• An Advanced Human Intestinal Coculture Model Reveals Compartmentalized Host and Pathogen Strategies during Infection.

      Schulte, Leon N; Schweinlin, Matthias; Westermann, Alexander J; Janga, Harshavardhan; Santos, Sara C; Appenzeller, Silke; Walles, Heike; Vogel, Jörg; Metzger, Marco; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (American Society for Microbiology (ASM), 2020-02-18)
      A major obstacle in infection biology is the limited ability to recapitulate human disease trajectories in traditional cell culture and animal models, which impedes the translation of basic research into clinics. Here, we introduce a three-dimensional (3D) intestinal tissue model to study human enteric infections at a level of detail that is not achieved by conventional two-dimensional monocultures. Our model comprises epithelial and endothelial layers, a primary intestinal collagen scaffold, and immune cells. Upon Salmonella infection, the model mimics human gastroenteritis, in that it restricts the pathogen to the epithelial compartment, an advantage over existing mouse models. Application of dual transcriptome sequencing to the Salmonella-infected model revealed the communication of epithelial, endothelial, monocytic, and natural killer cells among each other and with the pathogen. Our results suggest that Salmonella uses its type III secretion systems to manipulate STAT3-dependent inflammatory responses locally in the epithelium without accompanying alterations in the endothelial compartment. Our approach promises to reveal further human-specific infection strategies employed by Salmonella and other pathogens.IMPORTANCE Infection research routinely employs in vitro cell cultures or in vivo mouse models as surrogates of human hosts. Differences between murine and human immunity and the low level of complexity of traditional cell cultures, however, highlight the demand for alternative models that combine the in vivo-like properties of the human system with straightforward experimental perturbation. Here, we introduce a 3D tissue model comprising multiple cell types of the human intestinal barrier, a primary site of pathogen attack. During infection with the foodborne pathogen Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium, our model recapitulates human disease aspects, including pathogen restriction to the epithelial compartment, thereby deviating from the systemic infection in mice. Combination of our model with state-of-the-art genetics revealed Salmonella-mediated local manipulations of human immune responses, likely contributing to the establishment of the pathogen's infection niche. We propose the adoption of similar 3D tissue models to infection biology, to advance our understanding of molecular infection strategies employed by bacterial pathogens in their human host.
    • Improved bacterial RNA-seq by Cas9-based depletion of ribosomal RNA reads.

      Prezza, Gianluca; Heckel, Tobias; Dietrich, Sascha; Homberger, Christina; Westermann, Alexander J; Vogel, Jörg; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, 2020-04-28)
      A major challenge for RNA-seq analysis of gene expression is to achieve sufficient coverage of informative nonribosomal transcripts. In eukaryotic samples, this is typically achieved by selective oligo(dT)-priming of messenger RNAs to exclude ribosomal RNA (rRNA) during cDNA synthesis. However, this strategy is not compatible with prokaryotes in which functional transcripts are generally not polyadenylated. To overcome this, we adopted DASH (depletion of abundant sequences by hybridization), initially developed for eukaryotic cells, to improve both the sensitivity and depth of bacterial RNA-seq. DASH uses the Cas9 nuclease to remove unwanted cDNA sequences prior to library amplification. We report the design, evaluation, and optimization of DASH experiments for standard bacterial short-read sequencing approaches, including software for automated guide RNA (gRNA) design for Cas9-mediated cleavage in bacterial rDNA sequences. Using these gRNA pools, we effectively removed rRNA reads (56%-86%) in RNA-seq libraries from two different model bacteria, the Gram-negative pathogen Salmonella enterica and the anaerobic gut commensal Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron DASH works robustly, even with subnanogram amounts of input RNA. Its efficiency, high sensitivity, ease of implementation, and low cost (∼$5 per sample) render DASH an attractive alternative to rRNA removal protocols, in particular for material-constrained studies where conventional ribodepletion techniques fail.
    • RNA target profiles direct the discovery of virulence functions for the cold-shock proteins CspC and CspE.

