• 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 NF-κB-dependent and -independent transcriptome and chromatin landscapes of human coronavirus 229E-infected cells.

      Poppe, Michael; Wittig, Sascha; Jurida, Liane; Bartkuhn, Marek; Wilhelm, Jochen; Müller, Helmut; Beuerlein, Knut; Karl, Nadja; Bhuju, Sabin; Ziebuhr, John; et al. (2017-03)
      Coronavirus replication takes place in the host cell cytoplasm and triggers inflammatory gene expression by poorly characterized mechanisms. To obtain more insight into the signals and molecular events that coordinate global host responses in the nucleus of coronavirus-infected cells, first, transcriptome dynamics was studied in human coronavirus 229E (HCoV-229E)-infected A549 and HuH7 cells, respectively, revealing a core signature of upregulated genes in these cells. Compared to treatment with the prototypical inflammatory cytokine interleukin(IL)-1, HCoV-229E replication was found to attenuate the inducible activity of the transcription factor (TF) NF-κB and to restrict the nuclear concentration of NF-κB subunits by (i) an unusual mechanism involving partial degradation of IKKβ, NEMO and IκBα and (ii) upregulation of TNFAIP3 (A20), although constitutive IKK activity and basal TNFAIP3 expression levels were shown to be required for efficient virus replication. Second, we characterized actively transcribed genomic regions and enhancers in HCoV-229E-infected cells and systematically correlated the genome-wide gene expression changes with the recruitment of Ser5-phosphorylated RNA polymerase II and prototypical histone modifications (H3K9ac, H3K36ac, H4K5ac, H3K27ac, H3K4me1). The data revealed that, in HCoV-infected (but not IL-1-treated) cells, an extensive set of genes was activated without inducible p65 NF-κB being recruited. Furthermore, both HCoV-229E replication and IL-1 were shown to upregulate a small set of genes encoding immunomodulatory factors that bind p65 at promoters and require IKKβ activity and p65 for expression. Also, HCoV-229E and IL-1 activated a common set of 440 p65-bound enhancers that differed from another 992 HCoV-229E-specific enhancer regions by distinct TF-binding motif combinations. Taken together, the study shows that cytoplasmic RNA viruses fine-tune NF-κB signaling at multiple levels and profoundly reprogram the host cellular chromatin landscape, thereby orchestrating the timely coordinated expression of genes involved in multiple signaling, immunoregulatory and metabolic processes.
    • A Novel Mechanism of Host-Pathogen Interaction through sRNA in Bacterial Outer Membrane Vesicles.

      Koeppen, Katja; Hampton, Thomas H; Jarek, Michael; Scharfe, Maren; Gerber, Scott A; Mielcarz, Daniel W; Demers, Elora G; Dolben, Emily L; Hammond, John H; Hogan, Deborah A; et al. (2016-06)
      Bacterial outer membrane vesicle (OMV)-mediated delivery of proteins to host cells is an important mechanism of host-pathogen communication. Emerging evidence suggests that OMVs contain differentially packaged short RNAs (sRNAs) with the potential to target host mRNA function and/or stability. In this study, we used RNA-Seq to characterize differentially packaged sRNAs in Pseudomonas aeruginosa OMVs, and to show transfer of OMV sRNAs to human airway cells. We selected one sRNA for further study based on its stable secondary structure and predicted mRNA targets. Our candidate sRNA (sRNA52320), a fragment of a P. aeruginosa methionine tRNA, was abundant in OMVs and reduced LPS-induced as well as OMV-induced IL-8 secretion by cultured primary human airway epithelial cells. We also showed that sRNA52320 attenuated OMV-induced KC cytokine secretion and neutrophil infiltration in mouse lung. Collectively, these findings are consistent with the hypothesis that sRNA52320 in OMVs is a novel mechanism of host-pathogen interaction whereby P. aeruginosa reduces the host immune response.
    • Potentiation of epithelial innate host responses by intercellular communication.

      Dolowschiak, Tamas; Chassin, Cécilia; Ben Mkaddem, Sanae; Fuchs, Thilo M; Weiss, Siegfried; Vandewalle, Alain; Hornef, Mathias W; Hannover Medical School, Hannover, Germany. (2010)
      The epithelium efficiently attracts immune cells upon infection despite the low number of pathogenic microbes and moderate levels of secreted chemokines per cell. Here we examined whether horizontal intercellular communication between cells may contribute to a coordinated response of the epithelium. Listeria monocytogenes infection, transfection, and microinjection of individual cells within a polarized intestinal epithelial cell layer were performed and activation was determined at the single cell level by fluorescence microscopy and flow cytometry. Surprisingly, chemokine production after L. monocytogenes infection was primarily observed in non-infected epithelial cells despite invasion-dependent cell activation. Whereas horizontal communication was independent of gap junction formation, cytokine secretion, ion fluxes, or nitric oxide synthesis, NADPH oxidase (Nox) 4-dependent oxygen radical formation was required and sufficient to induce indirect epithelial cell activation. This is the first report to describe epithelial cell-cell communication in response to innate immune activation. Epithelial communication facilitates a coordinated infectious host defence at the very early stage of microbial infection.
    • 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.
    • The YfiBNR signal transduction mechanism reveals novel targets for the evolution of persistent Pseudomonas aeruginosa in cystic fibrosis airways.

      Malone, Jacob G; Jaeger, Tina; Manfredi, Pablo; Dötsch, Andreas; Blanka, Andrea; Bos, Raphael; Cornelis, Guy R; Häussler, Susanne; Jenal, Urs; Biozentrum of the University of Basel, Basel, Switzerland. (2012-06)
      The genetic adaptation of pathogens in host tissue plays a key role in the establishment of chronic infections. While whole genome sequencing has opened up the analysis of genetic changes occurring during long-term infections, the identification and characterization of adaptive traits is often obscured by a lack of knowledge of the underlying molecular processes. Our research addresses the role of Pseudomonas aeruginosa small colony variant (SCV) morphotypes in long-term infections. In the lungs of cystic fibrosis patients, the appearance of SCVs correlates with a prolonged persistence of infection and poor lung function. Formation of P. aeruginosa SCVs is linked to increased levels of the second messenger c-di-GMP. Our previous work identified the YfiBNR system as a key regulator of the SCV phenotype. The effector of this tripartite signaling module is the membrane bound diguanylate cyclase YfiN. Through a combination of genetic and biochemical analyses we first outline the mechanistic principles of YfiN regulation in detail. In particular, we identify a number of activating mutations in all three components of the Yfi regulatory system. YfiBNR is shown to function via tightly controlled competition between allosteric binding sites on the three Yfi proteins; a novel regulatory mechanism that is apparently widespread among periplasmic signaling systems in bacteria. We then show that during long-term lung infections of CF patients, activating mutations invade the population, driving SCV formation in vivo. The identification of mutational "scars" in the yfi genes of clinical isolates suggests that Yfi activity is both under positive and negative selection in vivo and that continuous adaptation of the c-di-GMP network contributes to the in vivo fitness of P. aeruginosa during chronic lung infections. These experiments uncover an important new principle of in vivo persistence, and identify the c-di-GMP network as a valid target for novel anti-infectives directed against chronic infections.