New approaches are needed to control leprosy, but understanding of the biology of the causative agent Mycobacterium leprae remains rudimentary, principally because the pathogen cannot be grown in axenic culture. Here, we applied 13C isotopomer analysis to measure carbon metabolism of M. leprae in its primary host cell, the Schwann cell. We compared the results of this analysis with those of a related pathogen, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, growing in its primary host cell, the macrophage. Using 13C isotopomer analysis with glucose as the tracer, we show that whereas M. tuberculosis imports most of its amino acids directly from the host macrophage, M. leprae utilizes host glucose pools as the carbon source to biosynthesize the majority of its amino acids. Our analysis highlights the anaplerotic enzyme phosphoenolpyruvate carboxylase required for this intracellular diet of M. leprae, identifying this enzyme as a potential antileprosy drug target.
Bovine tuberculosis is an important animal health problem and the predominant cause of zoonotic tuberculosis worldwide. It results in serious economic burden due to losses in productivity and the cost of control programmes. Control could be greatly improved by the introduction of an efficacious cattle vaccine but the most likely candidate, BCG, has several limitations including variable efficacy. Augmentation of BCG with a subunit vaccine booster has been shown to increase protection but the selection of antigens has hitherto been left largely to serendipity. In the present study, we take a rational approach to identify the protective antigens of BCG, selecting a BCG transposon mutant library in naïve and BCG-vaccinated cattle. Ten mutants had increased relative survival in vaccinated compared to naïve cattle, consistent with loss of protective antigen targets making the mutants less visible to the BCG immune response. The immunogenicity of three putative protective antigens, BCG_0116, BCG_0205 (YrbE1B) and BCG_1448 (PPE20) was investigated using peptide pools and PBMCs from BCG vaccinated cattle. BCG vaccination induced PBMC to release elevated levels of IP10, IL-17a and IL-10 in response to all three antigens. Taken together, the data supports the further study of these antigens for use in subunit vaccines.
Whereas intracellular carbon metabolism has emerged as an attractive drug target, the carbon sources of intracellularly replicating pathogens, such as the tuberculosis bacillus Mycobacterium tuberculosis, which causes long-term infections in one-third of the world's population, remain mostly unknown. We used a systems-based approach-(13)C-flux spectral analysis (FSA) complemented with manual analysis-to measure the metabolic interaction between M. tuberculosis and its macrophage host cell. (13)C-FSA analysis of experimental data showed that M. tuberculosis obtains a mixture of amino acids, C1 and C2 substrates from its host cell. We experimentally confirmed that the C1 substrate was derived from CO2. (13)C labeling experiments performed on a phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase mutant revealed that intracellular M. tuberculosis has access to glycolytic C3 substrates. These findings provide constraints for developing novel chemotherapeutics.
Background: Leprosy has afflicted humankind throughout history leaving evidence in both early texts and the archaeological record. In Britain, leprosy was widespread throughout the Middle Ages until its gradual and unexplained decline between the 14th and 16th centuries. The nature of this ancient endemic leprosy and its relationship to modern strains is only partly understood. Modern leprosy strains are currently divided into 5 phylogenetic groups, types 0 to 4, each with strong geographical links. Until recently, European strains, both ancient and modern, were thought to be exclusively type 3 strains. However, evidence for type 2 strains, a group normally associated with Central Asia and the Middle East, has recently been found in archaeological samples in Scandinavia and from two skeletons from the medieval leprosy hospital (or leprosarium) of St Mary Magdalen, near Winchester, England.Results: Here we report the genotypic analysis and whole genome sequencing of two further ancient M. leprae genomes extracted from the remains of two individuals, Sk14 and Sk27, that were excavated from 10th-12th century burials at the leprosarium of St Mary Magdalen. DNA was extracted from the surfaces of bones showing osteological signs of leprosy. Known M. leprae polymorphisms were PCR amplified and Sanger sequenced, while draft genomes were generated by enriching for M. leprae DNA, and Illumina sequencing. SNP-typing and phylogenetic analysis of the draft genomes placed both of these ancient strains in the conserved type 2 group, with very few novel SNPs compared to other ancient or modern strains.Conclusions: The genomes of the two newly sequenced M. leprae strains group firmly with other type 2F strains. Moreover, the M. leprae strain most closely related to one of the strains, Sk14, in the worldwide phylogeny is a contemporaneous ancient St Magdalen skeleton, vividly illustrating the epidemic and clonal nature of leprosy at this site. The prevalence of these type 2 strains indicates that type 2F strains, in contrast to later European and associated North American type 3 isolates, may have been the co-dominant or even the predominant genotype at this location during the 11th century. © 2014 Mendum et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.
