Impact of urban air pollution on the allergenicity of Aspergillus fumigatus conidia: Outdoor exposure study supported by laboratory experiments
, 365 - 371. Publisher's VersionAbstract
ABSTRACTUnderstanding the chemical interactions of common allergens in urban environments may help to decipher the general increase in susceptibility to allergies observed in recent decades. In this study, asexual conidia of the allergenic mold Aspergillus fumigatus were exposed to air pollution under natural (ambient) and controlled (laboratory) conditions. The allergenic activity was measured using two immunoassays and supported by a protein mass spectrometry analysis. The allergenicity of the conidia was found to increase by 2–5 fold compared to the control for short exposure times of up to 12h (accumulated exposure of about 50ppb NO2 and 750ppb O3), possibly due to nitration. At higher exposure times, the allergenicity increase lessened due to protein deamidation. These results indicate that during the first 12h of exposure, the allergenic potency of the fungal allergen A. fumigatus in polluted urban environments is expected to increase. Additional work is needed in order to determine if this behavior occurs for other allergens.
Model fungi: Engines of scientific insight
, 33 - 35. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Fungal models have been used, for nearly a century, to answer fundamental questions relevant to the fungal kingdom and beyond and have also provided major contributions for the success of the general fungal research community. Cadres of scientists that study a model organism develop a strong ethos of sharing, derived from communal efforts which, in turn, also contribute to the education of future researchers. There is an increasing trend in preferred funding of research which is problem-driven in contrast to that which is just curiosity-driven. Securing resources for research that does not require practical deliverables is one way of circumventing the slow, unplanned, erosion of support for curiosity-driven fungal research. The role of model fungi as proven, long-term, powerful, engines of scientific insights should not be neglected or abandoned. Rather, they should be continuously celebrated.
Intraspecific variation in defense against a generalist lepidopteran herbivore in populations of Eruca sativa (Mill.)
. Ecology and EvolutionEcology and EvolutionEcol Evol 2016
363 - 374. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Abstract Populations of Eruca sativa (Brassicaceae) from desert and Mediterranean (Med) habitats in Israel differ in their defense against larvae of the generalist Spodoptera littoralis but not the specialist Pieris brassicae. Larvae of the generalist insect feeding on plants of the Med population gained significantly less weight than those feeding on the desert plants, and exogenous application of methyl jasmonate (MJ) on leaves of the Med plants significantly reduced the level of damage created by the generalist larvae. However, MJ treatment significantly induced resistance in plants of the desert population, whereas the generalist larvae caused similar damage to MJ-induced and noninduced plants. Analyses of glucosinolates and expression of genes in their synthesis pathway indicated that defense in plants of the Med population against the generalist insect is governed by the accumulation of glucosinolates. In plants of the desert population, trypsin proteinase inhibitor activity was highly induced in response to herbivory by S. littoralis. Analysis of genes in the defense-regulating signaling pathways suggested that in response to herbivory, differences between populations in the induced levels of jasmonic acid, ethylene, and salicylic acid mediate the differential defenses against the insect. In addition, expression analysis of myrosinase-associated protein NSP2 suggested that in plants of the desert population, glucosinolates breakdown products were primarily directed to nitrile production. We suggest that proteinase inhibitors provide an effective defense in the desert plants, in which glucosinolate production is directed to the less toxic nitriles. The ecological role of nitrile production in preventing infestation by specialists is discussed.
Natural selection underlies apparent stress-induced mutagenesis in a bacteriophage infection model
16047. Publisher's VersionAbstract
The emergence of mutations following growth-limiting conditions underlies bacterial drug resistance, viral escape from the immune system and fundamental evolution-driven events. Intriguingly, whether mutations are induced by growth limitation conditions or are randomly generated during growth and then selected by growth limitation conditions remains an open question1. Here, we show that bacteriophage T7 undergoes apparent stress-induced mutagenesis when selected for improved recognition of its host's receptor. In our unique experimental set-up, the growth limitation condition is physically and temporally separated from mutagenesis: growth limitation occurs while phage DNA is outside the host, and spontaneous mutations occur during phage DNA replication inside the host. We show that the selected beneficial mutations are not pre-existing and that the initial slow phage growth is enabled by the phage particle's low-efficiency DNA injection into the host. Thus, the phage particle allows phage populations to initially extend their host range without mutagenesis by virtue of residual recognition of the host receptor. Mutations appear during non-selective intracellular replication, and the frequency of mutant phages increases by natural selection acting on free phages, which are not capable of mutagenesis.
