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Two-component signaling systems (TCSs) are one of the mechanisms that bacteria employ to sense and adapt to changes in the environment. A prototypical TCS functions as a phosphorelay from a membrane-bound sensor histidine kinase (HK) to a cytoplasmic response regulator (RR) that controls target gene expression. Despite significant homology in the signaling domains of HKs and RRs, TCSs are thought to typically function as linear systems with little to no cross-talk between non-cognate HK-RR pairs. Here we have identified several cell envelope acting compounds that stimulate a previously uncharacterized Bacillus anthracis TCS. Furthermore, this TCS cross-signals with the heme sensing TCS HssRS; therefore, we have named it HssRS interfacing TCS (HitRS). HssRS reciprocates cross-talk to HitRS, suggesting a link between heme toxicity and cell envelope stress. The signaling between HssRS and HitRS occurs in the parental B. anthracis strain; therefore, we classify HssRS-HitRS interactions as cross-regulation. Cross-talk between HssRS and HitRS occurs at both HK-RR and post-RR signaling junctions. Finally, HitRS also regulates a previously unstudied ABC transporter implicating this transporter in the response to cell envelope stress. This chemical biology approach to probing TCS signaling provides a new model for understanding how bacterial signaling networks are integrated to enable adaptation to complex environments such as those encountered during colonization of the vertebrate host.
UNLABELLED - Pathogenic bacteria sense the host environment and regulate expression of virulence-related genes. Environmental signals like temperature, bicarbonate/CO2 and glucose induce toxin production in Bacillus anthracis, but the mechanisms by which these signals contribute to virulence and overall physiological adaptation remains elusive. An integrated, systems level investigation using transcriptomics and iTRAQ-based proteomics was done to assess the effect of temperature, bicarbonate/CO2 and glucose on B. anthracis. Significant changes observed in amino acid, carbohydrate, energy and nucleotide metabolism indicates events of metabolic readjustments by environmental factors. Directed induction of genes involved in polyamine biosynthesis and iron metabolism revealed the redirection of cellular metabolite pool towards iron uptake. Protein levels of glycolytic enzymes, ptsH and Ldh along with transcripts involved in immune evasion (mprF, bNOS, Phospholipases and asnA), cell surface remodeling (rfbABCD, antABCD, and cls) and utilization of lactate (lutABC) and inositol showed constant repression under environmental perturbations. Discrepancies observed in mRNA/protein level of genes involved in glycolysis, protein synthesis, stress response and nucleotide metabolism hinted at the existence of additional regulatory layers and illustrated the utility of an integrated approach. The above findings might assist in the identification of novel adaptive strategies of B. anthracis during host associated survival and pathogenesis.
BIOLOGICAL SIGNIFICANCE - In this study, the changes observed at both transcript and protein level were quantified and integrated to understand the effect of host environmental factors (host temperature, bicarbonate and glucose) in shaping the physiology and adaptive strategies of a fully virulent strain of B. anthracis for efficient survival and virulence in its host. Perturbations affecting toxin production were found to concordantly affect vital metabolic pathways and several known as well as novel virulence factors. These changes act as a valuable asset for generating testable hypotheses that can be further verified by detailed molecular and mutant studies to identify novel adaptive strategies of B. anthracis during infection. Adaptation of an integrated transcriptomics and proteomics approach also led to the identification of discrepancies between mRNA/protein levels among genes across major functional categories. Few of these discrepancies have been previously reported in literature for model organisms. However their existence in B. anthracis and that too as a result of growth perturbations have not been reported till date. These findings demonstrate a substantial role of regulatory processes post mRNA synthesis via post transcriptional, translational or protein degradation mechanisms. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Proteomics of non-model organisms.
Copyright © 2014 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Quinolones, which target gyrase and topoisomerase IV, are the most widely prescribed antibacterials worldwide. Unfortunately, their use is threatened by the increasing prevalence of target-mediated drug resistance. Greater than 90% of mutations that confer quinolone resistance act by disrupting enzyme-drug interactions coordinated by a critical water-metal ion bridge. Quinazolinediones are quinolone-like drugs but lack the skeletal features necessary to support the bridge interaction. These compounds are of clinical interest, however, because they retain activity against the most common quinolone resistance mutations. We utilized a chemical biology approach to determine how quinazolinediones overcome quinolone resistance in Bacillus anthracis topoisomerase IV. Quinazolinediones that retain activity against quinolone-resistant topoisomerase IV do so primarily by establishing novel interactions through the C7 substituent, rather than the drug skeleton. Because some quinolones are highly active against human topoisomerase IIα, we also determined how clinically relevant quinolones discriminate between the bacterial and human enzymes. Clinically relevant quinolones display poor activity against topoisomerase IIα because the human enzyme cannot support drug interactions mediated by the water-metal ion bridge. However, the inclusion of substituents that allow quinazolinediones to overcome topoisomerase IV-mediated quinolone resistance can cause cross-reactivity against topoisomerase IIα. Therefore, a major challenge in designing drugs that overcome quinolone resistance lies in the ability to identify substituents that mediate strong interactions with the bacterial, but not the human, enzymes. On the basis of our understanding of quinolone-enzyme interactions, we have identified three compounds that display high activity against quinolone-resistant B. anthracis topoisomerase IV but low activity against human topoisomerase IIα.
