Transformation of Chlamydia muridarum reveals a role for Pgp5 in suppression of plasmid-dependent gene expression.
ABSTRACT: Transformation of Chlamydia trachomatis should greatly advance the chlamydial research. However, significant progress has been hindered by the failure of C. trachomatis to induce clinically relevant pathology in animal models. Chlamydia muridarum, which naturally infects mice, can induce hydrosalpinx in mice, a tubal pathology also seen in women infected with C. trachomatis. We have developed a C. muridarum transformation system and confirmed Pgp1, -2, -6, and -8 as plasmid maintenance factors, Pgp3, -5, and -7 as dispensable for in vitro growth, and Pgp4 as a positive regulator of genes that are dependent on plasmid for expression. More importantly, we have discovered that Pgp5 can negatively regulate the same plasmid-dependent genes. Deletion of Pgp5 led to a significant increase in expression of the plasmid-dependent genes, suggesting that Pgp5 can suppress the expression of these genes. Replacement of pgp5 with a mCherry gene, or premature termination of pgp5 translation, also increased expression of the plasmid-dependent genes, indicating that Pgp5 protein but not its DNA sequence is required for the inhibitory effect. Replacing C. muridarum pgp5 with a C. trachomatis pgp5 still inhibited the plasmid-dependent gene expression, indicating that the negative regulation of plasmid-dependent genes is a common feature of all Pgp5 regardless of its origin. Nevertheless, C. muridarum Pgp5 is more potent than C. trachomatis Pgp5 in suppressing gene expression. Thus, we have uncovered a novel function of Pgp5 and developed a C. muridarum transformation system for further mapping chlamydial pathogenic and protective determinants in animal models.
Project description:A critical step in intracellular Chlamydia infection is the production of infectious progeny through the expression of late genes. This differentiation step involves conversion from a reticulate body (RB), which is the replicating form of the bacterium, into an elementary body (EB), which is the developmental form that spreads the infection to a new host cell. EUO is an important chlamydial transcription factor that controls the expression of late genes, but the mechanisms that regulate EUO are not known. We report that a plasmid-encoded protein, Pgp4, enhanced the repressor activity of EUO. Pgp4 did not function as a transcription factor because it did not bind or directly modulate transcription of its target promoters. Instead, Pgp4 increased the ability of EUO to bind and repress EUO-regulated promoters in vitro and physically interacted with EUO in pulldown assays with recombinant proteins. We detected earlier onset of EUO-dependent late gene expression by immunofluorescence microscopy in Pgp4-deficient C. trachomatis and C. muridarum strains. In addition, the absence of Pgp4 led to earlier onset of RB-to-EB conversion in C. muridarum These data support a role for Pgp4 as a negative regulator of chlamydial transcription that delays late gene expression. Our studies revealed that Pgp4 also has an EUO-independent function as a positive regulator of chlamydial transcription.IMPORTANCE Chlamydia trachomatis is an important human pathogen that causes more than 150 million active cases of genital and eye infection in the world. This obligate intracellular bacterium produces infectious progeny within an infected human cell through the expression of late chlamydial genes. We showed that the ability of a key chlamydial transcription factor, EUO, to repress late genes was enhanced by a plasmid-encoded protein, Pgp4. In addition, studies with Chlamydia Pgp4-deficient strains provide evidence that Pgp4 delays late gene expression in infected cells. Thus, Pgp4 is a novel regulator of late gene expression in Chlamydia through its ability to enhance the repressor function of EUO.