High-resolution phylogenetic microbial community profiling
, 2020 - 2032. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Over the past decade, high-throughput short-read 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing has eclipsed clone-dependent long-read Sanger sequencing for microbial community profiling. The transition to new technologies has provided more quantitative information at the expense of taxonomic resolution with implications for inferring metabolic traits in various ecosystems. We applied single-molecule real-time sequencing for microbial community profiling, generating full-length 16S rRNA gene sequences at high throughput, which we propose to name PhyloTags. We benchmarked and validated this approach using a defined microbial community. When further applied to samples from the water column of meromictic Sakinaw Lake, we show that while community structures at the phylum level are comparable between PhyloTags and Illumina V4 16S rRNA gene sequences (iTags), variance increases with community complexity at greater water depths. PhyloTags moreover allowed less ambiguous classification. Last, a platform-independent comparison of PhyloTags and in silico generated partial 16S rRNA gene sequences demonstrated significant differences in community structure and phylogenetic resolution across multiple taxonomic levels, including a severe underestimation in the abundance of specific microbial genera involved in nitrogen and methane cycling across the Lake’s water column. Thus, PhyloTags provide a reliable adjunct or alternative to cost-effective iTags, enabling more accurate phylogenetic resolution of microbial communities and predictions on their metabolic potential.
Toxin-Antitoxin systems eliminate defective cells and preserve symmetry in Bacillus subtilis biofilms
. Environmental MicrobiologyEnvironmental MicrobiologyEnviron Microbiol 2016
, 5032 - 5047. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Summary Toxin-antitoxin modules are gene pairs encoding a toxin and its antitoxin, and are found on the chromosomes of many bacteria, including pathogens. Here, we characterize the specific contribution of the TxpA and YqcG toxins in elimination of defective cells from developing Bacillus subtilis biofilms. On nutrient limitation, defective cells accumulated in the biofilm breaking its symmetry. Deletion of the toxins resulted in accumulation of morphologically abnormal cells, and interfered with the proper development of the multicellular community. Dual physiological responses are of significance for TxpA and YqcG activation: nitrogen deprivation enhances the transcription of both TxpA and YqcG toxins, and simultaneously sensitizes the biofilm cells to their activity. Furthermore, we demonstrate that while both toxins when overexpressed affect the morphology of the developing biofilm, the toxin TxpA can act to lyse and dissolve pre-established B. subtilis biofilms.
An Extended Cyclic Di-GMP Network in the Predatory Bacterium Bdellovibrio bacteriovorus
. Journal of Bacteriology 2016
, 127. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Over the course of the last 3 decades the role of the second messenger cyclic di-GMP (c-di-GMP) as a master regulator of bacterial physiology was determined. Although the control over c-di-GMP levels via synthesis and breakdown and the allosteric regulation of c-di-GMP over receptor proteins (effectors) and riboswitches have been extensively studied, relatively few effectors have been identified and most are of unknown functions. The obligate predatory bacterium Bdellovibrio bacteriovorus has a peculiar dimorphic life cycle, in which a phenotypic transition from a free-living attack phase (AP) to a sessile, intracellular predatory growth phase (GP) is tightly regulated by specific c-di-GMP diguanylate cyclases. B. bacteriovorus also bears one of the largest complement of defined effectors, almost none of known functions, suggesting that additional proteins may be involved in c-di-GMP signaling. In order to uncover novel c-di-GMP effectors, a c-di-GMP capture-compound mass-spectroscopy experiment was performed on wild-type AP and host-independent (HI) mutant cultures, the latter serving as a proxy for wild-type GP cells. Eighty-four proteins were identified as candidate c-di-GMP binders. Of these proteins, 65 did not include any recognized c-di-GMP binding site, and 3 carried known unorthodox binding sites. Putative functions could be assigned to 59 proteins. These proteins are included in metabolic pathways, regulatory circuits, cell transport, and motility, thereby creating a potentially large c-di-GMP network. False candidate effectors may include members of protein complexes, as well as proteins binding nucleotides or other cofactors that were, respectively, carried over or unspecifically interacted with the capture compound during the pulldown. Of the 84 candidates, 62 were found to specifically bind the c-di-GMP capture compound in AP or in HI cultures, suggesting c-di-GMP control over the whole-cell cycle of the bacterium. High affinity and specificity to c-di-GMP binding were confirmed using microscale thermophoresis with a hypothetical protein bearing a PilZ domain, an acyl coenzyme A dehydrogenase, and a two-component system response regulator, indicating that additional c-di-GMP binding candidates may be bona fide novel effectors.IMPORTANCE In this study, 84 putative c-di-GMP binding proteins were identified in B. bacteriovorus, an obligate predatory bacterium whose lifestyle and reproduction are dependent on c-di-GMP signaling, using a c-di-GMP capture compound precipitation approach. This predicted complement covers metabolic, energy, transport, motility and regulatory pathways, and most of it is phase specific, i.e., 62 candidates bind the capture compound at defined modes of B. bacteriovorus lifestyle. Three of the putative binders further demonstrated specificity and high affinity to c-di-GMP via microscale thermophoresis, lending support for the presence of additional bona fide c-di-GMP effectors among the pulled-down protein repertoire.This article is dedicated to Felix Frolow.
