[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Neisseria meningitidis is an inhabitant of the mucosal surfaces of the human nasopharynx. We recently demonstrated that the secreted meningococcal Two-partner secretion protein A (TpsA) is involved in interbacterial competition. The C-terminal end of the large TpsA protein contains a small toxic domain that inhibits the growth of target bacteria. The producing cells are protected from this toxic activity by a small immunity protein that is encoded by the gene immediately downstream of the tpsA gene. Further downstream on the chromosome, a repertoire of toxic modules, designated tpsC cassettes, is encoded that could replace the toxic module of TpsA by recombination. Each tpsC cassette is associated with a gene encoding a cognate immunity protein.
Blast searchers using the toxic domains of TpsA and TpsC proteins as queries identified homologies with the C-terminal part of neisserial MafB proteins, which, for the rest, showed no sequence similarity to TpsA proteins. On the chromosome, mafB genes are part of genomic islands, which include cassettes for additional toxic modules as well as genes putatively encoding immunity proteins. We demonstrate that a MafB protein of strain B16B6 inhibits the growth of a strain that does not produce the corresponding immunity protein. Assays in E. coli confirmed that the C-terminal region of MafB is responsible for toxicity, which is inhibited by the cognate immunity protein. Pull-down assays revealed direct interaction between MafB toxic domains and the cognate immunity proteins.
The meningococcal MafB proteins are novel toxic proteins involved in interbacterial competition.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Background
Plant growth-promoting rhizobacteria (PGPR) can protect plants against pathogenic microbes through a diversity of mechanisms including competition for nutrients, production of antibiotics, and stimulation of the host immune system, a phenomenon called induced systemic resistance (ISR). In the past 30 years, the Pseudomonas spp. PGPR strains WCS358, WCS374 and WCS417 of the Willie Commelin Scholten (WCS) collection have been studied in detail in pioneering papers on the molecular basis of PGPR-mediated ISR and mechanisms of biological control of soil-borne pathogens via siderophore-mediated competition for iron.
The genomes of the model WCS PGPR strains were sequenced and analyzed to unearth genetic cues related to biological questions that surfaced during the past 30 years of functional studies on these plant-beneficial microbes. Whole genome comparisons revealed important novel insights into iron acquisition strategies with consequences for both bacterial ecology and plant protection, specifics of bacterial determinants involved in plant-PGPR recognition, and diversity of protein secretion systems involved in microbe-microbe and microbe-plant communication. Furthermore, multi-locus sequence alignment and whole genome comparison revealed the taxonomic position of the WCS model strains within the Pseudomonas genus. Despite the enormous diversity of Pseudomonas spp. in soils, several plant-associated Pseudomonas spp. strains that have been isolated from different hosts at different geographic regions appear to be nearly isogenic to WCS358, WCS374, or WCS417. Interestingly, all these WCS look-a-likes have been selected because of their plant protective or plant growth-promoting properties.
The genome sequences of the model WCS strains revealed that they can be considered representatives of universally-present plant-beneficial Pseudomonas spp. With their well-characterized functions in the promotion of plant growth and health, the fully sequenced genomes of the WCS strains provide a genetic framework that allows for detailed analysis of the biological mechanisms of the plant-beneficial traits of these PGPR. Considering the increasing focus on the role of the root microbiome in plant health, functional genomics of the WCS strains will enhance our understanding of the diversity of functions of the root microbiome.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Pseudomonas aeruginosa infection can be disastrous in chronic lung diseases such as cystic fibrosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Its toxic effects are largely mediated by secreted virulence factors including pyocyanin, elastase and alkaline protease (AprA). Efficient functioning of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) is crucial for cell survival and appropriate immune responses, while an excess of unfolded proteins within the ER leads to "ER stress" and activation of the "unfolded protein response" (UPR). Bacterial infection and Toll-like receptor activation trigger the UPR most likely due to the increased demand for protein folding of inflammatory mediators. In this study, we show that cell-free conditioned medium of the PAO1 strain of P. aeruginosa, containing secreted virulence factors, induces ER stress in primary bronchial epithelial cells as evidenced by splicing of XBP1 mRNA and induction of CHOP, GRP78 and GADD34 expression. Most aspects of the ER stress response were dependent on TAK1 and p38 MAPK, except for the induction of GADD34 mRNA. Using various mutant strains and purified virulence factors, we identified pyocyanin and AprA as inducers of ER stress. However, the induction of GADD34 was mediated by an ER stress-independent integrated stress response (ISR) which was at least partly dependent on the iron-sensing eIF2α kinase HRI. Our data strongly suggest that this increased GADD34 expression served to protect against Pseudomonas-induced, iron-sensitive cell cytotoxicity. In summary, virulence factors from P. aeruginosa induce ER stress in airway epithelial cells and also trigger the ISR to improve cell survival of the host.