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Other Publications (35)

Articles by Heidi Goodrich-Blair in JoVE

 JoVE Immunology and Infection

Rearing and Injection of Manduca sexta Larvae to Assess Bacterial Virulence

1Department of Bacteriology, University of Wisconsin-Madison


JoVE 4295

The method described here utilizes direct injection of entomopathogenic bacteria into the hemocoel of Manduca sexta insect larvae. M. sexta is a commercially available and well-studied insect. Thus, this method represents a simple approach to analyzing host-bacterial interactions from the perspective of one or both partners.

 JoVE Biology

Visualizing Bacteria in Nematodes using Fluorescent Microscopy

1Department of Bacteriology, University of Wisconsin-Madison


JoVE 4298

To study the mutualism between Xenorhabdus bacteria and Steinernema nematodes, methods were developed to monitor bacterial presence and location within nematodes. The experimental approach, which can be applied to other systems, entails engineering bacteria to express the green fluorescent protein and visualizing, using fluorescence microscopy bacteria within the transparent nematode.

Other articles by Heidi Goodrich-Blair on PubMed

Response of Ants to a Deterrent Factor(s) Produced by the Symbiotic Bacteria of Entomopathogenic Nematodes

The production of an ant-deterrent factor(s) (ADF) by Xenorhabdus nematophila and Photorhabdus luminescens, the symbiotic bacteria of the nematodes Steinernema carpocapsae and Heterorhabditis bacteriophora, respectively, was examined. In addition to an in vivo assay in which bacteria were tested for their ability to produce ADF within insect cadavers (M.E. Baur, H. K. Kaya, and D. R. Strong, Biol. Control 12:231-236, 1998), an in vitro microtiter dish assay was developed to monitor ADF activity produced by bacteria grown in cultures. Using these methods, we show that ADF activity is present in the supernatants of bacterial cultures, is filterable, heat stable, and acid sensitive, and passes through a 10-kDa-pore-size membrane. Thus, ADF appears to be comprised of a small, extracellular, and possibly nonproteinaceous compound(s). The amount of ADF repellency detected depends on the ant species being tested, the sucrose concentration (in vitro assays), and the strain, form, and age of the ADF-producing bacteria. These findings demonstrate that the symbiotic bacteria of some species of entomopathogenic nematodes produce a compound(s) that deters scavengers such as ants and thus could protect nematodes from being eaten during reproduction within insect cadavers.

Identification of Xenorhabdus Nematophila Genes Required for Mutualistic Colonization of Steinernema Carpocapsae Nematodes

One stage in the symbiotic interaction between the bacterium Xenorhabdus nematophila and its nematode host, Steinernema carpocapsae, involves the species-specific colonization of the nematode intestinal vesicle by the bacterium. To characterize the bacterial molecular determinants that are essential for vesicle colonization, we adapted and applied a signature-tagged mutagenesis (STM) screen to this system. We identified 15 out of 3000 transposon mutants of X. nematophila with at least a 15-fold reduction in average vesicle colonization. These 15 mutants harbour disruptions in nine separate loci. Three of these loci have predicted open reading frames (ORFs) with similarity to genes (rpoS, rpoE, lrp) encoding regulatory proteins; two have predicted ORFs with similarity to genes (aroA, serC) encoding amino acid biosynthetic enzymes; one, designated nilB (nematode intestine localization), has an ORF with similarity to a gene encoding a putative outer membrane protein (OmpU) in Neisseria; and three, nilA, nilC and nilD, have no apparent homologues in the public database. nilA, nilB and nilC are linked on a single 4 kb locus. nilB and nilC are > 104-fold reduced in their ability to colonize the nematode vesicle and are predicted to encode membrane-localized proteins. The nilD locus contains an extensive repeat region and several small putative ORFs. Other than reduced colonization, the nilB, nilC and nilD mutants did not display alterations in any other phenotype tested, suggesting a specific role for these genes in allowing X. nematophila to associate with the nematode host.

Xenorhabdus Nematophila Requires an Intact IscRSUA-hscBA-fdx Operon to Colonize Steinernema Carpocapsae Nematodes

An insertion between iscA and hscB of the Xenorhabdus nematophila iscRSUA-hscBA-fdx locus, predicted to encode Fe-S assembly machinery, prevented colonization of Steinernema carpocapsae nematodes. The insertion disrupted cotranscription of iscA and hscB, but did not reduce hscBA expression, suggesting that X. nematophila requires coordinated expression of the isc-hsc-fdx locus for colonization.

