Infection by the enteric pathogen Shigella flexneri requires transit through the gastrointestinal tract and invasion of and replication within the cells of the host colonic epithelium. This process exposes the pathogen to a range of diverse microenvironments. Furthermore, the unique composition and physical environment of the eukaryotic cell cytosol represents a stressful environment for S. flexneri, and extensive physiological adaptations are needed for the bacterium to thrive. In this work, we show that disrupting synthesis of the stringent response alarmone (p)ppGpp in S. flexneri diminished expression of key virulence genes, including ipaA, ipaB, ipaC, and icsA, and it reduced bacterial invasion and intercellular spread. Deletion of the (p)ppGpp synthase gene relA alone had no effect on S. flexneri virulence, but disruption of both relA and the (p)ppGpp synthase/hydrolase gene spoT resulted in loss of (p)ppGpp synthesis and virulence. While the relA spoT deletion mutant was able to invade a cultured human epithelial cell monolayer, albeit at reduced levels, it was unable to maintain the infection and spread to adjacent cells, as indicated by loss of plaque formation. Complementation with spoT on a plasmid vector restored plaque formation. Thus, SpoT alone is sufficient to provide the necessary level of (p)ppGpp for virulence. These results indicate that (p)ppGpp is required for S. flexneri virulence and adaptation to the intracellular environment, adding to the repertoire of signaling pathways that affect Shigella pathogenesis.
Feo is the most widespread and conserved system for ferrous iron uptake in bacteria, and it is important for virulence in several gastrointestinal pathogens. However, its mechanism remains poorly understood. Hitherto, most studies regarding the Feo system were focused on Gammaproteobacterial models, which possess three feo genes (feoA, B, and C) clustered in an operon. We found that the human pathogen Helicobacter pylori possesses a unique arrangement of the feo genes, in which only feoA and feoB are present and encoded in distant loci. In this study, we examined the functional significance of this arrangement.
Vibrio cholerae is a Gram-negative pathogen, living in constant competition with other bacteria in marine environments and during human infection. One competitive advantage of V. cholerae is the ability to metabolize diverse carbon sources, such as chitin and citrate. We observed that when some V. cholerae strains were grown on a medium with citrate, the medium’s chemical composition turned into a hostile alkaline environment for Gram-negative bacteria, such as Escherichia coli and Shigella flexneri. We found that although the ability to exclude competing bacteria was not contingent on exogenous citrate, V. cholerae C6706 citrate metabolism mutants ΔoadA-1, ΔcitE, and ΔcitF were not able to inhibit S. flexneri or E. coli growth. Lastly, we demonstrated that while the V. cholerae C6706-mediated increased medium pH was necessary for the enteric exclusion phenotype, secondary metabolites, such as bicarbonate (protonated to carbonate in the raised pH) from the metabolism of citrate, enhanced the ability to inhibit the growth of E. coli. These data provide a novel example of how V. cholerae outcompetes other Gram-negative bacteria.
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.
Iron is an essential element for Escherichia, Salmonella, and Shigella species. The acquisition of sufficient amounts of iron is difficult in many environments, including the intestinal tract, where these bacteria usually reside. Members of these genera have multiple iron transport systems to transport both ferrous and ferric iron. These include transporters for free ferrous iron, ferric iron associated with chelators, and heme. The numbers and types of transport systems in any species reflect the diversity of niches that it can inhabit. Many of the iron transport genes are found on mobile genetic elements or pathogenicity islands, and there is evidence of the spread of the genes among different species and pathotypes. This is notable among the pathogenic members of the genera in which iron transport systems acquired by horizontal gene transfer allow the bacteria to overcome host innate defenses that act to restrict the availability of iron to the pathogen. The need for iron is balanced by the need to avoid iron overload since excess iron is toxic to the cell. Genes for iron transport and metabolism are tightly regulated and respond to environmental cues, including iron availability, oxygen, and temperature. Master regulators, the iron sensor Fur and the Fur-regulated small RNA (sRNA) RyhB, coordinate the expression of iron transport and cellular metabolism genes in response to the availability of iron.
