July 19, 2019  |  

A random six-phase switch regulates pneumococcal virulence via global epigenetic changes.

Streptococcus pneumoniae (the pneumococcus) is the world’s foremost bacterial pathogen in both morbidity and mortality. Switching between phenotypic forms (or ‘phases’) that favour asymptomatic carriage or invasive disease was first reported in 1933. Here, we show that the underlying mechanism for such phase variation consists of genetic rearrangements in a Type I restriction-modification system (SpnD39III). The rearrangements generate six alternative specificities with distinct methylation patterns, as defined by single-molecule, real-time (SMRT) methylomics. The SpnD39III variants have distinct gene expression profiles. We demonstrate distinct virulence in experimental infection and in vivo selection for switching between SpnD39III variants. SpnD39III is ubiquitous in pneumococci, indicating an essential role in its biology. Future studies must recognize the potential for switching between these heretofore undetectable, differentiated pneumococcal subpopulations in vitro and in vivo. Similar systems exist in other bacterial genera, indicating the potential for broad exploitation of epigenetic gene regulation.


July 19, 2019  |  

qDNAmod: a statistical model-based tool to reveal intercellular heterogeneity of DNA modification from SMRT sequencing data.

In an isogenic cell population, phenotypic heterogeneity among individual cells is common and critical for survival of the population under different environment conditions. DNA modification is an important epigenetic factor that can regulate phenotypic heterogeneity. The single molecule real-time (SMRT) sequencing technology provides a unique platform for detecting a wide range of DNA modifications, including N6-methyladenine (6-mA), N4-methylcytosine (4-mC) and 5-methylcytosine (5-mC). Here we present qDNAmod, a novel bioinformatic tool for genome-wide quantitative profiling of intercellular heterogeneity of DNA modification from SMRT sequencing data. It is capable of estimating proportion of isogenic haploid cells, in which the same loci of the genome are differentially modified. We tested the reliability of qDNAmod with the SMRT sequencing data of Streptococcus pneumoniae strain ST556. qDNAmod detected extensive intercellular heterogeneity of DNA methylation (6-mA) in a clonal population of ST556. Subsequent biochemical analyses revealed that the recognition sequences of two type I restriction–modification (R-M) systems are responsible for the intercellular heterogeneity of DNA methylation initially identified by qDNAmod. qDNAmod thus represents a valuable tool for studying intercellular phenotypic heterogeneity from genome-wide DNA modification.


July 19, 2019  |  

Genetic stabilization of the drug-resistant PMEN1 Pneumococcus lineage by its distinctive DpnIII restriction-modification system.

The human pathogen Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus) exhibits a high degree of genomic diversity and plasticity. Isolates with high genomic similarity are grouped into lineages that undergo homologous recombination at variable rates. PMEN1 is a pandemic, multidrug-resistant lineage. Heterologous gene exchange between PMEN1 and non-PMEN1 isolates is directional, with extensive gene transfer from PMEN1 strains and only modest transfer into PMEN1 strains. Restriction-modification (R-M) systems can restrict horizontal gene transfer, yet most pneumococcal strains code for either the DpnI or DpnII R-M system and neither limits homologous recombination. Our comparative genomic analysis revealed that PMEN1 isolates code for DpnIII, a third R-M system syntenic to the other Dpn systems. Characterization of DpnIII demonstrated that the endonuclease cleaves unmethylated double-stranded DNA at the tetramer sequence 5′ GATC 3′, and the cognate methylase is a C5 cytosine-specific DNA methylase. We show that DpnIII decreases the frequency of recombination under in vitro conditions, such that the number of transformants is lower for strains transformed with unmethylated DNA than in those transformed with cognately methylated DNA. Furthermore, we have identified two PMEN1 isolates where the DpnIII endonuclease is disrupted, and phylogenetic work by Croucher and colleagues suggests that these strains have accumulated genomic differences at a higher rate than other PMEN1 strains. We propose that the R-M locus is a major determinant of genetic acquisition; the resident R-M system governs the extent of genome plasticity.Pneumococcus is one of the most important community-acquired bacterial pathogens. Pneumococcal strains can develop resistance to antibiotics and to serotype vaccines by acquiring genes from other strains or species. Thus, genomic plasticity is associated with strain adaptability and pneumococcal success. PMEN1 is a widespread and multidrug-resistant highly pathogenic pneumococcal lineage, which has evolved over the past century and displays a relatively stable genome. In this study, we characterize DpnIII, a restriction-modification (R-M) system that limits recombination. DpnIII is encountered in the PMEN1 lineage, where it replaces other R-M systems that do not decrease plasticity. Our hypothesis is that this genomic region, where different pneumococcal lineages code for variable R-M systems, plays a role in the fine-tuning of the extent of genomic plasticity. It is possible that well-adapted lineages such as PMEN1 have a mechanism to increase genomic stability, rather than foster genomic plasticity. Copyright © 2015 Eutsey et al.


