Gene expression analysis of the Streptococcus pneumoniae competence regulons by use of DNA microarrays.
ABSTRACT: Competence for genetic transformation in Streptococcus pneumoniae is coordinated by the competence-stimulating peptide (CSP), which induces a sudden and transient appearance of competence during exponential growth in vitro. Models of this quorum-sensing mechanism have proposed sequential expression of several regulatory genes followed by induction of target genes encoding DNA-processing-pathway proteins. Although many genes required for transformation are known to be expressed only in response to CSP, the relative timing of their expression has not been established. Overlapping expression patterns for the genes cinA and comD (G. Alloing, B. Martin, C. Granadel, and J. P. Claverys, Mol. Microbiol. 29:75-83, 1998) suggest that at least two distinct regulatory mechanisms may underlie the competence cycle. DNA microarrays were used to estimate mRNA levels for all known competence operons during induction of competence by CSP. The known competence regulatory operons, comAB, comCDE, and comX, exhibited a low or zero initial (uninduced) signal, strongly increased expression during the period between 5 and 12 min after CSP addition, and a decrease nearly to original values by 15 min after initiation of exposure to CSP. The remaining competence genes displayed a similar expression pattern, but with an additional delay of approximately 5 min. In a mutant defective in ComX, which may act as an alternate sigma factor to allow expression of the target competence genes, the same regulatory genes were induced, but the other competence genes were not. Finally, examination of the expression of 60 candidate sites not previously associated with competence identified eight additional loci that could be induced by CSP.
Project description:Competence for genetic transformation in Streptococcus pneumoniae is regulated by a quorum-sensing system encoded by two genetic loci, comCDE and comAB. Additional competence-specific operons, cilA, cilB, cilC, cilD, cilE, cinA-recA, coiA, and cfl, involved in the DNA uptake process and recombination, share an unusual consensus sequence at -10 and -25 in the promoter, which is absent from the promoters of comAB and comCDE. This pattern suggests that a factor regulating transcription of these transformation machinery genes but not involved with comCDE and comAB expression might be an alternative sigma factor. A search for such a global transcriptional regulator was begun by purifying pneumococcal RNA polymerase holoenzyme. In preparations from competent pneumococcal cultures a protein which seemed to be responsible for cilA transcription in vitro was identified. The corresponding gene was identified and found to be present in two copies, designated comX1 and comX2, located adjacent to two of the repeated rRNA operons. Expression of transformation machinery operons, such as cilA, cilD, cilE, and cfl, but not that of the quorum-sensing operons comAB and comCDE, was shown to depend on comX, while comX expression depended on ComE but not on ComX itself. We conclude that the factor is a competence-specific global transcription modulator which links quorum-sensing information transduced to ComE to competence and propose that it acts as an alternate sigma factor. We also report that comAB and comCDE are not sufficient for shutoff of competence-stimulating peptide-induced gene expression nor for the subsequent refractory period, suggesting that these phenomena depend on one or more ComX-dependent genes.
Project description:In the human pathogen Streptococcus pneumoniae, the gene regulatory circuit leading to the transient state of competence for natural transformation is based on production of an auto-inducer that activates a positive feedback loop. About 100 genes are activated in two successive waves linked by a central alternative sigma factor ComX. This mechanism appears to be fundamental to the biological fitness of S. pneumoniae. We have developed a knowledge-based model of the competence cycle that describes average cell behavior. It reveals that the expression rates of the two competence operons, comAB and comCDE, involved in the positive feedback loop must be coordinated to elicit spontaneous competence. Simulations revealed the requirement for an unknown late com gene product that shuts of competence by impairing ComX activity. Further simulations led to the predictions that the membrane protein ComD bound to CSP reacts directly to pH change of the medium and that blindness to CSP during the post-competence phase is controlled by late DprA protein. Both predictions were confirmed experimentally.
Project description:Natural transformation in Streptococcus pneumoniae is regulated by a quorum-sensing system that acts through accumulation and sensing of a peptide pheromone (competence-stimulating peptide [CSP]) to control many competence-specific genes acting in DNA uptake, processing, and integration. The period of competence induced by CSP lasts only 15 min (quarter-height peak width). The recently identified regulator ComX is required for the CSP-dependent expression of many competence-specific genes that share an unusual consensus sequence (TACGAATA) at their promoter regions. To test the hypothesis that this regulator acts as a transient alternative sigma factor, ComX was purified from an Escherichia coli overexpression strain and core RNA polymerase was purified from a comX-deficient S. pneumoniae strain. The reconstituted ComX-polymerase holoenzyme produced transcripts for the competence-specific genes ssbB, cinA, cglA, celA, and dalA and was inhibited by anti-ComX antibody, but not by anti-sigma(70) antibody. Western blotting using antibodies specific for ComX, sigma(70), and poly-His revealed a transient presence of ComX for a period of 15 to 20 min after CSP treatment, while RNA polymerase remained at a constant level and sigma(A) remained between 60 and 125% of its normal level. ComX reached a molar ratio to RNA polymerase of at least 1.5. We conclude that ComX is unstable and acts as a competence-specific sigma factor.