Iron is an essential element for Vibrio cholerae to survive, and Feo, the major bacterial system for ferrous iron transport, is important for growth of this pathogen in low-oxygen environments. To gain insight into its biochemical mechanism, we evaluated the effects of widely used ATPase inhibitors on the ATP hydrolysis activity of the N-terminal domain of V. cholerae FeoB. Our results showed that sodium orthovanadate and sodium azide effectively inhibit the catalytic activity of the N-terminal domain of V. cholerae FeoB. Further, sodium orthovanadate was the more effective inhibitor against V. cholerae ferrous iron transport in vivo. These results contribute to a more comprehensive biochemical understanding of Feo function, and shed light on designing effective inhibitors against bacterial FeoB proteins.
Staphylococcus aureus RF122 is a major pathogen that causes bovine mastitis, which is the most prevalent and costly disease in the milk and dairy industry. S. aureus expresses various virulence factors that are especially highly associated with iron metabolism, and the bacterial ferrous iron transport system Feo is important for bacterial growth or virulence in mammalian hosts. In this study, we evaluated a new antimicrobial agent, PHT-427, targeting the S. aureus RF122 Feo system for the prevention of bovine mastitis. Various analyses on in vitro enzymatic assays, growth inhibition, virulence expressions, and toxicity of animal model systems were conducted to characterize the inhibition properties of PHT-427. This small molecule efficiently inhibited enzyme activity of FeoB and bacterial growth. PHT-427 attenuated various virulence factors related to milk quality, including staphyloxanthin production, biofilm formation, and coagulation. Considering the high frequency of antibiotic-resistant S. aureus in bovine mastitis isolates, PHT-427 synergistically enhanced bacterial antibiotic susceptibility and further inhibited global Gram-positive bacterial growth. Unlike its effects on bacteria, the inhibitor did not show any toxicity on animal model systems. These results indicate that the S. aureus Feo system represents a good target for antimicrobial strategies, and this new antimicrobial agent may represent a promising biotechnological application for preventing S. aureus-induced bovine mastitis in the milk and dairy industry.
CsrA is a posttranscriptional global regulator in Vibrio cholerae Although CsrA is critical for V. cholerae survival within the mammalian host, the regulatory targets of CsrA remain mostly unknown. To identify pathways controlled by CsrA, RNA-seq transcriptome analysis was carried out by comparing the wild type and the csrA mutant grown to early exponential, mid-exponential, and stationary phases of growth. This enabled us to identify the global effects of CsrA-mediated regulation throughout the V. cholerae growth cycle. We found that CsrA regulates 22% of the V. cholerae transcriptome, with significant regulation within the gene ontology (GO) processes that involve amino acid transport and metabolism, central carbon metabolism, lipid metabolism, iron uptake, and flagellum-dependent motility. Through CsrA-RNA coimmunoprecipitation experiments, we found that CsrA binds to multiple mRNAs that encode regulatory proteins. These include transcripts encoding the major sigma factors RpoS and RpoE, which may explain how CsrA regulation affects such a large proportion of the V. cholerae transcriptome. Other direct targets include flrC, encoding a central regulator in flagellar gene expression, and aphA, encoding the virulence gene transcription factor AphA. We found that CsrA binds to the aphA mRNA both in vivo and in vitro, and CsrA significantly increases AphA protein synthesis. The increase in AphA was due to increased translation, not transcription, in the presence of CsrA, consistent with CsrA binding to the aphA transcript and enhancing its translation. CsrA is required for the virulence of V. cholerae and this study illustrates the central role of CsrA in virulence gene regulation.
The emergence of multidrug-resistant Staphylococcus aureus strains has become a serious clinical problem. Iron is absolutely required for the bacterial growth, virulence associated with colonization, and survival from the host immune system. The FeoB protein is a major iron permease in bacterial ferrous iron transport systems (Feo) that has been shown to play a crucial role in virulence of some pathogenic bacteria. However, FeoB is still uncharacterized in Gram-positive pathogens, and its effects on S. aureus pathogenesis are unknown. In this study, we identified a novel inhibitor, GW3965·HCl, that targets FeoB in S. aureus. The molecule effectively inhibited FeoB in vitro enzyme activity, bacterial growth, and virulence factor expression. Genome-editing and metabolomic analyses revealed that GW3965·HCl inhibited FeoB function and affected the associated mechanisms with reduced iron availability in S. aureus. Gentamicin resistance and Caenorhabditis elegans infection assays further demonstrated the power of GW3965·HCl as a safe and efficient antibacterial agent. In addition to S. aureus, GW3965·HCl also presented its effectiveness on inhibition of the FeoB activity and growth of Gram-positive bacteria. This novel inhibitor will provide new insight for developing a next-generation antibacterial therapy.
