[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Recent advances in genomics and molecular biology are providing an excellent opportunity to get a glimpse into the past, to examine the present, and to predict the future evolution of pathogenic mycobacteria, and in particular that of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the agent of human tuberculosis. The recent availability of genome sequences of several Mycobacterium canettii strains, representing evolutionary early-branching tubercle bacilli, has allowed the genomic and molecular features of the putative ancestor of the M. tuberculosis complex (MTBC) to be reconstituted. Analyses have identified extensive lateral gene transfer and recombination events in M. canettii and/or the MTBC, leading to suggestions of a past environmental reservoir where the ancestor(s) of the tubercle bacilli might have adapted to an intracellular lifestyle. The daily increases in M. tuberculosis genome data and the remaining urgent Public Health problem of tuberculosis make it more important than ever to try and understand the origins and the future evolution of the MTBC. Here we critically discuss a series of questions on gene-loss, acquisition, recombination, mutation and conservation that have recently arisen and which are key to better understand the outstanding evolutionary success of one of the most widespread and most deadly bacterial pathogens in the history of humankind.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Mycobacterium abscessus is an emerging pathogen that is increasingly recognized as a relevant cause of human lung infection in cystic fibrosis patients. This highly antibiotic-resistant mycobacterium is an exception within the rapidly growing mycobacteria, which are mainly saprophytic and non-pathogenic organisms. M. abscessus manifests as either a smooth (S) or a rough (R) colony morphotype, which is of clinical importance as R-morphotypes are associated with more severe and persistent infections. To better understand the molecular mechanisms behind the S/R alterations, we analysed S- and R-variants of three isogenic M. abscessus S/R pairs using an unbiased approach involving genome and transcriptome analyses, transcriptional fusions and integrating constructs. This revealed different small insertions, deletions (indels) or single nucleotide polymorphisms within the non-ribosomal peptide synthase gene cluster mps1-mps2-gap or mmpl4b in the three R-variants, consistent with the transcriptional differences identified within this genomic locus that is implicated in the synthesis and transport of Glyco-Peptido-Lipids (GPL). In contrast to previous reports, the identification of clearly defined genetic lesions responsible for the loss of GPL-production or transport makes a frequent switching back-and-forth between smooth and rough morphologies in M. abscessus highly unlikely, which is important for our understanding of persistent M. abscessus infections.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Legionella pneumophila uses aquatic protozoa as replication niche and protection from harsh environments. Although L. pneumophila is not known to have a circadian clock, it encodes homologues of the KaiBC proteins of Cyanobacteria that regulate circadian gene expression. We show that L. pneumophila kaiB, kaiC and the downstream gene lpp1114, are transcribed as a unit under the control of the stress sigma factor RpoS. KaiC and KaiB of L. pneumophila do not interact as evidenced by yeast and bacterial two-hybrid analyses. Fusion of the C-terminal residues of cyanobacterial KaiB to Legionella KaiB restores their interaction. In contrast, KaiC of L. pneumophila conserved autophosphorylation activity, but KaiB does not trigger the dephosphorylation of KaiC like in Cyanobacteria. The crystal structure of L. pneumophila KaiB suggests that it is an oxidoreductase-like protein with a typical thioredoxin fold. Indeed, mutant analyses revealed that the kai operon-encoded proteins increase fitness of L. pneumophila in competitive environments, and confer higher resistance to oxidative and sodium stress. The phylogenetic analysis indicates that L. pneumophila KaiBC resemble Synechosystis KaiC2B2 and not circadian KaiB1C1. Thus, the L. pneumophila Kai proteins do not encode a circadian clock, but enhance stress resistance and adaption to changes in the environments.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Possible drug resistance in Mycobacterium leprae strains from Venezuela and three other South American countries was surveyed by molecular methods. None of the 230 strains
from new leprosy cases exhibited drug resistance-associated mutations. However, two of the three strains from relapsed cases
contained dapsone resistance mutations, and one strain also harbored a rifampin resistance mutation. Single nucleotide polymorphism
analysis of these strains revealed five subtypes: 3I (73.8%), 4P (11.6%), 1D (6.9%), 4N (6%), and 4O (1.7%).
