• [Reaction of microorganisms to the digestive fluid of the earthworms]

      Khomiakov, N V; Kharin, S A; Nechitaĭlo, T Iu; Golyshin, P N; Kurakov, A V; Byzov, B A; Zviagintsev, D G; Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (formerly GBF) (2008-03-05)
      The reaction of soil bacteria and fungi to the digestive fluid of the earthworm Aporrectodea caliginosa was studied. The fluid was obtained by centrifugation of the native enzymes of the digestive tract. The inhibition of growth of certain bacteria, spores, and fungal hyphae under the effect of extracts from the anterior and middle sections of the digestive tract of A. caliginosa was discovered for the first time. In bacteria, microcolony formation was inhibited as early as 20-30 s after the application of the gut extracts, which may indicate the nonenzymatic nature of the effect. The digestive fluid exhibited the same microbicidal activity whether the earthworms were feeding on soil or sterile sand. This indicates that the microbicidal agents are formed within the earthworm's body, rather than by soil microorganisms. The effect of the digestive fluid from the anterior and middle divisions is selective in relation to different microorganisms. Of 42 strains of soil bacteria, seven were susceptible to the microbicidal action of the fluid (Alcaligenes.faecalis 345-1, Microbacterium sp. 423-1, Arthrobacter sp. 430-1, Bacillus megaterium 401-1, B. megaterium 413-1, Kluyvera ascorbata 301-1, Pseudomonas reactans 387-2). The remaining bacteria did not die in the digestive fluid. Of 13 micromycetes, the digestive fluid inhibited spore germination in Aspergillus terreus and Paecilomyces lilacinus and the growth of hyphae in Trichoderma harzianum and Penicillium decumbens. The digestive fluid stimulated spore germination in Alternaria alternata and the growth of hyphae in Penicillium chrysogenum. The reaction of the remaining micromycetes was neutral. The gut fluid from the posterior division of the abdominal tract did not possess microbicidal activity. No relation was found between the reaction of microorganisms to the effects of the digestive fluid and the taxonomic position of the microorganisms. The effects revealed are similar to those shown earlier for millipedes and wood lice in the following parameters: quick action of the digestive fluid on microorganisms, and the selectivity of the action on microorganisms revealed at the strain level. The selective effect of the digestive gut fluid of the earthworms on soil microorganisms is important for animal feeding, maintaining the homeostasis of the gut microbial community, and the formation of microbial communities in soils.
    • Recent Developments on the Synthesis and Bioactivity of Ilamycins/Rufomycins and Cyclomarins, Marine Cyclopeptides That Demonstrate Anti-Malaria and Anti-Tuberculosis Activity.

      Kazmaier, Uli; Junk, Lukas; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (MDPI, 2021-08-03)
      Ilamycins/rufomycins and cyclomarins are marine cycloheptapeptides containing unusual amino acids. Produced by Streptomyces sp., these compounds show potent activity against a range of mycobacteria, including multidrug-resistant strains of Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The cyclomarins are also very potent inhibitors of Plasmodium falciparum. Biosynthetically the cyclopeptides are obtained via a heptamodular nonribosomal peptide synthetase (NRPS) that directly incorporates some of the nonproteinogenic amino acids. A wide range of derivatives can be obtained by fermentation, while bioengineering also allows the mutasynthesis of derivatives, especially cyclomarins. Other derivatives are accessible by semisynthesis or total syntheses, reported for both natural product classes. The anti-tuberculosis (anti-TB) activity results from the binding of the peptides to the N-terminal domain (NTD) of the bacterial protease-associated unfoldase ClpC1, causing cell death by the uncontrolled proteolytic activity of this enzyme. Diadenosine triphosphate hydrolase (PfAp3Aase) was found to be the active target of the cyclomarins in Plasmodia. SAR studies with natural and synthetic derivatives on ilamycins/rufomycins and cyclomarins indicate which parts of the molecules can be simplified or otherwise modified without losing activity for either target. This review examines all aspects of the research conducted in the syntheses of these interesting cyclopeptides.
    • Recombinant protein production associated growth inhibition results mainly from transcription and not from translation.

