• Dissecting Herpes Simplex Virus 1-Induced Host Shutoff at the RNA Level.

      Friedel, Caroline C; Whisnant, Adam W; Djakovic, Lara; Rutkowski, Andrzej J; Friedl, Marie-Sophie; Kluge, Michael; Williamson, James C; Sai, Somesh; Vidal, Ramon Oliveira; Sauer, Sascha; et al. (American Society for Microbilogy (ASM), 2020-11-04)
      Herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) induces a profound host shut-off during lytic infection. The virion host shut-off (vhs) protein plays a key role in this process by efficiently cleaving host and viral mRNAs. Furthermore, the onset of viral DNA replication is accompanied by a rapid decline in host transcriptional activity. To dissect relative contributions of both mechanisms and elucidate gene-specific host transcriptional responses throughout the first 8h of lytic HSV-1 infection, we employed RNA-seq of total, newly transcribed (4sU-labelled) and chromatin-associated RNA in wild-type (WT) and Δvhs infection of primary human fibroblasts. Following virus entry, vhs activity rapidly plateaued at an elimination rate of around 30% of cellular mRNAs per hour until 8h p.i. In parallel, host transcriptional activity dropped to 10-20%. While the combined effects of both phenomena dominated infection-induced changes in total RNA, extensive gene-specific transcriptional regulation was observable in chromatin-associated RNA and was surprisingly concordant between WT and Δvhs infection. Both induced strong transcriptional up-regulation of a small subset of genes that were poorly expressed prior to infection but already primed by H3K4me3 histone marks at their promoters. Most interestingly, analysis of chromatin-associated RNA revealed vhs-nuclease-activity-dependent transcriptional down-regulation of at least 150 cellular genes, in particular of many integrin adhesome and extracellular matrix components. This was accompanied by a vhs-dependent reduction in protein levels by 8h p.i. for many of these genes. In summary, our study provides a comprehensive picture of the molecular mechanisms that govern cellular RNA metabolism during the first 8h of lytic HSV-1 infection.IMPORTANCE The HSV-1 virion host shut-off (vhs) protein efficiently cleaves both host and viral mRNAs in a translation-dependent manner. In this study, we model and quantify changes in vhs activity as well as virus-induced global loss of host transcriptional activity during productive HSV-1 infection. In general, HSV-1-induced alterations in total RNA levels were dominated by these two global effects. In contrast, chromatin-associated RNA depicted gene-specific transcriptional changes. This revealed highly concordant transcriptional changes in WT and Δvhs infection, confirmed DUX4 as a key transcriptional regulator in HSV-1 infection and depicted vhs-dependent, transcriptional down-regulation of the integrin adhesome and extracellular matrix components. The latter explained seemingly gene-specific effects previously attributed to vhs-mediated mRNA degradation and resulted in a concordant loss in protein levels by 8h p.i. for many of the respective genes.
    • Introducing differential RNA-seq mapping to track the early infection phase for phage ɸKZ.

      Wicke, Laura; Ponath, Falk; Coppens, Lucas; Gerovac, Milan; Lavigne, Rob; Vogel, Jörg; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (Taylor & Francis, 2020-10-25)
      As part of the ongoing renaissance of phage biology, more phage genomes are becoming available through DNA sequencing. However, our understanding of the transcriptome architecture that allows these genomes to be expressed during host infection is generally poor. Transcription start sites (TSSs) and operons have been mapped for very few phages, and an annotated global RNA map of a phage - alone or together with its infected host - is not available at all. Here, we applied differential RNA-seq (dRNA-seq) to study the early, host takeover phase of infection by assessing the transcriptome structure of Pseudomonas aeruginosa jumbo phage ɸKZ, a model phage for viral genetics and structural research. This map substantially expands the number of early expressed viral genes, defining TSSs that are active ten minutes after ɸKZ infection. Simultaneously, we record gene expression changes in the host transcriptome during this critical metabolism conversion. In addition to previously reported upregulation of genes associated with amino acid metabolism, we observe strong activation of genes with functions in biofilm formation (cdrAB) and iron storage (bfrB), as well as an activation of the antitoxin ParD. Conversely, ɸKZ infection rapidly down-regulates complexes IV and V of oxidative phosphorylation (atpCDGHF and cyoABCDE). Taken together, our data provide new insights into the transcriptional organization and infection process of the giant bacteriophage ɸKZ and adds a framework for the genome-wide transcriptomic analysis of phage-host interactions.
    • Murine cytomegaloviruses m139 targets DDX3 to curtail interferon production and promote viral replication.

