• Natural Killer Cells Mediate Protection against Yersinia pseudotuberculosis in the Mesenteric Lymph Nodes.

      Rosenheinrich, Maik; Heine, Wiebke; Schmühl, Carina M; Pisano, Fabio; Dersch, Petra; Helmholtz Centre for infection research, Inhoffenstr. 7, D-38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2015)
      Natural killer cells play a crucial role in the initial defense against bacterial pathogens. The crosstalk between host cells infected with intracellular pathogens and NK cells has been studied intensively, but not much attention has been given to characterize the role of NK cells in the response to extracellular bacterial pathogens such as yersiniae. In this study we used antibody-mediated NK cell depletion to address the importance of this immune cell type in controlling a Y. pseudotuberculosis infection. Analysis of the bacterial counts was used to follow the infection and flow cytometry was performed to characterize the composition and dynamic of immune cells. Depletion of NK cells led to higher bacterial loads within the mesenteric lymph nodes. We further show that in particular CD11b+ CD27+ NK cells which express higher levels of the activation marker CD69 increase within the mesenteric lymph nodes during a Y. pseudotuberculosis infection. Moreover, in response to the activation NK cells secrete higher levels of IFNy, which in turn triggers the production of the proinflammatory cytokine TNFα. These results suggest, that NK cells aid in the clearance of Y. pseudotuberculosis infections mainly by triggering the expression of proinflammatory cytokines manipulating the host immune response.
    • Receptor-Interacting Protein Kinase-2 Inhibition by CYLD Impairs Antibacterial Immune Responses in Macrophages.

      Wex, Katharina; Schmid, Ursula; Just, Sissy; Wang, Xu; Wurm, Rebecca; Naumann, Michael; Schlüter, Dirk; Nishanth, Gopala; Helmholtz Centre for infection research, Inhoffenstr. 7, D-38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2015)
      Upon infection with intracellular bacteria, nucleotide oligomerization domain protein 2 recognizes bacterial muramyl dipeptide and binds, subsequently, to receptor-interacting serine/threonine kinase 2 (RIPK2), which activates immune responses via the nuclear factor kappa-light-chain enhancer of activated B cells (NF-κB) and extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) pathways. Activation of RIPK2 depends on its K63 ubiquitination by E3 ligases, whereas the deubiquitinating enzyme A20 counter regulates RIPK2 activity by cleaving K63-polyubiquitin chains from RIPK2. Here, we newly identify the deubiquitinating enzyme CYLD as a new inhibitor of RIPK2. We show that CYLD binds to and removes K63-polyubiquitin chains from RIPK2 in Listeria monocytogenes (Lm) infected murine bone marrow-derived macrophages. CYLD-mediated K63 deubiquitination of RIPK2 resulted in an impaired activation of both NF-κB and ERK1/2 pathways, reduced production of proinflammatory cytokines interleukin-6 (IL-6), IL-12, anti-listerial reactive oxygen species (ROS) and nitric oxide (NO), and, finally, impaired pathogen control. In turn, RIPK2 inhibition by siRNA prevented activation of NF-κB and ERK1/2 and completely abolished the protective effect of CYLD deficiency with respect to the production of IL-6, NO, ROS, and pathogen control. Noteworthy, CYLD also inhibited autophagy of Listeria in a RIPK2-ERK1/2-dependent manner. The protective function of CYLD deficiency was dependent on interferon gamma (IFN-γ) prestimulation of infected macrophages. Interestingly, the reduced NF-κB activation in CYLD-expressing macrophages limited the protective effect of IFN-γ by reducing NF-κB-dependent signal transducers and activators of transcription-1 (STAT1) activation. Taken together, our study identifies CYLD as an important inhibitor of RIPK2-dependent antibacterial immune responses in macrophages.
    • The pyruvate-tricarboxylic acid cycle node: a focal point of virulence control in the enteric pathogen Yersinia pseudotuberculosis.

