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  |  

Emergence of scarlet fever Streptococcus pyogenes emm12 clones in Hong Kong is associated with toxin acquisition and multidrug resistance.

A scarlet fever outbreak began in mainland China and Hong Kong in 2011 (refs. 1-6). Macrolide- and tetracycline-resistant Streptococcus pyogenes emm12 isolates represent the majority of clinical cases. Recently, we identified two mobile genetic elements that were closely associated with emm12 outbreak isolates: the integrative and conjugative element ICE-emm12, encoding genes for tetracycline and macrolide resistance, and prophage FHKU.vir, encoding the superantigens SSA and SpeC, as well as the DNase Spd1 (ref. 4). Here we sequenced the genomes of 141 emm12 isolates, including 132 isolated in Hong Kong between 2005 and 2011. We found that the introduction of several ICE-emm12 variants, FHKU.vir and a new prophage, FHKU.ssa, occurred in three distinct emm12 lineages late in the twentieth century. Acquisition of ssa and transposable elements encoding multidrug resistance genes triggered the expansion of scarlet fever-associated emm12 lineages in Hong Kong. The occurrence of multidrug-resistant ssa-harboring scarlet fever strains should prompt heightened surveillance within China and abroad for the dissemination of these mobile genetic elements.


July 7, 2019  |  

Genetic determinants of reutericyclin biosynthesis in Lactobacillus reuteri.

Reutericyclin is a unique antimicrobial tetramic acid produced by some strains of Lactobacillus reuteri. This study aimed to identify the genetic determinants of reutericyclin biosynthesis. Comparisons of the genomes of reutericyclin-producing L. reuteri strains with those of non-reutericyclin-producing strains identified a genomic island of 14 open reading frames (ORFs) including genes coding for a nonribosomal peptide synthetase (NRPS), a polyketide synthase (PKS), homologues of PhlA, PhlB, and PhlC, and putative transport and regulatory proteins. The protein encoded by rtcN is composed of a condensation domain, an adenylation domain likely specific for d-leucine, and a thiolation domain. rtcK codes for a PKS that is composed of a ketosynthase domain, an acyl-carrier protein domain, and a thioesterase domain. The products of rtcA, rtcB, and rtcC are homologous to the diacetylphloroglucinol-biosynthetic proteins PhlABC and may acetylate the tetramic acid moiety produced by RtcN and RtcK, forming reutericyclin. Deletion of rtcN or rtcABC in L. reuteri TMW1.656 abrogated reutericyclin production but did not affect resistance to reutericyclin. Genes coding for transport and regulatory proteins could be deleted only in the reutericyclin-negative L. reuteri strain TMW1.656?rtcN, and these deletions eliminated reutericyclin resistance. The genomic analyses suggest that the reutericyclin genomic island was horizontally acquired from an unknown source during a unique event. The combination of PhlABC homologues with both an NRPS and a PKS has also been identified in the lactic acid bacteria Streptococcus mutans and Lactobacillus plantarum, suggesting that the genes in these organisms and those in L. reuteri share an evolutionary origin. Copyright © 2015, American Society for Microbiology. All Rights Reserved.


July 7, 2019  |  

Characterization of the effect of the histidine kinase CovS on response regulator phosphorylation in group A Streptococcus.

