Recent Submissions

  • Itaconate and derivatives reduce interferon responses and inflammation in influenza A virus infection.

    Sohail, Aaqib; Iqbal, Azeem A; Sahini, Nishika; Chen, Fangfang; Tantawy, Mohamed; Waqas, Fakhar; Winterhoff, Moritz; Ebensen, Thomas; Schultz, Kristin; Geffers, Robert; et al. (PLOS, 2022-01-13)
    Excessive inflammation is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in many viral infections including influenza. Therefore, there is a need for therapeutic interventions that dampen and redirect inflammatory responses and, ideally, exert antiviral effects. Itaconate is an immunomodulatory metabolite which also reprograms cell metabolism and inflammatory responses when applied exogenously. We evaluated effects of endogenous itaconate and exogenous application of itaconate and its variants dimethyl- and 4-octyl-itaconate (DI, 4OI) on host responses to influenza A virus (IAV). Infection induced expression of ACOD1, the enzyme catalyzing itaconate synthesis, in monocytes and macrophages, which correlated with viral replication and was abrogated by DI and 4OI treatment. In IAV-infected mice, pulmonary inflammation and weight loss were greater in Acod1-/- than in wild-type mice, and DI treatment reduced pulmonary inflammation and mortality. The compounds reversed infection-triggered interferon responses and modulated inflammation in human cells supporting non-productive and productive infection, in peripheral blood mononuclear cells, and in human lung tissue. Itaconates reduced ROS levels and STAT1 phosphorylation, whereas AKT phosphorylation was reduced by 4OI and DI but increased by itaconate. Single-cell RNA sequencing identified monocytes as the main target of infection and the exclusive source of ACOD1 mRNA in peripheral blood. DI treatment silenced IFN-responses predominantly in monocytes, but also in lymphocytes and natural killer cells. Ectopic synthesis of itaconate in A549 cells, which do not physiologically express ACOD1, reduced infection-driven inflammation, and DI reduced IAV- and IFNγ-induced CXCL10 expression in murine macrophages independent of the presence of endogenous ACOD1. The compounds differed greatly in their effects on cellular gene homeostasis and released cytokines/chemokines, but all three markedly reduced release of the pro-inflammatory chemokines CXCL10 (IP-10) and CCL2 (MCP-1). Viral replication did not increase under treatment despite the dramatically repressed IFN responses. In fact, 4OI strongly inhibited viral transcription in peripheral blood mononuclear cells, and the compounds reduced viral titers (4OI>Ita>DI) in A549 cells whereas viral transcription was unaffected. Taken together, these results reveal itaconates as immunomodulatory and antiviral interventions for influenza virus infection.
  • Inhibition of MCL1 induces apoptosis in anaplastic large cell lymphoma and in primary effusion lymphoma.

    Quentmeier, Hilmar; Geffers, Robert; Hauer, Vivien; Nagel, Stefan; Pommerenke, Claudia; Uphoff, Cord C; Zaborski, Margarete; Drexler, Hans G; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (Nature, 2022-01-20)
    Overexpression of antiapoptotic BCL2 family proteins occurs in various hematologic malignancies and contributes to tumorigenesis by inhibiting the apoptotic machinery of the cells. Antagonizing BH3 mimetics provide an option for medication, with venetoclax as the first drug applied for chronic lymphocytic leukemia and for acute myeloid leukemia. To find additional hematologic entities with ectopic expression of BCL2 family members, we performed expression screening of cell lines applying the LL-100 panel. Anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL) and primary effusion lymphoma (PEL), 2/22 entities covered by this panel, stood out by high expression of MCL1 and low expression of BCL2. The MCL1 inhibitor AZD-5991 induced apoptosis in cell lines from both malignancies, suggesting that this BH3 mimetic might be efficient as drug for these diseases. The ALCL cell lines also expressed BCLXL and BCL2A1, both contributing to survival of the cells. The combination of specific BH3 mimetics yielded synergistic effects, pointing to a novel strategy for the treatment of ALCL. The PI3K/mTOR inhibitor BEZ-235 could also efficiently be applied in combination with AZD-5991, offering an alternative to avoid thrombocytopenia which is associated with the use of BCLXL inhibitors.
  • SARS-CoV-2 infection triggers profibrotic macrophage responses and lung fibrosis.

