• Application of Synthetic Peptide Arrays To Uncover Cyclic Di-GMP Binding Motifs

      Düvel, Juliane; Bense, Sarina; Möller, Stefan; Bertinetti, Daniela; Schwede, Frank; Morr, Michael; Eckweiler, Denitsa; Genieser, Hans-Gottfried; Jänsch, Lothar; Herberg, Friedrich W.; et al. (2016-01-01)
      ABSTRACT High levels of the universal bacterial second messenger cyclic di-GMP (c-di-GMP) promote the establishment of surface-attached growth in many bacteria. Not only can c-di-GMP bind to nucleic acids and directly control gene expression, but it also binds to a diverse array of proteins of specialized functions and orchestrates their activity. Since its development in the early 1990s, the synthetic peptide array technique has become a powerful tool for high-throughput approaches and was successfully applied to investigate the binding specificity of protein-ligand interactions. In this study, we used peptide arrays to uncover the c-di-GMP binding site of a Pseudomonas aeruginosa protein (PA3740) that was isolated in a chemical proteomics approach. PA3740 was shown to bind c-di-GMP with a high affinity, and peptide arrays uncovered LKKALKKQTNLR to be a putative c-di-GMP binding motif. Most interestingly, different from the previously identified c-di-GMP binding motif of the PilZ domain (RXXXR) or the I site of diguanylate cyclases (RXXD), two leucine residues and a glutamine residue and not the charged amino acids provided the key residues of the binding sequence. Those three amino acids are highly conserved across PA3740 homologs, and their singular exchange to alanine reduced c-di-GMP binding within the full-length protein. IMPORTANCE In many bacterial pathogens the universal bacterial second messenger c-di-GMP governs the switch from the planktonic, motile mode of growth to the sessile, biofilm mode of growth. Bacteria adapt their intracellular c-di-GMP levels to a variety of environmental challenges. Several classes of c-di-GMP binding proteins have been structurally characterized, and diverse c-di-GMP binding domains have been identified. Nevertheless, for several c-di-GMP receptors, the binding motif remains to be determined. Here we show that the use of a synthetic peptide array allowed the identification of a c-di-GMP binding motif of a putative c-di-GMP receptor protein in the opportunistic pathogen P. aeruginosa . The application of synthetic peptide arrays will facilitate the search for additional c-di-GMP receptor proteins and aid in the characterization of c-di-GMP binding motifs.
    • aroA-Deficient Salmonella enterica Serovar Typhimurium Is More Than a Metabolically Attenuated Mutant.

      Felgner, Sebastian; Frahm, Michael; Kocijancic, Dino; Rohde, M; Eckweiler, Denitsa; Bielecka, Agata; Bueno, Emilio; Cava, Felipe; Abraham, Wolf-Rainer; Curtiss, Roy; et al. (2016)
      Recombinant attenuated Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium strains are believed to act as powerful live vaccine carriers that are able to elicit protection against various pathogens. Auxotrophic mutations, such as a deletion of aroA, are commonly introduced into such bacteria for attenuation without incapacitating immunostimulation. In this study, we describe the surprising finding that deletion of aroA dramatically increased the virulence of attenuated Salmonella in mouse models. Mutant bacteria lacking aroA elicited increased levels of the proinflammatory cytokine tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) after systemic application. A detailed genetic and phenotypic characterization in combination with transcriptomic and metabolic profiling demonstrated that ΔaroA mutants display pleiotropic alterations in cellular physiology and lipid and amino acid metabolism, as well as increased sensitivity to penicillin, complement, and phagocytic uptake. In concert with other immunomodulating mutations, deletion of aroA affected flagellin phase variation and gene expression of the virulence-associated genes arnT and ansB Finally, ΔaroA strains displayed significantly improved tumor therapeutic activity. These results highlight the importance of a functional shikimate pathway to control homeostatic bacterial physiology. They further highlight the great potential of ΔaroA-attenuated Salmonella for the development of vaccines and cancer therapies with important implications for host-pathogen interactions and translational medicine.
    • Complete Genome Sequence of Highly Adherent Pseudomonas aeruginosa Small-Colony Variant SCV20265.