July 19, 2019  |  

Deep genome annotation of the opportunistic human pathogen Streptococcus pneumoniae D39.

A precise understanding of the genomic organization into transcriptional units and their regulation is essential for our comprehension of opportunistic human pathogens and how they cause disease. Using single-molecule real-time (PacBio) sequencing we unambiguously determined the genome sequence of Streptococcus pneumoniae strain D39 and revealed several inversions previously undetected by short-read sequencing. Significantly, a chromosomal inversion results in antigenic variation of PhtD, an important surface-exposed virulence factor. We generated a new genome annotation using automated tools, followed by manual curation, reflecting the current knowledge in the field. By combining sequence-driven terminator prediction, deep paired-end transcriptome sequencing and enrichment of primary transcripts by Cappable-Seq, we mapped 1015 transcriptional start sites and 748 termination sites. We show that the pneumococcal transcriptional landscape is complex and includes many secondary, antisense and internal promoters. Using this new genomic map, we identified several new small RNAs (sRNAs), RNA switches (including sixteen previously misidentified as sRNAs), and antisense RNAs. In total, we annotated 89 new protein-encoding genes, 34 sRNAs and 165 pseudogenes, bringing the S. pneumoniae D39 repertoire to 2146 genetic elements. We report operon structures and observed that 9% of operons are leaderless. The genome data are accessible in an online resource called PneumoBrowse (https://veeninglab.com/pneumobrowse) providing one of the most complete inventories of a bacterial genome to date. PneumoBrowse will accelerate pneumococcal research and the development of new prevention and treatment strategies.


July 7, 2019  |  

Genetic stability of pneumococcal isolates during 35 days of human experimental carriage.

Pneumococcal carriage is a reservoir for transmission and a precursor to pneumococcal disease. The experimental human pneumococcal carriage model provides a useful tool to aid vaccine licensure through the measurement of vaccine efficacy against carriage (VEcol). Documentation of the genetic stability of the experimental human pneumococcal carriage model is important to further strengthen confidence in its safety and conclusions, enabling it to further facilitate vaccine licensure through providing evidence of VEcol.229 isolates were sequenced from 10 volunteers in whom experimental human pneumococcal carriage was established, sampled over a period of 35 days. Multiple isolates from within a single volunteer at a single time provided a deep resolution for detecting variation. HiSeq data from the isolates were mapped against a PacBio reference of the inoculum to call variable sites.The observed variation between experimental carriage isolates was minimal with the maximum SNP distance between any isolate and the reference being 3 SNPs.The low-level variation described provides evidence for the stability of the experimental human pneumococcal carriage model over 35 days, which can be reliably and confidently used to measure VEcol and aid future progression of pneumococcal vaccination. Copyright © 2015 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.. All rights reserved.


July 7, 2019  |  

Diversification of bacterial genome content through distinct mechanisms over different timescales.

Bacterial populations often consist of multiple co-circulating lineages. Determining how such population structures arise requires understanding what drives bacterial diversification. Using 616 systematically sampled genomes, we show that Streptococcus pneumoniae lineages are typically characterized by combinations of infrequently transferred stable genomic islands: those moving primarily through transformation, along with integrative and conjugative elements and phage-related chromosomal islands. The only lineage containing extensive unique sequence corresponds to a set of atypical unencapsulated isolates that may represent a distinct species. However, prophage content is highly variable even within lineages, suggesting frequent horizontal transmission that would necessitate rapidly diversifying anti-phage mechanisms to prevent these viruses sweeping through populations. Correspondingly, two loci encoding Type I restriction-modification systems able to change their specificity over short timescales through intragenomic recombination are ubiquitous across the collection. Hence short-term pneumococcal variation is characterized by movement of phage and intragenomic rearrangements, with the slower transfer of stable loci distinguishing lineages.


July 7, 2019  |  

Global phylogenomic analysis of nonencapsulated Streptococcus pneumoniae reveals a deep-branching classic lineage that is distinct from multiple sporadic lineages.