    Wendisch, Daniel; Dietrich, Oliver; Mari, Tommaso; von Stillfried, Saskia; Ibarra, Ignacio L; Mittermaier, Mirja; Mache, Christin; Chua, Robert Lorenz; Knoll, Rainer; Timm, Sara; et al. (Cell Press, 2021-11-27)
    COVID-19-induced "acute respiratory distress syndrome" (ARDS) is associated with prolonged respiratory failure and high mortality, but the mechanistic basis of lung injury remains incompletely understood. Here, we analyze pulmonary immune responses and lung pathology in two cohorts of patients with COVID-19 ARDS using functional single-cell genomics, immunohistology, and electron microscopy. We describe an accumulation of CD163-expressing monocyte-derived macrophages that acquired a profibrotic transcriptional phenotype during COVID-19 ARDS. Gene set enrichment and computational data integration revealed a significant similarity between COVID-19-associated macrophages and profibrotic macrophage populations identified in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. COVID-19 ARDS was associated with clinical, radiographic, histopathological, and ultrastructural hallmarks of pulmonary fibrosis. Exposure of human monocytes to SARS-CoV-2, but not influenza A virus or viral RNA analogs, was sufficient to induce a similar profibrotic phenotype in vitro. In conclusion, we demonstrate that SARS-CoV-2 triggers profibrotic macrophage responses and pronounced fibroproliferative ARDS.
  • Orthodontic Forced Eruption of Permanent Anterior Teeth with Subgingival Fractures: A Systematic Review.

    Reichardt, Elisabeth; Krug, Ralf; Bornstein, Michael M; Tomasch, Jürgen; Verna, Carlalberta; Krastl, Gabriel; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (MDPI, 2021-11-29)
    (1) Background: To assess orthodontic forced eruption (OFE) as a pre-restorative procedure for non-restorable permanent teeth with subgingival dental hard tissue defects after dental trauma. (2) Methods: A systematic electronic search of three databases, namely, MEDLINE, Cochrane Library, and EMBASE, revealed a total of 2757 eligible publications. Randomized controlled clinical trials (RCT), retro- and prospective clinical studies, or case series (with a minimum of three patients) were reviewed. (3) Results: Thirteen full-text papers were included: one RCT, one prospective clinical trial, two retrospective cohort studies, and nine case series. Within case series, statistical significance between age and cause of fracture (p < 0.03) was determined. The mean extrusion rate of OFE was 1.5 mm a week within a four to six weeks treatment period followed by retention. Three OFE protocols for maxillary single teeth are available: 1. OFE without migration of gingiva and alveolar bone, 2. OFE with gingival migration and slight alveolar bone migration, and 3. OFE with migration of both gingiva and alveolar bone. (4) Conclusions: The current state of the evidence suggests that OFE is a feasible pre-treatment option for non-restorable permanent teeth. OFE can promote the migration of tooth surrounding hard and soft tissues in the esthetic zone. Root resorption does not seem to be a relevant side effect of OFE.
  • Interaction of myxobacteria-derived outer membrane vesicles with biofilms: antiadhesive and antibacterial effects.

    Goes, Adriely; Vidakovic, Lucia; Drescher, Knut; Fuhrmann, Gregor; HIPS, Helmholtz-Institut für Pharmazeutische Forschung Saarland, Universitätscampus E8.1 66123 Saarbrücken, Germany.; TWINCORE, Zentrum für experimentelle und klinische Infektionsforschung GmbH,Feodor-Lynen Str. 7, 30625 Hannover, Germany.; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (Royal Society of Chemistry, 2021-08-02)
    Bacterial biofilms are widespread in nature and in medical settings and display a high tolerance to antibiotics and disinfectants. Extracellular vesicles have been increasingly studied to characterise their origins and assess their potential for use as a versatile drug delivery system; however, it remains unclear whether they also have antibiofilm effects. Outer membrane vesicles are lipid vesicles shed by Gram-negative bacteria and, in the case of myxobacteria, carry natural antimicrobial compounds produced by these microorganisms. In this study, we demonstrate that vesicles derived from the myxobacteria Cystobacter velatus Cbv34 and Cystobacter ferrugineus Cbfe23 are highly effective at inhibiting the formation and disrupting biofilms by different bacterial species.
  • Congenital deficiency reveals critical role of ISG15 in skin homeostasis.

