• The Small GTPase Rac1 Increases Cell Surface Stiffness and Enhances 3D Migration Into Extracellular Matrices.

      Kunschmann, Tom; Puder, Stefanie; Fischer, Tony; Steffen, Anika; Rottner, Klemens; Mierke, Claudia Tanja; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (Nature research, 2019-05-22)
      Membrane ruffling and lamellipodia formation promote the motility of adherent cells in two-dimensional motility assays by mechano-sensing of the microenvironment and initiation of focal adhesions towards their surroundings. Lamellipodium formation is stimulated by small Rho GTPases of the Rac subfamily, since genetic removal of these GTPases abolishes lamellipodium assembly. The relevance of lamellipodial or invadopodial structures for facilitating cellular mechanics and 3D cell motility is still unclear. Here, we hypothesized that Rac1 affects cell mechanics and facilitates 3D invasion. Thus, we explored whether fibroblasts that are genetically deficient for Rac1 (lacking Rac2 and Rac3) harbor altered mechanical properties, such as cellular deformability, intercellular adhesion forces and force exertion, and exhibit alterations in 3D motility. Rac1 knockout and control cells were analyzed for changes in deformability by applying an external force using an optical stretcher. Five Rac1 knockout cell lines were pronouncedly more deformable than Rac1 control cells upon stress application. Using AFM, we found that cell-cell adhesion forces are increased in Rac1 knockout compared to Rac1-expressing fibroblasts. Since mechanical deformability, cell-cell adhesion strength and 3D motility may be functionally connected, we investigated whether increased deformability of Rac1 knockout cells correlates with changes in 3D motility. All five Rac1 knockout clones displayed much lower 3D motility than Rac1-expressing controls. Moreover, force exertion was reduced in Rac1 knockout cells, as assessed by 3D fiber displacement analysis. Interference with cellular stiffness through blocking of actin polymerization by Latrunculin A could not further reduce invasion of Rac1 knockout cells. In contrast, Rac1-expressing controls treated with Latrunculin A were again more deformable and less invasive, suggesting actin polymerization is a major determinant of observed Rac1-dependent effects. Together, we propose that regulation of 3D motility by Rac1 partly involves cellular mechanics such as deformability and exertion of forces.
    • Spatiotemporal control of FlgZ activity impacts Pseudomonas aeruginosa flagellar motility.

      Bense, Sarina; Bruchmann, Sebastian; Steffen, Anika; Stradal, Theresia E B; Häussler, Susanne; Düvel, Juliane; HZI, Helmholtz Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7, 38124 Braunschweig Germany. (Wiley-Blackwell, 2019-03-12)
      The c-di-GMP-binding effector protein FlgZ has been demonstrated to control motility in the opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa and it was suggested that c-di-GMP-bound FlgZ impedes motility via its interaction with the MotCD stator. To further understand how motility is downregulated in P. aeruginosa and to elucidate the general control mechanisms operating during bacterial growth, we examined the spatiotemporal activity of FlgZ. We re-annotated the P. aeruginosaflgZ open reading frame and demonstrated that FlgZ-mediated downregulation of motility is fine-tuned via three independent mechanisms. First, we found that flgZ gene is transcribed independently from flgMN in stationary growth phase to increase FlgZ protein levels in the cell. Second, FlgZ localizes to the cell pole upon c-di-GMP binding and third, we describe that FimV, a cell pole anchor protein, is involved in increasing the polar localized c-di-GMP bound FlgZ to inhibit both, swimming and swarming motility. Our results shed light on the complex dynamics and spatiotemporal control of c-di-GMP-dependent bacterial motility phenotypes and on how the polar anchor protein FimV, the motor brake FlgZ and the stator proteins function to repress flagella-driven swimming and swarming motility.
    • Visualization of translocons in Yersinia type III protein secretion machines during host cell infection.

      Nauth, Theresa; Huschka, Franziska; Schweizer, Michaela; Bosse, Jens B; Diepold, Andreas; Failla, Antonio Virgilio; Steffen, Anika; Stradal, Theresia E B; Wolters, Manuel; Aepfelbacher, Martin; et al. (PLOS, 2018-12-01)
      Type III secretion systems (T3SSs) are essential virulence factors of numerous bacterial pathogens. Upon host cell contact the T3SS machinery-also named injectisome-assembles a pore complex/translocon within host cell membranes that serves as an entry gate for the bacterial effectors. Whether and how translocons are physically connected to injectisome needles, whether their phenotype is related to the level of effector translocation and which target cell factors trigger their formation have remained unclear. We employed the superresolution fluorescence microscopy techniques Stimulated Emission Depletion (STED) and Structured Illumination Microscopy (SIM) as well as immunogold electron microscopy to visualize Y. enterocolitica translocons during infection of different target cell types. Thereby we were able to resolve translocon and needle complex proteins within the same injectisomes and demonstrate that these fully assembled injectisomes are generated in a prevacuole, a PI(4,5)P2 enriched host cell compartment inaccessible to large extracellular proteins like antibodies. Furthermore, the operable translocons were produced by the yersiniae to a much larger degree in macrophages (up to 25% of bacteria) than in HeLa cells (2% of bacteria). However, when the Rho GTPase Rac1 was activated in the HeLa cells, uptake of the yersiniae into the prevacuole, translocon formation and effector translocation were strongly enhanced reaching the same levels as in macrophages. Our findings indicate that operable T3SS translocons can be visualized as part of fully assembled injectisomes with superresolution fluorescence microscopy techniques. By using this technology, we provide novel information about the spatiotemporal organization of T3SS translocons and their regulation by host cell factors.
    • xCELLanalyzer: A Framework for the Analysis of Cellular Impedance Measurements for Mode of Action Discovery

      Franke, Raimo; Hinkelmann, Bettina; Fetz, Verena; Stradal, Theresia; Sasse, Florenz; Klawonn, Frank; Brönstrup, Mark; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (Sage, 2019-01-25)
      Mode of action (MoA) identification of bioactive compounds is very often a challenging and time-consuming task. We used a label-free kinetic profiling method based on an impedance readout to monitor the time-dependent cellular response profiles for the interaction of bioactive natural products and other small molecules with mammalian cells. Such approaches have been rarely used so far due to the lack of data mining tools to properly capture the characteristics of the impedance curves. We developed a data analysis pipeline for the xCELLigence Real-Time Cell Analysis detection platform to process the data, assess and score their reproducibility, and provide rank-based MoA predictions for a reference set of 60 bioactive compounds. The method can reveal additional, previously unknown targets, as exemplified by the identification of tubulin-destabilizing activities of the RNA synthesis inhibitor actinomycin D and the effects on DNA replication of vioprolide A. The data analysis pipeline is based on the statistical programming language R and is available to the scientific community through a GitHub repository.