• 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.
    • Genetically diverse Pseudomonas aeruginosa populations display similar transcriptomic profiles in a cystic fibrosis explanted lung.

      Kordes, Adrian; Preusse, Matthias; Willger, Sven D; Braubach, Peter; Jonigk, Danny; Haverich, Axel; Warnecke, Gregor; Häussler, Susanne; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (Springer-Nature, 2019-07-30)
      Previous studies have demonstrated substantial genetic diversification of Pseudomonas aeruginosa across sub-compartments in cystic fibrosis (CF) lungs. Here, we isolate P. aeruginosa from five different sampling areas in the upper and lower airways of an explanted CF lung, analyze ex vivo transcriptional profiles by RNA-seq, and use colony re-sequencing and deep population sequencing to determine the genetic diversity within and across the various sub-compartments. We find that, despite genetic variation, the ex vivo transcriptional profiles of P. aeruginosa populations inhabiting different regions of the CF lung are similar. Although we cannot estimate the extent to which the transcriptional response recorded here actually reflects the in vivo transcriptomes, our results indicate that there may be a common in vivo transcriptional profile in the CF lung environment.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • Identification and quantification of (t)RNA modifications in Pseudomonas aeruginosa by liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry.

      Grobe, Svenja; Doberenz, Sebastian; Ferreira, Kevin; Krueger, Jonas; Brönstrup, Mark; Kaever, Volkhard; Häußler, Susanne; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (Wiley-Blackwell, 2019-01-15)
      Transfer RNA (tRNA) modifications impact the structure and function of tRNAs thus affecting the efficiency and fidelity of translation. In the opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa translational regulation plays an important but less defined role in the adaptation to changing environments. In this study, we explored tRNA modifications in P. aeruginosa using LC-MS/MS based approaches. Neutral Loss Scan (NLS) demonstrated the potential to identify previously unknown modifications, while Multiple Reaction Monitoring (MRM) can detect modifications with high specificity and sensitivity. In this study, the MRM-based external calibration method allowed for quantification of the 4 canonical and 32 modified ribonucleosides, of which 21 tRNA modifications were quantified in the total tRNA pool of P. aeruginosa PA14. We also purified the single tRNA isoacceptors tRNA-ArgUCU, tRNA-LeuCAA and tRNA-TrpCCA and determined, both qualitatively and quantitatively, their specific modification pattern. Deeper insights into the nature and dynamics of tRNA modifications in P. aeruginosa will pave the way for further studies on posttranscriptional gene regulation as a relatively unexplored molecular mechanism of controlling bacterial pathogenicity and life style.
    • 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.
    • Identification of the alternative sigma factor SigX regulon and its implications for Pseudomonas aeruginosa pathogenicity.

      Blanka, Andrea; Schulz, Sebastian; Eckweiler, Denitsa; Franke, Raimo; Bielecka, Agata; Nicolai, Tanja; Casilag, Fiordiligie; Düvel, Juliane; Abraham, Wolf-Rainer; Kaever, Volkhard; et al. (2014-01)
      Pseudomonas aeruginosa is distinguished by its broad metabolic diversity and its remarkable capability for adaptation, which relies on a large collection of transcriptional regulators and alternative sigma (σ) factors. The largest group of alternative σ factors is that of the extracytoplasmic function (ECF) σ factors, which control key transduction pathways for maintenance of envelope homeostasis in response to external stress and cell growth. In addition, there are specific roles of alternative σ factors in regulating the expression of virulence and virulence-associated genes. Here, we analyzed a deletion mutant of the ECF σ factor SigX and applied mRNA profiling to define the SigX-dependent regulon in P. aeruginosa in response to low-osmolarity-medium conditions. Furthermore, the combination of transcriptional data with chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) followed by high-throughput sequencing (ChIP-seq) led to the identification of the DNA binding motif of SigX. Genome-wide mapping of SigX-binding regions revealed enrichment of downstream genes involved in fatty acid biosynthesis, type III secretion, swarming and cyclic di-GMP (c-di-GMP) signaling. In accordance, a sigX deletion mutant exhibited altered fatty acid composition of the cell membrane, reduced cytotoxicity, impaired swarming activity, elevated c-di-GMP levels, and increased biofilm formation. In conclusion, a combination of ChIP-seq with transcriptional profiling and bioinformatic approaches to define consensus DNA binding sequences proved to be effective for the elucidation of the regulon of the alternative σ factor SigX, revealing its role in complex virulence-associated phenotypes in P. aeruginosa.
    • The immunogenic potential of bacterial flagella for Salmonella-mediated tumor therapy.