Project description:Chlamydia trachomatis is an obligate intracellular bacterial pathogen that causes blinding trachoma and sexually transmitted disease. C. trachomatis isolates are classified into 2 biovars-lymphogranuloma venereum (LGV) and trachoma-which are distinguished biologically by their natural host cell infection tropism. LGV biovars infect macrophages and are invasive, whereas trachoma biovars infect oculo-urogenital epithelial cells and are noninvasive. The C. trachomatis plasmid is an important virulence factor in the pathogenesis of these infections. Central to its pathogenic role is the transcriptional regulatory function of the plasmid protein Pgp4, which regulates the expression of plasmid and chromosomal virulence genes. As many gene regulatory functions are post-transcriptional, we employed a comparative proteomic study of cells infected with plasmid-cured C. trachomatis serovars A and D (trachoma biovar), a L2 serovar (LGV biovar), and the L2 serovar transformed with a plasmid containing a nonsense mutation in pgp4 to more completely elucidate the effects of the plasmid on chlamydial infection biology. Our results show that the Pgp4-dependent elevations in the levels of Pgp3 and a conserved core set of chromosomally encoded proteins are remarkably similar for serovars within both C. trachomatis biovars. Conversely, we found a plasmid-dependent, Pgp4-independent, negative regulation in the expression of the chlamydial protease-like activity factor (CPAF) for the L2 serovar but not the A and D serovars. The molecular mechanism of plasmid-dependent negative regulation of CPAF expression in the LGV serovar is not understood but is likely important to understanding its macrophage infection tropism and invasive infection nature.IMPORTANCE The Chlamydia trachomatis plasmid is an important virulence factor in the pathogenesis of chlamydial infection. It is known that plasmid protein 4 (Pgp4) functions in the transcriptional regulation of the plasmid virulence protein 3 (Pgp3) and multiple chromosomal loci of unknown function. Since many gene regulatory functions can be post-transcriptional, we undertook a comparative proteomic analysis to better understand the plasmid's role in chlamydial and host protein expression. We report that Pgp4 is a potent and specific master positive regulator of a common core of plasmid and chromosomal virulence genes shared by multiple C. trachomatis serovars. Notably, we show that the plasmid is a negative regulator of the expression of the chlamydial virulence factor CPAF. The plasmid regulation of CPAF is independent of Pgp4 and restricted to a C. trachomatis macrophage-tropic strain. These findings are important because they define a previously unknown role for the plasmid in the pathophysiology of invasive chlamydial infection.
Project description:The recent success in transformation of Chlamydia trachomatis represents a major advancement in Chlamydia research. Plasmid-free C. trachomatis serovar L2 organisms can be transformed with chlamydial plasmid-based shuttle vectors pGFP::SW2 and pBRCT. Deletion of plasmid genes coding for Pgp1 to Pgp8 in pBRCT led to the identification of Pgp1, -2, -6, and -8 as plasmid maintenance factors; Pgp4 as a transcriptional regulator of chlamydial virulence-associated gene expression; and Pgp3, -5, and -7 as being dispensable for chlamydial growth in vitro. Using the pGFP::SW2 vector system, we confirmed these findings in the current report. To further dissect the roles of pgp coding sequences and Pgp proteins in plasmid maintenance, we introduced premature stop codons into the pgp genes. Stable transformants were obtained with pGFP::SW2 derivatives carrying premature stop codons in pgp8 but not in pgp1, pgp2, and pgp6, suggesting that the pgp8 coding sequence but not the Pgp8 protein is required for maintaining the plasmid, while Pgp1, -2, and -6 proteins are necessary for plasmid maintenance. We also found that a minimum of 30 nucleotides in the pgp3 coding region was required for pgp4 expression. Finally, mCherry red fluorescent protein was successfully expressed when the mCherry gene was used to replace the pgp3, pgp4, or pgp5 coding region, indicating that these regions can be used to express nonchlamydial genes in chlamydial organisms. These novel observations have provided information for further use of chlamydial plasmid shuttle vectors as genetic tools to understand chlamydial biology and pathogenicity as well as to develop attenuated chlamydial vaccines.
Project description:The cryptic plasmid is essential for Chlamydia muridarum dissemination from the genital tract to the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Following intravaginal inoculation, a C. muridarum strain deficient in plasmid-encoded pGP3 or pGP4 but not pGP5, pGP7, or pGP8 failed to spread to the mouse gastrointestinal tract, although mice infected with these strains developed productive genital tract infections. pGP3- or pGP4-deficient strains also failed to colonize the gastrointestinal tract when delivered intragastrically. pGP4 regulates pGP3, while pGP3 does not affect pGP4 expression, indicating that pGP3 is critical for C. muridarum colonization of the gastrointestinal tract. Mutants deficient in GlgA, a chromosome-encoded protein regulated by pGP4, also consistently colonized the mouse gastrointestinal tract. Interestingly, C. muridarum colonization of the gastrointestinal tract positively correlated with pathogenicity in the upper genital tract. pGP3-deficient C. muridarum strains did not induce hydrosalpinx or spread to the GI tract even when delivered to the oviduct by intrabursal inoculation. Thus, the current study not only has revealed that pGP3 is a novel chlamydial colonization factor in the gastrointestinal tract but also has laid a foundation for investigating the significance of gastrointestinal Chlamydia.