    Malik, Muhammad Nasir Hayat; Waqas, Syed F Hassnain; Zeitvogel, Jana; Cheng, Jingyuan; Geffers, Robert; Gouda, Zeinab Abu-Elbaha; Elsaman, Ahmed Mahrous; Radwan, Ahmed R; Schefzyk, Matthias; Braubach, Peter; et al. (Society of clinical investigation, 2021-11-30)
    Ulcerating skin lesions are manifestations of human ISG15 deficiency, a type I interferonopathy. However, chronic inflammation may not be their exclusive cause. We describe two siblings with recurrent skin ulcers that healed with scar formation upon corticosteroid treatment. Both had a homozygous nonsense mutation in the ISG15 gene, leading to unstable ISG15 protein lacking the functional domain. We characterized ISG15-/- dermal fibroblasts, HaCaT keratinocytes, and human induced pluripotent stem cell-derived vascular endothelial cells. ISG15-deficient cells exhibited the expected hyperinflammatory phenotype, but also dysregulated expression of molecules critical for connective tissue and epidermis integrity, including reduced collagens and adhesion molecules, but increased matrix metalloproteases. ISG15-/- fibroblasts exhibited elevated ROS levels and reduced ROS scavenger expression. As opposed to hyperinflammation, defective collagen and integrin synthesis was not rescued by conjugation-deficient ISG15. Cell migration was retarded in ISG15-/- fibroblasts and HaCaT keratinocytes, but normalized under ruxolitinib treatment. Desmosome density was reduced in an ISG15-/- 3D epidermis model. Additionally, there were loose architecture and reduced collagen and desmoglein expression, which could be reversed by treatment with ruxolitinib/doxycycline/TGF-β1. These results reveal critical roles of ISG15 in maintaining cell migration and epidermis and connective tissue homeostasis, whereby the latter likely requires its conjugation to yet unidentified targets.
  • Dysregulated Immunometabolism Is Associated with the Generation of Myeloid-Derived Suppressor Cells in Staphylococcus aureus Chronic Infection.

    Dietrich, Oliver; Heinz, Alexander; Goldmann, Oliver; Geffers, Robert; Beineke, Andreas; Hiller, Karsten; Saliba, Antoine-Emmanuel; Medina, Eva; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (Karger, 2021-11-11)
    Myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs) are a compendium of immature myeloid cells that exhibit potent T-cell suppressive capacity and expand during pathological conditions such as cancer and chronic infections. Although well-characterized in cancer, the physiology of MDSCs in the infection setting remains enigmatic. Here, we integrated single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) and functional metabolic profiling to gain deeper insights into the factors governing the generation and maintenance of MDSCs in chronic Staphylococcus aureus infection. We found that MDSCs originate not only in the bone marrow but also at extramedullary sites in S. aureus-infected mice. scRNA-seq showed that infection-driven MDSCs encompass a spectrum of myeloid precursors in different stages of differentiation, ranging from promyelocytes to mature neutrophils. Furthermore, the scRNA-seq analysis has also uncovered valuable phenotypic markers to distinguish mature myeloid cells from immature MDSCs. Metabolic profiling indicates that MDSCs exhibit high glycolytic activity and high glucose consumption rates, which are required for undergoing terminal maturation. However, rapid glucose consumption by MDSCs added to infection-induced perturbations in the glucose supplies in infected mice hinders the terminal maturation of MDSCs and promotes their accumulation in an immature stage. In a proof-of-concept in vivo experiment, we demonstrate the beneficial effect of increasing glucose availability in promoting MDSC terminal differentiation in infected mice. Our results provide valuable information of how metabolic alterations induced by infection influence reprogramming and differentiation of MDSCs.
  • Connection Between Chromosomal Location and Function of CtrA Phosphorelay Genes in Alphaproteobacteria.