      Puhach, Olha; Ostermann, Eleonore; Krisp, Christoph; Frascaroli, Giada; Schlüter, Hartmut; Brinkmann, Melanie M; Brune, Wolfram; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (PLOS, 2020-10-08)
      Cytomegaloviruses (CMV) infect many different cell types and tissues in their respective hosts. Monocytes and macrophages play an important role in CMV dissemination from the site of infection to target organs. Moreover, macrophages are specialized in pathogen sensing and respond to infection by secreting cytokines and interferons. In murine cytomegalovirus (MCMV), a model for human cytomegalovirus, several genes required for efficient replication in macrophages have been identified, but their specific functions remain poorly understood. Here we show that MCMV m139, a gene of the conserved US22 gene family, encodes a protein that interacts with the DEAD box helicase DDX3, a protein involved in pathogen sensing and interferon (IFN) induction, and the E3 ubiquitin ligase UBR5. DDX3 and UBR5 also participate in the transcription, processing, and translation of a subset of cellular mRNAs. We show that m139 inhibits DDX3-mediated IFN-α and IFN-β induction and is necessary for efficient viral replication in bone-marrow derived macrophages. In vivo, m139 is crucial for viral dissemination to local lymph nodes and to the salivary glands. An m139-deficient MCMV also replicated to lower titers in SVEC4-10 endothelial cells. This replication defect was not accompanied by increased IFN-β transcription, but was rescued by knockout of either DDX3 or UBR5. Moreover, m139 co-localized with DDX3 and UBR5 in viral replication compartments in the cell nucleus. These results suggest that m139 inhibits DDX3-mediated IFN production in macrophages and antagonizes DDX3 and UBR5-dependent functions related to RNA metabolism in endothelial cells.
    • 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.
    • LifeTime and improving European healthcare through cell-based interceptive medicine.

      Rajewsky, Nikolaus; Almouzni, Geneviève; Gorski, Stanislaw A; Aerts, Stein; Amit, Ido; Bertero, Michela G; Bock, Christoph; Bredenoord, Annelien L; Cavalli, Giacomo; Chiocca, Susanna; et al. (Nature publishing group(NPG), 2020-09-07)
      LifeTime aims to track, understand and target human cells during the onset and progression of complex diseases and their response to therapy at single-cell resolution. This mission will be implemented through the development and integration of single-cell multi-omics and imaging, artificial intelligence and patient-derived experimental disease models during progression from health to disease. Analysis of such large molecular and clinical datasets will discover molecular mechanisms, create predictive computational models of disease progression, and reveal new drug targets and therapies. Timely detection and interception of disease embedded in an ethical and patient-centered vision will be achieved through interactions across academia, hospitals, patient-associations, health data management systems and industry. Applying this strategy to key medical challenges in cancer, neurological, infectious, chronic inflammatory and cardiovascular diseases at the single-cell level will usher in cell-based interceptive medicine in Europe over the next decade.
    • Identification of a Novel LysR-Type Transcriptional Regulator in Staphylococcus aureus That Is Crucial for Secondary Tissue Colonization during Metastatic Bloodstream Infection.