Early Colonization Events in the Mutualistic Association Between Steinernema Carpocapsae Nematodes and Xenorhabdus Nematophila Bacteria

The bacterium Xenorhabdus nematophila is a mutualist of the entomopathogenic nematode Steinernema carpocapsae. During its life cycle, the bacterium exists both separately from the nematode and as an intestinal resident of a nonfeeding nematode form, the infective juvenile (IJ). The progression of X. nematophila from an ex vivo existence to a specific and persistent colonization of IJs is a model to understand the mechanisms mediating the initiation and maintenance of benign host-microbe interactions. To help characterize this process, we constructed an X. nematophila strain that constitutively expresses green fluorescent protein, which allowed its presence to be monitored within IJs. Using this strain, we showed that few bacterial cells initiate colonization of an individual IJ and that these grow inside the lumen of the IJ intestine in a reproducible polyphasic pattern during colonization. In accordance with these two observations, we demonstrated that the final population of bacteria in a nematode is of predominantly monoclonal origin, suggesting that only one or two bacterial clones initiate or persist during colonization of an individual nematode. These data suggest that X. nematophila initiates IJ colonization by competing for limited colonization sites or resources within the nematode intestine. This report represents the first description of the biological interactions occurring between X. nematophila and S. carpocapsae during the early stages of the colonization process, provides insights into the physiology of X. nematophila in its host niche, and will facilitate interpretation of future data regarding the molecular events mediating this process.

Characterization of a Lipoprotein, NilC, Required by Xenorhabdus Nematophila for Mutualism with Its Nematode Host

Xenorhabdus nematophila is a gamma-proteobacterial mutualist of an insect-pathogenic nematode, Steinernema carpocapsae. X. nematophila requires nilC, a gene predicted to encode an outer membrane lipoprotein of unknown function, for colonization of its nematode host. Characterization of NilC, described here, demonstrated it is a 28 kDa lipoprotein directed to the periplasm by an N-terminal signal sequence. Lipidation and processing of NilC occurs by a mechanism that is conserved in proteobacteria. This work also showed NilC is membrane associated and oriented towards the periplasm of X. nematophila and is produced as an outer membrane-associated protein when expressed in Escherichia coli. Expression analyses revealed that nilC transcription is directly or indirectly repressed by Lrp, and this regulatory link may explain the nematode mutualism defect of a previously identified lrp::Tn5 mutant. An lrp::Tn5 mutant produces an additional nilC transcript, not observed in wild-type cells growing in vitro, and produces approximately 75-fold more nilC than wild-type cells in late stationary phase. These fundamental characterizations of nilC expression and nilC localization and processing events have provided firm bases for understanding the role of this colonization factor in the X. nematophila/S. carpocapsae microbe-host interaction.

Identification and Functional Characterization of a Xenorhabdus Nematophila Oligopeptide Permease

The bacterium Xenorhabdus nematophila is a mutualist of Steinernema carpocapsae nematodes and a pathogen of insects. Presently, it is not known what nutrients the bacterium uses to thrive in these host environments. In other symbiotic bacteria, oligopeptide permeases have been shown to be important in host interactions, and we therefore sought to determine if oligopeptide uptake is essential for growth or symbiotic functions of X. nematophila in laboratory or host environments. We identified an X. nematophila oligopeptide permease (opp) operon of two sequential oppA genes, predicted to encode oligopeptide-binding proteins, and putative permease-encoding genes oppB, oppC, oppD, and oppF. Peptide-feeding studies indicated that this opp operon encodes a functional oligopeptide permease. We constructed strains with mutations in oppA(1), oppA(2), or oppB and examined the ability of each mutant strain to grow in a peptide-rich laboratory medium and to interact with the two hosts. We found that the opp mutant strains had altered growth phenotypes in the laboratory medium and in hemolymph isolated from larval insects. However, the opp mutant strains were capable of initiating and maintaining both mutualistic and pathogenic host interactions. These data demonstrate that the opp genes allow X. nematophila to utilize peptides as a nutrient source but that this function is not essential for the existence of X. nematophila in either of its host niches. To our knowledge, this study represents the first experimental analysis of the role of oligopeptide transport in mediating a mutualistic invertebrate-bacterium interaction.

The Steinernema Carpocapsae Intestinal Vesicle Contains a Subcellular Structure with Which Xenorhabdus Nematophila Associates During Colonization Initiation

Steinernema carpocapsae infective juvenile (IJ) nematodes are intestinally colonized by mutualistic Xenorhabdus nematophila bacteria. During IJ development, a small number of ingested X. nematophila cells initiate colonization in an anterior region of the intestine termed the vesicle and subsequently multiply within this host niche. We hypothesize that efficient colonization of a high percentage of S. carpocapsae individuals (typically>85%) is facilitated by bacterial adherence to a site(s) in the nematode intestine. We provide evidence that the adherence site is a structure in the lumen of the IJ vesicle that we have termed the intravesicular structure (IVS). The IVS is an untethered cluster of anucleate spherical bodies that co-localizes with colonizing X. nematophila cells, but does not require X. nematophila for its formation. Colocalization with the IVS is readily apparent in IJs colonized by X. nematophila mutants that initiate intestinal colonization but fail to proliferate normally, suggesting that bacterial-IVS interaction occurs early in the colonization process. Treatment with insect haemolymph induces anal release of X. nematophila from colonized IJs and induces release of the IVS from uncolonized S. carpocapsae IJs. Released IVS were probed with several carbohydrate-specific lectins. One lectin, wheat-germ agglutinin, reacts strongly with a mucus-like substance that is present around individual spheres in the aggregate IVS. Potential roles for the IVS in mediating X. nematophila colonization of the nematode intestine are discussed.