      Eckweiler, Denitsa; Bunk, Boyke; Spröer, Cathrin; Overmann, Jörg; Häussler, Susanne; Department of Molecular Bacteriology, Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research, Braunschweig, Germany (2014)
      The evolution of small-colony variants within Pseudomonas aeruginosa populations chronically infecting the cystic fibrosis lung is one example of the emergence of adapted subpopulations. Here, we present the complete genome sequence of the autoaggregative and hyperpiliated P. aeruginosa small-colony variant SCV20265, which was isolated from a cystic fibrosis (CF) patient.
    • Contribution of Veillonella parvula to Pseudomonas aeruginosa-mediated pathogenicity in a murine tumor model system.

      Pustelny, Christian; Komor, Uliana; Pawar, Vinay; Lorenz, Anne; Bielecka, Agata; Moter, Annette; Gocht, Benjamin; Eckweiler, Denitsa; Müsken, Mathias; Grothe, Claudia; et al. (2015-01)
      The recent finding that high numbers of strict anaerobes are present in the respiratory tract of cystic fibrosis (CF) patients has drawn attention to the pathogenic contribution of the CF microbiome to airway disease. In this study, we investigated the specific interactions of the most dominant bacterial CF pathogen, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, with the anaerobic bacterium Veillonella parvula, which has been recovered at comparable cell numbers from the respiratory tract of CF patients. In addition to growth competition experiments, transcriptional profiling, and analyses of biofilm formation by in vitro studies, we used our recently established in vivo murine tumor model to investigate mutual influences of the two pathogens during a biofilm-associated infection process. We found that P. aeruginosa and V. parvula colonized distinct niches within the tumor. Interestingly, significantly higher cell numbers of P. aeruginosa could be recovered from the tumor tissue when mice were coinfected with both bacterial species than when mice were monoinfected with P. aeruginosa. Concordantly, the results of in vivo transcriptional profiling implied that the presence of V. parvula supports P. aeruginosa growth at the site of infection in the host, and the higher P. aeruginosa load correlated with clinical deterioration of the host. Although many challenges must be overcome to dissect the specific interactions of coinfecting bacteria during an infection process, our findings exemplarily demonstrate that the complex interrelations between coinfecting microorganisms and the immune responses determine clinical outcome to a much greater extent than previously anticipated.
    • Cross talk between the response regulators PhoB and TctD allows for the integration of diverse environmental signals in Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

      Bielecki, Piotr; Jensen, Vanessa; Schulze, Wiebke; Gödeke, Julia; Strehmel, Janine; Eckweiler, Denitsa; Nicolai, Tanja; Bielecka, Agata; Wille, Thorsten; Gerlach, Roman G; et al. (2015-07-27)
      Two-component systems (TCS) serve as stimulus-response coupling mechanisms to allow organisms to adapt to a variety of environmental conditions. The opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa encodes for more than 100 TCS components. To avoid unwanted cross-talk, signaling cascades are very specific, with one sensor talking to its cognate response regulator (RR). However, cross-regulation may provide means to integrate different environmental stimuli into a harmonized output response. By applying a split luciferase complementation assay, we identified a functional interaction of two RRs of the OmpR/PhoB subfamily, namely PhoB and TctD in P. aeruginosa. Transcriptional profiling, ChIP-seq analysis and a global motif scan uncovered the regulons of the two RRs as well as a quadripartite binding motif in six promoter regions. Phosphate limitation resulted in PhoB-dependent expression of the downstream genes, whereas the presence of TctD counteracted this activation. Thus, the integration of two important environmental signals e.g. phosphate availability and the carbon source are achieved by a titration of the relative amounts of two phosphorylated RRs that inversely regulate a common subset of genes. In conclusion, our results on the PhoB and TctD mediated two-component signal transduction pathways exemplify how P. aeruginosa may exploit cross-regulation to adapt bacterial behavior to complex environments.
    • Deep transcriptome profiling of clinical Klebsiella pneumoniae isolates reveals strain and sequence type-specific adaptation.

