Cereulide Synthetase Acquisition and Loss Events within the Evolutionary History of Group III Bacillus cereus Sensu Lato Facilitate the Transition between Emetic and Diarrheal Foodborne Pathogens.
ABSTRACT: Cereulide-producing members of Bacillus cereus sensu lato group III (also known as emetic B. cereus) possess cereulide synthetase, a plasmid-encoded, nonribosomal peptide synthetase encoded by the ces gene cluster. Despite the documented risks that cereulide-producing strains pose to public health, the level of genomic diversity encompassed by emetic B. cereus has never been evaluated at a whole-genome scale. Here, we employ a phylogenomic approach to characterize group III B. cereus sensu lato genomes which possess ces (ces positive) alongside their closely related, ces-negative counterparts (i) to assess the genomic diversity encompassed by emetic B. cereus and (ii) to identify potential ces loss and/or gain events within the evolutionary history of the high-risk and medically relevant sequence type (ST) 26 lineage often associated with emetic foodborne illness. Using all publicly available ces-positive group III B. cereus sensu lato genomes and the ces-negative genomes interspersed among them (n?=?159), we show that emetic B. cereus is not clonal; rather, multiple lineages within group III harbor cereulide-producing strains, all of which share an ancestor incapable of producing cereulide (posterior probability = 0.86 to 0.89). Members of ST 26 share an ancestor that existed circa 1748 (95% highest posterior density [HPD] interval = 1246.89 to 1915.64) and first acquired the ability to produce cereulide before 1876 (95% HPD = 1641.43 to 1946.70). Within ST 26 alone, two subsequent ces gain events were observed, as well as three ces loss events, including among isolates responsible for B. cereus sensu lato toxicoinfection (i.e., "diarrheal" illness).IMPORTANCE B. cereus is responsible for thousands of cases of foodborne disease each year worldwide, causing two distinct forms of illness: (i) intoxication via cereulide (i.e., emetic syndrome) or (ii) toxicoinfection via multiple enterotoxins (i.e., diarrheal syndrome). Here, we show that emetic B. cereus is not a clonal, homogenous unit that resulted from a single cereulide synthetase gain event followed by subsequent proliferation; rather, cereulide synthetase acquisition and loss is a dynamic, ongoing process that occurs across lineages, allowing some group III B. cereus sensu lato populations to oscillate between diarrheal and emetic foodborne pathogens over the course of their evolutionary histories. We also highlight the care that must be taken when selecting a reference genome for whole-genome sequencing-based investigation of emetic B. cereus sensu lato outbreaks, since some reference genome selections can lead to a confounding loss of resolution and potentially hinder epidemiological investigations.
Project description:The Bacillus cereus group comprises multiple species capable of causing emetic or diarrheal foodborne illness. Despite being responsible for tens of thousands of illnesses each year in the U.S. alone, whole-genome sequencing (WGS) is not yet routinely employed to characterize B. cereus group isolates from foodborne outbreaks. Here, we describe the first WGS-based characterization of isolates linked to an outbreak caused by members of the B. cereus group. In conjunction with a 2016 outbreak traced to a supplier of refried beans served by a fast food restaurant chain in upstate New York, a total of 33 B. cereus group isolates were obtained from human cases (n = 7) and food samples (n = 26). Emetic (n = 30) and diarrheal (n = 3) isolates were most closely related to B. paranthracis (group III) and B. cereus sensu stricto (group IV), respectively. WGS indicated that the 30 emetic isolates (24 and 6 from food and humans, respectively) were closely related and formed a well-supported clade distinct from publicly available emetic group III genomes with an identical sequence type (ST 26). The 30 emetic group III isolates from this outbreak differed from each other by a mean of 8.3 to 11.9 core single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), while differing from publicly available emetic group III ST 26 B. cereus group genomes by a mean of 301.7-528.0 core SNPs, depending on the SNP calling methodology used. Using a WST-1 cell proliferation assay, the strains isolated from this outbreak had only mild detrimental effects on HeLa cell metabolic activity compared to reference diarrheal strain B. cereus ATCC 14579. We hypothesize that the outbreak was a single source outbreak caused by emetic group III B. cereus belonging to the B. paranthracis species, although food samples were not tested for presence of the emetic toxin cereulide. In addition to showcasing how WGS can be used to characterize B. cereus group strains linked to a foodborne outbreak, we also discuss potential microbiological and epidemiological challenges presented by B. cereus group outbreaks, and we offer recommendations for analyzing WGS data from the isolates associated with them.
