• Resolving host-pathogen interactions by dual RNA-seq.

      Westermann, Alexander J; Barquist, Lars; Vogel, Jörg; Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Schneider-Straße 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (2017-02)
      The transcriptome is a powerful proxy for the physiological state of a cell, healthy or diseased. As a result, transcriptome analysis has become a key tool in understanding the molecular changes that accompany bacterial infections of eukaryotic cells. Until recently, such transcriptomic studies have been technically limited to analyzing mRNA expression changes in either the bacterial pathogen or the infected eukaryotic host cell. However, the increasing sensitivity of high-throughput RNA sequencing now enables "dual RNA-seq" studies, simultaneously capturing all classes of coding and noncoding transcripts in both the pathogen and the host. In the five years since the concept of dual RNA-seq was introduced, the technique has been applied to a range of infection models. This has not only led to a better understanding of the physiological changes in pathogen and host during the course of an infection but has also revealed hidden molecular phenotypes of virulence-associated small noncoding RNAs that were not visible in standard infection assays. Here, we use the knowledge gained from these recent studies to suggest experimental and computational guidelines for the design of future dual RNA-seq studies. We conclude this review by discussing prospective applications of the technique.
    • RNA landscape of the emerging cancer-associated microbe Fusobacterium nucleatum.

      Ponath, Falk; Tawk, Caroline; Zhu, Yan; Barquist, Lars; Faber, Franziska; Vogel, Jörg; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (Nature Research, 2021-07-08)
      Fusobacterium nucleatum, long known as a constituent of the oral microflora, has recently garnered renewed attention for its association with several different human cancers. The growing interest in this emerging cancer-associated bacterium contrasts with a paucity of knowledge about its basic gene expression features and physiological responses. As fusobacteria lack all established small RNA-associated proteins, post-transcriptional networks in these bacteria are also unknown. In the present study, using differential RNA-sequencing, we generate high-resolution global RNA maps for five clinically relevant fusobacterial strains-F. nucleatum subspecies nucleatum, animalis, polymorphum and vincentii, as well as F. periodonticum-for early, mid-exponential growth and early stationary phase. These data are made available in an online browser, and we use these to uncover fundamental aspects of fusobacterial gene expression architecture and a suite of non-coding RNAs. Developing a vector for functional analysis of fusobacterial genes, we discover a conserved fusobacterial oxygen-induced small RNA, FoxI, which serves as a post-transcriptional repressor of the major outer membrane porin FomA. Our findings provide a crucial step towards delineating the regulatory networks enabling F. nucleatum adaptation to different environments, which may elucidate how these bacteria colonize different compartments of the human body.
    • 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.
    • An RNA-centric global view of Clostridioides difficile reveals broad activity of Hfq in a clinically important gram-positive bacterium.

      Fuchs, Manuela; Lamm-Schmidt, Vanessa; Sulzer, Johannes; Ponath, Falk; Jenniches, Laura; Kirk, Joseph A; Fagan, Robert P; Barquist, Lars; Vogel, Jörg; Faber, Franziska; et al. (National Academy of Sciences, 2021-06-15)
      The gram-positive human pathogen Clostridioides difficile has emerged as the leading cause of antibiotic-associated diarrhea. However, little is known about the bacterium's transcriptome architecture and mechanisms of posttranscriptional control. Here, we have applied transcription start site and termination mapping to generate a single-nucleotide-resolution RNA map of C. difficile 5' and 3' untranslated regions, operon structures, and noncoding regulators, including 42 sRNAs. Our results indicate functionality of many conserved riboswitches and predict cis-regulatory RNA elements upstream of multidrug resistance (MDR)-type ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporters and transcriptional regulators. Despite growing evidence for a role of Hfq in RNA-based gene regulation in C. difficile, the functions of Hfq-based posttranscriptional regulatory networks in gram-positive pathogens remain controversial. Using Hfq immunoprecipitation followed by sequencing of bound RNA species (RIP-seq), we identify a large cohort of transcripts bound by Hfq and show that absence of Hfq affects transcript stabilities and steady-state levels. We demonstrate sRNA expression during intestinal colonization by C. difficile and identify infection-related signals impacting its expression. As a proof of concept, we show that the utilization of the abundant intestinal metabolite ethanolamine is regulated by the Hfq-dependent sRNA CDIF630nc_085. Overall, our study lays the foundation for understanding clostridial riboregulation with implications for the infection process and provides evidence for a global role of Hfq in posttranscriptional regulation in a gram-positive bacterium.
    • Single-Nucleotide RNA Maps for the Two Major Nosocomial Pathogens Enterococcus faecalis and Enterococcus faecium

      Michaux, Charlotte; Hansen, Elisabeth E; Jenniches, Laura; Gerovac, Milan; Barquist, Lars; Vogel, Jörg; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (Frontiers, 2020-11-25)
      Enterococcus faecalis and faecium are two major representative clinical strains of the Enterococcus genus and are sadly notorious to be part of the top agents responsible for nosocomial infections. Despite their critical implication in worldwide public healthcare, essential and available resources such as deep transcriptome annotations remain poor, which also limits our understanding of post-transcriptional control small regulatory RNA (sRNA) functions in these bacteria. Here, using the dRNA-seq technique in combination with ANNOgesic analysis, we successfully mapped and annotated transcription start sites (TSS) of both E. faecalis V583 and E. faecium AUS0004 at single nucleotide resolution. Analyzing bacteria in late exponential phase, we capture ~40% (E. faecalis) and 43% (E. faecium) of the annotated protein-coding genes, determine 5' and 3' UTR (untranslated region) length, and detect instances of leaderless mRNAs. The transcriptome maps revealed sRNA candidates in both bacteria, some found in previous studies and new ones. Expression of candidate sRNAs is being confirmed under biologically relevant environmental conditions. This comprehensive global TSS mapping atlas provides a valuable resource for RNA biology and gene expression analysis in the Enterococci. It can be accessed online at www.helmholtz-hiri.de/en/datasets/enterococcus through an instance of the genomic viewer JBrowse.
    • Transcriptional noise and exaptation as sources for bacterial sRNAs.

      Jose, Bethany R; Gardner, Paul P; Barquist, Lars; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (Portland Press, 2019-04-30)
      Understanding how new genes originate and integrate into cellular networks is key to understanding evolution. Bacteria present unique opportunities for both the natural history and experimental study of gene origins, due to their large effective population sizes, rapid generation times, and ease of genetic manipulation. Bacterial small non-coding RNAs (sRNAs), in particular, many of which operate through a simple antisense regulatory logic, may serve as tractable models for exploring processes of gene origin and adaptation. Understanding how and on what timescales these regulatory molecules arise has important implications for understanding the evolution of bacterial regulatory networks, in particular, for the design of comparative studies of sRNA function. Here, we introduce relevant concepts from evolutionary biology and review recent work that has begun to shed light on the timescales and processes through which non-functional transcriptional noise is co-opted to provide regulatory functions. We explore possible scenarios for sRNA origin, focusing on the co-option, or exaptation, of existing genomic structures which may provide protected spaces for sRNA evolution.