The RcsCDB (Rcs) phosphorelay system is involved in the regulation of many envelope genes, such as those responsible for capsule synthesis, flagella production and O-antigen chain length, as well as in other cellular activities of several enteric bacteria. The system is composed of three proteins: the sensor RcsC, the response regulator RcsB, and the phospho-transfer intermediary protein RcsD. Previously, we reported two important aspects of this system: (a) rcsB gene expression is under the control of P rcsDB and P rcsB promoters, and (b) rcsD gene transcription decreases when the bacteria reach high levels of the RcsB regulator. In the present work, we demonstrate that the RcsB protein represses rcsD gene expression by binding directly to the P rcsDB promoter, negatively autoregulating the Rcs system. Furthermore, we report the physiological role of the RcsB regulator, which is able to modify bacterial swarming behaviour when expressed under the control of the P rcsB promoter.
Gene-silencing mechanisms are being shown to be associated with an increasing number of fungal developmental processes. Telomere position effect (TPE) is a eukaryotic phenomenon resulting in gene repression in areas immediately adjacent to telomere caps. Here, TPE is shown to regulate expression of transgenes on the left arm of chromosome III and the right arm of chromosome VI in Aspergillus nidulans. Phenotypes found to be associated with transgene repression included reduction in radial growth and the absence of sexual spores; however, these pleiotropic phenotypes were remedied when cultures were grown on media with appropriate supplementation. Simple radial growth and ascosporogenesis assays provided insights into the mechanism of TPE, including a means to determine its extent. These experiments revealed that the KU70 homologue (NkuA) and the heterochromatin-associated proteins HepA, ClrD and HdaA were partially required for transgene silencing. This study indicates that TPE extends at least 30 kb on chromosome III, suggesting that this phenomenon may be important for gene regulation in subtelomeric regions of A. nidulans.
Bacterial RNA polymerases (RNAPs) contain several small auxiliary subunits known to co-purify with the core α, β and β′ subunits. The ω subunit is conserved between Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria, while the δ subunit is conserved within, but restricted to, Gram-positive bacteria. Although various functions have been assigned to these subunits via in vitro assays, very little is known about their in vivo roles. In this work we constructed a pair of vectors to investigate the subcellular localization of the δ and ω subunits in Bacillus subtilis with respect to the core RNAP. We found these subunits to be closely associated with RNAP involved in transcribing both mRNA and rRNA operons. Quantification of these subunits revealed δ to be present at equimolar levels with RNAP and ω to be present at around half the level of core RNAP. For comparison, the localization and quantification of RNAP β′ and ω subunits in Escherichia coli was also investigated. Similar to B. subtilis, β′ and ω closely associated with the nucleoid and formed subnucleoid regions of high green fluorescent protein intensity, but, unlike ω in B. subtilis, ω levels in E. coli were close to parity with those of β′. These results indicate that δ is likely to be an integral RNAP subunit in Gram-positives, whereas ω levels differ substantially between Gram-positives and -negatives. The ω subunit may be required for RNAP assembly and subsequently be turned over at different rates or it may play roles in Gram-negative bacteria that are performed by other factors in Gram-positives.
Heterocyst-forming cyanobacteria are able to perform oxygenic photosynthesis and nitrogen fixation simultaneously in the same filament, by restricting the highly O2-sensitive nitrogenase to specialized cells, the heterocysts. A remarkable change in morphology and metabolism accompanies the differentiation of heterocysts, which only occurs when no source of combined nitrogen is available. In this study, we characterized DevT (Alr4674), a putative protein phosphatase from Anabaena PCC 7120. Mutants defective in devT are able to form morphologically mature heterocysts, which however cannot fix N2, and the mutant cannot survive without a source of combined nitrogen. DevT shows homology to phosphatases of the PPP family and displays a Mn2+-dependent phosphatase activity that can be inhibited by phosphatase inhibitors and oxidizing conditions. DevT is constitutively expressed in both vegetative cells and heterocysts, and is not regulated by NtcA. The heterocyst regulator HetR may exert a certain inhibition on the expression of devT. Under diazotrophic growth conditions, DevT protein accumulates specifically in mature heterocysts. Therefore DevT plays a still unknown role in a late essential step of heterocyst differentiation.
