This is the institutional Repository of the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research in Braunschweig/Germany (HZI), the Helmholtz Institute for Pharmaceutical Research Saarland (HIPS), Saarbrücken/Germany, the TWINCORE Zentrum für Exprerimentelle und Klinische Infektionsforschung, Hannover/Germany,Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung (HIRI), BRICS, CSSB and the Study Centre Hannover, Hannover/Germany.


  • Genome organization and DNA accessibility control antigenic variation in trypanosomes.

    Müller, Laura S M; Cosentino, Raúl O; Förstner, Konrad U; Guizetti, Julien; Wedel, Carolin; Kaplan, Noam; Janzen, Christian J; Arampatzi, Panagiota; Vogel, Jörg; Steinbiss, Sascha; Otto, Thomas D; Saliba, Antoine-Emmanuel; Sebra, Robert P; Siegel, T Nicolai; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (2018-01-01)
    Many evolutionarily distant pathogenic organisms have evolved similar survival strategies to evade the immune responses of their hosts. These include antigenic variation, through which an infecting organism prevents clearance by periodically altering the identity of proteins that are visible to the immune system of the host1. Antigenic variation requires large reservoirs of immunologically diverse antigen genes, which are often generated through homologous recombination, as well as mechanisms to ensure the expression of one or very few antigens at any given time. Both homologous recombination and gene expression are affected by three-dimensional genome architecture and local DNA accessibility2,3. Factors that link three-dimensional genome architecture, local chromatin conformation and antigenic variation have, to our knowledge, not yet been identified in any organism. One of the major obstacles to studying the role of genome architecture in antigenic variation has been the highly repetitive nature and heterozygosity of antigen-gene arrays, which has precluded complete genome assembly in many pathogens. Here we report the de novo haplotype-specific assembly and scaffolding of the long antigen-gene arrays of the model protozoan parasite Trypanosoma brucei, using long-read sequencing technology and conserved features of chromosome folding4. Genome-wide chromosome conformation capture (Hi-C) reveals a distinct partitioning of the genome, with antigen-encoding subtelomeric regions that are folded into distinct, highly compact compartments. In addition, we performed a range of analyses—Hi-C, fluorescence in situ hybridization, assays for transposase-accessible chromatin using sequencing and single-cell RNA sequencing—that showed that deletion of the histone variants H3.V and H4.V increases antigen-gene clustering, DNA accessibility across sites of antigen expression and switching of the expressed antigen isoform, via homologous recombination. Our analyses identify histone variants as a molecular link between global genome architecture, local chromatin conformation and antigenic variation.
  • Long Noncoding RNA SSR42 Controls Staphylococcus aureus Alpha-Toxin Transcription in Response to Environmental Stimuli.

    Horn, Jessica; Klepsch, Maximilian; Manger, Michelle; Wolz, Christiane; Rudel, Thomas; Fraunholz, Martin; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (2018-11-15)
    Staphylococcus aureus is a human pathogen causing a variety of diseases by versatile expression of a large set of virulence factors that most prominently features the cytotoxic and hemolytic pore-forming alpha-toxin. Expression of alpha-toxin is regulated by an intricate network of transcription factors. These include two-component systems sensing quorum and environmental signals as well as regulators reacting to the nutritional status of the pathogen. We previously identified the repressor of surface proteins (Rsp) as a virulence regulator. Acute cytotoxicity and hemolysis are strongly decreased in rsp mutants, which are characterized by decreased transcription of toxin genes as well as loss of transcription of a 1,232- nucleotide (nt)-long noncoding RNA (ncRNA), SSR42. Here, we show that SSR42 is the effector of Rsp in transcription regulation of the alpha-toxin gene, hla. SSR42 transcription is enhanced after exposure of S. aureus to subinhibitory concentrations of oxacillin which thus leads to an SSR42-dependent increase in hemolysis. Aside from Rsp, SSR42 transcription is under the control of additional global regulators, such as CodY, AgrA, CcpE, and B, but is positioned upstream of the two-component system SaeRS in the regulatory cascade leading to alpha-toxin production. Thus, alpha-toxin expression depends on two long ncRNAs, SSR42 and RNAIII, which control production of the cytolytic toxin on the transcriptional and translational levels, respectively, with SSR42 as an important regulator of SaeRS-dependent S. aureus toxin production in response to environmental and metabolic signals. IMPORTANCE Staphylococcus aureus is a major cause of life-threatening infections. The bacterium expresses alpha-toxin, a hemolysin and cytotoxin responsible for many of the pathologies of S. aureus. Alpha-toxin production is enhanced by subinhibitory concentrations of antibiotics. Here, we show that this process is dependent on the long noncoding RNA, SSR42. Further, SSR42 itself is regulated by several global regulators, thereby integrating environmental and nutritional signals that modulate hemolysis of the pathogen.
  • Distinct Interaction Sites of Rac GTPase with WAVE Regulatory Complex Have Non-redundant Functions in Vivo.

