucleocapsid protein N, associated with profilin. In contrast, induction of actin stress fibers by RSV occurred in HEp-2 and L2 cells, but not in A549. Knockdown of profilin by RNA interference had a small effect on viral macromolecule synthesis but strongly inhibited maturation of progeny virions, cell fusion, and induction of stress fibers.
Profilin plays a cardinal role in RSV-mediated cell fusion and viral maturation. In contrast, interaction of profilin with the viral transcriptional proteins P and N may only nominally activate viral RNA-dependent RNA polymerase. Stress fiber formation is a cell-specific response to infection, requiring profilin and perhaps other signaling molecules that are absent in certain cell lines. Stress fibers per se play no role in RSV replication in cell culture. Clearly, the cellular architecture controls multiple steps of host-RSV interaction, some of which are regulated by profilin.
PMCID: PMC156654  PMID: 12740026
18.  Presence and expression of hydrogenase specific C-terminal endopeptidases in cyanobacteria 
BMC Microbiology  2003;3:8.
Hydrogenases catalyze the simplest of all chemical reactions: the reduction of protons to molecular hydrogen or vice versa. Cyanobacteria can express an uptake, a bidirectional or both NiFe-hydrogenases. Maturation of those depends on accessory proteins encoded by hyp-genes. The last maturation step involves the cleavage of a ca. 30 amino acid long peptide from the large subunit by a C-terminal endopeptidase. Until know, nothing is known about the maturation of cyanobacterial NiFe-hydrogenases. The availability of three complete cyanobacterial genome sequences from strains with either only the uptake (Nostoc punctiforme ATCC 29133/PCC 73102), only the bidirectional (Synechocystis PCC 6803) or both NiFe-hydrogenases (Anabaena PCC 7120) prompted us to mine these genomes for hydrogenase maturation related genes. In this communication we focus on the presence and the expression of the NiFe-hydrogenases and the corresponding C-terminal endopeptidases, in the three strains mentioned above.
We identified genes encoding putative cyanobacterial hydrogenase specific C-terminal endopeptidases in all analyzed cyanobacterial genomes. The genes are not part of any known hydrogenase related gene cluster. The derived amino acid sequences show only low similarity (28–41%) to the well-analyzed hydrogenase specific C-terminal endopeptidase HybD from Escherichia coli, the crystal structure of which is known. However, computational secondary and tertiary structure modeling revealed the presence of conserved structural patterns around the highly conserved active site. Gene expression analysis shows that the endopeptidase encoding genes are expressed under both nitrogen-fixing and non-nitrogen-fixing conditions.
Anabaena PCC 7120 possesses two NiFe-hydrogenases and two hydrogenase specific C-terminal endopeptidases but only one set of hyp-genes. Thus, in contrast to the Hyp-proteins, the C-terminal endopeptidases are the only known hydrogenase maturation factors that are specific. Therefore, in accordance with previous nomenclature, we propose the gene names hoxW and hupW for the bidirectional and uptake hydrogenase processing endopeptidases, respectively. Due to their constitutive expression we expect that, at least in cyanobacteria, the endopeptidases take over multiple functions.
PMCID: PMC156652  PMID: 12735794
19.  A novel Leishmania infantum nuclear phosphoprotein Lepp12 which stimulates IL1-beta synthesis in THP-1 transfectants 
BMC Microbiology  2003;3:7.
We report cloning and characterization of a novel Leishmania infantum protein which we termed Lepp12, and we examine its possible implication in the interference with intramacrophage signaling pathways.
The protein Lepp12 contains 87 amino acid sequence and exhibits 5 potential phosphorylation sites by protein kinase C (PKC). Recombinant GST-Lepp12 is phosphorylated in vitro by exogenous PKC and by PKC-like activities present in promastigote and in the myelomonocytic THP-1 cell line, indicating that at least one phosphorylation site is functional on the recombinant Lepp12. The natural Lepp12 protein is present in L. infantum promastigotes, as evidenced using specific anti-Lepp12 antibodies produced by immunopurification from acute phase VL patient sera. Interestingly, human patient sera are strongly reactive with GST-Lepp12, demonstrating immunogenic properties of Lepp12 in man, but no immune response to Lepp12 is detectable in experimentally infected animals. When isolated from promastigotes, Lepp12 migrates as two species of apparent MW of 18.3 kDa (major) and 14 kDa (minor), localizes in the nuclear fraction and appears constitutively phosphorylated. Natural Lepp12 is phosphorylable in vitro by both exogenous PKC and PKC-like activity present in THP-1 extracts. The intracellular Lepp12 transfected into THP-1 cells activates these cells to produce IL-1beta and induces an enhancing effect on PMA stimulated IL-1beta synthesis, as demonstrated using GST-Lepp12 transfectants.
