Comparative genomics of Shiga toxin encoding bacteriophages.
ABSTRACT: Stx bacteriophages are responsible for driving the dissemination of Stx toxin genes (stx) across their bacterial host range. Lysogens carrying Stx phages can cause severe, life-threatening disease and Stx toxin is an integral virulence factor. The Stx-bacteriophage vB_EcoP-24B, commonly referred to as ?24B, is capable of multiply infecting a single bacterial host cell at a high frequency, with secondary infection increasing the rate at which subsequent bacteriophage infections can occur. This is biologically unusual, therefore determining the genomic content and context of ?24B compared to other lambdoid Stx phages is important to understanding the factors controlling this phenomenon and determining whether they occur in other Stx phages.The genome of the Stx2 encoding phage, ?24B was sequenced and annotated. The genomic organisation and general features are similar to other sequenced Stx bacteriophages induced from Enterohaemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC), however ?24B possesses significant regions of heterogeneity, with implications for phage biology and behaviour. The ?24B genome was compared to other sequenced Stx phages and the archetypal lambdoid phage, lambda, using the Circos genome comparison tool and a PCR-based multi-loci comparison system.The data support the hypothesis that Stx phages are mosaic, and recombination events between the host, phages and their remnants within the same infected bacterial cell will continue to drive the evolution of Stx phage variants and the subsequent dissemination of shigatoxigenic potential.
Project description:Stx bacteriophages are members of the lambdoid group of phages and are responsible for Shiga toxin (Stx) production and the dissemination of Shiga toxin genes (stx) across shigatoxigenic Escherichia coli (STEC). These toxigenic bacteriophage hosts can cause life-threatening illnesses, and Stx is the virulence determinant responsible for the severe nature of infection with enterohemorrhagic E. coli, a subset of pathogenic STEC. Stx phages are temperate, and in the present study, the identification of what is actually required for Stx phage ?24B and bacterial DNA recombination was tested using both in vitro and in situ recombination assays. It is well established that phage ?, which underpins most of what we understand about lambdoid phage biology, requires its own encoded phage attachment site (attP) of 250 bp, a host-encoded attachment site (attB) of 21 bp, and a host-encoded DNA binding protein known as integration host factor (IHF). The assays applied in this study enabled the manipulation of the phage attachment site (attP) and the bacterial attachment site (attB) sequences and the inclusion or exclusion of a host-encoded accessory element known as integration host factor. We were able to demonstrate that the minimal attP sequence required by ?24B phage is between 350 and 427 bp. Unlike phage ?, the minimal necessary flanking sequences for the attB site do not appear to be equal in size, with a total length between 62 and 93 bp. Furthermore, we identified that the ?24B integrase does not require IHF to drive the integration and the recombination process. Understanding how this unusual Stx phage integrase works may enable exploitation of its promiscuous nature in the context of genetic engineering.
Project description:Shiga-toxigenic bacteriophages are converting lambdoid phages that impart the ability to produce Shiga toxin to their hosts. Little is known about the function of most of the genes carried by these phages or the impact that lysogeny has on the Escherichia coli host. Here we use next-generation sequencing to compare the transcriptomes of E. coli strains infected with an Stx phage, before and after triggering of the bacterial SOS response that initiates the lytic cycle of the phage. We were able to discriminate between bacteriophage genes expressed in the lysogenic and lytic cycles, and we describe transcriptional changes that occur in the bacterial host as a consequence of Stx phage carriage. Having identified upregulation of the glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD) operon, confirmed by reverse transcription-quantitative PCR (RT-qPCR), we used phenotypic assays to establish the ability of the Stx prophage to confer a greater acid resistance phenotype on the E. coli host. Known phage regulators were overexpressed in E. coli, and the acid resistance of the recombinant strains was tested. The phage-encoded transcriptional regulator CII was identified as the controller of the acid response in the lysogen. Infection of an E. coli O157 strain, from which integrated Stx prophages were previously removed, showed increased acid resistance following infection with a nontoxigenic phage, ?24B. In addition to demonstrating this link between Stx phage carriage and E. coli acid resistance, with its implications for survival postingestion, the data set provides a number of other potential insights into the impact of lambdoid phage carriage on the biology of E. coli.
Project description:Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) strains are food-borne pathogens whose ability to produce Shiga toxin (Stx) is due to integration of Stx-encoding lambdoid bacteriophages. These Stx phages are both genetically and morphologically heterogeneous, and here we report the design and validation of a PCR-based multilocus typing scheme. PCR primer sets were designed for database variants of a range of key lambdoid bacteriophage genes and applied to control phages and 70 stx(+) phage preparations induced from a collection of STEC isolates. The genetic diversity residing within these populations could be described, and observations were made on the heterogeneity of individual gene targets, including the unexpected predominance of short-tailed phages with a highly conserved tail spike protein gene. Purified Stx phages can be profiled using this scheme, and the lambdoid phage-borne genes in induced STEC preparations can be identified as well as those residing in the noninducible prophage complement. The ultimate goal is to enable robust and realistically applicable epidemiological studies of Stx phages and their traits. The impact of Stx phage on STEC epidemiology is currently unknown.
