Deciphering the genetic programme triggering timely and spatially-regulated chitin deposition.
ABSTRACT: Organ and tissue formation requires a finely tuned temporal and spatial regulation of differentiation programmes. This is necessary to balance sufficient plasticity to undergo morphogenesis with the acquisition of the mature traits needed for physiological activity. Here we addressed this issue by analysing the deposition of the chitinous extracellular matrix of Drosophila, an essential element of the cuticle (skin) and respiratory system (tracheae) in this insect. Chitin deposition requires the activity of the chitin synthase Krotzkopf verkehrt (Kkv). Our data demonstrate that this process equally requires the activity of two other genes, namely expansion (exp) and rebuf (reb). We found that Exp and Reb have interchangeable functions, and in their absence no chitin is produced, in spite of the presence of Kkv. Conversely, when Kkv and Exp/Reb are co-expressed in the ectoderm, they promote chitin deposition, even in tissues normally devoid of this polysaccharide. Therefore, our results indicate that both functions are not only required but also sufficient to trigger chitin accumulation. We show that this mechanism is highly regulated in time and space, ensuring chitin accumulation in the correct tissues and developmental stages. Accordingly, we observed that unregulated chitin deposition disturbs morphogenesis, thus highlighting the need for tight regulation of this process. In summary, here we identify the genetic programme that triggers the timely and spatially regulated deposition of chitin and thus provide new insights into the extracellular matrix maturation required for physiological activity.
Project description:Vibrio cholerae is a natural resident of the aquatic environment, where a common nutrient is the chitinous exoskeletons of microscopic crustaceans. Chitin utilization requires chitinases, which degrade this insoluble polymer into soluble chitin oligosaccharides. These oligosaccharides also serve as an inducing cue for natural transformation in Vibrio species. There are 7 predicted endochitinase-like genes in the V. cholerae genome. Here, we systematically dissect the contribution of each gene to growth on chitin as well as induction of natural transformation. Specifically, we created a strain that lacks all 7 putative chitinases and from this strain, generated a panel of strains where each expresses a single chitinase. We also generated expression plasmids to ectopically express all 7 chitinases in our chitinase deficient strain. Through this analysis, we found that low levels of chitinase activity are sufficient for natural transformation, while growth on insoluble chitin as a sole carbon source requires more robust and concerted chitinase activity. We also assessed the role that the three uptake systems for the chitin degradation products GlcNAc, (GlcNAc)2 and (GlcN)2 , play in chitin utilization and competence induction. Cumulatively, this study provides mechanistic details for how this pathogen utilizes chitin to thrive and evolve in its environmental reservoir.
Project description:Structure-based tissue engineering requires large-scale 3D cell/tissue manufacture technologies, to produce biologically active scaffolds. Special attention is currently paid to naturally pre-designed scaffolds found in skeletons of marine sponges, which represent a renewable resource of biomaterials. Here, an innovative approach to the production of mineralized scaffolds of natural origin is proposed. For the first time, a method to obtain calcium carbonate deposition ex vivo, using living mollusks hemolymph and a marine-sponge-derived template, is specifically described. For this purpose, the marine sponge Aplysin aarcheri and the terrestrial snail Cornu aspersum were selected as appropriate 3D chitinous scaffold and as hemolymph donor, respectively. The formation of calcium-based phase on the surface of chitinous matrix after its immersion into hemolymph was confirmed by Alizarin Red staining. A direct role of mollusks hemocytes is proposed in the creation of fine-tuned microenvironment necessary for calcification ex vivo. The X-ray diffraction pattern of the sample showed a high CaCO3 amorphous content. Raman spectroscopy evidenced also a crystalline component, with spectra corresponding to biogenic calcite. This study resulted in the development of a new biomimetic product based on ex vivo synthetized ACC and calcite tightly bound to the surface of 3D sponge chitin structure.
Project description:Recent findings of intact chitin in fossil records suggest surprisingly high recalcitrance of this biopolymer during hydrothermal treatments. We also know in the experience of everyday life that mushroom, cells of which have chitinous cell walls, do not fall apart however long they are simmered. We used in situ optical microscopy to examine chitin and fungal cells with chitinous cell walls during hydrothermal treatments, and obtained direct evidence that they remained undegraded at temperatures well over 200?°C. The results show very hot and compressed water is needed to make mushrooms mushy.
