40 research outputs found

    Autoregulation of bacterial gene expression: lessons from the MazEF toxin–antitoxin system

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    Autoregulation is the direct modulation of gene expression by the product of the corresponding gene. Autoregulation of bacterial gene expression has been mostly studied at the transcriptional level, when a protein acts as the cognate transcriptional repressor. A recent study investigating dynamics of the bacterial toxin–antitoxin MazEF system has shown how autoregulation at both the transcriptional and post-transcriptional levels affects the heterogeneity of Escherichia coli populations. Toxin–antitoxin systems hold a crucial but still elusive part in bacterial response to stress. This perspective highlights how these modules can also serve as a great model system for investigating basic concepts in gene regulation. However, as the genomic background and environmental conditions substantially influence toxin activation, it is important to study (auto)regulation of toxin–antitoxin systems in well-defined setups as well as in conditions that resemble the environmental niche

    MazF activation promotes translational heterogeneity of the grcA mRNA in Escherichia coli populations

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    Bacteria adapt to adverse environmental conditions by altering gene expression patterns. Recently, a novel stress adaptation mechanism has been described that allows Escherichia coli to alter gene expression at the post-transcriptional level. The key player in this regulatory pathway is the endoribonuclease MazF, the toxin component of the toxin-antitoxin module mazEF that is triggered by various stressful conditions. In general, MazF degrades the majority of transcripts by cleaving at ACA sites, which results in the retardation of bacterial growth. Furthermore, MazF can process a small subset of mRNAs and render them leaderless by removing their ribosome binding site. MazF concomitantly modifies ribosomes, making them selective for the translation of leaderless mRNAs. In this study, we employed fluorescent reporter-systems to investigate mazEF expression during stressful conditions, and to infer consequences of the mRNA processing mediated by MazF on gene expression at the single-cell level. Our results suggest that mazEF transcription is maintained at low levels in single cells encountering adverse conditions, such as antibiotic stress or amino acid starvation. Moreover, using the grcA mRNA as a model for MazF-mediated mRNA processing, we found that MazF activation promotes heterogeneity in the grcA reporter expression, resulting in a subpopulation of cells with increased levels of GrcA reporter protein

    Droplet-based methodology for investigating bacterial population dynamics in response to phage exposure

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    An alarming rise in antimicrobial resistance worldwide has spurred efforts into the search for alternatives to antibiotic treatments. The use of bacteriophages, bacterial viruses harmless to humans, represents a promising approach with potential to treat bacterial infections (phage therapy). Recent advances in microscopy-based single-cell techniques have allowed researchers to develop new quantitative methodologies for assessing the interactions between bacteria and phages, especially the ability of phages to eradicate bacterial pathogen populations and to modulate growth of both commensal and pathogen populations. Here we combine droplet microfluidics with fluorescence time-lapse microscopy to characterize the growth and lysis dynamics of the bacterium Escherichia coli confined in droplets when challenged with phage. We investigated phages that promote lysis of infected E. coli cells, specifically, a phage species with DNA genome, T7 (Escherichia virus T7) and two phage species with RNA genomes, MS2 (Emesvirus zinderi) and Qβ (Qubevirus durum). Our microfluidic trapping device generated and immobilized picoliter-sized droplets, enabling stable imaging of bacterial growth and lysis in a temperature-controlled setup. Temporal information on bacterial population size was recorded for up to 25 h, allowing us to determine growth rates of bacterial populations and helping us uncover the extent and speed of phage infection. In the long-term, the development of novel microfluidic single-cell and population-level approaches will expedite research towards fundamental understanding of the genetic and molecular basis of rapid phage-induced lysis and eco-evolutionary aspects of bacteria-phage dynamics, and ultimately help identify key factors influencing the success of phage therapy

    Autoregulation of mazEF expression underlies growth heterogeneity in bacterial populations

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    The MazF toxin sequence-specifically cleaves single-stranded RNA upon various stressful conditions, and it is activated as a part of the mazEF toxin–antitoxin module in Escherichia coli. Although autoregulation of mazEF expression through the MazE antitoxin-dependent transcriptional repression has been biochemically characterized, less is known about post-transcriptional autoregulation, as well as how both of these autoregulatory features affect growth of single cells during conditions that promote MazF production. Here, we demonstrate post-transcriptional autoregulation of mazF expression dynamics by MazF cleaving its own transcript. Single-cell analyses of bacterial populations during ectopic MazF production indicated that two-level autoregulation of mazEF expression influences cell-to-cell growth rate heterogeneity. The increase in growth rate heterogeneity is governed by the MazE antitoxin, and tuned by the MazF-dependent mazF mRNA cleavage. Also, both autoregulatory features grant rapid exit from the stress caused by mazF overexpression. Time-lapse microscopy revealed that MazF-mediated cleavage of mazF mRNA leads to increased temporal variability in length of individual cells during ectopic mazF overexpression, as explained by a stochastic model indicating that mazEF mRNA cleavage underlies temporal fluctuations in MazF levels during stress