Although quinolones are the most commonly prescribed antibacterials, their use is threatened by an increasing prevalence of resistance. The most common causes of quinolone resistance are mutations of a specific serine or acidic residue in the A subunit of gyrase or topoisomerase IV. These amino acids are proposed to serve as a critical enzyme-quinolone interaction site by anchoring a water-metal ion bridge that coordinates drug binding. To probe the role of the proposed water-metal ion bridge, we characterized wild-type, GrlA(E85K), GrlA(S81F/E85K), GrlA(E85A), GrlA(S81F/E85A) and GrlA(S81F) Bacillus anthracis topoisomerase IV, their sensitivity to quinolones and related drugs and their use of metal ions. Mutations increased the Mg(2+) concentration required to produce maximal quinolone-induced DNA cleavage and restricted the divalent metal ions that could support quinolone activity. Individual mutation of Ser81 or Glu85 partially disrupted bridge function, whereas simultaneous mutation of both residues abrogated protein-quinolone interactions. Results provide functional evidence for the existence of the water-metal ion bridge, confirm that the serine and glutamic acid residues anchor the bridge, demonstrate that the bridge is the primary conduit for interactions between clinically relevant quinolones and topoisomerase IV and provide a likely mechanism for the most common causes of quinolone resistance.
Bacillus anthracis, the causative agent of anthrax, is considered a serious threat as a bioweapon. The drugs most commonly used to treat anthrax are quinolones, which act by increasing the levels of DNA cleavage mediated by topoisomerase IV and gyrase. Quinolone resistance most often is associated with specific serine mutations in these enzymes. Therefore, to determine the basis for quinolone action and resistance, we characterized wild-type B. anthracis topoisomerase IV, the GrlA(S81F) and GrlA(S81Y) quinolone-resistant mutants, and the effects of quinolones and a related quinazolinedione on these enzymes. Ser81 is believed to anchor a water-Mg(2+) bridge that coordinates quinolones to the enzyme through the C3/C4 keto acid. Consistent with this hypothesized bridge, ciprofloxacin required increased Mg(2+) concentrations to support DNA cleavage by GrlA(S81F) topoisomerase IV. The three enzymes displayed similar catalytic activities in the absence of drugs. However, the resistance mutations decreased the affinity of topoisomerase IV for ciprofloxacin and other quinolones, diminished quinolone-induced inhibition of DNA religation, and reduced the stability of the enzyme-quinolone-DNA ternary complex. Wild-type DNA cleavage levels were generated by mutant enzymes at high quinolone concentrations, suggesting that increased drug potency could overcome resistance. 8-Methyl-quinazoline-2,4-dione, which lacks the quinolone keto acid (and presumably does not require the water-Mg(2+) bridge to mediate protein interactions), was more potent than quinolones against wild-type topoisomerase IV and was equally efficacious. Moreover, it maintained high potency and efficacy against the mutant enzymes, effectively inhibited DNA religation, and formed stable ternary complexes. Our findings provide an underlying biochemical basis for the ability of quinazolinediones to overcome clinically relevant quinolone resistance mutations in bacterial type II topoisomerases.
Inhalational anthrax is initiated by pulmonary exposure to Bacillus anthracis spores. Spore entry into lung epithelial cells is observed both in vitro and in vivo and evidence suggests it is important for bacterial dissemination and virulence. However the specific host receptor and spore factor that mediate the entry process were unknown. Here, we report that integrin α2β1 is a major receptor for spore entry. This is supported by results from blocking antibodies, siRNA knock-down, colocalization, and comparison of spore entry into cells that do or do not express α2. BclA, a major spore surface protein, is found to be essential for entry and α2β1-mediated entry is dependent on BclA. However, BclA does not appear to bind directly to α2. Furthermore, spore entry into α2-expressing cells is dramatically reduced in the absence of serum, suggesting that additional factors are involved. Finally, complement component C1q, also an α2β1 ligand, appears to act as a bridging molecule or a cofactor for BclA/α2β1-mediated spore entry and BclA binds to C1q in a dose-dependent and saturable manner. These findings suggest a novel mechanism for pathogen entry into host cells as well as a new function for C1q-integrin interactions. The implications of these findings are discussed.