    Tomasch, Jürgen; Koppenhöfer, Sonja; Lang, Andrew S; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (Frontiers, 2021-04-29)
    Most bacterial chromosomes are circular, with replication starting at one origin (ori) and proceeding on both replichores toward the terminus (ter). Several studies have shown that the location of genes relative to ori and ter can have profound effects on regulatory networks and physiological processes. The CtrA phosphorelay is a gene regulatory system conserved in most alphaproteobacteria. It was first discovered in Caulobacter crescentus where it controls replication and division into a stalked and a motile cell in coordination with other factors. The locations of the ctrA gene and targets of this response regulator on the chromosome affect their expression through replication-induced DNA hemi-methylation and specific positioning along a CtrA activity gradient in the dividing cell, respectively. Here we asked to what extent the location of CtrA regulatory network genes might be conserved in the alphaproteobacteria. We determined the locations of the CtrA phosphorelay and associated genes in closed genomes with unambiguously identifiable ori from members of five alphaproteobacterial orders. The location of the phosphorelay genes was the least conserved in the Rhodospirillales followed by the Sphingomonadales. In the Rhizobiales a trend toward certain chromosomal positions could be observed. Compared to the other orders, the CtrA phosphorelay genes were conserved closer to ori in the Caulobacterales. In contrast, the genes were highly conserved closer to ter in the Rhodobacterales. Our data suggest selection pressure results in differential positioning of CtrA phosphorelay and associated genes in alphaproteobacteria, particularly in the orders Rhodobacterales, Caulobacterales and Rhizobiales that is worth deeper investigation.
  • Quo vadis clinical diagnostic microbiology?

    Haag, Sara; Häussler, Susanne; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (Elsevier, 2021-07-26)
    No abstract available
  • Targeting Bacterial Gyrase with Cystobactamid, Fluoroquinolone, and Aminocoumarin Antibiotics Induces Distinct Molecular Signatures in Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

    Franke, Raimo; Overwin, Heike; Häussler, Susanne; Brönstrup, Mark; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (ASM, 2021-07-13)
    The design of novel antibiotics relies on a profound understanding of their mechanism of action. While it has been shown that cellular effects of antibiotics cluster according to their molecular targets, we investigated whether compounds binding to different sites of the same target can be differentiated by their transcriptome or metabolome signatures. The effects of three fluoroquinolones, two aminocoumarins, and two cystobactamids, all inhibiting bacterial gyrase, on Pseudomonas aeruginosa at subinhibitory concentrations could be distinguished clearly by RNA sequencing as well as metabolomics. We observed a strong (2.8- to 212-fold) induction of autolysis-triggering pyocins in all gyrase inhibitors, which correlated with extracellular DNA (eDNA) release. Gyrase B-binding aminocoumarins induced the most pronounced changes, including a strong downregulation of phenazine and rhamnolipid virulence factors. Cystobactamids led to a downregulation of a glucose catabolism pathway. The study implies that clustering cellular mechanisms of action according to the primary target needs to take class-dependent variances into account. IMPORTANCE Novel antibiotics are urgently needed to tackle the growing worldwide problem of antimicrobial resistance. Bacterial pathogens possess few privileged targets for a successful therapy: the majority of existing antibiotics as well as current candidates in development target the complex bacterial machinery for cell wall synthesis, protein synthesis, or DNA replication. An important mechanistic question addressed by this study is whether inhibiting such a complex target at different sites with different compounds has similar or differentiated cellular consequences. Using transcriptomics and metabolomics, we demonstrate that three different classes of gyrase inhibitors can be distinguished by their molecular signatures in P. aeruginosa. We describe the cellular effects of a promising, recently identified gyrase inhibitor class, the cystobactamids, in comparison to those of the established gyrase A-binding fluoroquinolones and the gyrase B-binding aminocoumarins. The study results have implications for mode-of-action discovery approaches based on target-specific reference compounds, as they highlight the intraclass variability of cellular compound effects.
  • Loss of Hem1 disrupts macrophage function and impacts migration, phagocytosis, and integrin-mediated adhesion.

    Stahnke, Stephanie; Döring, Hermann; Kusch, Charly; de Gorter, David J J; Dütting, Sebastian; Guledani, Aleks; Pleines, Irina; Schnoor, Michael; Sixt, Michael; Geffers, Robert; et al. (Wiley-VCH, 2021-03-11)
    Hematopoietic-specific protein 1 (Hem1) is an essential subunit of the WAVE regulatory complex (WRC) in immune cells. WRC is crucial for Arp2/3 complex activation and the protrusion of branched actin filament networks. Moreover, Hem1 loss of function in immune cells causes autoimmune diseases in humans. Here, we show that genetic removal of Hem1 in macrophages diminishes frequency and efficacy of phagocytosis as well as phagocytic cup formation in addition to defects in lamellipodial protrusion and migration. Moreover, Hem1-null macrophages displayed strong defects in cell adhesion despite unaltered podosome formation and concomitant extracellular matrix degradation. Specifically, dynamics of both adhesion and de-adhesion as well as concomitant phosphorylation of paxillin and focal adhesion kinase (FAK) were significantly compromised. Accordingly, disruption of WRC function in non-hematopoietic cells coincided with both defects in adhesion turnover and altered FAK and paxillin phosphorylation. Consistently, platelets exhibited reduced adhesion and diminished integrin αIIbβ3 activation upon WRC removal. Interestingly, adhesion phenotypes, but not lamellipodia formation, were partially rescued by small molecule activation of FAK. A full rescue of the phenotype, including lamellipodia formation, required not only the presence of WRCs but also their binding to and activation by Rac. Collectively, our results uncover that WRC impacts on integrin-dependent processes in a FAK-dependent manner, controlling formation and dismantling of adhesions, relevant for properly grabbing onto extracellular surfaces and particles during cell edge expansion, like in migration or phagocytosis.
  • Fibroblast GATA-4 and GATA-6 promote myocardial adaptation to pressure overload by enhancing cardiac angiogenesis.

