• Connection Between Chromosomal Location and Function of CtrA Phosphorelay Genes in Alphaproteobacteria.

      Tomasch, Jürgen; Koppenhöfer, Sonja; Lang, Andrew S; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (Frontiers, 2021-04-29)
      Most bacterial chromosomes are circular, with replication starting at one origin (ori) and proceeding on both replichores toward the terminus (ter). Several studies have shown that the location of genes relative to ori and ter can have profound effects on regulatory networks and physiological processes. The CtrA phosphorelay is a gene regulatory system conserved in most alphaproteobacteria. It was first discovered in Caulobacter crescentus where it controls replication and division into a stalked and a motile cell in coordination with other factors. The locations of the ctrA gene and targets of this response regulator on the chromosome affect their expression through replication-induced DNA hemi-methylation and specific positioning along a CtrA activity gradient in the dividing cell, respectively. Here we asked to what extent the location of CtrA regulatory network genes might be conserved in the alphaproteobacteria. We determined the locations of the CtrA phosphorelay and associated genes in closed genomes with unambiguously identifiable ori from members of five alphaproteobacterial orders. The location of the phosphorelay genes was the least conserved in the Rhodospirillales followed by the Sphingomonadales. In the Rhizobiales a trend toward certain chromosomal positions could be observed. Compared to the other orders, the CtrA phosphorelay genes were conserved closer to ori in the Caulobacterales. In contrast, the genes were highly conserved closer to ter in the Rhodobacterales. Our data suggest selection pressure results in differential positioning of CtrA phosphorelay and associated genes in alphaproteobacteria, particularly in the orders Rhodobacterales, Caulobacterales and Rhizobiales that is worth deeper investigation.
    • Quo vadis clinical diagnostic microbiology?

      Haag, Sara; Häussler, Susanne; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (Elsevier, 2021-07-26)
      No abstract available
    • Targeting Bacterial Gyrase with Cystobactamid, Fluoroquinolone, and Aminocoumarin Antibiotics Induces Distinct Molecular Signatures in Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

      Franke, Raimo; Overwin, Heike; Häussler, Susanne; Brönstrup, Mark; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (ASM, 2021-07-13)
      The design of novel antibiotics relies on a profound understanding of their mechanism of action. While it has been shown that cellular effects of antibiotics cluster according to their molecular targets, we investigated whether compounds binding to different sites of the same target can be differentiated by their transcriptome or metabolome signatures. The effects of three fluoroquinolones, two aminocoumarins, and two cystobactamids, all inhibiting bacterial gyrase, on Pseudomonas aeruginosa at subinhibitory concentrations could be distinguished clearly by RNA sequencing as well as metabolomics. We observed a strong (2.8- to 212-fold) induction of autolysis-triggering pyocins in all gyrase inhibitors, which correlated with extracellular DNA (eDNA) release. Gyrase B-binding aminocoumarins induced the most pronounced changes, including a strong downregulation of phenazine and rhamnolipid virulence factors. Cystobactamids led to a downregulation of a glucose catabolism pathway. The study implies that clustering cellular mechanisms of action according to the primary target needs to take class-dependent variances into account. IMPORTANCE Novel antibiotics are urgently needed to tackle the growing worldwide problem of antimicrobial resistance. Bacterial pathogens possess few privileged targets for a successful therapy: the majority of existing antibiotics as well as current candidates in development target the complex bacterial machinery for cell wall synthesis, protein synthesis, or DNA replication. An important mechanistic question addressed by this study is whether inhibiting such a complex target at different sites with different compounds has similar or differentiated cellular consequences. Using transcriptomics and metabolomics, we demonstrate that three different classes of gyrase inhibitors can be distinguished by their molecular signatures in P. aeruginosa. We describe the cellular effects of a promising, recently identified gyrase inhibitor class, the cystobactamids, in comparison to those of the established gyrase A-binding fluoroquinolones and the gyrase B-binding aminocoumarins. The study results have implications for mode-of-action discovery approaches based on target-specific reference compounds, as they highlight the intraclass variability of cellular compound effects.
    • 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; Häussler, 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • Genetic determinants of Pseudomonas aeruginosa fitness during biofilm growth.

