head of the department: Prof. Dersch

Recent Submissions

  • Phenotypic heterogeneity: a bacterial virulence strategy.

    Weigel, W A; Dersch, P; Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2018-02-01)
    Growing knowledge of the complexity of the host-pathogen interactions during the course of an infection revealed an amazing variability of bacterial pathogens within the same host tissue site. This heterogeneity in bacterial populations is either the result of a different bacterial response to a slightly divergent tissue microenvironment or is caused by a genetic circuit in which small endogenous fluctuations in a small number of transcription factors drive gene expression in combination with a positive feedback loop. As a result host-pathogen encounters can have different outcomes in individual cells, which enables bet-hedging and/or a co-operative behavior that enhance bacterial fitness and virulence, drive different host responses and promote resistance of small subpopulations to antibiotic treatment. This has a strong impact on the progression and control of the infection, which must be considered for the development of successful antimicrobial therapies.
  • The invasin D protein fromYersinia pseudotuberculosisselectively binds the Fab region of host antibodies and affects colonization of the intestine.

    Sadana, Pooja; Geyer, Rebecca; Pezoldt, Joern; Helmsing, Saskia; Huehn, Jochen; Hust, Michael; Dersch, Petra; Scrima, Andrea; Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2018-03-13)
    Yersinia pseudotuberculosis is a Gram-negative bacterium and zoonotic pathogen responsible for a wide range of diseases, ranging from mild diarrhea, enterocolitis, lymphatic adenitis to persistent local inflammation. TheY. pseudotuberculosisinvasin D (InvD) molecule belongs to the invasin (InvA)-type autotransporter proteins, but its structure and function remain unknown. In this study, we present the first crystal structure of InvD, analyzed its expression and function in a murine infection model, and identified its target molecule in the host. We found that InvD is induced at 37°C and expressed in vivo2-4 days after infection, indicating that InvD is a virulence factor. During infection, InvD was expressed in all parts of the intestinal tract, but not in deeper lymphoid tissues. The crystal structure of the C-terminal adhesion domain of InvD revealed a distinct Ig-related fold, that, apart from the canonical β-sheets, comprises various modifications of and insertions into the Ig-core structure. We identified the Fab fragment of host-derived IgG/IgA antibodies as the target of the adhesion domain. Phage display panning and flow cytometry data further revealed that InvD exhibits a preferential binding specificity toward antibodies with VH3/VK1 variable domains and that it is specifically recruited to a subset of B cells. This finding suggests that InvD modulates Ig functions in the intestine and affects direct interactions with a subset of cell surface-exposed B-cell receptors. In summary, our results provide extensive insights into the structure of InvD and its specific interaction with the target molecule in the host.
  • Loss of CNFY toxin-induced inflammation drives Yersinia pseudotuberculosis into persistency.

    Heine, Wiebke; Beckstette, Michael; Heroven, Ann Kathrin; Thiemann, Sophie; Heise, Ulrike; Nuss, Aaron Mischa; Pisano, Fabio; Strowig, Till; Dersch, Petra; Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2018-02)
    Gastrointestinal infections caused by enteric yersiniae can become persistent and complicated by relapsing enteritis and severe autoimmune disorders. To establish a persistent infection, the bacteria have to cope with hostile surroundings when they transmigrate through the intestinal epithelium and colonize underlying gut-associated lymphatic tissues. How the bacteria gain a foothold in the face of host immune responses is poorly understood. Here, we show that the CNFY toxin, which enhances translocation of the antiphagocytic Yop effectors, induces inflammatory responses. This results in extensive tissue destruction, alteration of the intestinal microbiota and bacterial clearance. Suppression of CNFY function, however, increases interferon-γ-mediated responses, comprising non-inflammatory antimicrobial activities and tolerogenesis. This process is accompanied by a preterm reprogramming of the pathogen's transcriptional response towards persistence, which gives the bacteria a fitness edge against host responses and facilitates establishment of a commensal-type life style.
  • Identification of a Distinct Substrate-binding Domain in the Bacterial Cysteine Methyltransferase Effectors NleE and OspZ.

