• 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.
    • Functional analysis of Salmonella Typhi adaptation to survival in water.

      Kingsley, Robert A; Langridge, Gemma; Smith, Sarah E; Makendi, Carine; Fookes, Maria; Wileman, Tom M; El Ghany, Moataz Abd; Keith Turner, A; Dyson, Zoe A; Sridhar, Sushmita; et al. (Wiley-Blackwell, 2018-11-18)
      Contaminated water is a major risk factor associated with the transmission of Salmonella enterica serovar Typhi (S. Typhi), the aetiological agent of human typhoid. However, little is known about how this pathogen adapts to living in the aqueous environment. We used transcriptome analysis (RNA-seq) and transposon mutagenesis (TraDIS) to characterize these adaptive changes and identify multiple genes that contribute to survival. Over half of the genes in the S. Typhi genome altered expression level within the first 24 h following transfer from broth culture to water, although relatively few did so in the first 30 min. Genes linked to central metabolism, stress associated with arrested proton motive force and respiratory chain factors changed expression levels. Additionally, motility and chemotaxis genes increased expression, consistent with a scavenging lifestyle. The viaB-associated gene tviC encoding a glcNAc epimerase that is required for Vi polysaccharide biosynthesis was, along with several other genes, shown to contribute to survival in water. Thus, we define regulatory adaptation operating in S. Typhi that facilitates survival in water.
    • A global genomic approach uncovers novel components for twitching motility-mediated biofilm expansion in Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

      Nolan, Laura M; Whitchurch, Cynthia B; Barquist, Lars; Katrib, Marilyn; Boinett, Christine J; Mayho, Matthew; Goulding, David; Charles, Ian G; Filloux, Alain; Parkhill, Julian; et al. (Microbiology Society, 2018-11-01)
      Pseudomonas aeruginosa is an extremely successful pathogen able to cause both acute and chronic infections in a range of hosts, utilizing a diverse arsenal of cell-associated and secreted virulence factors. A major cell-associated virulence factor, the Type IV pilus (T4P), is required for epithelial cell adherence and mediates a form of surface translocation termed twitching motility, which is necessary to establish a mature biofilm and actively expand these biofilms. P. aeruginosa twitching motility-mediated biofilm expansion is a coordinated, multicellular behaviour, allowing cells to rapidly colonize surfaces, including implanted medical devices. Although at least 44 proteins are known to be involved in the biogenesis, assembly and regulation of the T4P, with additional regulatory components and pathways implicated, it is unclear how these components and pathways interact to control these processes. In the current study, we used a global genomics-based random-mutagenesis technique, transposon directed insertion-site sequencing (TraDIS), coupled with a physical segregation approach, to identify all genes implicated in twitching motility-mediated biofilm expansion in P. aeruginosa. Our approach allowed identification of both known and novel genes, providing new insight into the complex molecular network that regulates this process in P. aeruginosa. Additionally, our data suggest that the flagellum-associated gene products have a differential effect on twitching motility, based on whether components are intra- or extracellular. Overall the success of our TraDIS approach supports the use of this global genomic technique for investigating virulence genes in bacterial pathogens.
    • Global Maps of ProQ Binding In Vivo Reveal Target Recognition via RNA Structure and Stability Control at mRNA 3' Ends.

      Holmqvist, Erik; Li, Lei; Bischler, Thorsten; Barquist, Lars; Vogel, Jörg; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (Elsevier, 2018-06-07)
      The conserved RNA-binding protein ProQ has emerged as the centerpiece of a previously unknown third large network of post-transcriptional control in enterobacteria. Here, we have used in vivo UV crosslinking and RNA sequencing (CLIP-seq) to map hundreds of ProQ binding sites in Salmonella enterica and Escherichia coli. Our analysis of these binding sites, many of which are conserved, suggests that ProQ recognizes its cellular targets through RNA structural motifs found in small RNAs (sRNAs) and at the 3′ end of mRNAs. Using the cspE mRNA as a model for 3′ end targeting, we reveal a function for ProQ in protecting mRNA against exoribonucleolytic activity. Taken together, our results underpin the notion that ProQ governs a post-transcriptional network distinct from those of the well-characterized sRNA-binding proteins, CsrA and Hfq, and suggest a previously unrecognized, sRNA-independent role of ProQ in stabilizing mRNAs.
    • Machine learning identifies signatures of host adaptation in the bacterial pathogen Salmonella enterica.