      Bücker, René; Heroven, Ann Kathrin; Becker, Judith; Dersch, Petra; Wittmann, Christoph; Helmholtz Centre for infection research, Inhoffenstr. 7, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2014-10-24)
      Despite our increasing knowledge of the specific pathogenicity factors in bacteria, the contribution of metabolic processes to virulence is largely unknown. Here, we elucidate a tight connection between pathogenicity and core metabolism in the enteric pathogen Yersinia pseudotuberculosis by integrated transcriptome and [(13)C]fluxome analysis of the wild type and virulence-regulator mutants. During aerobic growth on glucose, Y. pseudotuberculosis reveals an unusual flux distribution with a high level of secreted pyruvate. The absence of the transcriptional and post-transcriptional regulators RovA, CsrA, and Crp strongly perturbs the fluxes of carbon core metabolism at the level of pyruvate metabolism and the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle, and these perturbations are accompanied by transcriptional changes in the corresponding enzymes. Knock-outs of regulators of this metabolic branch point and of its central enzyme, pyruvate kinase (ΔpykF), result in mutants with significantly reduced virulence in an oral mouse infection model. In summary, our work identifies the pyruvate-TCA cycle node as a focal point for controlling the host colonization and virulence of Yersinia.
    • Molekulare Thermometer zur Steuerung der Virulenz von Yersinia

      Heroven, Ann Kathrin; Dersch, Petra; Dept. of molecular infectionbiology, Helmholtz Centre for infection research, Inhoffenstr. 7, D38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2014-09-23)
    • A direct link between the global regulator PhoP and the Csr regulon in Y. pseudotuberculosis through the small regulatory RNA CsrC.

      Nuss, Aaron M; Schuster, Franziska; Kathrin Heroven, Ann; Heine, Wiebke; Pisano, Fabio; Dersch, Petra; Department of Molecular Infection Biology; Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research; Braunschweig, Germany. (2014-05)
      In this study we investigated the influence of the global response regulator PhoP on the complex regulatory cascade controlling expression of early stage virulence genes of Yersinia pseudotuberculosis via the virulence regulator RovA. Our analysis revealed the following novel features: (1) PhoP activates expression of the CsrC RNA in Y. pseudotuberculosis, leading to activation of RovA synthesis through the CsrABC-RovM cascade, (2) activation of csrC transcription is direct and PhoP is shown to bind to two separate PhoP box-like sites, (3) PhoP-mediated activation results in transcription from two different promoters closely downstream of the PhoP binding sites, leading to two distinct CsrC RNAs, and (4) the stability of the CsrC RNAs differs significantly between the Y. pseudotuberculosis strains YPIII and IP32953 due to a 20 nucleotides insertion in CsrC(IP32953), which renders the transcript more susceptible to degradation. In summary, our study showed that PhoP-mediated influence on the regulatory cascade controlling the Csr system and RovA in Y. pseudotuberculosis varies within the species, suggesting that the Csr system is a focal point to readjust and adapt the genus to different hosts and reservoirs.
    • Influence of PhoP and intra-species variations on virulence of Yersinia pseudotuberculosis during the natural oral infection route.

      Pisano, Fabio; Heine, Wiebke; Rosenheinrich, Maik; Schweer, Janina; Nuss, Aaron M; Dersch, Petra (2014)
      The two-component regulatory system PhoP/PhoQ has been shown to (i) control expression of virulence-associated traits, (ii) confer survival and growth within macrophages and (iii) play a role in Yersinia infections. However, the influence of PhoP on virulence varied greatly between different murine models of infection and its role in natural oral infections with frequently used representative isolates of Y. pseudotuberculosis was unknown. To address this issue, we constructed an isogenic set of phoP+ and phoP- variants of strain IP32953 and YPIII and analyzed the impact of PhoP using in vitro functionality experiments and a murine oral infection model, whereby we tested for bacterial dissemination and influence on the host immune response. Our results revealed that PhoP has a low impact on virulence, lymphatic and systemic organ colonization, and on immune response modulation by IP32953 and YPIII, indicating that PhoP is not absolutely essential for oral infections but may be involved in fine-tuning the outcome. Our work further revealed certain strain-specific differences in virulence properties, which do not strongly rely on the function of PhoP, but affect tissue colonization, dissemination and/or persistence of the bacteria. Highlighted intra-species variations may provide a potential means to rapidly adjust to environmental changes inside and outside of the host.
    • Smart sustainable bottle (SSB) system for E. coli based recombinant protein production.

      Li, Zhaopeng; Carstensen, Bettina; Rinas, Ursula; Helmholtz Centre for infection research, Inhoffenstr. 7, D-38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2014)
      Recombinant proteins are usually required in laboratories interested in the protein but not in the production process itself. Thus, technical equipment which is easy to handle and straight forward protein production procedures are of great benefit to those laboratories. Companies selling single use cultivation bags and bioreactors are trying to satisfy at least part of these needs. However, single-use systems can contribute to major costs which might be acceptable when "good manufacturing practices" are required but not acceptable for most laboratories facing tight funding.
    • The Cytotoxic Necrotizing Factor of Yersinia pseudotuberculosis (CNFY) Enhances Inflammation and Yop Delivery during Infection by Activation of Rho GTPases.

