Dr Rachel Butler
Whenever a genetically homogenous population of bacterial cells is exposed to antibiotics, a tiny fraction of cells survives the treatment,the phenomenon known as bacterial persistence [G.L. Hobby et al., Exp. Biol. Med. 50, 281–285 (1942); J. Bigger, The Lancet 244, 497– 500 (1944)]. Despite its biomedical relevance, the origin of the phenomenon is still unknown, and as a rare, phenotypically resistant subpopulation, persisters are notoriously hard to study and define. Using computerized tracking we show that persisters are small at birth and slowly replicating. We also determine that the highpersister mutant strain of Escherichia coli, HipQ, is associated with the phenotype of reduced phenotypic inheritance (RPI). We identify the gene responsible for RPI, ydcI, which encodes a transcription factor, and propose a mechanism whereby loss of phenotypic inheritance causes increased frequency of persisters. These results provide insight into the generation and maintenance of phenotypic variation and provide potential targets for the development of therapeutic strategies that tackle persistence in bacterial infections.
Background BCG is the most widely used vaccine of all time and remains the only licensed vaccine for use against tuberculosis in humans. BCG also protects other species such as cattle against tuberculosis, but due to its incompatibility with current tuberculin testing regimens remains unlicensed. BCG’s efficacy relates to its ability to persist in the host for weeks, months or even years after vaccination. It is unclear to what degree this ability to resist the host’s immune system is maintained by a dynamic interaction between the vaccine strain and its host as is the case for pathogenic mycobacteria. Results To investigate this question, we constructed transposon mutant libraries in both BCG Pasteur and BCG Danish strains and inoculated them into bovine lymph nodes. Cattle are well suited to such an assay, as they are naturally susceptible to tuberculosis and are one of the few animal species for which a BCG vaccination program has been proposed. After three weeks, the BCG were recovered and the input and output libraries compared to identify mutants with in vivo fitness defects. Less than 10% of the mutated genes were identified as affecting in vivo fitness, they included genes encoding known mycobacterial virulence functions such as mycobactin synthesis, sugar transport, reductive sulphate assimilation, PDIM synthesis and cholesterol metabolism. Many other attenuating genes had not previously been recognised as having a virulence phenotype. To test these genes, we generated and characterised three knockout mutants that were predicted by transposon mutagenesis to be attenuating in vivo: pyruvate carboxylase, a hypothetical protein (BCG_1063), and a putative cyclopropane-fatty-acyl-phospholipid synthase. The knockout strains survived as well as wild type during in vitro culture and in bovine macrophages, yet demonstrated marked attenuation during passage in bovine lymph nodes confirming that they were indeed involved in persistence of BCG in the host. Conclusion These data show that BCG is far from passive during its interaction with the host, rather it continues to employ its remaining virulence factors, to interact with the host’s innate immune system to allow it to persist, a property that is important for its protective efficacy.
Persistence, the phenomenon whereby a small subpopulation of bacterial cells survive sterilization, prolongs antibiotic treatment and contributes to the development of genetic antimicrobial drug resistance (AMR). In this study we performed single-cell tracking of wild-type and high-persister mutant strains of Escherichia coli to identify factors that correlate with persistence. We found, as expected, persistence correlated with slow growth, but also with small birth size. We investigated intergenerational (mother–daughter) and intragenerational (sister–sister) phenotypic inheritance of growth parameters and discovered the mutant phenotype was associated with lower levels of phenotypic inheritance and identified the gene responsible, the transcription factor ydcI. Targeting pathways involved in persistence could reveal approaches to impeding persistence and the development of AMR.
Charged particle therapy is increasingly becoming a valuable tool in cancer treatment, mainly due to the favorable interaction of particle radiation with matter. Its application is still limited due, in part, to lack of data regarding the radiosensitivity of certain cell lines to this radiation type, especially to high-linear energy transfer (LET) particles. From the earliest days of radiation biology, the clonogenic survival assay has been used to provide radiation response data. This method produces reliable data but it is not optimized for high-throughput microbeam studies with high-LET radiation where high levels of cell killing lead to a very low probability of maintaining cells' clonogenic potential. A new method, therefore, is proposed in this paper, which could potentially allow these experiments to be conducted in a high-throughput fashion. Cells are seeded in special polypropylene dishes and bright-field illumination provides cell visualization. Digital images are obtained and cell detection is applied based on corner detection, generating individual cell targets as x-y points. These points in the dish are then irradiated individually by a micron field size high-LET microbeam. Post-irradiation, time-lapse imaging follows cells' response. All irradiated cells are tracked by linking trajectories in all time-frames, based on finding their nearest position. Cell divisions are detected based on cell appearance and individual cell temporary corner density. The number of divisions anticipated is low due to the high probability of cell killing from high-LET irradiation. Survival curves are produced based on cell's capacity to divide at least four to five times. The process is repeated for a range of doses of radiation. Validation shows the efficiency of the proposed cell detection and tracking method in finding cell divisions.