      Wheeler, Nicole E; Gardner, Paul P; Barquist, Lars; HIRI, Helmoltz-Institut für RNA-basierteInfektionsforschung, Josef-Schneider-Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (2018-01-01)
      Emerging pathogens are a major threat to public health, however understanding how pathogens adapt to new niches remains a challenge. New methods are urgently required to provide functional insights into pathogens from the massive genomic data sets now being generated from routine pathogen surveillance for epidemiological purposes. Here, we measure the burden of atypical mutations in protein coding genes across independently evolved Salmonella enterica lineages, and use these as input to train a random forest classifier to identify strains associated with extraintestinal disease. Members of the species fall along a continuum, from pathovars which cause gastrointestinal infection and low mortality, associated with a broad host-range, to those that cause invasive infection and high mortality, associated with a narrowed host range. Our random forest classifier learned to perfectly discriminate long-established gastrointestinal and invasive serovars of Salmonella. Additionally, it was able to discriminate recently emerged Salmonella Enteritidis and Typhimurium lineages associated with invasive disease in immunocompromised populations in sub-Saharan Africa, and within-host adaptation to invasive infection. We dissect the architecture of the model to identify the genes that were most informative of phenotype, revealing a common theme of degradation of metabolic pathways in extraintestinal lineages. This approach accurately identifies patterns of gene degradation and diversifying selection specific to invasive serovars that have been captured by more labour-intensive investigations, but can be readily scaled to larger analyses.
    • Morphological, genomic and transcriptomic responses of Klebsiella pneumoniae to the last-line antibiotic colistin.

      Cain, Amy K; Boinett, Christine J; Barquist, Lars; Dordel, Janina; Fookes, Maria; Mayho, Matthew; Ellington, Matthew J; Goulding, David; Pickard, Derek; Wick, Ryan R; et al. (2018-06-29)
      Colistin remains one of the few antibiotics effective against multi-drug resistant (MDR) hospital pathogens, such as Klebsiella pneumoniae. Yet resistance to this last-line drug is rapidly increasing. Characterized mechanisms of col
    • Plugging Small RNAs into the Network.

      Barquist, Lars; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (ASM, 2020-06-02)
      Small RNAs (sRNAs) have been discovered in every bacterium examined and have been shown to play important roles in the regulation of a diverse range of behaviors, from metabolism to infection. However, despite a wide range of available techniques for discovering and validating sRNA regulatory interactions, only a minority of these molecules have been well characterized. In part, this is due to the nature of posttranscriptional regulation: the activity of an sRNA depends on the state of the transcriptome as a whole, so characterization is best carried out under the conditions in which it is naturally active. In this issue of mSystems, Arrieta-Ortiz and colleagues (M. L. Arrieta-Ortiz, C. Hafemeister, B. Shuster, N. S. Baliga, et al., mSystems 5:e00057-20, 2020, https://doi.org/10.1128/mSystems.00057-20) present a network inference approach based on estimating sRNA activity across transcriptomic compendia. This shows promise not only for identifying new sRNA regulatory interactions but also for pinpointing the conditions in which these interactions occur, providing a new avenue toward functional characterization of sRNAs.
    • Rapid transcriptional responses to serum exposure are associated with sensitivity and resistance to antibody-mediated complement killing in invasive Typhimurium ST313.

      Ondari, Edna M; Klemm, Elizabeth J; Msefula, Chisomo L; El Ghany, Moataz Abd; Heath, Jennifer N; Pickard, Derek J; Barquist, Lars; Dougan, Gordon; Kingsley, Robert A; MacLennan, Calman A; et al. (F1000Research, 2019-01-01)
      Background: Salmonella Typhimurium ST313 exhibits signatures of adaptation to invasive human infection, including higher resistance to humoral immune responses than gastrointestinal isolates. Full resistance to antibody-mediated complement killing (serum resistance) among nontyphoidal Salmonellae is uncommon, but selection of highly resistant strains could compromise vaccine-induced antibody immunity. Here, we address the hypothesis that serum resistance is due to a distinct genotype or transcriptome response in S. Typhimurium ST313. Methods: Six S. Typhimurium ST313 bloodstream isolates, three of which were antibody resistant, were studied. Genomic content (single nucleotide polymorphisms and larger chromosomal modifications) of the strains was determined by Illumina and PACBIO sequencing, and functionally characterized using RNA-seq, transposon directed insertion site sequencing (TraDIS), targeted gene deletion and transfer of selected point mutations in an attempt to identify features associated with serum resistance.   Results: Sequence polymorphisms in genes from strains with atypical serum susceptibility when transferred from strains that were highly resistant or susceptible to a strain that exhibited intermediate susceptibility did not significantly alter serum killing phenotype. No large chromosomal modifications typified serum resistance or susceptibility. Genes required for resistance to serum identified by TraDIS and RNA-seq included those involved in exopolysaccharide synthesis, iron scavenging and metabolism. Most of the down-regulated genes were associated with membrane proteins. Resistant and susceptible strains had distinct transcriptional responses to serum, particularly related to genes responsible for polysaccharide biosynthesis. There was higher upregulation of wca locus genes, involved in the biosynthesis of colanic acid exopolysaccharide, in susceptible strains and increased expression of fepE, a regulator of very long-chain lipopolysaccharide in resistant strains. Conclusion: Clinical isolates of S. Typhimurium ST313 exhibit distinct antibody susceptibility phenotypes that may be associated with changes in gene expression on exposure to serum.
    • 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.