Draft Genome Sequence of the Bactrocera oleae Symbiont “Candidatus Erwinia dacicola”
. Genome Announcements 2016
e00896-16. Publisher's VersionAbstract
“Candidatus Erwinia dacicola” is a Gammaproteobacterium that forms a symbiotic association with the agricultural pest Bactrocera oleae. Here, we present a 2.1-Mb draft hybrid genome assembly for “Ca. Erwinia dacicola” generated from single-cell and metagenomic data.
Bacterial predator–prey dynamics in microscale patchy landscapes
. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological SciencesProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 2016
, 20152154. Publisher's Version
Engineering a predatory bacterium as a proficient killer agent for intracellular bio-products recovery: The case of the polyhydroxyalkanoates
24381. Publisher's VersionAbstract
This work examines the potential of the predatory bacterium Bdellovibrio bacteriovorus HD100, an obligate predator of other Gram-negative bacteria, as an external cell-lytic agent for recovering valuable intracellular bio-products produced by prey cultures. The bio-product targets to be recovered were polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) produced naturally by Pseudomonas putida and Cupriavidus necator, or by recombinant Escherichia coli strains. B. bacteriovorus with a mutated PHA depolymerase gene to prevent the unwanted breakdown of the bio-product allowed the recovery of up to 80% of that accumulated by the prey bacteria, even at high biomass concentrations. This innovative downstream process highlights how B. bacteriovorus can be used as a novel, biological lytic agent for the inexpensive, industrial scale recovery of intracellular products from different Gram-negative prey cultures.
Limits of Versatility of Versatile Peroxidase
. Applied and Environmental Microbiology 2016
, 4070. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Although Mn2+ is the most abundant substrate of versatile peroxidases (VPs), repression of Pleurotus ostreatus vp1 expression occurred in Mn2+-sufficient medium. This seems to be a biological contradiction. The aim of this study was to explore the mechanism of direct oxidation by VP1 under Mn2+-deficient conditions, as it was found to be the predominant enzyme during fungal growth in the presence of synthetic and natural substrates. The native VP1 was purified and characterized using three substrates, Mn2+, Orange II (OII), and Reactive Black 5 (RB5), each oxidized by a different active site in the enzyme. While the pH optimum for Mn2+ oxidation is 5, the optimum pH for direct oxidation of both dyes was found to be 3. Indeed, effective in vivo decolorization occurred in media without addition of Mn2+ only under acidic conditions. We have determined that Mn2+ inhibits in vitro the direct oxidation of both OII and RB5 while RB5 stabilizes both Mn2+ and OII oxidation. Furthermore, OII was found to inhibit the oxidation of both Mn2+ and RB5. In addition, we could demonstrate that VP1 can cleave OII in two different modes. Under Mn2+-mediated oxidation conditions, VP1 was able to cleave the azo bond only in asymmetric mode, while under the optimum conditions for direct oxidation (absence of Mn2+ at pH 3) both symmetric and asymmetric cleavages occurred. We concluded that the oxidation mechanism of aromatic compounds by VP1 is controlled by Mn2+ and pH levels both in the growth medium and in the reaction mixture. IMPORTANCE VP1 is a member of the ligninolytic heme peroxidase gene family of the white rot fungus Pleurotus ostreatus and plays a fundamental role in biodegradation. This enzyme exhibits a versatile nature, as it can oxidize different substrates under altered environmental conditions. VPs are highly interesting enzymes due to the fact that they contain unique active sites that are responsible for direct oxidation of various aromatic compounds, including lignin, in addition to the well-known Mn2+ binding active site. This study demonstrates the limits of versatility of P. ostreatus VP1, which harbors multiple active sites, exhibiting a broad range of enzymatic activities, but they perform differently under distinct conditions. The versatility of P. ostreatus and its enzymes is an advantageous factor in the fungal ability to adapt to changing environments. This trait expands the possibilities for the potential utilization of P. ostreatus and other white rot fungi.