Pyrimidine Nucleoside Salvage Confers an Advantage to Xenorhabdus Nematophila in Its Host Interactions

Xenorhabdus nematophila is a mutualist of entomopathogenic nematodes and a pathogen of insects. To begin to examine the role of pyrimidine salvage in nutrient exchange between X. nematophila and its hosts, we identified and mutated an X. nematophila tdk homologue. X. nematophila tdk mutant strains had reduced virulence toward Manduca sexta insects and a competitive defect for nematode colonization in plate-based assays. Provision of a wild-type tdk allele in trans corrected the defects of the mutant strain. As in Escherichia coli, X. nematophila tdk encodes a deoxythymidine kinase, which converts salvaged deoxythymidine and deoxyuridine nucleosides to their respective nucleotide forms. Thus, nucleoside salvage may confer a competitive advantage to X. nematophila in the nematode intestine and be important for normal entomopathogenicity.

Analysis of Xenorhabdus Nematophila Metabolic Mutants Yields Insight into Stages of Steinernema Carpocapsae Nematode Intestinal Colonization

Xenorhabdus nematophila colonizes the intestinal tract of infective-juvenile (IJ) stage Steinernema carpocapsae nematodes. During colonization, X. nematophila multiplies within the lumen of a discrete region of the IJ intestine termed the vesicle. To begin to understand bacterial nutritional requirements during multiplication in the IJ vesicle, we analysed the colonization behaviour of several X. nematophila metabolic mutants, including amino acid and vitamin auxotrophs. X. nematophila mutants defective for para-aminobenzoate, pyridoxine or l-threonine biosynthesis exhibit substantially decreased colonization of IJs (0.1-50% of wild-type colonization). Analysis of gfp-labelled variants revealed that those mutant cells that can colonize the IJ vesicle differ noticeably from wild-type X. nematophila. One aberrant colonization phenotype exhibited by the metabolic mutants tested, but not wild-type X. nematophila, is a spherical shape indicative of apparently non-viable X. nematophila cells within the vesicle. Because these spherical cells appear to have initiated colonization but failed to proliferate, we term this type of colonization 'abortive'. In a portion of IJs grown on para-aminobenzoate auxotrophs, X. nematophila does not exhibit abortive colonization but rather reduced growth and filamentous cell morphology. Several mutants with defects in other amino acid, vitamin and nutrient metabolism pathways colonize IJs to wild-type levels suggesting that the IJ vesicle is replete with respect to a number of nutrients.

An Encoded N-terminal Extension Results in Low Levels of Heterologous Protein Production in Escherichia Coli

The tdk gene (encoding deoxythymidine kinase) of the gamma-proteobacterium Xenorhabdus nematophila has two potential translation start sites. The promoter-distal start site was predicted to be functional based on amino acid sequence alignment with closely related Tdk proteins. However, to experimentally determine if either of the two possible start codons allows production of a functional Tdk, we expressed the "long-form" (using the promoter-proximal start codon) and "short-form" (using the promoter-distal start codon) X. nematophila tdk genes from the T7 promoter of the pET-28a(+) vector. We assessed Tdk production and activity using a functional assay in an Escherichia coli tdk mutant, which, since it lacks functional Tdk, is able to grow in 5-fluorodeoxyuridine (FUdR)-containing medium.

Expression and Activity of a Xenorhabdus Nematophila Haemolysin Required for Full Virulence Towards Manduca Sexta Insects

As an insect pathogen, the gamma-proteobacterium Xenorhabdus nematophila likely possesses an arsenal of virulence factors, one of which is described in this work. We present evidence that the X . nematophilahaemolysin XhlA is required for full virulence towards Manduca sexta larvae. Lrp (leucine-responsive regulatory protein), FlhDC (regulator of flagella synthesis), and iron (II) limitation positively influenced xhlA transcript levels, suggesting XhlA expression is linked with nutrient acquisition and motility regulons. To help understand the role of XhlA in virulence, we examined its cellular targets and found that XhlA was a cell-surface associated haemolysin that lysed the two most prevalent types of insect immune cells (granulocytes and plasmatocytes) as well as rabbit and horse erythrocytes. Taken together, the need for xhlA for full virulence and XhlA activity towards insect immune cells suggest this haemolysin functions in X. nematophila immune evasion during infection. Analysis of a gene located immediately upstream of the xhlA locus, hcp (haemolysin co-regulated protein) revealed that its transcript levels were elevated during iron (III) limitation and its expression was Lrp-dependent. Further characterization of xhlA, hcp, and lrp will clarify their regulatory and functional relationships and their individual roles during the infectious process.