Together these results indicate that Lepp12 represents a substrate for PKC or other PKC-like activities present in the promastigote form and the host cell and therefore may interfere with signal transduction pathways involving PKC.
PMCID: PMC156650  PMID: 12723992
20.  Ebola virus infection inversely correlates with the overall expression levels of promyelocytic leukaemia (PML) protein in cultured cells 
BMC Microbiology  2003;3:6.
Ebola virus causes severe, often fatal hemorrhagic fever in humans. The mechanism of escape from cellular anti-viral mechanisms is not yet fully understood. The promyelocytic leukaemia (PML) associated nuclear body is part of the interferon inducible cellular defense system. Several RNA viruses have been found to interfere with the anti-viral function of the PML body. The possible interaction between Ebola virus and the PML bodies has not yet been explored.
We found that two cell lines, Vero E6 and MCF7, support virus production at high and low levels respectively. The expression of viral proteins was visualized and quantified using high resolution immunofluorescence microscopy. Ebola encoded NP and VP35 accumulated in cytoplasmic inclusion bodies whereas VP40 was mainly membrane associated but it was also present diffusely in the cytoplasm as well as in the euchromatic areas of the nucleus. The anti-VP40 antibody also allowed the detection of extracellular virions. Interferon-alpha treatment decreased the production of all three viral proteins and delayed the development of cytopathic effects in both cell lines. Virus infection and interferon-alpha treatment induced high levels of PML protein expression in MCF7 but much less in Vero E6 cells. No disruption of PML bodies, a common phenomenon induced by a variety of different viruses, was observed.
We have established a simple fixation and immunofluorescence staining procedure that allows specific co-detection and precise sub-cellular localization of the PML nuclear bodies and the Ebola virus encoded proteins NP, VP35 and VP40 in formaldehyde treated cells. Interferon-alpha treatment delays virus production in vitro. Intact PML bodies may play an anti-viral role in Ebola infected cells.
PMCID: PMC154099  PMID: 12697055
21.  Staphylococcus aureus - induced tumor necrosis factor - related apoptosis - inducing ligand expression mediates apoptosis and caspase-8 activation in infected osteoblasts 
BMC Microbiology  2003;3:5.
Staphylococcus aureus infection of normal osteoblasts induces expression of tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL).
Normal osteoblasts were incubated in the presence of purified bacterial products over a range of concentrations. Results demonstrate that purified surface structures and a selected superantigen present in the extracellular environment are not capable of inducing TRAIL expression by osteoblasts. Osteoblasts were co-cultured with S. aureus at various multiplicities of infection utilizing cell culture chamber inserts. Results of those experiments suggest that direct contact between bacteria and osteoblasts is necessary for optimal TRAIL induction. Finally, S. aureus infection of osteoblasts in the presence of anti-TRAIL antibody demonstrates that TRAIL mediates caspase-8 activation and apoptosis of infected cells.
Collectively, these findings suggest a mechanism whereby S. aureus mediates bone destruction via induction of osteoblast apoptosis.
PMCID: PMC154098  PMID: 12697056
22.  Potassium ferrate [Fe(VI)] does not mediate self-sterilization of a surrogate mars soil 
BMC Microbiology  2003;3:4.
Martian soil is thought to be enriched with strong oxidants such as peroxides and/or iron in high oxidation states that might destroy biological materials. There is also a high flux of ultraviolet radiation at the surface of Mars. Thus, Mars may be inhospitable to life as we know it on Earth. We examined the hypothesis that if the soil of Mars contains ferrates [Fe(VI)], the strongest of the proposed oxidizing species, and also is exposed to high fluxes of UV radiation, it will be self-sterilizing.
Under ambient conditions (25°C, oxygen and water present) K2FeO4 mixed into sand mineralized some reactive organic molecules to CO2, while less reactive compounds were not degraded. Dried endospores of Bacillus subtilis incubated in a Mars surrogate soil comprised of dry silica sand containing 20% by weight K2FeO4 and under conditions similar to those now on Mars (extreme desiccation, cold, and a CO2-dominated atmosphere) were resistant to killing by the ferrate-enriched sand. Similar results were observed with permanganate. Spores in oxidant-enriched sand exposed to high fluxes of UV light were protected from the sporocidal activity of the radiation below about 5 mm depths.
Based on our data and previously published descriptions of ancient but dormant life forms on Earth, we suggest that if entities resembling bacterial endospores were produced at some point by life forms on Mars, they might still be present and viable, given appropriate germination conditions. Endospores delivered to Mars on spacecraft would possibly survive and potentially compromise life detection experiments.
