• 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.
    • Amidochelocardin Overcomes Resistance Mechanisms Exerted on Tetracyclines and Natural Chelocardin.

      Hennessen, Fabienne; Miethke, Marcus; Zaburannyi, Nestor; Loose, Maria; Lukežič, Tadeja; Bernecker, Steffen; Hüttel, Stephan; Jansen, Rolf; Schmiedel, Judith; Fritzenwanker, Moritz; et al. (MDPI, 2020-09-18)
      The reassessment of known but neglected natural compounds is a vital strategy for providing novel lead structures urgently needed to overcome antimicrobial resistance. Scaffolds with resistance-breaking properties represent the most promising candidates for a successful translation into future therapeutics. Our study focuses on chelocardin, a member of the atypical tetracyclines, and its bioengineered derivative amidochelocardin, both showing broad-spectrum antibacterial activity within the ESKAPE (Enterococcus faecium, Staphylococcus aureus, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Acinetobacter baumannii, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Enterobacter species) panel. Further lead development of chelocardins requires extensive biological and chemical profiling to achieve favorable pharmaceutical properties and efficacy. This study shows that both molecules possess resistance-breaking properties enabling the escape from most common tetracycline resistance mechanisms. Further, we show that these compounds are potent candidates for treatment of urinary tract infections due to their in vitro activity against a large panel of multidrug-resistant uropathogenic clinical isolates. In addition, the mechanism of resistance to natural chelocardin was identified as relying on efflux processes, both in the chelocardin producer Amycolatopsis sulphurea and in the pathogen Klebsiella pneumoniae. Resistance development in Klebsiella led primarily to mutations in ramR, causing increased expression of the acrAB-tolC efflux pump. Most importantly, amidochelocardin overcomes this resistance mechanism, revealing not only the improved activity profile but also superior resistance-breaking properties of this novel antibacterial compound.
    • ANNOgesic: a Swiss army knife for the RNA-seq based annotation of bacterial/archaeal genomes.

      Yu, Sung-Huan; Vogel, Jörg; Förstner, Konrad U; HIRI, Helmoltz-Institut für RNA-basierteInfektionsforschung, Josef-Schneider-Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (2018-09-01)
      To understand the gene regulation of an organism of interest, a comprehensive genome annotation is essential. While some features, such as coding sequences, can be computationally predicted with high accuracy based purely on the genomic sequence, others, such as promoter elements or noncoding RNAs, are harder to detect. RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) has proven to be an efficient method to identify these genomic features and to improve genome annotations. However, processing and integrating RNA-seq data in order to generate high-resolution annotations is challenging, time consuming, and requires numerous steps. We have constructed a powerful and modular tool called ANNOgesic that provides the required analyses and simplifies RNA-seq-based bacterial and archaeal genome annotation. It can integrate data from conventional RNA-seq and differential RNA-seq and predicts and annotates numerous features, including small noncoding RNAs, with high precision. The software is available under an open source license (ISCL) at https://pypi.org/project/ANNOgesic/.
    • Atlas of the Immune Cell Repertoire in Mouse Atherosclerosis Defined by Single-Cell RNA-Sequencing and Mass Cytometry.

      Winkels, Holger; Ehinger, Erik; Vassallo, Melanie; Buscher, Konrad; Dinh, Huy Q; Kobiyama, Kouji; Hamers, Anouk A J; Cochain, Clément; Vafadarnejad, Ehsan; Saliba, Antoine-Emmanuel; et al. (Amercan Heart Association, 2018-03-15)
      Using single-cell RNA-sequencing of aortic leukocytes from chow diet- and Western diet-fed Apoe-/- and Ldlr-/- mice, we detected 11 principal leukocyte clusters with distinct phenotypic and spatial characteristics while the cellular repertoire in healthy aortas was less diverse. Gene set enrichment analysis on the single-cell level established that multiple pathways, such as for lipid metabolism, proliferation, and cytokine secretion, were confined to particular leukocyte clusters. Leukocyte populations were differentially regulated in atherosclerotic Apoe-/- and Ldlr-/- mice. We confirmed the phenotypic diversity of these clusters with a novel mass cytometry 35-marker panel with metal-labeled antibodies and conventional flow cytometry. Cell populations retrieved by these protein-based approaches were highly correlated to transcriptionally defined clusters. In an integrated screening strategy of single-cell RNA-sequencing, mass cytometry, and fluorescence-activated cell sorting, we detected 3 principal B-cell subsets with alterations in surface markers, functional pathways, and in vitro cytokine secretion. Leukocyte cluster gene signatures revealed leukocyte frequencies in 126 human plaques by a genetic deconvolution strategy. This approach revealed that human carotid plaques and microdissected mouse plaques were mostly populated by macrophages, T-cells, and monocytes. In addition, the frequency of genetically defined leukocyte populations in carotid plaques predicted cardiovascular events in patients.
    • Bacterial Adaptation to the Host's Diet Is a Key Evolutionary Force Shaping Drosophila-Lactobacillus Symbiosis.