NilR is Necessary for Co-ordinate Repression of Xenorhabdus Nematophila Mutualism Genes

The bacterial mutualist Xenorhabdus nematophila colonizes a specific region of its nematode host Steinernema carpocapsae. We previously reported the identification of a chromosomal locus encoding three X. nematophila genes of unknown function, nilA, B and C, that are each necessary for colonization. Subsequent work indicated the global regulator Lrp is a repressor of nilC: nilC transcription is elevated in an lrp mutant and Lrp interacts directly with the nilC promoter. In this manuscript, we report the identification of an additional gene, nilR, required for repression of nilC transcription. We show that nilR and lrp mutants also have elevated expression of nilA and nilB, demonstrating that nilA, B and C are co-ordinately regulated. nil gene expression is derepressed most strongly when both nilR and lrp are lacking, suggesting NilR and Lrp synergistically repress nil transcription. NilR contains a helix-turn-helix-type DNA binding domain and likely acts directly at promoters. A comparison of the wild type and nilR proteomes indicates that NilR, unlike Lrp, regulates a small number of genes. Finally, X. nematophila carrying an ectopic copy of nilR colonizes at approximately 60-fold lower levels than the control strain, suggesting that derepression of nil gene expression is necessary for nematode colonization.

CpxRA Regulates Mutualism and Pathogenesis in Xenorhabdus Nematophila

The CpxRA signal transduction system, which in Escherichia coli regulates surface structure assembly and envelope maintenance, is involved in the pathogenic and mutualistic interactions of the entomopathogenic bacterium Xenorhabdus nematophila. When DeltacpxR1 cells were injected into Manduca sexta insects, the time required to kill 50% of the insects was twofold longer than the time observed for wild-type cells and the DeltacpxR1 cells ultimately killed 16% fewer insects than wild-type cells killed. During mutualistic colonization of Steinernema carpocapsae nematodes, the DeltacpxR1 mutant achieved colonization levels that were only 38% of the wild-type levels. DeltacpxR1 cells exhibited an extended lag phase when they were grown in liquid LB or hemolymph, formed irregular colonies on solid medium, and had a filamentous cell morphology. A mutant with a cpxRp-lacZ fusion had peaks of expression in the log and stationary phases that were conversely influenced by CpxR; the DeltacpxR1 mutant produced 130 and 17% of the wild-type beta-galactosidase activity in the log and stationary phases, respectively. CpxR positively influences motility and secreted lipase activity, as well as transcription of genes necessary for mutualistic colonization of nematodes. CpxR negatively influences the production of secreted hemolysin, protease, and antibiotic activities, as well as the expression of mrxA, encoding the pilin subunit. Thus, X. nematophila CpxRA controls expression of envelope-localized and secreted products, and its activity is necessary for both mutualistic and pathogenic functions.

Optical Mapping As a Routine Tool for Bacterial Genome Sequence Finishing

In sequencing the genomes of two Xenorhabdus species, we encountered a large number of sequence repeats and assembly anomalies that stalled finishing efforts. This included a stretch of about 12 Kb that is over 99.9% identical between the plasmid and chromosome of X. nematophila.

Friend and Foe: the Two Faces of Xenorhabdus Nematophila

Comparisons of mutualistic and pathogenic relationships are necessary to decipher the common language of microorganism-host interactions, as well as the subtle differences in dialect that distinguish types of symbiosis. One avenue towards making such comparisons is to study a single organism that speaks both dialects, such as the gamma-proteobacterium Xenorhabdus nematophila. X. nematophila inhabits and influences the lives of two host animals, helping one to reproduce optimally while killing the other.

They've Got a Ticket to Ride: Xenorhabdus Nematophila-Steinernema Carpocapsae Symbiosis

The association between the bacterium Xenorhabdus nematophila and the nematode Steinernema carpocapsae is emerging as a model system to understand mutually beneficial symbioses. X. nematophila, but not other Xenorhabdus species, colonize a discrete region of a specific developmental stage of S. carpocapsae nematodes. Recent progress has led to the identification of bacterial genes necessary for colonization. Furthermore, new details have been elucidated regarding the morphology and physiology of the colonization site and the bacteria within it. A deeper understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying the association of X. nematophila will undoubtedly yield insights into fundamental processes underlying the ubiquitous association of microbes with animals.