Project description:BACKGROUND: Cereulide, a depsipeptide structurally related to valinomycin, is responsible for the emetic type of gastrointestinal disease caused by Bacillus cereus. Recently, it has been shown that this toxin is produced by a nonribosomal peptide synthetase (NRPS), but its exact genetic organization and biochemical synthesis is unknown. RESULTS: The complete sequence of the cereulide synthetase (ces) gene cluster, which encodes the enzymatic machinery required for the biosynthesis of cereulide, was dissected. The 24 kb ces gene cluster comprises 7 CDSs and includes, besides the typical NRPS genes like a phosphopantetheinyl transferase and two CDSs encoding enzyme modules for the activation and incorporation of monomers in the growing peptide chain, a CDS encoding a putative hydrolase in the upstream region and an ABC transporter in the downstream part. The enzyme modules responsible for incorporation of the hydroxyl acids showed an unusual structure while the modules responsible for the activation of the amino acids Ala and Val showed the typical domain organization of NRPS. The ces gene locus is flanked by genetic regions with high homology to virulence plasmids of B. cereus, Bacillus thuringiensis and Bacillus anthracis. PFGE and Southern hybridization showed that the ces genes are restricted to emetic B. cereus and indeed located on a 208 kb megaplasmid, which has high similarities to pXO1-like plasmids. CONCLUSION: The ces gene cluster that is located on a pXO1-like virulence plasmid represents, beside the insecticidal and the anthrax toxins, a third type of B. cereus group toxins encoded on megaplasmids. The ces genes are restricted to emetic toxin producers, but pXO1-like plasmids are also present in emetic-like strains. These data might indicate the presence of an ancient plasmid in B. cereus which has acquired different virulence genes over time. Due to the unusual structure of the hydroxyl acid incorporating enzyme modules of Ces, substantial biochemical efforts will be required to dissect the complete biochemical pathway of cereulide synthesis.
Project description:BACKGROUND: Cereulide is a cyclic dodecadepsipeptide ionophore, produced via non-ribosomal peptide synthetases (NRPS), which in rare cases can lead to human death. Early studies had shown that emetic toxin formation belongs to a homogeneous group of Bacillus cereus sensu stricto and the genetic determinants of cereulide (a 24-kb gene cluster of cesHPTABCD) are located on a 270-kb plasmid related to the Bacillus anthracis virulence plasmid pXO1. RESULTS: The whole genome sequences from seven emetic isolates, including two B. cereus sensu stricto and five Bacillus weihenstephanensis strains, were compared, and their inside and adjacent DNA sequences of the cereulide biosynthesis gene clusters were analyzed. The sequence diversity was observed, which classified the seven emetic isolates into three clades. Different genomic locations of the cereulide biosynthesis gene clusters, plasmid-borne and chromosome-borne, were also found. Potential mobile genetic elements (MGEs) were identified in the flanking sequences of the ces gene cluster in all three types. The most striking observation was the identification of a putative composite transposon, Tnces, consisting of two copies of ISces element (belonging to IS6 family) in opposite orientations flanking the ces gene cluster in emetic B. weihenstephanensis. The mobility of this element was tested by replacing the ces gene cluster by a KmR gene marker and performing mating-out transposition assays in Escherichia coli. The results showed that Tnces::km transposes efficiently (1.04 × 10(-3) T/R) and produces 8-bp direct repeat (DR) at the insertion sites. CONCLUSIONS: Cereulide biosynthesis gene clusters display sequence diversity, different genomic locations and association with MGEs, in which the transposition capacity of a resistant derivative of the composite transposon Tnces in E. coli was demonstrated. Further study is needed to look for appropriate genetic tools to analysis the transposition of Tnces in Bacillus spp. and the dynamics of other MGEs flanking the ces gene clusters.
Project description:Cereulide, the emetic Bacillus cereus toxin, is synthesized by cereulide synthetase via a nonribosomal peptide synthetase (NRPS) mechanism. Previous studies focused on the identification, structural organization, and biochemical characterization of the ces gene locus encoding cereulide synthetase; however, detailed information about the transcriptional organization of the ces genes was lacking. The present study shows that the cesPTABCD genes are transcribed as a 23-kb polycistronic transcript, while cesH, encoding a putative hydrolase, is transcribed from its own promoter. Transcription initiation was mapped by primer extension and rapid amplification of cDNA ends (RACE). Deletion analysis of promoter elements revealed a main promoter located upstream of the cesP coding sequence, encoding a 4'-phosphopantetheinyl transferase. This promoter drives transcription of cesPTABCD. In addition, intracistronic promoter regions in proximity to the translational start sites of cesB and cesT were identified but were only weakly active under the chosen assay conditions. The identified main promoter was amplified from the emetic reference strain B. cereus F4810/72 and fused to luciferase genes in order to study promoter activity in complex environments and to establish a biomonitoring system to assess cereulide production in different types of foods. ces promoter activity was strongly influenced by the food matrix and varied by 5 orders of magnitude. The amount of cereulide toxin extracted from spiked foods correlated well with the bioluminescence data, thus illustrating the potential of the established reporter system for monitoring of ces gene expression in complex matrices.