      Felgner, Sebastian; Spöring, Imke; Pawar, Vinay; Kocijancic, Dino; Preusse, Matthias; Falk, Christine; Rohde, Manfred; Häussler, Susanne; Weiss, Siegfried; Erhardt, Marc; et al. (Wiley-Blackwell, 2019-11-21)
      Genetically engineered Salmonella Typhimurium are potent vectors for prophylactic and therapeutic measures against pathogens as well as cancer. This is based on the potent adjuvanticity that supports strong immune responses. The physiology of Salmonella is well understood. It simplifies engineering of both enhanced immune‐stimulatory properties as well as safety features, thus, resulting in an appropriate balance between attenuation and efficacy for clinical applications. A major virulence factor of Salmonella is the flagellum. It is also a strong pathogen‐associated molecular pattern recognized by extra‐ and intracellular receptors of immune cells of the host. At the same time, it represents a serious metabolic burden. Accordingly, the bacteria evolved tight regulatory mechanisms that control flagella synthesis in vivo. Here, we systematically investigated the immunogenicity and adjuvant properties of various flagella mutants of Salmonella in vitro and in a mouse cancer model in vivo. We found that mutants lacking the flagellum‐specific ATPase FliHIJ or the inner membrane ring FliF displayed the greatest stimulatory capacity and strongest anti‐tumor effects, while remaining safe in vivo. Scanning electron microscopy revealed the presence of outer membrane vesicles in the ΔfliF and ΔfliHIJ mutants. Finally, the combination of the ΔfliF and ΔfliHIJ mutations with our previously described attenuated and immunogenic background strain SF102 displayed strong efficacy against the highly resistant cancer cell line RenCa. We thus conclude that manipulating flagella biosynthesis has great potential for the construction of highly efficacious and versatile Salmonella vector strains.
    • Importance of flagella in acute and chronic Pseudomonas aeruginosa infections.

      Lorenz, Anne; Preuße, Matthias; Bruchmann, Sebastian; Pawar, Vinay; Grahl, Nora; Pils, Marina C; Nolan, Laura M; Filloux, Alain; Weiss, Siegfried; Häussler, Susanne; et al. (Wiley-Blackwell, 2018-11-08)
      Pseudomonas aeruginosa is an environmental microorganism and a causative agent of diverse acute and chronic, biofilm-associated infections. Advancing research-based knowledge on its adaptation to conditions within the human host is bound to reveal novel strategies and targets for therapeutic intervention. Here, we investigated the traits that P. aeruginosa PA14 as well as a virulence attenuated ΔlasR mutant need to survive in selected murine infection models. Experimentally, the genetic programs that the bacteria use to adapt to biofilm-associated versus acute infections were dissected by passaging transposon mutant libraries through mouse lungs (acute) or mouse tumours (biofilm-infection). Adaptive metabolic changes of P. aeruginosa were generally required during both infection processes. Counter-selection against flagella expression was observed during acute lung infections. Obviously, avoidance of flagella-mediated activation of host immunity is advantageous for the wildtype bacteria. For the ΔlasR mutant, loss of flagella did not confer a selective advantage. Apparently, other pathogenesis mechanisms are active in this virulence attenuated strain. In contrast, the infective process of P. aeruginosa in the chronic biofilm model apparently required expression of flagellin. Together, our findings imply that the host immune reactions against the infectious agent are very decisive for acuteness and duration of the infectious disease. They direct disease outcome.
    • In Vivo Efficacy of Antimicrobials against Biofilm-Producing Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

      Pawar, Vinay; Komor, Uliana; Kasnitz, Nadine; Bielecki, Piotr; Pils, Marina C; Gocht, Benjamin; Moter, Annette; Rohde, Manfred; Weiss, Siegfried; Häussler, Susanne; et al. (2015-08)
      Patients suffering from cystic fibrosis (CF) are commonly affected by chronic Pseudomonas aeruginosa biofilm infections. This is the main cause for the high disease severity. In this study, we demonstrate that P. aeruginosa is able to efficiently colonize murine solid tumors after intravenous injection and to form biofilms in this tissue. Biofilm formation was evident by electron microscopy. Such structures could not be observed with transposon mutants, which were defective in biofilm formation. Comparative transcriptional profiling of P. aeruginosa indicated physiological similarity of the bacteria in the murine tumor model and the CF lung. The efficacy of currently available antibiotics for treatment of P. aeruginosa-infected CF lungs, such as ciprofloxacin, colistin, and tobramycin, could be tested in the tumor model. We found that clinically recommended doses of these antibiotics were unable to eliminate wild-type P. aeruginosa PA14 while being effective against biofilm-defective mutants. However, colistin-tobramycin combination therapy significantly reduced the number of P. aeruginosa PA14 cells in tumors at lower concentrations. Hence, we present a versatile experimental system that is providing a platform to test approved and newly developed antibiofilm compounds.
    • 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.
    • Inoculation density and nutrient level determine the formation of mushroom-shaped structures in Pseudomonas aeruginosa biofilms.