© 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
The current model for virulence gene regulation in Bacillus anthracis involves several trans-acting factors, the most important of which appears to be the anthrax toxin activator encoded by the atxA gene. AtxA is a positive regulator of the toxin genes pagA, cya and lef, and of a number of other plasmid- and chromosome-encoded genes. The AtxA protein (56 kDa) possesses a predicted winged-helix DNA-binding domain and phosphotransferase system-regulated domains, but the mechanism for positive regulation of AtxA target genes is not known. Sequence similarities in the promoter regions of AtxA-regulated genes are not apparent, and recombinant AtxA binds DNA with a high affinity in a non-specific manner. We hypothesized that the toxin genes possess common structural features or cis-acting elements that are required for positive regulation. We employed deletion analyses to determine the minimal sequences required for atxA-mediated toxin gene expression. In silico modelling and in vitro experiments using double-stranded DNA corresponding to the toxin gene promoter regions indicated significant curvature associated with these regions. These findings suggest that the structural topology of the DNA plays an important role in the control of anthrax toxin gene expression.
The anthrax toxin receptors, ANTXR1 and ANTXR2, act as molecular clamps to prevent the protective antigen (PA) toxin subunit from forming pores until exposure to low pH. PA forms pores at pH approximately 6.0 or below when it is bound to ANTXR1, but only at pH approximately 5.0 or below when it is bound to ANTXR2. Here, structure-based mutagenesis was used to identify non-conserved ANTXR2 residues responsible for this striking 1.0 pH unit difference in pH threshold. Residues conserved between ANTXR2 and ANTXR1 that influence the ANTXR2-associated pH threshold of pore formation were also identified. All of these residues contact either PA domain 2 or the neighboring edge of PA domain 4. These results provide genetic evidence for receptor release of these regions of PA as being necessary for the protein rearrangements that accompany anthrax toxin pore formation.
Expression of the structural genes for the anthrax toxin proteins is coordinately controlled by host-related signals, such as elevated CO(2), and the trans-acting positive regulator AtxA. In addition to these requirements, toxin gene expression is under growth phase regulation. The transition state regulator AbrB represses atxA expression to influence toxin synthesis. During the late exponential phase of growth, when AbrB levels begin to decrease, toxin synthesis increases. Here we report that toxin gene expression also requires the presence of sigH, a gene encoding the RNA polymerase sigma factor associated with development in Bacillus subtilis. In the well-studied B. subtilis system, sigma(H) is required for sporulation and other post-exponential-phase processes and is part of a feedback control pathway for abrB expression. Our data indicate that a Bacillus anthracis sigH-null mutant is asporogenous and toxin deficient. Yet the sigma factor is required for toxin gene expression in a manner that is independent of the pathway leading to post-exponential-phase gene expression. Sigma(H) positively controls atxA in an AbrB-independent manner. These findings, combined with previous observations, suggest that the steady-state level of atxA expression is critical for optimal toxin gene transcription. We propose a model whereby, under toxin-inducing growth conditions, control of toxin gene expression is fine-tuned by the independent effects of sigma(H) and AbrB on the expression of atxA.
Anthrax toxin receptors 1 and 2 (ANTXR1 and ANTXR2) have a related integrin-like inserted (I) domain which interacts with a metal cation that is coordinated by residue D683 of the protective antigen (PA) subunit of anthrax toxin. The receptor-bound metal ion and PA residue D683 are critical for ANTXR1-PA binding. Since PA can bind to ANTXR2 with reduced affinity in the absence of metal ions, we reasoned that D683 mutant forms of PA might specifically interact with ANTXR2. We show here that this is the case. The differential ability of ANTXR1 and ANTXR2 to bind D683 mutant PA proteins was mapped to nonconserved receptor residues at the binding interface with PA domain 2. Moreover, a D683K mutant form of PA that bound specifically to human and rat ANTXR2 mediated killing of rats by anthrax lethal toxin, providing strong evidence for the physiological importance of ANTXR2 in anthrax disease pathogenesis.