Nitrogen metabolism of Mycobacterium tuberculosis(Mtb) is crucial for the survival of this important pathogen in its primary human host cell, the macrophage, but little is known about the source(s) and their assimilation within this intracellular niche. Here, we have developed 15N-flux spectral ratio analysis(15N-FSRA) to explore Mtb’s nitrogen metabolism; we demonstrate that intracellular Mtb has access to multiple amino acids in the macrophage, including glutamate, glutamine, aspartate, alanine, glycine,and valine; and we identify glutamine as the pre-dominant nitrogen donor. Each nitrogen source is uniquely assimilated into specific amino acid pools,indicating compartmentalized metabolism during intracellular growth. We have discovered that serine is not available to intracellular Mtb, and we show that a serine auxotroph is attenuated in macrophages. This work provides a systems-based tool for exploring the nitrogen metabolism of intracellular pathogens and highlights the enzyme phosphoserine transaminase as an attractive target for the development of novel anti-tuberculosis therapies.
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) can be important drivers of population dynamics because of their negative effects on reproduction. However, screening for STDs, especially in wildlife populations, is widely neglected. Using the promiscuous, polygynandrous European badger (Meles meles) as a model, we investigated the presence and prevalence of herpesviruses (HVs) in a wild, high-density population and assessed potential differences in somatic fitness and female reproductive condition between infected and uninfected individuals. We collected n=98 genital swabs from 71 females (51 adults and 20 cubs) and 27 males (26 adults and 1 cub) during spring and summer 2015. Using a PCR specific for a mustelid α-HV, all genital-swab samples tested negative. In a panherpes PCR, a γ-HV was found in 55% (54/98; 39 adults and 15 cubs), identified as mustelid gammaherpesvirus 1 (MusGHV-1) using DNA sequencing. This contrasts with the results of a previous study, which reported MusGHV-1 in 98% (354/361) of blood samples taken from 218 badgers in the same population using PCR. The detection of MusHV-1 in the female reproductive tract strongly indicates the potential for a horizontal and, likely also a vertical, route of transmission. Our results suggest a potential linkage of genital HVs and impaired future reproductive success in females, but because reproductive failure can have many reasons in badgers, the causative link of this negative relationship remains to be investigated.
Relatively little is known of leprosy in Medieval Ireland; as an island located at the far west of Europe it has the potential to provide interesting insights in relation to the historical epidemiology of the disease. To this end the study focuses on five cases of probable leprosy identified in human skeletal remains excavated from inhumation burials. Three of the individuals derived from the cemetery of St Michael Le Pole, Golden Lane, Dublin, while single examples were also identified from Ardreigh, Co. Kildare, and St Patrick’s Church, Armoy, Co. Antrim. The individuals were radiocarbon dated and examined biomolecularly for evidence of either of the causative pathogens, M. leprae or M. lepromatosis. Oxygen and strontium isotopes were measured in tooth enamel and rib samples to determine where the individuals had spent their formative years and to ascertain if they had undertaken any recent migrations. We detected M. leprae DNA in the three Golden Lane cases but not in the probable cases from either Ardreigh Co. Kildare or Armoy, Co. Antrim. M. lepromatosis was not detected in any of the burals. DNA preservation was sufficiently robust to allow genotyping of M. leprae strains in two of the Golden Lane burials, SkCXCV (12-13th century) and SkCCXXX (11-13th century). These strains were found to belong on different lineages of the M. leprae phylogenetic tree, namely branches 3 and 2 respectively. Whole genome sequencing was also attempted on these two isolates with a view to gaining further information but poor genome coverage precluded phylogenetic analysis. Data from the biomolecular study was combined with osteological, isotopic and radiocarbon dating to provide a comprehensive and multidisciplinary study of the Irish cases. Strontium and oxygen isotopic analysis indicate that two of the individuals from Golden Lane (SkCXLVIII (10-11th century) and SkCXCV) were of Scandinavian origin, while SkCCXXX may have spent his childhood in the north of Ireland or central Britain. We propose that the Vikings were responsible for introducing leprosy to Ireland. This work adds to our knowledge of the likely origins of leprosy in Medieval Ireland and will hopefully stimulate further research into the history and spread of this ancient disease across the world.