      Martino, Maria Elena; Joncour, Pauline; Leenay, Ryan; Gervais, Hugo; Shah, Malay; Hughes, Sandrine; Gillet, Benjamin; Beisel, Chase; Leulier, François; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (Elsevier, 2018-07-11)
      Animal-microbe facultative symbioses play a fundamental role in ecosystem and organismal health. Yet, due to the flexible nature of their association, the selection pressures that act on animals and their facultative symbionts remain elusive. Here we apply experimental evolution to Drosophila melanogaster associated with its growth-promoting symbiont Lactobacillus plantarum, representing a well-established model of facultative symbiosis. We find that the diet of the host, rather than the host itself, is a predominant driving force in the evolution of this symbiosis. Furthermore, we identify a mechanism resulting from the bacterium's adaptation to the diet, which confers growth benefits to the colonized host. Our study reveals that bacterial adaptation to the host's diet may be the foremost step in determining the evolutionary course of a facultative animal-microbe symbiosis.
    • Bacterial RNA Biology on a Genome Scale.

      Hör, Jens; Gorski, Stanislaw A; Vogel, Jörg; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Schneider-Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (2018-01-16)
      Bacteria are an exceedingly diverse group of organisms whose molecular exploration is experiencing a renaissance. While the classical view of bacterial gene expression was relatively simple, the emerging view is more complex, encompassing extensive post-transcriptional control involving riboswitches, RNA thermometers, and regulatory small RNAs (sRNAs) associated with the RNA-binding proteins CsrA, Hfq, and ProQ, as well as CRISPR/Cas systems that are programmed by RNAs. Moreover, increasing interest in members of the human microbiota and environmental microbial communities has highlighted the importance of understudied bacterial species with largely unknown transcriptome structures and RNA-based control mechanisms. Collectively, this creates a need for global RNA biology approaches that can rapidly and comprehensively analyze the RNA composition of a bacterium of interest. We review such approaches with a focus on RNA-seq as a versatile tool to investigate the different layers of gene expression in which RNA is made, processed, regulated, modified, translated, and turned over.
    • Barriers to genome editing with CRISPR in bacteria.

      Vento, Justin M; Crook, Nathan; Beisel, Chase L; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (Springer, 2019-06-05)
      Genome editing is essential for probing genotype-phenotype relationships and for enhancing chemical production and phenotypic robustness in industrial bacteria. Currently, the most popular tools for genome editing couple recombineering with DNA cleavage by the CRISPR nuclease Cas9 from Streptococcus pyogenes. Although successful in some model strains, CRISPR-based genome editing has been slow to extend to the multitude of industrially relevant bacteria. In this review, we analyze existing barriers to implementing CRISPR-based editing across diverse bacterial species. We first compare the efficacy of current CRISPR-based editing strategies. Next, we discuss alternatives when the S. pyogenes Cas9 does not yield colonies. Finally, we describe different ways bacteria can evade editing and how elucidating these failure modes can improve CRISPR-based genome editing across strains. Together, this review highlights existing obstacles to CRISPR-based editing in bacteria and offers guidelines to help achieve and enhance editing in a wider range of bacterial species, including non-model strains.
    • Biodistribution and serologic response in SARS-CoV-2 induced ARDS: A cohort study.

