A novel double-tryptophan peptide pheromone controls competence in Streptococcus spp. via an Rgg regulator.
ABSTRACT: All streptococcal genomes encode the alternative sigma factor SigX and 21 SigX-dependent proteins required for genetic transformation, yet no pyogenic streptococci are known to develop competence. Resolving this paradox may depend on understanding the regulation of sigX. We report the identification of a regulatory circuit linked to the sigX genes of mutans, pyogenic, and bovis streptococci that uses a novel small, double-tryptophan-containing sigX-inducing peptide (XIP) pheromone. In all three groups, the XIP gene (comS), and sigX have identical, non-canonical promoters consisting of 9 bp inverted repeats separated from a -10 hexamer by 19 bp. comS is adjacent to a gene encoding a putative transcription factor of the Rgg family and is regulated by its product, which we designate ComR. Deletion of comR or comS in Streptococcus mutans abolished transformability, as did deletion of the oligopeptide permease subunit oppD, suggesting that XIP is imported. Providing S. mutans with synthetic fragments of ComS revealed that seven C-terminal residues, including the WW motif, cause robust induction of both sigX and the competent state. We propose that this circuit is the proximal regulator of sigX in S. mutans, and we infer that it controls competence in a parallel way in all pyogenic and bovis streptococci.
Project description:In Streptococcus mutans, an oral colonizer associated with dental caries, development of competence for natural genetic transformation is triggered by either of two types of peptide pheromones, competence-stimulating peptides (CSPs) (18 amino acids [aa]) or SigX-inducing peptides (XIPs) (7 aa). Competence induced by CSP is a late response to the pheromone that requires the response regulator ComE and the XIP-encoding gene comS. XIP binds to ComR to allow expression of the alternative sigma factor SigX and the effector genes it controls. While these regulatory links are established, the precise set of effectors controlled by each regulator is poorly defined. To improve the definition of all three regulons, we used a high-resolution tiling array to map global changes in gene expression in the early and late phases of the CSP response. The early phase of the CSP response was limited to increased gene expression at four loci associated with bacteriocin production and immunity. In the late phase, upregulated regions expanded to a total of 29 loci, including comS and genes required for DNA uptake and recombination. The results indicate that the entire late response to CSP depends on the expression of comS and that the immediate transcriptional response to CSP, mediated by ComE, is restricted to just four bacteriocin-related loci. Comparison of the new data with published transcriptome data permitted the identification of all of the operons in each regulon: 4 for ComE, 2 for ComR, and 21 for SigX. Finally, a core set of 27 panstreptococcal competence genes was identified within the SigX regulon by comparison of transcriptome data from diverse streptococcal species. IMPORTANCES. mutans has the hard surfaces of the oral cavity as its natural habitat, where it depends on its ability to form biofilms in order to survive. The comprehensive identification of S. mutans regulons activated in response to peptide pheromones provides an important basis for understanding how S. mutans can transition from individual to social behavior. Our study placed 27 of the 29 transcripts activated during competence within three major regulons and revealed a core set of 27 panstreptococcal competence-activated genes within the SigX regulon.
Project description:Natural genetic transformation is common among many species of the genus Streptococcus, but it has never, or rarely, been reported for the Streptococcus pyogenes and S. bovis groups of species, even though many streptococcal competence genes and the competence regulators SigX, ComR, and ComS are well conserved in both groups. To explore the incidence of competence in the S. bovis group, 25 isolates of S. infantarius and S. macedonicus were surveyed by employing culture in chemically defined media devoid of peptide nutrients and treatment with synthetic candidate pheromone peptides predicted from the sequence of the gene comS. Approximately half of strains examined were transformable, many transforming at high rates comparable to those for the well-characterized streptococcal natural transformation systems. In S. infantarius, nanomolar amounts of the synthetic pheromone LTAWWGL induced robust but transient competence in high-density cultures, but mutation of the ComRS locus abolished transformation. We conclude that at least these two species of the S. bovis group retain a robust system of natural transformation regulated by a ComRS pheromone circuit and the alternative sigma factor SigX and infer that transformation is even more common among the streptococci than has been recognized. The tools presented here will facilitate targeted genetic manipulation in this group of streptococci.
Project description:Streptococcus mutans expresses comX (also known as sigX), which encodes a sigma factor that is required for development of genetic competence, in response to the peptide signals XIP and CSP and environmental factors. XIP (sigX inducing peptide) is derived from ComS and activates comX unimodally in chemically defined media via the ComRS system. CSP (competence stimulating peptide) activates comX bimodally in peptide-rich media through the ComDE two-component system. However, CSP-ComDE activation of comX is indirect and involves ComRS. Therefore, the bimodality of CSP-dependent activation of comX may arise from either ComRS or ComDE. Here we study, at the single-cell level, how genes in the CSP signaling pathway respond to CSP, XIP and media. Our data indicate that activation of comX stimulates expression of comE. In addition, activation of comE requires intact comR and comS genes. Therefore, not only does CSP-ComDE stimulate the ComRS pathway to activate comX expression, but ComRS activation of comX also stimulates expression of the CSP-ComDE pathway and its regulon. The results demonstrate the mutual interconnection of the signaling pathways that control bacteriocin expression (ComDE) and genetic competence (ComRS), both of which are linked to lytic and virulence behaviors.