      Schweer, Janina; Kulkarni, Devesha; Kochut, Annika; Pezoldt, Joern; Pisano, Fabio; Pils, Marina C; Genth, Harald; Huehn, Jochen; Dersch, Petra; Department of Molecular Infection Biology, Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research, Braunschweig, Germany. (2013-11)
      Some isolates of Yersinia pseudotuberculosis produce the cytotoxic necrotizing factor (CNFY), but the functional consequences of this toxin for host-pathogen interactions during the infection are unknown. In the present study we show that CNFY has a strong influence on virulence. We demonstrate that the CNFY toxin is thermo-regulated and highly expressed in all colonized lymphatic tissues and organs of orally infected mice. Most strikingly, we found that a cnfY knock-out variant of a naturally toxin-expressing Y. pseudotuberculosis isolate is strongly impaired in its ability to disseminate into the mesenteric lymph nodes, liver and spleen, and has fully lost its lethality. The CNFY toxin contributes significantly to the induction of acute inflammatory responses and to the formation of necrotic areas in infected tissues. The analysis of the host immune response demonstrated that presence of CNFY leads to a strong reduction of professional phagocytes and natural killer cells in particular in the spleen, whereas loss of the toxin allows efficient tissue infiltration of these immune cells and rapid killing of the pathogen. Addition of purified CNFY triggers formation of actin-rich membrane ruffles and filopodia, which correlates with the activation of the Rho GTPases, RhoA, Rac1 and Cdc42. The analysis of type III effector delivery into epithelial and immune cells in vitro and during the course of the infection further demonstrated that CNFY enhances the Yop translocation process and supports a role for the toxin in the suppression of the antibacterial host response. In summary, we highlight the importance of CNFY for pathogenicity by showing that this toxin modulates inflammatory responses, protects the bacteria from attacks of innate immune effectors and enhances the severity of a Yersinia infection.
    • Human and animal isolates of Yersinia enterocolitica show significant serotype-specific colonization and host-specific immune defense properties.

      Schaake, Julia; Kronshage, Malte; Uliczka, Frank; Rohde, Manfred; Knuuti, Tobias; Strauch, Eckhard; Fruth, Angelika; Wos-Oxley, Melissa; Dersch, Petra; Dept. of molecular infection biology, Helmholtz Centre for infection biology, Inhoffenstr. 7, D-38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2013-11)
      Yersinia enterocolitica is a human pathogen that is ubiquitous in livestock, especially pigs. The bacteria are able to colonize the intestinal tract of a variety of mammalian hosts, but the severity of induced gut-associated diseases (yersiniosis) differs significantly between hosts. To gain more information about the individual virulence determinants that contribute to colonization and induction of immune responses in different hosts, we analyzed and compared the interactions of different human- and animal-derived isolates of serotypes O:3, O:5,27, O:8, and O:9 with murine, porcine, and human intestinal cells and macrophages. The examined strains exhibited significant serotype-specific cell binding and entry characteristics, but adhesion and uptake into different host cells were not host specific and were independent of the source of the isolate. In contrast, survival and replication within macrophages and the induced proinflammatory response differed between murine, porcine, and human macrophages, suggesting a host-specific immune response. In fact, similar levels of the proinflammatory cytokine macrophage inflammatory protein 2 (MIP-2) were secreted by murine bone marrow-derived macrophages with all tested isolates, but the equivalent interleukin-8 (IL-8) response of porcine bone marrow-derived macrophages was strongly serotype specific and considerably lower in O:3 than in O:8 strains. In addition, all tested Y. enterocolitica strains caused a considerably higher level of secretion of the anti-inflammatory cytokine IL-10 by porcine than by murine macrophages. This could contribute to limiting the severity of the infection (in particular of serotype O:3 strains) in pigs, which are the primary reservoir of Y. enterocolitica strains pathogenic to humans.
    • Bacterial invasion factors: Tools for crossing biological barriers and drug delivery?