      Schlesinger, Tobias; Weißbrich, Benedikt; Wedekink, Florian; Notz, Quirin; Herrmann, Johannes; Krone, Manuel; Sitter, Magdalena; Schmid, Benedikt; Kredel, Markus; Stumpner, Jan; et al. (PLOS, 2020-11-24)
      Background: The viral load and tissue distribution of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) remain important questions. The current study investigated SARS-CoV-2 viral load, biodistribution and anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibody formation in patients suffering from severe corona virus disease 2019 (COVID-19) induced acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). Methods: This is a retrospective single-center study in 23 patients with COVID-19-induced ARDS. Data were collected within routine intensive care. SARS-CoV-2 viral load was assessed via reverse transcription quantitative polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR). Overall, 478 virology samples were taken. Anti-SARS-CoV-2-Spike-receptor binding domain (RBD) antibody detection of blood samples was performed with an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Results: Most patients (91%) suffered from severe ARDS during ICU treatment with a 30-day mortality of 30%. None of the patients received antiviral treatment. Tracheal aspirates tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 in 100% of the cases, oropharyngeal swabs only in 77%. Blood samples were positive in 26% of the patients. No difference of viral load was found in tracheal or blood samples with regard to 30-day survival or disease severity. SARS-CoV-2 was never found in dialysate. Serologic testing revealed significantly lower concentrations of SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing IgM and IgA antibodies in survivors compared to non-survivors (p = 0.009). Conclusions: COVID-19 induced ARDS is accompanied by a high viral load of SARS-CoV-2 in tracheal aspirates, which remained detectable in the majority throughout intensive care treatment. Remarkably, SARS-CoV-2 RNA was never detected in dialysate even in patients with RNAemia. Viral load or the buildup of neutralizing antibodies was not associated with 30-day survival or disease severity.
    • Breast cancer colonization by Fusobacterium nucleatum accelerates tumor growth and metastatic progression.

      Parhi, Lishay; Alon-Maimon, Tamar; Sol, Asaf; Nejman, Deborah; Shhadeh, Amjad; Fainsod-Levi, Tanya; Yajuk, Olga; Isaacson, Batya; Abed, Jawad; Maalouf, Naseem; et al. (Nature Research, 2020-06-26)
      Fusobacterium nucleatum is an oral anaerobe recently found to be prevalent in human colorectal cancer (CRC) where it is associated with poor treatment outcome. In mice, hematogenous F. nucleatum can colonize CRC tissue using its lectin Fap2, which attaches to tumor-displayed Gal-GalNAc. Here, we show that Gal-GalNAc levels increase as human breast cancer progresses, and that occurrence of F. nucleatum gDNA in breast cancer samples correlates with high Gal-GalNAc levels. We demonstrate Fap2-dependent binding of the bacterium to breast cancer samples, which is inhibited by GalNAc. Intravascularly inoculated Fap2-expressing F. nucleatum ATCC 23726 specifically colonize mice mammary tumors, whereas Fap2-deficient bacteria are impaired in tumor colonization. Inoculation with F. nucleatum suppresses accumulation of tumor infiltrating T cells and promotes tumor growth and metastatic progression, the latter two of which can be counteracted by antibiotic treatment. Thus, targeting F. nucleatum or Fap2 might be beneficial during treatment of breast cancer.
    • Characterization of Cas12a nucleases reveals diverse PAM profiles between closely-related orthologs.

      Jacobsen, Thomas; Ttofali, Fani; Liao, Chunyu; Manchalu, Srinivas; Gray, Benjamin N; Beisel, Chase L; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (2020-07-27)
      CRISPR-Cas systems comprise diverse adaptive immune systems in prokaryotes whose RNA-directed nucleases have been co-opted for various technologies. Recent efforts have focused on expanding the number of known CRISPR-Cas subtypes to identify nucleases with novel properties. However, the functional diversity of nucleases within each subtype remains poorly explored. Here, we used cell-free transcription-translation systems and human cells to characterize six Cas12a single-effector nucleases from the V-A subtype, including nucleases sharing high sequence identity. While these nucleases readily utilized each other's guide RNAs, they exhibited distinct PAM profiles and apparent targeting activities that did not track based on phylogeny. In particular, two Cas12a nucleases encoded by Prevotella ihumii (PiCas12a) and Prevotella disiens (PdCas12a) shared over 95% amino-acid identity yet recognized distinct PAM profiles, with PiCas12a but not PdCas12a accommodating multiple G's in PAM positions -2 through -4 and T in position -1. Mutational analyses transitioning PiCas12a to PdCas12a resulted in PAM profiles distinct from either nuclease, allowing more flexible editing in human cells. Cas12a nucleases therefore can exhibit widely varying properties between otherwise related orthologs, suggesting selective pressure to diversify PAM recognition and supporting expansion of the CRISPR toolbox through ortholog mining and PAM engineering.
    • Characterization of the all-E. coli transcription-translation system myTXTL by mass spectrometry.