Project description:Streptococcus mutans regulates genetic competence through a complex network that receives inputs from a number of environmental stimuli, including two signalling peptides designated as CSP and XIP. The response of the downstream competence genes to these inputs shows evidence of stochasticity and bistability and has been difficult to interpret. We have used microfluidic, single-cell methods to study how combinations of extracellular signals shape the response of comX, an alternative sigma factor governing expression of the late competence genes. We find that the composition of the medium determines which extracellular signal (XIP or CSP) can elicit a response from comX and whether that response is unimodal or bimodal across a population of cells. In a chemically defined medium, exogenous CSP does not induce comX, whereas exogenous XIP elicits a comX response from all cells. In complex medium, exogenous XIP does not induce comX, whereas CSP elicits a bimodal comX response from the population. Interestingly, bimodal behaviour required an intact copy of comS, which encodes the precursor of XIP. The comS-dependent capability for both unimodal and bimodal response suggests that a constituent - most likely peptides - of complex medium interacts with a positive feedback loop in the competence regulatory network.
Project description:Streptococcus mutans expresses comX (also known as sigX), which encodes a sigma factor that is required for development of genetic competence, in response to the peptide signals XIP and CSP and environmental factors. XIP (sigX inducing peptide) is derived from ComS and activates comX unimodally in chemically defined media via the ComRS system. CSP (competence stimulating peptide) activates comX bimodally in peptide-rich media through the ComDE two-component system. However, CSP-ComDE activation of comX is indirect and involves ComRS. Therefore, the bimodality of CSP-dependent activation of comX may arise from either ComRS or ComDE. Here we study, at the single-cell level, how genes in the CSP signaling pathway respond to CSP, XIP and media. Our data indicate that activation of comX stimulates expression of comE. In addition, activation of comE requires intact comR and comS genes. Therefore, not only does CSP-ComDE stimulate the ComRS pathway to activate comX expression, but ComRS activation of comX also stimulates expression of the CSP-ComDE pathway and its regulon. The results demonstrate the mutual interconnection of the signaling pathways that control bacteriocin expression (ComDE) and genetic competence (ComRS), both of which are linked to lytic and virulence behaviors.
Project description:Pneumococcal bacteriocins (pneumocins) are antibacterial toxins that mediate intra-species competition within the human host. However, the triggers of pneumocin expression are poorly understood. Using RNA-sequencing, we mapped the regulon of the pneumocin cluster (blp) of Streptococcus pneumoniae D39. Furthermore, by analogy with pneumococcal competence, we show that several antibiotics activate the blp-genes. Using real-time gene expression measurements we show that while the promoter driving expression of the two-component regulatory system blpR/H is constitutive, the remaining blp-promoters that control pneumocin expression, immunity and the inducer peptide BlpC, are pH-dependent and induced in the late exponential phase. Intriguingly, competence for genetic transformation, mediated by the paralogous ComD/E two-component quorum system, is induced by the same environmental cues. To test for interplay between these regulatory systems, we quantified the regulatory response to the addition of synthetic BlpC and competence-stimulating peptide (CSP). Supporting the idea of such interplay, we found that immediately upon addition of CSP, the blp-promoters were activated in a comD/E-dependent manner. After a delay, blp-expression was highly induced and was strictly dependent on blpRH and blpC. This raised the question of the mechanism of BlpC export, since bioinformatic analysis showed that the genes encoding the putative exporter for BlpC, blpAB, are not intact in strain D39 and most other strains. By contrast, all sequenced pneumococcal strains contain intact comAB genes, encoding the transport system for CSP. Consistent with the idea that comAB mediate BlpC export, we finally show that high-level expression of the blp-genes requires comAB. Together, our results demonstrate that regulation of pneumocin expression is intertwined with competence, explaining why certain antibiotics induce blp-expression. Antibiotic-induced pneumocin expression might therefore have unpredictable consequences on pneumococcal colonization dynamics by activating genes that mediate intra-specific interference competition.
Project description:The development of competence by the dental caries pathogen Streptococcus mutans is mediated primarily through the alternative sigma factor ComX (SigX), which is under the control of multiple regulatory systems and activates the expression of genes involved in DNA uptake and recombination. Here we report that the induction of competence and competence gene expression by XIP (sigX-inducing peptide) and CSP (competence-stimulating peptide) is dependent on the growth phase and that environmental pH has a potent effect on the responses to XIP. A dramatic decline in comX and comS expression was observed in mid- and late-exponential-phase cells. XIP-mediated competence development and responses to XIP were optimal around a neutral pH, although mid-exponential-phase cells remained refractory to XIP treatment, and acidified late-exponential-phase cultures were resistant to killing by high concentrations of XIP. Changes in the expression of the genes for the oligopeptide permease (opp), which appears to be responsible for the internalization of XIP, could not entirely account for the behaviors observed. Interestingly, comS and comX expression was highly induced in response to endogenously overproduced XIP or ComS in mid-exponential-phase cells. In contrast to the effects of pH on XIP, competence induction and responses to CSP in complex medium were not affected by pH, although a decreased response to CSP in cells that had exited early-exponential phase was observed. Collectively, these results indicate that competence development may be highly sensitive to microenvironments within oral biofilms and that XIP and CSP signaling in biofilms could be spatially and temporally heterogeneous.
