June 1, 2021  |  

Using whole exome sequencing and bacterial pathogen sequencing to investigate the genetic basis of pulmonary non-tuberculous mycobacterial infections.

Pulmonary non-tuberculous mycobacterial (PNTM) infections occur in patients with chronic lung disease, but also in a distinct group of elderly women without lung defects who share a common body morphology: tall and lean with scoliosis, pectus excavatum, and mitral valve prolapse. In order to characterize the human host susceptibility to PNTM, we performed whole exome sequencing (WES) of 44 individuals in extended families of patients with active PNTM as well as 55 additional unrelated individuals with PNTM. This unique collection of familial cohorts in PNTM represents an important opportunity for a high yield search for genes that regulate mucosal immunity. An average of 58 million 100bp paired-end Illumina reads per exome were generated and mapped to the hg19 reference genome. Following variant detection and classification, we identified 58,422 potentially high-impact SNPs, 97.3% of which were missense mutations. Segregating variants using the family pedigrees as well as comparisons to the unrelated individuals identified multiple potential variants associated with PNTM. Validations of these candidate variants in a larger PNTM cohort are underway. In addition to WES, we sequenced the genomes of 52 mycobacterial isolates, including 9 from these PNTM patients, to integrate host PNTM susceptibility with mycobacterial genotypes and gain insights into the key factors involved in this devastating disease. These genomes were sequenced using a combination of 454, Illumina, and PacBio platforms and assembled using multiple genome assemblers. The resulting genome sequences were used to identify mycobacterial genotypes associated with virulence, invasion, and drug resistance.

April 21, 2020  |  

Mce3R Stress-Resistance Pathway Is Vulnerable to Small-Molecule Targeting That Improves Tuberculosis Drug Activities.

One-third of the world’s population carries Mycobacterium tuberculosis ( Mtb), the infectious agent that causes tuberculosis (TB), and every 17 s someone dies of TB. After infection, Mtb can live dormant for decades in a granuloma structure arising from the host immune response, and cholesterol is important for this persistence of Mtb. Current treatments require long-duration drug regimens with many associated toxicities, which are compounded by the high doses required. We phenotypically screened 35 6-azasteroid analogues against Mtb and found that, at low micromolar concentrations, a subset of the analogues sensitized Mtb to multiple TB drugs. Two analogues were selected for further study to characterize the bactericidal activity of bedaquiline and isoniazid under normoxic and low-oxygen conditions. These two 6-azasteroids showed strong synergy with bedaquiline (fractional inhibitory concentration index = 0.21, bedaquiline minimal inhibitory concentration = 16 nM at 1 µM 6-azasteroid). The rate at which spontaneous resistance to one of the 6-azasteroids arose in the presence of bedaquiline was approximately 10-9, and the 6-azasteroid-resistant mutants retained their isoniazid and bedaquiline sensitivity. Genes in the cholesterol-regulated Mce3R regulon were required for 6-azasteroid activity, whereas genes in the cholesterol catabolism pathway were not. Expression of a subset of Mce3R genes was down-regulated upon 6-azasteroid treatment. The Mce3R regulon is implicated in stress resistance and is absent in saprophytic mycobacteria. This regulon encodes a cholesterol-regulated stress-resistance pathway that we conclude is important for pathogenesis and contributes to drug tolerance, and this pathway is vulnerable to small-molecule targeting in live mycobacteria.

April 21, 2020  |  

The ADEP Biosynthetic Gene Cluster in Streptomyces hawaiiensis NRRL 15010 Reveals an Accessory clpP Gene as a Novel Antibiotic Resistance Factor.