    Dittrich, Gesine M; Froese, Natali; Wang, Xue; Kroeger, Hannah; Wang, Honghui; Szaroszyk, Malgorzata; Malek-Mohammadi, Mona; Cordero, Julio; Keles, Merve; Korf-Klingebiel, Mortimer; et al. (Springer Nature, 2021-04-19)
    Heart failure due to high blood pressure or ischemic injury remains a major problem for millions of patients worldwide. Despite enormous advances in deciphering the molecular mechanisms underlying heart failure progression, the cell-type specific adaptations and especially intercellular signaling remain poorly understood. Cardiac fibroblasts express high levels of cardiogenic transcription factors such as GATA-4 and GATA-6, but their role in fibroblasts during stress is not known. Here, we show that fibroblast GATA-4 and GATA-6 promote adaptive remodeling in pressure overload induced cardiac hypertrophy. Using a mouse model with specific single or double deletion of Gata4 and Gata6 in stress activated fibroblasts, we found a reduced myocardial capillarization in mice with Gata4/6 double deletion following pressure overload, while single deletion of Gata4 or Gata6 had no effect. Importantly, we confirmed the reduced angiogenic response using an in vitro co-culture system with Gata4/6 deleted cardiac fibroblasts and endothelial cells. A comprehensive RNA-sequencing analysis revealed an upregulation of anti-angiogenic genes upon Gata4/6 deletion in fibroblasts, and siRNA mediated downregulation of these genes restored endothelial cell growth. In conclusion, we identified a novel role for the cardiogenic transcription factors GATA-4 and GATA-6 in heart fibroblasts, where both proteins act in concert to promote myocardial capillarization and heart function by directing intercellular crosstalk.
  • Role of endothelial microRNA 155 on capillary leakage in systemic inflammation.

    Etzrodt, Valerie; Idowu, Temitayo O; Schenk, Heiko; Seeliger, Benjamin; Prasse, Antje; Thamm, Kristina; Pape, Thorben; Müller-Deile, Janina; van Meurs, Matijs; Thum, Thomas; et al. (BMC, 2021-02-22)
    Background: Capillary leakage is a key contributor to the pathological host response to infections. The underlying mechanisms remain incompletely understood, and the role of microRNAs (MIR) has not been investigated in detail. We hypothesized that specific MIRs might be regulated directly in the endothelium thereby contributing to vascular leakage. Methods: SmallRNA sequencing of endotoxemic murine pulmonary endothelial cells (ECs) was done to detect regulated vascular MIRs. In vivo models: transgenic zebrafish (flk1:mCherry/l-fabp:eGFP-DPB), knockout/wildtype mouse (B6.Cg-Mir155tm1.1Rsky/J); disease models: LPS 17.5 mg/kgBW and cecal ligation and puncture (CLP); in vitro models: stimulated human umbilical vein EC (HUVECs), transendothelial electrical resistance. Results: Endothelial MIR155 was identified as a promising candidate in endotoxemic murine pulmonary ECs (25 × upregulation). Experimental overexpression in a transgenic zebrafish line and in HUVECs was sufficient to induce spontaneous vascular leakage. To the contrary, genetic MIR155 reduction protects against permeability both in vitro and in endotoxemia in vivo in MIR155 heterozygote knockout mice thereby improving survival by 40%. A tight junction protein, Claudin-1, was down-regulated both in endotoxemia and by experimental MIR155 overexpression. Translationally, MIR155 was detectable at high levels in bronchoalveolar fluid of patients with ARDS compared to healthy human subjects. Conclusions: We found that MIR155 is upregulated in the endothelium in mouse and men as part of a systemic inflammatory response and might contribute to the pathophysiology of vascular leakage in a Claudin-1-dependent manner. Future studies have to clarify whether MIR155 could be a potential therapeutic target.
  • Removable denture is a risk indicator for peri-implantitis and facilitates expansion of specific periodontopathogens: a cross-sectional study.