PMCID: PMC153549  PMID: 12694634
23.  New Knowledge from Old: In silico discovery of novel protein domains in Streptomyces coelicolor 
BMC Microbiology  2003;3:3.
Streptomyces coelicolor has long been considered a remarkable bacterium with a complex life-cycle, ubiquitous environmental distribution, linear chromosomes and plasmids, and a huge range of pharmaceutically useful secondary metabolites. Completion of the genome sequence demonstrated that this diversity carried through to the genetic level, with over 7000 genes identified. We sought to expand our understanding of this organism at the molecular level through identification and annotation of novel protein domains. Protein domains are the evolutionary conserved units from which proteins are formed.
Two automated methods were employed to rapidly generate an optimised set of targets, which were subsequently analysed manually. A final set of 37 domains or structural repeats, represented 204 times in the genome, was developed. Using these families enabled us to correlate items of information from many different resources. Several immediately enhance our understanding both of S. coelicolor and also general bacterial molecular mechanisms, including cell wall biosynthesis regulation and streptomycete telomere maintenance.
Delineation of protein domain families enables detailed analysis of protein function, as well as identification of likely regions or residues of particular interest. Hence this kind of prior approach can increase the rate of discovery in the laboratory. Furthermore we demonstrate that using this type of in silico method it is possible to fairly rapidly generate new biological information from previously uncorrelated data.
PMCID: PMC151604  PMID: 12625841
24.  Molecular cloning and characterization of Escherichia coli K12 ygjG gene 
BMC Microbiology  2003;3:2.
Putrescine is the intermediate product of arginine decarboxylase pathway in Escherichia coli which can be used as an alternative nitrogen source. Transaminase and dehydrogenase enzymes seem to be implicated in the degradative pathway of putrescine, in which this compound is converted into γ-aminobutyrate. But genes coding for these enzymes have not been identified so far.
The 1.8-kbp DNA fragment containing E. coli K12 ygjG gene with aer-ygjG intergenic region was examined. It was found that the fragment contains σ54-depended open reading frame (ORF) of 1,380 nucleotides encoding a 459-amino acid polypeptide of approximately 49.6 kDa. The cytidine (C) residue localized 10 bp downstream of the σ54 promoter sequence was identified as the first mRNA base. The UUG translation initiation codon is situated 36 nucleotides downstream of the mRNA start. The YgjG was expressed as a his6-tag fused protein and purified to homogeneity. The protein catalyzed putrescine:2-oxoglutaric acid (2-OG) aminotransferase reaction (PATase, EC The Km values for putrescine and 2-OG were found to be 9.2 mM and 19.0 mM, respectively. The recombinant enzyme also was able to transaminate cadaverine and, in lower extent, spermidine, and gave maximum activity at pH 9.0.
Expression of E. coli K12 ygjG coding region revealed σ54-depended ORF which encodes a 459-amino acid protein with putrescine:2-OG aminotransferase activity. The enzyme also was able to transaminate cadaverine and, in lower extent, spermidine.
PMCID: PMC150594  PMID: 12617754
25.  Characterization of the nodulation plasmid encoded chemoreceptor gene mcpG from Rhizobium leguminosarum 
BMC Microbiology  2003;3:1.
In general, chemotaxis in Rhizobium has not been well characterized. Methyl accepting chemotaxis proteins are sensory proteins important in chemotaxis of numerous bacteria, but their involvement in Rhizobium chemotaxis is unclear and merits further investigation.
A putative methyl accepting chemotaxis protein gene (mcpG) of Rhizobium leguminosarum VF39SM was isolated and characterized. The gene was found to reside on the nodulation plasmid, pRleVF39d. The predicted mcpG ORF displayed motifs common to known methyl-accepting chemotaxis proteins, such as two transmembrane domains and high homology to the conserved methylation and signaling domains of well-characterized MCPs. Phenotypic analysis of mcpG mutants using swarm plates did not identify ligands for this putative receptor. Additionally, gene knockouts of mcpG did not affect a mutant strain's ability to compete for nodulation with the wild type. Notably, mcpG was found to be plasmid-encoded in all strains of R. leguminosarum and R. etli examined, though it was found on the nodulation plasmid only in a minority of strains.
Based on sequence homology R. leguminosarum mcpG gene codes for a methyl accepting chemotaxis protein. The gene is plasmid localized in numerous Rhizobium spp. Although localized to the sym plasmid of VF39SM mcpG does not appear to participate in early nodulation events. A ligand for McpG remains to be found. Apparent McpG orthologs appear in a diverse range of proteobacteria. Identification and characterization of mcpG adds to the family of mcp genes already identified in this organism.
PMCID: PMC149452  PMID: 12553885

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