Project description:Several Bacillus cereus strains possess the genetic fittings to produce two different types of toxins, the heat-stable cereulide or different heat-labile proteins with enterotoxigenic potential. Unlike the diarrheal toxins, cereulide is (pre-)formed in food and can cause foodborne intoxications shortly after ingestion of contaminated food. Based on the widely self-limiting character of cereulide intoxications and rarely performed differential diagnostic in routine laboratories, the real incidence is largely unknown. Therefore, during a 7-year period about 4.300 food samples linked to foodborne illness with a preliminary report of vomiting as well as food analysed in the context of monitoring programs were investigated to determine the prevalence of emetic B. cereus in food environments. In addition, a lux-based real-time monitoring system was employed to assess the significance of the detection of emetic strains in different food matrices and to determine the actual risk of cereulide toxin production in different types of food. This comprehensive study showed that emetic strains are much more volatile than previously thought. Our survey highlights the importance and need of novel strategies to move from the currently taxonomic-driven diagnostic to more risk orientated diagnostics to improve food and consumer safety.
Project description:Cereulide, a depsipeptide structurally related to valinomycin, is responsible for the emetic type of gastrointestinal disease caused by Bacillus cereus. Due to its chemical structure, (D-O-Leu-D-Ala-L-O-Val-L-Val)(3), cereulide might be synthesized nonribosomally. Therefore, degenerate PCR primers targeted to conserved sequence motifs of known nonribosomal peptide synthetase (NRPS) genes were used to amplify gene fragments from a cereulide-producing B. cereus strain. Sequence analysis of one of the amplicons revealed a DNA fragment whose putative gene product showed significant homology to valine activation NRPS modules. The sequences of the flanking regions of this DNA fragment revealed a complete module that is predicted to activate valine, as well as a putative carboxyl-terminal thioesterase domain of the NRPS gene. Disruption of the peptide synthetase gene by insertion of a kanamycin cassette through homologous recombination produced cereulide-deficient mutants. The valine-activating module was highly conserved when sequences from nine emetic B. cereus strains isolated from diverse geographical locations were compared. Primers were designed based on the NRPS sequence, and the resulting PCR assay, targeting the ces gene, was tested by using a panel of 143 B. cereus group strains and 40 strains of other bacterial species showing PCR bands specific for only the cereulide-producing B. cereus strains.
Project description:The emetic toxin cereulide produced by Bacillus cereus is synthesized by the modular enzyme complex Ces that is encoded on a pXO1-like megaplasmid. To decipher the role of the genes adjacent to the structural genes cesA/cesB, coding for the non-ribosomal peptide synthetase (NRPS), gene inactivation- and overexpression mutants of the emetic strain F4810/72 were constructed and their impact on cereulide biosynthesis was assessed. The hydrolase CesH turned out to be a part of the complex regulatory network controlling cereulide synthesis on a transcriptional level, while the ABC transporter CesCD was found to be essential for post-translational control of cereulide synthesis. Using a gene inactivation approach, we show that the NRPS activating function of the phosphopantetheinyl transferase (PPtase) embedded in the ces locus was complemented by a chromosomally encoded Sfp-like PPtase, representing an interesting example for the functional interaction between a plasmid encoded NRPS and a chromosomally encoded activation enzyme. In summary, our results highlight the complexity of cereulide biosynthesis and reveal multiple levels of toxin formation control. ces operon internal genes were shown to play a pivotal role by acting at different levels of toxin production, thus complementing the action of the chromosomal key transcriptional regulators AbrB and CodY.
