Directed screen of Francisella novicida virulence determinants using Drosophila melanogaster.
ABSTRACT: Francisella tularensis is a highly virulent, facultative intracellular human pathogen whose virulence mechanisms are not well understood. Occasional outbreaks of tularemia and the potential use of F. tularensis as a bioterrorist agent warrant better knowledge about the pathogenicity of this bacterium. Thus far, genome-wide in vivo screens for virulence factors have been performed in mice, all however restricted by the necessity to apply competition-based, negative-selection assays. We wanted to individually evaluate putative virulence determinants suggested by such assays and performed directed screening of 249 F. novicida transposon insertion mutants by using survival of infected fruit flies as a measure of bacterial virulence. Some 20% of the genes tested were required for normal virulence in flies; most of these had not previously been investigated in detail in vitro or in vivo. We further characterized their involvement in bacterial proliferation and pathogenicity in flies and in mouse macrophages. Hierarchical cluster analysis of mutant phenotypes indicated a functional linkage between clustered genes. One cluster grouped all but four genes of the Francisella pathogenicity island and other loci required for intracellular survival. We also identified genes involved in adaptation to oxidative stress and genes which might induce host energy wasting. Several genes related to type IV pilus formation demonstrated hypervirulent mutant phenotypes. Collectively, the data demonstrate that the bacteria in part use similar virulence mechanisms in mammals as in Drosophila melanogaster but that a considerable proportion of the virulence factors active in mammals are dispensable for pathogenicity in the insect model.
Project description:Francisella tularensis is a highly virulent, intracellular pathogen that causes the disease tularaemia. A research surrogate for F. tularensis is Francisella novicida, which causes a tularaemia-like disease in mice, grows similarly in macrophages, and yet is unable to cause disease in humans. Both Francisella species contain a cluster of genes referred to as the Francisella pathogenicity island (FPI). Pathogenicity determinant protein A (PdpA), encoded by the pdpA gene, is located within the FPI and has been associated with the virulence of Francisella species. In this work we examined the properties of PdpA protein expression and localization as well as the phenotype of a F. novicida pdpA deletion mutant. Monoclonal antibody detection of PdpA showed that it is a soluble protein that is upregulated in iron-limiting conditions and undetectable in an mglA or mglB mutant background. Deletion of pdpA resulted in a strain that was highly attenuated for virulence in chicken embryos and mice.
Project description:Francisella tularensis is composed of a number of subspecies with varied geographic distribution, host ranges, and virulence. In view of these marked differences, comparative functional genomics may elucidate some of the molecular mechanism(s) behind these differences. In this study a shared probe microarray was designed that could be used to compare the transcriptomes of Francisella tularensis subsp. tularensis Schu S4 (Ftt), Francisella tularensis subsp. holarctica OR960246 (Fth), Francisella tularensis subsp. holarctica LVS (LVS), and Francisella novicida U112 (Fn). To gain insight into expression differences that may be related to the differences in virulence of these subspecies, transcriptomes were measured from each strain grown in vitro under identical conditions, utilizing a shared probe microarray. The human avirulent Fn strain exhibited high levels of transcription of genes involved in general metabolism, which are pseudogenes in the human virulent Ftt and Fth strains, consistent with the process of genome decay in the virulent strains. Genes encoding an efflux system (emrA2 cluster of genes), siderophore (fsl operon), acid phosphatase, LPS synthesis, polyamine synthesis, and citrulline ureidase were all highly expressed in Ftt when compared to Fn, suggesting that some of these may contribute to the relative high virulence of Ftt. Genes expressed at a higher level in Ftt when compared to the relatively less virulent Fth included genes encoding isochorismatases, cholylglycine hydrolase, polyamine synthesis, citrulline ureidase, Type IV pilus subunit, and the Francisella Pathogenicity Island protein PdpD. Fth and LVS had very few expression differences, consistent with the derivation of LVS from Fth. This study demonstrated that a shared probe microarray designed to detect transcripts in multiple species/subspecies of Francisella enabled comparative transcriptional analyses that may highlight critical differences that underlie the relative pathogenesis of these strains for humans. This strategy could be extended to other closely-related bacterial species for inter-strain and inter-species analyses.
Project description:MglA is a transcriptional regulator of genes that contribute to the virulence of Francisella tularensis, a highly infectious pathogen and the causative agent of tularemia. This study used a label-free shotgun proteomics method to determine the F. tularensis subsp. novicida (F. novicida) proteins that are regulated by MglA. The differences in relative protein amounts between wild-type F. novicida and the mglA mutant were derived directly from the average peptide precursor ion intensity values measured with the mass spectrometer by using a suite of mathematical algorithms. Among the proteins whose relative amounts changed in an F. novicida mglA mutant were homologs of oxidative and general stress response proteins. The F. novicida mglA mutant exhibited decreased survival during stationary-phase growth and increased susceptibility to killing by superoxide generated by the redox-cycling agent paraquat. The F. novicida mglA mutant also showed increased survival upon exposure to hydrogen peroxide, likely due to increased amounts of the catalase KatG. Our results suggested that MglA coordinates the stress response of F. tularensis and is likely essential for bacterial survival in harsh environments.