The increasing threat posed by multiresistant bacterial pathogens necessitates the discovery of novel antibacterials with unprecedented modes of action. ADEP1, a natural compound produced by Streptomyces hawaiiensis NRRL 15010, is the prototype for a new class of acyldepsipeptide (ADEP) antibiotics. ADEP antibiotics deregulate the proteolytic core ClpP of the bacterial caseinolytic protease, thereby exhibiting potent antibacterial activity against Gram-positive bacteria, including multiresistant pathogens. ADEP1 and derivatives, here collectively called ADEP, have been previously investigated for their antibiotic potency against different species, structure-activity relationship, and mechanism of action; however, knowledge on the biosynthesis of the natural compound and producer self-resistance have remained elusive. In this study, we identified and analyzed the ADEP biosynthetic gene cluster in S. hawaiiensis NRRL 15010, which comprises two NRPSs, genes necessary for the biosynthesis of (4S,2R)-4-methylproline, and a type II polyketide synthase (PKS) for the assembly of highly reduced polyenes. While no resistance factor could be identified within the gene cluster itself, we discovered an additional clpP homologous gene (named clpPADEP) located further downstream of the biosynthetic genes, separated from the biosynthetic gene cluster by several transposable elements. Heterologous expression of ClpPADEP in three ADEP-sensitive Streptomyces species proved its role in conferring ADEP resistance, thereby revealing a novel type of antibiotic resistance determinant.IMPORTANCE Antibiotic acyldepsipeptides (ADEPs) represent a promising new class of potent antibiotics and, at the same time, are valuable tools to study the molecular functioning of their target, ClpP, the proteolytic core of the bacterial caseinolytic protease. Here, we present a straightforward purification procedure for ADEP1 that yields substantial amounts of the pure compound in a time- and cost-efficient manner, which is a prerequisite to conveniently study the antimicrobial effects of ADEP and the operating mode of bacterial ClpP machineries in diverse bacteria. Identification and characterization of the ADEP biosynthetic gene cluster in Streptomyces hawaiiensis NRRL 15010 enables future bioinformatics screenings for similar gene clusters and/or subclusters to find novel natural compounds with specific substructures. Most strikingly, we identified a cluster-associated clpP homolog (named clpPADEP) as an ADEP resistance gene. ClpPADEP constitutes a novel bacterial resistance factor that alone is necessary and sufficient to confer high-level ADEP resistance to Streptomyces across species.Copyright © 2019 American Society for Microbiology.

April 21, 2020  |  

Integrated transcriptomic and proteomic analysis of pathogenic mycobacteria and their esx-1 mutants reveal secretion-dependent regulation of ESX-1 substrates and WhiB6 as a transcriptional regulator.

The mycobacterial type VII secretion system ESX-1 is responsible for the secretion of a number of proteins that play important roles during host infection. The regulation of the expression of secreted proteins is often essential to establish successful infection. Using transcriptome sequencing, we found that the abrogation of ESX-1 function in Mycobacterium marinum leads to a pronounced increase in gene expression levels of the espA operon during the infection of macrophages. In addition, the disruption of ESX-1-mediated protein secretion also leads to a specific down-regulation of the ESX-1 substrates, but not of the structural components of this system, during growth in culture medium. This effect is observed in both M. marinum and M. tuberculosis. We established that down-regulation of ESX-1 substrates is the result of a regulatory process that is influenced by the putative transcriptional regulator whib6, which is located adjacent to the esx-1 locus. In addition, the overexpression of the ESX-1-associated PE35/PPE68 protein pair resulted in a significantly increased secretion of the ESX-1 substrate EsxA, demonstrating a functional link between these proteins. Taken together, these data show that WhiB6 is required for the secretion-dependent regulation of ESX-1 substrates and that ESX-1 substrates are regulated independently from the structural components, both during infection and as a result of active secretion.

April 21, 2020  |  

Extended insight into the Mycobacterium chelonae-abscessus complex through whole genome sequencing of Mycobacterium salmoniphilum outbreak and Mycobacterium salmoniphilum-like strains.

