April 21, 2020  |  

Evolution of a 72-kb cointegrant, conjugative multiresistance plasmid from early community-associated methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus isolates.

Horizontal transfer of plasmids encoding antimicrobial-resistance and virulence determinants has been instrumental in Staphylococcus aureus evolution, including the emergence of community-associated methicillin-resistant S. aureus (CA-MRSA). In the early 1990s the first CA-MRSA isolated in Western Australia (WA), WA-5, encoded cadmium, tetracycline and penicillin-resistance genes on plasmid pWBG753 (~30 kb). WA-5 and pWBG753 appeared only briefly in WA, however, fusidic-acid-resistance plasmids related to pWBG753 were also present in the first European CA-MRSA at the time. Here we characterized a 72-kb conjugative plasmid pWBG731 present in multiresistant WA-5-like clones from the same period. pWBG731 was a cointegrant formed from pWBG753 and a pWBG749-family conjugative plasmid. pWBG731 carried mupirocin, trimethoprim, cadmium and penicillin-resistance genes. The stepwise evolution of pWBG731 likely occurred through the combined actions of IS257, IS257-dependent miniature inverted-repeat transposable elements (MITEs) and the BinL resolution system of the ß-lactamase transposon Tn552 An evolutionary intermediate ~42-kb non-conjugative plasmid pWBG715, possessed the same resistance genes as pWBG731 but retained an integrated copy of the small tetracycline-resistance plasmid pT181. IS257 likely facilitated replacement of pT181 with conjugation genes on pWBG731, thus enabling autonomous transfer. Like conjugative plasmid pWBG749, pWBG731 also mobilized non-conjugative plasmids carrying oriT mimics. It seems likely that pWBG731 represents the product of multiple recombination events between the WA-5 pWBG753 plasmid and other mobile genetic elements present in indigenous CA-MSSA. The molecular evolution of pWBG731 saliently illustrates how diverse mobile genetic elements can together facilitate rapid accrual and horizontal dissemination of multiresistance in S. aureus CA-MRSA.Copyright © 2019 American Society for Microbiology.


April 21, 2020  |  

Microbial diversity in the tick Argas japonicus (Acari: Argasidae) with a focus on Rickettsia pathogens.

The soft tick Argas japonicus mainly infests birds and can cause human dermatitis; however, no pathogen has been identified from this tick species in China. In the present study, the microbiota in A. japonicus collected from an epidemic community was explored, and some putative Rickettsia pathogens were further characterized. The results obtained indicated that bacteria in A. japonicus were mainly ascribed to the phyla Proteobacteria, Firmicutes and Actinobacteria. At the genus level, the male A. japonicus harboured more diverse bacteria than the females and nymphs. The bacteria Alcaligenes, Pseudomonas, Rickettsia and Staphylococcus were common in nymphs and adults. The abundance of bacteria belonging to the Rickettsia genus in females and males was 7.27% and 10.42%, respectively. Furthermore, the 16S rRNA gene of Rickettsia was amplified and sequenced, and phylogenetic analysis revealed that 13 sequences were clustered with the spotted fever group rickettsiae (Rickettsia heilongjiangensis and Rickettsia japonica) and three were clustered with Rickettsia limoniae, which suggested that the characterized Rickettsia in A. japonicus were novel putative pathogens and also that the residents were at considerable risk for infection by tick-borne pathogens. © 2019 The Royal Entomological Society.


April 21, 2020  |  

Harnessing long-read amplicon sequencing to uncover NRPS and Type I PKS gene sequence diversity in polar desert soils.

The severity of environmental conditions at Earth’s frigid zones present attractive opportunities for microbial biomining due to their heightened potential as reservoirs for novel secondary metabolites. Arid soil microbiomes within the Antarctic and Arctic circles are remarkably rich in Actinobacteria and Proteobacteria, bacterial phyla known to be prolific producers of natural products. Yet the diversity of secondary metabolite genes within these cold, extreme environments remain largely unknown. Here, we employed amplicon sequencing using PacBio RS II, a third generation long-read platform, to survey over 200 soils spanning twelve east Antarctic and high Arctic sites for natural product-encoding genes, specifically targeting non-ribosomal peptides (NRPS) and Type I polyketides (PKS). NRPS-encoding genes were more widespread across the Antarctic, whereas PKS genes were only recoverable from a handful of sites. Many recovered sequences were deemed novel due to their low amino acid sequence similarity to known protein sequences, particularly throughout the east Antarctic sites. Phylogenetic analysis revealed that a high proportion were most similar to antifungal and biosurfactant-type clusters. Multivariate analysis showed that soil fertility factors of carbon, nitrogen and moisture displayed significant negative relationships with natural product gene richness. Our combined results suggest that secondary metabolite production is likely to play an important physiological component of survival for microorganisms inhabiting arid, nutrient-starved soils. © FEMS 2019.


April 21, 2020  |  

Into the Thermus Mobilome: Presence, Diversity and Recent Activities of Insertion Sequences Across Thermus spp.