Two-component gene regulatory systems (TCSs) are a major mechanism by which bacteria respond to environmental stimuli and thus are critical to infectivity. For example, the control of virulence regulator/sensor kinase (CovRS) TCS is central to the virulence of the major human pathogen group A Streptococcus (GAS). Here, we used a combination of quantitative in vivo phosphorylation assays, isoallelic strains that varied by only a single amino acid in CovS, and transcriptome analyses to characterize the impact of CovS on CovR phosphorylation and GAS global gene expression. We discovered that CovS primarily serves to phosphorylate CovR, thereby resulting in the repression of virulence factor-encoding genes. However, a GAS strain selectively deficient in CovS phosphatase activity had a distinct transcriptome relative to that of its parental strain, indicating that both CovS kinase and phosphatase activities influence the CovR phosphorylation status. Surprisingly, compared to a serotype M3 strain, serotype M1 GAS strains had high levels of phosphorylated CovR, low transcript levels of CovR-repressed genes, and strikingly different responses to environmental cues. Moreover, the inactivation of CovS in the serotype M1 background resulted in a greater decrease in phosphorylated CovR levels and a greater increase in the transcript levels of CovR-repressed genes than did CovS inactivation in a serotype M3 strain. These data clarify the influence of CovS on the CovR phosphorylation status and provide insight into why serotype M1 GAS strains have high rates of spontaneous mutations in covS during invasive GAS infection, thus providing a link between TCS molecular function and the epidemiology of deadly bacterial infections. Copyright © 2015, American Society for Microbiology. All Rights Reserved.


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  |  

Sequence type 1 group B Streptococcus, an emerging cause of invasive disease in adults, evolves by small genetic changes.

The molecular mechanisms underlying pathogen emergence in humans is a critical but poorly understood area of microbiologic investigation. Serotype V group B Streptococcus (GBS) was first isolated from humans in 1975, and rates of invasive serotype V GBS disease significantly increased starting in the early 1990s. We found that 210 of 229 serotype V GBS strains (92%) isolated from the bloodstream of nonpregnant adults in the United States and Canada between 1992 and 2013 were multilocus sequence type (ST) 1. Elucidation of the complete genome of a 1992 ST-1 strain revealed that this strain had the highest homology with a GBS strain causing cow mastitis and that the 1992 ST-1 strain differed from serotype V strains isolated in the late 1970s by acquisition of cell surface proteins and antimicrobial resistance determinants. Whole-genome comparison of 202 invasive ST-1 strains detected significant recombination in only eight strains. The remaining 194 strains differed by an average of 97 SNPs. Phylogenetic analysis revealed a temporally dependent mode of genetic diversification consistent with the emergence in the 1990s of ST-1 GBS as major agents of human disease. Thirty-one loci were identified as being under positive selective pressure, and mutations at loci encoding polysaccharide capsule production proteins, regulators of pilus expression, and two-component gene regulatory systems were shown to affect the bacterial phenotype. These data reveal that phenotypic diversity among ST-1 GBS is mainly driven by small genetic changes rather than extensive recombination, thereby extending knowledge into how pathogens adapt to humans.


July 7, 2019  |  

Emergence of Serotype IV group B Streptococcus adult invasive disease in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, Canada, is driven by colonal sequence type 459 strains.

Serotype IV group B Streptococcus (GBS) is emerging in Canada and the United States with rates as high as 5% of the total burden of adult invasive GBS disease. To understand this emergence, we studied the population structure and assessed the antimicrobial susceptibility of serotype IV isolates causing adult invasive infection in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, Canada, between 2010 and 2014. Whole-genome sequencing was used to determine multilocus sequence typing information and identify genes encoding antimicrobial resistance in 85 invasive serotype IV GBS strains. Antimicrobial susceptibility testing was performed by standard methods. Strain divergence was assessed using genome-wide single-nucleotide polymorphism analysis. Serotype IV strains were responsible for 16.9% of adult invasive GBS infections in Manitoba and Saskatchewan during the period. The majority of serotype IV isolates (89%) were clonally related, tetracycline-, erythromycin-, and clindamycin-resistant sequence type 459 (ST459) strains that possessed genes tetM and ermTR. Genome comparisons between ST459 and serotype V ST1 GBS identified several areas of recombination in an overall similar genomic background. Serotype IV ST459 GBS strains are expanding and causing a substantial percentage of adult invasive GBS disease. This emergence may be linked to the acquisition of resistance to tetracycline, macrolides, and lincosamides. Copyright © 2015, American Society for Microbiology. All Rights Reserved.


July 7, 2019  |  

Complete genome sequence of Streptococcus agalactiae serotype III, multilocus sequence type 283 strain SG-M1.