Members of the Mycobacterium chelonae-abscessus complex (MCAC) are close to the mycobacterial ancestor and includes both human, animal and fish pathogens. We present the genomes of 14 members of this complex: the complete genomes of Mycobacterium salmoniphilum and Mycobacterium chelonae type strains, seven M. salmoniphilum isolates, and five M. salmoniphilum-like strains including strains isolated during an outbreak in an animal facility at Uppsala University. Average nucleotide identity (ANI) analysis and core gene phylogeny revealed that the M. salmoniphilum-like strains are variants of the human pathogen Mycobacterium franklinii and phylogenetically close to Mycobacterium abscessus. Our data further suggested that M. salmoniphilum separates into three branches named group I, II and III with the M. salmoniphilum type strain belonging to group II. Among predicted virulence factors, the presence of phospholipase C (plcC), which is a major virulence factor that makes M. abscessus highly cytotoxic to mouse macrophages, and that M. franklinii originally was isolated from infected humans make it plausible that the outbreak in the animal facility was caused by a M. salmoniphilum-like strain. Interestingly, M. salmoniphilum-like was isolated from tap water suggesting that it can be present in the environment. Moreover, we predicted the presence of mutational hotspots in the M. salmoniphilum isolates and 26% of these hotspots overlap with genes categorized as having roles in virulence, disease and defense. We also provide data about key genes involved in transcription and translation such as sigma factor, ribosomal protein and tRNA genes.

April 21, 2020  |  

Genome-wide mutational biases fuel transcriptional diversity in the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex.

The Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex (MTBC) members display different host-specificities and virulence phenotypes. Here, we have performed a comprehensive RNAseq and methylome analysis of the main clades of the MTBC and discovered unique transcriptional profiles. The majority of genes differentially expressed between the clades encode proteins involved in host interaction and metabolic functions. A significant fraction of changes in gene expression can be explained by positive selection on single mutations that either create or disrupt transcriptional start sites (TSS). Furthermore, we show that clinical strains have different methyltransferases inactivated and thus different methylation patterns. Under the tested conditions, differential methylation has a minor direct role on transcriptomic differences between strains. However, disruption of a methyltransferase in one clinical strain revealed important expression differences suggesting indirect mechanisms of expression regulation. Our study demonstrates that variation in transcriptional profiles are mainly due to TSS mutations and have likely evolved due to differences in host characteristics.

April 21, 2020  |  

Adaptive Strategies in a Poly-Extreme Environment: Differentiation of Vegetative Cells in Serratia ureilytica and Resistance to Extreme Conditions.

Poly-extreme terrestrial habitats are often used as analogs to extra-terrestrial environments. Understanding the adaptive strategies allowing bacteria to thrive and survive under these conditions could help in our quest for extra-terrestrial planets suitable for life and understanding how life evolved in the harsh early earth conditions. A prime example of such a survival strategy is the modification of vegetative cells into resistant resting structures. These differentiated cells are often observed in response to harsh environmental conditions. The environmental strain (strain Lr5/4) belonging to Serratia ureilytica was isolated from a geothermal spring in Lirima, Atacama Desert, Chile. The Atacama Desert is the driest habitat on Earth and furthermore, due to its high altitude, it is exposed to an increased amount of UV radiation. The geothermal spring from which the strain was isolated is oligotrophic and the temperature of 54°C exceeds mesophilic conditions (15 to 45°C). Although the vegetative cells were tolerant to various environmental insults (desiccation, extreme pH, glycerol), a modified cell type was formed in response to nutrient deprivation, UV radiation and thermal shock. Scanning (SEM) and Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM) analyses of vegetative cells and the modified cell structures were performed. In SEM, a change toward a circular shape with reduced size was observed. These circular cells possessed what appears as extra coating layers under TEM. The resistance of the modified cells was also investigated, they were resistant to wet heat, UV radiation and desiccation, while vegetative cells did not withstand any of those conditions. A phylogenomic analysis was undertaken to investigate the presence of known genes involved in dormancy in other bacterial clades. Genes related to spore-formation in Myxococcus and Firmicutes were found in S. ureilytica Lr5/4 genome; however, these genes were not enough for a full sporulation pathway that resembles either group. Although, the molecular pathway of cell differentiation in S. ureilytica Lr5/4 is not fully defined, the identified genes may contribute to the modified phenotype in the Serratia genus. Here, we show that a modified cell structure can occur as a response to extremity in a species that was previously not known to deploy this strategy. This strategy may be widely spread in bacteria, but only expressed under poly-extreme environmental conditions.

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