      Groma, Michaela; Horst, Sarah A; Das, Sudip; Huettel, Bruno; Klepsch, Maximilian; Rudel, Thomas; Medina, Eva; Fraunholz, Martin; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (ASM, 2020-08-25)
      Staphylococcus aureus is a common cause of bacteremia that can lead to severe complications once the bacteria exit the bloodstream and establish infection in secondary organs. Despite its clinical relevance, little is known about the bacterial factors facilitating the development of these metastatic infections. Here, we used an S. aureus transposon mutant library coupled to transposon insertion sequencing (Tn-Seq) to identify genes that are critical for efficient bacterial colonization of secondary organs in a murine model of metastatic bloodstream infection. Our transposon screen identified a LysR-type transcriptional regulator (LTTR), which was required for efficient colonization of secondary organs such as the kidneys in infected mice. The critical role of LTTR in secondary organ colonization was confirmed using an isogenic mutant deficient in the expression of LTTR. To identify the set of genes controlled by LTTR, we used an S. aureus strain carrying the LTTR gene in an inducible expression plasmid. Gene expression analysis upon induction of LTTR showed increased transcription of genes involved in branched-chain amino acid biosynthesis, a methionine sulfoxide reductase, and a copper transporter as well as decreased transcription of genes coding for urease and components of pyrimidine nucleotides. Furthermore, we show that transcription of LTTR is repressed by glucose, is induced under microaerobic conditions, and required trace amounts of copper ions. Our data thus pinpoints LTTR as an important element that enables a rapid adaptation of S. aureus to the changing host microenvironment.IMPORTANCEStaphylococcus aureus is an important pathogen that can disseminate via the bloodstream and establish metastatic infections in distant organs. To achieve a better understanding of the bacterial factors facilitating the development of these metastatic infections, we used in this study a Staphylococcus aureus transposon mutant library in a murine model of intravenous infection, where bacteria first colonize the liver as the primary infection site and subsequently progress to secondary sites such as the kidney and bones. We identified a novel LysR-type transcriptional regulator (LTTR), which was specifically required by S. aureus for efficient colonization of secondary organs. We also determined the transcriptional activation as well as the regulon of LTTR, which suggests that this regulator is involved in the metabolic adaptation of S. aureus to the host microenvironment found in secondary infection sites.
    • Grad-seq shines light on unrecognized RNA and protein complexes in the model bacterium Escherichia coli.

      Hör, Jens; Di Giorgio, Silvia; Gerovac, Milan; Venturini, Elisa; Förstner, Konrad U; Vogel, Jörg; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (Oxford University Press, 2020-08-19)
      Stable protein complexes, including those formed with RNA, are major building blocks of every living cell. Escherichia coli has been the leading bacterial organism with respect to global protein-protein networks. Yet, there has been no global census of RNA/protein complexes in this model species of microbiology. Here, we performed Grad-seq to establish an RNA/protein complexome, reconstructing sedimentation profiles in a glycerol gradient for ∼85% of all E. coli transcripts and ∼49% of the proteins. These include the majority of small noncoding RNAs (sRNAs) detectable in this bacterium as well as the general sRNA-binding proteins, CsrA, Hfq and ProQ. In presenting use cases for utilization of these RNA and protein maps, we show that a stable association of RyeG with 30S ribosomes gives this seemingly noncoding RNA of prophage origin away as an mRNA of a toxic small protein. Similarly, we show that the broadly conserved uncharacterized protein YggL is a 50S subunit factor in assembled 70S ribosomes. Overall, this study crucially extends our knowledge about the cellular interactome of the primary model bacterium E. coli through providing global RNA/protein complexome information and should facilitate functional discovery in this and related species.
    • Single-cell RNA-sequencing reports growth-condition-specific global transcriptomes of individual bacteria.

      Imdahl, Fabian; Vafadarnejad, Ehsan; Homberger, Christina; Saliba, Antoine-Emmanuel; Vogel, Jörg; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (Nature research, 2020-08-17)
      Bacteria respond to changes in their environment with specific transcriptional programmes, but even within genetically identical populations these programmes are not homogenously expressed1. Such transcriptional heterogeneity between individual bacteria allows genetically clonal communities to develop a complex array of phenotypes1, examples of which include persisters that resist antibiotic treatment and metabolically specialized cells that emerge under nutrient-limiting conditions2. Fluorescent reporter constructs have played a pivotal role in deciphering heterogeneous gene expression within bacterial populations3 but have been limited to recording the activity of single genes in a few genetically tractable model species, whereas the vast majority of bacteria remain difficult to engineer and/or even to cultivate. Single-cell transcriptomics is revolutionizing the analysis of phenotypic cell-to-cell variation in eukaryotes, but technical hurdles have prevented its robust application to prokaryotes. Here, using an improved poly(A)-independent single-cell RNA-sequencing protocol, we report the faithful capture of growth-dependent gene expression patterns in individual Salmonella and Pseudomonas bacteria across all RNA classes and genomic regions. These transcriptomes provide important reference points for single-cell RNA-sequencing of other bacterial species, mixed microbial communities and host-pathogen interactions.
    • Severe COVID-19 Is Marked by a Dysregulated Myeloid Cell Compartment.