Project description:Several genes contained in the Francisella pathogenicity island (FPI) encode proteins needed for intracellular growth and virulence of Francisella tularensis. The pdpA gene is the first cistron in the larger of the two operons found in the FPI. In this work we studied the intracellular growth phenotype of a Francisella novicida mutant in the pdpA gene. The DeltapdpA strain was capable of a small amount of intracellular replication but, unlike wild-type F. novicida, remained associated with the lysosomal marker LAMP-1, suggesting that PdpA is necessary for progression from the early phagosome phase of infection. Strains with in cis complementation of the DeltapdpA lesion showed a restoration of intracellular growth to wild-type levels. Infection of macrophages with the DeltapdpA mutant generated a host-cell mRNA profile distinct from that generated by infection with wild-type F. novicida. The transcriptional response of the host macrophage indicates that PdpA functions directly or indirectly to suppress macrophage ability to signal via growth factors, cytokines and adhesion ligands.
Project description:Francisella tularensis infects wild animals and humans to cause tularemia. This pathogen targets the cytosol of macrophages, where it replicates using the genes in the Francisella pathogenicity island (FPI). Virulence gene regulation in Francisella is complex, but transcriptional regulators MglA and SspA have been shown to regulate the expression of approximately 100 genes, including the entire FPI. We utilized a Francisella novicida transposon mutant library to identify additional regulatory factors and identified five additional genes that are essential for virulence gene expression. One regulatory gene, FTN_0480 (fevR, Francisella effector of virulence regulation), present in all Francisella species, is required for expression of the FPI genes and other genes in the MglA/SspA regulon. The expression of fevR is positively regulated by MglA. However, constitutive expression of fevR in an mglA mutant strain did not restore expression of the MglA/SspA regulon, demonstrating that mglA and fevR act in parallel to positively regulate virulence gene expression. Virulence studies revealed that fevR is essential for bacterial replication in macrophages and in mice, where we additionally show that fevR is required for the expression of genes in the MglA/SspA regulon in vivo. Thus, fevR is a crucial virulence gene in Francisella, required for the expression of virulence factors known to be essential for this pathogen's subversion of host defenses and pathogenesis in vivo.
Project description:Francisella tularensis is a gram-negative bacterium that is highly virulent in humans, causing the disease tularemia. F. novicida is closely related to F. tularensis and exhibits high virulence in mice, but it is avirulent in healthy humans. An F. novicida-specific gene cluster (FTN0451 to FTN0456) encodes two proteins with diguanylate cyclase (DGC) and phosphodiesterase (PDE) domains that modulate the synthesis and degradation of cyclic di-GMP (cdGMP). No DGC- or PDE-encoding protein genes are present in the F. tularensis genome. F. novicida strains lacking either the two DGC/PDE genes (cdgA and cdgB) or the entire gene cluster (strain KKF457) are defective for biofilm formation. In addition, expression of CdgB or a heterologous DGC in strain KKF457 stimulated F. novicida biofilms, even in a strain lacking the biofilm regulator QseB. Genetic evidence suggests that CdgA is predominantly a PDE, while CdgB is predominantly a DGC. The F. novicida qseB strain showed reduced cdgA and cdgB transcript levels, demonstrating an F. novicida biofilm signaling cascade that controls cdGMP levels. Interestingly, KKF457 with elevated cdGMP levels exhibited a decrease in intramacrophage replication and virulence in mice, as well as increased growth yields and biofilm formation in vitro. Microarray analyses revealed that cdGMP stimulated the transcription of a chitinase (ChiB) known to contribute to biofilm formation. Our results indicate that elevated cdGMP in F. novicida stimulates biofilm formation and inhibits virulence. We suggest that differences in human virulence between F. novicida and F. tularensis may be due in part to the absence of cdGMP signaling in F. tularensis.
