Mobilizable Plasmids for Tunable Gene Expression in Francisella novicida.
ABSTRACT: Francisella tularensis is the causative agent of the life-threatening disease tularemia. However, the molecular tools to study Francisella are limited. Especially, expression plasmids are sparse and difficult to use, as they are unstable and prone to spontaneous loss. Most Francisella expression plasmids lack inducible promoters making it difficult to control gene expression levels. In addition, available expression plasmids are mainly designed for F. tularensis, however, genetic differences including restriction-modification systems impede the use of these plasmids in F. novicida, which is often used as a model organism to study Francisella pathogenesis. Here we report construction and characterization of two mobilizable plasmids (pFNMB1 and pFNMB2) designed for regulated gene expression in F. novicida. pFNMB plasmids contain a tetracycline inducible promoter to control gene expression levels and oriT for RP4 mediated mobilization. We show that both plasmids are stably maintained in bacteria for more than 40 generations over 4 days of culturing in the absence of selection against plasmid loss. Expression levels are dependent on anhydrotetracycline concentration and homogeneous in a bacterial population. pFNMB1 and pFNMB2 plasmids differ in the sequence between promoter and translation start site and thus allow to reach different maximum levels of protein expression. We used pFNMB1 and pFNMB2 for complementation of Francisella Pathogenicity Island mutants ?iglF, ?iglI, and ?iglC in-vitro and pFNMB1 to complement ?iglI mutant in bone marrow derived macrophages.
Project description:Gram-negative bacteria have evolved sophisticated secretion machineries specialized for the secretion of macromolecules important for their life cycles. The Type VI secretion system (T6SS) is the most widely spread bacterial secretion machinery and is encoded by large, variable gene clusters, often found to be essential for virulence. The latter is true for the atypical T6SS encoded by the Francisella pathogenicity island (FPI) of the highly pathogenic, intracellular bacterium Francisella tularensis. We here undertook a comprehensive analysis of the intramacrophage secretion of the 17 FPI proteins of the live vaccine strain, LVS, of F. tularensis. All were expressed as fusions to the TEM ?-lactamase and cleavage of the fluorescent substrate CCF2-AM, a direct consequence of the delivery of the proteins into the macrophage cytosol, was followed over time. The FPI proteins IglE, IglC, VgrG, IglI, PdpE, PdpA, IglJ and IglF were all secreted, which was dependent on the core components DotU, VgrG, and IglC, as well as IglG. In contrast, the method was not directly applicable on F. novicida U112, since it showed very intense native ?-lactamase secretion due to FTN_1072. Its role was proven by ectopic expression in trans in LVS. We did not observe secretion of any of the LVS substrates VgrG, IglJ, IglF or IglI, when tested in a FTN_1072 deficient strain of F. novicida, whereas IglE, IglC, PdpA and even more so PdpE were all secreted. This suggests that there may be fundamental differences in the T6S mechanism among the Francisella subspecies. The findings further corroborate the unusual nature of the T6SS of F. tularensis since almost all of the identified substrates are unique to the species.
Project description:Studies of the molecular mechanisms of pathogenesis of Francisella tularensis, the causative agent of tularemia, have been hampered by a lack of genetic techniques for rapid targeted gene disruption in the most virulent subspecies. Here we describe efficient targeted gene disruption in F. tularensis utilizing mobile group II introns (targetrons) specifically optimized for F. tularensis. Utilizing a targetron targeted to blaB, which encodes ampicillin resistance, we showed that the system works at high efficiency in three different subspecies: F. tularensis subsp. tularensis, F. tularensis subsp. holarctica, and "F. tularensis subsp. novicida." A targetron was also utilized to inactivate F. tularensis subsp. holarctica iglC, a gene required for virulence. The iglC gene is located within the Francisella pathogenicity island (FPI), which has been duplicated in the most virulent subspecies. Importantly, the iglC targetron targeted both copies simultaneously, resulting in a strain mutated in both iglC genes in a single step. This system will help illuminate the contributions of specific genes, and especially those within the FPI, to the pathogenesis of this poorly studied organism.
Project description:Modulation of host cell death pathways appears to be a prerequisite for the successful lifestyles of many intracellular pathogens. The facultative intracellular bacterium Francisella tularensis is highly pathogenic, and effective proliferation in the macrophage cytosol leading to host cell death is a requirement for its virulence. To better understand the prerequisites of this cell death, macrophages were infected with the F. tularensis live vaccine strain (LVS), and the effects were compared to those resulting from infections with deletion mutants lacking expression of either of the pdpC, iglC, iglG, or iglI genes, which encode components of the Francisella pathogenicity island (FPI), a type VI secretion system. Within 12 h, a majority of the J774 cells infected with the LVS strain showed production of mitochondrial superoxide and, after 24 h, marked signs of mitochondrial damage, caspase-9 and caspase-3 activation, phosphatidylserine expression, nucleosome formation, and membrane leakage. In contrast, neither of these events occurred after infection with the ?iglI or ?iglC mutants, although the former strain replicated. The ?iglG mutant replicated effectively but induced only marginal cytopathogenic effects after 24 h and intermediate effects after 48 h. In contrast, the ?pdpC mutant showed no replication but induced marked mitochondrial superoxide production and mitochondrial damage, caspase-3 activation, nucleosome formation, and phosphatidylserine expression, although the effects were delayed compared to those obtained with LVS. The unique phenotypes of the mutants provide insights regarding the roles of individual FPI components for the modulation of the cytopathogenic effects resulting from the F. tularensis infection.
