• 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • Host-induced spermidine production in motile triggers phagocytic uptake.

      Felgner, Sebastian; Preusse, Matthias; Beutling, Ulrike; Stahnke, Stephanie; Pawar, Vinay; Rohde, Manfred; Brönstrup, Mark; Stradal, Theresia; Häussler, Susanne; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (elifeSciences, 2020-09-22)
      Exploring the complexity of host-pathogen communication is vital to understand why microbes persist within a host, while others are cleared. Here, we employed a dual-sequencing approach to unravel conversational turn-taking of dynamic host-pathogen communications. We demonstrate that upon hitting a host cell, motile Pseudomonas aeruginosa induce a specific gene expression program. This results in the expression of spermidine on the surface, which specifically activates the PIP3-pathway to induce phagocytic uptake into primary or immortalized murine cells. Non-motile bacteria are more immunogenic due to a lower expression of arnT upon host-cell contact, but do not produce spermidine and are phagocytosed less. We demonstrate that not only the presence of pathogen inherent molecular patterns induces immune responses, but that bacterial motility is linked to a host-cell-induced expression of additional immune modulators. Our results emphasize on the value of integrating microbiological and immunological findings to unravel complex and dynamic host-pathogen interactions.
    • 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.
    • IDH1/2 mutations in acute myeloid leukemia patients and risk of coronary artery disease and cardiac dysfunction—a retrospective propensity score analysis

      Kattih, Badder; Shirvani, Amir; Klement, Piroska; Garrido, Abel Martin; Gabdoulline, Razif; Liebich, Alessandro; Brandes, Maximilian; Chaturvedi, Anuhar; Seeger, Timon; Thol, Felicitas; et al. (Springer Nature, 2020-01-01)
      Clonal hematopoiesis of indeterminate potential (CHIP) is linked to leukemia gene mutations and associates with an increased risk for coronary artery disease and poor prognosis in ischemic cardiomyopathy. Two recurrently mutated genes in CHIP and adult acute myeloid leukemia (AML) encode for isocitrate dehydrogenases 1 and 2 (IDH1 and IDH2). Global expression of mutant IDH2 in transgenic mice-induced dilated cardiomyopathy and muscular dystrophy. In this retrospective observational study, we investigated whether mutant IDH1/2 predisposes to cardiovascular disease in AML patients. Among 363 AML patients, IDH1 and IDH2 mutations were detected in 26 (7.2%) and 39 patients (10.7%), respectively. Mutant IDH1 patients exhibited a significantly higher prevalence of coronary artery disease (26.1% vs. 6.4%, p = 0.002). Applying inverse probability-weighting analysis, patients with IDH1/2 mutations had a higher risk for a declining cardiac function during AML treatment compared to IDH1/2 wild type patients [left ventricular ejection fraction pretreatment compared to 10 months after diagnosis: 59.2% to 41.9% (p < 0.001) vs 58.5% to 55.4% (p = 0.27), respectively]. Mechanistically, RNA sequencing and immunostaining in hiPS-derived cardiomyocytes indicated that the oncometabolite R-2HG exacerbated doxorubicin mediated cardiotoxicity. Evaluation of IDH1/2 mutation status may therefore help identifying AML patients at risk for cardiovascular complications during cytotoxic treatment. Similar articles
    • Severe COVID-19 Is Marked by a Dysregulated Myeloid Cell Compartment.

      Schulte-Schrepping, Jonas; Reusch, Nico; Paclik, Daniela; Baßler, Kevin; Schlickeiser, Stephan; Zhang, Bowen; Krämer, Benjamin; Krammer, Tobias; Brumhard, Sophia; Bonaguro, Lorenzo; et al. (Elsevier /Cell Press), 2020-08-05)
      Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a mild to moderate respiratory tract infection, however, a subset of patients progress to severe disease and respiratory failure. The mechanism of protective immunity in mild forms and the pathogenesis of severe COVID-19 associated with increased neutrophil counts and dysregulated immune responses remain unclear. In a dual-center, two-cohort study, we combined single-cell RNA-sequencing and single-cell proteomics of whole-blood and peripheral-blood mononuclear cells to determine changes in immune cell composition and activation in mild versus severe COVID-19 (242 samples from 109 individuals) over time. HLA-DRhiCD11chi inflammatory monocytes with an interferon-stimulated gene signature were elevated in mild COVID-19. Severe COVID-19 was marked by occurrence of neutrophil precursors, as evidence of emergency myelopoiesis, dysfunctional mature neutrophils, and HLA-DRlo monocytes. Our study provides detailed insights into the systemic immune response to SARS-CoV-2 infection and reveals profound alterations in the myeloid cell compartment associated with severe COVID-19.
    • Rare heterozygous GDF6 variants in patients with renal anomalies.