      Ghanbari, Azadeh; Dehghany, Jaber; Schwebs, Timo; Müsken, Mathias; Häussler, Susanne; Meyer-Hermann, Michael; BRICS, Braunschweiger Zentrum für Systembiologie, Rebenring 56, 38106 Braunschweig, Germany. (2016-09-09)
      Pseudomonas aeruginosa often colonises immunocompromised patients and the lungs of cystic fibrosis patients. It exhibits resistance to many antibiotics by forming biofilms, which makes it hard to eliminate. P. aeruginosa biofilms form mushroom-shaped structures under certain circumstances. Bacterial motility and the environment affect the eventual mushroom morphology. This study provides an agent-based model for the bacterial dynamics and interactions influencing bacterial biofilm shape. Cell motility in the model relies on recently published experimental data. Our simulations show colony formation by immotile cells. Motile cells escape from a single colony by nutrient chemotaxis and hence no mushroom shape develops. A high number density of non-motile colonies leads to migration of motile cells onto the top of the colonies and formation of mushroom-shaped structures. This model proposes that the formation of mushroom-shaped structures can be predicted by parameters at the time of bacteria inoculation. Depending on nutrient levels and the initial number density of stalks, mushroom-shaped structures only form in a restricted regime. This opens the possibility of early manipulation of spatial pattern formation in bacterial colonies, using environmental factors.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • Non-invasive, ratiometric determination of intracellular pH in Pseudomonas species using a novel genetically encoded indicator.

      Arce-Rodríguez, Alejandro; Volke, Daniel C; Bense, Sarina; Häussler, Susanne; Nikel, Pablo I; HZI, Helmholtz -Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (Wiley Open, 2019-07-01)
      The ability of Pseudomonas species to thrive in all major natural environments (i.e. terrestrial, freshwater and marine) is based on its exceptional capability to adapt to physicochemical changes. Thus, environmental bacteria have to tightly control the maintenance of numerous physiological traits across different conditions. The intracellular pH (pHi ) homoeostasis is a particularly important feature, since the pHi influences a large portion of the biochemical processes in the cell. Despite its importance, relatively few reliable, easy-to-implement tools have been designed for quantifying in vivo pHi changes in Gram-negative bacteria with minimal manipulations. Here we describe a convenient, non-invasive protocol for the quantification of the pHi in bacteria, which is based on the ratiometric fluorescent indicator protein PHP (pH indicator for Pseudomonas). The DNA sequence encoding PHP was thoroughly adapted to guarantee optimal transcription and translation of the indicator in Pseudomonas species. Our PHP-based quantification method demonstrated that pHi is tightly regulated over a narrow range of pH values not only in Pseudomonas, but also in other Gram-negative bacterial species such as Escherichia coli. The maintenance of the cytoplasmic pH homoeostasis in vivo could also be observed upon internal (e.g. redirection of glucose consumption pathways in P. putida) and external (e.g. antibiotic exposure in P. aeruginosa) perturbations, and the PHP indicator was also used to follow dynamic changes in the pHi upon external pH shifts. In summary, our work describes a reliable method for measuring pHi in Pseudomonas, allowing for the detailed investigation of bacterial pHi homoeostasis and its regulation.
    • An oral multispecies biofilm model for high content screening applications.