    Zhang, Ying; Mühlen, Sabrina; Oates, Clare V; Pearson, Jaclyn S; Hartland, Elizabeth L; Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2016)
    The type III secretion system effector protein NleE from enteropathogenic Escherichia coli plays a key role in the inhibition of NF-κB activation during infection. NleE inactivates the ubiquitin chain binding activity of host proteins TAK1-binding proteins 2 and 3 (TAB2 and TAB3) by modifying the Npl4 zinc finger domain through S-adenosyl methionine-dependent cysteine methylation. Using yeast two-hybrid protein interaction studies, we found that a conserved region between amino acids 34 and 52 of NleE, in particular the motif (49)GITR(52), was critical for TAB2 and TAB3 binding. NleE mutants lacking (49)GITR(52) were unable to methylate TAB3, and wild type NleE but not NleE(49AAAA52) where each of GITR was replaced with alanine restored the ability of an nleE mutant to inhibit IL-8 production during infection. Another NleE target, ZRANB3, also associated with NleE through the (49)GITR(52) motif. Ectopic expression of an N-terminal fragment of NleE (NleE(34-52)) in HeLa cells showed competitive inhibition of wild type NleE in the suppression of IL-8 secretion during enteropathogenic E. coli infection. Similar results were observed for the NleE homologue OspZ from Shigella flexneri 6 that also bound TAB3 through the (49)GITR(52) motif and decreased IL-8 transcription through modification of TAB3. In summary, we have identified a unique substrate-binding motif in NleE and OspZ that is required for the ability to inhibit the host inflammatory response.
  • Increased plasmid copy number is essential for Yersinia T3SS function and virulence.

    Wang, He; Avican, Kemal; Fahlgren, Anna; Erttmann, Saskia F; Nuss, Aaron M; Dersch, Petra; Fallman, Maria; Edgren, Tomas; Wolf-Watz, Hans; Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsfoschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr.7, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2016-07-29)
    Pathogenic bacteria have evolved numerous virulence mechanisms that are essential for establishing infections. The enterobacterium Yersinia uses a type III secretion system (T3SS) encoded by a 70-kilobase, low-copy, IncFII-class virulence plasmid. We report a novel virulence strategy in Y. pseudotuberculosis in which this pathogen up-regulates the plasmid copy number during infection. We found that an increased dose of plasmid-encoded genes is indispensable for virulence and substantially elevates the expression and function of the T3SS. Remarkably, we observed direct, tight coupling between plasmid replication and T3SS function. This regulatory pathway provides a framework for further exploration of the environmental sensing mechanisms of pathogenic bacteria.
  • Impact of CCR7 on T-Cell Response and Susceptibility to Yersinia pseudotuberculosis Infection.

    Pezoldt, Joern; Pisano, Fabio; Heine, Wiebke; Pasztoi, Maria; Rosenheinrich, Maik; Nuss, Aaron M; Pils, Marina C; Prinz, Immo; Förster, Reinhold; Huehn, Jochen; Dersch, Petra; Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr.7, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2017-09-15)
    To successfully limit pathogen dissemination, an immunological link between the entry tissue of the pathogen and the underlying secondary lymphoid organs (SLOs) needs to be established to prime adaptive immune responses. Here, the prerequisite of CCR7 to mount host immune responses within SLOs during gastrointestinal Yersinia pseudotuberculosis infection to limit pathogen spread was investigated.
  • Tissue dual RNA-seq allows fast discovery of infection-specific functions and riboregulators shaping host-pathogen transcriptomes.

    Nuss, Aaron M; Beckstette, Michael; Pimenova, Maria; Schmühl, Carina; Opitz, Wiebke; Pisano, Fabio; Heroven, Ann Kathrin; Dersch, Petra; Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2017-01-31)
    Pathogenic bacteria need to rapidly adjust their virulence and fitness program to prevent eradication by the host. So far, underlying adaptation processes that drive pathogenesis have mostly been studied in vitro, neglecting the true complexity of host-induced stimuli acting on the invading pathogen. In this study, we developed an unbiased experimental approach that allows simultaneous monitoring of genome-wide infection-linked transcriptional alterations of the host and colonizing extracellular pathogens. Using this tool for Yersinia pseudotuberculosis-infected lymphatic tissues, we revealed numerous alterations of host transcripts associated with inflammatory and acute-phase responses, coagulative activities, and transition metal ion sequestration, highlighting that the immune response is dominated by infiltrating neutrophils and elicits a mixed TH17/TH1 response. In consequence, the pathogen's response is mainly directed to prevent phagocytic attacks. Yersinia up-regulates the gene and expression dose of the antiphagocytic type III secretion system (T3SS) and induces functions counteracting neutrophil-induced ion deprivation, radical stress, and nutritional restraints. Several conserved bacterial riboregulators were identified that impacted this response. The strongest influence on virulence was found for the loss of the carbon storage regulator (Csr) system, which is shown to be essential for the up-regulation of the T3SS on host cell contact. In summary, our established approach provides a powerful tool for the discovery of infection-specific stimuli, induced host and pathogen responses, and underlying regulatory processes.
  • Local application of bacteria improves safety of Salmonella-mediated tumor therapy and retains advantages of systemic infection.