      Schinner, Silvia; Engelhardt, Florian; Preusse, Matthias; Thöming, Janne Gesine; Tomasch, Jürgen; Häussler, Susanne; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (Elsevier, 2020-04-02)
      Pseudomonas aeruginosa is an environmental bacterium and an opportunistic human pathogen. It is also a well-established model organism to study bacterial adaptation to stressful conditions, such as those encountered during an infection process in the human host. Advancing knowledge on P. aeruginosa adaptation to biofilm growth conditions is bound to reveal novel strategies and targets for the treatment of chronic biofilm-associated infections. Here, we generated transposon insertion libraries in three P. aeruginosa strain backgrounds and determined the relative frequency of each insertion following biofilm growth using transposon sequencing. We demonstrate that in general the SOS response, several tRNA modifying enzymes as well as adaptation to microaerophilic growth conditions play a key role in bacterial survival under biofilm growth conditions. On the other hand, presence of genes involved in motility and PQS signaling were less important during biofilm growth. Several mutants exhibiting transposon insertions in genes detected in our screen were validated for their biofilm growth capabilities and biofilm specific transcriptional responses using independently generated transposon mutants. Our results provide new insights into P. aeruginosa adaptation to biofilm growth conditions. The detection of previously unknown determinants of biofilm survival supports the use of transposon insertion sequencing as a global genomic technology for understanding the establishment of difficult to treat biofilm-associated infections.
    • 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.
    • Organism-specific depletion of highly abundant RNA species from bacterial total RNA.

      Engelhardt, Florian; Tomasch, Jürgen; Häussler, Susanne; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (Microbiology Society, 2020-09-09)
      High-throughput sequencing has become a standard tool for transcriptome analysis. The depletion of overrepresented RNA species from sequencing libraries plays a key role in establishing potent and cost-efficient RNA-seq routines. Commercially available kits are known to obtain good results for the reduction of ribosomal RNA (rRNA). However, we found that the transfer-messenger RNA (tmRNA) was frequently highly abundant in rRNA-depleted samples of Pseudomonas aeruginosa , consuming up to 25 % of the obtained reads. The tmRNA fraction was particularly high in samples taken from stationary cultures. This suggests that overrepresentation of this RNA species reduces the mRNA fraction when cells are grown under challenging conditions. Here, we present an RNase-H-based depletion protocol that targets the tmRNA in addition to ribosomal RNAs. We were able to increase the mRNA fraction to 93-99% and therefore outperform not only the commercially Ribo-off kit (Vazyme) operating by the same principle but also the formerly widely used Ribo-Zero kit (Illumina). Maximizing the read share of scientifically interesting RNA species enhances the discriminatory potential of next-generation RNA-seq experiments and, therefore, can contribute to a better understanding of the transcriptomic landscape of bacterial pathogens and their used mechanisms in host infection.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • Single-nucleotide polymorphism-based genetic diversity analysis of clinical Pseudomonas aeruginosa isolates.

      Muthukumarasamy, Uthayakumar; Preusse, Matthias; Kordes, Adrian; Koska, Michal; Schniederjans, Monika; Khaledi, Ariane; Häussler, Susanne; TWINCORE, Zentrum für experimentelle und klinische Infektionsforschung GmbH,Feodor-Lynen Str. 7, 30625 Hannover, Germany. (Oxford Academic, 2020-03-20)
      Extensive use of next-generation sequencing has the potential to transform our knowledge on how genomic variation within bacterial species impacts phenotypic versatility. Since different environments have unique selection pressures, they drive divergent evolution. However, there is also parallel or convergent evolution of traits in independent bacterial isolates inhabiting similar environments. The application of tools to describe population-wide genomic diversity provides an opportunity to measure the predictability of genetic changes underlying adaptation. Here we describe patterns of sequence variations in the core genome among 99 individual Pseudomonas aeruginosa clinical isolates and identified single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that are the basis for branching of the phylogenetic tree. We also identified SNPs that were acquired independently, in separate lineages, and not through inheritance from a common ancestor. While our results demonstrate that the P. aeruginosa core genome is highly conserved and in general, not subject to adaptive evolution, instances of parallel evolution will provide an opportunity to uncover genetic changes that underlie phenotypic diversity.