      Schulte-Schrepping, Jonas; Reusch, Nico; Paclik, Daniela; Baßler, Kevin; Schlickeiser, Stephan; Zhang, Bowen; Krämer, Benjamin; Krammer, Tobias; Brumhard, Sophia; Bonaguro, Lorenzo; et al. (Elsevier /Cell Press), 2020-08-05)
      Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a mild to moderate respiratory tract infection, however, a subset of patients progress to severe disease and respiratory failure. The mechanism of protective immunity in mild forms and the pathogenesis of severe COVID-19 associated with increased neutrophil counts and dysregulated immune responses remain unclear. In a dual-center, two-cohort study, we combined single-cell RNA-sequencing and single-cell proteomics of whole-blood and peripheral-blood mononuclear cells to determine changes in immune cell composition and activation in mild versus severe COVID-19 (242 samples from 109 individuals) over time. HLA-DRhiCD11chi inflammatory monocytes with an interferon-stimulated gene signature were elevated in mild COVID-19. Severe COVID-19 was marked by occurrence of neutrophil precursors, as evidence of emergency myelopoiesis, dysfunctional mature neutrophils, and HLA-DRlo monocytes. Our study provides detailed insights into the systemic immune response to SARS-CoV-2 infection and reveals profound alterations in the myeloid cell compartment associated with severe COVID-19.
    • Reprogramming of host glutamine metabolism during Chlamydia trachomatis infection and its key role in peptidoglycan synthesis.

      Rajeeve, Karthika; Vollmuth, Nadine; Janaki-Raman, Sudha; Wulff, Thomas F; Baluapuri, Apoorva; Dejure, Francesca R; Huber, Claudia; Fink, Julian; Schmalhofer, Maximilian; Schmitz, Werner; et al. (Nature publishing group (NPG), 2020-08-03)
      Obligate intracellular bacteria such as Chlamydia trachomatis undergo a complex developmental cycle between infectious, non-replicative elementary-body and non-infectious, replicative reticulate-body forms. Elementary bodies transform to reticulate bodies shortly after entering a host cell, a crucial process in infection, initiating chlamydial replication. As Chlamydia fail to replicate outside the host cell, it is unknown how the replicative part of the developmental cycle is initiated. Here we show, using a cell-free approach in axenic media, that the uptake of glutamine by the bacteria is crucial for peptidoglycan synthesis, which has a role in Chlamydia replication. The increased requirement for glutamine in infected cells is satisfied by reprogramming the glutamine metabolism in a c-Myc-dependent manner. Glutamine is effectively taken up by the glutamine transporter SLC1A5 and metabolized via glutaminase. Interference with this metabolic reprogramming limits the growth of Chlamydia. Intriguingly, Chlamydia failed to produce progeny in SLC1A5-knockout organoids and mice. Thus, we report on the central role of glutamine for the development of an obligate intracellular pathogenic bacterium and the reprogramming of host glutamine metabolism, which may provide a basis for innovative anti-infection strategies.
    • Seropositivity for pathogens associated with chronic infections is a risk factor for all-cause mortality in the elderly: findings from the Memory and Morbidity in Augsburg Elderly (MEMO) Study.

      Zeeb, Marius; Kerrinnes, Tobias; Cicin-Sain, Luka; Guzman, Carlos A; Puppe, Wolfram; Schulz, Thomas F; Peters, Annette; Berger, Klaus; Castell, Stefanie; Karch, André; et al. (Springer, 2020-07-09)
      Immunostimulation by chronic infection has been linked to an increased risk for different non-communicable diseases, which in turn are leading causes of death in high- and middle-income countries. Thus, we investigated if a positive serostatus for pathogens responsible for common chronic infections is individually or synergistically related to reduced overall survival in community dwelling elderly. We used data of 365 individuals from the German MEMO (Memory and Morbidity in Augsburg Elderly) cohort study with a median age of 73 years at baseline and a median follow-up of 14 years. We examined the effect of a positive serostatus at baseline for selected pathogens associated with chronic infections (Helicobacter pylori, Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato, Toxoplasma gondii, cytomegalovirus, Epstein-Barr virus, herpes simplex virus 1/2, and human herpesvirus 6) on all-cause mortality with multivariable parametric survival models. We found a reduced survival time in individuals with a positive serostatus for Helicobacter pylori (accelerated failure time (AFT) - 15.92, 95% CI - 29.96; - 1.88), cytomegalovirus (AFT - 22.81, 95% CI - 36.41; - 9.22) and Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato (AFT - 25.25, 95% CI - 43.40; - 7.10), after adjusting for potential confounders. The number of infectious agents an individual was seropositive for had a linear effect on all-cause mortality (AFT per additional infection - 12.42 95% CI - 18.55; - 6.30). Our results suggest an effect of seropositivity for Helicobacter pylori, cytomegalovirus, and Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato on all-cause mortality in older community dwelling individuals. Further research with larger cohorts and additional biomarkers is required, to assess mediators and molecular pathways of this effect.
    • Global discovery of bacterial RNA-binding proteins by RNase-sensitive gradient profiles reports a new FinO domain protein.