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Neisseria meningitidis is a human pathogen. It is intensively studied for host–pathogen interactions and vaccine development. However, its favorable growth properties, genetic accessibility, and small genome size also make it an excellent model organism for studying fundamental biological processes, such as outer membrane biogenesis. Indeed, the first component of the assembly machinery for outer-membrane proteins, the BAM complex, was identified in N. meningitidis. Here, we describe protocols to inactivate chromosomal genes and to express genes from a well-controlled promoter on a plasmid in N. meningitidis. Together, these protocols can be used, for example, to deplete cells from essential components of the BAM complex. We also describe a simple, gel-based assay to assess the proper functioning of the BAM complex in vivo.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Microbial cell surfaces, surface-exposed organelles, and secreted proteins are important for the interaction with the environment, including adhesion to hosts, protection against host defense mechanisms, nutrient acquisition, and intermicrobial competition. Here, we describe the structures of the cell envelopes of bacteria , fungi, and oomycetes , and the mechanisms they have evolved for the transport of proteins across these envelopes to the cell surface and into the extracellular milieu.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Forty-nine clinical Escherichia coli isolates, both extended-spectrum β-lactamase (ESBL) negative and ESBL positive, were studied to investigate whether increased AmpC expression is a mechanism involved in cefoxitin resistance and if this influences the third-generation cephalosporin activity. Nine of 33 (27.2%) cefoxitin-resistant (minimum inhibitory concentration [MIC] >8 mg/L) isolates showed hyperproduction of chromosomal AmpC (c-AmpC) based on (1) at least two positive tests using AmpC inhibitors, (2) mutations in the promoter/attenuator regions, and (3) a 6.1- to 163-fold increase in c-ampC expression by quantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction. In ESBL-negative isolates, MICs of ceftazidime and cefotaxime were mostly above the wild-type (WT) level, but below the S/I breakpoint (EUCAST guideline), except for one isolate with MICs of 4 mg/L. No plasmid-mediated AmpCs were found. Periplasmic extracts of nine c-AmpC hyperproducers were preincubated with or without cefuroxime or ceftazidime and analyzed by sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis. Cefuroxime and ceftazidime were stable to hydrolysis but acted as inhibitors of the enzyme. None of these isolates showed loss of porins. Thus, cefoxitin resistance has low specificity for detecting upregulated c-AmpC production. c-AmpC hyperproducing E. coli is mostly still susceptible to third-generation cephalosporins but less than WT E. coli. Surveillance of cefoxitin-resistant E. coli to monitor developments in the activity of third-generation cephalosporins against c-AmpC hyperproducers is warranted.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Like all classical monomeric autotransporters, IgA protease of Neisseria meningitidis is a modular protein consisting of an N-terminal signal sequence, a passenger domain, and a C-terminal translocator domain (TD) that assists in the secretion of the passenger domain across the outer membrane. The passenger of IgA protease consists of three separate domains, the protease domain, the γ-peptide, and the α-peptide that contains nuclear localization signals (NLS). The protease domain is released into the extracellular milieu either via autocatalytic processing or via cleavage by another autotransporter, NalP, expression of which is phase variable. NalP-mediated cleavage results in the release of a passenger that includes the α- and γ-peptides. Here, we studied the fate of the α-peptide when NalP is not expressed and observed strain-dependent differences. In meningococcal strains where the α-peptide contains a single NLS, the α-peptide remained covalently attached to the TD and was detected at the cell surface. In other strains, the α-peptide contains four NLS and is separated from the TD by an IgA protease autoproteolytic cleavage site. In many of those cases, the α-peptide was found non-covalently associated with the cells as a separate polypeptide. The cell surface association of the α-peptides may be physiologically relevant. We report a novel function for the α-peptide, i.e. the binding of heparin, an immune-modulatory molecule that in the host is found in the extracellular matrix and connected to cell surfaces.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a leading cause of hospital-acquired infections in patients with compromised host defense mechanisms, including burn wound victims. In addition to its intrinsic resistance against most antibiotics, P. aeruginosa has the ability to form biofilmsadhering to biotic or abiotic surfaces. These factors make treatment of P. aeruginosainfections complicated and demand new therapies and drugs. The flagellum of P. aeruginosa plays an important role in cell-cell and cell-surface interactions during the first stage of biofilm formation. In this study, we describe the selection of monoclonal anti-flagellin single-domain antibodies (VHHs) derived from the Camelid heavy-chain antibody repertoire of a llama immunized with P. aeruginosa antigens. The anti-flagellin VHHs could be produced efficiently in Saccharomyces cerevisiae, and surface plasmon resonance experiments demonstrated that they have apparent affinities in the nanomolar range. Functional screens showed that the anti-flagellin VHHs are capable of inhibiting P. aeruginosa from swimming and that they prevent biofilm formation in an in vitro assay. These data open doors for the development of novel methods for the prevention of P. aeruginosa-related infections.