The surrounding capsule of Streptococcus pneumoniae has been identified as a major virulence factor and is targeted by pneumococcal conjugate vaccines (PCV). However, nonencapsulated S. pneumoniae (non-Ec-Sp) have also been isolated globally, mainly in carriage studies. It is unknown if non-Ec-Sp evolve sporadically, if they have high antibiotic nonsusceptiblity rates and a unique, specific gene content. Here, whole-genome sequencing of 131 non-Ec-Sp isolates sourced from 17 different locations around the world was performed. Results revealed a deep-branching classic lineage that is distinct from multiple sporadic lineages. The sporadic lineages clustered with a previously sequenced, global collection of encapsulated S. pneumoniae (Ec-Sp) isolates while the classic lineage is comprised mainly of the frequently identified multilocus sequences types (STs) ST344 (n = 39) and ST448 (n = 40). All ST344 and nine ST448 isolates had high nonsusceptiblity rates to ß-lactams and other antimicrobials. Analysis of the accessory genome reveals that the classic non-Ec-Sp contained an increased number of mobile elements, than Ec-Sp and sporadic non-Ec-Sp. Performing adherence assays to human epithelial cells for selected classic and sporadic non-Ec-Sp revealed that the presence of a integrative conjugative element (ICE) results in increased adherence to human epithelial cells (P = 0.005). In contrast, sporadic non-Ec-Sp lacking the ICE had greater growth in vitro possibly resulting in improved fitness. In conclusion, non-Ec-Sp isolates from the classic lineage have evolved separately. They have spread globally, are well adapted to nasopharyngeal carriage and are able to coexist with Ec-Sp. Due to continued use of PCV, non-Ec-Sp may become more prevalent. © The Author(s) 2014. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution.


July 7, 2019  |  

Complete genome sequences of three multidrug-resistant clinical isolates of Streptococcus pneumoniae serotype 19A with different susceptibilities to the myxobacterial metabolite carolacton.

The full-genome sequences of three drug- and multidrug-resistant Streptococcus pneumoniae clinical isolates of serotype 19A were determined by PacBio single-molecule real-time sequencing, in combination with Illumina MiSeq sequencing. A comparison to the genomes of other pneumococci indicates a high nucleotide sequence identity to strains Hungary19A-6 and TCH8431/19A. Copyright © 2017 Donner et al.


July 7, 2019  |  

Genome evolution to penicillin resistance in serotype 3 Streptococcus pneumoniae by capsular switching.

Streptococcus pneumoniae isolates of serotype 3 were collected from cases of invasive pneumococcal disease (n= 124) throughout Japan between April 2010 and March 2013. A penicillin-resistantS. pneumoniae(PRSP) isolate from an adult patient, strain KK0981 of serotype 3, was identified among these strains. Whole-genome analysis characterized this PRSP as a recombinant strain derived from PRSP of serotype 23F with thecpslocus (20.3 kb) replaced by that of a penicillin-susceptible strain of serotype 3. Copyright © 2017 American Society for Microbiology.


July 7, 2019  |  

Gene acquisition by a distinct phyletic group within Streptococcus pneumoniae promotes adhesion to the ocular epithelium.

Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus) displays broad tissue tropism and infects multiple body sites in the human host. However, infections of the conjunctiva are limited to strains within a distinct phyletic group with multilocus sequence types ST448, ST344, ST1186, ST1270, and ST2315. In this study, we sequenced the genomes of six pneumococcal strains isolated from eye infections. The conjunctivitis isolates are grouped in a distinct phyletic group together with a subset of nasopharyngeal isolates. The keratitis (infection of the cornea) and endophthalmitis (infection of the vitreous body) isolates are grouped with the remainder of pneumococcal strains. Phenotypic characterization is consistent with morphological differences associated with the distinct phyletic group. Specifically, isolates from the distinct phyletic group form aggregates in planktonic cultures and chain-like structures in biofilms grown on abiotic surfaces. To begin to investigate the association between genotype and epidemiology, we focused on a predicted surface-exposed adhesin (SspB) encoded exclusively by this distinct phyletic group. Phylogenetic analysis of the gene encoding SspB in the context of a streptococcal species tree suggests that sspB was acquired by lateral gene transfer from Streptococcus suis. Furthermore, an sspB deletion mutant displays decreased adherence to cultured cells from the ocular epithelium compared to the isogenic wild-type and complemented strains. Together these findings suggest that acquisition of genes from outside the species has contributed to pneumococcal tissue tropism by enhancing the ability of a subset of strains to infect the ocular epithelium causing conjunctivitis. IMPORTANCE Changes in the gene content of pathogens can modify their ability to colonize and/or survive in different body sites in the human host. In this study, we investigate a gene acquisition event and its role in the pathogenesis of Streptococccus pneumoniae (pneumococcus). Our findings suggest that the gene encoding the predicted surface protein SspB has been transferred from Streptococcus suis (a distantly related streptococcal species) into a distinct set of pneumococcal strains. This group of strains distinguishes itself from the remainder of pneumococcal strains by extensive differences in genomic composition and by the ability to cause conjunctivitis. We find that the presence of sspB increases adherence of pneumococcus to the ocular epithelium. Thus, our data support the hypothesis that a subset of pneumococcal strains has gained genes from neighboring species that enhance their ability to colonize the epithelium of the eye, thus expanding into a new niche.