Project description:Natural transformation, or competence, is an ability inherent to bacteria for the uptake of extracellular DNA. This process is central to bacterial evolution and allows for the rapid acquirement of new traits, such as antibiotic resistance in pathogenic microorganisms. For the Gram-positive bacteria genus Streptococcus, genes required for competence are under the regulation of quorum sensing (QS) mediated by peptide pheromones. One such system, ComRS, consists of a peptide (ComS) that is processed (XIP), secreted, and later imported into the cytoplasm, where it binds and activates the transcription factor ComR. ComR then engages in a positive feedback loop for the expression of ComS and the alternative sigma-factor SigX. Although ComRS are present in the majority of Streptococcus species, the sequence of both ComS/XIP and ComR diverge significantly, suggesting a mechanism for species-specific communication. To study possible cross-talk between streptococcal species in the regulation of competence, and to explore in detail the molecular interaction between ComR and XIP we undertook an interdisciplinary approach. We developed a 'test-bed' assay to measure the activity of different ComR proteins in response to cognate and heterologous XIP peptides in vivo, revealing distinct ComR classes of strict, intermediate, and promiscuous specificity among species. We then solved an X-ray crystal structure of ComR from S. suis to further understand the interaction with XIP and to search for structural features in ComR proteins that may explain XIP recognition. Using the structure as a guide, we probed the apo conformation of the XIP-binding pocket by site-directed mutagenesis, both in test-bed cultures and biochemically in vitro. In alignments with ComR proteins from other species, we find that the pocket is lined by a variable and a conserved face, where residues of the conserved face contribute to ligand binding and the variable face discriminate among XIP peptides. Together, our results not only provide a model for XIP recognition and specificity, but also allow for the prediction of novel XIP peptides that induce ComR activity.
Project description:Streptococcus mutans displays complex regulation of natural genetic competence. Competence development in S. mutans is controlled by a peptide derived from ComS (XIP); which along with the cytosolic regulator ComR controls the expression of the alternative sigma factor comX, the master regulator of competence development. Recently, a gene embedded within the coding region of comX was discovered and designated xrpA (comX regulatory peptide A). XrpA was found to be an antagonist of ComX, but the mechanism was not established. In this study, we reveal through both genomic and proteomic techniques that XrpA is the first described negative regulator of ComRS systems in streptococci. Transcriptomic and promoter activity assays in the ?xrpA strain revealed an up-regulation of genes controlled by both the ComR- and ComX-regulons. An in vivo protein crosslinking and in vitro fluorescent polarization assays confirmed that the N-terminal region of XrpA were found to be sufficient in inhibiting ComR-XIP complex binding to ECom-box located within the comX promoter. This inhibitory activity was sufficient for decreases in PcomX activity, transformability and ComX accumulation. XrpA serving as a modulator of ComRS activity ultimately results in changes to subpopulation behaviors and cell fate during competence activation.
Project description:In Gram-positive bacteria, cell-to-cell communication mainly relies on extracellular signaling peptides, which elicit a response either indirectly, by triggering a two-component phosphorelay, or directly, by binding to cytoplasmic effectors. The latter comprise the RNPP family (Rgg and original regulators Rap, NprR, PrgX and PlcR), whose members regulate important bacterial processes such as sporulation, conjugation, and virulence. RNPP proteins are increasingly considered as interesting targets for the development of new antibacterial agents. These proteins are characterized by a TPR-type peptide-binding domain, and except for Rap proteins, also contain an N-terminal HTH-type DNA-binding domain and display a transcriptional activity. Here, we elucidate the structure-function relationship of the transcription factor ComR, a new member of the RNPP family, which positively controls competence for natural DNA transformation in streptococci. ComR is directly activated by the binding of its associated pheromone XIP, the mature form of the comX/sigX-inducing-peptide ComS. The crystal structure analysis of ComR from Streptococcus thermophilus combined with a mutational analysis and in vivo assays allows us to propose an original molecular mechanism of the ComR regulation mode. XIP-binding induces release of the sequestered HTH domain and ComR dimerization to allow DNA binding. Importantly, we bring evidence that this activation mechanism is conserved and specific to ComR orthologues, demonstrating that ComR is not an Rgg protein as initially proposed, but instead constitutes a new member of the RNPP family. In addition, identification of XIP and ComR residues important for competence activation constitutes a crucial step towards the design of antagonistic strategies to control gene exchanges among streptococci.