Toward combined delignification and saccharification of wheat straw by a laccase-containing designer cellulosome
. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 2016
, 10854. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Lignocellulosic biomass is a potential major resource for renewable energy production. Plant cell-wall deconstruction, however, remains an inefficient process, mainly due to the recalcitrant nature of the lignin and cellulosic components, that requires chemical pretreatment methods prior to degradation. This study aims to overcome this barrier by combining two paradigms into a single system, by using a synthetic biology approach. The designed system integrates an engineered laccase (an oxidizing enzyme that acts on lignin) into a multienzyme cellulosome complex, thereby producing enhanced decomposition of wheat straw. These findings demonstrate the potential of introducing complementary enzymes that fail to occur together in nature into designer cellulosomes for improved lignocellulose conversion.Efficient breakdown of lignocellulose polymers into simple molecules is a key technological bottleneck limiting the production of plant-derived biofuels and chemicals. In nature, plant biomass degradation is achieved by the action of a wide range of microbial enzymes. In aerobic microorganisms, these enzymes are secreted as discrete elements in contrast to certain anaerobic bacteria, where they are assembled into large multienzyme complexes termed cellulosomes. These complexes allow for very efficient hydrolysis of cellulose and hemicellulose due to the spatial proximity of synergistically acting enzymes and to the limited diffusion of the enzymes and their products. Recently, designer cellulosomes have been developed to incorporate foreign enzymatic activities in cellulosomes so as to enhance lignocellulose hydrolysis further. In this study, we complemented a cellulosome active on cellulose and hemicellulose by addition of an enzyme active on lignin. To do so, we designed a dockerin-fused variant of a recently characterized laccase from the aerobic bacterium Thermobifida fusca. The resultant chimera exhibited activity levels similar to the wild-type enzyme and properly integrated into the designer cellulosome. The resulting complex yielded a twofold increase in the amount of reducing sugars released from wheat straw compared with the same system lacking the laccase. The unorthodox use of aerobic enzymes in designer cellulosome machinery effects simultaneous degradation of the three major components of the plant cell wall (cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin), paving the way for more efficient lignocellulose conversion into soluble sugars en route to alternative fuels production.
Universality of human microbial dynamics
, 259 - 262. Publisher's VersionAbstract
A new computational method to characterize the dynamics of human-associated microbial communities is applied to data from two large-scale metagenomic studies, and suggests that gut and mouth microbiomes of healthy individuals are subjected to universal (that is, host-independent) dynamics, whereas skin microbiomes are shaped by the host environment; the method paves the way to designing general microbiome-based therapies.
Correlation detection strategies in microbial data sets vary widely in sensitivity and precision
, 1669 - 1681. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Disruption of healthy microbial communities has been linked to numerous diseases, yet microbial interactions are little understood. This is due in part to the large number of bacteria, and the much larger number of interactions (easily in the millions), making experimental investigation very difficult at best and necessitating the nascent field of computational exploration through microbial correlation networks. We benchmark the performance of eight correlation techniques on simulated and real data in response to challenges specific to microbiome studies: fractional sampling of ribosomal RNA sequences, uneven sampling depths, rare microbes and a high proportion of zero counts. Also tested is the ability to distinguish signals from noise, and detect a range of ecological and time-series relationships. Finally, we provide specific recommendations for correlation technique usage. Although some methods perform better than others, there is still considerable need for improvement in current techniques.
Surveys, simulation and single-cell assays relate function and phylogeny in a lake ecosystem
16130. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Much remains unknown about what drives microbial community structure and diversity. Highly structured environments might offer clues. For example, it may be possible to identify metabolically similar species as groups of organisms that correlate spatially with the geochemical processes they carry out. Here, we use a 16S ribosomal RNA gene survey in a lake that has chemical gradients across its depth to identify groups of spatially correlated but phylogenetically diverse organisms. Some groups had distributions across depth that aligned with the distributions of metabolic processes predicted by a biogeochemical model, suggesting that these groups performed biogeochemical functions. A single-cell genetic assay showed, however, that the groups associated with one biogeochemical process, sulfate reduction, contained only a few organisms that have the genes required to reduce sulfate. These results raise the possibility that some of these spatially correlated groups are consortia of phylogenetically diverse and metabolically different microbes that cooperate to carry out geochemical functions.