    A Genome-Wide Analysis of Promoter-Mediated Phenotypic Noise in Escherichia coli

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    Gene expression is subject to random perturbations that lead to fluctuations in the rate of protein production. As a consequence, for any given protein, genetically identical organisms living in a constant environment will contain different amounts of that particular protein, resulting in different phenotypes. This phenomenon is known as “phenotypic noise.” In bacterial systems, previous studies have shown that, for specific genes, both transcriptional and translational processes affect phenotypic noise. Here, we focus on how the promoter regions of genes affect noise and ask whether levels of promoter-mediated noise are correlated with genes' functional attributes, using data for over 60% of all promoters in Escherichia coli. We find that essential genes and genes with a high degree of evolutionary conservation have promoters that confer low levels of noise. We also find that the level of noise cannot be attributed to the evolutionary time that different genes have spent in the genome of E. coli. In contrast to previous results in eukaryotes, we find no association between promoter-mediated noise and gene expression plasticity. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that, in bacteria, natural selection can act to reduce gene expression noise and that some of this noise is controlled through the sequence of the promoter region alon

    Proteome sequence features carry signatures of the environmental niche of prokaryotes

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    <p>Abstract</p> <p>Background</p> <p>Prokaryotic environmental adaptations occur at different levels within cells to ensure the preservation of genome integrity, proper protein folding and function as well as membrane fluidity. Although specific composition and structure of cellular components suitable for the variety of extreme conditions has already been postulated, a systematic study describing such adaptations has not yet been performed. We therefore explored whether the environmental niche of a prokaryote could be deduced from the sequence of its proteome. Finally, we aimed at finding the precise differences between proteome sequences of prokaryotes from different environments.</p> <p>Results</p> <p>We analyzed the proteomes of 192 prokaryotes from different habitats. We collected detailed information about the optimal growth conditions of each microorganism. Furthermore, we selected 42 physico-chemical properties of amino acids and computed their values for each proteome. Further, on the same set of features we applied two fundamentally different machine learning methods, Support Vector Machines and Random Forests, to successfully classify between bacteria and archaea, halophiles and non-halophiles, as well as mesophiles, thermophiles and mesothermophiles. Finally, we performed feature selection by using Random Forests.</p> <p>Conclusions</p> <p>To our knowledge, this is the first time that three different classification cases (domain of life, halophilicity and thermophilicity) of proteome adaptation are successfully performed with the same set of 42 features. The characteristic features of a specific adaptation constitute a signature that may help understanding the mechanisms of adaptation to extreme environments.</p

    Time-lapse microscopy data

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    Nela Nikolic, Tobias Bergmiller, Alexandra Vandervelde, Tanino G. Albanese, Lendert Gelens, and Isabella Moll (2018) “Autoregulation of mazEF expression underlies growth heterogeneity in bacterial populations” Nucleic Acids Research, doi: 10.15479/AT:ISTA:74; microscopy experiments by Tobias Bergmiller; image and data analysis by Nela Nikolic

    Analysis of fluorescent reporters indicates heterogeneity in glucose uptake and utilization in clonal bacterial populations

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    Background In this study, we aimed at investigating heterogeneity in the expression of metabolic genes in clonal populations of Escherichia coli growing on glucose as the sole carbon source. Different metabolic phenotypes can arise in these clonal populations through variation in the expression of glucose transporters and metabolic enzymes. First, we focused on the glucose transporters PtsG and MglBAC to analyze the diversity of glucose uptake strategies. Second, we analyzed phenotypic variation in the expression of genes involved in gluconeogenesis and acetate scavenging (as acetate is formed and excreted during bacterial growth on glucose), which can reveal, for instance, phenotypic subpopulations that cross-feed through the exchange of acetate. In these experiments, E. coli MG1655 strains containing different transcriptional GFP reporters were grown in chemostats and reporter expression was measured with flow cytometry. Results Our results suggest heterogeneous expression of metabolic genes in bacterial clonal populations grown in glucose environments. The two glucose transport systems exhibited different level of heterogeneity. The majority of the bacterial cells expressed the reporters for both glucose transporters MglBAC and PtsG and a small fraction of cells only expressed the reporter for Mgl. At a low dilution rate, signals from transcriptional reporters for acetyl-CoA synthetase Acs and phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase Pck indicated that almost all cells expressed the genes that are part of acetate utilization and the gluconeogenesis pathway, respectively. Possible co-existence of two phenotypic subpopulations differing in acs expression occurred at the threshold of the switch to overflow metabolism. The overflow metabolism results in the production of acetate and has been previously reported to occur at intermediate dilution rates in chemostats with high concentration of glucose in the feed. Conclusions Analysis of the heterogeneous expression of reporters for genes involved in glucose and acetate metabolism raises new question whether different metabolic phenotypes are expressed in clonal populations growing in continuous cultures fed on glucose as the initially sole carbon source.ISSN:1471-218