      Bruchmann, Sebastian; Muthukumarasamy, Uthayakumar; Pohl, Sarah; Preusse, Matthias; Bielecka, Agata; Nicolai, Tanja; Hamann, Isabell; Hillert, Roger; Kola, Axel; Gastmeier, Petra; et al. (2015-11)
      Health-care-associated infections by multi-drug-resistant bacteria constitute one of the greatest challenges to modern medicine. Bacterial pathogens devise various mechanisms to withstand the activity of a wide range of antimicrobial compounds, among which the acquisition of carbapenemases is one of the most concerning. In Klebsiella pneumoniae, the dissemination of the K. pneumoniae carbapenemase is tightly connected to the global spread of certain clonal lineages. Although antibiotic resistance is a key driver for the global distribution of epidemic high-risk clones, there seem to be other adaptive traits that may explain their success. Here, we exploited the power of deep transcriptome profiling (RNA-seq) to shed light on the transcriptomic landscape of 37 clinical K. pneumoniae isolates of diverse phylogenetic origins. We identified a large set of 3346 genes which was expressed in all isolates. While the core-transcriptome profiles varied substantially between groups of different sequence types, they were more homogenous among isolates of the same sequence type. We furthermore linked the detailed information on differentially expressed genes with the clinically relevant phenotypes of biofilm formation and bacterial virulence. This allowed for the identification of a diminished expression of biofilm-specific genes within the low biofilm producing ST258 isolates as a sequence type-specific trait.
    • Elucidation of Sigma Factor-Associated Networks in Pseudomonas aeruginosa Reveals a Modular Architecture with Limited and Function-Specific Crosstalk.

      Schulz, Sebastian; Eckweiler, Denitsa; Bielecka, Agata; Nicolai, Tanja; Franke, Raimo; Dötsch, Andreas; Hornischer, Klaus; Bruchmann, Sebastian; Düvel, Juliane; Häussler, Susanne; et al. (2015-03)
      Sigma factors are essential global regulators of transcription initiation in bacteria which confer promoter recognition specificity to the RNA polymerase core enzyme. They provide effective mechanisms for simultaneously regulating expression of large numbers of genes in response to challenging conditions, and their presence has been linked to bacterial virulence and pathogenicity. In this study, we constructed nine his-tagged sigma factor expressing and/or deletion mutant strains in the opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa. To uncover the direct and indirect sigma factor regulons, we performed mRNA profiling, as well as chromatin immunoprecipitation coupled to high-throughput sequencing. We furthermore elucidated the de novo binding motif of each sigma factor, and validated the RNA- and ChIP-seq results by global motif searches in the proximity of transcriptional start sites (TSS). Our integrated approach revealed a highly modular network architecture which is composed of insulated functional sigma factor modules. Analysis of the interconnectivity of the various sigma factor networks uncovered a limited, but highly function-specific, crosstalk which orchestrates complex cellular processes. Our data indicate that the modular structure of sigma factor networks enables P. aeruginosa to function adequately in its environment and at the same time is exploited to build up higher-level functions by specific interconnections that are dominated by a participation of RpoN.
    • The extensive set of accessory Pseudomonas aeruginosa genomic components.

      Pohl, Sarah; Klockgether, Jens; Eckweiler, Denitsa; Khaledi, Ariane; Schniederjans, Monika; Chouvarine, Philippe; Tümmler, Burkhard; Häussler, Susanne (2014-07)
      Up to 20% of the chromosomal Pseudomonas aeruginosa DNA belong to the so-called accessory genome. Its elements are specific for subgroups or even single strains and are likely acquired by horizontal gene transfer (HGT). Similarities of the accessory genomic elements to DNA from other bacterial species, mainly the DNA of γ- and β-proteobacteria, indicate a role of interspecies HGT. In this study, we analysed the expression of the accessory genome in 150 clinical P. aeruginosa isolates as uncovered by transcriptome sequencing and the presence of accessory genes in eleven additional isolates. Remarkably, despite the large number of P. aeruginosa strains that have been sequenced to date, we found new strain-specific compositions of accessory genomic elements and a high portion (10-20%) of genes without P. aeruginosa homologues. Although some genes were detected to be expressed/present in several isolates, individual patterns regarding the genes, their functions and the possible origin of the DNA were widespread among the tested strains. Our results demonstrate the unaltered potential to discover new traits within the P. aeruginosa population and underline that the P. aeruginosa pangenome is likely to increase with increasing sequence information.
    • Identification of a Pseudomonas aeruginosa PAO1 DNA Methyltransferase, Its Targets, and Physiological Roles.