Preferential interactions promote blind cooperation and informed defection
. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 2016
, 13995. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Humans often behave in seemingly irrational ways. A common instance of such perplexing behavior is that we typically care about how and why people chose their actions, rather than caring only about the actions themselves. For example, when people agree to do us a favor, we prefer them to do so directly, rather than to first gather all the relevant information. Using game theory, we show that this preference may in fact be rational: The decision-making process often reveals hidden preferences of the decision maker, which can become relevant in a future interaction. This work elucidates the conditions that make caring about motivations beneficial and makes predictions regarding the real-world situations in which it is expected to occur.It is common sense that costs and benefits should be carefully weighed before deciding on a course of action. However, we often disapprove of people who do so, even when their actual decision benefits us. For example, we prefer people who directly agree to do us a favor over those who agree only after securing enough information to ensure that the favor will not be too costly. Why should we care about how people make their decisions, rather than just focus on the decisions themselves? Current models show that punishment of information gathering can be beneficial because it forces blind decisions, which under some circumstances enhances cooperation. Here we show that aversion to information gathering can be beneficial even in the absence of punishment, due to a different mechanism: preferential interactions with reliable partners. In a diverse population where different people have different—and unknown—preferences, those who seek additional information before agreeing to cooperate reveal that their preferences are close to the point where they would choose not to cooperate. Blind cooperators are therefore more likely to keep cooperating even if conditions change, and aversion to information gathering helps to interact preferentially with them. Conversely, blind defectors are more likely to keep defecting in the future, leading to a preference for informed defectors over blind ones. Both mechanisms—punishment to force blind decisions and preferential interactions—give qualitatively different predictions, which may enable experimental tests to disentangle them in real-world situations.
The vapB–vapC Operon of Acidovorax citrulli Functions as a Bona-fide Toxin–Antitoxin Module
. Frontiers in Microbiology 2016
1499. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Toxin–antitoxin systems are commonly found on plasmids and chromosomes of bacteria and archaea. These systems appear as biscystronic genes encoding a stable toxin and a labile antitoxin, which protects the cells from the toxin’s activity. Under specific, mostly stressful conditions, the unstable antitoxin is degraded, the toxin becomes active and growth is arrested. Using genome analysis we identified a putative toxin–antitoxin encoding system in the genome of the plant pathogen Acidovorax citrulli. The system is homologous to vapB–vapC systems from other bacterial species. PCR and phylogenetic analyses suggested that this locus is unique to group II strains of A. citrulli. Using biochemical and molecular analyses we show that A. citrulli VapBC module is a bona-fide toxin–antitoxin module in which VapC is a toxin with ribonuclease activity that can be counteracted by its cognate VapB antitoxin. We further show that transcription of the A. citrulli vapBC locus is induced by amino acid starvation, chloramphenicol and during plant infection. Due to the possible role of TA systems in both virulence and dormancy of human pathogenic bacteria, studies of these systems are gaining a lot of attention. Conversely, studies characterizing toxin–antitoxin systems in plant pathogenic bacteria are lacking. The study presented here validates the activity of VapB and VapC proteins in A. citrulli and suggests their involvement in stress response and host–pathogen interactions.
GAME9 regulates the biosynthesis of steroidal alkaloids and upstream isoprenoids in the plant mevalonate pathway
10654. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Steroidal glycoalkaloids (SGAs) are cholesterol-derived molecules produced by solanaceous species. They contribute to pathogen defence but are toxic to humans and considered as anti-nutritional compounds. Here we show that GLYCOALKALOID METABOLISM 9 (GAME9), an APETALA2/Ethylene Response Factor, related to regulators of alkaloid production in tobacco and Catharanthus roseus, controls SGA biosynthesis. GAME9 knockdown and overexpression in tomato and potato alters expression of SGAs and upstream mevalonate pathway genes including the cholesterol biosynthesis gene STEROL SIDE CHAIN REDUCTASE 2 (SSR2). Levels of SGAs, C24-alkylsterols and the upstream mevalonate and cholesterol pathways intermediates are modified in these plants. Δ(7)-STEROL-C5(6)-DESATURASE (C5-SD) in the hitherto unresolved cholesterol pathway is a direct target of GAME9. Transactivation and promoter-binding assays show that GAME9 exerts its activity either directly or cooperatively with the SlMYC2 transcription factor as in the case of the C5-SD gene promoter. Our findings provide insight into the regulation of SGA biosynthesis and means for manipulating these metabolites in crops.