Trans locus inhibitors limit concomitant polysaccharide synthesis in the human gut symbiont Bacteroides fragilis.
ABSTRACT: Bacteroides is an abundant genus of bacteria of the human intestinal microbiota. Bacteroides species synthesize a large number of capsular polysaccharides (PS), a biological property not shared with closely related oral species, suggesting importance for intestinal survival. Bacteroides fragilis, for example, synthesizes eight capsular polysaccharides per strain, each of which phase varies via inversion of the promoters located upstream of seven of the eight polysaccharide biosynthesis operons. In a single cell, many of these polysaccharide loci promoters can be simultaneously oriented on for transcription of the downstream biosynthesis operons. Here, we demonstrate that despite the promoter orientations, concomitant transcription of multiple polysaccharide loci within a cell is inhibited. The proteins encoded by the second gene of each of these eight loci, collectively designated the UpxZ proteins, inhibit the synthesis of heterologous polysaccharides. These unique proteins interfere with the ability of UpxY proteins encoded by other polysaccharide loci to function in transcriptional antitermination of their respective operon. The eight UpxZs have different inhibitory spectra, thus establishing a hierarchical regulatory network for polysaccharide synthesis. Limitation of concurrent polysaccharide synthesis strongly suggests that these bacteria evolved this property as an evasion-type mechanism to avoid killing by polysaccharide-targeting factors in the ecosystem.
Project description:A major clinical manifestation of infection with Bacteroides fragilis is the formation of intra-abdominal abscesses, which are induced by the capsular polysaccharides of this organism. Transposon mutagenesis was used to locate genes involved in the synthesis of capsular polysaccharides. A 24,454-bp region was sequenced and found to contain a 15,379-bp locus (designated wcf) with 16 open reading frames (ORFs) encoding products similar to those encoded by genes of other bacterial polysaccharide biosynthesis loci. Four genes encode products that are similar to enzymes involved in nucleotide sugar biosynthesis. Seven genes encode products that are similar to sugar transferases. Two gene products are similar to O-acetyltransferases, and two products are probably involved in polysaccharide transport and polymerization. The product of one ORF, WcfH, is similar to a set of deacetylases of the NodB family. Deletion mutants demonstrated that the wcf locus is necessary for the synthesis of polysaccharide B, one of the two capsular polysaccharides of B. fragilis 9343. The virulence of the polysaccharide B-deficient mutant was comparable to that of the wild type in terms of its ability to induce abscesses in a rat model of intra-abdominal infection.
Project description:Bacteroides species are the most abundant Gram-negative bacteria of the human colonic microbiota. These endogenous organisms are unique in that they synthesize an extensive number of phase-variable surface polysaccharides. Pathogenic bacteria phase vary expression of surface molecules for immune evasion, but the importance of the synthesis of multiple phase-variable polysaccharides to these commensal bacteria is unknown. We previously showed that a Bacteroides fragilis mutant unable to synthesize 4 of the 8 capsular polysaccharides and unable to glycosylate proteins properly is rapidly outcompeted by the wild-type strain for colonization of the gnotobiotic mouse intestine. In the present study, we constructed mutants defective only in capsule polysaccharide synthesis to define better the importance of these surface molecules to intestinal colonization. We discovered a key enzymatic activity required for synthesis of 7 of the 8 capsular polysaccharides. Deletion of its gene resulted in the first B. fragilis mutant able to synthesize only one phase-variable polysaccharide, and further mutation resulted in a stable acapsular mutant. We show that the acapsular mutant is rapidly outcompeted, but synthesis of a single polysaccharide is sufficient for the organism to colonize the gnotobiotic intestine competitively. These data demonstrate that initial colonization of the gnotobiotic mouse intestine by B. fragilis requires that the organism synthesize only a single polysaccharide and suggest that the synthesis of multiple phase-variable polysaccharides is important for the bacteria's long-term maintenance in the normally complex and competitive ecosystem.
Project description:A single strain of Bacteroides fragilis synthesizes eight distinct capsular polysaccharides, designated PSA to PSH. These polysaccharides are synthesized by-products encoded by eight separate polysaccharide biosynthesis loci. The genetic architecture of each of these eight loci is similar, including the fact that the first gene of each locus is a paralog of the first gene of each of the other PS loci. These proteins are designated the UpxY family, where x is replaced by a to h, depending upon the polysaccharide locus from which it is produced. Mutational analysis of three separate upxY genes demonstrated that they are necessary and specific for transcription of their respective polysaccharide biosynthesis operon and that they function in trans. Transcriptional reporter constructs, reverse transcriptase PCR, and deletion analysis demonstrated that the UpxYs do not affect initiation of transcription, but rather prevent premature transcriptional termination within the 5' untranslated region between the promoter and the upxY gene. The UpxYs have conserved motifs that are present in NusG and NusG-like proteins. Mutation of two conserved residues within the conserved KOW motif abrogated UpaY activity, further confirming that these proteins belong to the NusG-like (NusG(SP)) family. Alignment of highly similar UpxYs led to the identification of a small region of these proteins predicted to confer specificity for their respective loci. Construction of an upaY-upeY hybrid that produced a protein in which a 17-amino-acid segment of UpaY was changed to that of UpeY altered UpaY's specificity, as it was now able to function in transcriptional antitermination of the PSE biosynthesis operon.
