Melanization is an intrinsic characteristic of many fungal species, but details of this process are poorly understood because melanins are notoriously difficult pigments to study. While studying the binding of cell-wall dyes, Eosin Y or Uvitex, to melanized and non-melanized Cryptococcus neoformans cells we noted that melanization leads to reduced fluorescence intensity, suggesting that melanin interfered with dye binding to the cell wall. The growth of C. neoformans in melanizing conditions with either of the cell-wall dyes resulted in an increase in supernatant-associated melanin, consistent with blockage of melanin attachment to the cell wall. This effect provided the opportunity to characterize melanin released into culture supernatants. Released melanin particles appeared mostly as networked structures having dimensions consistent with previously described extracellular vesicles. Hence, dye binding to the cell wall created conditions that resembled the ‘leaky melanin’ phenotype described for certain cell-wall mutants. In agreement with earlier studies on fungal melanins biosynthesis, our observations are supportive of a model whereby C. neoformans melanization proceeds by the attachment of melanin nanoparticles to the cell wall through chitin, chitosan, and various glucans.
The outer membrane proteins of the pathogen are targeted to understand host–pathogen interactions and are central to the development of diagnostics. We report that Leptospira interrogans serovar Copenhageni strain Fiocruz L1-130 contains a gene LIC13341 that encodes a conserved outer membrane/periplasmic lipoprotein. The gene LIC13341 was cloned into expression vector pET28a and the recombinant LIC13341 (r-LIC13341) protein was purified from Escherichia coli BL21 (DE3) using affinity chromatography. The secondary structure of the purified r-LIC13341 protein featured a typical β-strand when observed by circular dichroism spectroscopy. Immunoblotting using antibodies raised against r-LIC13341 in BALB/c mice can detect LIC13341 expression in the Leptospira lysates and suggested that antigen LIC13341 is immunogenic. Phase separation and protease assays determined that LIC13341 is a surface-exposed outer membrane protein of Leptospira. The r-LIC13341 can bind to a wide spectrum of host extracellular matrices (ECMs). The specific adherence of Leptospira to laminin and hyaluronic acid of the ECM was competitively inhibited in the presence of r-LIC13341. The enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and immunoblot performed using human or bovine leptospirosis serum (n=50) recognized r-LIC13341, suggesting that LIC13341 is expressed in diverse hosts during Leptospira infection. Thus, the present finding suggests that the Leptospira LIC13341 antigen is a versatile outer membrane adhesin of diagnostic importance.
Regulating intracellular levels of biological metal ions is essential for all bacterial species, as they are needed for virulence and a range of metabolic processes. Zinc is the second most abundant metal ion in Pseudomonas aeruginosa, but little is known about its regulation. Recent studies have identified a novel operon, zrmABCD (also called cntOLMI), encoding a metallophore system (pseudopaline) involved in zinc acquisition. Expression of this operon has been implicated in human infections and is regulated by the transcriptional regulator Zur (Zn2+ uptake regulator). In this study, we show that the intergenic promoter region in front of zrmABCD is a target for recurrent adaptive mutations during chronic infection of cystic fibrosis (CF) patients. We characterize the inter- and intraclonal sequence polymorphisms found in the promoter region of the metallophore system and find that most alterations increase promoter activity. One of the evolved promoters displays a more than 10-fold increase compared to the ancestral strain due to the combined effect of an altered binding site of Zur and changes to the RpoD-binding motif. This specific evolved promoter responds differently to changes in metal ion concentrations in chelated medium. We have previously shown that P. aeruginosa evolves toward iron acquisition from haemoglobin during long-term CF infections. We hereby provide the second example of adaptive mutations targeting intergenic regions that affect metal ion uptake systems during CF infections, and the first involving zinc uptake. Our results suggest that the scarcity of metal ions (including iron and zinc) is an important evolutionary driver in CF host adaptation.