• 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.
    • 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; Haeussler, 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • Complete Genome Sequences of Streptococcus suis Pig-Pathogenic Strains 10, 13-00283-02, and 16085/3b.

      Bunk, Boyke; Jakóbczak, Beata; Florian, Volker; Dittmar, Denise; Mäder, Ulrike; Jarek, Michael; Häußler, Susanne; Baums, Christoph Georg; Völker, Uwe; Michalik, Stephan; et al. (American Society for Microbiology, 2021-01-14)
      Streptococcus suis is an important pathogen of pigs that, as a zoonotic agent, can also cause severe disease in humans, including meningitis, endocarditis, and septicemia. We report complete and annotated genomes of S. suis strains 10, 13-00283-02, and 16085/3b, which represent the highly prevalent serotypes cps2, cps7, and cps9, respectively.
    • 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.
    • Quantitative image analysis of microbial communities with BiofilmQ.

      Hartmann, Raimo; Jeckel, Hannah; Jelli, Eric; Singh, Praveen K; Vaidya, Sanika; Bayer, Miriam; Rode, Daniel K H; Vidakovic, Lucia; Díaz-Pascual, Francisco; Fong, Jiunn C N; et al. (Nature research, 2021-01-04)
      Biofilms are microbial communities that represent a highly abundant form of microbial life on Earth. Inside biofilms, phenotypic and genotypic variations occur in three-dimensional space and time; microscopy and quantitative image analysis are therefore crucial for elucidating their functions. Here, we present BiofilmQ-a comprehensive image cytometry software tool for the automated and high-throughput quantification, analysis and visualization of numerous biofilm-internal and whole-biofilm properties in three-dimensional space and time.
    • Combined high-throughput library screening and next generation RNA sequencing uncover microRNAs controlling human cardiac fibroblast biology

      Schimmel, Katharina; Stojanović, Stevan D.; Huang, Cheng Kai; Jung, Mira; Meyer, Martin H.; Xiao, Ke; Grote-Levi, Lea; Bär, Christian; Pfanne, Angelika; Mitzka, Saskia; et al. (Elsevier, 2021-01-01)
      Background: Myocardial fibrosis is a hallmark of the failing heart, contributing to the most common causes of deaths worldwide. Several microRNAs (miRNAs, miRs) controlling cardiac fibrosis were identified in recent years; however, a more global approach to identify miRNAs involved in fibrosis is missing. Methods and results: Functional miRNA mimic library screens were applied in human cardiac fibroblasts (HCFs) to identify annotated miRNAs inducing proliferation. In parallel, miRNA deep sequencing was performed after subjecting HCFs to proliferating and resting stimuli, additionally enabling discovery of novel miRNAs. In-depth in vitro analysis confirmed the pro-fibrotic nature of selected, highly conserved miRNAs miR-20a-5p and miR-132-3p. To determine downstream cellular pathways and their role in the fibrotic response, targets of the annotated miRNA candidates were modulated by synthetic siRNA. We here provide evidence that repression of autophagy and detoxification of reactive oxygen species by miR-20a-5p and miR-132-3p explain some of their pro-fibrotic nature on a mechanistic level. Conclusion: We here identified both miR-20a-5p and miR-132-3p as crucial regulators of fibrotic pathways in an in vitro model of human cardiac fibroblast biology.
    • Simultaneous Presence of Bacteriochlorophyll and Xanthorhodopsin Genes in a Freshwater Bacterium.