Project description:A genetic approach was used to assess the heterogeneity of the capsular polysaccharide C (PS C) biosynthesis locus of Bacteroides fragilis and to determine whether distinct loci contain genes whose products are likely to be involved in conferring charged groups that enable the B. fragilis capsular polysaccharides to induce abscesses. A collection of 50 B. fragilis strains was examined. PCR analysis demonstrated that the genes flanking the PS C biosynthesis region are conserved, whereas the genes within the loci are heterogeneous. Only cfiA(+) B. fragilis strains, which represent 3% of the clinical isolates of B. fragilis, displayed heterogeneity in the regions flanking the polysaccharide biosynthesis genes. Primers were designed in the conserved regions upstream and downstream of the PS C locus and were used to amplify the region from 45 of the 50 B. fragilis strains studied. Fourteen PS C genetic loci could be differentiated by a combination of PCR and extended PCR. These loci ranged in size from 14 to 26 kb. Hybridization analysis with genes from the PS C loci of strains 9343 and 638R revealed that the majority of strains contain homologs of wcgC (N-acetylmannosamine dehydrogenase), wcfF (putative dehydrogenase), and wcgP (putative aminotransferase). The data suggest that the synthesis of polysaccharides that have zwitterionic characteristics rendering them able to induce abscesses is common in B. fragilis.
Project description:Expression of a capsular polysaccharide is considered a hallmark of most invasive species of bacteria, including Streptococcus pneumoniae, in which the capsule is among the principal virulence factors and is the basis for successful vaccines. Consequently, it was previously assumed that capsule production distinguishes S. pneumoniae from closely related commensals of the mitis group streptococci. Based on antigenic and genetic analyses of 187 mitis group streptococci, including 90 recognized serotypes of S. pneumoniae, we demonstrated capsule production by the Wzy/Wzx pathway in 74% of 66 S. mitis strains and in virtually all tested strains of S. oralis (subspecies oralis, dentisani, and tigurinus) and S. infantis Additional analyses of genomes of S. cristatus, S. parasanguinis, S. australis, S. sanguinis, S. gordonii, S. anginosus, S. intermedius, and S. constellatus revealed complete capsular biosynthesis (cps) loci in all strains tested. Truncated cps loci were detected in three strains of S. pseudopneumoniae, in 26% of S. mitis strains, and in a single S. oralis strain. The level of sequence identities of cps locus genes confirmed that the structural polymorphism of capsular polysaccharides in S. pneumoniae evolved by import of cps fragments from commensal Streptococcus species, resulting in a mosaic of genes of different origins. The demonstrated antigenic identity of at least eight of the numerous capsular polysaccharide structures expressed by commensal streptococci with recognized serotypes of S. pneumoniae raises concerns about potential misidentifications in addition to important questions concerning the consequences for vaccination and host-parasite relationships both for the commensals and for the pathogen.<h4>Importance</h4>Expression of a capsular polysaccharide is among the principal virulence factors of Streptococcus pneumoniae and is the basis for successful vaccines against infections caused by this important pathogen. Contrasting with previous assumptions, this study showed that expression of capsular polysaccharides by the same genetic mechanisms is a general property of closely related species of streptococci that form a significant part of our commensal microbiota. The demonstrated antigenic identity of many capsular polysaccharides expressed by commensal streptococci and S. pneumoniae raises important questions concerning the consequences for vaccination and host-parasite relationships both for the commensals and the pathogen.
Project description:Bacteria in the distal human gut have evolved diverse abilities to metabolize complex glycans, including the capacity to degrade these compounds as nutrients and to assemble their component sugars into new polymers such as extracellular capsules. The human gut bacterium Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron is well endowed with the ability to metabolize both host- and diet-derived glycans. Its genome contains 88 different polysaccharide utilization loci (PULs) for complex glycan catabolism and eight different gene clusters for capsular polysaccharide biosynthesis. Here, we investigate one of the prominent mechanisms by which this gut symbiont regulates many PULs involved in host mucin O-glycan degradation; namely, transcriptional regulation via the concerted interactions of cell-envelope-localized TonB-dependent transporters, extra-cytoplasmic function sigma factors and anti-sigma factors, which participate together in a regulatory pathway termed trans-envelope signaling. Unexpectedly, we found that several different trans-envelope signaling switches involved in PUL-mediated O-glycan degradation also modulate capsular polysaccharide synthesis. A novel regulatory pathway, which is dependent on expression of O-glycan-targeting outer membrane proteins, governs this coordinated regulation of glycan catabolism and capsule synthesis. This latter finding provides a new link in the dynamic interplay between complex glycan metabolism, microbial physiology, and host responses that occurs during colonization of the gut.