Project description:We previously demonstrated that plasmid-deficient Chlamydia muridarum retains the ability to infect the murine genital tract but does not elicit oviduct pathology because it fails to activate Toll-like receptor 2 (TLR2). We derived a plasmid-cured derivative of the human genital isolate Chlamydia trachomatis D/UW-3/Cx, strain CTD153, which also fails to activate TLR2, indicating this virulence phenotype is associated with plasmid loss in both C. trachomatis and C. muridarum. As observed with plasmid-deficient C. muridarum, CTD153 displayed impaired accumulation of glycogen within inclusions. Transcriptional profiling of the plasmid-deficient strains by using custom microarrays identified a conserved group of chromosomal loci, the expression of which was similarly controlled in plasmid-deficient C. muridarum strains CM972 and CM3.1 and plasmid-deficient C. trachomatis CTD153. However, although expression of glycogen synthase, encoded by glgA, was greatly reduced in CTD153, it was unaltered in plasmid-deficient C. muridarum strains. Thus, additional plasmid-associated factors are required for glycogen accumulation by this chlamydial species. Furthermore, in C. trachomatis, glgA and other plasmid-responsive chromosomal loci (PRCLs) were transcriptionally responsive to glucose limitation, indicating that additional regulatory elements may be involved in the coordinated expression of these candidate virulence effectors. Glucose-limited C. trachomatis displayed reduced TLR2 stimulation in an in vitro assay. During human chlamydial infection, glucose limitation may decrease chlamydial virulence through its effects on plasmid-responsive chromosomal genes.
Project description:Chlamydia trachomatis is an obligate intracellular bacterium that is a globally important human pathogen. The chlamydial plasmid is an attenuating virulence factor, but the molecular basis for attenuation is not understood. Chlamydiae replicate within a membrane-bound vacuole termed an inclusion, where they undergo a biphasic developmental growth cycle and differentiate from noninfectious into infectious organisms. Late in the developmental cycle, the fragile chlamydia-laden inclusion retains its integrity by surrounding itself with scaffolds of host cytoskeletal proteins. The ability of chlamydiae to developmentally free themselves from this cytoskeleton network is a fundamental virulence trait of the pathogen. Here, we show that plasmidless chlamydiae are incapable of disrupting their cytoskeletal entrapment and remain intracellular as stable mature inclusions that support high numbers of infectious organisms. By using deletion mutants of the eight plasmid-carried genes (?pgp1 to ?pgp8), we show that Pgp4, a transcriptional regulator of multiple chromosomal genes, is required for exit. Exit of chlamydiae is dependent on protein synthesis and is inhibited by the compound C1, an inhibitor of the type III secretion system (T3S). Exit of plasmid-free and ?pgp4 organisms, which failed to lyse infected cells, was rescued by latrunculin B, an inhibitor of actin polymerization. Our findings describe a genetic mechanism of chlamydial exit from host cells that is dependent on an unknown pgp4-regulated chromosomal T3S effector gene.Chlamydia's obligate intracellular life style requires both entry into and exit from host cells. Virulence factors that function in exiting are unknown. The chlamydial inclusion is stabilized late in the infection cycle by F-actin. A prerequisite of chlamydial exit is its ability to disassemble actin from the inclusion. We show that chlamydial plasmid-free organisms, and also a plasmid gene protein 4 (pgp4) null mutant, do not disassociate actin from the inclusion and fail to exit cells. We further provide evidence that Pgp4-regulated exit is dependent on the chlamydial type III secretion system. This study is the first to define a genetic mechanism that functions in chlamydial lytic exit from host cells. The findings also have practical implications for understanding why plasmid-free chlamydiae are highly attenuated and have the ability to elicit robust protective immune responses.
Project description:The native plasmid of both Chlamydia muridarum and Chlamydia trachomatis has been shown to control virulence and infectivity in mice and in lower primates. We recently described the development of a plasmid-based genetic transformation protocol for Chlamydia trachomatis that for the first time provides a platform for the molecular dissection of the function of the chlamydial plasmid and its individual genes or coding sequences (CDS). In the present study, we transformed a plasmid-free lymphogranuloma venereum isolate of C. trachomatis, serovar L2, with either the original shuttle vector (pGFP::SW2) or a derivative of pGFP::SW2 carrying a deletion of the plasmid CDS5 gene (pCDS5KO). Female mice were inoculated with these strains either intravaginally or transcervically. We found that transformation of the plasmid-free isolate with the intact pGFP::SW2 vector significantly enhanced infectivity and induction of host inflammatory responses compared to the plasmid-free parental isolate. Transformation with pCDS5KO resulted in infection courses and inflammatory responses not significantly different from those observed in mice infected with the plasmid-free isolate. These results indicate a critical role of plasmid CDS5 in in vivo fitness and in induction of inflammatory responses. To our knowledge, these are the first in vivo observations ascribing infectivity and virulence to a specific plasmid gene.