    Grischke, Jasmin; Szafrański, Szymon P; Muthukumarasamy, Uthayakumar; Häussler, Susanne; Stiesch, Meike; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (BMC, 2021-04-01)
    Background: The prevalence of peri-implantitis ranges between 7 and 38.4% depending on risk indicators such as smoking, diabetes mellitus, lack of periodontal maintenance program, and history or presence of periodontitis. Currently, the possible effect of the type of superstructure on peri-implant health is unclear. This cross-sectional study aims to investigate the influence of the superstructure on the prevalence of peri-implant mucositis, peri-implantitis and peri-implant dysbiosis. Methods: During a 32-month recruitment period dental implants were assessed to diagnose healthy peri-implant tissues, mucositis or peri-implantitis. The study included 1097 implants in 196 patients. Out of all peri-implantitis cases 20 randomly chosen submucosal biofilms from implants with fixed denture (FD) originating from 13 patients and 11 biofilms from implants with removable dentures (RD) originating from 3 patients were studied for microbiome analysis. Composition of transcriptionally active biofilms was revealed by RNAseq. Metatranscriptomic profiles were created for thirty-one peri-implant biofilms suffering from peri-implantitis and microbiome changes associated with superstructure types were identified. Results: 16.41% of the implants were diagnosed with peri-implantitis, 25.00% of implants with RD and 12.68% of implants with FD, respectively. Multivariate analysis showed a significant positive association on patient (p = < 0.001) and implant level (p = 0.03) between the prevalence of peri-implantitis and RD. Eight bacterial species were associated either with FD or RD by linear discriminant analysis effect size method. However, significant intergroup confounders (e.g. smoking) were present. Conclusions: Within the limitations of the present work, RDs appear to be a risk indicator for peri-implantitis and seem to facilitate expansion of specific periodontopathogens. Potential ecological and pathological consequences of shift in microbiome from RDs towards higher activity of Fusobacterium nucleatum subspecies animalis and Prevotella intermedia require further investigation.
  • The Two-Component System 09 Regulates Pneumococcal Carbohydrate Metabolism and Capsule Expression.

    Hirschmann, Stephanie; Gómez-Mejia, Alejandro; Mäder, Ulrike; Karsunke, Julia; Driesch, Dominik; Rohde, Manfred; Häussler, Susanne; Burchhardt, Gerhard; Hammerschmidt, Sven; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (MDPI, 2021-02-24)
    Streptococcus pneumoniae two-component regulatory systems (TCSs) are important systems that perceive and respond to various host environmental stimuli. In this study, we have explored the role of TCS09 on gene expression and phenotypic alterations in S. pneumoniae D39. Our comparative transcriptomic analyses identified 67 differently expressed genes in total. Among those, agaR and the aga operon involved in galactose metabolism showed the highest changes. Intriguingly, the encapsulated and nonencapsulated hk09-mutants showed significant growth defects under nutrient-defined conditions, in particular with galactose as a carbon source. Phenotypic analyses revealed alterations in the morphology of the nonencapsulated hk09- and tcs09-mutants, whereas the encapsulated hk09- and tcs09-mutants produced higher amounts of capsule. Interestingly, the encapsulated D39∆hk09 showed only the opaque colony morphology, while the D39∆rr09- and D39∆tcs09-mutants had a higher proportion of transparent variants. The phenotypic variations of D39ΔcpsΔhk09 and D39ΔcpsΔtcs09 are in accordance with their higher numbers of outer membrane vesicles, higher sensitivity against Triton X-100 induced autolysis, and lower resistance against oxidative stress. In conclusion, these results indicate the importance of TCS09 for pneumococcal metabolic fitness and resistance against oxidative stress by regulating the carbohydrate metabolism and thereby, most likely indirectly, the cell wall integrity and amount of capsular polysaccharide.
  • Targeting bioenergetics is key to counteracting the drug-tolerant state of biofilm-grown bacteria.

