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Volume 4, Issue 4, pp. 108 - 139, April 2017

Issue cover
Cover: Colorized scanning electron micrograph image of the foliar bacterial pathogen Pseudomonas syringae pv. tomato DC3000 (Pst DC3000) on the leaf surface of Arabidopsis thaliana. In order to cause disease, Pst DC3000 must gain entry to the empty space within the leaf (apoplastic space) via stomata (gas exchange pores) or other openings (image by James M. Kremer, Michigan State University, USA, currently at AgBiome, Research Triangle Park, USA; and Carol Flegler, Michigan State University, USA); image modified by MIC. The cover is published under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license. Enlarge issue cover

News and Thoughts

Staphylococcus aureus type I signal peptidase: essential or not essential, that’s the question

Wouter L.W. Hazenbos, Elizabeth Skippington, Man-Wah Tan

page 108-111 | 10.15698/mic2017.04.566 | Full text | PDF | Abstract

Secretion of proteins into the extracellular environment is crucial for the normal physiology and virulence of pathogenic bacteria. Type I signal peptidase (SPase I) mediates the final step of bacterial secretion, by cleaving proteins at their signal peptide once they are translocated by the Sec or twin-arginine (Tat) translocon. SPase I has long been thought to be essential for viability in multiple bacterial pathogens. Challenging this view, we and others have recently created Staphylococcus aureus bacteria lacking the SPase I SpsB that are viable and able to grow in vitro when over-expressing a native gene cassette encoding for a putative ABC transporter. This transporter apparently compensates for SpsB’s essential function by mediating alternative cleavage of a subset of proteins at a site distinct from the SpsB-cleavage site, leading to SpsB-independent secretion. This alternative secretion system also drives the main mechanism of resistance to an arylomycin-derived SpsB inhibitor, by means of mutations in a putative transcriptional repressor (cro/cI) causing over-expression of the ABC transporter. These findings raise multiple interesting biological questions. Unraveling the mechanism of SpsB-independent secretion may provide an interesting twist to the paradigm of bacterial secretion.

Research Articles

Thiol trapping and metabolic redistribution of sulfur metabolites enable cells to overcome cysteine overload

Anup Arunrao Deshpande, Muskan Bhatia, Sunil Laxman, Anand Kumar Bachhawat

page 112-126 | 10.15698/mic2017.04.567 | Full text | PDF | Abstract

Cysteine is an essential requirement in living organisms. However, due to its reactive thiol side chain, elevated levels of intracellular cysteine can be toxic and therefore need to be rapidly eliminated from the cellular milieu. In mammals and many other organisms, excess cysteine is believed to be primarily eliminated by the cysteine dioxygenase dependent oxidative degradation of cysteine, followed by the removal of the oxidative products. However, other mechanisms of tackling excess cysteine are also likely to exist, but have not thus far been explored. In this study, we use Saccharomyces cerevisiae, which naturally lacks a cysteine dioxygenase, to investigate mechanisms for tackling cysteine overload. Overexpressing the high affinity cysteine transporter, YCT1, enabled yeast cells to rapidly accumulate high levels of intracellular cysteine. Using targeted metabolite analysis, we observe that cysteine is initially rapidly interconverted to non-reactive cystine in vivo. A time course revealed that cells systematically convert excess cysteine to inert thiol forms; initially to cystine, and subsequently to cystathionine, S-Adenosyl-L-homocysteine (SAH) and S-Adenosyl L-methionine (SAM), in addition to eventually accumulating glutathione (GSH) and polyamines. Microarray based gene expression studies revealed the upregulation of arginine/ornithine biosynthesis a few hours after the cysteine overload, and suggest that the non-toxic, non-reactive thiol based metabolic products are eventually utilized for amino acid and polyamine biogenesis, thereby enabling cell growth. Thus, cells can handle potentially toxic amounts of cysteine by a combination of thiol trapping, metabolic redistribution to non-reactive thiols and subsequent consumption for anabolism.