      Li, Zhaopeng; Rinas, Ursula; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (BMC (part of Springer), 2020-04-06)
      Background: Recombinant protein production can be stressful to the host organism. The extent of stress is determined by the specific properties of the recombinant transcript and protein, by the rates of transcription and translation, and by the environmental conditions encountered during the production process. Results: The impact of the transcription of the T7-promoter controlled genes encoding human basic fibroblast growth factor (hFGF-2) and green fluorescent protein (GFP) as well as the translation into the recombinant protein on the growth properties of the production host E. coli BL21(DE3) were investigated. This was done by using expression vectors where the promoter region or the ribosome binding site(s) or both were removed. It is shown that already transcription without protein translation imposes a metabolic burden on the host cell. Translation of the transcript into large amounts of a properly folded protein does not show any effect on cell growth in the best case, e.g. high-level production of GFP in Luria-Bertani medium. However, translation appears to contribute to the metabolic burden if it is connected to protein folding associated problems, e.g. inclusion body formation. Conclusion: The so-called metabolic burden of recombinant protein production is mainly attributed to transcription but can be enhanced through translation and those processes following translation (e.g. protein folding and degradation, heat-shock responses).
    • Recombinant protein production-associated metabolic burden reflects anabolic constraints and reveals similarities to a carbon overfeeding response.

      Li, Zhaopeng; Rinas, Ursula; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (Wiley, 2020-09-03)
      A comparison of the metabolic response of Escherichia coli BL21 (DE3) towards the production of human basic fibroblast growth factor (hFGF-2) or towards carbon overfeeding revealed similarities which point to constraints in anabolic pathways. Contrary to expectations, neither energy generation (e.g., ATP) nor provision of precursor molecules for nucleotides (e.g., uracil) and amino acids (e.g., pyruvate, glutamate) limit host cell and plasmid-encoded functions. Growth inhibition is assumed to occur when hampered anabolic capacities do not match with the ongoing and overwhelming carbon catabolism. Excessive carbon uptake leads to by-product secretion, for example, pyruvate, acetate, glutamate, and energy spillage, for example, accumulation and degradation of adenine nucleotides with concomitant accumulation of extracellular hypoxanthine. The cellular response towards compromised anabolic capacities involves downregulation of cAMP formation, presumably responsible for subsequently better-controlled glucose uptake and resultant accumulation of glucose in the culture medium. Growth inhibition is neglectable under conditions of reduced carbon availability when hampered anabolic capacities also match with catabolic carbon processing. The growth inhibitory effect with accompanying energy spillage, respectively, hypoxanthine secretion and cessation of cAMP formation is not unique to the production of hFGF-2 but observed during the production of other proteins and also during overexpression of genes without transcript translation.
    • Regulatory T Cells in an Endogenous Mouse Lymphoma Recognize Specific Antigen Peptides and Contribute to Immune Escape.

      Ahmetlić, Fatima; Riedel, Tanja; Hömberg, Nadine; Bauer, Vera; Trautwein, Nico; Geishauser, Albert; Sparwasser, Tim; Stevanović, Stefan; Röcken, Martin; Mocikat, Ralph; et al. (American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), 2019-03-20)
      Foxp3+ regulatory T cells (Tregs) sustain immune homeostasis and may contribute to immune escape in malignant disease. As a prerequisite for developing immunologic approaches in cancer therapy, it is necessary to understand the ontogeny and the antigenic specificities of tumor-infiltrating Tregs. We addressed this question by using a λ-MYC transgenic mouse model of endogenously arising B-cell lymphoma, which mirrors key features of human Burkitt lymphoma. We show that Foxp3+ Tregs suppress antitumor responses in endogenous lymphoma. Ablation of Foxp3+ Tregs significantly delayed tumor development. The ratio of Treg to effector T cells was elevated in growing tumors, which could be ascribed to differential proliferation. The Tregs detected were mainly natural Tregs that apparently recognized self-antigens. We identified MHC class II-restricted nonmutated self-epitopes, which were more prevalent in lymphoma than in normal B cells and could be recognized by Tregs. These epitopes were derived from proteins that are associated with cellular processes related to malignancy and may be overexpressed in the tumor.
    • Relevance of inducible nitric oxide synthase for immune control of Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis infection in mice.