    Donnert, Monique; Elsheikh, Sarah; Arce-Rodriguez, Alejandro; Pawar, Vinay; Braubach, Peter; Jonigk, Danny; Haverich, Axel; Weiss, Siegfried; Müsken, Mathias; Häussler, Susanne; et al. (PLOS, 2020-12-22)
    Embedded in an extracellular matrix, biofilm-residing bacteria are protected from diverse physicochemical insults. In accordance, in the human host the general recalcitrance of biofilm-grown bacteria hinders successful eradication of chronic, biofilm-associated infections. In this study, we demonstrate that upon addition of promethazine, an FDA approved drug, antibiotic tolerance of in vitro biofilm-grown bacteria can be abolished. We show that following the addition of promethazine, diverse antibiotics are capable of efficiently killing biofilm-residing cells at minimal inhibitory concentrations. Synergistic effects could also be observed in a murine in vivo model system. PMZ was shown to increase membrane potential and interfere with bacterial respiration. Of note, antibiotic killing activity was elevated when PMZ was added to cells grown under environmental conditions that induce low intracellular proton levels. Our results imply that biofilm-grown bacteria avoid antibiotic killing and become tolerant by counteracting intracellular alkalization through the adaptation of metabolic and transport functions. Abrogation of antibiotic tolerance by interfering with the cell's bioenergetics promises to pave the way for successful eradication of biofilm-associated infections. Repurposing promethazine as a biofilm-sensitizing drug has the potential to accelerate the introduction of new treatments for recalcitrant, biofilm-associated infections into the clinic.
  • No impact of a short-term climatic "El Niño" fluctuation on gut microbial diversity in populations of the Galápagos marine iguana (Amblyrhynchus cristatus).

    Ibáñez, Alejandro; Bletz, Molly C; Quezada, Galo; Geffers, Robert; Jarek, Michael; Vences, Miguel; Steinfartz, Sebastian; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (Springer, 2021-02-02)
    Gut microorganisms are crucial for many biological functions playing a pivotal role in the host's well-being. We studied gut bacterial community structure of marine iguana populations across the Galápagos archipelago. Marine iguanas depend heavily on their specialized gut microbiome for the digestion of dietary algae, a resource whose growth was strongly reduced by severe "El Niño"-related climatic fluctuations in 2015/2016. As a consequence, marine iguana populations showed signs of starvation as expressed by a poor body condition. Body condition indices (BCI) varied between island populations indicating that food resources (i.e., algae) are affected differently across the archipelago during 'El Niño' events. Though this event impacted food availability for marine iguanas, we found that reductions in body condition due to "El Niño"-related starvation did not result in differences in bacterial gut community structure. Species richness of gut microorganisms was instead correlated with levels of neutral genetic diversity in the distinct host populations. Our data suggest that marine iguana populations with a higher level of gene diversity and allelic richness may harbor a more diverse gut microbiome than those populations with lower genetic diversity. Since low values of these diversity parameters usually correlate with small census and effective population sizes, we use our results to propose a novel hypothesis according to which small and genetically less diverse host populations might be characterized by less diverse microbiomes. Whether such genetically depauperate populations may experience additional threats from reduced dietary flexibility due to a limited intestinal microbiome is currently unclear and calls for further investigation.
  • p53-Independent Induction of p21 Fails to Control Regeneration and Hepatocarcinogenesis in a Murine Liver Injury Model.

    Buitrago-Molina, Laura Elisa; Marhenke, Silke; Becker, Diana; Geffers, Robert; Itzel, Timo; Teufel, Andreas; Jaeschke, Hartmut; Lechel, André; Unger, Kristian; Markovic, Jovana; et al. (Elsevier, 2021-01-21)
    Background & aims: A coordinated stress and regenerative response is important after hepatocyte damage. Here, we investigate the phenotypes that result from genetic abrogation of individual components of the checkpoint kinase 2/transformation-related protein 53 (p53)/cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor 1A (p21) pathway in a murine model of metabolic liver injury. Methods: Nitisinone was reduced or withdrawn in Fah-/- mice lacking Chk2, p53, or p21, and survival, tumor development, liver injury, and regeneration were analyzed. Partial hepatectomies were performed and mice were challenged with the Fas antibody Jo2. Results: In a model of metabolic liver injury, loss of p53, but not Chk2, impairs the oxidative stress response and aggravates liver damage, indicative of a direct p53-dependent protective effect on hepatocytes. Cell-cycle control during chronic liver injury critically depends on the presence of both p53 and its downstream effector p21. In p53-deficient hepatocytes, unchecked proliferation occurs despite a strong induction of p21, showing a complex interdependency between p21 and p53. The increased regenerative potential in the absence of p53 cannot fully compensate the surplus injury and is not sufficient to promote survival. Despite the distinct phenotypes associated with the loss of individual components of the DNA damage response, gene expression patterns are dominated by the severity of liver injury, but reflect distinct effects of p53 on proliferation and the anti-oxidative stress response. Conclusions: Characteristic phenotypes result from the genetic abrogation of individual components of the DNA damage-response cascade in a liver injury model. The extent to which loss of gene function can be compensated, or affects injury and proliferation, is related to the level at which the cascade is interrupted. Accession numbers of repository for expression microarray data: GSE156983, GSE156263, GSE156852, and GSE156252.
  • Serum Response Factor (SRF) Drives the Transcriptional Upregulation of the MDM4 Oncogene in HCC.