      Martens, Helge; Hennies, Imke; Getwan, Maike; Christians, Anne; Weiss, Anna-Carina; Brand, Frank; Gjerstad, Ann Christin; Christians, Arne; Gucev, Zoran; Geffers, Robert; et al. (Springer Nature, 2020-07-31)
      Although over 50 genes are known to cause renal malformation if mutated, the underlying genetic basis, most easily identified in syndromic cases, remains unsolved in most patients. In search of novel causative genes, whole-exome sequencing in a patient with renal, i.e., crossed fused renal ectopia, and extrarenal, i.e., skeletal, eye, and ear, malformations yielded a rare heterozygous variant in the GDF6 gene encoding growth differentiation factor 6, a member of the BMP family of ligands. Previously, GDF6 variants were reported to cause pleiotropic defects including skeletal, e.g., vertebral, carpal, tarsal fusions, and ocular, e.g., microphthalmia and coloboma, phenotypes. To assess the role of GDF6 in the pathogenesis of renal malformation, we performed targeted sequencing in 193 further patients identifying rare GDF6 variants in two cases with kidney hypodysplasia and extrarenal manifestations. During development, gdf6 was expressed in the pronephric tubule of Xenopus laevis, and Gdf6 expression was observed in the ureteric tree of the murine kidney by RNA in situ hybridization. CRISPR/Cas9-derived knockout of Gdf6 attenuated migration of murine IMCD3 cells, an effect rescued by expression of wild-type but not mutant GDF6, indicating affected variant function regarding a fundamental developmental process. Knockdown of gdf6 in Xenopus laevis resulted in impaired pronephros development. Altogether, we identified rare heterozygous GDF6 variants in 1.6% of all renal anomaly patients and 5.4% of renal anomaly patients additionally manifesting skeletal, ocular, or auricular abnormalities, adding renal hypodysplasia and fusion to the phenotype spectrum of GDF6 variant carriers and suggesting an involvement of GDF6 in nephrogenesis.
    • YB-1 Interferes with TNFα-TNFR Binding and Modulates Progranulin-Mediated Inhibition of TNFα Signaling.

      Hessman, Christopher L; Hildebrandt, Josephine; Shah, Aneri; Brandt, Sabine; Bock, Antonia; Frye, Björn C; Raffetseder, Ute; Geffers, Robert; Brunner-Weinzierl, Monika C; Isermann, Berend; et al. (MDPI, 2020-09-25)
      Inflammation and an influx of macrophages are common elements in many diseases. Among pro-inflammatory cytokines, tumor necrosis factor α (TNFα) plays a central role by amplifying the cytokine network. Progranulin (PGRN) is a growth factor that binds to TNF receptors and interferes with TNFα-mediated signaling. Extracellular PGRN is processed into granulins by proteases released from immune cells. PGRN exerts anti-inflammatory effects, whereas granulins are pro-inflammatory. The factors coordinating these ambivalent functions remain unclear. In our study, we identify Y-box binding protein-1 (YB-1) as a candidate for this immune-modulating activity. Using a yeast-2-hybrid assay with YB-1 protein as bait, clones encoding for progranulin were selected using stringent criteria for strong interaction. We demonstrate that at physiological concentrations, YB-1 interferes with the binding of TNFα to its receptors in a dose-dependent manner using a flow cytometry-based binding assay. We show that YB-1 in combination with progranulin interferes with TNFα-mediated signaling, supporting the functionality with an NF-κB luciferase reporter assay. Together, we show that YB-1 displays immunomodulating functions by affecting the binding of TNFα to its receptors and influencing TNFα-mediated signaling via its interaction with progranulin.
    • Complete Genome Sequence and Manual Reannotation of Mycobacterium avium subsp. Strain DSM 44135.

      Goethe, Ralph; Basler, Tina; Meissner, Thorsten; Goethe, Elke; Spröer, Cathrin; Swiderski, Jolantha; Gerlach, Gerald-F; Weiss, Siegfried; Jarek, Michael; Bunk, Boyke; et al. (ASM, 2020-08-13)
      Here, we report the complete genome sequence of the Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis reference strain DSM 44135, amended with a manual genome reannotation. The strain was originally described as M. paratuberculosis strain 6783. It was isolated from feces from a dairy cow in northern Germany.
    • Human airway mucus alters susceptibility of Pseudomonas aeruginosa biofilms to tobramycin, but not colistin.