      Garenne, David; Beisel, Chase L; Noireaux, Vincent; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (Wiley, 2019-05-14)
      Rationale: Cell-free transcription-translation (TXTL) is becoming a popular technology to prototype and engineer biological systems outside living organisms. TXTL relies commonly on a cytoplasmic extract that provides the molecular components necessary to recapitulate gene expression in vitro, where most of the available systems are derived from E. coli. The proteinic and enzymatic composition of lysates, however, is typically unknown. In this work, we analyzed by mass spectrometry the molecular constituents of the all-E. coli TXTL platform myTXTL prepared from the E. coli strain BL21 Rosetta2. Methods: Standard TXTL reactions were assembled and executed for 10-12 hours at 29°C. In addition to a no-DNA control, four DNA programs were executed in separate reactions to synthesize the reporter protein deGFP as well as the phages MS2, phix174 and T7. The reactions were treated according to standard procedures (trypsin treatment, cleaning) before performing liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry (LC/MS). Data analysis was performed using Sequest and protein identification using Scaffold. Results: A total of 500-800 proteins were identified by LC/MS in the blank reactions. We organized the most abundant protein sets into several categories pertaining, in particular, to transcription, translation and ATP regeneration. The synthesis of deGFP was easily measured. The major structural proteins that compose the three phages MS2, phix174 and T7 were also identified. Conclusions: Mass spectrometry is a practical tool to characterize biochemical solutions as complex as a cell-free TXTL reaction and to determine the presence of synthesized proteins. The data presented demonstrate that the composition of TXTL based on lysates can be used to validate some underlying molecular mechanisms implicated in cell-free protein synthesis. The composition of the lysate shows significant differences with respect to similar studies on other E. coli strains.
    • The chlamydial deubiquitinase Cdu1 supports recruitment of Golgi vesicles to the inclusion.

      Auer, Daniela; Hügelschäffer, Sophie D; Fischer, Annette B; Rudel, Thomas; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (Wiley, 2019-11-01)
      Chlamydia trachomatis is the main cause of sexually transmitted diseases worldwide. As obligate intracellular bacteria Chlamydia replicate in a membrane bound vacuole called inclusion and acquire nutrients for growth and replication from their host cells. However, like all intracellular bacteria, Chlamydia have to prevent eradication by the host's cell autonomous system. The chlamydial deubiquitinase Cdu1 is secreted into the inclusion membrane, facing the host cell cytosol where it deubiquitinates cellular proteins. Here we show that inactivation of Cdu1 causes a growth defect of C. trachomatis in primary cells. Moreover, ubiquitin and several autophagy receptors are recruited to the inclusion membrane of Cdu1-deficient Chlamydia. Interestingly, the growth defect of cdu1 mutants is not rescued when autophagy is prevented. We find reduced recruitment of Golgi vesicles to the inclusion of Cdu1 mutants indicating that vesicular trafficking is altered in bacteria without active deubiquitinase (DUB). Our work elucidates an important role of Cdu1 in the functional preservation of the chlamydial inclusion surface.
    • Competitive exclusion is a major bioprotective mechanism of lactobacilli against fungal spoilage in fermented milk products.