    Kocijancic, Dino; Felgner, Sebastian; Schauer, Tim; Frahm, Michael; Heise, Ulrike; Zimmermann, Kurt; Erhardt, Marc; Weiss, Siegfried; Helmholtz Centre for infection research, Inhoffenstr. 7, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2017-06-07)
    Cancer is a devastating disease and a large socio-economic burden. Novel therapeutic solutions are on the rise, although a cure remains elusive. Application of microorganisms represents an ancient therapeutic strategy, lately revoked and refined via simultaneous attenuation and amelioration of pathogenic properties. Salmonella Typhimurium has prevailed in preclinical development. Yet, using virulent strains for systemic treatment might cause severe side effects. In the present study, we highlight a modified strain based on Salmonella Typhimurium UK-1 expressing hexa-acylated Lipid A. We corroborate improved anti-tumor properties of this strain and investigate to which extent an intra-tumoral (i.t.) route of infection could help improve safety and retain advantages of systemic intravenous (i.v.) application. Our results show that i.t. infection exhibits therapeutic efficacy against CT26 and F1.A11 tumors similar to a systemic route of inoculation. Moreover, i.t. application allows extensive dose titration without compromising tumor colonization. Adverse colonization of healthy organs was generally reduced via i.t. infection and accompanied by less body weight loss of the murine host. Despite local application, adjuvanticity remained, and a CT26-specific CD8+ T cell response was effectively stimulated. Most interestingly, also secondary tumors could be targeted with this strategy, thereby extending the unique tumor targeting ability of Salmonella. The i.t. route of inoculation may reap the benefits of systemic infection and aid in safety assurance while directing potency of an oncolytic vector to where it is most needed, namely the primary tumor.
  • Yersinia pseudotuberculosis supports Th17 differentiation and limits de novo regulatory T cell induction by directly interfering with T cell receptor signaling.

    Pasztoi, Maria; Bonifacius, Agnes; Pezoldt, Joern; Kulkarni, Devesha; Niemz, Jana; Yang, Juhao; Teich, René; Hajek, Janina; Pisano, Fabio; Rohde, Manfred; Dersch, Petra; Huehn, Jochen; Helmholtz Centre for infection research, Inhoffenstr.7, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2017-04-04)
    Adaptive immunity critically contributes to control acute infection with enteropathogenic Yersinia pseudotuberculosis; however, the role of CD4(+) T cell subsets in establishing infection and allowing pathogen persistence remains elusive. Here, we assessed the modulatory capacity of Y. pseudotuberculosis on CD4(+) T cell differentiation. Using in vivo assays, we report that infection with Y. pseudotuberculosis resulted in enhanced priming of IL-17-producing T cells (Th17 cells), whereas induction of Foxp3(+) regulatory T cells (Tregs) was severely disrupted in gut-draining mesenteric lymph nodes (mLNs), in line with altered frequencies of tolerogenic and proinflammatory dendritic cell (DC) subsets within mLNs. Additionally, by using a DC-free in vitro system, we could demonstrate that Y. pseudotuberculosis can directly modulate T cell receptor (TCR) downstream signaling within naïve CD4(+) T cells and Tregs via injection of effector molecules through the type III secretion system, thereby affecting their functional properties. Importantly, modulation of naïve CD4(+) T cells by Y. pseudotuberculosis resulted in an enhanced Th17 differentiation and decreased induction of Foxp3(+) Tregs in vitro. These findings shed light to the adjustment of the Th17-Treg axis in response to acute Y. pseudotuberculosis infection and highlight the direct modulation of CD4(+) T cell subsets by altering their TCR downstream signaling.
  • Roles of Regulatory RNAs for Antibiotic Resistance in Bacteria and Their Potential Value as Novel Drug Targets.