      Abdissa, Ketema; Ruangkiattikul, Nanthapon; Ahrend, Wiebke; Nerlich, Andreas; Beineke, Andreas; Laarmann, Kristin; Janze, Nina; Lobermeyer, Ulrike; Suwandi, Abdulhadi; Falk, Christine; et al. (Taylor & Francis, 2020-05-14)
      Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis (MAP) causes Johne's disease (JD), an incurable chronic intestinal bowel disease in ruminants. JD occurs worldwide and causes enormous economic burden in dairy industry. Research on JD pathobiology is hampered by its complexity which cannot completely be mimicked by small animal models. As a model the mouse allows dissecting some pathogenicity features of MAP. However, for unknown reasons MAP exhibits reduced growth in granulomas of infected mice compared to other Mycobacterium avium subspecies. Here, we characterized immune reactions of MAP-infected C57BL/6 mice. After infection, mice appeared fully immunocompetent. A strong antigen-specific T cell response was elicited indicated by IFNγ production of splenic T cells re-stimulated with MAP antigens. Function of splenic dendritic cells and proliferation of adoptively transferred antigen-specific CD4+ T cells was unaltered. Isolated splenic myeloid cells from infected mice revealed that MAP resides in CD11b+ macrophages. Importantly, sorted CD11b+CD11c- cells expressed high level of type 2 nitric oxide synthase (NOS2) but only low levels of pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines. Correspondingly, MAP-infected MAC2 expressing myeloid cells in spleen and liver granuloma displayed strong expression of NOS2. In livers of infected Nos2-/-mice higher bacterial loads, more granuloma and larger areas of tissue damage were observed 5 weeks post infection compared to wild type mice. In vitro, MAP was sensitive to NO released by a NO-donor. Thus, a strong T cell response and concomitant NOS2/NO activity appears to control MAP infection, but allows development of chronicity and pathogen persistence. A similar mechanism might explain persistence of MAP in ruminants.
    • RNase Y-mediated regulation of the streptococcal pyrogenic exotoxin B.

      Broglia, Laura; Materne, Solange; Lécrivain, Anne-Laure; Hahnke, Karin; Le Rhun, Anaïs; Charpentier, Emmanuelle; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2018-01-01)
      Endoribonuclease Y (RNase Y) is a crucial regulator of virulence in Gram-positive bacteria. In the human pathogen Streptococcus pyogenes, RNase Y is required for the expression of the major secreted virulence factor streptococcal pyrogenic exotoxin B (SpeB), but the mechanism involved in this regulation remains elusive. Here, we demonstrate that the 5' untranslated region of speB mRNA is processed by several RNases including RNase Y. In particular, we identify two RNase Y cleavage sites located downstream of a guanosine (G) residue. To assess whether this nucleotide is required for RNase Y activity in vivo, we mutated it and demonstrate that the presence of this G residue is essential for the processing of the speB mRNA 5' UTR by RNase Y. Although RNase Y directly targets and processes speB, we show that RNase Y-mediated regulation of speB expression occurs primarily at the transcriptional level and independently of the processing in the speB mRNA 5' UTR. To conclude, we demonstrate for the first time that RNase Y processing of an mRNA target requires the presence of a G. We also provide new insights on the speB 5' UTR and on the role of RNase Y in speB regulation.
    • The role of epigenetics in the development of childhood asthma.

      Qi, Cancan; Xu, Cheng-Jian; Koppelman, Gerard H; TWINCORE, Zentrum für experimentelle und klinische Infektionsforschung GmbH,Feodor-Lynen Str. 7, 30625 Hannover, Germany. (2019-11-10)
      Introduction: The development of childhood asthma is caused by a combination of genetic factors and environmental exposures. Epigenetics describes mechanisms of (heritable) regulation of gene expression that occur without changes in DNA sequence. Epigenetics is strongly related to aging, is cell-type specific, and includes DNA methylation, noncoding RNAs, and histone modifications.Areas covered: This review summarizes recent epigenetic studies of childhood asthma in humans, which mostly involve studies of DNA methylation published in the recent five years. Environmental exposures, in particular cigarette smoking, have significant impact on epigenetic changes, but few of these epigenetic signals are also associated with asthma. Several asthma-associated genetic variants relate to DNA methylation. Epigenetic signals can be better understood by studying their correlation with gene expression, which revealed higher presence and activation of blood eosinophils in asthma. Strong associations of nasal methylation signatures and atopic asthma were identified, which were replicable across different populations.Expert commentary: Epigenetic markers have been strongly associated with asthma, and might serve as biomarker of asthma. The causal and longitudinal relationships between epigenetics and disease, and between environmental exposures and epigenetic changes need to be further investigated. Efforts should be made to understand cell-type-specific epigenetic mechanisms in asthma.
    • RovC - a novel type of hexameric transcriptional activator promoting type VI secretion gene expression.