      Kopejtka, Karel; Tomasch, Jürgen; Zeng, Yonghui; Selyanin, Vadim; Dachev, Marko; Piwosz, Kasia; Tichý, Martin; Bína, David; Gardian, Zdenko; Bunk, Boyke; et al. (ASM, 2020-12-22)
      Photoheterotrophic bacteria represent an important part of aquatic microbial communities. There exist two fundamentally different light-harvesting systems: bacteriochlorophyll-containing reaction centers or rhodopsins. Here, we report a photoheterotrophic Sphingomonas strain isolated from an oligotrophic lake, which contains complete sets of genes for both rhodopsin-based and bacteriochlorophyll-based phototrophy. Interestingly, the identified genes were not expressed when cultured in liquid organic media. Using reverse transcription quantitative PCR (RT-qPCR), RNA sequencing, and bacteriochlorophyll a quantification, we document that bacteriochlorophyll synthesis was repressed by high concentrations of glucose or galactose in the medium. Coactivation of photosynthesis genes together with genes for TonB-dependent transporters suggests the utilization of light energy for nutrient import. The photosynthetic units were formed by ring-shaped light-harvesting complex 1 and reaction centers with bacteriochlorophyll a and spirilloxanthin as the main light-harvesting pigments. The identified rhodopsin gene belonged to the xanthorhodopsin family, but it lacks salinixanthin antenna. In contrast to bacteriochlorophyll, the expression of xanthorhodopsin remained minimal under all experimental conditions tested. Since the gene was found in the same operon as a histidine kinase, we propose that it might serve as a light sensor. Our results document that photoheterotrophic Sphingomonas bacteria use the energy of light under carbon-limited conditions, while under carbon-replete conditions, they cover all their metabolic needs through oxidative phosphorylation.IMPORTANCE Phototrophic organisms are key components of many natural environments. There exist two main phototrophic groups: species that collect light energy using various kinds of (bacterio)chlorophylls and species that utilize rhodopsins. Here, we present a freshwater bacterium Sphingomonas sp. strain AAP5 which contains genes for both light-harvesting systems. We show that bacteriochlorophyll-based reaction centers are repressed by light and/or glucose. On the other hand, the rhodopsin gene was not expressed significantly under any of the experimental conditions. This may indicate that rhodopsin in Sphingomonas may have other functions not linked to bioenergetics.
    • Germline variation of Ribonuclease H2 genes in ovarian cancer patients.

      Polaczek, Rahel; Schürmann, Peter; Speith, Lisa-Marie; Geffers, Robert; Dürst, Matthias; Hillemanns, Peter; Park-Simon, Tjoung-Won; Liebrich, Clemens; Dörk, Thilo; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (BMC, 2020-12-22)
      Epithelial ovarian carcinoma (EOC) is a genetically heterogeneous disease that is partly driven by molecular defects in mismatch repair (MMR) or homology-directed DNA repair (HDR). Ribonuclease H2 serves to remove mis-incorporated ribonucleotides from DNA which alleviates HDR mechanisms and guides the MMR machinery. Although Ribonuclease H2 has been implicated in cancer, the role of germline variants for ovarian cancer is unknown. In the present case-control study, we sequenced the coding and flanking untranslated regions of the RNASEH2A, RNASEH2B and RNASEH2C genes, encoding all three subunits of Ribonuclease H2, in a total of 602 German patients with EOC and of 940 healthy females from the same population. We identified one patient with a truncating variant in RNASEH2B, p.C44X, resulting in a premature stop codon. This patient had high-grade serous EOC with an 8 years survival after platinum/taxane-based therapy. Subsequent analysis of TCGA data similarly showed a significantly longer progression-free survival in ovarian cancer patients with low RNASEH2B or RNASEH2C expression levels. In conclusion, loss-of-function variants in Ribonuclease H2 genes are not common predisposing factors in ovarian cancer but the possibility that they modulate therapeutic platinum response deserves further investigation.
    • 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.
    • Determining the effects of trastuzumab, cetuximab and afatinib by phosphoprotein, gene expression and phenotypic analysis in gastric cancer cell lines.