    Dersch, Petra; Khan, Muna A; Mühlen, Sabrina; Görke, Boris; Helmholtz Centre for infection research, Inhoffenstr. 7, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2017)
    The emergence of antibiotic resistance mechanisms among bacterial pathogens increases the demand for novel treatment strategies. Lately, the contribution of non-coding RNAs to antibiotic resistance and their potential value as drug targets became evident. RNA attenuator elements in mRNA leader regions couple expression of resistance genes to the presence of the cognate antibiotic. Trans-encoded small RNAs (sRNAs) modulate antibiotic tolerance by base-pairing with mRNAs encoding functions important for resistance such as metabolic enzymes, drug efflux pumps, or transport proteins. Bacteria respond with extensive changes of their sRNA repertoire to antibiotics. Each antibiotic generates a unique sRNA profile possibly causing downstream effects that may help to overcome the antibiotic challenge. In consequence, regulatory RNAs including sRNAs and their protein interaction partners such as Hfq may prove useful as targets for antimicrobial chemotherapy. Indeed, several compounds have been developed that kill bacteria by mimicking ligands for riboswitches controlling essential genes, demonstrating that regulatory RNA elements are druggable targets. Drugs acting on sRNAs are considered for combined therapies to treat infections. In this review, we address how regulatory RNAs respond to and establish resistance to antibiotics in bacteria. Approaches to target RNAs involved in intrinsic antibiotic resistance or virulence for chemotherapy will be discussed.
  • Decrease of UPR- and ERAD-related proteins in Pichia pastoris during methanol-induced secretory insulin precursor production in controlled fed-batch cultures

    Vanz, Ana L; Nimtz, Manfred; Rinas, Ursula (2014-02-13)
    Abstract Background Pichia pastoris is a popular yeast preferably employed for secretory protein production. Secretion is not always efficient and endoplasmic retention of proteins with aberrant folding properties, or when produced at exaggerated rates, can occur. In these cases production usually leads to an unfolded protein response (UPR) and the induction of the endoplasmic reticulum associated degradation (ERAD). P. pastoris is nowadays also an established host for secretory insulin precursor (IP) production, though little is known about the impact of IP production on the host cell physiology, in particular under industrially relevant production conditions. Here, we evaluate the cellular response to aox1 promoter-controlled, secretory IP production in controlled fed-batch processes using a proteome profiling approach. Results Cells were first grown in a batch procedure using a defined medium with a high glycerol concentration. After glycerol depletion IP production was initiated by methanol addition which was kept constant through continuous methanol feeding. The most prominent changes of the intracellular proteome after the onset of methanol feeding were related to the enzymes of central carbon metabolism. In particular, the enzymes of the methanol dissimilatory pathway - virtually absent in the glycerol batch phase - dominated the proteome during the methanol fed-batch phase. Unexpectedly, a strong decrease of UPR and ERAD related proteins was also observed during methanol-induced IP production. Compared to non-producing control strains grown under identical conditions the UPR down-regulation was less pronounced indicating that IP production elicits a detectable but non prominent UPR response which is repressed by the general culture condition-dependent UPR down-regulation after the shift from glycerol to methanol. Conclusions The passage of IP through the secretory pathway using an optimized IP vector and growing the strain at fed-batch conditions with a high initial glycerol concentration does not impose a significant burden on the secretory machinery even under conditions leading to an extracellular accumulation of ~ 3 g L-1 IP. The glycerol batch pre-induction culture conditions are associated with a high constitutive - recombinant protein production independent - induction of the UPR and ERAD pathways probably preconditioning the cells for effective IP secretion in the methanol fed-batch phase.
  • Anti-virulence Strategies to Target Bacterial Infections.

    Mühlen, Sabrina; Dersch, Petra; Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2016)
    Resistance of important bacterial pathogens to common antimicrobial therapies and the emergence of multidrug-resistant bacteria are increasing at an alarming rate and constitute one of our greatest challenges in the combat of bacterial infection and accompanied diseases. The current shortage of effective drugs, lack of successful prevention measures and only a few new antibiotics in the clinical pipeline demand the development of novel treatment options and alternative antimicrobial therapies. Our increasing understanding of bacterial virulence strategies and the induced molecular pathways of the infectious disease provides novel opportunities to target and interfere with crucial pathogenicity factors or virulence-associated traits of the bacteria while bypassing the evolutionary pressure on the bacterium to develop resistance. In the past decade, numerous new bacterial targets for anti-virulence therapies have been identified, and structure-based tailoring of intervention strategies and screening assays for small-molecule inhibitors of such pathways were successfully established. In this chapter, we will take a closer look at the bacterial virulence-related factors and processes that present promising targets for anti-virulence therapies, recently discovered inhibitory substances and their promises and discuss the challenges, and problems that have to be faced.
  • RNA Regulators: Formidable Modulators of Yersinia Virulence.