Mutualism and Pathogenesis in Xenorhabdus and Photorhabdus: Two Roads to the Same Destination

Photorhabdus and Xenorhabdus bacteria colonize the intestines of the infective soil-dwelling stage of entomophagous nematodes, Heterorhabditis and Steinernema, respectively. These nematodes infect susceptible insect larvae and release the bacteria into the insect blood. The bacteria kill the insect larvae and convert the cadaver into a food source suitable for nematode growth and development. After several rounds of reproduction the nematodes are recolonized by the bacteria before emerging from the insect cadaver into the soil to search for a new host. Photorhabdus and Xenorhabdus bacteria therefore engage in both pathogenic and mutualistic interactions with different invertebrate hosts as obligate components of their life cycle. In this review we aim to describe current knowledge of the molecular mechanisms utilized by Photorhabdus and Xenorhabdus to control their host-dependent interactions. Recent work has established that there is a trade-off between pathogenicity and mutualism in both these species of bacteria suggesting that the transition between these interactions must be under regulatory control. Despite the superficial similarity between the life cycles of these bacteria, it is now apparent that the molecular components of the regulatory networks controlling pathogenicity and mutualism in Photorhabdus and Xenorhabdus are very different.

Influence of Nematode Age and Culture Conditions on Morphological and Physiological Parameters in the Bacterial Vesicle of Steinernema Carpocapsae (Nematoda: Steinernematidae)

Steinernema spp. third-stage infective juveniles (IJs) play a key role in the symbiotic partnership between these entomopathogenic nematodes and Xenorhabdus bacteria. Recent studies suggest that Steinernema carpocapsae IJs contribute to the nutrition and growth of their symbionts in the colonization site (vesicle) [Martens, E.C. and Goodrich-Blair, H., 2005. The S. carpocapsae intestinal vesicle contains a sub-cellular structure with which Xenorhabdus nematophila associates during colonization initiation. Cellular Microbiol. 7, 1723-1735.]. However, the morphological and physiological interactions between Xenorhabdus symbionts and Steinernema IJs are not understood in depth. This study was undertaken to assess the influence of culture conditions and IJ age on the structure, nutrition, and symbiont load (colonization level) of S. carpocapsae vesicles. Our observations indicate the vesicles of axenic IJs are shorter and wider than those of colonized IJs. Moreover, as colonized IJs age the vesicle becomes shorter and narrower and bacterial load declines. The colonization proficiency of several bacterial metabolic mutants was compared between two cultivation conditions: in vitro on lipid agar and in vivo in Galleria mellonella insects. Colonization defects were generally less severe in IJs cultivated in vivo versus those cultivated in vitro. However, IJs from both cultivation conditions exhibited similar declining bacterial load over time. These results suggest that although the vesicle forms in the absence of bacteria, the presence of symbionts within the vesicle may influence its fine structure. Moreover, these studies provide further evidence in support of the concept that the conditions under which steinernematid nematodes are cultivated and stored affect the nutritive content of the vesicle and the bacterial load, and therefore have an impact on the quality of the nematodes for their application as biological control agents.

The Global Regulator Lrp Contributes to Mutualism, Pathogenesis and Phenotypic Variation in the Bacterium Xenorhabdus Nematophila

Xenorhabdus nematophila is a Gram-negative bacterium that leads both pathogenic and mutualistic lifestyles. In this study, we examine the role of Lrp, the leucine-responsive regulatory protein, in regulating both of these lifestyles. lrp mutants have attenuated virulence towards Manduca sexta insects and are defective in suppression of both cellular and humoral insect immunity. In addition, an lrp mutant is deficient in initiating colonization of and growth within mutualistic host nematodes. Furthermore, nematodes reared on lrp mutant lawns exhibit decreased overall numbers of nematode progeny. To our knowledge, this is the first demonstration of virulence attenuation associated with an lrp mutation in any bacterium, as well as the first report of a factor involved in both X. nematophila symbioses. Protein profiles of wild-type and mutant cells indicate that Lrp is a global regulator of expression in X. nematophila, affecting approximately 65% of 290 proteins. We show that Lrp binds to the promoter regions of genes known to be involved in basic metabolism, mutualism and pathogenesis, demonstrating that the regulation of at least some host interaction factors is likely direct. Finally, we demonstrate that Lrp influences aspects of X. nematophila phenotypic variation, a spontaneous process that occurs during prolonged growth in stationary phase.

Clonal Variation in Xenorhabdus Nematophila Virulence and Suppression of Manduca Sexta Immunity

Virulence of the insect pathogen Xenorhabdus nematophila is attributed in part to its ability to suppress immunity. For example, X. nematophila suppresses transcripts encoding several antimicrobial proteins, even in the presence of Salmonella enterica, an inducer of these transcripts. We show here that virulence and immune suppression phenotypes can be lost in a subpopulation of X. nematophila. Cells that have undergone 'virulence modulation' (vmo) have attenuated virulence and fail to suppress antimicrobial transcript levels, haemocyte aggregation and nodulation in Manduca sexta insects. When plated on certain media, vmo cells have a higher proportion of translucent (versus opaque) colonies compared with non-vmo cells. Like vmo strains, translucent colony isolates are defective in virulence and immune suppression. The X. nematophila genome encodes two 'opacity' genes with similarity to the Ail/PagC/Rck family of outer membrane proteins involved in adherence, invasion and serum resistance. Quantitative polymerase chain reaction analysis shows that RNA levels of one of these opacity genes, opaB, are higher in opaque relative to translucent colonies. We propose that in X. nematophila opaB may be one of several factors involved in immune suppression during infection, and expression of these factors can be co-ordinately eliminated in a subpopulation, possibly through a phase variation mechanism.