We report on a Mycobacterium leprae genome isolated from the remains of an individual with lepromatous leprosy that were excavated from a 7th century Hungarian cemetery. We determined that the genome was from a SNP type 3K0 M. leprae strain, a lineage that diverged early from other M. leprae lineages. This is one of the earliest 3K0 M. leprae genomes to be sequenced to date. A number of novel SNPs as well as SNPs characteristic of the 3K0 lineage were confirmed by conventional PCR and Sanger sequencing. Recovery of accompanying human DNA from the burial was poor, particularly when compared to that of the pathogen. Modern 3K0 M. leprae strains have only been isolated from East Asia and the Pacific and so these findings require new scenarios to describe the origins and routes of dissemination of leprosy during antiquity that have resulted in the modern phylogeographical distribution of M. leprae.
The development of diagnostic tests which can readily differentiate between vaccinated and tuberculosis-infected individuals is crucial for the wider utilization of bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) as vaccine in humans and animals. BCG_0092 is an antigen that elicits specific delayed type hypersensitivity reactions similar in size and morphological aspects to that elicited by purified protein derivative, in both animals and humans infected with the tubercle bacilli. We carried out bioinformatics analyses of the BCG_0092 and designed a diagnostic test by using the predicted MHC class I epitopes. In addition, we performed a knockout of this gene by homologous recombination in the BCG vaccine strain to allow differentiation of vaccinated from infected individuals. For that, the flanking sequences of the target gene (BCG_0092)were cloned into a suicide vector. Spontaneous double crossovers, which result in wild type revertants or knockouts were selected using SacB. BCG_0092 is present only in members of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex. Eight predicted MHC class I epitopes with potential for immunological diagnosis were defined, allowing the design of a specific diagnostic test. The strategy used to delete the (BCG_0092) gene from BCG was successful. The knockout genotype was confirmed by PCR and by Southern blot. The mutant BCG strain has the potential of inducing protection against tuberculosis without interfering with the diagnostic test based on the use of selected epitopes from BCG_0092.
Most healthy adults are protected from meningococcal disease by the presence of naturally acquired anti-meningococcal antibodies; however, the identity of the target antigens of this protective immunity remains unclear, particularly for protection against serogroup B disease. To identify the protein targets of natural protective immunity we developed an immunoprecipitation and proteomics approach to define the immunoproteome of the meningococcus. Sera from 10 healthy individuals showing serum bactericidal activity against both a meningococcal C strain (L91543) and the B strain MC58, together with commercially available pooled human sera were used as probe anti-sera. Immunoprecipitation was performed with each serum sample and live cells from both meningococcal strains. Immunoprecipitated proteins were identified by mass spectrometry. Analysis of the immunoproteome from each serum demonstrated both pan-reactive antigens that were recognised by most sera as well as subject-specific antigens. Most antigens were found in both meningococcal strains but a few were strain-specific. Many of the immunoprecipitated proteins have previously been characterised as surface antigens including adhesins and proteases, several of which have been recognised as vaccine candidate antigens e.g. fHBP, NadA and NHBA. The data clearly demonstrates the presence of meningococcal antibodies in healthy individuals with no history of meningococcal infection and a wide diversity of immune responses. The identification of the immuno-reactive proteins of the meningococcus provides a basis for understanding the role of each antigen in the natural immunity associated with carriage and may help to design vaccination strategies.