Feo is the most widely conserved system for ferrous iron transport in prokaryotes, and it is important for virulence in some pathogens. However, its mechanism of iron transport is not fully understood. In this study, we used full-length Vibrio cholerae FeoB (VcFeoB) as a model system to study whether its enzymatic activity is affected by regulatory factors commonly associated with FeoB proteins from other species or with G-proteins that have homology to FeoB. VcFeoB showed a higher rate of hydrolysis of both ATP and GTP than its N-terminal domain alone; likewise, ions such as K+ and Fe2+ did not modulate its nucleotide hydrolysis. We also showed that the three V. cholerae Feo proteins (FeoA, FeoB, and FeoC) work in a 1 : 1 : 1 molar ratio in vivo. Although both FeoA and FeoC are required for Feo-mediated iron transport, neither of these proteins affected the VcFeoB NTPase rate. These results are consistent with an active transport mechanism independent of stimulatory factors and highlight the importance of using full-length FeoB proteins as a reliable proxy to study Feo-mediated iron transport in vitro.
Iron is an essential requirement for the survival and virulence of most bacteria. The bacterial ferrous iron transporter protein FeoB functions as a major reduced iron transporter in prokaryotes, but its biochemical mechanism has not been fully elucidated. In the present study, we compared enzymatic properties of the cytosolic portions of pathogenic bacterial FeoBs to elucidate each bacterial strain-specific characteristic of the Feo system. We show that bacterial FeoBs are classified into two distinct groups that possess either a sole GTPase or an NTPase with a substrate promiscuity. This difference in nucleotide preference alters cellular requirements for monovalent and divalent cations. While the hydrolytic activity of the GTP-dependent FeoBs was stimulated by potassium, the action of the NTP-dependent FeoBs was not significantly affected by the presence of monovalent cations. Mutation of Asn11, having a role in potassium-dependent GTP hydrolysis, changed nucleotide specificity of the NTP-dependent FeoB, resulting in loss of ATPase activity. Sequence analysis suggested a possible association of alanine in the G5 motif for the NTP-dependent activity in FeoBs. This demonstration of the distinct enzymatic properties of bacterial FeoBs provides important insights into mechanistic details of Feo iron transport processes, as well as offers a promising species-specific anti-virulence target.
Shigella species, which are closely related to Escherichia coli, can easily be maintained and stored in the laboratory. This article includes protocols for preparation of routine growth conditions and media, for storage of the bacteria, and for monitoring of the presence of the virulence plasmid.
Basic Protocol 1: Growth of S. flexneri from frozen stocks or agar stabs
Basic Protocol 2: Growth of S. flexneri in rich liquid medium
Alternate Protocol 1: Growth of S. flexneri in rich defined medium
Alternate Protocol 2: Growth of S. flexneri in minimal medium
Basic Protocol 3: Storage of S. flexneri in frozen stocks
Alternate Protocol 3: Storage of S. flexneri in agar stabs
CsrA, an RNA-binding global regulator, is an essential protein in Vibrio cholerae. V. cholerae CsrA is regulated by three small RNAs (sRNAs), namely, CsrB, CsrC, and CsrD, which act to sequester and antagonize the activity of CsrA. Although the sRNAs were considered to be largely redundant, we found that they differ in expression, half-life, and the ability to regulate CsrA. Further, we identified a feedback loop in the Csr system in which CsrA increases the synthesis of these antagonistic sRNAs. Because the Csr sRNAs are positively regulated by VarA, we determined the effects of CsrA on VarA levels. The level of VarA was reduced in a csrA mutant, and we found that CsrA directly bound to varA mRNA in an electrophoretic mobility shift assay in vitro and in an CsrA-RNA immunoprecipitation assay in vivo. Thus, varA mRNA is an in vivo-verified direct target of CsrA in V. cholerae, and this is the first demonstration of CsrA directly binding to a varA/uvrY/gacA homolog. Additionally, we demonstrated that a varA translational fusion was less active in a csrA mutant than in wild-type V. cholerae, suggesting that CsrA enhances varA translation. We propose that this autoregulatory feedback loop, in which CsrA increases the production of the nonredundant Csr sRNAs by regulating the amount of VarA, provides a mechanism for fine-tuning the availability of CsrA and, thus, of its downstream targets.