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The species-specific phenolic glycolipid 1 (PGL-1) is suspected to play a critical role in the pathogenesis of leprosy, a chronic disease of the skin and peripheral nerves caused by Mycobacterium leprae. Based on studies using the purified compound, PGL-1 was proposed to mediate the tropism of M. leprae for the nervous system and to modulate host immune responses. However, deciphering the biological function of this glycolipid has been hampered by the inability to grow M. leprae in vitro and to genetically engineer this bacterium. Here, we identified the M. leprae genes required for the biosynthesis of the species-specific saccharidic domain of PGL-1 and reprogrammed seven enzymatic steps in M. bovis BCG to make it synthesize and display PGL-1 in the context of an M. leprae-like cell envelope. This recombinant strain provides us with a unique tool to address the key questions of the contribution of PGL-1 in the infection process and to study the underlying molecular mechanisms. We found that PGL-1 production endowed recombinant BCG with an increased capacity to exploit complement receptor 3 (CR3) for efficient invasion of human macrophages and evasion of inflammatory responses. PGL-1 production also promoted bacterial uptake by human dendritic cells and dampened their infection-induced maturation. Our results therefore suggest that M. leprae produces PGL-1 for immune-silent invasion of host phagocytic cells.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Reductive evolution and massive pseudogene formation have shaped the 3.31-Mb genome of Mycobacterium leprae, an unculturable obligate pathogen that causes leprosy in humans. The complete genome sequence of M. leprae strain Br4923 from Brazil was obtained by conventional methods (6x coverage), and Illumina resequencing technology was used to obtain the sequences of strains Thai53 (38x coverage) and NHDP63 (46x coverage) from Thailand and the United States, respectively. Whole-genome comparisons with the previously sequenced TN strain from India revealed that the four strains share 99.995% sequence identity and differ only in 215 polymorphic sites, mainly SNPs, and by 5 pseudogenes. Sixteen interrelated SNP subtypes were defined by genotyping both extant and extinct strains of M. leprae from around the world. The 16 SNP subtypes showed a strong geographical association that reflects the migration patterns of early humans and trade routes, with the Silk Road linking Europe to China having contributed to the spread of leprosy.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The detection of hundreds of thousands of new cases of leprosy every year suggests that transmission of Mycobacterium leprae infection still continues. Unfortunately, tools for identification of asymptomatic disease and/or early-stage M. leprae infection (likely sources of transmission) are lacking. The recent identification of M. leprae-unique genes has allowed the analysis of human T-cell responses to novel M. leprae antigens. Antigens with the most-promising diagnostic potential were tested for their ability to induce cytokine secretion by using peripheral blood mononuclear cells from leprosy patients and controls in five different areas where leprosy is endemic; 246 individuals from Brazil, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Ethiopia were analyzed for gamma interferon responses to five recombinant proteins (ML1989, ML1990, ML2283, ML2346, and ML2567) and 22 synthetic peptides. Of these, the M. leprae-unique protein ML1989 was the most frequently recognized and ML2283 the most specific for M. leprae infection/exposure, as only a limited number of tuberculosis patients responded to this antigen. However, all proteins were recognized by a significant number of controls in areas of endemicity. T-cell responses correlated with in vitro response to M. leprae, suggesting that healthy controls in areas where leprosy is endemic are exposed to M. leprae. Importantly, 50% of the healthy household contacts and 59% of the controls in areas of endemicity had no detectable immunoglobulin M antibodies to M. leprae-specific PGL-I but responded in T-cell assays to >or=1 M. leprae protein. T-cell responses specific for leprosy patients and healthy household contacts were observed for ML2283- and ML0126-derived peptides, indicating that M. leprae peptides hold potential as diagnostic tools. Future work should concentrate on the development of a sensitive and field-friendly assay and identification of additional peptides and proteins that can induce M. leprae-specific T-cell responses.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Leprosy is a chronic dermatological and neurological disease that results from infection with the unculturable pathogen M. leprae 1 and causes nerve damage that can lead to severe disabilities. There is no known reservoir for M. leprae other than human beings. New opportunities for understanding the transmission of the leprosy bacillus and its phylogeny have arisen following the determination of the complete 3.3-Mb genome sequence of the TN strain, from Tamil Nadu, India 2 . A notable feature of the M. leprae genome is the exceptionally large number of pseudogenes, which occupy almost half of the TN chro-mosome 2 . The resulting loss of function most likely accounts for the exceptionally slow growth rate of the bacillus and for researchers' failure to culture it in vitro. Given this extensive genome decay, one might expect to find more genetic variability between different iso-lates of M. leprae, but initial analysis of SNPs demonstrated that these were very rare, occurring roughly once every 28 kb. Furthermore, all extant isolates of M. leprae were nearly indistinguishable, belonging to one of only four SNP types, and are derived from a single clone 3 . Variable number tandem repeats (VNTRs) have also been investigated in M. leprae 3–8 and, in some cases, have proved useful for countrywide epidemiological surveys 9 . However, owing to variability of VNTR pro-files in samples taken from different sites on the same patient, their utility may be limited 7,10,11 . The emerging discipline of microbial phylogeography is a power-ful means of monitoring not only the spread of microbes but also the movement of their hosts. For instance, compelling associations were found between the genotypes of Helicobacter pylori strains and their places of origin, and the migration and ethnicity of their human hosts 12–14 . M. leprae is also proving useful in this respect, with its spread reflecting the migrations of early humans 3 , and similar studies with tuberculosis patients suggest that Mycobacterium tuberculosis lineages have also adapted to particular human populations 15 . Comparative genomic and phylogeographic analysis of Mycobacterium leprae