    Nuss, Aaron M; Heroven, Ann Kathrin; Dersch, Petra; Helmholtz Centre for infection research, Inhoffenstr. 7, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2017-01)
    A large repertoire of RNA-based regulatory mechanisms, including a plethora of cis- and trans-acting noncoding RNAs (ncRNAs), sensory RNA elements, regulatory RNA-binding proteins, and RNA-degrading enzymes have been uncovered lately as key players in the regulation of metabolism, stress responses, and virulence of the genus Yersinia. Many of them are strictly controlled in response to fluctuating environmental conditions sensed during the course of the infection, and certain riboregulators have already been shown to be crucial for virulence. Some of them are highly conserved among the family Enterobacteriaceae, while others are genus-, species-, or strain-specific and could contribute to the difference in Yersinia pathogenicity. Importantly, the analysis of Yersinia riboregulators has not only uncovered crucial elements and regulatory mechanisms governing host-pathogen interactions, it also revealed exciting new venues for the design of novel anti-infectives.
  • The Type III Effector NleD from Enteropathogenic Escherichia coli Differentiates between Host Substrates p38 and JNK.

    Creuzburg, Kristina; Giogha, Cristina; Wong Fok Lung, Tania; Scott, Nichollas E; Mühlen, Sabrina; Hartland, Elizabeth L; Pearson, Jaclyn S; Helmholtz Centre for infection research, Inhoffenstr. 7, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2017-02)
    Enteropathogenic Escherichia coli (EPEC) is a gastrointestinal pathogen that utilizes a type III secretion system (T3SS) to inject an array of virulence effector proteins into host enterocytes to subvert numerous cellular processes for successful colonization and dissemination. The T3SS effector NleD is a 26-kDa zinc metalloprotease that is translocated into host enterocytes, where it directly cleaves and inactivates the mitogen-activated protein kinase signaling proteins JNK and p38. Here a library of 91 random transposon-based, in-frame, linker insertion mutants of NleD were tested for their ability to cleave JNK and p38 during transient transfection of cultured epithelial cells. Immunoblot analysis of p38 and JNK cleavage showed that 7 mutant derivatives of NleD no longer cleaved p38 but maintained the ability to cleave JNK. Site-directed mutation of specific regions surrounding the insertion sites within NleD revealed that a single amino acid, R203, was essential for cleavage of p38 but not JNK in a direct in vitro cleavage assay, in transiently transfected cells, or in EPEC-infected cells. Mass spectrometry analysis narrowed the cleavage region to within residues 187 and 213 of p38. Mutation of residue R203 within NleD to a glutamate residue abolished the cleavage of p38 and impaired the ability of NleD to inhibit AP-1-dependent gene transcription of a luciferase reporter. Furthermore, the R203 mutation abrogated the ability of NleD to dampen interleukin-6 production in EPEC-infected cells. Overall, this work provides greater insight into substrate recognition and specificity by the type III effector NleD.
  • Management of a cluster of Clostridium difficile infections among patients with osteoarticular infections.

    Färber, Jacqueline; Illiger, Sebastian; Berger, Fabian; Gärtner, Barbara; von Müller, Lutz; Lohmann, Christoph H; Bauer, Katja; Grabau, Christina; Zibolka, Stefanie; Schlüter, Dirk; Geginat, Gernot; Helmholtz Centre for infection research, Ihoffenstr. 7, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2017)
    Here we describe a cluster of hospital-acquired Clostridium difficile infections (CDI) among 26 patients with osteoarticular infections. The aim of the study was to define the source of C. difficile and to evaluate the impact of general infection control measures and antibiotic stewardship on the incidence of CDI.
  • Complete genome sequence and description of Salinispira pacifica gen. nov., sp. nov., a novel spirochaete isolated form a hypersaline microbial mat

