Export of Rgg Quorum Sensing Peptides is Mediated by the PptAB ABC Transporter in Streptococcus Thermophilus Strain LMD-9.
ABSTRACT: In streptococci, intracellular quorum sensing pathways are based on quorum-sensing systems that are responsible for peptide secretion, maturation, and reimport. These peptides then interact with Rgg or ComR transcriptional regulators in the Rap, Rgg, NprR, PlcR, and PrgX (RRNPP) family, whose members are found in Gram-positive bacteria. Short hydrophobic peptides (SHP) interact with Rgg whereas ComS peptides interact with ComR regulators. To date, in Streptococcus thermophilus, peptide secretion, maturation, and extracellular fate have received little attention, even though this species has several (at least five) genes encoding Rgg regulators and one encoding a ComR regulator. We studied pheromone export in this species, focusing our attention on PptAB, which is an exporter of signaling peptides previously identified in Enterococcus faecalis, pathogenic streptococci and Staphylococcus aureus. In the S. thermophilus strain LMD-9, we showed that PptAB controlled three regulation systems, two SHP/Rgg systems (SHP/Rgg1358 and SHP/Rgg1299), and the ComS/ComR system, while using transcriptional fusions and that PptAB helped to produce and export at least three different mature SHPs (SHP1358, SHP1299, and SHP279) peptides while using liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS). Using a deep sequencing approach (RNAseq), we showed that the exporter PptAB, the membrane protease Eep, and the oligopeptide importer Ami controlled the transcription of the genes that were located downstream from the five non-truncated rgg genes as well as few distal genes. This led us to propose that the five non-truncated shp/rgg loci were functional. Only three shp genes were expressed in our experimental condition. Thus, this transcriptome analysis also highlighted the complex interconnected network that exists between SHP/Rgg systems, where a few homologous signaling peptides likely interact with different regulators.
Project description:In streptococci, ComX is the alternative sigma factor controlling the transcription of the genes encoding the genetic transformation machinery. In Streptococcus thermophilus, comX transcription is controlled by a complex consisting of a transcriptional regulator of the Rgg family, ComR, and a signaling peptide, ComS, which controls ComR activity. Following its initial production, ComS is processed, secreted, and imported back into the cell by the Ami oligopeptide transporter. We characterized these steps and the partners interacting with ComS during its extracellular circuit in more detail. We identified the mature form of ComS and demonstrated the involvement of the membrane protease Eep in ComS processing. We found that ComS was secreted but probably not released into the extracellular medium. Natural competence was first discovered in a chemically defined medium without peptides. We show here that the presence of a high concentration of nutritional peptides in the medium prevents the triggering of competence. In milk, the ecological niche of S. thermophilus, competence was found to be functional, suggesting that the concentration of nutritional peptides was too low to interfere with ComR activation. The kinetics of expression of the comS, comR, and comX genes and of a late competence gene, dprA, in cultures inoculated at different initial densities revealed that the activation mechanism of ComR by ComS is more a timing device than a quorum-sensing mechanism sensu stricto. We concluded that the ComS extracellular circuit facilitates tight control over the triggering of competence in S. thermophilus.
Project description:In Gram-positive bacteria, cell-to-cell communication mainly relies on extracellular signaling peptides, which elicit a response either indirectly, by triggering a two-component phosphorelay, or directly, by binding to cytoplasmic effectors. The latter comprise the RNPP family (Rgg and original regulators Rap, NprR, PrgX and PlcR), whose members regulate important bacterial processes such as sporulation, conjugation, and virulence. RNPP proteins are increasingly considered as interesting targets for the development of new antibacterial agents. These proteins are characterized by a TPR-type peptide-binding domain, and except for Rap proteins, also contain an N-terminal HTH-type DNA-binding domain and display a transcriptional activity. Here, we elucidate the structure-function relationship of the transcription factor ComR, a new member of the RNPP family, which positively controls competence for natural DNA transformation in streptococci. ComR is directly activated by the binding of its associated pheromone XIP, the mature form of the comX/sigX-inducing-peptide ComS. The crystal structure analysis of ComR from Streptococcus thermophilus combined with a mutational analysis and in vivo assays allows us to propose an original molecular mechanism of the ComR regulation mode. XIP-binding induces release of the sequestered HTH domain and ComR dimerization to allow DNA binding. Importantly, we bring evidence that this activation mechanism is conserved and specific to ComR orthologues, demonstrating that ComR is not an Rgg protein as initially proposed, but instead constitutes a new member of the RNPP family. In addition, identification of XIP and ComR residues important for competence activation constitutes a crucial step towards the design of antagonistic strategies to control gene exchanges among streptococci.