Iron is an essential requirement for the survival and virulence for bacteria. The bacterial ferrous iron transporter protein B (FeoB) functions as a major iron transporter in prokaryotes and has an N-terminal domain (NFeoB) with homology to eukaryotic G-proteins. Its GTPase activity is required for ferrous iron uptake, making it a potential target for antivirulence therapies. Here, two assay strategies relying on different spectroscopic readouts are described to monitor NFeoB GTPase activity. The first one is the colorimetric-based platform that utilizes a malachite green reagent to monitor phosphate production from GTP hydrolysis. The absorbance change directly relates to the GTPase activity of NFeoB. The assay was further improved by the addition of Tween-20 and miniaturized in a 384-well plate format with a 10 µL assay volume. The second format is a luminescence-based platform, measuring the GTP depletion by using a modified GTPase-Glo assay from Promega. In this platform, the luminescence signal correlates to the amount of GTP remaining, allowing for the direct calculation of GTP hydrolysis by NFeoB. The colorimetric platform was tested in a high-throughput manner against a custom-assembled library of a~2000 small molecules and was found to be simple, cost-effective, and robust. Additionally, the luminescence-based platform demonstrated its capability as an orthogonal assay to monitor GTPase activity, providing a valid and convenient method to filter false hits. These two assay platforms are proven to offset the limitations of each platform while enhancing overall quality and success rates.
The Feo ferrous iron transporter is widely distributed among bacteria and archaea, but its mechanism of transport has not been fully elucidated. In Vibrio cholerae, the transport system requires three proteins: the small cytosolic proteins FeoA and FeoC and a large cytoplasmic-membrane-associated protein FeoB, which has an N-terminal G-protein domain. We show that, in contrast to Escherichia coliFeoB, which is solely a GTPase, the V. cholerae and Helicobacter pylori FeoB proteins have both GTPase and ATPase activity. In V. cholerae, mutation of the G4 motif, responsible for hydrogen bonding with the guanine base, abolished the GTPase activity but not ATPase activity. The ATPase activity of the G4 motif mutants was sufficient for Feo function in the absence of GTPase. We show that the serine and asparagine residues in the G5 motif likely play a role in the ATPase activity, and substitution of these residues with those found in the corresponding positions in E. coli FeoB resulted in similar nucleotide hydrolysis activity in the E. coli protein. These results add significantly to our understanding of the NTPase domain of FeoB and its role in Feo function.
The enteric bacterium and intracellular human pathogen Shigella causes hundreds of millions of cases of the diarrheal disease shigellosis per year worldwide. Shigella is acquired by ingestion of contaminated food or water; upon reaching the colon, the bacteria invade the colonic epithelial cells, replicate intracellularly, spread to adjacent cells, and provoke an intense inflammatory response. There is no animal model that faithfully recapitulates human disease, thus cultured cells have been used to model Shigella pathogenesis. However, the use of transformed cells in culture does not provide the same environment to the bacteria as the normal human intestinal epithelium. Recent advances in tissue culture now enable the cultivation of human intestinal enteroids (HIEs), which are derived from human intestinal stem cells and grown ex vivo, and then differentiated into "mini-intestines." Here, we demonstrate that HIEs can be used to model Shigellapathogenesis. We show that Shigella flexneri invades polarized HIE monolayers preferentially via the basolateral surface. After S. flexneriinvades HIE monolayers, S. flexneri replicates within HIE cells and forms actin tails. S. flexneri also increases the expression of HIE pro-inflammatory signals and the amino acid transporter SLC7A5. Finally, we demonstrate that disruption of HIE tight junctions enables S. flexneriinvasion via the apical surface.