    Ben Hania, Wajdi; Joseph, Manon; Schumann, Peter; Bunk, Boyke; Fiebig, Anne; Spröer, Cathrin; Klenk, Hans-Peter; Fardeau, Marie-Laure; Spring, Stefan (2015-02-09)
    Abstract During a study of the anaerobic microbial community of a lithifying hypersaline microbial mat of Lake 21 on the Kiritimati atoll (Kiribati Republic, Central Pacific) strain L21-RPul-D2T was isolated. The closest phylogenetic neighbor was Spirochaeta africana Z-7692T that shared a 16S rRNA gene sequence identity value of 90% with the novel strain and thus was only distantly related. A comprehensive polyphasic study including determination of the complete genome sequence was initiated to characterize the novel isolate. Cells of strain L21-RPul-D2T had a size of 0.2 – 0.25 × 8–9 μm, were helical, motile, stained Gram-negative and produced an orange carotenoid-like pigment. Optimal conditions for growth were 35°C, a salinity of 50 g/l NaCl and a pH around 7.0. Preferred substrates for growth were carbohydrates and a few carboxylic acids. The novel strain had an obligate fermentative metabolism and produced ethanol, acetate, lactate, hydrogen and carbon dioxide during growth on glucose. Strain L21-RPul-D2T was aerotolerant, but oxygen did not stimulate growth. Major cellular fatty acids were C14:0, iso-C15:0, C16:0 and C18:0. The major polar lipids were an unidentified aminolipid, phosphatidylglycerol, an unidentified phospholipid and two unidentified glycolipids. Whole-cell hydrolysates contained L-ornithine as diagnostic diamino acid of the cell wall peptidoglycan. The complete genome sequence was determined and annotated. The genome comprised one circular chromosome with a size of 3.78 Mbp that contained 3450 protein-coding genes and 50 RNA genes, including 2 operons of ribosomal RNA genes. The DNA G + C content was determined from the genome sequence as 51.9 mol%. There were no predicted genes encoding cytochromes or enzymes responsible for the biosynthesis of respiratory lipoquinones. Based on significant differences to the uncultured type species of the genus Spirochaeta, S. plicatilis, as well as to any other phylogenetically related cultured species it is suggested to place strain L21-RPul-D2T (=DSM 27196T = JCM 18663T) in a novel species and genus, for which the name Salinispira pacifica gen. nov., sp. nov. is proposed.
  • Yersinia outer protein YopE affects the actin cytoskeleton in Dictyostelium discoideum through targeting of multiple Rho family GTPases

    Vlahou, Georgia; Schmidt, Oxana; Wagner, Bettina; Uenlue, Handan; Dersch, Petra; Rivero, Francisco; Weissenmayer, Barbara A (2009-07-14)
    Abstract Background All human pathogenic Yersinia species share a virulence-associated type III secretion system that translocates Yersinia effector proteins into host cells to counteract infection-induced signaling responses and prevent phagocytosis. Dictyostelium discoideum has been recently used to study the effects of bacterial virulence factors produced by internalized pathogens. In this study we explored the potential of Dictyostelium as model organism for analyzing the effects of ectopically expressed Yersinia outer proteins (Yops). Results The Yersinia pseudotuberculosis virulence factors YopE, YopH, YopM and YopJ were expressed de novo within Dictyostelium and their effects on growth in axenic medium and on bacterial lawns were analyzed. No severe effect was observed for YopH, YopJ and YopM, but expression of YopE, which is a GTPase activating protein for Rho GTPases, was found to be highly detrimental. GFP-tagged YopE expressing cells had less conspicuous cortical actin accumulation and decreased amounts of F-actin. The actin polymerization response upon cAMP stimulation was impaired, although chemotaxis was unaffected. YopE also caused reduced uptake of yeast particles. These alterations are probably due to impaired Rac1 activation. We also found that YopE predominantly associates with intracellular membranes including the Golgi apparatus and inhibits the function of moderately overexpressed RacH. Conclusion The phenotype elicited by YopE in Dictyostelium can be explained, at least in part, by inactivation of one or more Rho family GTPases. It further demonstrates that the social amoeba Dictyostelium discoideum can be used as an efficient and easy-to-handle model organism in order to analyze the function of a translocated GAP protein of a human pathogen.
  • Transcriptomic and Phenotypic Analysis Reveals New Functions for the Tat Pathway in Yersinia pseudotuberculosis.

