The role of the gut microbiota in the pathogenesis of Shigella flexneriremains largely unknown. To understand the impact of the gut microbiota on S. flexneri virulence, we examined the effect of interspecies interactions with Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron, a prominent member of the gut microbiota, on S. flexneriinvasion. When grown in B. thetaiotaomicron-conditioned medium, S. flexneri showed reduced invasion of human epithelial cells. This decrease in invasiveness of S. flexneri resulted from a reduction in the level of the S. flexnerimaster virulence regulator VirF. Reduction of VirF corresponded with a decrease in expression of a secondary virulence regulator, virB, as well as expression of S. flexneri virulence genes required for invasion, intracellular motility, and spread. Repression of S. flexneri virulence factors by B. thetaiotaomicron-conditioned medium was not caused by either a secreted metabolite or secreted protein but rather was due to the presence of B. thetaiotaomicron outer membrane vesicles (OMVs) in the conditioned medium. The addition of purified B. thetaiotaomicron OMVs to S. flexnerigrowth medium recapitulated the inhibitory effects of B. thetaiotaomicron-conditioned medium on invasion, virulence gene expression, and virulence protein levels. Total lipids extracted from either B. thetaiotaomicron cells or B. thetaiotaomicron OMVs also recapitulated the effects of B. thetaiotaomicron-conditioned medium on expression of the S. flexneri virulence factor IpaC, indicating that B. thetaiotaomicron OMV lipids, rather than a cargo contained in the vesicles, are the active factor responsible for the inhibition of S. flexnerivirulence.
Iron acquisition is essential for almost all living organisms. In certain environments, ferrous iron is the most prevalent form of this element. Feo is the most widespread system for ferrous iron uptake in bacteria and is critical for virulence in some species. The canonical architecture of Feo consists of a large transmembrane nucleoside triphosphatase (NTPase) protein, FeoB, and two accessory cytoplasmic proteins, FeoA and FeoC. The role of the latter components and the mechanism by which Feo orchestrates iron transport are unclear. In this study, we conducted a comparative analysis of Feo protein sequences to gain insight into the evolutionary history of this transporter. We identified instances of how horizontal gene transfer contributed to the evolution of Feo. Also, we found that FeoC, while absent in most lineages, is largely present in the Gammaproteobacteria group, although its sequence is poorly conserved. We propose that FeoC, which may couple FeoB NTPase activity with pore opening, was an ancestral element that has been dispensed with through mutations in FeoA and FeoB in some lineages. We provide experimental evidence supporting this hypothesis by isolating and characterizing FeoC-independent mutants of the Vibrio cholerae Feo system. Also, we confirmed that the closely related species Shewanella oneidensis does not require FeoC; thus, Vibrio FeoC sequences may resemble transitional forms on an evolutionary pathway toward FeoC-independent transporters. Finally, by combining data from our bioinformatic analyses with this experimental evidence, we propose an evolutionary model for the Feo system in bacteria.