      Müller, Laura; Murgia, Xabier; Siebenbürger, Lorenz; Börger, Carsten; Schwarzkopf, Konrad; Sewald, Katherina; Häussler, Susanne; Braun, Armin; Lehr, Claus-Michael; Hittinger, Marius; et al.
      Objectives: In the context of cystic fibrosis, Pseudomonas aeruginosa biofilms often develop in the vicinity of airway mucus, which acts as a protective physical barrier to inhaled matter. However, mucus can also adsorb small drug molecules administered as aerosols, including antibiotics, thereby reducing their bioavailability. The efficacy of antibiotics is typically assessed by determining the MIC using in vitro assays. This widespread technique, however, does not consider either bacterial biofilm formation or the influence of mucus, both of which may act as diffusion barriers, potentially limiting antibiotic efficacy. Methods: We grew P. aeruginosa biofilms in the presence or absence of human tracheal mucus and tested their susceptibility to tobramycin and colistin. Results: A significant reduction of tobramycin efficacy was observed when P. aeruginosa biofilms were grown in the presence of mucus compared with those grown in the absence of mucus. Diffusion of tobramycin through mucus was reduced; however, this reduction was more pronounced in biofilm/mucus mixtures, suggesting that biofilms in the presence of mucus respond differently to antibiotic treatment. In contrast, the influence of mucus on colistin efficacy was almost negligible and no differences in mucus permeability were observed. Conclusions: These findings underline the important role of mucus in the efficacy of anti-infective drugs.
    • Untargeted LC-MS Metabolomics Differentiates Between Virulent and Avirulent Clinical Strains of Pseudomonas aeruginosa

      Depke, Tobias; Thöming, Janne Gesine; Kordes, Adrian; Häussler, Susanne; Brönstrup, Mark; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (MDPI, 2020-07-13)
      Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a facultative pathogen that can cause, inter alia, acute or chronic pneumonia in predisposed individuals. The gram-negative bacterium displays considerable genomic and phenotypic diversity that is also shaped by small molecule secondary metabolites. The discrimination of virulence phenotypes is highly relevant to the diagnosis and prognosis of P. aeruginosa infections. In order to discover small molecule metabolites that distinguish different virulence phenotypes of P. aeruginosa, 35 clinical strains were cultivated under standard conditions, characterized in terms of virulence and biofilm phenotype, and their metabolomes were investigated by untargeted liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry. The data was both mined for individual candidate markers as well as used to construct statistical models to infer the virulence phenotype from metabolomics data. We found that clinical strains that differed in their virulence and biofilm phenotype also had pronounced divergence in their metabolomes, as underlined by 332 features that were significantly differentially abundant with fold changes greater than 1.5 in both directions. Important virulence-associated secondary metabolites like rhamnolipids, alkyl quinolones or phenazines were found to be strongly upregulated in virulent strains. In contrast, we observed little change in primary metabolism. A hitherto novel cationic metabolite with a sum formula of C12H15N2 could be identified as a candidate biomarker. A random forest model was able to classify strains according to their virulence and biofilm phenotype with an area under the Receiver Operation Characteristics curve of 0.84. These findings demonstrate that untargeted metabolomics is a valuable tool to characterize P. aeruginosa virulence, and to explore interrelations between clinically important phenotypic traits and the bacterial metabolome.
    • Low-load pathogen spillover predicts shifts in skin microbiome and survival of a terrestrial-breeding amphibian.

      Becker, C Guilherme; Bletz, Molly C; Greenspan, Sasha E; Rodriguez, David; Lambertini, Carolina; Jenkinson, Thomas S; Guimarães, Paulo R; Assis, Ana Paula A; Geffers, Robert; Jarek, Michael; et al. (Royal Society of London, 2019-08-14)
      Wildlife disease dynamics are strongly influenced by the structure of host communities and their symbiotic microbiota. Conspicuous amphibian declines associated with the waterborne fungal pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) have been observed in aquatic-breeding frogs globally. However, less attention has been given to cryptic terrestrial-breeding amphibians that have also been declining in tropical regions. By experimentally manipulating multiple tropical amphibian assemblages harbouring natural microbial communities, we tested whether Bd spillover from naturally infected aquatic-breeding frogs could lead to Bd amplification and mortality in our focal terrestrial-breeding host: the pumpkin toadlet Brachycephalus pitanga. We also tested whether the strength of spillover could vary depending on skin bacterial transmission within host assemblages. Terrestrial-breeding toadlets acquired lethal spillover infections from neighbouring aquatic hosts and experienced dramatic but generally non-protective shifts in skin bacterial composition primarily attributable to their Bd infections. By contrast, aquatic-breeding amphibians maintained mild Bd infections and higher survival, with shifts in bacterial microbiomes that were unrelated to Bd infections. Our results indicate that Bd spillover from even mildly infected aquatic-breeding hosts may lead to dysbiosis and mortality in terrestrial-breeding species, underscoring the need to further investigate recent population declines of terrestrial-breeding amphibians in the tropics.
    • Integrative Bioinformatic Analyses of Global Transcriptome Data Decipher Novel Molecular Insights into Cardiac Anti-Fibrotic Therapies.