    Pellegrino, Rossella; Thavamani, Abhishek; Calvisi, Diego F; Budczies, Jan; Neumann, Ariane; Geffers, Robert; Kroemer, Jasmin; Greule, Damaris; Schirmacher, Peter; Nordheim, Alfred; et al. (MDPI, 2021-01-08)
    Different molecular mechanisms support the overexpression of the mouse double minute homolog 4 (MDM4), a functional p53 inhibitor, in human hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). However, the transcription factors (TFs) leading to its transcriptional upregulation remain unknown. Following promoter and gene expression analyses, putative TFs were investigated using gene-specific siRNAs, cDNAs, luciferase reporter assays, chromatin immunoprecipitation, and XI-011 drug treatment in vitro. Additionally, MDM4 expression was investigated in SRF-VP16iHep transgenic mice. We observed a copy-number-independent upregulation of MDM4 in human HCCs. Serum response factor (SRF), ELK1 and ELK4 were identified as TFs activating MDM4 transcription. While SRF was constitutively detected in TF complexes at the MDM4 promoter, presence of ELK1 and ELK4 was cell-type dependent. Furthermore, MDM4 was upregulated in SRF-VP16-driven murine liver tumors. The pharmacological inhibitor XI-011 exhibited anti-MDM4 activity by downregulating the TFs driving MDM4 transcription, which decreased HCC cell viability and increased apoptosis. In conclusion, SRF drives transcriptional MDM4 upregulation in HCC, acting in concert with either ELK1 or ELK4. The transcriptional regulation of MDM4 may be a promising target for precision oncology of human HCC, as XI-011 treatment exerts anti-MDM4 activity independent from the MDM4 copy number and the p53 status.
  • 3D culture conditions support Kaposi's sarcoma herpesvirus (KSHV) maintenance and viral spread in endothelial cells.

    Dubich, Tatyana; Dittrich, Anne; Bousset, Kristine; Geffers, Robert; Büsche, Guntram; Köster, Mario; Hauser, Hansjörg; Schulz, Thomas F; Wirth, Dagmar; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (Springer International, 2021-01-23)
    Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) is a human tumorigenic virus and the etiological agent of an endothelial tumor (Kaposi's sarcoma) and two B cell proliferative diseases (primary effusion lymphoma and multicentric Castleman's disease). While in patients with late stage of Kaposi's sarcoma the majority of spindle cells are KSHV-infected, viral copies are rapidly lost in vitro, both upon culture of tumor-derived cells or from newly infected endothelial cells. We addressed this discrepancy by investigating a KSHV-infected endothelial cell line in various culture conditions and in tumors of xenografted mice. We show that, in contrast to two-dimensional endothelial cell cultures, KSHV genomes are maintained under 3D cell culture conditions and in vivo. Additionally, an increased rate of newly infected cells was detected in 3D cell culture. Furthermore, we show that the PI3K/Akt/mTOR and ATM/γH2AX pathways are modulated and support an improved KSHV persistence in 3D cell culture. These mechanisms may contribute to the persistence of KSHV in tumor tissue in vivo and provide a novel target for KS specific therapeutic interventions. KEY MESSAGES: In vivo maintenance of episomal KSHV can be mimicked in 3D spheroid cultures 3D maintenance of KSHV is associated with an increased de novo infection frequency PI3K/Akt/mTOR and ATM/ γH2AX pathways contribute to viral maintenance.

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