Xenorhabdus Nematophila LrhA is Necessary for Motility, Lipase Activity, Toxin Expression, and Virulence in Manduca Sexta Insects

The gram-negative insect pathogen Xenorhabdus nematophila possesses potential virulence factors including an assortment of toxins, degradative enzymes, and regulators of these compounds. Here, we describe the lysR-like homolog A (lrhA) gene, a gene required by X. nematophila for full virulence in Manduca sexta insects. In several other gram-negative bacteria, LrhA homologs are transcriptional regulators involved in the expression (typically repression) of virulence factors. Based on phenotypic and genetic evidence, we report that X. nematophila LrhA has a positive effect on transcription and expression of certain potential virulence factors, including a toxin subunit-encoding gene, xptD1. Furthermore, an lrhA mutant lacks in vitro lipase activity and has reduced swimming motility compared to its wild-type parent. Quantitative PCR revealed that transcript levels of flagellar genes, a lipase gene, and xptD1 were significantly lower in the lrhA mutant than in the wild type. In addition, lrhA itself is positively regulated by the global regulator Lrp. This work establishes a role for LrhA as a vital component of a regulatory hierarchy necessary for X. nematophila pathogenesis and expression of surface-localized and secreted factors. Future research is aimed at identifying and characterizing virulence factors within the LrhA regulon.

The Xenorhabdus Nematophila NilABC Genes Confer the Ability of Xenorhabdus Spp. to Colonize Steinernema Carpocapsae Nematodes

Members of the Steinernema genus of nematodes are colonized mutualistically by members of the Xenorhabdus genus of bacteria. In nature, Steinernema carpocapsae nematodes are always found in association with Xenorhabdus nematophila bacteria. Thus, this interaction, like many microbe-host associations, appears to be species specific. X. nematophila requires the nilA, nilB, and nilC genes to colonize S. carpocapsae. In this work, we showed that of all the Xenorhabdus species examined, only X. nematophila has the nilA, nilB, and nilC genes. By exposing S. carpocapsae to other Xenorhabdus spp., we established that only X. nematophila is able to colonize S. carpocapsae; therefore, the S. carpocapsae-X. nematophila interaction is species specific. Further, we showed that introduction of the nilA, nilB, and nilC genes into other Xenorhabdus species enables them to colonize the same S. carpocapsae host tissue that is normally colonized by X. nematophila. Finally, sequence analysis supported the idea that the nil genes were horizontally acquired. Our findings indicate that a single genetic locus determines host specificity in this bacteria-animal mutualism and that host range expansion can occur through the acquisition of a small genetic element.

Isolation and Characterization of Xenorhabdus Nematophila Transposon Insertion Mutants Defective in Lipase Activity Against Tween

We identified Xenorhabdus nematophila transposon mutants with defects in lipase activity. One of the mutations, in yigL, a conserved gene of unknown function, resulted in attenuated virulence against Manduca sexta insects. We discuss possible connections between lipase production, YigL, and specific metabolic pathways.

CpxRA Contributes to Xenorhabdus Nematophila Virulence Through Regulation of LrhA and Modulation of Insect Immunity

The gammaproteobacterium Xenorhabdus nematophila is a blood pathogen of insects that requires the CpxRA signal transduction system for full virulence (E. E. Herbert et al., Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 73:7826-7836, 2007). We show here that the DeltacpxR1 mutant has altered localization, growth, and immune suppressive activities relative to its wild-type parent during infection of Manduca sexta insects. In contrast to wild-type X. nematophila, which were recovered throughout infection, DeltacpxR1 cells did not accumulate in hemolymph until after insect death. In vivo imaging of fluorescently labeled bacteria within live insects showed that DeltacpxR1 displayed delayed accumulation and also occasionally were present in isolated nodes rather than systemically throughout the insect as was wild-type X. nematophila. In addition, in contrast to its wild-type parent, the DeltacpxR1 mutant elicited transcription of an insect antimicrobial peptide, cecropin. Relative to phosphate-buffered saline-injected insects, cecropin transcript was induced 21-fold more in insects injected with DeltacpxR1 and 2-fold more in insects injected with wild-type X. nematophila. These data suggest that the DeltacpxR1 mutant has a defect in immune suppression or has an increased propensity to activate M. sexta immunity. CpxR regulates, directly or indirectly, genes known or predicted to be involved in virulence (E. E. Herbert et al., Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 73:7826-7836, 2007), including lrhA, encoding a transcription factor necessary for X. nematophila virulence, motility, and lipase production (G. R. Richards et al., J. Bacteriol. 190:4870-4879, 2008). CpxR positively regulates lrhA transcript, and we have shown that altered regulation of lrhA in the DeltacpxR1 mutant causes this strain's virulence defect. The DeltacpxR1 mutant expressing lrhA from a constitutive lac promoter showed wild-type virulence in M. sexta. These data suggest that CpxR contributes to X. nematophila virulence through the regulation of lrhA, immune suppression, and growth in Insecta.