      Kochut, Annika; Dersch, Petra; Department of Molecular Infection Biology, Helmholtz Center for Infection Research, Braunschweig, Germany. (2013-06)
      The oral route is the preferential route of drug delivery in humans. However, effective delivery through the gastrointestinal tract is often hampered by the low permeability of the intestinal epithelium. One possibility to overcome this problem is the encapsulation of drugs inside nanoparticulate systems, containing targeting moieties with cell invasive properties. The bioinvasive features of the delivery system could be provided by the attachment of bacterial invasion factors, which promote efficient uptake into host cells and mediate rapid transcytosis of the pathogen through the intestinal epithelium. This review gives an overview of bacterial invasion systems. The molecular structure and function of suitable bacterial invasins, their relative values as targeting agents and possible pitfalls of their use are described. The potential of bioinvasive drug delivery systems is mainly presented on the basis of the well-characterized Yersinia invasin protein, which enters M cells to gain access to subepithelial layers of the gastrointestinal tract, but alternative approaches and future prospects for oral drug delivery are also discussed.
    • Thermosensing to adjust bacterial virulence in a fluctuating environment.

      Steinmann, Rebekka; Dersch, Petra; Department of Molecular Infection Biology, Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research, Braunschweig, Germany. (2013-01)
      The lifecycle of most microbial pathogens can be divided into two states: existence outside and inside their hosts. The sudden temperature upshift experienced upon entry from environmental or vector reservoirs into a warm-blooded host is one of the most crucial signals informing the pathogens to adjust virulence gene expression and their host-stress survival program. This article reviews the plethora of sophisticated strategies that bacteria have evolved to sense temperature, and outlines the molecular signal transduction mechanisms used to modulate synthesis of crucial virulence determinants. The molecular details of thermal control through conformational changes of DNA, RNA and proteins are summarized, complex and diverse thermosensing principles are introduced and their potential as drug targets or synthetic tools are discussed.
    • DegS and RseP Homologous Proteases Are Involved in Singlet Oxygen Dependent Activation of RpoE in Rhodobacter sphaeroides.

      Nuss, Aaron M; Adnan, Fazal; Weber, Lennart; Berghoff, Bork A; Glaeser, Jens; Klug, Gabriele; Institute of Microbiology and Molecular Biology, Giessen University, Giessen, Germany ; Department of Molecular Infection Biology, Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research, Braunschweig, Germany. (2013)
      Singlet oxygen ((1)O2) is the main agent of photooxidative stress and is generated by photosensitizers as (bacterio)chlorophylls. It leads to the damage of cellular macromolecules and therefore photosynthetic organisms have to mount an adaptive response to (1)O2 formation. A major player of the photooxidative stress response in Rhodobacter sphaeroides is the alternative sigma factor RpoE, which is inactivated under non-stress conditions by its cognate anti-sigma factor ChrR. By using random mutagenesis we identified RSP_1090 to be required for full activation of the RpoE response under (1)O2 stress, but not under organic peroxide stress. In this study we show that both RSP_1090 and RSP_1091 are required for full resistance towards (1)O2. Moreover, we revealed that the DegS and RseP homologs RSP_3242 and RSP_2710 contribute to (1)O2 resistance and promote ChrR proteolysis. The RpoE signaling pathway in R. sphaeroides is therefore highly similar to that of Escherichia coli, although very different anti-sigma factors control RpoE activity. Based on the acquired results, the current model for RpoE activation in response to (1)O2 exposure in R. sphaeroides was extended.
    • Structural Basis for Intrinsic Thermosensing by the Master Virulence Regulator RovA of Yersinia.

      Quade, Nick; Mendonca, Chriselle; Herbst, Katharina; Heroven, Ann Kathrin; Ritter, Christiane; Heinz, Dirk W; Dersch, Petra; From the Departments of Molecular Structural Biology and. (2012-10-19)
      Pathogens often rely on thermosensing to adjust virulence gene expression. In yersiniae, important virulence-associated traits are under the control of the master regulator RovA, which uses a built-in thermosensor to control its activity. Thermal upshifts encountered upon host entry induce conformational changes in the RovA dimer that attenuate DNA binding and render the protein more susceptible to proteolysis. Here, we report the crystal structure of RovA in the free and DNA-bound forms and provide evidence that thermo-induced loss of RovA activity is promoted mainly by a thermosensing loop in the dimerization domain and residues in the adjacent C-terminal helix. These determinants allow partial unfolding of the regulator upon an upshift to 37 °C. This structural distortion is transmitted to the flexible DNA-binding domain of RovA. RovA contacts mainly the DNA backbone in a low-affinity binding mode, which allows the immediate release of RovA from its operator sites. We also show that SlyA, a close homolog of RovA from Salmonella with a very similar structure, is not a thermosensor and remains active and stable at 37 °C. Strikingly, changes in only three amino acids, reflecting evolutionary replacements in SlyA, result in a complete loss of the thermosensing properties of RovA and prevent degradation. In conclusion, only minor alterations can transform a thermotolerant regulator into a thermosensor that allows adjustment of virulence and fitness determinants to their thermal environment.
    • The Csr/Rsm system of Yersinia and related pathogens: A post-transcriptional strategy for managing virulence.