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Comparative genomics analysis of the Tamil Nadu strain of Mycobacterium leprae has uncovered several polymorphic sites with potential as epidemiological tools. In this study we compared the stability of two different markers of genomic biodiversity of M. leprae in several biopsy samples isolated from the same leprosy patient. The first type comprises five different variable-number tandem repeats (VNTR), while the second is composed of three single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP). Contrasting results were obtained, since no variation was seen in the SNP profiles of M. leprae from 42 patients from 7 different locations in Mali whereas the VNTR profiles varied considerably. Furthermore, since variation in the VNTR pattern was seen not only between different isolates of M. leprae but also between biopsy samples from the same patient, these VNTR may be too dynamic for use as epidemiological markers for leprosy.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The 6-kDa early secreted antigenic target ESAT-6 and the 10-kDa culture filtrate protein CFP-10 of Mycobacterium tuberculosis are secreted by the ESX-1 system into the host cell and thereby contribute to pathogenicity. Although different studies performed
at the organismal and cellular levels have helped to explain ESX-1-associated phenomena, not much is known about how ESAT-6
and CFP-10 contribute to pathogenesis at the molecular level. In this study we describe the interaction of both proteins with
lipid bilayers, using biologically relevant liposomal preparations containing dimyristoylphosphatidylcholine (DMPC), dimyristoylphosphatidylglycerol,
and cholesterol. Using floatation gradient centrifugation, we demonstrate that ESAT-6 showed strong association with liposomes,
and in particular with preparations containing DMPC and cholesterol, whereas the interaction of CFP-10 with membranes appeared
to be weaker and less specific. Most importantly, binding to the biomembranes no longer occurred when the proteins were present
as a 1:1 ESAT-6·CFP-10 complex. However, lowering of the pH resulted in dissociation of the protein complex and subsequent
protein-liposome interaction. Finally, cryoelectron microscopy revealed that ESAT-6 destabilized and lysed liposomes, whereas
CFP-10 did not. In conclusion, we propose that one of the main features of ESAT-6 in the infection process of M. tuberculosis is the interaction with biomembranes that occurs after dissociation from its putative chaperone CFP-10 under acidic conditions
typically encountered in the phagosome.
Journal of Bacteriology 09/2007; 189(16):6028-34. DOI:10.1128/JB.00469-07 · 2.81 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: In addition to multidrug therapy, elimination of leprosy requires improved diagnostic methods. Using a comparative genomics approach, 17 potential protein antigens (MLP) that are restricted to Mycobacterium leprae, or of limited distribution, were produced and tested for antigen-specific immune responses on leprosy patients, healthy contacts of leprosy patients, and tuberculosis patients in Mali and Bangladesh, as well as on non-endemic controls. T-cell antigenicity of MLP was confirmed by IFN-gamma production in whole-blood assays with the highest responses observed in paucibacillary leprosy patients and healthy contacts. Four MLP behaved well in both countries and induced significantly different responses between the study groups. Peptides carrying T cell epitopes from one of the antigens gave promising results in restimulation assays in mice and immune responses were not influenced by prior exposure to BCG or environmental mycobacteria. This study provides the immunological framework for the development of a specific, peptide-based immunodiagnostic test for leprosy.
Microbes and Infection 08/2006; 8(8):2270-6. DOI:10.1016/j.micinf.2006.04.002 · 2.86 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Leprosy is an infectious, neurodegenerative disease of humans caused by Mycobacterium leprae. Despite effective control programs, the incidence of leprosy remains stubbornly high, suggesting that transmission may be more common than expected. The rationale of this work was to use bioinformatics and comparative genomics to identify potentially antigenic proteins for diagnostic purposes. This approach defined three classes of proteins: those restricted to M. leprae (class I), those present in M. leprae with orthologues in other organisms besides mycobacteria (class II), and exported or surface-exposed proteins (class III). Twelve genes (two class I, four class II, and six class III proteins) were cloned in Escherichia coli, and their protein products were purified. Six of these proteins were detected in cell extracts of M. leprae by immunoblotting. The immunogenicity of each recombinant protein was then investigated in leprosy patients by measuring the reactivity of circulating antibody and gamma interferon (IFN-gamma) responses in T-cell restimulation assays. Several class II and class III proteins were recognized by circulating antibodies. Importantly, most class II proteins elicited IFN-gamma responses that were significantly stronger than those produced by previously identified antigens. Among them, two class II proteins, ML0308 and ML2498, showed marked humoral and cellular immunogenicity, therefore providing promising candidates for the diagnosis of both tuberculoid and lepromatous forms of leprosy.
Infection and Immunity 02/2006; 74(1):175-82. DOI:10.1128/IAI.74.1.175-182.2006 · 3.73 Impact Factor