      Ebert, Karolin; Zwingenberger, Gwen; Barbaria, Elena; Keller, Simone; Heck, Corinna; Arnold, Rouven; Hollerieth, Vanessa; Mattes, Julian; Geffers, Robert; Raimúndez, Elba; et al. (BMC, 2020-10-28)
      Background: Gastric cancer is the fifth most frequently diagnosed cancer and the third leading cause of cancer death worldwide. The molecular mechanisms of action for anti-HER-family drugs in gastric cancer cells are incompletely understood. We compared the molecular effects of trastuzumab and the other HER-family targeting drugs cetuximab and afatinib on phosphoprotein and gene expression level to gain insights into the regulated pathways. Moreover, we intended to identify genes involved in phenotypic effects of anti-HER therapies. Methods: A time-resolved analysis of downstream intracellular kinases following EGF, cetuximab, trastuzumab and afatinib treatment was performed by Luminex analysis in the gastric cancer cell lines Hs746T, MKN1, MKN7 and NCI-N87. The changes in gene expression after treatment of the gastric cancer cell lines with EGF, cetuximab, trastuzumab or afatinib for 4 or 24 h were analyzed by RNA sequencing. Significantly enriched pathways and gene ontology terms were identified by functional enrichment analysis. Furthermore, effects of trastuzumab and afatinib on cell motility and apoptosis were analyzed by time-lapse microscopy and western blot for cleaved caspase 3. Results: The Luminex analysis of kinase activity revealed no effects of trastuzumab, while alterations of AKT1, MAPK3, MEK1 and p70S6K1 activations were observed under cetuximab and afatinib treatment. On gene expression level, cetuximab mainly affected the signaling pathways, whereas afatinib had an effect on both signaling and cell cycle pathways. In contrast, trastuzumab had little effects on gene expression. Afatinib reduced average speed in MKN1 and MKN7 cells and induced apoptosis in NCI-N87 cells. Following treatment with afatinib, a list of 14 genes that might be involved in the decrease of cell motility and a list of 44 genes that might have a potential role in induction of apoptosis was suggested. The importance of one of these genes (HBEGF) as regulator of motility was confirmed by knockdown experiments. Conclusions: Taken together, we described the different molecular effects of trastuzumab, cetuximab and afatinib on kinase activity and gene expression. The phenotypic changes following afatinib treatment were reflected by altered biological functions indicated by overrepresentation of gene ontology terms. The importance of identified genes for cell motility was validated in case of HBEGF.
    • Analysis of the organization and expression patterns of the convergent pseudomonas aeruginosa lasr/rsal gene pair uncovers mutual influence.

      Schinner, Silvia; Preusse, Matthias; Kesthely, Christopher; Häussler, Susanne; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (Wiley, 2020-10-19)
      The two adjacent genes encoding the major Pseudomonas aeruginosa quorum sensing regulator, LasR, and its opponent, RsaL, overlap in their coding 3´ends and produce mRNA transcripts with long untranslated 3´ends that overlap with the sense transcripts of the gene on the opposing DNA strand. In this study, we evaluated whether the overlapping genes are involved in mutual regulatory events and studied interference by natural antisense transcripts. We introduced various gene expression constructs into a P. aeruginosa PA14 lasR/rsaL double deletion mutant, and found that although complementary RNA is produced, this does not interfere with the sense gene expression levels of lasR and rsaL and does not have functional consequences on down-stream gene regulation. Nevertheless, expression of lasR, but not of rsaL, was shown to be enhanced if transcription was terminated at the end of the respective gene so that no overlapping transcription was allowed. Our data indicate that the natural organization with a partial overlap at the 3´ends of the lasR/rsaL genes gives rise to a system of checks and balances to prevent dominant and unilateral control by LasR over the RsaL transcriptional regulator of opposing function.
    • Mining zebrafish microbiota reveals key community-level resistance against fish pathogen infection.

