• ClbR Is the Key Transcriptional Activator of Colibactin Gene Expression in Escherichia coli.

      Wallenstein, Alexander; Rehm, Nadine; Brinkmann, Marina; Selle, Martina; Bossuet-Greif, Nadège; Sauer, Daniel; Bunk, Boyke; Spröer, Cathrin; Wami, Haleluya Tesfaye; Homburg, Stefan; et al. (ASM, 2020-07-15)
      Colibactin is a nonribosomal peptide/polyketide hybrid natural product expressed by different members of the Enterobacteriaceae which can be correlated with induction of DNA double-strand breaks and interference with cell cycle progression in eukaryotes. Regulatory features of colibactin expression are only incompletely understood. We used Escherichia coli strain M1/5 as a model to investigate regulation of expression of the colibactin determinant at the transcriptional level and to characterize regulatory elements located within the colibactin pathogenicity island itself. We measured clbR transcription in vitro and observed that cultivation in defined minimal media led to increased colibactin expression relative to rich media. Transcription of clbR directly responds to iron availability. We also characterized structural DNA elements inside the colibactin determinant involved in ClbR-dependent regulation, i.e., ClbR binding sites and a variable number of tandem repeats located upstream of clbR We investigated the impact of clbR overexpression or deletion at the transcriptome and proteome levels. Moreover, we compared global gene regulation under these conditions with that occurring upon overexpression or deletion of clbQ, which affects the flux of colibactin production. Combining the results of the transcriptome and proteome analyses with indirect measurements of colibactin levels by cell culture assays and an approximate quantification of colibactin via the second product of colibactin cleavage from precolibactin, N-myristoyl-d-asparagine, we demonstrate that the variable number of tandem repeats plays a significant regulatory role in colibactin expression. We identify ClbR as the only transcriptional activator known so far that is specific and essential for efficient regulation of colibactin production.IMPORTANCE The nonribosomal peptide/polyketide hybrid colibactin can be considered a bacterial virulence factor involved in extraintestinal infection and also a procarcinogen. Nevertheless, and despite its genotoxic effect, colibactin expression can also inhibit bacterial or tumor growth and correlates with probiotic anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. Although the biological function of this natural compound has been studied extensively, our understanding of the regulation of colibactin expression is still far from complete. We investigated in detail the role of regulatory elements involved in colibactin expression and in the growth conditions that promote colibactin expression. In this way, our data shed light on the regulatory mechanisms involved in colibactin expression and may support the expression and purification of this interesting nonribosomal peptide/polyketide hybrid for further molecular characterization.
    • Insights into evolution and coexistence of the colibactin- and yersiniabactin secondary metabolite determinants in enterobacterial populations.

      Wami, Haleluya; Wallenstein, Alexander; Sauer, Daniel; Stoll, Monika; von Bünau, Rudolf; Oswald, Eric; Müller, Rolf; Dobrindt, Ulrich; HIPS, Helmholtz-Institut für Pharmazeutische Forschung Saarland, Universitätscampus E8.1 66123 Saarbrücken, Germany. (Microbiology Society, 2021-06-15)
      The bacterial genotoxin colibactin interferes with the eukaryotic cell cycle by causing dsDNA breaks. It has been linked to bacterially induced colorectal cancer in humans. Colibactin is encoded by a 54 kb genomic region in Enterobacteriaceae. The colibactin genes commonly co-occur with the yersiniabactin biosynthetic determinant. Investigating the prevalence and sequence diversity of the colibactin determinant and its linkage to the yersiniabactin operon in prokaryotic genomes, we discovered mainly species-specific lineages of the colibactin determinant and classified three main structural settings of the colibactin-yersiniabactin genomic region in Enterobacteriaceae. The colibactin gene cluster has a similar but not identical evolutionary track to that of the yersiniabactin operon. Both determinants could have been acquired on several occasions and/or exchanged independently between enterobacteria by horizontal gene transfer. Integrative and conjugative elements play(ed) a central role in the evolution and structural diversity of the colibactin-yersiniabactin genomic region. Addition of an activating and regulating module (clbAR) to the biosynthesis and transport module (clbB-S) represents the most recent step in the evolution of the colibactin determinant. In a first attempt to correlate colibactin expression with individual lineages of colibactin determinants and different bacterial genetic backgrounds, we compared colibactin expression of selected enterobacterial isolates in vitro. Colibactin production in the tested Klebsiella species and Citrobacter koseri strains was more homogeneous and generally higher than that in most of the Escherichia coli isolates studied. Our results improve the understanding of the diversity of colibactin determinants and its expression level, and may contribute to risk assessment of colibactin-producing enterobacteria.