A high level of transposon-mediated genome rearrangement is a common trait among microorganisms isolated from thermal environments, probably contributing to the extraordinary genomic plasticity and horizontal gene transfer (HGT) observed in these habitats. In this work, active and inactive insertion sequences (ISs) spanning the sequenced members of the genus Thermus were characterized, with special emphasis on three T. thermophilus strains: HB27, HB8, and NAR1. A large number of full ISs and fragments derived from different IS families were found, concentrating within megaplasmids present in most isolates. Potentially active ISs were identified through analysis of transposase integrity, and domestication-related transposition events of ISTth7 were identified in laboratory-adapted HB27 derivatives. Many partial copies of ISs appeared throughout the genome, which may serve as specific targets for homologous recombination contributing to genome rearrangement. Moreover, recruitment of IS1000 32 bp segments as spacers for CRISPR sequence was identified, pointing to the adaptability of these elements in the biology of these thermophiles. Further knowledge about the activity and functional diversity of ISs in this genus may contribute to the generation of engineered transposons as new genetic tools, and enrich our understanding of the outstanding plasticity shown by these thermophiles.


April 21, 2020  |  

Information about variations in multiple copies of bacterial 16S rRNA genes may aid in species identification.

Variable region analysis of 16S rRNA gene sequences is the most common tool in bacterial taxonomic studies. Although used for distinguishing bacterial species, its use remains limited due to the presence of variable copy numbers with sequence variation in the genomes. In this study, 16S rRNA gene sequences, obtained from completely assembled whole genome and Sanger electrophoresis sequencing of cloned PCR products from Serratia fonticola GS2, were compared. Sanger sequencing produced a combination of sequences from multiple copies of 16S rRNA genes. To determine whether the variant copies of 16S rRNA genes affected Sanger sequencing, two ratios (5:5 and 8:2) with different concentrations of cloned 16S rRNA genes were used; it was observed that the greater the number of copies with similar sequences the higher its chance of amplification. Effect of multiple copies for taxonomic classification of 16S rRNA gene sequences was investigated using the strain GS2 as a model. 16S rRNA copies with the maximum variation had 99.42% minimum pairwise similarity and this did not have an effect on species identification. Thus, PCR products from genomes containing variable 16S rRNA gene copies can provide sufficient information for species identification except from species which have high similarity of sequences in their 16S rRNA gene copies like the case of Bacillus thuringiensis and Bacillus cereus. In silico analysis of 1,616 bacterial genomes from long-read sequencing was also done. The average minimum pairwise similarity for each phylum was reported with their average genome size and average “unique copies” of 16S rRNA genes and we found that the phyla Proteobacteria and Firmicutes showed the highest amount of variation in their copies of their 16S rRNA genes. Overall, our results shed light on how the variations in the multiple copies of the 16S rRNA genes of bacteria can aid in appropriate species identification.


April 21, 2020  |  

Genome-wide systematic identification of methyltransferase recognition and modification patterns.

Genome-wide analysis of DNA methylation patterns using single molecule real-time DNA sequencing has boosted the number of publicly available methylomes. However, there is a lack of tools coupling methylation patterns and the corresponding methyltransferase genes. Here we demonstrate a high-throughput method for coupling methyltransferases with their respective motifs, using automated cloning and analysing the methyltransferases in vectors carrying a strain-specific cassette containing all potential target sites. To validate the method, we analyse the genomes of the thermophile Moorella thermoacetica and the mesophile Acetobacterium woodii, two acetogenic bacteria having substantially modified genomes with 12 methylation motifs and a total of 23 methyltransferase genes. Using our method, we characterize the 23 methyltransferases, assign motifs to the respective enzymes and verify activity for 11 of the 12 motifs.


April 21, 2020  |  

The Not-so-Sterile Womb: Evidence That the Human Fetus Is Exposed to Bacteria Prior to Birth.

The human microbiome includes trillions of bacteria, many of which play a vital role in host physiology. Numerous studies have now detected bacterial DNA in first-pass meconium and amniotic fluid samples, suggesting that the human microbiome may commence in utero. However, these data have remained contentious due to underlying contamination issues. Here, we have used a previously described method for reducing contamination in microbiome workflows to determine if there is a fetal bacterial microbiome beyond the level of background contamination. We recruited 50 women undergoing non-emergency cesarean section deliveries with no evidence of intra-uterine infection and collected first-pass meconium and amniotic fluid samples. Full-length 16S rRNA gene sequencing was performed using PacBio SMRT cell technology, to allow high resolution profiling of the fetal gut and amniotic fluid bacterial microbiomes. Levels of inflammatory cytokines were measured in amniotic fluid, and levels of immunomodulatory short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) were quantified in meconium. All meconium samples and most amniotic fluid samples (36/43) contained bacterial DNA. The meconium microbiome was dominated by reads that mapped to Pelomonas puraquae. Aside from this species, the meconium microbiome was remarkably heterogeneous between patients. The amniotic fluid microbiome was more diverse and contained mainly reads that mapped to typical skin commensals, including Propionibacterium acnes and Staphylococcus spp. All meconium samples contained acetate and propionate, at ratios similar to those previously reported in infants. P. puraquae reads were inversely correlated with meconium propionate levels. Amniotic fluid cytokine levels were associated with the amniotic fluid microbiome. Our results demonstrate that bacterial DNA and SCFAs are present in utero, and have the potential to influence the developing fetal immune system.


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