      Fuchs, Maximilian; Kreutzer, Fabian Philipp; Kapsner, Lorenz A; Mitzka, Saskia; Just, Annette; Perbellini, Filippo; Terracciano, Cesare M; Xiao, Ke; Geffers, Robert; Bogdan, Christian; et al. (MDPI, 2020-07-02)
      Integrative bioinformatics is an emerging field in the big data era, offering a steadily increasing number of algorithms and analysis tools. However, for researchers in experimental life sciences it is often difficult to follow and properly apply the bioinformatical methods in order to unravel the complexity and systemic effects of omics data. Here, we present an integrative bioinformatics pipeline to decipher crucial biological insights from global transcriptome profiling data to validate innovative therapeutics. It is available as a web application for an interactive and simplified analysis without the need for programming skills or deep bioinformatics background. The approach was applied to an ex vivo cardiac model treated with natural anti-fibrotic compounds and we obtained new mechanistic insights into their anti-fibrotic action and molecular interplay with miRNAs in cardiac fibrosis. Several gene pathways associated with proliferation, extracellular matrix processes and wound healing were altered, and we could identify micro (mi) RNA-21-5p and miRNA-223-3p as key molecular components related to the anti-fibrotic treatment. Importantly, our pipeline is not restricted to a specific cell type or disease and can be broadly applied to better understand the unprecedented level of complexity in big data research.
    • Microbial Community Structure Along a Horizontal Oxygen Gradient in a Costa Rican Volcanic Influenced Acid Rock Drainage System.

      Arce-Rodríguez, Alejandro; Puente-Sánchez, Fernando; Avendaño, Roberto; Libby, Eduardo; Mora-Amador, Raúl; Rojas-Jimenez, Keilor; Martínez, María; Pieper, Dietmar H; Chavarría, Max; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (Springer Nature, 2020-06-22)
      We describe the geochemistry and microbial diversity of a pristine environment that resembles an acid rock drainage (ARD) but it is actually the result of hydrothermal and volcanic influences. We designate this environment, and other comparable sites, as volcanic influenced acid rock drainage (VARD) systems. The metal content and sulfuric acid in this ecosystem stem from the volcanic milieu and not from the product of pyrite oxidation. Based on the analysis of 16S rRNA gene amplicons, we report the microbial community structure in the pristine San Cayetano Costa Rican VARD environment (pH = 2.94-3.06, sulfate ~ 0.87-1.19 g L-1, iron ~ 35-61 mg L-1 (waters), and ~ 8-293 g kg-1 (sediments)). San Cayetano was found to be dominated by microorganisms involved in the geochemical cycling of iron, sulfur, and nitrogen; however, the identity and abundance of the species changed with the oxygen content (0.40-6.06 mg L-1) along the river course. The hypoxic source of San Cayetano is dominated by a putative anaerobic sulfate-reducing Deltaproteobacterium. Sulfur-oxidizing bacteria such as Acidithiobacillus or Sulfobacillus are found in smaller proportions with respect to typical ARD. In the oxic downstream, we identified aerobic iron-oxidizers (Leptospirillum, Acidithrix, Ferrovum) and heterotrophic bacteria (Burkholderiaceae bacterium, Trichococcus, Acidocella). Thermoplasmatales archaea closely related to environmental phylotypes found in other ARD niches were also observed throughout the entire ecosystem. Overall, our study shows the differences and similarities in the diversity and distribution of the microbial communities between an ARD and a VARD system at the source and along the oxygen gradient that establishes on the course of the river.
    • Worlds Apart - Transcriptome Profiles of Key Oral Microbes in the Periodontal Pocket Compared to Single Laboratory Culture Reflect Synergistic Interactions.