      Siedler, Solvej; Rau, Martin Holm; Bidstrup, Susanne; Vento, Justin M; Aunsbjerg, Stina Dissing; Bosma, Elleke F; McNair, Laura M; Beisel, Chase L; Neves, Ana Rute; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (American Society of Microbiology, 2020-01-31)
      A prominent feature of lactic acid bacteria (LAB) is their ability to inhibit growth of spoilage organisms in food, but hitherto research efforts to establish the mechanisms underlying bioactivity focused on the production of antimicrobial compounds by LAB. We show in this study, that competitive exclusion, i.e, competition for a limited resource by different organisms, is a major mechanism of fungal growth inhibition by lactobacilli in fermented dairy products. The depletion of the essential trace element manganese by two Lactobacillus species was uncovered as the main mechanism for growth inhibition of dairy spoilage yeast and molds. A manganese transporter (MntH1), representing one of the highest expressed gene products in both lactobacilli, facilitates the exhaustive manganese scavenging. Expression of the mntH1 gene was found to be strain-dependent, affected by species co-culturing and growth phase. Further, deletion of the mntH1 gene in one of the strains resulted in loss of bioactivity, proving this gene to be important for manganese depletion. The presence of a mntH gene displayed a distinct phylogenetic pattern within the Lactobacillus genus. Moreover, assaying the bioprotective ability in fermented milk of selected lactobacilli from ten major phylogenetic groups identified a correlation between the presence of mntH and bioprotective activity. Thus, manganese scavenging emerges as a common trait within the Lactobacillus genus, but differences in expression result in some strains showing more bioprotective effect than others.In summary, competitive exclusion through ion depletion is herein reported a novel mechanism in LAB to delay growth of spoilage contaminants in dairy products.IMPORTANCE In societies that have food choices, conscious consumers demand natural solutions to keep their food healthy and fresh during storage, simultaneously reducing food waste. The use of "good bacteria" to protect food against spoilage organisms has a long successful history, even though the molecular mechanisms are not fully understood. In this study, we show that depletion of free manganese is a major bioprotective mechanism of lactobacilli in dairy products. High manganese uptake and intracellular storage provides a link to the distinct non-enzymatic manganese catalyzed oxidative stress defense mechanism, previously described for certain lactobacilli. The evaluation of representative Lactobacillus species in our study identifies multiple relevant species groups for fungal growth inhibition via manganese depletion. Hence, through the natural mechanism of nutrient depletion, the use of dedicated bioprotective lactobacilli constitutes an attractive alternative to artificial preservation.
    • Conditional Hfq Association with Small Noncoding RNAs in Pseudomonas aeruginosa Revealed through Comparative UV Cross-Linking Immunoprecipitation Followed by High-Throughput Sequencing.

      Chihara, Kotaro; Bischler, Thorsten; Barquist, Lars; Monzon, Vivian A; Noda, Naohiro; Vogel, Jörg; Tsuneda, Satoshi (2019-12-03)
      Bacterial small noncoding RNAs (sRNAs) play posttranscriptional regulatory roles in cellular responses to changing environmental cues and in adaptation to harsh conditions. Generally, the RNA-binding protein Hfq helps sRNAs associate with target mRNAs to modulate their translation and to modify global RNA pools depending on physiological state. Here, a combination of in vivo UV cross-linking immunoprecipitation followed by high-throughput sequencing (CLIP-seq) and total RNA-seq showed that Hfq interacts with different regions of the Pseudomonas aeruginosa transcriptome under planktonic versus biofilm conditions. In the present approach, P. aeruginosa Hfq preferentially interacted with repeats of the AAN triplet motif at mRNA 5' untranslated regions (UTRs) and sRNAs and U-rich sequences at rho-independent terminators. Further transcriptome analysis suggested that the association of sRNAs with Hfq is primarily a function of their expression levels, strongly supporting the notion that the pool of Hfq-associated RNAs is equilibrated by RNA concentration-driven cycling on and off Hfq. Overall, our combinatorial CLIP-seq and total RNA-seq approach highlights conditional sRNA associations with Hfq as a novel aspect of posttranscriptional regulation in P. aeruginosaIMPORTANCE The Gram-negative bacterium P. aeruginosa is ubiquitously distributed in diverse environments and can cause severe biofilm-related infections in at-risk individuals. Although the presence of a large number of putative sRNAs and widely conserved RNA chaperones in this bacterium implies the importance of posttranscriptional regulatory networks for environmental fluctuations, limited information is available regarding the global role of RNA chaperones such as Hfq in the P. aeruginosa transcriptome, especially under different environmental conditions. Here, we characterize Hfq-dependent differences in gene expression and biological processes in two physiological states: the planktonic and biofilm forms. A combinatorial comparative CLIP-seq and total RNA-seq approach uncovered condition-dependent association of RNAs with Hfq in vivo and expands the potential direct regulatory targets of Hfq in the P. aeruginosa transcriptome.
    • The conserved 3' UTR-derived small RNA NarS mediates mRNA crossregulation during nitrate respiration.