      Doberenz, Sebastian; Eckweiler, Denitsa; Reichert, Olga; Jensen, Vanessa; Bunk, Boyke; Spröer, Cathrin; Kordes, Adrian; Frangipani, Emanuela; Luong, Khai; Korlach, Jonas; et al. (2017-02-21)
      DNA methylation is widespread among prokaryotes, and most DNA methylation reactions are catalyzed by adenine DNA methyltransferases, which are part of restriction-modification (R-M) systems. R-M systems are known for their role in the defense against foreign DNA; however, DNA methyltransferases also play functional roles in gene regulation. In this study, we used single-molecule real-time (SMRT) sequencing to uncover the genome-wide DNA methylation pattern in the opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa PAO1. We identified a conserved sequence motif targeted by an adenine methyltransferase of a type I R-M system and quantified the presence of N(6)-methyladenine using liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS). Changes in the PAO1 methylation status were dependent on growth conditions and affected P. aeruginosa pathogenicity in a Galleria mellonella infection model. Furthermore, we found that methylated motifs in promoter regions led to shifts in sense and antisense gene expression, emphasizing the role of enzymatic DNA methylation as an epigenetic control of phenotypic traits in P. aeruginosa Since the DNA methylation enzymes are not encoded in the core genome, our findings illustrate how the acquisition of accessory genes can shape the global P. aeruginosa transcriptome and thus may facilitate adaptation to new and challenging habitats.IMPORTANCE With the introduction of advanced technologies, epigenetic regulation by DNA methyltransferases in bacteria has become a subject of intense studies. Here we identified an adenosine DNA methyltransferase in the opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa PAO1, which is responsible for DNA methylation of a conserved sequence motif. The methylation level of all target sequences throughout the PAO1 genome was approximated to be in the range of 65 to 85% and was dependent on growth conditions. Inactivation of the methyltransferase revealed an attenuated-virulence phenotype in the Galleria mellonella infection model. Furthermore, differential expression of more than 90 genes was detected, including the small regulatory RNA prrF1, which contributes to a global iron-sparing response via the repression of a set of gene targets. Our finding of a methylation-dependent repression of the antisense transcript of the prrF1 small regulatory RNA significantly expands our understanding of the regulatory mechanisms underlying active DNA methylation in bacteria.
    • Identification of the alternative sigma factor SigX regulon and its implications for Pseudomonas aeruginosa pathogenicity.

      Blanka, Andrea; Schulz, Sebastian; Eckweiler, Denitsa; Franke, Raimo; Bielecka, Agata; Nicolai, Tanja; Casilag, Fiordiligie; Düvel, Juliane; Abraham, Wolf-Rainer; Kaever, Volkhard; et al. (2014-01)
      Pseudomonas aeruginosa is distinguished by its broad metabolic diversity and its remarkable capability for adaptation, which relies on a large collection of transcriptional regulators and alternative sigma (σ) factors. The largest group of alternative σ factors is that of the extracytoplasmic function (ECF) σ factors, which control key transduction pathways for maintenance of envelope homeostasis in response to external stress and cell growth. In addition, there are specific roles of alternative σ factors in regulating the expression of virulence and virulence-associated genes. Here, we analyzed a deletion mutant of the ECF σ factor SigX and applied mRNA profiling to define the SigX-dependent regulon in P. aeruginosa in response to low-osmolarity-medium conditions. Furthermore, the combination of transcriptional data with chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) followed by high-throughput sequencing (ChIP-seq) led to the identification of the DNA binding motif of SigX. Genome-wide mapping of SigX-binding regions revealed enrichment of downstream genes involved in fatty acid biosynthesis, type III secretion, swarming and cyclic di-GMP (c-di-GMP) signaling. In accordance, a sigX deletion mutant exhibited altered fatty acid composition of the cell membrane, reduced cytotoxicity, impaired swarming activity, elevated c-di-GMP levels, and increased biofilm formation. In conclusion, a combination of ChIP-seq with transcriptional profiling and bioinformatic approaches to define consensus DNA binding sequences proved to be effective for the elucidation of the regulon of the alternative σ factor SigX, revealing its role in complex virulence-associated phenotypes in P. aeruginosa.
    • In vivo mRNA profiling of uropathogenic Escherichia coli from diverse phylogroups reveals common and group-specific gene expression profiles.