Project description:Here we show that S. suis, a major bacterial pathogen of pigs and emerging pathogen in humans responds to a peptide pheromone by developing competence for DNA transformation. This species does not fall within any of the phylogenetic clusters of streptococci previously shown to regulate competence via peptide pheromones suggesting that more species of streptococci may be naturally competent. Induction of competence was dependent on ComX, a sigma factor that controls the streptococcal late competence regulon, extracellular addition of a comX-inducing peptide (XIP), and ComR, a regulator of comX. XIP was identified as an N-terminally truncated variant of ComS. Different comS alleles are present among strains of S. suis. These comS alleles are not functionally equivalent and appear to operate in conjuction with a cognate ComR to regulate comX through a conserved comR-box promoter. We demonstrate that these 'pherotypes' can be genetically transferred between strains, suggesting that similar approaches might be used to control competence induction in other lactic acid bacteria that lack ComR/ComS homologues but possess comX and the late competence regulon. The approaches described in this paper to identify and optimize peptide-induced competence may also assist other researchers wishing to identify natural competence in other bacteria. Harnessing natural competence is expected to accelerate genetic research on this and other important streptococcal pathogens and to allow high-throughput mutation approaches to be implemented, opening up new avenues for research.
Project description:Horizontal gene transfer is an important means of bacterial evolution. This includes natural genetic transformation, where bacterial cells become "competent" and DNA is acquired from the extracellular environment. Natural competence in many species of Streptococcus, is regulated by quorum sensing via the ComRS receptor-signal pair. The ComR-XIP (mature ComS peptide) complex induces expression of the alternative sigma factor SigX, which targets RNA polymerase to CIN-box promoters to activate genes involved in DNA uptake and recombination. In addition, the widely distributed Streptococcus prophage gene paratox (prx) also contains a CIN-box, and here we demonstrate it to be transcriptionally activated by XIP. In vitro experiments demonstrate that Prx binds ComR directly and prevents the ComR-XIP complex from interacting with DNA. Mutations of prx in vivo caused increased expression of the late competence gene ssb when induced with XIP as compared to wild-type, and Prx orthologues are able to inhibit ComR activation by XIP in a reporter strain which lacks an endogenous prx. Additionally, an X-ray crystal structure of Prx reveals a unique fold that implies a novel molecular mechanism to inhibit ComR. Overall, our results suggest Prx functions to inhibit the acquisition of new DNA by Streptococcus.
Project description:The development of competence by the dental caries pathogen Streptococcus mutans is mediated primarily through the alternative sigma factor ComX (SigX), which is under the control of multiple regulatory systems and activates the expression of genes involved in DNA uptake and recombination. Here we report that the induction of competence and competence gene expression by XIP (sigX-inducing peptide) and CSP (competence-stimulating peptide) is dependent on the growth phase and that environmental pH has a potent effect on the responses to XIP. A dramatic decline in comX and comS expression was observed in mid- and late-exponential-phase cells. XIP-mediated competence development and responses to XIP were optimal around a neutral pH, although mid-exponential-phase cells remained refractory to XIP treatment, and acidified late-exponential-phase cultures were resistant to killing by high concentrations of XIP. Changes in the expression of the genes for the oligopeptide permease (opp), which appears to be responsible for the internalization of XIP, could not entirely account for the behaviors observed. Interestingly, comS and comX expression was highly induced in response to endogenously overproduced XIP or ComS in mid-exponential-phase cells. In contrast to the effects of pH on XIP, competence induction and responses to CSP in complex medium were not affected by pH, although a decreased response to CSP in cells that had exited early-exponential phase was observed. Collectively, these results indicate that competence development may be highly sensitive to microenvironments within oral biofilms and that XIP and CSP signaling in biofilms could be spatially and temporally heterogeneous.
Project description:Horizontal gene transfer is an important means of bacterial evolution that is facilitated by transduction, conjugation, and natural genetic transformation. Transformation occurs after bacterial cells enter a state of competence, where naked DNA is acquired from the extracellular environment. Induction of the competent state relies on signals that activate master regulators, causing the expression of genes involved in DNA uptake, processing, and recombination. All streptococcal species contain the master regulator SigX and SigX-dependent effector genes required for natural genetic transformation; however, not all streptococcal species have been shown to be naturally competent. We recently demonstrated that competence development in Streptococcus mutans requires the type II ComRS quorum-sensing circuit, comprising an Rgg transcriptional activator and a novel peptide pheromone (L. Mashburn-Warren, D. A. Morrison, and M. J. Federle, Mol. Microbiol. 78:589-606, 2010). The type II ComRS system is shared by the pyogenic, mutans, and bovis streptococci, including the clinically relevant pathogen Streptococcus pyogenes. Here, we describe the activation of sigX by a small-peptide pheromone and an Rgg regulator of the type II ComRS class. We confirm previous reports that SigX is functional and able to activate sigX-dependent gene expression within the competence regulon, and that SigX stability is influenced by the cytoplasmic protease ClpP. Genomic analyses of available S. pyogenes genomes revealed the presence of intact genes within the competence regulon. While this is the first report to show natural induction of sigX, S. pyogenes remained nontransformable under laboratory conditions. Using radiolabeled DNA, we demonstrate that transformation is blocked at the stage of DNA uptake.