      Gerovac, Milan; El Mouali, Youssef; Kuper, Jochen; Kisker, Caroline; Barquist, Lars; Vogel, Jörg; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (Cold Spring Habor Laboratory Press and RNA Society, 2020-07-09)
      RNA-binding proteins (RBPs) play important roles in bacterial gene expression and physiology but their true number and functional scope remain little understood even in model microbes. To advance global RBP discovery in bacteria, we here establish glycerol gradient sedimentation with RNase treatment and mass spectrometry (GradR). Applied to Salmonella enterica, GradR confirms many known RBPs such as CsrA, Hfq, and ProQ by their RNase-sensitive sedimentation profiles, and discovers the FopA protein as a new member of the emerging family of FinO/ProQ-like RBPs. FopA, encoded on resistance plasmid pCol1B9, primarily targets a small RNA associated with plasmid replication. The target suite of FopA dramatically differs from the related global RBP ProQ, revealing context-dependent selective RNA recognition by FinO-domain RBPs. Numerous other unexpected RNase-induced changes in gradient profiles suggest that cellular RNA helps to organize macromolecular complexes in bacteria. By enabling poly(A)-independent generic RBP discovery, GradR provides an important element in the quest to build a comprehensive catalog of microbial RBPs.
    • Dual RNA-seq of Orientia tsutsugamushi informs on host-pathogen interactions for this neglected intracellular human pathogen.

      Mika-Gospodorz, Bozena; Giengkam, Suparat; Westermann, Alexander J; Wongsantichon, Jantana; Kion-Crosby, Willow; Chuenklin, Suthida; Wang, Loo Chien; Sunyakumthorn, Piyanate; Sobota, Radoslaw M; Subbian, Selvakumar; et al. (Nature Publishing Group, 2020-07-03)
      Studying emerging or neglected pathogens is often challenging due to insufficient information and absence of genetic tools. Dual RNA-seq provides insights into host-pathogen interactions, and is particularly informative for intracellular organisms. Here we apply dual RNA-seq to Orientia tsutsugamushi (Ot), an obligate intracellular bacterium that causes the vector-borne human disease scrub typhus. Half the Ot genome is composed of repetitive DNA, and there is minimal collinearity in gene order between strains. Integrating RNA-seq, comparative genomics, proteomics, and machine learning to study the transcriptional architecture of Ot, we find evidence for wide-spread post-transcriptional antisense regulation. Comparing the host response to two clinical isolates, we identify distinct immune response networks for each strain, leading to predictions of relative virulence that are validated in a mouse infection model. Thus, dual RNA-seq can provide insight into the biology and host-pathogen interactions of a poorly characterized and genetically intractable organism such as Ot.
    • 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.
    • Increasing storage stability of freeze-dried plasma using trehalose.

      Brogna, Raffaele; Oldenhof, Harriëtte; Sieme, Harald; Figueiredo, Constança; Kerrinnes, Tobias; Wolkers, Willem F; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (PLOS, 2020-06-11)
      Preservation of blood plasma in the dried state would facilitate long-term storage and transport at ambient temperatures, without the need of to use liquid nitrogen tanks or freezers. The aim of this study was to investigate the feasibility of dry preservation of human plasma, using sugars as lyoprotectants, and evaluate macromolecular stability of plasma components during storage. Blood plasma from healthy donors was freeze dried using 0-10% glucose, sucrose, or trehalose, and stored at various temperatures. Differential scanning calorimetry was used to measure the glass transition temperatures of freeze-dried samples. Protein aggregation, the overall protein secondary structure, and oxidative damage were studied under different storage conditions. Differential scanning calorimetry measurements showed that plasma freeze-dried with glucose, sucrose and trehalose have glass transition temperatures of respectively 72±3.4°C, 46±11°C, 15±2.4°C. It was found that sugars diminish freeze-drying induced protein aggregation in a dose-dependent manner, and that a 10% (w/v) sugar concentration almost entirely prevents protein aggregation. Protein aggregation after rehydration coincided with relatively high contents of β-sheet structures in the dried state. Trehalose reduced the rate of protein aggregation during storage at elevated temperatures, and plasma that is freeze- dried plasma with trehalose showed a reduced accumulation of reactive oxygen species and protein oxidation products during storage. In conclusion, freeze-drying plasma with trehalose provides an attractive alternative to traditional cryogenic preservation
    • 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.
    • Grad-seq in a Gram-positive bacterium reveals exonucleolytic sRNA activation in competence control.