Project description:Lambdoid bacteriophages form a group of viruses that shares a common schema of genome organization and lifecycle. Some of them can play crucial roles in creating the pathogenic profiles of Escherichia coli strains. For example, Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) acquired stx genes, encoding Shiga toxins, via lambdoid prophages (Stx phages). The results obtained so far present the evidence for the relation between the exo-xis region of the phage genome and lambdoid phage development, however molecular mechanisms of activities of the exo-xis genes' products are still unknown. In view of this, we decided to determine the influence of the uncharacterized open reading frame orf63 of the exo-xis region on lambdoid phages development using recombinant prophages, ? and Stx phage ?24B. We have demonstrated that orf63 codes for a folded protein, thus, it is a functional gene. NMR spectroscopy and analytical gel filtration were used to extend this observation further. From backbone chemical shifts, Orf63 is oligomeric in solution, likely a trimer and consistent with its small size (63 aa.), is comprised of two helices, likely intertwined to form the oligomer. We observed that the deletion of phage orf63 does not impair the intracellular lambdoid phage lytic development, however delays the time and decreases the efficiency of prophage induction and in consequence results in increased survival of E. coli during phage lytic development. Additionally, the deletion of phage orf63 negatively influences expression of the major phage genes and open reading frames from the exo-xis region during prophage induction with hydrogen peroxide. We conclude, that lambdoid phage orf63 may have specific functions in the regulation of lambdoid phages development, especially at the stage of the lysis vs. lysogenization decision. Besides, orf63 probably participates in the regulation of the level of expression of essential phage genes and open reading frames from the exo-xis region during prophage induction.
Project description:Enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC) outbreaks are commonly associated with contaminated food sources. Unlike normal intestinal bacteria, EHEC are lysogens of lambdoid bacteriophages that also carry a gene for Shiga toxin. Oxidative attack by the immune system or other stressors on the bacterial host can activate the lytic pathway of the latent phage genome to produce phage progeny and the release of Shiga toxin into the surrounding tissues. Within the genomes of bacteriophage ? and Shiga toxin-expressing (Stx+) phages such as ?24B and ?P27, there is a conserved set of open reading frames that is located between the exo and xis genes that influences the lysogenic-lytic decision. In this report, we have focused on the largest exo-xis region open reading frame termed ea22 that has been shown previously to have prolysogenic properties. Using a variety of biophysical and bioinformatic methods, we demonstrate that ? and ?P27 Ea22 proteins are tetrameric in solution and can be considered in terms of an amino-terminal region, a central coiled-coil region, and a carboxy-terminal region. The carboxy-terminal regions of ? and ?24B Ea22, expressed on their own, form dimers with exceptional thermostability. Limited proteolysis of ?P27 Ea22 also identified a C-terminal region along the predicted boundaries. While the three Ea22 proteins all appear to have the hallmarks of a domain in their respective C-terminal regions, each sequence is remarkably dissimilar. To reconcile this difference among Ea22 proteins from ? and Stx+ phages alike, we speculate that each Ea22 may achieve the same function by targeting different components of the same regulatory process in the host.
Project description:The exo-xis region of lambdoid bacteriophage genomes contains several established and potential genes that are evolutionarily conserved, but not essential for phage propagation under laboratory conditions. Nevertheless, deletion or overexpression of either the whole exo-xis region and important regulatory elements can significantly influence the regulation of phage development. This report defines specific roles for orf60a and orf61 in bacteriophage ? and ?24B, a specific Shiga toxin-converting phage with clinical relevance. We observed that mutant phages bearing deletions of orf60a and orf61 impaired two central aspects of phage development: the lysis-versus-lysogenization decision and prophage induction. These effects were more pronounced for phage ?24B than for ?. Surprisingly, adsorption of phage ?24B on Escherichia coli host cells was less efficient in the absence of either orf60a or orf61. We conclude that these open reading frames (ORFs) play important, but not essential, roles in the regulation of lambdoid phage development. Although phages can propagate without these ORFs in nutrient media, we suggest that they may be involved in the regulatory network, ensuring optimization of phage development under various environmental conditions.