Project description:Natural bacterial transformation is a genetically programmed process allowing genotype alterations that involves the internalization of DNA and its chromosomal integration catalyzed by the universal recombinase RecA, assisted by its transformation-dedicated loader, DNA processing protein A (DprA). In Streptococcus pneumoniae, the ability to internalize DNA, known as competence, is transient, developing suddenly and stopping as quickly. Competence is induced by the comC-encoded peptide, competence stimulating peptide (CSP), via a classic two-component regulatory system ComDE. Upon CSP binding, ComD phosphorylates the ComE response-regulator, which then activates transcription of comCDE and the competence-specific ?(X), leading to a sudden rise in CSP levels and rendering all cells in a culture competent. However, how competence stops has remained unknown. We report that DprA, under ?(X) control, interacts with ComE?P to block ComE-driven transcription, chiefly impacting ?(X) production. Mutations of dprA specifically disrupting interaction with ComE were isolated and shown to map mainly to the N-terminal domain of DprA. Wild-type DprA but not ComE interaction mutants affected in vitro binding of ComE to its promoter targets. Once introduced at the dprA chromosomal locus, mutations disrupting DprA interaction with ComE altered competence shut-off. The absence of DprA was found to negatively impact growth following competence induction, highlighting the importance of DprA for pneumococcal physiology. DprA has thus two key roles: ensuring production of transformants via interaction with RecA and competence shut-off via interaction with ComE, avoiding physiologically detrimental consequences of prolonged competence. Finally, phylogenetic analyses revealed that the acquisition of a new function by DprA impacted its evolution in streptococci relying on ComE to regulate comX expression.
Project description:In Streptococcus mutans, the alternative sigma factor ComX controls entry into genetic competence. Competence stimulating peptide (CSP) induces bimodal expression of comX, with only a fraction of the population becoming transformable. Curiously, the bimodality of comX is affected by peptides in the growth medium and by carbohydrate source. CSP elicits bimodal expression of comX in media rich in small peptides, but CSP elicits no response in defined media lacking small peptides. In addition, growth on certain sugars increases the proportion of the population that activates comX in response to CSP. By investigating the connection between media and comX bimodality, we find evidence for two mechanisms that modulate transcriptional positive feedback in the ComRS system, where comX bimodality originates. We find that the endopeptidase PepO suppresses the ComRS feedback loop, most likely by degrading the XIP/ComS feedback signal. Deletion of pepO eliminates comX bimodality, leading to a unimodal comX response to CSP in both defined and complex media. We also find that CSP stimulates the ComRS feedback system by upregulating comR in a carbohydrate source-dependent fashion. Our data provide mechanistic insight into how S. mutans regulates bimodality and explain the puzzle of growth medium effects on competence induction by CSP.
Project description:Competence-stimulating-peptide (CSP)-mediated competence development in Streptococcus mutans is a transient and biphasic process, since only a subpopulation induces the expression of ComX in the presence of CSP, and the activation of the DNA uptake machinery in this fraction shuts down ~3 to 4 h postinduction. Here, we combine for the first time, to our knowledge, the bacterial flow-cytometric sorting of cells and subpopulation-specific transcriptome analysis of both the competent and noncompetent fraction of CSP-treated S. mutans cells. Sorting was guided by a ComX-green fluorescent protein (ComX-GFP) reporter, and the transcriptome analysis demonstrated the successful combination of both methods, because a strong enrichment of transcripts for comX and its downstream genes was achieved. Three two-component systems were expressed in the competent fraction, and among them was ComDE. Moreover, the recently identified regulator system ComR/S was expressed exclusively in the competent fraction. In contrast, the expression of bacteriocin-related genes was at the same level in all cells. GFP reporter strains for ComE and CipB (mutacin V) confirmed this expression pattern on the single-cell level. Fluorescence microscopy revealed that some ComX-expressing cells committed autolysis in an early stage of competence initiation. In viable ComX-expressing cells, the uptake of DNA could be shown on the single-cell level. This study demonstrates that all cells in the population respond to CSP through the activation of bacteriocin-related genes. Some of these cells start to activate ComX expression but then segregate into two subpopulations, one becoming competent and another one that lyses, resulting in intrapopulation diversity.