      Michaux, Charlotte; Holmqvist, Erik; Vasicek, Erin; Sharan, Malvika; Barquist, Lars; Westermann, Alexander J; Gunn, John S; Vogel, Jörg; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (National Academy of Sciences, 2017-06-27)
      The functions of many bacterial RNA-binding proteins remain obscure because of a lack of knowledge of their cellular ligands. Although well-studied cold-shock protein A (CspA) family members are induced and function at low temperature, others are highly expressed in infection-relevant conditions. Here, we have profiled transcripts bound in vivo by the CspA family members of Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium to link the constitutively expressed CspC and CspE proteins with virulence pathways. Phenotypic assays in vitro demonstrated a crucial role for these proteins in membrane stress, motility, and biofilm formation. Moreover, double deletion of cspC and cspE fully attenuates Salmonella in systemic mouse infection. In other words, the RNA ligand-centric approach taken here overcomes a problematic molecular redundancy of CspC and CspE that likely explains why these proteins have evaded selection in previous virulence factor screens in animals. Our results highlight RNA-binding proteins as regulators of pathogenicity and potential targets of antimicrobial therapy. They also suggest that globally acting RNA-binding proteins are more common in bacteria than currently appreciated.
    • SPI2 T3SS effectors facilitate enterocyte apical to basolateral transmigration of -containing vacuoles .

      Fulde, Marcus; van Vorst, Kira; Zhang, Kaiyi; Westermann, Alexander J; Busche, Tobias; Huei, Yong Chiun; Welitschanski, Katharina; Froh, Isabell; Pägelow, Dennis; Plendl, Johanna; et al. (Taylor & Francis, 2021-09-20)
      Salmonella pathogenicity island (SPI) 2 type three secretion system (T3SS)-mediated effector molecules facilitate bacterial survival in phagocytes but their role in the intestinal epithelium in vivo remains ill-defined. Using our neonatal murine infection model in combination with SPI2 reporter technology and RNA-Seq of sorted primary enterocytes, we demonstrate expression of SPI2 effector molecules by intraepithelial Salmonella Typhimurium (S. Typhimurium). Contrary to expectation, immunostaining revealed that infection with SPI2 T3SS-mutants resulted in significantly enlarged intraepithelial Salmonella-containing vacuoles (SCV) with altered cellular positioning, suggesting impaired apical to basolateral transmigration. Also, infection with isogenic tagged S. Typhimurium strains revealed a reduced spread of intraepithelial SPI2 T3SS mutant S. Typhimurium to systemic body sites. These results suggest that SPI2 T3SS effector molecules contribute to enterocyte apical to basolateral transmigration of the SCV during the early stage of the infection.
    • Stress-induced host membrane remodeling protects from infection by non-motile bacterial pathogens.

      Tawk, Caroline; Nigro, Giulia; Rodrigues Lopes, Ines; Aguilar, Carmen; Lisowski, Clivia; Mano, Miguel; Sansonetti, Philippe; Vogel, Jörg; Eulalio, Ana; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (2018-11-02)
      While mucosal inflammation is a major source of stress during enteropathogen infection, it remains to be fully elucidated how the host benefits from this environment to clear the pathogen. Here, we show that host stress induced by different stimuli mimicking inflammatory conditions strongly reduces the binding of Shigella flexneri to epithelial cells. Mechanistically, stress activates acid sphingomyelinase leading to host membrane remodeling. Consequently, knockdown or pharmacological inhibition of the acid sphingomyelinase blunts the stress-dependent inhibition of Shigella binding to host cells. Interestingly, stress caused by intracellular Shigella replication also results in remodeling of the host cell membrane, in vitro and in vivo, which precludes re-infection by this and other non-motile pathogens. In contrast, Salmonella Typhimurium overcomes the shortage of permissive entry sites by gathering effectively at the remaining platforms through its flagellar motility. Overall, our findings reveal host membrane remodeling as a novel stress-responsive cell-autonomous defense mechanism that protects epithelial cells from infection by non-motile bacterial pathogens.