      Stressmann, Franziska A; Bernal-Bayard, Joaquín; Perez-Pascual, David; Audrain, Bianca; Rendueles, Olaya; Briolat, Valérie; Bruchmann, Sebastian; Volant, Stevenn; Ghozlane, Amine; Häussler, Susanne; et al. (Springer Nature, 2020-10-19)
      The long-known resistance to pathogens provided by host-associated microbiota fostered the notion that adding protective bacteria could prevent or attenuate infection. However, the identification of endogenous or exogenous bacteria conferring such protection is often hindered by the complexity of host microbial communities. Here, we used zebrafish and the fish pathogen Flavobacterium columnare as a model system to study the determinants of microbiota-associated colonization resistance. We compared infection susceptibility in germ-free, conventional and reconventionalized larvae and showed that a consortium of 10 culturable bacterial species are sufficient to protect zebrafish. Whereas survival to F. columnare infection does not rely on host innate immunity, we used antibiotic dysbiosis to alter zebrafish microbiota composition, leading to the identification of two different protection strategies. We first identified that the bacterium Chryseobacterium massiliae individually protects both larvae and adult zebrafish. We also showed that an assembly of 9 endogenous zebrafish species that do not otherwise protect individually confer a community-level resistance to infection. Our study therefore provides a rational approach to identify key endogenous protecting bacteria and promising candidates to engineer resilient microbial communities. It also shows how direct experimental analysis of colonization resistance in low-complexity in vivo models can reveal unsuspected ecological strategies at play in microbiota-based protection against pathogens.
    • The Peptide Chain Release Factor Methyltransferase PrmC Influences the Pseudomonas aeruginosa PA14 Endo- and Exometabolome.

      Depke, Tobias; Häussler, Susanne; Brönstrup, Mark; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (MDPI, 2020-10-18)
      Pseudomonas aeruginosa is one of the most important nosocomial pathogens and understanding its virulence is the key to effective control of P. aeruginosa infections. The regulatory network governing virulence factor production in P. aeruginosa is exceptionally complex. Previous studies have shown that the peptide chain release factor methyltransferase PrmC plays an important role in bacterial pathogenicity. Yet, the underlying molecular mechanism is incompletely understood. In this study, we used untargeted liquid and gas chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry to characterise the metabolome of a prmC defective P. aeruginosa PA14 strain in comparison with the corresponding strain complemented with prmC in trans. The comprehensive metabolomics data provided new insight into the influence of prmC on virulence and metabolism. prmC deficiency had broad effects on the endo- and exometabolome of P. aeruginosa PA14, with a marked decrease of the levels of aromatic compounds accompanied by reduced precursor supply from the shikimate pathway. Furthermore, a pronounced decrease of phenazine production was observed as well as lower abundance of alkylquinolones. Unexpectedly, the metabolomics data showed no prmC-dependent effect on rhamnolipid production and an increase in pyochelin levels. A putative virulence biomarker identified in a previous study was significantly less abundant in the prmC deficient strain.
    • Expression of the MexXY aminoglycoside efflux pump and presence of an aminoglycoside modifying enzyme in clinical isolates are highly correlated.

      Seupt, Alexander; Schniederjans, Monika; Tomasch, Jürgen; Häussler, Susanne; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (ASM, 2020-10-12)
      The impact of MexXY efflux pump expression on aminoglycoside resistance in clinical Pseudomonas aeruginosa isolates has been debated. In this study, we found that in general, elevated mexXY gene expression levels in clinical P. aeruginosa isolates confer to slight increases in aminoglycoside MIC levels, however those levels rarely lead to clinically relevant resistance phenotypes. The main driver of resistance in the clinical isolates studied here was the acquisition of aminoglycoside modifying enzymes (AMEs). Nevertheless, acquisition of an AME was strongly associated with mexY overexpression. In line with this observation, we demonstrate that the introduction of a gentamicin acetyl-transferase confers to full gentamicin resistance levels in a P. aeruginosa type strain only if the MexXY efflux pump was active. We discuss that increased mexXY activity in clinical AME harboring P. aeruginosa isolates might affect ion fluxes at the bacterial cell membrane and thus might play a role in the establishment of enhanced fitness that extends beyond aminoglycoside resistance.