Project description:In recent years, the emetic toxin cereulide, produced by Bacillus cereus, has gained high relevance in food production and food safety. Cereulide is synthesized non-ribosomal by the multi-enzyme complex Ces-NRPS, which is encoded on a megaplasmid that shares its backbone with the Bacillus anthracis pX01 toxin plasmid. Due to its resistance against heat, proteolysis and extreme pH conditions, the formation of this highly potent depsipeptide toxin is of serious concern in food processing procedures including slow cooling procedures and/or storage of intermediate products at ambient temperatures. So far, systematic data on the effect of extrinsic factors on cereulide synthesis has been lacking. Thus, we investigated the influence of temperature, a central extrinsic parameter in food processing, on the regulation of cereulide synthesis on transcriptional, translational and post-translational levels over the growth temperature range of emetic B. cereus. Bacteria were grown in 3°C interval steps from 12 to 46°C and cereulide synthesis was followed from ces gene transcription to cereulide toxin production. This systematic study revealed that temperature is a cardinal parameter, which primarily impacts cereulide synthesis on post-transcriptional levels, thereby altering the composition of cereulide isoforms. Our work also highlights that the risk of cereulide production could not be predicted from growth parameters or sole cell numbers. Furthermore, for the first time we could show that the formation of the recently identified cereulide isoforms is highly temperature dependent, which may have great importance in terms of food safety and predictive microbiology. Notably the production of isocereulide A, which is about 10-fold more cytotoxic than cereulide, was specifically supported at low temperatures.
Project description:Cereulide and isocereulides A-G are biosynthesized as emetic toxins by Bacillus cereus via a non-ribosomal peptide synthetase (NRPS) called Ces. Although a thiotemplate mechanisms involving cyclo-trimerization of ready-made D-O-Leu-D-Ala-L-O-Val-L-Val via a thioesterase (TE) domain is proposed for cereulide biosynthesis, the exact mechanism is far from being understood. UPLC-TOF MS analysis of B. cereus strains in combination with (13)C-labeling experiments now revealed tetra-, octa-, and dodecapeptides of a different sequence, namely (L-O-Val-L-Val-D-O-Leu-D-Ala)1-3, as intermediates of cereulide biosynthesis. Surprisingly, also di-, hexa-, and decadepsipeptides were identified which, together with the structures of the previously reported isocereulides E, F, and G, do not correlate to the currently proposed mechanism for cereulide biosynthesis and violate the canonical NRPS biosynthetic logic. UPLC-TOF MS metabolite analysis and bioinformatic gene cluster analysis highlighted dipeptides rather than single amino or hydroxy acids as the basic modules in tetradepsipeptide assembly and proposed the CesA C-terminal C* domain and the CesB C-terminal TE domain to function as a cooperative esterification and depsipeptide elongation center repeatedly recruiting the action of the C* domain to oligomerize tetradepsipeptides prior to the release of cereulide from the TE domain by macrocyclization.
Project description:Bacillus cereus group isolates that produce diarrheal or emetic toxins are frequently isolated from raw milk and, in spore form, can survive pasteurization. Several species within the B. cereus group are closely related and cannot be reliably differentiated by established taxonomical criteria. While B. cereus is traditionally recognized as the principal causative agent of foodborne disease in this group, there is a need to better understand the distribution and expression of different toxin and virulence genes among B. cereus group food isolates to facilitate reliable characterization that allows for assessment of the likelihood of a given isolate to cause a foodborne disease.We performed whole genome sequencing of 22 B. cereus group dairy isolates, which represented considerable genetic diversity not covered by other isolates characterized to date. Maximum likelihood analysis of these genomes along with 47 reference genomes representing eight validly published species revealed nine phylogenetic clades. Three of these clades were represented by a single species (B. toyonensis -clade V, B. weihenstephanensis - clade VI, B. cytotoxicus - VII), one by two dairy-associated isolates (clade II; representing a putative new species), one by two species (B. mycoides, B. pseudomycoides - clade I) and four by three species (B. cereus, B. thuringiensis, B. anthracis - clades III-a, b, c and IV). Homologues of genes encoding a principal diarrheal enterotoxin (hemolysin BL) were distributed across all, except the B. cytotoxicus clade. Using a lateral flow immunoassay, hemolysin BL was detected in 13 out of 18 isolates that carried hblACD genes. Isolates from clade III-c (which included B. cereus and B. thuringiensis) consistently did not carry hblACD and did not produce hemolysin BL. Isolates from clade IV (B. cereus, B. thuringiensis) consistently carried hblACD and produced hemolysin BL. Compared to others, clade IV was significantly (p?=?0.0001) more likely to produce this toxin. Isolates from clade VI (B. weihenstephanensis) carried hblACD homologues, but did not produce hemolysin BL, possibly due to amino acid substitutions in different toxin-encoding genes.Our results demonstrate that production of diarrheal enterotoxin hemolysin BL is neither inclusive nor exclusive to B. cereus sensu stricto, and that phylogenetic classification of isolates may be better than taxonomic identification for assessment of B. cereus group isolates risk for causing a diarrheal foodborne disease.