• 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.
    • Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeat-Dependent, Biofilm-Specific Death of Pseudomonas aeruginosa Mediated by Increased Expression of Phage-Related Genes.

      Heussler, Gary E; Cady, Kyle C; Koeppen, Katja; Bhuju, Sabin; Stanton, Bruce A; O'Toole, George A (2015)
      The clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat (CRISPR)/CRISPR-associated (CRISPR/Cas) system is an adaptive immune system present in many archaea and bacteria. CRISPR/Cas systems are incredibly diverse, and there is increasing evidence of CRISPR/Cas systems playing a role in cellular functions distinct from phage immunity. Previously, our laboratory reported one such alternate function in which the type 1-F CRISPR/Cas system of the opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa strain UCBPP-PA14 (abbreviated as P. aeruginosa PA14) inhibits both biofilm formation and swarming motility when the bacterium is lysogenized by the bacteriophage DMS3. In this study, we demonstrated that the presence of just the DMS3 protospacer and the protospacer-adjacent motif (PAM) on the P. aeruginosa genome is necessary and sufficient for this CRISPR-dependent loss of these group behaviors, with no requirement of additional DMS3 sequences. We also demonstrated that the interaction of the CRISPR system with the DMS3 protospacer induces expression of SOS-regulated phage-related genes, including the well-characterized pyocin operon, through the activity of the nuclease Cas3 and subsequent RecA activation. Furthermore, our data suggest that expression of the phage-related genes results in bacterial cell death on a surface due to the inability of the CRISPR-engaged strain to downregulate phage-related gene expression, while these phage-related genes have minimal impact on growth and viability under planktonic conditions. Deletion of the phage-related genes restores biofilm formation and swarming motility while still maintaining a functional CRISPR/Cas system, demonstrating that the loss of these group behaviors is an indirect effect of CRISPR self-targeting.
    • Efficiency of Conditionally Attenuated Salmonella enterica Serovar Typhimurium in Bacterium-Mediated Tumor Therapy.

      Frahm, Michael; Felgner, Sebastian; Kocijancic, Dino; Rohde, M; Hensel, Michael; Curtiss, Roy; Erhardt, Marc; Weiss, Siegfried; Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research, Inhoffenstr. 7, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2015)
      Increasing numbers of cancer cases generate a great urge for new treatment options. Applying bacteria like Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium for cancer therapy represents an intensively explored option. These bacteria have been shown not only to colonize solid tumors but also to exhibit an intrinsic antitumor effect. In addition, they could serve as tumor-targeting vectors for therapeutic molecules. However, the pathogenic S. Typhimurium strains used for tumor therapy need to be attenuated for safe application. Here, lipopolysaccharide (LPS) deletion mutants (ΔrfaL, ΔrfaG, ΔrfaH, ΔrfaD, ΔrfaP, and ΔmsbB mutants) of Salmonella were investigated for efficiency in tumor therapy. Of such variants, the ΔrfaD and ΔrfaG deep rough mutants exhibited the best tumor specificity and lowest pathogenicity. However, the intrinsic antitumor effect was found to be weak. To overcome this limitation, conditional attenuation was tested by complementing the mutants with an inducible arabinose promoter. The chromosomal integration of the respective LPS biosynthesis genes into the araBAD locus exhibited the best balance of attenuation and therapeutic benefit. Thus, the present study establishes a basis for the development of an applicably cancer therapeutic bacterium.
    • Efficient Replication of the Novel Human Betacoronavirus EMC on Primary Human Epithelium Highlights Its Zoonotic Potential.

      Kindler, Eveline; Jónsdóttir, Hulda R; Muth, Doreen; Hamming, Ole J; Hartmann, Rune; Rodriguez, Regulo; Geffers, Robert; Fouchier, Ron A M; Drosten, Christian; Müller, Marcel A; et al. (2013)
      ABSTRACT The recent emergence of a novel human coronavirus (HCoV-EMC) in the Middle East raised considerable concerns, as it is associated with severe acute pneumonia, renal failure, and fatal outcome and thus resembles the clinical presentation of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) observed in 2002 and 2003. Like SARS-CoV, HCoV-EMC is of zoonotic origin and closely related to bat coronaviruses. The human airway epithelium (HAE) represents the entry point and primary target tissue for respiratory viruses and is highly relevant for assessing the zoonotic potential of emerging respiratory viruses, such as HCoV-EMC. Here, we show that pseudostratified HAE cultures derived from different donors are highly permissive to HCoV-EMC infection, and by using reverse transcription (RT)-PCR and RNAseq data, we experimentally determined the identity of seven HCoV-EMC subgenomic mRNAs. Although the HAE cells were readily responsive to type I and type III interferon (IFN), we observed neither a pronounced inflammatory cytokine nor any detectable IFN responses following HCoV-EMC, SARS-CoV, or HCoV-229E infection, suggesting that innate immune evasion mechanisms and putative IFN antagonists of HCoV-EMC are operational in the new host. Importantly, however, we demonstrate that both type I and type III IFN can efficiently reduce HCoV-EMC replication in HAE cultures, providing a possible treatment option in cases of suspected HCoV-EMC infection. IMPORTANCE A novel human coronavirus, HCoV-EMC, has recently been described to be associated with severe respiratory tract infection and fatalities, similar to severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) observed during the 2002-2003 epidemic. Closely related coronaviruses replicate in bats, suggesting that, like SARS-CoV, HCoV-EMC is of zoonotic origin. Since the animal reservoir and circumstances of zoonotic transmission are yet elusive, it is critically important to assess potential species barriers of HCoV-EMC infection. An important first barrier against invading respiratory pathogens is the epithelium, representing the entry point and primary target tissue of respiratory viruses. We show that human bronchial epithelia are highly susceptible to HCoV-EMC infection. Furthermore, HCoV-EMC, like other coronaviruses, evades innate immune recognition, reflected by the lack of interferon and minimal inflammatory cytokine expression following infection. Importantly, type I and type III interferon treatment can efficiently reduce HCoV-EMC replication in the human airway epithelium, providing a possible avenue for treatment of emerging virus infections.
    • 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.
    • 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.