Oxidative and nitrosative stresses including nitric oxide (NO), superoxide () and peroxynitrite play key roles in determining the outcome of bacterial infections. In order to survive within the host and allow proliferation within immune cells such as macrophages, Salmonella isolates have a number of inducible proteins that are able to detoxify these highly reactive species, notably the anoxically functioning NO reductase NorVW, and the aerobically functioning flavohaemoglobin, Hmp, which catalyses the reaction between oxygen and NO to produce relatively inert nitrate. However, in the absence of NO but in the presence of reducing substrates and oxygen, is generated from Hmp-mediated electron transfer to bound oxygen and may form a variety of further oxidative species. Hence, Hmp expression is under tight negative regulation by the transcription factor NsrR, abolition of which causes an increase in the production of Hmp. In a previous study, this increase in Hmp levels conferred resistance to the nitrosating agent S-nitrosoglutathione but, perhaps surprisingly, the organism became more sensitive to killing by macrophages. Here, we report that an nsrR mutant that constitutively overexpresses Hmp is also hypersensitive to peroxynitrite in vitro. This sensitivity is alleviated by deletion of the hmp gene or pre-incubation of growing bacteria with NO-releasing agents. We hypothesize that Hmp-expressing cells, in the absence of NO, generate reactive oxygen species, the toxicity of which is exacerbated by peroxynitrite in vitro and in macrophages. RT-PCR confirmed that peroxynitrite causes oxidative stress and upregulation of katG and ahpC, whilst hmp and norV expression are affected very little. The katG gene upregulated by peroxynitrite encodes a catalase peroxidase enzyme with well-established roles in detoxifying peroxides. Here, we report that KatG is also able to enhance the breakdown of peroxynitrite, suggesting that the protective role of this enzyme may be wider than previously thought. These data suggest that spatial and temporal fluctuations in the levels of NO and reactive oxygen species will have important consequences for bacterial survival in the macrophage.
Chitinases are a group of enzymes capable of hydrolysing the β-(1,4)-glycosidic bonds of chitin, an essential component of the fungal cell wall, the shells of nematode eggs, and arthropod exoskeletons. Chitinases from pathogenic fungi have been shown to be putative virulence factors, and can play important roles in infecting hosts. However, very limited information is available on the structure of chitinases from nematophagous fungi. Here, we present the 1.8 Å resolution of the first structure of a Family 18 chitinase from this group of fungi, that of Clonostachys rosea CrChi1, and the 1.6 Å resolution of CrChi1 in complex with a potent inhibitor, caffeine. Like other Family 18 chitinases, CrChi1 has the DXDXE motif at the end of strand β5, with Glu174 as the catalytic residue in the middle of the open end of the (β/α)8 barrel. Two caffeine molecules were shown to bind to CrChi1 in subsites −1 to +1 in the substrate-binding domain. Moreover, site-directed mutagenesis of the amino acid residues forming hydrogen bonds with caffeine molecules suggests that these residues are important for substrate binding and the hydrolytic process. Our results provide a foundation for elucidating the catalytic mechanism of chitinases from nematophagous fungi and for improving the pathogenicity of nematophagous fungi against agricultural pest hosts.
Bacillus thuringiensis is the leading biopesticide used to control insect pests worldwide. Although they have a long record of safe use, under certain conditions commercial strains of B. thuringiensis have the ability to produce numerous putative enterotoxins that have been associated with food poisoning attributed to Bacillus cereus. Therefore, we designed a strategy to delete the genes encoding these toxins. B. thuringiensis strain VBTS 2477 contained genes encoding NHE, CytK-2 and three homologues of haemolysin BL (HBL, HBLa1 and HBLa2). This is the first report, to our knowledge, of a strain of B. cereus or B. thuringiensis containing three sets of hbl operons. The genes encoding HBLa1 and HBLa2 were 96–97 % identical to each other and 76–84 % identical to those encoding HBL. The hbla2 operon was detected by PCR amplification only after hbla1 was deleted. We used sequential gene replacement to replace the wild-type copies of the NHE and three HBL operons with copies that contained internal deletions that span the three genes in each operon. The insecticidal activity of the quadruple-enterotoxin-deficient mutant was similar to that of the wild-type strain against larvae of Trichoplusia ni, Spodoptera exigua and Plutella xylostella. This demonstrates that the genes for enterotoxins can be deleted, eliminating the possibility of enterotoxin production without compromising the insecticidal efficacy of a strain of B. thuringiensis.
Escherichia coli is one of the best studied micro-organisms and is the most widely used host in genetic engineering. The Gram-negative single cells are rod-shaped, and filaments are usually not found. Here, we describe the reproducible formation of elongated E. coli cells. During heterologous expression of the silent surface (S)-layer protein gene sllB from Lysinibacillus sphaericus JG-A12 in E. coli BL21(DE3), the cells were arranged as long chains which were surrounded by highly stable sheaths. These filaments had a length of >100 μm. In the stationary growth phase, microscopic analyses demonstrated the formation of unusually long transparent tube-like structures which were enclosing separate single cells. The tube-like structures were isolated and analysed by SDS-PAGE, infrared-spectroscopy and different microscopic methods in order to identify their unusual composition and structure. The tube-like structures were found to be like outer membranes, containing high levels of proteins and to which the recombinant S-layer proteins were attached. Despite the entire structure being indicative of a disordered cell division, the bacterial cells were highly viable and stable. To our knowledge, this is the first time that the induction of drastic morphological changes in E. coli by the expression of a foreign protein has been reported.