      Bielecki, Piotr; Muthukumarasamy, Uthayakumar; Eckweiler, Denitsa; Bielecka, Agata; Pohl, Sarah; Schanz, Ansgar; Niemeyer, Ute; Oumeraci, Tonio; von Neuhoff, Nils; Ghigo, Jean-Marc; et al. (2014)
      mRNA profiling of pathogens during the course of human infections gives detailed information on the expression levels of relevant genes that drive pathogenicity and adaptation and at the same time allows for the delineation of phylogenetic relatedness of pathogens that cause specific diseases. In this study, we used mRNA sequencing to acquire information on the expression of Escherichia coli pathogenicity genes during urinary tract infections (UTI) in humans and to assign the UTI-associated E. coli isolates to different phylogenetic groups. Whereas the in vivo gene expression profiles of the majority of genes were conserved among 21 E. coli strains in the urine of elderly patients suffering from an acute UTI, the specific gene expression profiles of the flexible genomes was diverse and reflected phylogenetic relationships. Furthermore, genes transcribed in vivo relative to laboratory media included well-described virulence factors, small regulatory RNAs, as well as genes not previously linked to bacterial virulence. Knowledge on relevant transcriptional responses that drive pathogenicity and adaptation of isolates to the human host might lead to the introduction of a virulence typing strategy into clinical microbiology, potentially facilitating management and prevention of the disease. Importance: Urinary tract infections (UTI) are very common; at least half of all women experience UTI, most of which are caused by pathogenic Escherichia coli strains. In this study, we applied massive parallel cDNA sequencing (RNA-seq) to provide unbiased, deep, and accurate insight into the nature and the dimension of the uropathogenic E. coli gene expression profile during an acute UTI within the human host. This work was undertaken to identify key players in physiological adaptation processes and, hence, potential targets for new infection prevention and therapy interventions specifically aimed at sabotaging bacterial adaptation to the human host.
    • The Pseudomonas aeruginosa Transcriptional Landscape Is Shaped by Environmental Heterogeneity and Genetic Variation.

      Dötsch, Andreas; Schniederjans, Monika; Khaledi, Ariane; Hornischer, Klaus; Schulz, Sebastian; Bielecka, Agata; Eckweiler, Denitsa; Pohl, Sarah; Häussler, Susanne; Helmholtz Centre for infection research, Inhoffenstr. 7, D-38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2015)
      Phenotypic variability among bacteria depends on gene expression in response to different environments, and it also reflects differences in genomic structure. In this study, we analyzed transcriptome sequencing (RNA-seq) profiles of 151 Pseudomonas aeruginosa clinical isolates under standard laboratory conditions and of one P. aeruginosa type strain under 14 different environmental conditions. Our approach allowed dissection of the impact of the genetic background versus environmental cues on P. aeruginosa gene expression profiles and revealed that phenotypic variation was larger in response to changing environments than between genomically different isolates. We demonstrate that mutations within the global regulator LasR affect more than one trait (pleiotropy) and that the interaction between mutations (epistasis) shapes the P. aeruginosa phenotypic plasticity landscape. Because of pleiotropic and epistatic effects, average genotype and phenotype measures appeared to be uncorrelated in P. aeruginosa.
    • The Pseudomonas aeruginosa transcriptome in planktonic cultures and static biofilms using RNA sequencing.