No preview · Article · Jul 2014 · Journal of Biotechnology
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Autotransporters are proteins secreted by Gram-negative bacteria that often play a role in virulence. Eight different autotransporters have been identified in Neisseria meningitidis but only six of them have been characterized. AutA is one of the remaining autotransporters. Its expression remains controversial. Here, we show that the autA gene is present in many neisserial species but its expression is often disrupted by various genetic features; however, it is expressed in certain strains of N. meningitidis. By sequencing the autA gene in large panels of disease isolates and Western blot analysis, we demonstrated that AutA expression is prone to phase variation at AAGC nucleotide repeats located within the DNA encoding the signal sequence. AutA is not secreted into the extracellular medium but remains associated with the bacterial cell surface. We further demonstrate that AutA expression induces autoaggregation in a process that, dependent on the particular strain, may require extracellular DNA (eDNA). This property influences the organization of bacterial communities like lattices and biofilms. In vitro assays evidenced that AutA is a self-associating autotransporter that binds DNA. We suggest that AutA-mediated autoaggregation might be particularly important for colonization and persistence of the pathogen in the nasopharynx of the host.
No preview · Article · Jul 2014 · Environmental Microbiology
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: GNA2091 of Neisseria meningitidis is a lipoprotein of unknown function that is included in the novel 4CMenB vaccine. Here, we investigated the biological function
and the subcellular localization of the protein. We demonstrate that GNA2091 functions in the assembly of outer membrane proteins
(OMPs) because its absence resulted in the accumulation of misassembled OMPs. Cell fractionation and protease accessibility
experiments showed that the protein is localized at the periplasmic side of the outer membrane. Pulldown experiments revealed
that it is not stably associated with the β-barrel assembly machinery, the previously identified complex for OMP assembly.
Thus, GNA2091 constitutes a novel outer membrane-based lipoprotein required for OMP assembly. Furthermore, its location at
the inner side of the outer membrane indicates that protective immunity elicited by this antigen cannot be due to bactericidal
or opsonic activity of antibodies.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The outer membrane protein BamA is the key player in β-barrel assembly in Gram-negative bacteria. Despite the availability of high-resolution crystal structures, the dynamic behavior of the transmembrane domain and the large periplasmic extension consisting of five POTRA domains remains unclear. We demonstrate reconstitution of full-length BamA in proteoliposomes at low lipid-to-protein ratio, leading to high sensitivity and resolution in solid-state NMR (ssNMR) experiments. We detect POTRA domains in ssNMR experiments probing rigid protein segments in our preparations. These results suggest that the periplasmic region of BamA is firmly attached to the β-barrel and does not experience fast global motion around the angle between POTRA 2 and 3. We show that this behavior holds at lower protein concentrations and elevated temperatures. Chemical-shift variations observed after reconstitution in lipids with different chain lengths and saturation levels are compatible with conformational plasticity of BamA's transmembrane domain. Electron microscopy of the ssNMR samples shows that BamA can cause local disruptions of the lipid bilayer in proteoliposomes. The observed interplay between protein-protein and protein-lipid interactions may be critical for BamA-mediated insertion of substrates into the outer membrane.