      Knittel, Vanessa; Sadana, Pooja; Seekircher, Stephanie; Stolle, Anne-Sophie; Körner, Britta; Volk, Marcel; Jeffries, Cy M; Svergun, Dmitri I; Heroven, Ann Kathrin; Scrima, Andrea; et al. (PLOS, 2020-09-23)
      Type VI secretion systems (T6SSs) are complex macromolecular injection machines which are widespread in Gram-negative bacteria. They are involved in host-cell interactions and pathogenesis, required to eliminate competing bacteria, or are important for the adaptation to environmental stress conditions. Here we identified regulatory elements controlling the T6SS4 of Yersinia pseudotuberculosis and found a novel type of hexameric transcription factor, RovC. RovC directly interacts with the T6SS4 promoter region and activates T6SS4 transcription alone or in cooperation with the LysR-type regulator RovM. A higher complexity of regulation was achieved by the nutrient-responsive global regulator CsrA, which controls rovC expression on the transcriptional and post-transcriptional level. In summary, our work unveils a central mechanism in which RovC, a novel key activator, orchestrates the expression of the T6SS weapons together with a global regulator to deploy the system in response to the availability of nutrients in the species' native environment.
    • Selective Host Cell Death by Staphylococcus aureus : A Strategy for Bacterial Persistence.

      Missiakas, Dominique; Winstel, Volker; TWINCORE, Zentrum für experimentelle und klinische Infektionsforschung GmbH,Feodor-Lynen Str. 7, 30625 Hannover, Germany. (Frontiers, 2021-01-21)
      Host cell death programs are fundamental processes that shape cellular homeostasis, embryonic development, and tissue regeneration. Death signaling and downstream host cell responses are not only critical to guide mammalian development, they often act as terminal responses to invading pathogens. Here, we briefly review and contrast how invading pathogens and specifically Staphylococcus aureus manipulate apoptotic, necroptotic, and pyroptotic cell death modes to establish infection. Rather than invading host cells, S. aureus subverts these cells to produce diffusible molecules that cause death of neighboring hematopoietic cells and thus shapes an immune environment conducive to persistence. The exploitation of cell death pathways by S. aureus is yet another virulence strategy that must be juxtaposed to mechanisms of immune evasion, autophagy escape, and tolerance to intracellular killing, and brings us closer to the true portrait of this pathogen for the design of effective therapeutics and intervention strategies.
    • shift from acetoclastic to H2-dependent methanogenesis in a west Siberian peat bog at low pH values and isolation of an acidophilic Methanobacterium strain.

      Kotsyurbenko, O R; Friedrich, M W; Simankova, M V; Nozhevnikova, A N; Golyshin, P N; Timmis, K N; Conrad, R; Institut für Mikrobiologie, Carolo-Wilhelmina Technische Universität zu Braunschweig, Biozentrum, Braunschweig, Germany. olk@helmholtz-hzi.de (2007-04)
      Methane production and archaeal community composition were studied in samples from an acidic peat bog incubated at different temperatures and pH values. H(2)-dependent methanogenesis increased strongly at the lowest pH, 3.8, and Methanobacteriaceae became important except for Methanomicrobiaceae and Methanosarcinaceae. An acidophilic and psychrotolerant Methanobacterium sp. was isolated using H(2)-plus-CO(2)-supplemented medium at pH 4.5.
    • Sialylation Is Dispensable for Early Murine Embryonic Development in Vitro.

      Abeln, Markus; Borst, Kristina M; Cajic, Samanta; Thiesler, Hauke; Kats, Elina; Albers, Iris; Kuhn, Maike; Kaever, Volkhard; Rapp, Erdmann; Münster-Kühnel, Anja; et al. (2017-07-04)
      The negatively charged nonulose sialic acid (Sia) is essential for murine development in vivo. In order to elucidate the impact of sialylation on differentiation processes in the absence of maternal influences, we generated mouse embryonic stem cell (mESC) lines that lack CMP-Sia synthetase (CMAS) and thereby the ability to activate Sia to CMP-Sia. Loss of CMAS activity resulted in an asialo cell surface accompanied by an increase in glycoconjugates with terminal galactosyl and oligo-LacNAc residues, as well as intracellular accumulation of free Sia. Remarkably, these changes did not impact intracellular metabolites or the morphology and transcriptome of pluripotent mESC lines. Moreover, the capacity of Cmas
    • Simple and rapid 5' and 3' extension techniques in RT-PCR.