Project description:The pathogenicity of Shiga-like toxin (stx)-producing Escherichia coli (STEC), notably serotype O157, the causative agent of hemorrhagic colitis, hemolytic-uremic syndrome, and thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura, is based partly on the presence of genes (stx(1) and/or stx(2)) that are known to be carried on temperate lambdoid bacteriophages. Stx phages were isolated from different STEC strains and found to have genome sizes in the range of 48 to 62 kb and to carry either stx(1) or stx(2) genes. Restriction fragment length polymorphism patterns and sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis protein profiles were relatively uninformative, but the phages could be differentiated according to their immunity profiles. Furthermore, these were sufficiently sensitive to enable the identification and differentiation of two different phages, both carrying the genes for Stx2 and originating from the same STEC host strain. The immunity profiles of the different Stx phages did not conform to the model established for bacteriophage lambda, in that the pattern of individual Stx phage infection of various lysogens was neither expected nor predicted. Unexpected differences were also observed among Stx phages in their relative lytic productivity within a single host. Two antibiotic resistance markers were used to tag a recombinant phage in which the stx genes were inactivated, enabling the first reported observation of the simultaneous infection of a single host with two genetically identical Stx phages. The data demonstrate that, although Stx phages are members of the lambdoid family, their replication and infection control strategies are not necessarily identical to the archetypical bacteriophage lambda, and this could be responsible for the widespread occurrence of stx genes across a diverse range of E. coli serotypes.
Project description:Shigatoxigenic E. coli are a global and emerging health concern. Shiga toxin, Stx, is encoded on the genome of temperate, lambdoid Stx phages. Genes essential for phage maintenance and replication are encoded on approximately 50% of the genome, while most of the remaining genes are of unknown function nor is it known if these annotated hypothetical genes are even expressed. It is hypothesized that many of the latter have been maintained due to positive selection pressure, and that some, expressed in the lysogen host, have a role in pathogenicity. This study used Change Mediated Antigen Technology (CMAT)™ and 2D-PAGE, in combination with RT-qPCR, to identify Stx phage genes that are expressed in E. coli during the lysogenic cycle.Lysogen cultures propagated for 5-6 hours produced a high cell density with a low proportion of spontaneous prophage induction events. The expression of 26 phage genes was detected in these cultures by differential 2D-PAGE of expressed proteins and CMAT. Detailed analyses of 10 of these genes revealed that three were unequivocally expressed in the lysogen, two expressed from a known lysogenic cycle promoter and one uncoupled from the phage regulatory network.Propagation of a lysogen culture in which no cells at all are undergoing spontaneous lysis is impossible. To overcome this, RT-qPCR was used to determine gene expression profiles associated with the growth phase of lysogens. This enabled the definitive identification of three lambdoid Stx phage genes that are expressed in the lysogen and seven that are expressed during lysis. Conservation of these genes in this phage genome, and other Stx phages where they have been identified as present, indicates their importance in the phage/lysogen life cycle, with possible implications for the biology and pathogenicity of the bacterial host.
Project description:Shigatoxigenic Escherichia coli emerged as new food borne pathogens in the early 1980s, primarily driven by the dispersal of Shiga toxin-encoding lambdoid bacteriophages. At least some of these Stx phages display superinfection phenotypes, which differ significantly from lambda phage itself, driving through in situ recombination further phage evolution, increasing host range and potentially increasing the host's pathogenic profile. Here, increasing levels of Stx phage ?24(B) integrase expression in multiple lysogen cultures are demonstrated along with apparently negligible repression of integrase expression by the cognate CI repressor. The ?24(B) int transcription start site and promoter region were identified and found to differ from in silico predictions. The unidirectional activity of this integrase was determined in an in situ, inducible tri-partite reaction. This indicated that ?24(B) must encode a novel directionality factor that is controlling excision events during prophage induction. This excisionase was subsequently identified and characterized through complementation experiments. In addition, the previous proposal that a putative antirepressor was responsible for the lack of immunity to superinfection through inactivation of CI has been revisited and a new hypothesis involving the role of this protein in promoting efficient induction of the ?24(B) prophage is proposed.
Project description:Shiga toxin is the major virulence factor of enterohemorrhagic <i>Escherichia coli</i> (EHEC), and the gene encoding it is carried within the genome of Shiga toxin-converting phages (Stx phages). Numerous Stx phages have been sequenced to gain a better understanding of their contribution to the virulence potential of EHEC. The Stx phages are classified into the lambdoid phage family based on similarities in lifestyle, gene arrangement, and nucleotide sequence to the lambda phages. This study explores the replication regions of non-lambdoid Stx phages that completely lack the <i>O</i> and <i>P</i> genes encoding the proteins involved in initiating replication in the lambdoid phage genome. Instead, they carry sequences encoding replication proteins that have not been described earlier, here referred to as <i>eru</i> genes (after EHEC phage replication unit genes). This study identified three different types of Eru-phages, where the Eru1-type is carried by the highly pathogenic EHEC strains that caused the Norwegian O103:H25 outbreak in 2006 and the O104:H4 strain that caused the large outbreak in Europe in 2011. We show that Eru1-phages exhibit a less stable lysogenic state than the classical lambdoid Stx phages. As production of phage particles is accompanied by production of Stx toxin, the Eru1-phage could be associated with a high-virulence phenotype of the host EHEC strain. This finding emphasizes the importance of classifying Stx phages according to their replication regions in addition to their Stx-type and could be used to develop a novel strategy to identify highly virulent EHEC strains for improved risk assessment and management.