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.
BACKGROUND: Mycobacterium tuberculosis continues to kill more people than any other bacterium. Although its archetypal host cell is the macrophage, it also enters, and survives within, dendritic cells (DCs). By modulating the behaviour of the DC, M. tuberculosis is able to manipulate the host's immune response and establish an infection. To identify the M. tuberculosis genes required for survival within DCs we infected primary human DCs with an M. tuberculosis transposon library and identified mutations with a reduced ability to survive. RESULTS: Parallel sequencing of the transposon inserts of the surviving mutants identified a large number of genes as being required for optimal intracellular fitness in DCs. Loci whose mutation attenuated intracellular survival included those involved in synthesising cell wall lipids, not only the well-established virulence factors, pDIM and cord factor, but also sulfolipids and PGL, which have not previously been identified as having a direct virulence role in cells. Other attenuated loci included the secretion systems ESX-1, ESX-2 and ESX-4, alongside many PPE genes, implicating a role for ESX-5. In contrast the canonical ESAT-6 family of ESX substrates did not have intra-DC fitness costs suggesting an alternative ESX-1 associated virulence mechanism. With the aid of a gene-nutrient interaction model, metabolic processes such as cholesterol side chain catabolism, nitrate reductase and cysteine-methionine metabolism were also identified as important for survival in DCs. CONCLUSION: We conclude that many of the virulence factors required for survival in DC are shared with macrophages, but that survival in DCs also requires several additional functions, such as cysteine-methionine metabolism, PGLs, sulfolipids, ESX systems and PPE genes.
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.
Metabolism underpins the pathogenic strategy of the causative agent of TB, Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb), and therefore metabolic pathways have recently re-emerged as attractive drug targets. A powerful approach to study Mtb metabolism as a whole, rather than just individual enzymatic components, is to use a systems biology framework, such as a Genome-Scale Metabolic Network (GSMN) that allows the dynamic interactions of all the components of metabolism to be interrogated together. Several GSMNs networks have been constructed for Mtb and used to study the complex relationship between the Mtb genotype and its phenotype. However, the utility of this approach is hampered by the existence of multiple models, each with varying properties and performances. Here we systematically evaluate eight recently published metabolic models of Mtb-H37Rv to facilitate model choice. The best performing models, sMtb2018 and iEK1011, were refined and improved for use in future studies by the TB research community.
Enzymes at the phosphoenolpyruvate (PEP)–pyruvate–oxaloacetate or anaplerotic (ANA) node control the metabolic flux to glycolysis, gluconeogenesis, and anaplerosis. Here we used genetic, biochemical, and 13C isotopomer analysis to characterize the role of the enzymes at the ANA node in intracellular survival of the world's most successful bacterial pathogen, Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb). We show that each of the four ANA enzymes, pyruvate carboxylase (PCA), PEP carboxykinase (PCK), malic enzyme (MEZ), and pyruvate phosphate dikinase (PPDK), performs a unique and essential metabolic function during the intracellular survival of Mtb. We show that in addition to PCK, intracellular Mtb requires PPDK as an alternative gateway into gluconeogenesis. Propionate and cholesterol detoxification was also identified as an essential function of PPDK revealing an unexpected role for the ANA node in the metabolism of these physiologically important intracellular substrates and highlighting this enzyme as a tuberculosis (TB)-specific drug target. We show that anaplerotic fixation of CO2 through the ANA node is essential for intracellular survival of Mtb and that Mtb possesses three enzymes (PCA, PCK, and MEZ) capable of fulfilling this function. In addition to providing a back-up role in anaplerosis we show that MEZ also has a role in lipid biosynthesis. MEZ knockout strains have an altered cell wall and were deficient in the initial entry into macrophages. This work reveals that the ANA node is a focal point for controlling the intracellular replication of Mtb, which goes beyond canonical gluconeogenesis and represents a promising target for designing novel anti-TB drugs.