      Dötsch, Andreas; Eckweiler, Denitsa; Schniederjans, Monika; Zimmermann, Ariane; Jensen, Vanessa; Scharfe, Maren; Geffers, Robert; Häussler, Susanne; Helmholtz Centre of infection research; Inhoffenstr. 7; D-38124 Braunschweig; Germany. (2012)
      In this study, we evaluated how gene expression differs in mature Pseudomonas aeruginosa biofilms as opposed to planktonic cells by the use of RNA sequencing technology that gives rise to both quantitative and qualitative information on the transcriptome. Although a large proportion of genes were consistently regulated in both the stationary phase and biofilm cultures as opposed to the late exponential growth phase cultures, the global biofilm gene expression pattern was clearly distinct indicating that biofilms are not just surface attached cells in stationary phase. A large amount of the genes found to be biofilm specific were involved in adaptation to microaerophilic growth conditions, repression of type three secretion and production of extracellular matrix components. Additionally, we found many small RNAs to be differentially regulated most of them similarly in stationary phase cultures and biofilms. A qualitative analysis of the RNA-seq data revealed more than 3000 putative transcriptional start sites (TSS). By the use of rapid amplification of cDNA ends (5'-RACE) we confirmed the presence of three different TSS associated with the pqsABCDE operon, two in the promoter of pqsA and one upstream of the second gene, pqsB. Taken together, this study reports the first transcriptome study on P. aeruginosa that employs RNA sequencing technology and provides insights into the quantitative and qualitative transcriptome including the expression of small RNAs in P. aeruginosa biofilms.
    • Regulation of Flagellum Biosynthesis in Response to Cell Envelope Stress in Serovar Typhimurium.

      Spöring, Imke; Felgner, Sebastian; Preuße, Matthias; Eckweiler, Denitsa; Rohde, M; Häussler, Susanne; Weiss, Siegfried; Erhardt, Marc (2018-05-01)
      Flagellum-driven motility of serovar Typhimurium facilitates host colonization. However, the large extracellular flagellum is also a prime target for the immune system. As consequence, expression of flagella is bistable within a population of , resulting in flagellated and nonflagellated subpopulations. This allows the bacteria to maximize fitness in hostile environments. The degenerate EAL domain protein RflP (formerly YdiV) is responsible for the bistable expression of flagella by directing the flagellar master regulatory complex FlhDC with respect to proteolytic degradation. Information concerning the environmental cues controlling expression of and thus about the bistable flagellar biosynthesis remains ambiguous. Here, we demonstrated that RflP responds to cell envelope stress and alterations of outer membrane integrity. Lipopolysaccharide (LPS) truncation mutants of Typhimurium exhibited increasing motility defects due to downregulation of flagellar gene expression. Transposon mutagenesis and genetic profiling revealed that σ (RpoE) and Rcs phosphorelay-dependent cell envelope stress response systems sense modifications of the lipopolysaccaride, low pH, and activity of the complement system. This subsequently results in activation of RflP expression and degradation of FlhDC via ClpXP. We speculate that the presence of diverse hostile environments inside the host might result in cell envelope damage and would thus trigger the repression of resource-costly and immunogenic flagellum biosynthesis via activation of the cell envelope stress response. Pathogenic bacteria such as Typhimurium sense and adapt to a multitude of changing and stressful environments during host infection. At the initial stage of gastrointestinal colonization, uses flagellum-mediated motility to reach preferred sites of infection. However, the flagellum also constitutes a prime target for the host's immune response. Accordingly, the pathogen needs to determine the spatiotemporal stage of infection and control flagellar biosynthesis in a robust manner. We found that uses signals from cell envelope stress-sensing systems to turn off production of flagella. We speculate that downregulation of flagellum synthesis after cell envelope damage in hostile environments aids survival of during late stages of infection and provides a means to escape recognition by the immune system.