July 7, 2019  |  

Bacterial genetics: SMRT-seq reveals an epigenetic switch.

Streptococcus pneumoniae uses genetic diversification as a strategy to achieve phenotypic plasticity. For example, DNA inversion of the hsdS genes of type I restriction-modification (R-M) systems determines whether S. pneumoniae forms opaque or transparent colonies, which have different colonization and virulence characteristics. Zhang and colleagues now use single-molecule, real-time sequencing (SMRT-seq) to show the allelic variation of hsdS that results from site-specific recombination forms part of an epigenetic switch.


July 7, 2019  |  

Lysosomal Cathepsin A plays a significant role in the processing of endogenous bioactive peptides.

Lysosomal serine carboxypeptidase Cathepsin A (CTSA) is a multifunctional enzyme with distinct protective and catalytic function. CTSA present in the lysosomal multienzyme complex to facilitate the correct lysosomal routing, stability and activation of with beta-galactosidase and alpha-neuraminidase. Beside CTSA has role in inactivation of bioactive peptides including bradykinin, substances P, oxytocin, angiotensin I and endothelin-I by cleavage of 1 or 2 amino acid(s) from C-terminal ends. In this study, we aimed to elucidate the regulatory role of CTSA on bioactive peptides in knock-in mice model of CTSA(S190A) . We investigated the level of bradykinin, substances P, oxytocin, angiotensin I and endothelin-I in the kidney, liver, lung, brain and serum from CTSA(S190A) mouse model at 3- and 6-months of age. Our results suggest CTSA selectively contributes to processing of bioactive peptides in different tissues from CTSA(S190A) mice compared to age matched WT mice.


July 7, 2019  |  

Neuraminidase A-exposed galactose promotes Streptococcus pneumoniae biofilm formation during colonization.

Streptococcus pneumoniae is an opportunistic pathogen that colonizes the nasopharynx. Herein we show that carbon availability is distinct between the nasopharynx and bloodstream of adult humans: glucose is absent from the nasopharynx, whereas galactose is abundant. We demonstrate that pneumococcal neuraminidase A (NanA), which cleaves terminal sialic acid residues from host glycoproteins, exposed galactose on the surface of septal epithelial cells, thereby increasing its availability during colonization. We observed that S. pneumoniae mutants deficient in NanA and ß-galactosidase A (BgaA) failed to form biofilms in vivo despite normal biofilm-forming abilities in vitro Subsequently, we observed that glucose, sucrose, and fructose were inhibitory for biofilm formation, whereas galactose, lactose, and low concentrations of sialic acid were permissive. Together these findings suggested that the genes involved in biofilm formation were under some form of carbon catabolite repression (CCR), a regulatory network in which genes involved in the uptake and metabolism of less-preferred sugars are silenced during growth with preferred sugars. Supporting this notion, we observed that a mutant deficient in pyruvate oxidase, which converts pyruvate to acetyl-phosphate under non-CCR-inducing growth conditions, was unable to form biofilms. Subsequent comparative transcriptome sequencing (RNA-seq) analyses of planktonic and biofilm-grown pneumococci showed that metabolic pathways involving the conversion of pyruvate to acetyl-phosphate and subsequently leading to fatty acid biosynthesis were consistently upregulated during diverse biofilm growth conditions. We conclude that carbon availability in the nasopharynx impacts pneumococcal biofilm formation in vivo Additionally, biofilm formation involves metabolic pathways not previously appreciated to play an important role. Copyright © 2016, American Society for Microbiology. All Rights Reserved.


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