Project description:The highly infectious bacteria, Francisella tularensis, colonize a variety of organs and replicate within both phagocytic as well as non-phagocytic cells, to cause the disease tularemia. These microbes contain a conserved cluster of important virulence genes referred to as the Francisella Pathogenicity Island (FPI). Two of the most characterized FPI genes, iglC and pdpA, play a central role in bacterial survival and proliferation within phagocytes, but do not influence bacterial internalization. Yet, their involvement in non-phagocytic epithelial cell infections remains unexplored. To examine the functions of IglC and PdpA on bacterial invasion and replication during epithelial cell infections, we infected liver and lung epithelial cells with F. novicida and F. tularensis 'Type B' Live Vaccine Strain (LVS) deletion mutants (?iglC and ?pdpA) as well as their respective gene complements. We found that deletion of either gene significantly reduced their ability to invade and replicate in epithelial cells. Gene complementation of iglC and pdpA partially rescued bacterial invasion and intracellular growth. Additionally, substantial LAMP1-association with both deletion mutants was observed up to 12 h suggesting that the absence of IglC and PdpA caused deficiencies in their ability to dissociate from LAMP1-positive Francisella Containing Vacuoles (FCVs). This work provides the first evidence that IglC and PdpA are important pathogenic factors for invasion and intracellular growth of Francisella in epithelial cells, and further highlights the discrete mechanisms involved in Francisella infections between phagocytic and non-phagocytic cells.
Project description:The Francisella pathogenicity island (FPI) encodes proteins thought to compose a type VI secretion system (T6SS) that is required for the intracellular growth of Francisella novicida. In this work we used deletion mutagenesis and genetic complementation to determine that the intracellular growth of F. novicida was dependent on 14 of the 18 genes in the FPI. The products of the iglABCD operon were localized by the biochemical fractionation of F. novicida, and Francisella tularensis LVS. Sucrose gradient separation of water-insoluble material showed that the FPI-encoded proteins IglA, IglB and IglC were found in multiple fractions, especially in a fraction that did not correspond to a known membrane fraction. We interpreted these data to suggest that IglA, IglB and IglC are part of a macromolecular structure. Analysis of published structural data suggested that IglC is an analogue of Hcp, which is thought to form long nano-tubes. Thus the fractionation properties of IglA, IglB and IglC are consistent with the current model of the T6SS apparatus, which supposes that IglA and IglB homologues form an outer tube structure that surrounds an inner tube composed of Hcp (IglC) subunits. Fractionation of F. novicida expressing FLAG-tagged DotU (IcmH homologue) and PdpB (IcmF homologue) showed that these proteins localize to the inner membrane. Deletion of dotU led to the cleavage of PdpB, suggesting an interaction of these two proteins that is consistent with results obtained with other T6SSs. Our results may provide a mechanistic basis for many of the studies that have examined the virulence properties of Francisella mutants in FPI genes, namely that the observed phenotypes of the mutants are the result of the disruption of the FPI-encoded T6SS structure.
Project description:Cells of an attenuated live vaccine strain (LVS) of F. tularensis grown under iron-restricted conditions were found to contain increased quantities of several proteins relative to cells of this same strain grown under iron-replete conditions. Mass spectrometric analysis identified two of these proteins as IglC and PdpB, both of which are encoded by genes located in a previously identified pathogenicity island in F. tularensis LVS. Regions with homology to the consensus Fur box sequence were located immediately in front of the iglC and pdpB open reading frames (ORFs), and in silico analysis of the F. tularensis Schu4 genome detected a number of predicted 5' untranslated regions that contained putative Fur boxes. The putative Fur box preceding Francisella iron-regulated gene A (figA) had the highest degree of identity with the consensus Fur box sequence. DNA microarray analysis showed that nearly 80 of the genes in the F. tularensis LVS genome were up- or down-regulated at least twofold under iron-restricted growth conditions. When tested for possible siderophore production by means of the Chrome Azurol S assay, a wild-type F. novicida strain produced a large reaction zone whereas its figA mutant produced very little reactivity in this assay. In addition, a cross-feeding experiment demonstrated that this siderophore-like activity produced by the wild-type F. novicida strain could enhance the ability of the F. novicida figA mutant to grow under iron-restricted conditions. This study provides the first identification of iron-regulated genes in F. tularensis LVS and evidence for the production of a siderophore-like molecule by F. novicida.