Research Reports

The frequency of yeast [PSI+] prion formation is increased during chronological ageing

Shaun H. Speldewinde, Chris M. Grant

page 127-132 | 10.15698/mic2017.04.568 | Full text | PDF | Abstract

Ageing involves a time-dependent decline in a variety of intracellular mechanisms and is associated with cellular senescence. This can be exacerbated by prion diseases which can occur in a sporadic manner, predominantly during the later stages of life. Prions are infectious, self-templating proteins responsible for several neurodegenerative diseases in mammals and several prion-forming proteins have been found in yeast. We show here that the frequency of formation of the yeast [PSI+] prion, which is the altered form of the Sup35 translation termination factor, is increased during chronological ageing. This increase is exacerbated in an atg1 mutant suggesting that autophagy normally acts to suppress age-related prion formation. We further show that cells which have switched to [PSI+] have improved viability during chronological ageing which requires active autophagy. [PSI+] stains show increased autophagic flux which correlates with increased viability and decreased levels of cellular protein aggregation. Taken together, our data indicate that the frequency of [PSI+] prion formation increases during yeast chronological ageing, and switching to the [PSI+] form can exert beneficial effects via the promotion of autophagic flux.


Microbial flora, probiotics, Bacillus subtilis and the search for a long and healthy human longevity

Facundo Rodriguez Ayala, Carlos Bauman, Sebastián Cogliati, Cecilia Leñini, Marco Bartolini and Roberto Grau

page 133-136 | 10.15698/mic2017.04.569 | Full text | PDF | Abstract

Probiotics are live microorganisms that have beneficial effects on host health, including extended lifespan, when they are administered or present in adequate quantities. However, the mechanisms by which probiotics stimulate host longevity remain unclear and very poorly understood. In a recent study (Nat. Commun. 8, 14332 (2017) doi: 10.1038/ncomms14332), we used the spore-forming probiotic bacterium Bacillus subtilis and the model organism Caenorhabditis elegans to study the mechanism by which a probiotic bacterium affects host longevity. We found that biofilm-proficient B. subtilis colonized the C. elegans gut and extended the worm lifespan significantly longer than did biofilm-deficient isogenic strains. In addition to biofilm proficiency, the quorum-sensing pentapeptide CSF and nitric oxide (NO) represent the entire B. subtilis repertoire responsible for the extended longevity of C. elegans. B. subtilis grown under biofilm-supporting conditions synthesized higher levels of NO and CSF than under planktonic growth conditions, emphasizing the key role of the biofilm in slowing host aging. Significantly, the prolongevity effect of B. subtilis was primarily due to a downregulation of the insulin-like signaling system that precisely is a key partaker in the healthy longevity of human centenarians. These findings open the possibility to test if the regular consumption of B. subtilis incorporated in foods and beverages could significantly extend human life expectancy and contribute to stop the development of age-related diseases.

Evading plant immunity: feedback control of the T3SS in Pseudomonas syringae

Christopher Waite, Jörg Schumacher, Milija Jovanovic, Mark Bennett, Martin Buck

page 137-139 | 10.15698/mic2017.04.570 | Full text | PDF | Abstract

Microbes are responsible for over 10% of the global yield losses in staple crops such as wheat, rice, and maize. Understanding the decision-making strategies that enable bacterial plant pathogens to evade the host immune system and cause disease is essential for managing their ever growing threat to food security. Many utilise the needle-like type III secretion system (T3SS) to suppress plant immunity, by injecting effector proteins that inhibit eukaryotic signalling pathways into the host cell cytoplasm. Plants can in turn evolve resistance to specific pathogens via recognition and blocking of the T3SS effectors, so leading to an ongoing co-evolutionary ‘arms race’ between pathogen and host pairs. The extracytoplasmic function sigma factor HrpL co-ordinates the expression of the T3SS regulon in the leaf-dwelling Pseudomonas syringae and similar pathogens. Recently, we showed that association of HrpL with a target promoter directly adjacent to the hrpL gene imposes negative autogenous control on its own expression level due to overlapping regulatory elements. Our results suggest that by down-regulating T3SS function, this fine-tuning mechanism enables P. syringae to minimise effector-mediated elicitation of plant immunity.