CpxRA Influences Xenorhabdus Nematophila Colonization Initiation and Outgrowth in Steinernema Carpocapsae Nematodes Through Regulation of the Nil Locus

The gammaproteobacterium Xenorhabdus nematophila mutualistically colonizes an intestinal region of a soil-dwelling nematode and is a blood pathogen of insects. The X. nematophila CpxRA two-component regulatory system is necessary for both of these host interactions (E. Herbert et al., Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 73:7826-7836, 2007). Mutualistic association of X. nematophila with its nematode host consists of two stages: initiation, where a small number of bacterial cells establish themselves in the colonization site, and outgrowth, where these cells grow to fill the space. In this study, we show that the Cpx system is necessary for both of these stages. X. nematophila DeltacpxR1 colonized fewer nematodes than its wild-type parent and did not achieve as high a density as did the wild type within a portion of the colonized nematodes. To test whether the DeltacpxR1 host interaction phenotypes are due to its overexpression of mrxA, encoding the type I pilin subunit protein, we assessed the colonization phenotype of a DeltacpxR1 DeltamrxA1 double mutant. This mutant displayed the same colonization defect as DeltacpxR1, indicating that CpxR negative regulation of mrxA does not play a detectable role in X. nematophila-host interactions. CpxR positively regulates expression of nilA, nilB, and nilC genes necessary for nematode colonization. Here we show that the nematode colonization defect of the DeltacpxR1 mutant is rescued by elevating nil gene expression through mutation of nilR, a negative regulator of nilA, nilB, and nilC. These data suggest that the nematode colonization defect previously observed in DeltacpxR1 is caused, at least in part, by altered regulation of nilA, nilB, and nilC.

Masters of Conquest and Pillage: Xenorhabdus Nematophila Global Regulators Control Transitions from Virulence to Nutrient Acquisition

Invertebrate animal models are experimentally tractable and have immunity and disease symptoms that mirror those of vertebrates. Therefore they are of particular utility in understanding fundamental aspects of pathogenesis. Indeed, artificial models using human pathogens and invertebrate hosts have revealed conserved and novel molecular mechanisms of bacterial infection and host immune responses. Additional insights may be gained from investigating interactions between invertebrates and pathogens they encounter in their natural environments. For example, enteric bacteria in the genera Photorhabdus and Xenorhabdus are pathogens of insects that also mutualistically associate with nematodes in the genera Heterorhabditis and Steinernema respectively. These bacteria serve as models to understand naturally occurring symbiotic associations that result in disease in or benefit for animals. Xenorhabdus nematophila is the best-studied species of its genus with regard to the molecular mechanisms of its symbiotic associations. In this review, we summarize recent advances in understanding X. nematophila-host interactions. We emphasize regulatory cascades involved in coordinating transitions between various stages of the X. nematophila life cycle: infection, reproduction and transmission.

Units of Plasticity in Bacterial Genomes: New Insight from the Comparative Genomics of Two Bacteria Interacting with Invertebrates, Photorhabdus and Xenorhabdus

Flexible genomes facilitate bacterial evolution and are classically organized into polymorphic strain-specific segments called regions of genomic plasticity (RGPs). Using a new web tool, RGPFinder, we investigated plasticity units in bacterial genomes, by exhaustive description of the RGPs in two Photorhabdus and two Xenorhabdus strains, belonging to the Enterobacteriaceae and interacting with invertebrates (insects and nematodes).

Common Trends in Mutualism Revealed by Model Associations Between Invertebrates and Bacteria

Mutually beneficial interactions between microorganisms and animals are a conserved and ubiquitous feature of biotic systems. In many instances animals, including humans, are dependent on their microbial associates for nutrition, defense, or development. To maintain these vital relationships, animals have evolved processes that ensure faithful transmission of specific microbial symbionts between generations. Elucidating mechanisms of transmission and symbiont specificity has been aided by the study of experimentally tractable invertebrate animals with diverse and highly evolved associations with microorganisms. Here, we review several invertebrate model systems that contribute to our current understanding of symbiont transmission, recognition, and specificity. Although the details of transmission and symbiont selection vary among associations, comparisons of diverse mutualistic associations are revealing a number of common themes, including restriction of symbiont diversity during transmission and glycan-lectin interactions during partner selection and recruitment.