Project description:<h4>Unlabelled</h4>Bacteria can communicate with each other to coordinate their biological functions at the population level. In a previous study, we described a cell-to-cell communication system in streptococci that involves a transcriptional regulator belonging to the Rgg family and short hydrophobic peptides (SHPs) that act as signaling molecules. Streptococcus agalactiae, an opportunistic pathogenic bacterium responsible for fatal infections in neonates and immunocompromised adults, has one copy of the shp/rgg locus. The SHP-associated Rgg is called RovS in S. agalactiae. In this study, we found that the SHP/RovS cell-to-cell communication system is active in the strain NEM316 of S. agalactiae, and we identified different partners that are involved in this system, such as the Eep peptidase, the PptAB, and the OppA1-F oligopeptide transporters. We also identified a new target gene controlled by this system and reexamined the regulation of a previously proposed target gene, fbsA, in the context of the SHP-associated RovS system. Furthermore, our results are the first to indicate the SHP/RovS system specificity to host liver and spleen using a murine model, which demonstrates its implication in streptococci virulence. Finally, we observed that SHP/RovS regulation influences S. agalactiae's ability to adhere to and invade HepG2 hepatic cells. Hence, the SHP/RovS cell-to-cell communication system appears to be an essential mechanism that regulates pathogenicity in S. agalactiae and represents an attractive target for the development of new therapeutic strategies.<h4>Importance</h4>Rgg regulators and their cognate pheromones, called small hydrophobic peptides (SHPs), are present in nearly all streptococcal species. The general pathways of the cell-to-cell communication system in which Rgg and SHP take part are well understood. However, many other players remain unidentified, and the direct targets of the system, as well as its link to virulence, remain unclear. Here, we identified the different players involved in the SHP/Rgg system in S. agalactiae, which is the leading agent of severe infections in human newborns. We have identified a direct target of the Rgg regulator in S. agalactiae (called RovS) and examined a previously proposed target, all in the context of associated SHP. For the first time, we have also demonstrated the implication of the SHP/RovS mechanism in virulence, as well as its host organ specificity. Thus, this cell-to-cell communication system may represent a future target for S. agalactiae disease treatment.
Project description:All streptococcal genomes encode the alternative sigma factor SigX and 21 SigX-dependent proteins required for genetic transformation, yet no pyogenic streptococci are known to develop competence. Resolving this paradox may depend on understanding the regulation of sigX. We report the identification of a regulatory circuit linked to the sigX genes of mutans, pyogenic, and bovis streptococci that uses a novel small, double-tryptophan-containing sigX-inducing peptide (XIP) pheromone. In all three groups, the XIP gene (comS), and sigX have identical, non-canonical promoters consisting of 9 bp inverted repeats separated from a -10 hexamer by 19 bp. comS is adjacent to a gene encoding a putative transcription factor of the Rgg family and is regulated by its product, which we designate ComR. Deletion of comR or comS in Streptococcus mutans abolished transformability, as did deletion of the oligopeptide permease subunit oppD, suggesting that XIP is imported. Providing S. mutans with synthetic fragments of ComS revealed that seven C-terminal residues, including the WW motif, cause robust induction of both sigX and the competent state. We propose that this circuit is the proximal regulator of sigX in S. mutans, and we infer that it controls competence in a parallel way in all pyogenic and bovis streptococci.