An important feature of Mycobacterium tuberculosis pathogenesis is the ability to control cell death in infected host cells, including inhibition of apoptosis and stimulation of necrosis. Recently an alternative form of programmed cell death, necroptosis, has been described where necrotic cell death is induced by apoptotic stimuli under conditions where apoptotic execution is inhibited. We show for the first time that M. tuberculosis and TNFα synergise to induce necroptosis in murine fibroblasts via RIPK1-dependent mechanisms and characterized by phosphorylation of Ser345 of the MLKL necroptosis death effector. However, in murine macrophages M. tuberculosis and TNFα induce non-necroptotic cell death that is RIPK1-dependent but independent of MLKL phosphorylation. Instead, M. tuberculosis-infected macrophages undergo RIPK3-dependent cell death which occurs both in the presence and absence of TNFα and involves the production of mitochondrial ROS. Immunocytochemical staining for MLKL phosphorylation further demonstrated the occurrence of necroptosis in vivo in murine M. tuberculosis granulomas. Phosphorylated- MLKL immunoreactivity was observed associated with the cytoplasm and nucleus of fusiform cells in M. tuberculosis lesions but not in proximal macrophages. Thus whereas pMLKL-driven necroptosis does not appear to be a feature of M. tuberculosis-infected macrophage cell death, it may contribute to TNFα-induced cytotoxicity of the lung stroma and therefore contribute to necrotic cavitation and bacterial dissemination.
As a clinical setting in which local live biological therapy is already well established, non-muscle invasive bladder cancer (NMIBC) presents intriguing opportunities for oncolytic virotherapy. Coxsackievirus A21 (CVA21) is a novel intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1)-targeted immunotherapeutic virus. This study investigated CVA21-induced cytotoxicity in a panel of human bladder cancer cell lines, revealing a range of sensitivities largely correlating with expression of the viral receptor ICAM-1. CVA21 in combination with low doses of mitomycin-C enhanced CVA21 viral replication and oncolysis by increasing surface expression levels of ICAM-1. This was further confirmed using 300-μm precision slices of NMIBC where levels of virus protein expression and induction of apoptosis were enhanced with prior exposure to mitomycin-C. Given the importance of the immunogenicity of dying cancer cells for triggering tumor-specific responses and long-term therapeutic success, the ability of CVA21 to induce immunogenic cell death was investigated. CVA21 induced immunogenic apoptosis in bladder cancer cell lines, as evidenced by expression of the immunogenic cell death (ICD) determinant calreticulin, and HMGB-1 release and the ability to reject MB49 tumors in syngeneic mice after vaccination with MB49 cells undergoing CVA21 induced ICD. Such CVA21 immunotherapy could offer a potentially less toxic, more effective option for the treatment of bladder cancer.
Mycobacterium bovis is the causative agent of bovine tuberculosis and the predominant cause of zoonotic tuberculosis in people. Bovine tuberculosis occurs in farmed cattle but also in a variety of wild animals, which form a reservoir of infection. Although direct transmission of tuberculosis occurs between mammals, the low frequency of contact between different host species and abundant shedding of bacilli by infected animals suggests an infectious route via environmental contamination. Other intracellular pathogens that transmit via the environment deploy strategies to survive or exploit predation by environmental amoebae. To explore if M. bovis has this capability, we investigated its interactions with the soil and dung-dwelling amoeba, Dictyostelium discoideum. We demonstrated that M. bovis evades phagocytosis and destruction by D. discoideum and actively transits through the amoeba using the ESX-1 Type VII Secretion System as part of a programme of mechanisms, many of which have been co-opted as virulence factors in the mammalian host. This capacity of M. bovis to utilise an environmental stage between mammalian hosts may enhance its transmissibility. In addition, our data provide molecular evidence to support an evolutionary role for amoebae as training grounds for the pathogenic M. tuberculosis complex.
An important mechanism of Mycobacterium tuberculosis pathogenesis is the ability to control cell death pathways in infected macrophages: apoptotic cell death is bactericidal, whereas necrotic cell death may facilitate bacterial dissemination and transmission.
ADP-ribosyltransferases use NAD+ to catalyse substrate ADP-ribosylation1, and thereby regulate cellular pathways or contribute to toxin-mediated pathogenicity of bacteria2-4. Reversible ADP-ribosylation has traditionally been considered a protein-specific modification5, but recent in vitro studies have suggested nucleic acids as targets6-9. Here we present evidence that specific, reversible ADP-ribosylation ofDNA on thymidine bases occurs in cellulo through the DarT-DarG toxin-antitoxin system, which is found in a variety of bacteria (including global pathogens such as Mycobacterium tuberculosis, enteropathogenic Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa)10. We report the structure ofDarT, which identifies this protein as a diverged member ofthe PARP family. We provide a set of high-resolution structures of this enzyme in ligand-free and pre- and post-reaction states, which reveals a specialized mechanism of catalysis that includes a key active-site arginine that extends the canonical ADP-ribosyltransferase toolkit. Comparison with PARP-HPF1, a well-established DNA repair protein ADP-ribosylation complex, offers insights into how the DarT class ofADP-ribosyltransferases evolved into specific DNA-modifying enzymes. Together, our structural and mechanistic data provide details ofthis PARP family member and contribute to a fundamental understanding of the ADP-ribosylation of nucleic acids. We also show that thymine-linked ADP-ribose DNA adducts reversed by DarG antitoxin (functioning as a noncanonical DNA repair factor) are used not only for targeted DNA damage to induce toxicity, but also as a signalling strategy for cellular processes. Using M. tuberculosis as an exemplar, we show that DarT-DarG regulates growth by ADP-ribosylation ofDNA at the origin of chromosome replication.