Project description:Group B Streptococcus (GBS) is an important pathogen of neonates, pregnant women, and immunocompromised individuals. GBS isolates associated with human infection produce one of nine antigenically distinct capsular polysaccharides which are thought to play a key role in virulence. A comparison of GBS polysaccharide structures of all nine known GBS serotypes together with the predicted amino acid sequences of the proteins that direct their synthesis suggests that the evolution of serotype-specific capsular polysaccharides has proceeded through en bloc replacement of individual glycosyltransferase genes with DNA sequences that encode enzymes with new linkage specificities. We found striking heterogeneity in amino acid sequences of synthetic enzymes with very similar functions, an observation that supports horizontal gene transfer rather than stepwise mutagenesis as a mechanism for capsule variation. Eight of the nine serotypes appear to be closely related both structurally and genetically, whereas serotype VIII is more distantly related. This similarity in polysaccharide structure strongly suggests that the evolutionary pressure toward antigenic variation exerted by acquired immunity is counterbalanced by a survival advantage conferred by conserved structural motifs of the GBS polysaccharides.
Project description:Bacteroidales species are the most abundant Gram-negative bacteria of the human intestinal microbiota. These bacteria evolved to synthesize numerous capsular polysaccharides (PS) that are subject to phase variation. In Bacteroides fragilis, PS synthesis is regulated so that only one of the eight PS biosynthesis loci is transcribed at a time in each bacterium. To determine if the bacteria evolved this unusual property to evade a host IgA response, we directly studied the human fecal ecosystem. We performed a longitudinal analysis of the abundant Bacteroidales species from 15 healthy adults at four intervals over a year. For this study, we used bacterial culture to perform analyses not accurate with DNA-based methods, including quantification of total viable Bacteroidales bacteria, strain maintenance, and IgA responses. Abundant Bacteroidales isolates were identified to the species level using multiplex PCR and 16S rRNA gene sequencing. Arbitrarily primed PCR was used for strain typing. IgA responses to endogenous strains carried over the year were analyzed, and the orientations of the invertible PS locus promoters from the ecosystem were quantified. Subjects consistently harbored from 5 × 10(8) to 8 × 10(10) Bacteroidales bacteria/g of feces. Within the cohort, 20 different Bacteroidales species were detected at high concentrations. Bacteroides uniformis was the most prevalent; however, abundant Bacteroidales species varied between subjects. Strains could be maintained over the year within the ecosystem at high density. IgA responses were often not induced and did not correlate with the elimination of a strain or major changes in the orientations of the capsular PS locus promoters.
Project description:Bacteroides fragilis produces a capsular polysaccharide complex (CPC) that is directly involved in its ability to induce abscesses. Two distinct capsular polysaccharides, polysaccharide A (PS A) and PS B, have been shown to be synthesized by the prototype strain for the study of abscesses, NCTC9343. Both of these polysaccharides in purified form induce abscesses in animal models. In this study, we demonstrate that the CPC of NCTC9343 is composed of at least three distinct capsular polysaccharides: PS A, PS B, and PS C. A previously described locus contains genes whose products are involved in the biosynthesis of PS C rather than PS B as was originally suggested. The actual PS B biosynthesis locus was cloned, sequenced, and found to contain 22 genes in an operon-type structure. A mutant with a large chromosomal deletion of the PS B biosynthesis locus was created so that the contribution of PS B to the formation of abscesses could be assessed in a rodent model. Although purified PS B can induce abscesses, removal of this polysaccharide does not attenuate the organism's ability to induce abscesses.
Project description:A 2-year longitudinal microbiome study of 22 patients who underwent colectomy with an ileal pouch anal anastomosis detected significant increases in distinct populations of Bacteroides during 9 of 11 patient visits that coincided with inflammation (pouchitis). Oligotyping and metagenomic short-read annotation identified Bacteroides populations that occurred in early samples, bloomed during inflammation, and reappeared after antibiotic treatment. Targeted cultivation of Bacteroides isolates from the same individual at multiple time points and from several patients detected subtle genomic changes, including the identification of rapidly evolving genomic elements that differentiate isogenic strains of Bacteroides fragilis from the mucosa versus lumen. Each patient harbored Bacteroides spp. that are closely related to commonly occurring clinical isolates, including Bacteroides ovatus, B. thetaiotaomicron, B. vulgatus, and B. fragilis, which contained unique loci in different patients for synthesis of capsular polysaccharides. The presence of unique Bacteroides capsular polysaccharide loci within different hosts and between the lumen and mucosa may represent adaptations to stimulate, suppress, and evade host-specific immune responses at different microsites of the ileal pouch. IMPORTANCE:This longitudinal study provides an opportunity to describe shifts in the microbiomes of individual patients who suffer from ulcerative colitis (UC) prior to and following inflammation. Pouchitis serves as a model for UC with a predictable incidence of disease onset and enables prospective longitudinal investigations of UC etiology prior to inflammation. Because of insufficient criteria for predicting which patients will develop UC or pouchitis, the interpretation of cross-sectional study designs suffers from lack of information about the microbiome structure and host gene expression patterns that directly correlate with the onset of disease. Our unique longitudinal study design allows each patient to serve as their own control, providing information about the state of the microbiome and host prior to and during the course of disease. Of significance to the broader community, this study identifies microbial strains that may have genetic elements that trigger the onset of disease in susceptible hosts.