Project description:Chlamydia trachomatis causes chronic inflammatory diseases of the eye and genital tract of global medical importance. The chlamydial plasmid plays an important role in the pathophysiology of these diseases as plasmid-deficient organisms are highly attenuated. The plasmid encodes both noncoding RNAs and eight conserved ORFs of undefined function. To understand plasmid gene function we generated plasmid shuttle vectors with deletions in each of the eight ORFs. The individual deletion mutants were used to transform chlamydiae and the transformants were characterized in terms of plasmid biology and transcriptional profiling. We show that pgp1-2, -6 and -8 are essential for plasmid maintenance while the other ORFs can be deleted and the plasmid stably maintained. We further show that a pgp4 knockout mutant exhibits an in vitro phenotype similar to its isogenic plasmid-less strain in terms of abnormal inclusion morphology and lack of glycogen accumulation. Microarray and qRT-PCR analysis revealed that pgp4 is involved in transcriptional regulation of multiple chromosomal genes; including the glycogen synthase gene glgA. Based on our results, we propose that Pgp1 is a plasmid replicative helicase, Pgp2 is a plasmid replication protein, Pgp4 is a transcriptional regulator of virulence associated chromosomal genes, and Pgp6-8 are plasmid partitioning proteins. These findings have important implications for understanding the plasmid’s role in chlamydial pathogenesis and the development of novel antigenically multivalent live-attenuated chlamydial vaccines. Chlamydia trachomatis wild type vs. two deletion mutants, and mock
Project description:Although Chlamydia trachomatis is a human genital tract pathogen, chlamydial organisms have frequently been detected in both vaginal and rectal swab samples of animals and humans. The plasmid-encoded pGP3, a genital tract virulence factor, is essential for Chlamydia muridarum to colonize the mouse gastrointestinal tract. However, intracolon inoculation to bypass the gastric barrier rescued the colonization ability of a pGP3-deficient C. muridarum mutant, suggesting that pGP3 is required for C. muridarum to reach but not to colonize the large intestine. The pGP3-deficient mutant was rapidly cleared in the stomach and was 100-fold more susceptible to gastric killing. In mice genetically deficient in gastrin, a key regulator for gastric acid production, or pharmacologically treated with a proton pump inhibitor, the ability of pGP3-deficient C. muridarum to colonize the gastrointestinal tract was rescued. The pGP3-dependent resistance was further recapitulated in vitro with treatments with HCl, pepsin, or sarkosyl. In the genital tract, deficiency in pGP3 significantly reduced C. muridarum survival in the mouse vagina and increased C. muridarum susceptibility to vaginal killing by ?8 times. The pGP3-deficient C. muridarum was more susceptible to lactic acid killing, and the pGP3 deficiency also significantly increased C. trachomatis susceptibility to lactic acid. The above-described observations together suggest that Chlamydia may have acquired the plasmid-encoded pGP3 to overcome the gastric barrier during its adaptation to the gastrointestinal tract and the pGP3-dependent resistance may enable chlamydial evasion of the female lower genital tract barrier during sexual transmission.
Project description:Chlamydia trachomatis causes chronic inflammatory diseases of the eye and genital tract and has global medical importance. The chlamydial plasmid plays an important role in the pathophysiology of these diseases, as plasmid-deficient organisms are highly attenuated. The cryptic plasmid carries noncoding RNAs and eight conserved open reading frames (ORFs). To understand plasmid gene function, we generated plasmid shuttle vectors with deletions in each of the eight ORFs. The individual deletion mutants were used to transform chlamydiae and the transformants were characterized phenotypically and at the transcriptional level. We show that pgp1, -2, -6, and -8 are essential for plasmid maintenance, while the other ORFs can be deleted and the plasmid stably maintained. We further show that a pgp4 knockout mutant exhibits an in vitro phenotype similar to its isogenic plasmidless strain, in terms of abnormal inclusion morphology and lack of glycogen accumulation. Microarray and qRT-PCR analysis revealed that Pgp4 is a transcriptional regulator of plasmid-encoded pgp3 and multiple chromosomal genes, including the glycogen synthase gene glgA, that are likely important in chlamydial virulence. Our findings have major implications for understanding the plasmid's role in chlamydial pathogenesis at the molecular level.