The stringent response of Bacillus anthracis contributes to sporulation but not to virulence

Unité Toxines et Pathogénie Bactérienne, Institut Pasteur, 28 rue du Dr Roux, 75724 Paris Cedex 15, France.
Microbiology (Impact Factor: 2.56). 01/2008; 153(Pt 12):4234-9. DOI: 10.1099/mic.0.2007/010355-0
Source: PubMed


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.

    • "For primary culture, vegetative cells of B. anthracis Sterne were grown in Brain Heart Infusion (BHI) media at 37 • C with shaking at 150 rpm. For different phosphate conditions, phosphate depleted medium (PDM), phosphate balanced medium (PBM) and phosphate repleted medium (PRM) containing 0.2 mM, 3 mM and 5 mM of KH 2 PO 4 respectively, was prepared as described previously (Van Schaik et al., 2007). "
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    ABSTRACT: Identifying the factors responsible for survival and virulence of Bacillus anthracis within the host is prerequisite for the development of therapeutics against anthrax. Host provides several stresses as well as many advantages to the invading pathogen. Inorganic phosphate (Pi) starvation within the host has been considered as one of the major contributing factors in the establishment of infection by pathogenic microorganisms. Here, we report for the first time that Pi fluctuation encountered by B. anthracis at different stages of its life cycle within the host, contributes significantly in its pathogenesis. In this study, Pi starvation was found to hasten the onset of infection cycle by promoting spore germination. After germination, it was found to impede cell growth. In addition, phosphate starved bacilli showed more antibiotic tolerance. Interestingly, phosphate starvation enhanced the pathogenicity of B. anthracis by augmenting its invasiveness in macrophages in vitro. B. anthracis grown under phosphate starvation were also found to be more efficient in establishing lethal infections in mouse model as well. Phosphate starvation increased B. anthracis virulence by promoting the secretion of primary virulence factors like protective antigen (PA), lethal factor (LF) and edema factor (EF). Thus, this study affirms that besides other host mediated factors, phosphate limitation may also contribute B. anthracis for successfully establishing itself within the host. This study is a step forward in delineating its pathophysiology that might help in understanding the pathogenesis of anthrax. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier GmbH. All rights reserved.
    No preview · Article · Jun 2015 · International journal of medical microbiology: IJMM
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    • "Consistent with other studies, we found that the expression of atxA itself is not increased as significantly as the genes it stimulates, if at all, when B. anthracis is grown in environments containing increased concentrations of CO2[11,12,16]. AtxA is regulated downstream of transcription by a number of CO2-related processes [20,22-24,60], and our data provide further evidence that this regulation alone is sufficient to account for its transcriptional effects on virulence-related genes. Our data also provide insights into two novel small RNAs that are strongly associated with the combined presence of CO2 and AtxA. "
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    ABSTRACT: Upon infection of a mammalian host, Bacillus anthracis responds to host cues, and particularly to elevated temperature (37[degree sign]C) and bicarbonate/CO2 concentrations, with increased expression of virulence factors that include the anthrax toxins and extracellular capsular layer. This response requires the presence of the pXO1 virulence plasmid-encoded pleiotropic regulator AtxA. To better understand the genetic basis of this response, we utilized a controlled in vitro system and Next Generation sequencing to determine and compare RNA expression profiles of the parental strain and an isogenic AtxA-deficient strain in a 2 x 2 factorial design with growth environments containing or lacking carbon dioxide. We found 15 pXO1-encoded genes and 3 chromosomal genes that were strongly regulated by the separate or synergistic actions of AtxA and carbon dioxide. The majority of the regulated genes responded to both AtxA and carbon dioxide rather than to just one of these factors. Interestingly, we identified two previously unrecognized small RNAs that are highly expressed under physiological carbon dioxide concentrations in an AtxA-dependent manner. Expression levels of the two small RNAs were found to be higher than that of any other gene differentially expressed in response to these conditions. Secondary structure and small RNA-mRNA binding predictions for the two small RNAs suggest that they may perform important functions in regulating B. anthracis virulence. A majority of genes on the virulence plasmid pXO1 that are regulated by the presence of either CO2 or AtxA separately are also regulated synergistically in the presence of both. These results also elucidate novel pXO1-encoded small RNAs that are associated with virulence conditions.
    Full-text · Article · Mar 2014 · BMC Genomics
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    ABSTRACT: Like for all microbes, the goal of every pathogen is to survive and replicate. However, to overcome the formidable defenses of their hosts, pathogens are also endowed with traits commonly associated with virulence, such as surface attachment, cell or tissue invasion, and transmission. Numerous pathogens couple their specific virulence pathways with more general adaptations, like stress resistance, by integrating dedicated regulators with global signaling networks. In particular, many of nature's most dreaded bacteria rely on nucleotide alarmones to cue metabolic disturbances and coordinate survival and virulence programs. Here we discuss how components of the stringent response contribute to the virulence of a wide variety of pathogenic bacteria.
    Full-text · Article · Jun 2010 · Microbiology and molecular biology reviews: MMBR
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