The stringent response of Bacillus anthracis contributes to sporulation but not to virulence.
ABSTRACT The Gram-positive, spore-forming pathogen Bacillus anthracis is the aetiological agent of anthrax. Its main virulence factors are two toxins and an anti-phagocytic capsule. When B. anthracis is grown in laboratory culture, the highest expression of the anthrax toxin genes occurs during entry into stationary phase, suggesting that nutrient limitation is an environmental cue which induces toxin production. A common bacterial response to starvation is the so-called stringent response, in which the hyperphosphorylated guanosine nucleotide (p)ppGpp is the effector molecule. In Escherichia coli, Bacillus subtilis and other bacteria, accumulation of this molecule leads to down-regulation of stable RNA synthesis and upregulation of the expression of genes involved in survival under nutrient-poor conditions. This study focuses on the stringent response of B. anthracis. We show that in B. anthracis the relA gene is responsible for the synthesis of (p)ppGpp and the stringent down-regulation of stable RNA synthesis upon starvation for the essential amino acids isoleucine, leucine and valine. The deletion of relA did not affect the expression of the virulence gene pagA or virulence in a mouse model of infection. In contrast, spore counts upon growth and sporulation in a defined medium were approximately 10,000-fold lower for the relA deletion mutant than for the parental strain. The contribution of the stringent response to efficient sporulation of B. anthracis is notable, as this suggests that the stringent response may contribute to the persistence of B. anthracis in the natural environment.
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ABSTRACT: Spx of Bacillus subtilis is a redox-sensitive protein, which, under disulfide stress, interacts with RNA polymerase to activate genes required for maintaining thiol homeostasis. Spx orthologs are highly conserved among low %GC Gram-positive bacteria, and often exist in multiple paralogous forms. In this study, we used B. anthracis Sterne, which harbors two paralogous spx genes, spxA1 and spxA2, to examine the phenotypes of spx null mutations and to identify the genes regulated by each Spx paralog. Cells devoid of spxA1 were sensitive to diamide and hydrogen peroxide, while the spxA1 spoxA2 double mutant was hypersensitive to the thiol-specific oxidant, diamide. Bacillus anthracis Sterne strains expressing spxA1DD or spxA2DD alleles encoding protease-resistant products were used in microarray and quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR) analyses in order to uncover genes under SpxA1, SpxA2, or SpxA1/SpxA2 control. Comparison of transcriptomes identified many genes that were upregulated when either SpxA1DD or SpxA2DD was produced, but several genes were uncovered whose transcript levels increased in only one of the two SpxADD-expression strains, suggesting that each Spx paralog governs a unique regulon. Among genes that were upregulated were those encoding orthologs of proteins that are specifically involved in maintaining intracellular thiol homeostasis or alleviating oxidative stress. Some of these genes have important roles in B. anthracis pathogenesis, and a large number of upregulated hypothetical genes have no homology outside of the B. cereus/thuringiensis group. Microarray and RT-qPCR analyses also unveiled a regulatory link that exists between the two spx paralogous genes. The data indicate that spxA1 and spxA2 are transcriptional regulators involved in relieving disulfide stress but also control a set of genes whose products function in other cellular processes.MicrobiologyOpen. 07/2013;
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ABSTRACT: ThiI has been identified as an essential enzyme involved in the biosynthesis of thiamine and the tRNA thionucleoside modification, 4-thiouridine. In Escherichia coli and Salmonella enterica, ThiI acts as a sulfurtransferase, receiving the sulfur donated from the cysteine desulfurase IscS and transferring it to the target molecule or additional sulfur carrier proteins. However, in Bacillus subtilis and most species from the Firmicutes phylum, ThiI lacks the rhodanese domain that contains the site responsible for the sulfurtransferase activity. The lack of the gene encoding for a canonical IscS cysteine desulfurase and the presence of a short sequence of ThiI in these bacteria pointed to mechanistic differences involving sulfur trafficking reactions in both biosynthetic pathways. Here, we have carried out functional analysis of B. subtilis thiI and the adjacent gene, nifZ, encoding for a cysteine desulfurase. Gene inactivation experiments in B. subtilis indicate the requirement of ThiI and NifZ for the biosynthesis of 4-thiouridine, but not thiamine. In vitro synthesis of 4-thiouridine by ThiI and NifZ, along with labeling experiments, suggests the occurrence of an alternate transient site for sulfur transfer, thus obviating the need for a rhodanese domain. In vivo complementation studies in E. coli IscS- or ThiI-deficient strains provide further support for specific interactions between NifZ and ThiI. These results are compatible with the proposal that B. subtilis NifZ and ThiI utilize mechanistically distinct and mutually specific sulfur transfer reactions.Journal of bacteriology 07/2012; 194(18):4933-40. · 3.94 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Mycobacteria are able to enter into a state of non-replication or dormancy, which may result in their chronic persistence in soil, aquatic environments, and permissive hosts. Stresses such as nutrient deprivation and hypoxia provide environmental cues to enter a persistent state; however, a clear definition of the mechanism that mycobacteria employ to achieve this remains elusive. While the concept of sporulation in mycobacteria is not novel, it continues to spark controversy and challenges our perceptions of a non-replication. We investigated the potential role of sporulation in one-year old broth cultures of Mycobacterium subsp. paratuberculosis (MAP). We show that dormant cultures of MAP contain a mix of vegetative cells and a previously unknown morphotype resembling a spore. These spore-like structures can be enriched for using sporulating media. Furthermore, purified MAP spore forms survive exposure to heat, lysozyme and proteinase K. Heat-treated spores are positive for MAP 16SrRNA and IS900. MAP spores display enhanced infectivity as well as maintain acid-fast characteristics upon germination in a well-established bovine macrophage model. This is the first study to demonstrate a new MAP morphotype possessing spore-like qualities. Data suggest that sporulation may be a viable mechanism by which MAP accomplishes persistence in the host and/or environment. Thus, our current understanding of mycobacterial persistence, pathogenesis, epidemiology and rational drug and vaccine design may need to be reevaluated.PLoS ONE 01/2012; 7(1):e30648. · 3.73 Impact Factor