A strain of Zika virus (ZIKV) of Asian origin associated with birth defects and neurological disorders has emerged and spread through the Americas. ZIKV was first isolated in the blood of nonhuman primates in Africa and has been detected in the blood, saliva, and urine of a few catarrhine species in both Africa and Asia, suggesting that nonhuman primates may serve as both a source and a reservoir of the virus. The recent introduction of ZIKV to human populations in the Americas presents the potential for the virus to spread into nonhuman primate reservoirs. Thus, it is critical to develop efficient and noninvasive detection methods to monitor the spread of the virus in wild nonhuman primate populations. Here, we describe a method for ZIKV detection in noninvasively collected fecal samples of a Neotropical primate. Fecal samples were collected from two captive squirrel monkeys (Saimiri boliviensis boliviensis) that were experimentally infected with ZIKV (Strain Mexico_1_44) and an additional two uninfected squirrel monkeys. Nucleic acids were extracted from these samples, and RT-qPCR was used to assay for the presence of ZIKV using primers flanking a 101 bp region of the NS5 gene. In both ZIKV-inoculated animals, ZIKV was detected 5-11 days post-infection, but was not detected in the uninfected animals. We compare the fecal results to ZIKV detection in serum, saliva, and urine samples from the same individuals. Our results indicate that fecal detection is a cost-effective, noninvasive method for monitoring wild populations of Neotropical primates as possible ZIKV reservoirs.
The intracellular human pathogen Shigella flexneri invades the colon epithelium, replicates to high cell density within the host cell, and then spreads to adjacent epithelial cells. When S. flexneri gains access to the host cytosol, the bacteria metabolize host cytosolic carbon using glycolysis and mixed acid fermentation, producing formate as a by-product. We show that S. flexneri infection results in the accumulation of formate within the host cell. Loss of pyruvate formate lyase (PFL; ΔpflB), which converts pyruvate to acetyl coenzyme A (CoA) and formate, eliminates S. flexneri formate production and reduces the ability of S. flexneri to form plaques in epithelial cell monolayers. This defect in PFL does not decrease the intracellular growth rate of S. flexneri; rather, it affects cell-to-cell spread. The S. flexneri ΔpflB mutant plaque defect is complemented by supplying exogenous formate; conversely, deletion of the S. flexneri formate dehydrogenase gene fdnG increases host cell formate accumulation and S. flexneri plaque size. Furthermore, exogenous formate increases plaque size of the wild-type (WT) S. flexneristrain and promotes S. flexneri cell-to-cell spread. We also demonstrate that formate increases the expression of S. flexneri virulence genes icsA and ipaJ Intracellular S. flexneriicsA and ipaJ expression is dependent on the presence of formate, and ipaJ expression correlates with S. flexneri intracellular density during infection. Finally, consistent with elevated ipaJ, we show that formate alters S. flexneri-infected host interferon- and tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-stimulated gene expression. We propose that Shigella-derived formate is an intracellular signal that modulates virulence in response to bacterial metabolism.
IMPORTANCEShigella is an intracellular pathogen that invades the human host cell cytosol and exploits intracellular nutrients for growth, enabling the bacterium to create its own metabolic niche. For Shigella to effectively invade and replicate within the host cytoplasm, it must sense and adapt to changing environmental conditions; however, the mechanisms and signals sensed by S. flexneri are largely unknown. We have found that the secreted Shigella metabolism by-product formate regulates Shigella intracellular virulence gene expression and its ability to spread among epithelial cells. We propose that Shigella senses formate accumulation in the host cytosol as a way to determine intracellular Shigella density and regulate secreted virulence factors accordingly, enabling spatiotemporal regulation of effectors important for dampening the host immune response.
Shigella is an enteroinvasive human pathogen that infects the colonic epithelium and causes Shigellosis, an infectious diarrheal disease. There is no vaccine for the prevention or treatment of Shigellosis and antibiotic‐resistant strains of Shigella are increasing, emphasizing the need for a deeper understanding of Shigella pathogenesis in order to design effective antimicrobial therapies. Small animal models do not recapitulate Shigellosis, therefore tissue‐cultured cells have served as model systems to study Shigellapathogenesis. Here, protocols to enumerate Shigella invasion, cell‐cell spread, and plaque formation in the tissue‐cultured cell lines Henle‐407 and CoN‐841 are described. Additionally, a new method to study Shigella invasion in primary intestinal enteroids is described. These protocols can be used to examine different aspects of Shigella virulence.