      Heroven, Ann Kathrin; Böhme, Katja; Dersch, Petra; Department of Molecular Infection Biology; Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research; Braunschweig, Germany; These authors contributed equally to this work. (2012-04-01)
      This review emphasizes the function and regulation of the Csr regulatory system in the human enteropathogen Yersinia pseudotuberculosis and compares its features with the homologous Csr/Rsm systems of related pathogens. The Csr/Rsm systems of eubacteria form a complex regulatory network in which redundant non-translated Csr/Rsm-RNAs bind the RNA-binding protein CsrA/RsmA, thereby preventing its interaction with mRNA targets. The Csr system is controlled by the BarA/UvrY-type of two-component sensor-regulator systems. Apart from that, common or pathogen-specific regulators control the abundance of the Csr components. The coordinate control of virulence factors and infection-linked physiological traits by the Csr/Rsm systems helps the pathogens to adapt individually to rapidly changing conditions to which they are exposed during the different stages of an infection. As Csr/Rsm function is relevant for full virulence, it represents a target suitable for antimicrobial drug development.
    • Concerted actions of a thermo-labile regulator and a unique intergenic RNA thermosensor control Yersinia virulence.

      Böhme, Katja; Steinmann, Rebekka; Kortmann, Jens; Seekircher, Stephanie; Heroven, Ann Kathrin; Berger, Evelin; Pisano, Fabio; Thiermann, Tanja; Wolf-Watz, Hans; Narberhaus, Franz; et al. (2012-02)
      Expression of all Yersinia pathogenicity factors encoded on the virulence plasmid, including the yop effector and the ysc type III secretion genes, is controlled by the transcriptional activator LcrF in response to temperature. Here, we show that a protein- and RNA-dependent hierarchy of thermosensors induce LcrF synthesis at body temperature. Thermally regulated transcription of lcrF is modest and mediated by the thermo-sensitive modulator YmoA, which represses transcription from a single promoter located far upstream of the yscW-lcrF operon at moderate temperatures. The transcriptional response is complemented by a second layer of temperature-control induced by a unique cis-acting RNA element located within the intergenic region of the yscW-lcrF transcript. Structure probing demonstrated that this region forms a secondary structure composed of two stemloops at 25°C. The second hairpin sequesters the lcrF ribosomal binding site by a stretch of four uracils. Opening of this structure was favored at 37°C and permitted ribosome binding at host body temperature. Our study further provides experimental evidence for the biological relevance of an RNA thermometer in an animal model. Following oral infections in mice, we found that two different Y. pseudotuberculosis patient isolates expressing a stabilized thermometer variant were strongly reduced in their ability to disseminate into the Peyer's patches, liver and spleen and have fully lost their lethality. Intriguingly, Yersinia strains with a destabilized version of the thermosensor were attenuated or exhibited a similar, but not a higher mortality. This illustrates that the RNA thermometer is the decisive control element providing just the appropriate amounts of LcrF protein for optimal infection efficiency.
    • Crp Induces Switching of the CsrB and CsrC RNAs in Yersinia pseudotuberculosis and Links Nutritional Status to Virulence.

      Heroven, Ann Kathrin; Sest, Maike; Pisano, Fabio; Scheb-Wetzel, Matthias; Steinmann, Rebekka; Böhme, Katja; Klein, Johannes; Münch, Richard; Schomburg, Dietmar; Dersch, Petra; et al. (2012)
      Colonization of the intestinal tract and dissemination into deeper tissues by the enteric pathogen Yersinia pseudotuberculosis demands expression of a special set of virulence factors important for the initiation and the persistence of the infection. In this study we demonstrate that many virulence-associated functions are coregulated with the carbohydrate metabolism. This link is mediated by the carbon storage regulator (Csr) system, including the regulatory RNAs CsrB and CsrC, and the cAMP receptor protein (Crp), which both control virulence gene expression in response to the nutrient composition of the medium. Here, we show that Crp regulates the synthesis of both Csr RNAs in an opposite manner. A loss of the crp gene resulted in a strong upregulation of CsrB synthesis, whereas CsrC levels were strongly reduced leading to downregulation of the virulence regulator RovA. Switching of the Csr RNA involves Crp-mediated repression of the response regulator UvrY which activates csrB transcription. To elucidate the regulatory links between virulence and carbon metabolism, we performed comparative metabolome, transcriptome, and phenotypic microarray analyses and found that Crp promotes oxidative catabolism of many different carbon sources, whereas fermentative patterns of metabolism are favored when crp is deleted. Mouse infection experiments further demonstrated that Crp is pivotal for a successful Y. pseudotuberculosis infection. In summary, placement of the Csr system and important virulence factors under control of Crp enables this pathogen to link its nutritional status to virulence in order to optimize biological fitness and infection efficiency through the infectious life cycle.
    • Unique virulence properties of Yersinia enterocolitica O:3.