      Kommerein, Nadine; Stumpp, Sascha N; Müsken, Mathias; Ehlert, Nina; Winkel, Andreas; Häussler, Susanne; Behrens, Peter; Buettner, Falk F R; Stiesch, Meike; Helmholtz Centre for infection research, Inhoffenstr.7, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2017)
      Peri-implantitis caused by multispecies biofilms is a major complication in dental implant treatment. The bacterial infection surrounding dental implants can lead to bone loss and, in turn, to implant failure. A promising strategy to prevent these common complications is the development of implant surfaces that inhibit biofilm development. A reproducible and easy-to-use biofilm model as a test system for large scale screening of new implant surfaces with putative antibacterial potency is therefore of major importance. In the present study, we developed a highly reproducible in vitro four-species biofilm model consisting of the highly relevant oral bacterial species Streptococcus oralis, Actinomyces naeslundii, Veillonella dispar and Porphyromonas gingivalis. The application of live/dead staining, quantitative real time PCR (qRT-PCR), scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and urea-NaCl fluorescence in situ hybridization (urea-NaCl-FISH) revealed that the four-species biofilm community is robust in terms of biovolume, live/dead distribution and individual species distribution over time. The biofilm community is dominated by S. oralis, followed by V. dispar, A. naeslundii and P. gingivalis. The percentage distribution in this model closely reflects the situation in early native plaques and is therefore well suited as an in vitro model test system. Furthermore, despite its nearly native composition, the multispecies model does not depend on nutrient additives, such as native human saliva or serum, and is an inexpensive, easy to handle and highly reproducible alternative to the available model systems. The 96-well plate format enables high content screening for optimized implant surfaces impeding biofilm formation or the testing of multiple antimicrobial treatment strategies to fight multispecies biofilm infections, both exemplary proven in the manuscript.
    • 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.
    • Parallel evolutionary paths to produce more than one biofilm phenotype.

      Thöming, Janne G; Tomasch, Jürgen; Preusse, Matthias; Koska, Michal; Grahl, Nora; Pohl, Sarah; Willger, Sven D; Kaever, Volkhard; Müsken, Mathias; Häussler, Susanne; et al. (Nature publishing group, 2020-01-01)
      Studying parallel evolution of similar traits in independent within-species lineages provides an opportunity to address evolutionary predictability of molecular changes underlying adaptation. In this study, we monitored biofilm forming capabilities, motility, and virulence phenotypes of a plethora of phylogenetically diverse clinical isolates of the opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa. We also recorded biofilm-specific and planktonic transcriptional responses. We found that P. aeruginosa isolates could be stratified based on the production of distinct organismal traits. Three major biofilm phenotypes, which shared motility and virulence phenotypes, were produced repeatedly in several isolates, indicating that the phenotypes evolved via parallel or convergent evolution. Of note, while we found a restricted general response to the biofilm environment, the individual groups of biofilm phenotypes reproduced biofilm transcriptional profiles that included the expression of well-known biofilm features, such as surface adhesive structures and extracellular matrix components. Our results provide insights into distinct ways to make a biofilm and indicate that genetic adaptations can modulate multiple pathways for biofilm development that are followed by several independent clinical isolates. Uncovering core regulatory pathways that drive biofilm-associated growth and tolerance towards environmental stressors promises to give clues to host and environmental interactions and could provide useful targets for new clinical interventions.
    • 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.
    • The peptide chain release factor methyltransferase PrmC is essential for pathogenicity and environmental adaptation of Pseudomonas aeruginosa PA14.

      Pustelny, Christian; Brouwer, Stephan; Müsken, Mathias; Bielecka, Agata; Dötsch, Andreas; Nimtz, Manfred; Häussler, Susanne; Department of Molecular Bacteriology, Helmholtz Center for Infection Research, Braunschweig, Germany. Christian.pustelny@helmholtz-hzi.de (2013-02)
      Pseudomonas aeruginosa pathogenicity and its capability to adapt to multiple environments are dependent on the production of diverse virulence factors, controlled by the sophisticated quorum sensing (QS) network of P. aeruginosa. To better understand the molecular mechanisms that underlie this adaptation we searched for novel key regulators of virulence factor production by screening a PA14 transposon mutant library for potential candidates acting downstream of the unique 2-alkyl-4-quinolone (AQ) QS system of P. aeruginosa. We focused the work on a protein named HemK with high homology to PrmC of Escherichia coli displaying a similar enzymatic activity (therefore also referred to as PrmC). In this study, we demonstrate that PrmC is an S-adenosyl-l-methionine (AdoMet)-dependent methyltransferase of peptide chain release factors (RFs) essential for the expression of several virulence factors, such as pyocyanin, rhamnolipids and the type III-secreted toxin ExoT. Furthermore, the PA14_prmC mutant strain is unable to grow under anoxic conditions and has a significantly reduced pathogenicity in the infection model Galleria mellonella. Along with transcriptomic and proteomic analyses, the presented data indicate that the methylation of RFs in P. aeruginosa seems to have a global effect on cellular processes related to the virulence of this nosocomial pathogen.