Full-text · Article · Feb 2014 · Journal of Molecular Biology
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The BamA protein is the key component of the Bam complex, the assembly machinery for outer membrane proteins (OMP) in gram-negative bacteria. We previously demonstrated that BamA recognizes its OMP substrates in a species-specific manner in vitro. In this work, we further studied species specificity in vivo by testing the functioning of BamA homologs of the proteobacteria Neisseria meningitidis, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, Bordetella pertussis, Burkholderia mallei, and Escherichia coli in E. coli and in N. meningitidis. We found that no BamA functioned in another species than the authentic one, except for N. gonorrhoeae BamA, which fully complemented a N. meningitidis bamA mutant. E. coli BamA was not assembled into the N. meningitidis outer membrane. In contrast, the N. meningitidis BamA protein was assembled into the outer membrane of E. coli to a significant extent and also associated with BamD, an essential accessory lipoprotein of the Bam complex.Various chimeras comprising swapped N-terminal periplasmic and C-terminal membrane-embedded domains of N. meningitidis and E. coli BamA proteins were also not functional in either host, although some of them were inserted in the OM suggesting that the two domains of BamA need to be compatible in order to function. Furthermore, conformational analysis of chimeric proteins provided evidence for a 16-stranded β-barrel conformation of the membrane-embedded domain of BamA.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Lipopolysaccharide (LPS) is a major component of the outer membrane of Gram-negative bacteria and is responsible for the barrier
function of this membrane. A ght mutant of Neisseria meningitidis that showed increased sensitivity to hydrophobic toxic compounds, suggesting a breach in this permeability barrier, was previously
described. Here, we assessed whether this phenotype was possibly caused by a defect in LPS transport or synthesis. The total
amount of LPS appeared to be drastically reduced in a ght mutant, but the residual LPS was still detected at the cell surface, suggesting that LPS transport was not impaired. The
ght mutant was rapidly overgrown by pseudorevertants that produced normal levels of LPS. Genetic analysis of these pseudorevertants
revealed that the lpxC gene, which encodes a key enzyme in LPS synthesis, was fused to the promoter of the upstream-located pilE gene, resulting in severe lpxC overexpression. Analysis of phoA and lacZ gene fusions indicated that Ght is an inner membrane protein with an N-terminal membrane anchor and its bulk located in the
cytoplasm, where it could potentially interact with LpxC. Cell fractionation experiments indeed indicated that Ght tethers
LpxC to the membrane. We suggest that Ght regulates LPS biosynthesis by affecting the activity of LpxC. Possibly, this mechanism
acts in the previously observed feedback inhibition of LPS synthesis that occurs when LPS transport is hampered.
No preview · Article · Dec 2013 · Journal of bacteriology
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The outer membrane of Gram-negative bacteria functions as a permeability barrier that protects these bacteria against harmful compounds in the environment. Most nutrients pass the outer membrane by passive diffusion via pore-forming proteins known as porins. However, diffusion can only satisfy the growth requirements if the extracellular concentration of the nutrients is high. In the vertebrate host, the sequestration of essential nutrient metals is an important defense mechanism that limits the growth of invading pathogens, a process known as "nutritional immunity." The acquisition of scarce nutrients from the environment is mediated by receptors in the outer membrane in an energy-requiring process. Most characterized receptors are involved in the acquisition of iron. In this study, we characterized a hitherto unknown receptor from Neisseria meningitidis, a causative agent of sepsis and meningitis. Expression of this receptor, designated CbpA, is induced when the bacteria are grown under zinc limitation. We demonstrate that CbpA functions as a receptor for calprotectin, a protein that is massively produced by neutrophils and other cells and that has been shown to limit bacterial growth by chelating Zn(2+) and Mn(2+) ions. Expression of CbpA enables N. meningitidis to survive and propagate in the presence of calprotectin and to use calprotectin as a zinc source. Besides CbpA, also the TonB protein, which couples energy of the proton gradient across the inner membrane to receptor-mediated transport across the outer membrane, is required for the process. CbpA was found to be expressed in all N. meningitidis strains examined, consistent with a vital role for the protein when the bacteria reside in the host. Together, our results demonstrate that N. meningitidis is able to subvert an important defense mechanism of the human host and to utilize calprotectin to promote its growth.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Two-partner secretion systems in Gram-negative bacteria consist of an outer membrane protein TpsB that mediates the secretion of a cognate TpsA protein into the extracellular milieu. TpsA proteins have diverse, often virulence-related functions, and some of them inhibit the growth of related bacteria. In Neisseria meningitidis, several functions have been attributed to the TpsA proteins. Downstream of the tpsB and tpsA genes, several shorter tpsA-related gene cassettes, called tpsC, are located interspersed with intervening open-reading frames (IORFs). It has been suggested that the tpsC cassettes may recombine with the tpsA gene as a mechanism of antigenic variation. Here, we investigated (i) whether TpsA of N. meningitidis also has growth-inhibitory properties, (ii) whether tpsC cassettes recombine with the tpsA gene, and (iii) what the consequences of such recombination events might be.
