• 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.