      Struck, F; Collins, J (1994-05-25)
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    • Solubility and Stability Enhanced Oral Formulations for the Anti-Infective Corallopyronin A.

      Krome, Anna K; Becker, Tim; Kehraus, Stefan; Schiefer, Andrea; Steinebach, Christian; Aden, Tilman; Frohberger, Stefan J; López Mármol, Álvaro; Kapote, Dnyaneshwar; Jansen, Rolf; et al. (MDPI, 2020-11-18)
      Novel-antibiotics are urgently needed to combat an increase in morbidity and mortality due to resistant bacteria. The preclinical candidate corallopyronin A (CorA) is a potent antibiotic against Gram-positive and some Gram-negative pathogens for which a solid oral formulation was needed for further preclinical testing of the active pharmaceutical ingredient (API). The neat API CorA is poorly water-soluble and instable at room temperature, both crucial characteristics to be addressed and overcome for use as an oral antibiotic. Therefore, amorphous solid dispersion (ASD) was chosen as formulation principle. The formulations were prepared by spray-drying, comprising the water-soluble polymers povidone and copovidone. Stability (high-performance liquid chromatography, Fourier-transform-infrared spectroscopy, differential scanning calorimetry), dissolution (biphasic dissolution), and solubility (biphasic dissolution, Pion's T3 apparatus) properties were analyzed. Pharmacokinetic evaluations after intravenous and oral administration were conducted in BALB/c mice. The results demonstrated that the ASD formulation principle is a suitable stability- and solubility-enhancing oral formulation strategy for the API CorA to be used in preclinical and clinical trials and as a potential market product.
    • Soluble immune markers in the different phases of chronic hepatitis B virus infection

      Wiegand, Steffen B.; Beggel, Bastian; Wranke, Anika; Aliabadi, Elmira; Jaroszewicz, Jerzy; Xu, Cheng Jian; Li, Yang; Manns, Michael P.; Lengauer, Thomas; Wedemeyer, Heiner; et al. (Nature publishing group, 2019-10-01)
      Chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection may follow four different consecutive phases, which are defined by virology as well as biochemical markers and differ in terms of prognosis and need for antiviral treatment. Currently, host responses reflected by immune markers are not considered in this definition. We aimed to study soluble immune markers and their distribution in different phases of chronic HBV infection. In this cross-sectional retrospective study, we investigated a panel of 14 soluble immune markers (SIM) including CXCL10 in 333 patients with chronic HBV infection. In a small cohort of HBeAg positive patients we analyzed SIM before and after HBeAg seroconversion and compared seroconverters to patients with unknown outcome. Significant differences were documented in the levels of several SIM between the four phases of chronic HBV infection. The most pronounced difference among all investigated SIM was observed for CXCL10 concentrations with highest levels in patients with hepatitis. TGF-β and IL-17 revealed different levels between HBeAg negative patients. HBeAg positive patients with HBeAg seroconversion presented higher amounts of IL-12 before seroconversion compared to HBeAg positive patients with unknown follow up. SIM such as CXCL10 but also IL-12, TGF-β and IL-17 may be useful markers to further characterize the phase of chronic HBV infection.
    • Sonderforschungsbereich SFB 738: Optimierung konventioneller und innovativer Transplantate

      Manns, Michael P; Huber, Petra; Jaeckel, Elmar; Helmholtz Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoofenstr. 7, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2017-08-09)
    • Stability and Biological Activity of E. coli Derived Soluble and Precipitated Bone Morphogenetic Protein-2.