Project description:Naturally occurring three-dimensional (3D) biopolymer-based matrices that can be used in different biomedical applications are sustainable alternatives to various artificial 3D materials. For this purpose, chitin-based structures from marine sponges are very promising substitutes. Marine sponges from the order Verongiida (class Demospongiae) are typical examples of demosponges with well-developed chitinous skeletons. In particular, species belonging to the family Ianthellidae possess chitinous, flat, fan-like fibrous skeletons with a unique, microporous 3D architecture that makes them particularly interesting for applications. In this work, we focus our attention on the demosponge Ianthella flabelliformis (Linnaeus, 1759) for simultaneous extraction of both naturally occurring ("ready-to-use") chitin scaffolds, and biologically active bromotyrosines which are recognized as potential antibiotic, antitumor, and marine antifouling substances. We show that selected bromotyrosines are located within pigmental cells which, however, are localized within chitinous skeletal fibers of I. flabelliformis. A two-step reaction provides two products: treatment with methanol extracts the bromotyrosine compounds bastadin 25 and araplysillin-I N20 sulfamate, and a subsequent treatment with acetic acid and sodium hydroxide exposes the 3D chitinous scaffold. This scaffold is a mesh-like structure, which retains its capillary network, and its use as a potential drug delivery biomaterial was examined for the first time. The results demonstrate that sponge-derived chitin scaffolds, impregnated with decamethoxine, effectively inhibit growth of the human pathogen Staphylococcus aureus in an agar diffusion assay.
Project description:The human pathogen Vibrio cholerae is an aquatic bacterium associated with zooplankton and their chitinous exoskeletons. On chitinous surfaces, V. cholerae initiates a developmental programme, known as natural competence, to mediate transformation, which is a mode of horizontal gene transfer. Competence facilitates the uptake of free DNA and recombination into the bacterial genome. Recent studies have indicated that chitin surfaces are required, but not sufficient to induce competence. Two additional regulatory pathways, i.e. catabolite repression and quorum sensing (QS), are components of the regulatory network that controls natural competence in V. cholerae. In this study, we investigated the link between chitin induction and QS. We show that the major regulators of these two pathways, TfoX and HapR, are both involved in the activation of a gene encoding a transcriptional regulator of the LuxR-type family, which we named QS and TfoX-dependent regulator (QstR). We demonstrate that HapR binds the promoter of qstR in a site-specific manner, indicating a role for HapR as an activator of qstR. In addition, epistasis experiments indicate that QstR compensates for the absence of HapR. We also provide evidence that QstR is required for the proper expression of a small but essential subset of competence genes and propose a new regulatory model in which QstR links chitin-induced TfoX activity with QS.
Project description:Vibrio cholerae is a bacterial pathogen that colonizes the chitinous exoskeleton of zooplankton as well as the human gastrointestinal tract. Colonization of these different niches involves an N-acetylglucosamine binding protein (GbpA) that has been reported to mediate bacterial attachment to both marine chitin and mammalian intestinal mucin through an unknown molecular mechanism. We report structural studies that reveal that GbpA possesses an unusual, elongated, four-domain structure, with domains 1 and 4 showing structural homology to chitin binding domains. A glycan screen revealed that GbpA binds to GlcNAc oligosaccharides. Structure-guided GbpA truncation mutants show that domains 1 and 4 of GbpA interact with chitin in vitro, whereas in vivo complementation studies reveal that domain 1 is also crucial for mucin binding and intestinal colonization. Bacterial binding studies show that domains 2 and 3 bind to the V. cholerae surface. Finally, mouse virulence assays show that only the first three domains of GbpA are required for colonization. These results explain how GbpA provides structural/functional modular interactions between V. cholerae, intestinal epithelium and chitinous exoskeletons.