    Schaks, Matthias; Singh, Shashi P; Kage, Frieda; Thomason, Peter; Klünemann, Thomas; Steffen, Anika; Blankenfeldt, Wulf; Stradal, Theresia E; Insall, Robert H; Rottner, Klemens; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2018-10-25)
    Cell migration often involves the formation of sheet-like lamellipodia generated by branched actin filaments. The branches are initiated when Arp2/3 complex [1] is activated by WAVE regulatory complex (WRC) downstream of small GTPases of the Rac family [2]. Recent structural studies defined two independent Rac binding sites on WRC within the Sra-1/PIR121 subunit of the pentameric WRC [3, 4], but the functions of these sites in vivo have remained unknown. Here we dissect the mechanism of WRC activation and the in vivo relevance of distinct Rac binding sites on Sra-1, using CRISPR/Cas9-mediated gene disruption of Sra-1 and its paralog PIR121 in murine B16-F1 cells combined with Sra-1 mutant rescue. We show that the A site, positioned adjacent to the binding region of WAVE-WCA mediating actin and Arp2/3 complex binding, is the main site for allosteric activation of WRC. In contrast, the D site toward the C terminus is dispensable for WRC activation but required for optimal lamellipodium morphology and function. These results were confirmed in evolutionarily distant Dictyostelium cells. Moreover, the phenotype seen in D site mutants was recapitulated in Rac1 E31 and F37 mutants; we conclude these residues are important for Rac-D site interaction. Finally, constitutively activated WRC was able to induce lamellipodia even after both Rac interaction sites were lost, showing that Rac interaction is not essential for membrane recruitment. Our data establish that physical interaction with Rac is required for WRC activation, in particular through the A site, but is not mandatory for WRC accumulation in the lamellipodium.
  • RhoA, Rac1, and Cdc42 differentially regulate αSMA and collagen I expression in mesenchymal stem cells.

    Ge, Jianfeng; Burnier, Laurent; Adamopoulou, Maria; Kwa, Mei Qi; Schaks, Matthias; Rottner, Klemens; Brakebusch, Cord (2018-06-15)
    Mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) are suggested to be important progenitors of myofibroblasts in fibrosis. To understand the role of Rho GTPase signaling in TGF -induced myofibroblast differentiation of MSC, we generated a novel MSC line and its descendants lacking functional Rho GTPases and Rho GTPase signaling components. Unexpectedly, our data revealed that Rho GTPase signaling is required for TGF -induced expression of -smooth muscle actin (SMA) but not of collagen I 1 (col1a1). Whereas loss of RhoA and Cdc42 reduced SMA expression, ablation of the Rac1 gene had the opposite effect. Although actin polymerization and MRTFa were crucial for TGF -induced SMA expression, neither Arp2/3-dependent actinpolymerizationnorcofilin-dependent severinganddepolymerization of F-actin were required. Instead, F-actin levels were dependent on cell contraction, and TGF -induced actin polymerization correlated with increased cell contraction mediated by RhoA and Cdc42. Finally, we observed impaired collagen I secretion in MSC lacking RhoA or Cdc42. These data give novel molecular insights into the role of Rho GTPases in TGF signaling and have implications for our understanding of MSC function in fibrosis.
  • Nuclear lncRNA stabilization in the host response to bacterial infection.

    Munschauer, Mathias; Vogel, Jörg; HIRI, Helmholtz-Institut für RNA-basierte Infektionsforschung, Josef-Shneider Strasse 2, 97080 Würzburg, Germany. (2018-07-02)
    Löng nön-cöding RNAs (lncRNAs) play impörtant röles in many cellular pathways, but their cöntributiön tö the defense öf eukaryötic cells against pathögens remains pöörly understööd. A new study fröm Imamura et al. in The EMBO Journal repörts that infectiön by Salmonella impacts nuclear RNA decay, which in turn results in the accumulatiön öf ötherwise unstable nuclear lncRNAs, söme öf which may have prötective effects against this cömmön bacterial pathögen. These unexpected findings demand möre efförts tö fully decrypt the mölecular functiöns öf lncRNAs in innate and adaptive immunity

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