      Quaas, Bastian; Burmeister, Laura; Li, Zhaopeng; Satalov, Alexandra; Behrens, Peter; Hoffmann, Andrea; Rinas, Ursula; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (Springer, 2019-11-20)
      PURPOSE: There is a plethora of studies on recombinant human bone morphogenetic protein-2 (rhBMP-2) application and delivery systems, but surprisingly few reports address the biophysical properties of the protein which are of crucial importance to develop effective delivery systems or to solve general problems related to rhBMP-2 production, purification, analysis and application. METHODS:The solubility, stability and bioactivity of rhBMP-2 obtained by renaturation of E. coli derived inclusion bodies was assessed at different pH and in different buffer systems using (dynamic) light scattering and thermal shift assays as well as intrinsic fluorescence measurements and luciferase based bioassays. RESULTS: rhBMP-2 is poorly soluble at physiological pH and higher. The presence of divalent anions further decreases the solubility even under acidic conditions. Thermal stability analyses revealed that rhBMP-2 precipitates are more stable compared to the soluble protein. Moreover, correctly folded rhBMP-2 is also bioactive as precipitated protein and precipitates readily dissolve under appropriate buffer conditions. Once properly formed rhBMP-2 also retains biological activity after temporary exposure to high concentrations of chaotropic denaturants. However, care should be taken to discriminate bioactive rhBMP-2 precipitates from misfolded rhBMP-2 aggregates, e.g. resolvability in MES buffer (pH 5) and a discrete peak in thermoshift experiments are mandatory for correctly folded rhBMP-2. CONCLUSIONS: Our analysis revealed that E. coli derived rhBMP-2 precipitates are not only bioactive but are also more stable compared to the soluble dimeric molecules. Knowledge about these unusual properties will be helpful to design improved delivery systems requiring lower amounts of rhBMP-2 in clinical applications.
    • Staphylococcus aureus Alpha-Toxin Limits Type 1 While Fostering Type 3 Immune Responses.

      Bonifacius, Agnes; Goldmann, Oliver; Floess, Stefan; Holtfreter, Silva; Robert, Philippe A; Nordengrün, Maria; Kruse, Friederike; Lochner, Matthias; Falk, Christine S; Schmitz, Ingo; et al. (Frontiers, 2020-08-07)
      Staphylococcus aureus can cause life-threatening diseases, and hospital- as well as community-associated antibiotic-resistant strains are an emerging global public health problem. Therefore, prophylactic vaccines or immune-based therapies are considered as alternative treatment opportunities. To develop such novel treatment approaches, a better understanding of the bacterial virulence and immune evasion mechanisms and their potential effects on immune-based therapies is essential. One important staphylococcal virulence factor is alpha-toxin, which is able to disrupt the epithelial barrier in order to establish infection. In addition, alpha-toxin has been reported to modulate other cell types including immune cells. Since CD4+ T cell-mediated immunity is required for protection against S. aureus infection, we were interested in the ability of alpha-toxin to directly modulate CD4+ T cells. To address this, murine naïve CD4+ T cells were differentiated in vitro into effector T cell subsets in the presence of alpha-toxin. Interestingly, alpha-toxin induced death of Th1-polarized cells, while cells polarized under Th17 conditions showed a high resistance toward increasing concentrations of this toxin. These effects could neither be explained by differential expression of the cellular alpha-toxin receptor ADAM10 nor by differential activation of caspases, but might result from an increased susceptibility of Th1 cells toward Ca2+-mediated activation-induced cell death. In accordance with the in vitro findings, an alpha-toxin-dependent decrease of Th1 and concomitant increase of Th17 cells was observed in vivo during S. aureus bacteremia. Interestingly, corresponding subsets of innate lymphoid cells and γδ T cells were similarly affected, suggesting a more general effect of alpha-toxin on the modulation of type 1 and type 3 immune responses. In conclusion, we have identified a novel alpha-toxin-dependent immunomodulatory strategy of S. aureus, which can directly act on CD4+ T cells and might be exploited for the development of novel immune-based therapeutic approaches to treat infections with antibiotic-resistant S. aureus strains.
    • Staphylococcus epidermidis Phages Transduce Antimicrobial Resistance Plasmids and Mobilize Chromosomal Islands.