Project description:Intracellular pathogens and other organisms have evolved mechanisms to exploit host cells for their life cycles. Virulence genes of some intracellular bacteria responsible for these mechanisms are located in pathogenicity islands, such as secretion systems that secrete effector proteins. The Francisella pathogenicity island is required for phagosomal escape, intracellular replication, evasion of host immune responses, virulence, and encodes a type 6 secretion system. We hypothesize that some Francisella novicida pathogenicity island proteins are secreted during infection of host cells. To test this hypothesis, expression plasmids for all Francisella novicida FPI-encoded proteins with C-terminal and N-terminal epitope FLAG tags were developed. These plasmids expressed their respective epitope FLAG-tagged proteins at their predicted molecular weights. J774 murine macrophage-like cells were infected with Francisella novicida containing these plasmids. The FPI proteins expressed from these plasmids successfully restored the intramacrophage growth phenotype in mutants of the respective genes that were deficient for intramacrophage growth. Using these expression plasmids, the localization of the Francisella pathogenicity island proteins were examined via immuno-fluorescence microscopy within infected macrophage-like cells. Several Francisella pathogenicity island encoded proteins (IglABCDEFGHIJ, PdpACE, DotU and VgrG) were detected extracellularly and they were co-localized with the bacteria, while PdpBD and Anmk were not detected and thus remained inside bacteria. Proteins that were co-localized with bacteria had different patterns of localization. The localization of IglC was dependent on the type 6 secretion system. This suggests that some Francisella pathogenicity island proteins were secreted while others remain within the bacterium during infection of host cells as structural components of the secretion system and were necessary for secretion.
Project description:The virulence of Francisella tularensis, the etiological agent of tularemia, relies on an atypical type VI secretion system (T6SS) encoded by a genomic island termed the Francisella Pathogenicity Island (FPI). While the importance of the FPI in F. tularensis virulence is clearly established, the precise role of most of the FPI-encoded proteins remains to be deciphered. In this study, using highly virulent F. tularensis strains and the closely related species F. novicida, IglG was characterized as a protein featuring a unique ?-helical N-terminal extension and a domain of unknown function (DUF4280), present in more than 250 bacterial species. Three dimensional modeling of IglG and of the DUF4280 consensus protein sequence indicates that these proteins adopt a PAAR-like fold, suggesting they could cap the T6SS in a similar way as the recently described PAAR proteins. The newly identified PAAR-like motif is characterized by four conserved cysteine residues, also present in IglG, which may bind a metal atom. We demonstrate that IglG binds metal ions and that each individual cysteine is required for T6SS-dependent secretion of IglG and of the Hcp homologue, IglC and for the F. novicida intracellular life cycle. In contrast, the Francisella-specific N-terminal ?-helical extension is not required for IglG secretion, but is critical for F. novicida virulence and for the interaction of IglG with another FPI-encoded protein, IglF. Altogether, our data suggest that IglG is a PAAR-like protein acting as a bi-modal protein that may connect the tip of the Francisella T6SS with a putative T6SS effector, IglF.
Project description:Francisella tularensis is a highly infectious, facultative intracellular bacterial pathogen that is the causative agent of tularemia. Nearly a century ago, researchers observed that tularemia was often fatal in North America but almost never fatal in Europe and Asia. The chromosomes of F. tularensis strains carry two identical copies of the Francisella pathogenicity island (FPI), and the FPIs of North America-specific biotypes contain two genes, anmK and pdpD, that are not found in biotypes that are distributed over the entire Northern Hemisphere. In this work, we studied the contribution of anmK and pdpD to virulence by using F. novicida, which is very closely related to F. tularensis but which carries only one copy of the FPI. We showed that anmK and pdpD are necessary for full virulence but not for intracellular growth. This is in sharp contrast to most other FPI genes that have been studied to date, which are required for intracellular growth. We also showed that PdpD is localized to the outer membrane. Further, overexpression of PdpD affects the cellular distribution of FPI-encoded proteins IglA, IglB, and IglC. Finally, deletions of FPI genes encoding proteins that are homologues of known components of type VI secretion systems abolished the altered distribution of IglC and the outer membrane localization of PdpD.
Project description:We have determined the sequence of the gene cluster encoding the O antigen in Francisella novicida and compared it to the previously reported O-antigen cluster in Francisella tularensis subsp. tularensis. Immunization with purified lipopolysaccharide (LPS) from F. tularensis subsp. tularensis or F. novicida protected against challenge with Francisella tularensis subsp. holarctica and F. novicida, respectively. The LPS from F. tularensis subsp. tularensis did not confer protection against challenge with F. novicida, and the LPS from F. novicida did not confer protection against challenge with F. tularensis subsp. holarctica. Allelic replacement mutants of F. tularensis subsp. tularensis or F. novicida which failed to produce O antigen were attenuated, but exposure to these mutants did not induce a protective immune response. The O antigen of F. tularensis subsp. tularensis appeared to be important for intracellular survival whereas the O antigen of F. novicida appeared to be critical for serum resistance and less important for intracellular survival.