Streptococcus agalactiae (group B Streptococcus) is a common commensal strain in the human gastrointestinal tract that can also cause invasive disease in humans and other animals. We report here the complete genome sequence of S. agalactiae SG-M1, a serotype III, multilocus sequence type 283 strain, isolated from a Singaporean patient suffering from meningitis. Copyright © 2015 Mehershahi et al.


July 7, 2019  |  

Transfer of scarlet fever-associated elements into the group A Streptococcus M1T1 clone.

The group A Streptococcus (GAS) M1T1 clone emerged in the 1980s as a leading cause of epidemic invasive infections worldwide, including necrotizing fasciitis and toxic shock syndrome. Horizontal transfer of mobile genetic elements has played a central role in the evolution of the M1T1 clone, with bacteriophage-encoded determinants DNase Sda1 and superantigen SpeA2 contributing to enhanced virulence and colonization respectively. Outbreaks of scarlet fever in Hong Kong and China in 2011, caused primarily by emm12 GAS, led to our investigation of the next most common cause of scarlet fever, emm1 GAS. Genomic analysis of 18 emm1 isolates from Hong Kong and 16 emm1 isolates from mainland China revealed the presence of mobile genetic elements associated with the expansion of emm12 scarlet fever clones in the M1T1 genomic background. These mobile genetic elements confer expression of superantigens SSA and SpeC, and resistance to tetracycline, erythromycin and clindamycin. Horizontal transfer of mobile DNA conferring multi-drug resistance and expression of a new superantigen repertoire in the M1T1 clone should trigger heightened public health awareness for the global dissemination of these genetic elements.


July 7, 2019  |  

vanG element insertions within a conserved chromosomal site conferring vancomycin resistance to Streptococcus agalactiae and Streptococcus anginosus.

Three vancomycin-resistant streptococcal strains carrying vanG elements (two invasive Streptococcus agalactiae isolates [GBS-NY and GBS-NM, both serotype II and multilocus sequence type 22] and one Streptococcus anginosus [Sa]) were examined. The 45,585-bp elements found within Sa and GBS-NY were nearly identical (together designated vanG-1) and shared near-identity over an ~15-kb overlap with a previously described vanG element from Enterococcus faecalis. Unexpectedly, vanG-1 shared much less homology with the 49,321-bp vanG-2 element from GBS-NM, with widely different levels (50% to 99%) of sequence identity shared among 44 related open reading frames. Immediately adjacent to both vanG-1 and vanG-2 were 44,670-bp and 44,680-bp integrative conjugative element (ICE)-like sequences, designated ICE-r, that were nearly identical in the two group B streptococcal (GBS) strains. The dual vanG and ICE-r elements from both GBS strains were inserted at the same position, between bases 1328 and 1329, within the identical RNA methyltransferase (rumA) genes. A GenBank search revealed that although most GBS strains contained insertions within this specific site, only sequence type 22 (ST22) GBS strains contained highly related ICE-r derivatives. The vanG-1 element in Sa was also inserted within this position corresponding to its rumA homolog adjacent to an ICE-r derivative. vanG-1 insertions were previously reported within the same relative position in the E. faecalis rumA homolog. An ICE-r sequence perfectly conserved with respect to its counterpart in GBS-NY was apparent within the same site of the rumA homolog of a Streptococcus dysgalactiae subsp. equisimilis strain. Additionally, homologous vanG-like elements within the conserved rumA target site were evident in Roseburia intestinalis. Importance: These three streptococcal strains represent the first known vancomycin-resistant strains of their species. The collective observations made from these strains reveal a specific hot spot for insertional elements that is conserved between streptococci and different Gram-positive species. The two GBS strains potentially represent a GBS lineage that is predisposed to insertion of vanG elements. Copyright © 2014 Srinivasan et al.


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.


Talk with an expert

If you have a question, need to check the status of an order, or are interested in purchasing an instrument, we're here to help.