Project description:Francisella tularensis, the zoonotic cause of tularemia, can infect numerous mammals and other eukaryotes. Although studying F. tularensis pathogenesis is essential to comprehending disease, mammalian infection is just one step in the ecology of Francisella species. F. tularensis has been isolated from aquatic environments and arthropod vectors, environments in which chitin could serve as a potential carbon source and as a surface for attachment and growth. We show that F. tularensis subsp. novicida forms biofilms during the colonization of chitin surfaces. The ability of F. tularensis to persist using chitin as a sole carbon source is dependent on chitinases, since mutants lacking chiA or chiB are attenuated for chitin colonization and biofilm formation in the absence of exogenous sugar. A genetic screen for biofilm mutants identified the Sec translocon export pathway and 14 secreted proteins. We show that these genes are important for initial attachment during biofilm formation. We generated defined deletion mutants by targeting two chaperone genes (secB1 and secB2) involved in Sec-dependent secretion and four genes that encode putative secreted proteins. All of the mutants were deficient in attachment to polystyrene and chitin surfaces and for biofilm formation compared to wild-type F. novicida. In contrast, mutations in the Sec translocon and secreted factors did not affect virulence. Our data suggest that biofilm formation by F. tularensis promotes persistence on chitin surfaces. Further study of the interaction of F. tularensis with the chitin microenvironment may provide insight into the environmental survival and transmission mechanisms of this pathogen.
Project description:Francisella tularensis subsp. tularensis is the etiologic agent of tularemia and has been designated a category A biothreat agent by the CDC. Tularemia is characterized by replication and dissemination within host phagocytes. Intramacrophage growth is dependent upon the regulation of Francisella pathogenicity island (FPI) virulence genes, which is poorly understood. Two-component regulatory systems (TCS) are widely employed by Gram-negative bacteria to monitor and respond to environmental signals. Virulent strains of F. tularensis subsp. tularensis are devoid of classical, tandemly arranged TCS genes, but orphaned members, such as that encoding the response regulator PmrA, have been identified. In the F. novicida model system, previous work has shown that a pmrA mutant shows decreased expression of FPI genes, is deficient for intramacrophage growth, and is avirulent in the mouse model. Here, we determine that phosphorylation aids PmrA binding to regulated promoters pmrA and the FPI-encoded pdpD, and KdpD is the histidine kinase primarily responsible for phosphorylation of PmrA at the aspartic acid at position 51 (D51). A strain expressing PmrA D51A retains some DNA binding but exhibits reduced expression of the PmrA regulon, is deficient for intramacrophage replication, and is attenuated in the mouse model. With regard to virulence gene induction, PmrA coprecipitates with the FPI transcription factors MglA and SspA, which bind RNA polymerase. Together, these data suggest a model of Francisella gene regulation that includes a TCS consisting of KdpD and PmrA. Once phosphorylated, PmrA binds to regulated gene promoters recruiting free or RNA polymerase-bound MglA and SspA to initiate FPI gene transcription.
Project description:Intracellular pathogens and other organisms have evolved mechanisms to exploit host cells for their life cycles. Virulence genes of some intracellular bacteria responsible for these mechanisms are located in pathogenicity islands, such as secretion systems that secrete effector proteins. The Francisella pathogenicity island is required for phagosomal escape, intracellular replication, evasion of host immune responses, virulence, and encodes a type 6 secretion system. We hypothesize that some Francisella novicida pathogenicity island proteins are secreted during infection of host cells. To test this hypothesis, expression plasmids for all Francisella novicida FPI-encoded proteins with C-terminal and N-terminal epitope FLAG tags were developed. These plasmids expressed their respective epitope FLAG-tagged proteins at their predicted molecular weights. J774 murine macrophage-like cells were infected with Francisella novicida containing these plasmids. The FPI proteins expressed from these plasmids successfully restored the intramacrophage growth phenotype in mutants of the respective genes that were deficient for intramacrophage growth. Using these expression plasmids, the localization of the Francisella pathogenicity island proteins were examined via immuno-fluorescence microscopy within infected macrophage-like cells. Several Francisella pathogenicity island encoded proteins (IglABCDEFGHIJ, PdpACE, DotU and VgrG) were detected extracellularly and they were co-localized with the bacteria, while PdpBD and Anmk were not detected and thus remained inside bacteria. Proteins that were co-localized with bacteria had different patterns of localization. The localization of IglC was dependent on the type 6 secretion system. This suggests that some Francisella pathogenicity island proteins were secreted while others remain within the bacterium during infection of host cells as structural components of the secretion system and were necessary for secretion.
Project description:We have determined the sequence of the gene cluster encoding the O antigen in Francisella novicida and compared it to the previously reported O-antigen cluster in Francisella tularensis subsp. tularensis. Immunization with purified lipopolysaccharide (LPS) from F. tularensis subsp. tularensis or F. novicida protected against challenge with Francisella tularensis subsp. holarctica and F. novicida, respectively. The LPS from F. tularensis subsp. tularensis did not confer protection against challenge with F. novicida, and the LPS from F. novicida did not confer protection against challenge with F. tularensis subsp. holarctica. Allelic replacement mutants of F. tularensis subsp. tularensis or F. novicida which failed to produce O antigen were attenuated, but exposure to these mutants did not induce a protective immune response. The O antigen of F. tularensis subsp. tularensis appeared to be important for intracellular survival whereas the O antigen of F. novicida appeared to be critical for serum resistance and less important for intracellular survival.