Project description:Natural transformation is used by bacteria to take up DNA from their surroundings and incorporate it into their genomes. Streptococci do so during a transient period of competence, triggered by pheromones that they produce, secrete and sense under conditions influenced by the environment. In Streptococcus mutans, Streptococcus suis, and species of the bovis, salivarius and pyogenic groups of streptococci, the pheromone XIP is sensed by the intra-cellular regulator ComR, that in turn activates the transcription of comS, encoding the XIP precursor, and of sigX, encoding the only known alternative sigma factor in streptococci. Although induction of comR during competence has been known for more than fifteen years, the mechanism regulating its expression remains unidentified. By a combination of directional RNA-sequencing, optimal competence conditions, stepwise deletions and marker-less genome editing, we found that SigX is the missing link in overproduction of ComR. In the absence of comR induction, both sigX expression and transformation were significantly reduced. Placing comR and comS transcripts under the control of different regulators so as to form two interlocked positive feedback circuits may enable S. mutans to fine-tune the kinetics and magnitude of the competence response according to their need.
Project description:We described a quorum-sensing mechanism in the streptococci genus involving a short hydrophobic peptide (SHP), which acts as a pheromone, and a transcriptional regulator belonging to the Rgg family. The shp/rgg genes, found in nearly all streptococcal genomes and in several copies in some, have been classified into three groups. We used a genetic approach to evaluate the functionality of the SHP/Rgg quorum-sensing mechanism, encoded by three selected shp/rgg loci, in pathogenic and non-pathogenic streptococci. We characterized the mature form of each SHP pheromone by mass-spectrometry. We produced synthetic peptides corresponding to these mature forms, and used them to study functional complementation and cross-talk between these different SHP/Rgg systems. We demonstrate that a SHP pheromone of one system can influence the activity of a different system. Interestingly, this does not seem to be dependent on the SHP/Rgg group and cross-talk between pathogenic and non-pathogenic streptococci is observed.
Project description:Here we show that S. suis, a major bacterial pathogen of pigs and emerging pathogen in humans responds to a peptide pheromone by developing competence for DNA transformation. This species does not fall within any of the phylogenetic clusters of streptococci previously shown to regulate competence via peptide pheromones suggesting that more species of streptococci may be naturally competent. Induction of competence was dependent on ComX, a sigma factor that controls the streptococcal late competence regulon, extracellular addition of a comX-inducing peptide (XIP), and ComR, a regulator of comX. XIP was identified as an N-terminally truncated variant of ComS. Different comS alleles are present among strains of S. suis. These comS alleles are not functionally equivalent and appear to operate in conjuction with a cognate ComR to regulate comX through a conserved comR-box promoter. We demonstrate that these 'pherotypes' can be genetically transferred between strains, suggesting that similar approaches might be used to control competence induction in other lactic acid bacteria that lack ComR/ComS homologues but possess comX and the late competence regulon. The approaches described in this paper to identify and optimize peptide-induced competence may also assist other researchers wishing to identify natural competence in other bacteria. Harnessing natural competence is expected to accelerate genetic research on this and other important streptococcal pathogens and to allow high-throughput mutation approaches to be implemented, opening up new avenues for research.
Project description:Natural genetic transformation is common among many species of the genus Streptococcus, but it has never, or rarely, been reported for the Streptococcus pyogenes and S. bovis groups of species, even though many streptococcal competence genes and the competence regulators SigX, ComR, and ComS are well conserved in both groups. To explore the incidence of competence in the S. bovis group, 25 isolates of S. infantarius and S. macedonicus were surveyed by employing culture in chemically defined media devoid of peptide nutrients and treatment with synthetic candidate pheromone peptides predicted from the sequence of the gene comS. Approximately half of strains examined were transformable, many transforming at high rates comparable to those for the well-characterized streptococcal natural transformation systems. In S. infantarius, nanomolar amounts of the synthetic pheromone LTAWWGL induced robust but transient competence in high-density cultures, but mutation of the ComRS locus abolished transformation. We conclude that at least these two species of the S. bovis group retain a robust system of natural transformation regulated by a ComRS pheromone circuit and the alternative sigma factor SigX and infer that transformation is even more common among the streptococci than has been recognized. The tools presented here will facilitate targeted genetic manipulation in this group of streptococci.