      Deng, Zhi-Luo; Sztajer, Helena; Jarek, Michael; Bhuju, Sabin; Wagner-Döbler, Irene; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (Frontiers, 2018-02-06)
      Periodontitis is a worldwide prevalent oral disease which results from dysbiosis of the periodontal microbiome. Some of the most active microbial players, e.g., Porphyromonas gingivalis, Treponema denticola, and Fusobacterium nucleatum, have extensively been studied in the laboratory, but it is unclear to which extend these findings can be transferred to in vivo conditions. Here we show that the transcriptional profiles of P. gingivalis, T. denticola, and F. nucleatum in the periodontal niche are distinct from those in single laboratory culture and exhibit functional similarities. GO (gene ontology) term enrichment analysis showed up-regulation of transporters, pathogenicity related traits and hemin/heme uptake mechanisms for all three species in vivo. Differential gene expression analysis revealed that cysteine proteases, transporters and hemin/heme-binding proteins were highly up-regulated in the periodontal niche, while genes involved in DNA modification were down-regulated. The data suggest strong interactions between those three species regarding protein degradation, iron up-take, and mobility in vivo, explaining their enhanced synergistic pathogenicity. We discovered a strikingly high frequency of Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs) in vivo. For F. nucleatum we discovered a total of 127,729 SNPs in periodontal niche transcripts, which were found in similar frequency in health and disease and covered the entire genome, suggesting continuous evolution in the host. We conclude that metabolic interactions shape gene expression in vivo. Great caution is required when inferring pathogenicity of microbes from laboratory data, and microdiversity is an important adaptive trait of natural communities.
    • Long-Term Neuroinflammation Induced by Influenza A Virus Infection and the Impact on Hippocampal Neuron Morphology and Function.

      Hosseini, Shirin; Wilk, Esther; Michaelsen-Preusse, Kristin; Gerhauser, Ingo; Baumgärtner, Wolfgang; Geffers, Robert; Schughart, Klaus; Korte, Martin; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (Society for Neuroscience, 2018-02-27)
      Acute influenza infection has been reported to be associated with neurological symptoms. However, the long-term consequences of an infection with neurotropic and non-neurotropic influenza A virus (IAV) variants for the CNS remain elusive. We can show that spine loss in the hippocampus after infection with neurotropic H7N7 (rSC35M) and non-neurotropic H3N2 (maHK68) in female C57BL/6 mice persists well beyond the acute phase of the disease. Although spine number was significantly reduced at 30 d postinfection (dpi) with H7N7 or H3N2, full recovery could only be observed much later at 120 dpi. Infection with H1N1 virus, which was shown previously to affect spine number and hippocampus-dependent learning acutely, had no significant long-term effects. Spine loss was associated with an increase in the number of activated microglia, reduced long-term potentiation in the hippocampus, and impairment in spatial memory formation, indicating that IAV-associated inflammation induced functional and structural alterations in hippocampal networks. Transcriptome analyses revealed regulation of many inflammatory and neuron- and glia-specific genes in H3N2- and H7N7-infected mice at day 18 and in H7N7-infected mice at day 30 pi that related to the structural and functional alterations. Our data provide evidence that neuroinflammation induced by neurotropic H7N7 and infection of the lung with a non-neurotropic H3N2 IAV result in long-term impairments in the CNS. IAV infection in humans may therefore not only lead to short-term responses in infected organs, but may also trigger neuroinflammation and associated chronic alterations in the CNS.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT In the acute phase of influenza infection, neuroinflammation can lead to alterations in hippocampal neuronal morphology and cognitive deficits. The results of this study now also provide evidence that neuroinflammation induced by influenza A virus (IAV) infection can induce longer-lasting, virus-specific alterations in neuronal connectivity that are still detectable 1 month after infection and are associated with impairments in spatial memory formation. IAV infection in humans may therefore not only lead to short-term responses in infected organs, but may also trigger neuroinflammation and associated chronic alterations in the CNS.
    • Antisense transcription in Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

      Eckweiler, Denitsa; Häussler, Susanne; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (Microbiology Society, 2018-05-08)
      A large number of antisense transcripts have been detected in diverse microbial genomes and considerable effort has been devoted to elucidating the functional role of antisense transcription. In this study, we reanalysed extensive RNA sequencing data from the opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa and found that the majority of genes have a propensity for antisense transcription. Although antisense transcripts were found in more than 80 % of the genes of the P. aeruginosa genome, the majority of sequencing reads were mapping sense and only a minority (<2 %) were mapping antisense to genes. Similarly to the sense expression levels, the antisense expression levels varied under different environmental conditions, with the sense and antisense expression levels often being inversely regulated and modulated by the activity of alternative sigma factors. Environment-modulated antisense transcription showed a bias towards being antisense to genes within regions of genomic plasticity and to those encoding small regulatory RNAs. In the future, the validation and functional characterization of antisense transcripts, and novel transcripts that are antisense to small regulatory RNAs in particular, have the potential to contribute to our understanding of the various levels of transcriptional regulation and its dynamics in the bacterial pathogen P. aeruginosa.