      Hör, Jens; Garriss, Geneviève; Di Giorgio, Silvia; Hack, Lisa-Marie; Vanselow, Jens T; Förstner, Konrad U; Schlosser, Andreas; Henriques-Normark, Birgitta; Vogel, Jörg; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (EMBO Press, 2020-03-30)
      RNA-protein interactions are the crucial basis for many steps of bacterial gene expression, including post-transcriptional control by small regulatory RNAs (sRNAs). In stark contrast to recent progress in the analysis of Gram-negative bacteria, knowledge about RNA-protein complexes in Gram-positive species remains scarce. Here, we used the Grad-seq approach to draft a comprehensive landscape of such complexes in Streptococcus pneumoniae, in total determining the sedimentation profiles of ~ 88% of the transcripts and ~ 62% of the proteins of this important human pathogen. Analysis of in-gradient distributions and subsequent tag-based protein capture identified interactions of the exoribonuclease Cbf1/YhaM with sRNAs that control bacterial competence for DNA uptake. Unexpectedly, the nucleolytic activity of Cbf1 stabilizes these sRNAs, thereby promoting their function as repressors of competence. Overall, these results provide the first RNA/protein complexome resource of a Gram-positive species and illustrate how this can be utilized to identify new molecular factors with functions in RNA-based regulation of virulence-relevant pathways.
    • An RNA biology perspective on species-specific programmable RNA antibiotics.

      Vogel, Jörg; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (Wiley, 2020-03-17)
      Our body is colonized by a vast array of bacteria the sum of which forms our microbiota. The gut alone harbors >1,000 bacterial species. An understanding of their individual or synergistic contributions to human health and disease demands means to interfere with their functions on the species level. Most of the currently available antibiotics are broad-spectrum, thus too unspecific for a selective depletion of a single species of interest from the microbiota. Programmable RNA antibiotics in the form of short antisense oligonucleotides (ASOs) promise to achieve precision manipulation of bacterial communities. These ASOs are coupled to small peptides that carry them inside the bacteria to silence mRNAs of essential genes, for example, to target antibiotic-resistant pathogens as an alternative to standard antibiotics. There is already proof-of-principle with diverse bacteria, but many open questions remain with respect to true species specificity, potential off-targeting, choice of peptides for delivery, bacterial resistance mechanisms and the host response. While there is unlikely a one-fits-all solution for all microbiome species, I will discuss how recent progress in bacterial RNA biology may help to accelerate the development of programmable RNA antibiotics for microbiome editing and other applications.
    • 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.
    • Herpes simplex virus blocks host transcription termination via the bimodal activities of ICP27.

      Wang, Xiuye; Hennig, Thomas; Whisnant, Adam W; Erhard, Florian; Prusty, Bhupesh K; Friedel, Caroline C; Forouzmand, Elmira; Hu, William; Erber, Luke; Chen, Yue; et al. (Nature publishing group, 2020-01-15)
      Infection by viruses, including herpes simplex virus-1 (HSV-1), and cellular stresses causewidespread disruption of transcription termination (DoTT) of RNA polymerase II (RNAPII) inhost genes. However, the underlying mechanisms remain unclear. Here, we demonstrate thatthe HSV-1 immediate early protein ICP27 induces DoTT by directly binding to the essentialmRNA 3’processing factor CPSF. It thereby induces the assembly of a dead-end 3’processing complex, blocking mRNA 3’cleavage. Remarkably, ICP27 also acts as a sequence-dependent activator of mRNA 3’processing for viral and a subset of host transcripts.Our results unravel a bimodal activity of ICP27 that plays a key role in HSV-1-induced hostshutoff and identify CPSF as an important factor that mediates regulation of transcriptiontermination. Thesefindings have broad implications for understanding the regulation oftranscription termination by other viruses, cellular stress and cancer.