      Wang, Chuan; Chao, Yanjie; Matera, Gianluca; Gao, Qian; Vogel, Jörg; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (Oxford Academic, 2019-12-21)
      Small noncoding RNAs (sRNAs) from mRNA 3' UTRs seem to present a previously unrecognized layer of bacterial post-transcriptional control whereby mRNAs influence each other's expression, independently of transcriptional control. Studies in Escherichia coli and Salmonella enterica showed that such sRNAs are natural products of RNase E-mediated mRNA decay and associate with major RNA-binding proteins (RBPs) such as Hfq and ProQ. If so, there must be additional sRNAs from mRNAs that accumulate only under specific physiological conditions. We test this prediction by characterizing candidate NarS that represents the 3' UTR of nitrate transporter NarK whose gene is silent during standard aerobic growth. We find that NarS acts by Hfq-dependent base pairing to repress the synthesis of the nitrite transporter, NirC, resulting in mRNA cross-regulation of nitrate and nitrite transporter genes. Interestingly, the NarS-mediated repression selectively targets the nirC cistron of the long nirBDC-cysG operon, an observation that we rationalize as a mechanism to protect the bacterial cytoplasm from excessive nitrite toxicity during anaerobic respiration with abundant nitrate. Our successful functional assignment of a 3' UTR sRNA from a non-standard growth condition supports the notion that mRNA crossregulation is more pervasive than currently appreciated.
    • CRISPR RNA-Dependent Binding and Cleavage of Endogenous RNAs by the Campylobacter jejuni Cas9.

      Dugar, Gaurav; Leenay, Ryan T; Eisenbart, Sara K; Bischler, Thorsten; Aul, Belinda U; Beisel, Chase L; Sharma, Cynthia M; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (Elsevier/ Cel Press, 2018-03-01)
      Cas9 nucleases naturally utilize CRISPR RNAs (crRNAs) to silence foreign double-stranded DNA. While recent work has shown that some Cas9 nucleases can also target RNA, RNA recognition has required nuclease modifications or accessory factors. Here, we show that the Campylobacter jejuni Cas9 (CjCas9) can bind and cleave complementary endogenous mRNAs in a crRNA-dependent manner. Approximately 100 transcripts co-immunoprecipitated with CjCas9 and generally can be subdivided through their base-pairing potential to the four crRNAs. A subset of these RNAs was cleaved around or within the predicted binding site. Mutational analyses revealed that RNA binding was crRNA and tracrRNA dependent and that target RNA cleavage required the CjCas9 HNH domain. We further observed that RNA cleavage was PAM independent, improved with greater complementarity between the crRNA and the RNA target, and was programmable in vitro. These findings suggest that C. jejuni Cas9 is a promiscuous nuclease that can coordinately target both DNA and RNA.
    • CRISPR-Cas Systems and the Paradox of Self-Targeting Spacers.

      Wimmer, Franziska; Beisel, Chase L; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (Frontiers, 2019-01-01)
      CRISPR-Cas immune systems in bacteria and archaea record prior infections as spacers within each system's CRISPR arrays. Spacers are normally derived from invasive genetic material and direct the immune system to complementary targets as part of future infections. However, not all spacers appear to be derived from foreign genetic material and instead can originate from the host genome. Their presence poses a paradox, as self-targeting spacers would be expected to induce an autoimmune response and cell death. In this review, we discuss the known frequency of self-targeting spacers in natural CRISPR-Cas systems, how these spacers can be incorporated into CRISPR arrays, and how the host can evade lethal attack. We also discuss how self-targeting spacers can become the basis for alternative functions performed by CRISPR-Cas systems that extend beyond adaptive immunity. Overall, the acquisition of genome-targeting spacers poses a substantial risk but can aid in the host's evolution and potentially lead to or support new functionalities.
    • The CRISPR/Cas system in Neisseria meningitidis affects bacterial adhesion to human nasopharyngeal epithelial cells.