      Fišarová, Lenka; Botka, Tibor; Du, Xin; Mašlaňová, Ivana; Bárdy, Pavol; Pantůček, Roman; Benešík, Martin; Roudnický, Pavel; Winstel, Volker; Larsen, Jesper; et al. (American Society of Microbiology, 2021-05-12)
      Staphylococcus epidermidis is a leading opportunistic pathogen causing nosocomial infections that is notable for its ability to form a biofilm and for its high rates of antibiotic resistance. It serves as a reservoir of multiple antimicrobial resistance genes that spread among the staphylococcal population by horizontal gene transfer such as transduction. While phage-mediated transduction is well studied in Staphylococcus aureus, S. epidermidis transducing phages have not been described in detail yet. Here, we report the characteristics of four phages, 27, 48, 456, and 459, previously used for S. epidermidis phage typing, and the newly isolated phage E72, from a clinical S. epidermidis strain. The phages, classified in the family Siphoviridae and genus Phietavirus, exhibited an S. epidermidis-specific host range, and together they infected 49% of the 35 strains tested. A whole-genome comparison revealed evolutionary relatedness to transducing S. aureus phietaviruses. In accordance with this, all the tested phages were capable of transduction with high frequencies up to 10-4 among S. epidermidis strains from different clonal complexes. Plasmids with sizes from 4 to 19 kb encoding resistance to streptomycin, tetracycline, and chloramphenicol were transferred. We provide here the first evidence of a phage-inducible chromosomal island transfer in S. epidermidis Similarly to S. aureus pathogenicity islands, the transfer was accompanied by phage capsid remodeling; however, the interfering protein encoded by the island was distinct. Our findings underline the role of S. epidermidis temperate phages in the evolution of S. epidermidis strains by horizontal gene transfer, which can also be utilized for S. epidermidis genetic studies.IMPORTANCE Multidrug-resistant strains of S. epidermidis emerge in both nosocomial and livestock environments as the most important pathogens among coagulase-negative staphylococcal species. The study of transduction by phages is essential to understanding how virulence and antimicrobial resistance genes spread in originally commensal bacterial populations. In this work, we provide a detailed description of transducing S. epidermidis phages. The high transduction frequencies of antimicrobial resistance plasmids and the first evidence of chromosomal island transfer emphasize the decisive role of S. epidermidis phages in attaining a higher pathogenic potential of host strains. To date, such importance has been attributed only to S. aureus phages, not to those of coagulase-negative staphylococci. This study also proved that the described transducing bacteriophages represent valuable genetic modification tools in S. epidermidis strains where other methods for gene transfer fail.
    • Strategic Anti-SARS-CoV-2 Serology Testing in a Low Prevalence Setting: The COVID-19 Contact (CoCo) Study in Healthcare Professionals.

      Behrens, Georg M N; Cossmann, Anne; Stankov, Metodi V; Schulte, Bianca; Streeck, Hendrik; Förster, Reinhold; Bosnjak, Berislav; Willenzon, Stefanie; Boeck, Anna-Lena; Thu Tran, Anh; et al. (Springer Healthcare, 2020-09-04)
      Background: Serology testing is explored for epidemiological research and to inform individuals after suspected infection. During the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, frontline healthcare professionals (HCP) may be at particular risk for infection. No longitudinal data on functional seroconversion in HCP in regions with low COVID-19 prevalence and low pre-test probability exist. Methods: In a large German university hospital, we performed weekly questionnaire assessments and anti-severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) immunoglobulin G (IgG) measurements with various commercial tests, a novel surrogate virus neutralisation test, and a neutralisation assay using live SARS-CoV-2. Results: From baseline to week 6, 1080 screening measurements for anti-SARS CoV-2 (S1) IgG from 217 frontline HCP (65% female) were performed. Overall, 75.6% of HCP reported at least one symptom of respiratory infection. Self-perceived infection probability declined over time (from mean 20.1% at baseline to 12.4% in week 6, p < 0.001). In sera of convalescent patients with PCR-confirmed COVID-19, we measured high anti-SARS-CoV-2 IgG levels, obtained highly concordant results from enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISA) using e.g. the spike 1 (S1) protein domain and the nucleocapsid protein (NCP) as targets, and confirmed antiviral neutralisation. However, in HCP the cumulative incidence for anti-SARS-CoV-2 (S1) IgG was 1.86% for positive and 0.93% for equivocal positive results over the study period of 6 weeks. Except for one HCP, none of the eight initial positive results were confirmed by alternative serology tests or showed in vitro neutralisation against live SARS-CoV-2. The only true seroconversion occurred without symptoms and mounted strong functional humoral immunity. Thus, the confirmed cumulative incidence for neutralizing anti-SARS-CoV-2 IgG was 0.47%. Conclusion: When assessing anti-SARS-CoV-2 immune status in individuals with low pre-test probability, we suggest confirming positive results from single measurements by alternative serology tests or functional assays. Our data highlight the need for a methodical serology screening approach in regions with low SARS-CoV-2 infection rates.