Project description:Echinocandins are a new generation of novel antifungal agent that inhibit cell wall beta(1,3)-glucan synthesis and are normally cidal for the human pathogen Candida albicans. Treatment of C. albicans with low levels of echinocandins stimulated chitin synthase (CHS) gene expression, increased Chs activity, elevated chitin content and reduced efficacy of these drugs. Elevation of chitin synthesis was mediated via the PKC, HOG, and Ca(2+)-calcineurin signalling pathways. Stimulation of Chs2p and Chs8p by activators of these pathways enabled cells to survive otherwise lethal concentrations of echinocandins, even in the absence of Chs3p and the normally essential Chs1p, which synthesize the chitinous septal ring and primary septum of the fungus. Under such conditions, a novel proximally offset septum was synthesized that restored the capacity for cell division, sustained the viability of the cell, and abrogated morphological and growth defects associated with echinocandin treatment and the chs mutations. These findings anticipate potential resistance mechanisms to echinocandins. However, echinocandins and chitin synthase inhibitors synergized strongly, highlighting the potential for combination therapies with greatly enhanced cidal activity.
Project description:Insect cuticle or exoskeleton is an extracellular matrix formed primarily from two different structural biopolymers, chitin and protein. During each molt cycle, a new cuticle is deposited simultaneously with degradation of the inner part of the chitinous procuticle of the overlying old exoskeleton by molting fluid enzymes including epidermal chitinases. In this study we report a novel role for an epidermal endochitinase containing two catalytic domains, TcCHT7, from the red flour beetle, Tribolium castaneum, in organizing chitin in the newly forming cuticle rather than in degrading chitin present in the prior one. Recombinant TcCHT7 expressed in insect cells is membrane-bound and capable of hydrolyzing an extracellular chitin substrate, whereas in vivo, this enzyme is also released from the plasma membrane and co-localizes with chitin in the entire procuticle. RNAi of TcCHT7 reveals that this enzyme is nonessential for any type of molt or degradation of the chitinous matrix in the old cuticle. In contrast, TcCHT7 is required for maintaining the integrity of the cuticle as a compact structure of alternating electron-dense and electron-lucent laminae. There is a reduction in thickness of elytral and leg cuticles after RNAi for TcCHT7. TcCHT7 is also required for formation of properly oriented long chitin fibers inside pore canals that are vertically oriented columnar structures, which contribute to the mechanical strength of a light-weight, yet rigid, adult cuticle. The conservation of CHT7-like proteins harboring such a unique domain configuration among many insect and other arthropod species indicates a critical role for the group III class of chitinases in the higher ordered organization of chitin fibers for development of the structural integrity of many invertebrate exoskeletons.
Project description:Species with a chitinous exoskeleton are overrepresented among the aquatic organisms carrying Mycobacterium ulcerans (MU) in nature and laboratory experiments have demonstrated the enhancing effects of chitin on the growth of MU. Field surveys identified pH as one of the key parameters delineating the distribution of MU in tropical regions. The present study investigated the relationship between chitin and pH in MU growth. By focusing on pH variations in the field, our results revealed that chitin enhanced MU growth in acidic environments. The present study provides new information on the ecological conditions favoring the development of this mycobacterium in nature.
Project description:Marine sponges remain representative of a unique source of renewable biological materials. The demosponges of the family Ianthellidae possess chitin-based skeletons with high biomimetic potential. These three-dimensional (3D) constructs can potentially be used in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. In this study, we focus our attention, for the first time, on the marine sponge Ianthella labyrinthus Bergquist & Kelly-Borges, 1995 (Demospongiae: Verongida: Ianthellidae) as a novel potential source of naturally prestructured bandage-like 3D scaffolds which can be isolated simultaneously with biologically active bromotyrosines. Specifically, translucent and elastic flat chitinous scaffolds have been obtained after bromotyrosine extraction and chemical treatments of the sponge skeleton with alternate alkaline and acidic solutions. For the first time, cardiomyocytes differentiated from human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC-CMs) have been used to test the suitability of I. labyrinthus chitinous skeleton as ready-to-use scaffold for their cell culture. Results reveal a comparable attachment and growth on isolated chitin-skeleton, compared to scaffolds coated with extracellular matrix mimetic Geltrex®. Thus, the natural, unmodified I. labyrinthus cleaned sponge skeleton can be used to culture iPSC-CMs and 3D tissue engineering. In addition, I. labyrinthus chitin-based scaffolds demonstrate strong and efficient capability to absorb blood deep into the microtubes due to their excellent capillary effect. These findings are suggestive of the future development of new sponge chitin-based absorbable hemostats as alternatives to already well recognized cellulose-based fabrics.