We demonstrate that meningococcal TpsA has growth-inhibitory properties and that the IORF located immediately downstream of tpsA confers immunity to the producing strain. Although bioinformatics analysis suggests that recombination between tpsC cassettes and tpsA occurs, detailed analysis of the tpsA gene in a large collection of disease isolates of three clonal complexes revealed that the frequency is very low and cannot be a mechanism of antigenic variation. However, recombination affected growth inhibition. In vitro experiments revealed that recombination can be mediated through acquirement of tpsC cassettes from the environment and it identified the regions involved in the recombination.
Meningococcal TpsA has growth-inhibitory properties. Recombination between tpsA and tpsC cassettes occurs in vivo but is rare and has consequences for growth inhibition. A recombination model is proposed and we propose that the main goal of recombination is the collection of new IORFs for protection against a variety of TpsA proteins.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: A liver-transplant patient was admitted with cholangitis for which meropenem therapy was started. Initial cultures showed a carbapenem-susceptible (CS) Escherichia coli, but, during admission a carbapenem-resistant (CR) E. coli was isolated. Analysis of the outer-membrane-protein profiles showed that both CS and CR E. coli lacked the porins OmpF and OmpC. Furthermore, PCR and sequence analysis revealed that both CS and CR E. coli possessed blaCTX-M-15 and blaOXA-1. The CR E. coli additionally harbored a blaCMY-2 and demonstrated a >15-fold increased β-lactamase activity against nitrocefin, but no hydrolysis of meropenem was detected. However, nitrocefin hydrolysis appeared strongly inhibited by meropenem. Furthermore, the CMY-2 enzyme demonstrated lower electrophoretic mobility after its incubation either in vitro or in vivo with meropenem indicative of its covalent modification with meropenem. The presence of the acyl-enzyme complex was confirmed by mass spectrometry. By transformation of the CMY-2-encoding plasmid into various E. coli strains, it was established that both porin deficiency and high-level expression of the enzyme were needed to confer meropenem resistance.In conclusion, carbapenem resistance emerged by a combination of elevated β-lactamase production and lack of porin expression. Due to the reduced outer-membrane permeability, only small amounts of meropenem can enter the periplasm, where they are trapped but not degraded by the high amount of the β-lactamase. This study, therefore, provides evidence that the mechanism of "trapping" by CMY-2 β-lactamase plays a role in carbapenem resistance.
Full-text · Article · Jun 2013 · Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Autotransporters are widely distributed among Gram-negative bacteria. They can have a large variety of functions and many of them have a role in virulence. They are synthesized as large precursors with an N-terminal signal sequence that mediates transport across the inner membrane via the Sec machinery and a translocator domain that mediates the transport of the connected passenger domain across the outer membrane to the bacterial cell surface. Like integral outer membrane proteins, the translocator domain folds in a β-barrel structure and requires the Bam machinery for its insertion into the outer membrane. After transport across the outer membrane, the passenger may stay connected via the translocator domain to the bacterial cell surface or it is proteolytically released into the extracellular milieu. Based on the size of the translocator domain and its position relative to the passenger in the precursor, autotransporters are divided into four sub-categories. We review here the current knowledge of the biogenesis, structure and function of various autotransporters.
No preview · Article · Apr 2013 · Research in Microbiology
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Neisseria meningitidis serogroup B (MenB) is a major cause of bacterial sepsis and meningitis, with the highest disease burden in young children.
Available vaccines are based on outer membrane vesicles (OMVs) obtained from wild-type strains. However, particularly in toddlers
and infants, they confer protection mostly against strains expressing the homologous protein PorA, a major and variable outer
membrane protein. In the quest for alternative vaccine antigens able to provide broad MenB strain coverage in younger populations,
but potentially also across all age groups, ZnuD, a protein expressed under zinc-limiting conditions, may be considered a
promising candidate. Here, we have investigated the potential value of ZnuD and show that it is a conserved antigen expressed
by all MenB strains tested except for some strains of clonal complex ST-8. In mice and guinea pigs immunized with ZnuD-expressing
OMVs, antibodies were elicited that were able to trigger complement-mediated killing of all the MenB strains and serogroup
A, C, and Y strains tested when grown under conditions of zinc limitation. ZnuD is also expressed during infection, since
anti-ZnuD antibodies were detected in sera from patients. In conclusion, we confirm the potential of ZnuD-bearing OMVs as
a component of an effective MenB vaccine.
Preview · Article · Mar 2013 · Infection and immunity