Project description:In bacteria, phenotypic heterogeneity in an isogenic population compensates for the lack of genetic diversity and allows concomitant multiple survival strategies when choosing only one is too risky. This powerful tactic is exploited for competence development in streptococci where only a subset of the community triggers the pheromone signaling system ComR-ComS, resulting in a bimodal activation. However, the regulatory cascade and the underlying mechanisms of this puzzling behavior remained partially understood. Here, we show that CovRS, a well-described virulence regulatory system in pathogenic streptococci, directly controls the ComRS system to generate bimodality in the gut commensal Streptococcus salivarius and the closely related species Streptococcus thermophilus. Using single-cell analysis of fluorescent reporter strains together with regulatory mutants, we revealed that the intracellular concentration of ComR determines the proportion of competent cells in the population. We also showed that this bimodal activation requires a functional positive-feedback loop acting on ComS production, as well as its exportation and reinternalization via dedicated permeases. As the intracellular ComR concentration is critical in this process, we hypothesized that an environmental sensor could control its abundance. We systematically inactivated all two-component systems and identified CovRS as a direct repression system of <i>comR</i> expression. Notably, we showed that the system transduces its negative regulation through CovR binding to multiple sites in the <i>comR</i> promoter region. Since CovRS integrates environmental stimuli, we suggest that it is the missing piece of the puzzle that connects environmental conditions to (bimodal) competence activation in salivarius streptococci. <b>IMPORTANCE</b> Combining production of antibacterial compounds and uptake of DNA material released by dead cells, competence is one of the most efficient survival strategies in streptococci. Yet, this powerful tactic is energy consuming and reprograms the metabolism to such an extent that cell proliferation is transiently impaired. To circumvent this drawback, competence activation is restricted to a subpopulation, a process known as bimodality. In this work, we explored this phenomenon in salivarius streptococci and elucidated the molecular mechanisms governing cell fate. We also show that an environmental sensor controlling virulence in pathogenic streptococci is diverted to control competence in commensal streptococci. Together, those results showcase how bacteria can sense and transmit external stimuli to complex communication devices for fine-tuning collective behaviors.
Project description:Natural transformation, or competence, is an ability inherent to bacteria for the uptake of extracellular DNA. This process is central to bacterial evolution and allows for the rapid acquirement of new traits, such as antibiotic resistance in pathogenic microorganisms. For the Gram-positive bacteria genus Streptococcus, genes required for competence are under the regulation of quorum sensing (QS) mediated by peptide pheromones. One such system, ComRS, consists of a peptide (ComS) that is processed (XIP), secreted, and later imported into the cytoplasm, where it binds and activates the transcription factor ComR. ComR then engages in a positive feedback loop for the expression of ComS and the alternative sigma-factor SigX. Although ComRS are present in the majority of Streptococcus species, the sequence of both ComS/XIP and ComR diverge significantly, suggesting a mechanism for species-specific communication. To study possible cross-talk between streptococcal species in the regulation of competence, and to explore in detail the molecular interaction between ComR and XIP we undertook an interdisciplinary approach. We developed a 'test-bed' assay to measure the activity of different ComR proteins in response to cognate and heterologous XIP peptides in vivo, revealing distinct ComR classes of strict, intermediate, and promiscuous specificity among species. We then solved an X-ray crystal structure of ComR from S. suis to further understand the interaction with XIP and to search for structural features in ComR proteins that may explain XIP recognition. Using the structure as a guide, we probed the apo conformation of the XIP-binding pocket by site-directed mutagenesis, both in test-bed cultures and biochemically in vitro. In alignments with ComR proteins from other species, we find that the pocket is lined by a variable and a conserved face, where residues of the conserved face contribute to ligand binding and the variable face discriminate among XIP peptides. Together, our results not only provide a model for XIP recognition and specificity, but also allow for the prediction of novel XIP peptides that induce ComR activity.