      Heidrich, Nadja; Hagmann, Antony; Bauriedl, Saskia; Vogel, Jörg; Schoen, Christoph; HIRI, Helmoltz-Institut für RNA-basierteInfektionsforschung, Josef-Schneider-Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (2018-07-30)
      Neisseria meningitidis, a commensal β-proteobacterium of the human nasopharynx, constitutes a worldwide leading cause of sepsis and epidemic meningitis. A recent genome-wide association study suggested an association of its type II-C CRISPR/Cas system with carriage and thus less invasive lineages. Here, we show that knock-out strains lacking the Cas9 protein are impaired in the adhesion to human nasopharyngeal cells which constitutes a central step in the pathogenesis of invasive meningococcal disease. Transcriptome sequencing data further suggest that meningococcal Cas9 does not affect the expression of surface adhesins but rather exerts its effect on cell adhesion in an indirect manner. Consequently, we speculate that the meningococcal CRISPR/Cas system exerts novel functions beyond its established role in defence against foreign DNA.
    • CRP-cAMP mediates silencing of Salmonella virulence at the post-transcriptional level.

      El Mouali, Youssef; Gaviria-Cantin, Tania; Sánchez-Romero, María Antonia; Gibert, Marta; Westermann, Alexander J; Vogel, Jörg; Balsalobre, Carlos; HIRI, Helmoltz-Institut für RNA-basierteInfektionsforschung, Josef-Schneider-Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (2018-01-01)
      Invasion of epithelial cells by Salmonella enterica requires expression of genes located in the pathogenicity island I (SPI-1). The expression of SPI-1 genes is very tightly regulated and activated only under specific conditions. Most studies have focused on the regulatory pathways that induce SPI-1 expression. Here, we describe a new regulatory circuit involving CRP-cAMP, a widely established metabolic regulator, in silencing of SPI-1 genes under non-permissive conditions. In CRP-cAMP-deficient strains we detected a strong upregulation of SPI-1 genes in the mid-logarithmic growth phase. Genetic analyses revealed that CRP-cAMP modulates the level of HilD, the master regulator of Salmonella invasion. This regulation occurs at the post-transcriptional level and requires the presence of a newly identified regulatory motif within the hilD 3'UTR. We further demonstrate that in Salmonella the Hfq-dependent sRNA Spot 42 is under the transcriptional repression of CRP-cAMP and, when this transcriptional repression is relieved, Spot 42 exerts a positive effect on hilD expression. In vivo and in vitro assays indicate that Spot 42 targets, through its unstructured region III, the 3'UTR of the hilD transcript. Together, our results highlight the biological relevance of the hilD 3'UTR as a hub for post-transcriptional control of Salmonella invasion gene expression.
    • A detailed cell-free transcription-translation-based assay to decipher CRISPR protospacer-adjacent motifs.

      Maxwell, Colin S; Jacobsen, Thomas; Marshall, Ryan; Noireaux, Vincent; Beisel, Chase L; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (Elsevier, 2018-02-24)
      The RNA-guided nucleases derived from the CRISPR-Cas systems in bacteria and archaea have found numerous applications in biotechnology, including genome editing, imaging, and gene regulation. However, the discovery of novel Cas nucleases has outpaced their characterization and subsequent exploitation. A key step in characterizing Cas nucleases is determining which protospacer-adjacent motif (PAM) sequences they recognize. Here, we report advances to an in vitro method based on an E. coli cell-free transcription-translation system (TXTL) to rapidly elucidate PAMs recognized by Cas nucleases. The method obviates the need for cloning Cas nucleases or gRNAs, does not require the purification of protein or RNA, and can be performed in less than a day. To advance our previously published method, we incorporated an internal GFP cleavage control to assess the extent of library cleavage as well as Sanger sequencing of the cleaved library to assess PAM depletion prior to next-generation sequencing. We also detail the methods needed to construct all relevant DNA constructs, and how to troubleshoot the assay. We finally demonstrate the technique by determining PAM sequences recognized by the Neisseria meningitidis Cas9, revealing subtle sequence requirements of this highly specific PAM. The overall method offers a rapid means to identify PAMs recognized by diverse CRISPR nucleases, with the potential to greatly accelerate our ability to characterize and harness novel CRISPR nucleases across their many uses.