      Uliczka, Frank; Dersch, Petra; Department of Molecular Infection Biology, Helmholtz Center for Infection Research, Inhoffenstrasse 7, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2012)
    • Unique cell adhesion and invasion properties of Yersinia enterocolitica O:3, the most frequent cause of human Yersiniosis.

      Uliczka, Frank; Pisano, Fabio; Schaake, Julia; Stolz, Tatjana; Rohde, Manfred; Fruth, Angelika; Strauch, Eckhard; Skurnik, Mikael; Batzilla, Julia; Rakin, Alexander; et al. (2011-07)
      Many enteric pathogens are equipped with multiple cell adhesion factors which are important for host tissue colonization and virulence. Y. enterocolitica, a common food-borne pathogen with invasive properties, uses the surface proteins invasin and YadA for host cell binding and entry. In this study, we demonstrate unique cell adhesion and invasion properties of Y. enterocolitica serotype O:3 strains, the most frequent cause of human yersiniosis, and show that these differences are mainly attributable to variations affecting the function and expression of invasin in response to temperature. In contrast to other enteric Yersinia strains, invasin production in O:3 strains is constitutive and largely enhanced compared to other Y. enterocolitica serotypes, in which invA expression is temperature-regulated and significantly reduced at 37°C. Increase of invasin levels is caused by (i) an IS1667 insertion into the invA promoter region, which includes an additional promoter and RovA and H-NS binding sites, and (ii) a P98S substitution in the invA activator protein RovA rendering the regulator less susceptible to proteolysis. Both variations were shown to influence bacterial colonization in a murine infection model. Furthermore, we found that co-expression of YadA and down-regulation of the O-antigen at 37°C is required to allow efficient internalization by the InvA protein. We conclude that even small variations in the expression of virulence factors can provoke a major difference in the virulence properties of closely related pathogens which may confer better survival or a higher pathogenic potential in a certain host or host environment.
    • Filamentous fungi in good shape: Microparticles for tailor-made fungal morphology and enhanced enzyme production.

      Driouch, Habib; Roth, Andreas; Dersch, Petra; Wittmann, Christoph; Institute of Biochemical Engineering, Technische Universität Braunschweig, Germany. (2011-03-01)
      Filamentous fungi such as Aspergillus niger are important biocatalysts for industrial production of various enzymes as well as organic acids or antibiotics. In suspended culture these microorganisms exhibit a complex morphology which typically has a strong influence on their production properties. In this regard, we have recently shown that the addition of inorganic micro particles to the culture medium is a straightforward and elegant approach to precisely tame fungal morphology. For A. niger a full range of morphological forms from pellets with different diameters to free mycelium could be adjusted by supplementation with talc powder. Aluminium oxide particles similarly affected morphology, showing that this effect is largely independent of the chemical particle composition. Exemplified for different recombinant A. niger strains enzyme production could be strongly enhanced by the addition of microparticles. This was demonstrated for the production of fructofuranosidase, an important high-value biocatalyst for pre-biotic fructo-oligosaccharides, by recombinant A. niger. In a microparticle enhanced fed-batch process, a highly productive mycelium could be achieved. The enzyme titre of 2800 U/mL finally reached was more then tenfold higher then that of any other process reported so far. Here we provide additional insights into the novel production process. This includes the confirmation of the highly selective production of the target enzyme fructofuranosidase using MALDI-TOF MS analysis. Moreover, we show that the obtained enzyme suspension can be efficiently used with minimal pre-treatment for the biosynthesis of short chain fructooligosaccharides of the inulin type, such as 1-kestose and 1-nystose, prebiotics with substantial commercial interest. In particular, these compounds are highly attractive for human consumption, since they have been shown to reduce the risk of colon cancer. In summary, the use of microparticles opens a new avenue of engineering fungal morphology into the desired form for specific production processes.