    Avican, Ummehan; Beckstette, Michael; Heroven, Ann Kathrin; Lavander, Moa; Dersch, Petra; Forsberg, Åke; Helmholtz Centre for infection research, Inhoffenstr. 7, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2016-10-15)
    The twin-arginine translocation (Tat) system mediates the secretion of folded proteins that are identified via an N-terminal signal peptide in bacteria, plants, and archaea. Tat systems are associated with virulence in many bacterial pathogens, and our previous studies revealed that Tat-deficient Yersinia pseudotuberculosis was severely attenuated for virulence. Aiming to identify Tat-dependent pathways and phenotypes of relevance for in vivo infection, we analyzed the global transcriptome of parental and ΔtatC mutant strains of Y. pseudotuberculosis during exponential and stationary growth at 26°C and 37°C. The most significant changes in the transcriptome of the ΔtatC mutant were seen at 26°C during stationary-phase growth, and these included the altered expression of genes related to virulence, stress responses, and metabolism. Subsequent phenotypic analysis based on these transcriptome changes revealed several novel Tat-dependent phenotypes, including decreased YadA expression, impaired growth under iron-limited and high-copper conditions, as well as acidic pH and SDS. Several functionally related Tat substrates were also verified to contribute to these phenotypes. Interestingly, the phenotypic defects observed in the Tat-deficient strain were generally more pronounced than those in mutants lacking the Tat substrate predicted to contribute to that specific function. Altogether, this provides new insight into the impact of Tat deficiency on in vivo fitness and survival/replication of Y. pseudotuberculosis during infection.
  • RNA-based mechanisms of virulence control in Enterobacteriaceae.

    Heroven, Ann Kathrin; Nuss, Aaron M; Dersch, Petra; Helmholtz Centre for infection research, Inhoffenstr. 7, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2016-07-21)
    Enteric pathogens of the family Enterobacteriaceae colonize various niches within animals and humans in which they compete with intestinal commensals and are attacked by the host immune system. To survive these hostile environments they possess complex, multilayer regulatory networks that coordinate the control of virulence factors, host-adapted metabolic functions and stress resistance. An important part of these intricate control networks are RNA-based control systems that enable the pathogen to fine-tune its responses. Recent next-generation sequencing approaches revealed a large repertoire of conserved and species-specific riboregulators, including numerous cis- and trans-acting non-coding RNAs, sensory RNA elements (RNA thermometers, riboswitches), regulatory RNA-binding proteins and RNA degrading enzymes which regulate colonization factors, toxins, host defense processes and virulence-relevant physiological and metabolic processes. All of which are important cues for pathogens to sense and respond to fluctuating conditions during the infection. This review covers infection-relevant riboregulators of E. coli, Salmonella, Shigella and Yersinia, highlights their versatile regulatory mechanisms, complex target regulons and functions, and discusses emerging topics and future challenges to fully understand and exploit RNA-based control to combat bacterial infections.
  • Temperature-responsive in vitro RNA structurome of Yersinia pseudotuberculosis.

    Righetti, Francesco; Nuss, Aaron M; Twittenhoff, Christian; Beele, Sascha; Urban, Kristina; Will, Sebastian; Bernhart, Stephan H; Stadler, Peter F; Dersch, Petra; Narberhaus, Franz; Helmholtz Centre for infection research, Inhoffenstr. 7, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2016-06-28)
    RNA structures are fundamentally important for RNA function. Dynamic, condition-dependent structural changes are able to modulate gene expression as shown for riboswitches and RNA thermometers. By parallel analysis of RNA structures, we mapped the RNA structurome of Yersinia pseudotuberculosis at three different temperatures. This human pathogen is exquisitely responsive to host body temperature (37 °C), which induces a major metabolic transition. Our analysis profiles the structure of more than 1,750 RNAs at 25 °C, 37 °C, and 42 °C. Average mRNAs tend to be unstructured around the ribosome binding site. We searched for 5'-UTRs that are folded at low temperature and identified novel thermoresponsive RNA structures from diverse gene categories. The regulatory potential of 16 candidates was validated. In summary, we present a dynamic bacterial RNA structurome and find that the expression of virulence-relevant functions in Y. pseudotuberculosis and reprogramming of its metabolism in response to temperature is associated with a restructuring of numerous mRNAs.

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