Examination of Xenorhabdus Nematophila Lipases in Pathogenic and Mutualistic Host Interactions Reveals a Role for XlpA in Nematode Progeny Production

Xenorhabdus nematophila is a gammaproteobacterium and broad-host-range insect pathogen. It is also a symbiont of Steinernema carpocapsae, the nematode vector that transports the bacterium between insect hosts. X. nematophila produces several secreted enzymes, including hemolysins, lipases, and proteases, which are thought to contribute to virulence or nutrient acquisition for the bacterium and its nematode host in vivo. X. nematophila has two lipase activities with distinct in vitro specificities for Tween and lecithin. The gene encoding the Tween-specific lipase, xlpA, has been identified and is not required for X. nematophila virulence in one insect host, the tobacco hornworm Manduca sexta. However, the gene encoding the lecithin-specific lipase activity is not currently known. Here, we identify X. nematophila estA, a gene encoding a putative lecithinase, and show that an estA mutant lacks in vitro lipase activity against lecithin but has wild-type virulence in Manduca sexta. X. nematophila secondary-form phenotypic variants have higher in vitro lecithinase activity and estA transcript levels than do primary-form variants, and estA transcription is negatively regulated by NilR, a repressor of nematode colonization factors. We establish a role for xlpA, but not estA, in supporting production of nematode progeny during growth in Galleria mellonella insects. Future research is aimed at characterizing the biological roles of estA and xlpA in other insect hosts.

Phenotypic Variation and Host Interactions of Xenorhabdus Bovienii SS-2004, the Entomopathogenic Symbiont of Steinernema Jollieti Nematodes

Xenorhabdus bovienii (SS-2004) bacteria reside in the intestine of the infective-juvenile (IJ) stage of the entomopathogenic nematode, Steinernema jollieti. The recent sequencing of the X. bovienii genome facilitates its use as a model to understand host - symbiont interactions. To provide a biological foundation for such studies, we characterized X. bovienii in vitro and host interaction phenotypes. Within the nematode host X. bovienii was contained within a membrane bound envelope that also enclosed the nematode-derived intravesicular structure. Steinernema jollieti nematodes cultivated on mixed lawns of X. bovienii expressing green or DsRed fluorescent proteins were predominantly colonized by one or the other strain, suggesting the colonizing population is founded by a few cells. Xenorhabdus bovienii exhibits phenotypic variation between orange-pigmented primary form and cream-pigmented secondary form. Each form can colonize IJ nematodes when cultured in vitro on agar. However, IJs did not develop or emerge from Galleria mellonella insects infected with secondary form. Unlike primary-form infected insects that were soft and flexible, secondary-form infected insects retained a rigid exoskeleton structure. Xenorhabdus bovienii primary and secondary form isolates are virulent towards Manduca sexta and several other insects. However, primary form stocks present attenuated virulence, suggesting that X. bovienii, like Xenorhabdus nematophila may undergo virulence modulation.

The Entomopathogenic Bacterial Endosymbionts Xenorhabdus and Photorhabdus: Convergent Lifestyles from Divergent Genomes

Members of the genus Xenorhabdus are entomopathogenic bacteria that associate with nematodes. The nematode-bacteria pair infects and kills insects, with both partners contributing to insect pathogenesis and the bacteria providing nutrition to the nematode from available insect-derived nutrients. The nematode provides the bacteria with protection from predators, access to nutrients, and a mechanism of dispersal. Members of the bacterial genus Photorhabdus also associate with nematodes to kill insects, and both genera of bacteria provide similar services to their different nematode hosts through unique physiological and metabolic mechanisms. We posited that these differences would be reflected in their respective genomes. To test this, we sequenced to completion the genomes of Xenorhabdus nematophila ATCC 19061 and Xenorhabdus bovienii SS-2004. As expected, both Xenorhabdus genomes encode many anti-insecticidal compounds, commensurate with their entomopathogenic lifestyle. Despite the similarities in lifestyle between Xenorhabdus and Photorhabdus bacteria, a comparative analysis of the Xenorhabdus, Photorhabdus luminescens, and P. asymbiotica genomes suggests genomic divergence. These findings indicate that evolutionary changes shaped by symbiotic interactions can follow different routes to achieve similar end points.

Assessing Computational Tools for the Discovery of Small RNA Genes in Bacteria

Over the past decade, a number of biocomputational tools have been developed to predict small RNA (sRNA) genes in bacterial genomes. In this study, several of the leading biocomputational tools, which use different methodologies, were investigated. The performance of the tools, both individually and in combination, was evaluated on ten sets of benchmark data, including data from a novel RNA-seq experiment conducted in this study. The results of this study offer insight into the utility as well as the limitations of the leading biocomputational tools for sRNA identification and provide practical guidance for users of the tools.

Nematode-bacterium Symbioses--cooperation and Conflict Revealed in the "omics" Age

Nematodes are ubiquitous organisms that have a significant global impact on ecosystems, economies, agriculture, and human health. The applied importance of nematodes and the experimental tractability of many species have promoted their use as models in various research areas, including developmental biology, evolutionary biology, ecology, and animal-bacterium interactions. Nematodes are particularly well suited for the investigation of host associations with bacteria because all nematodes have interacted with bacteria during their evolutionary history and engage in a variety of association types. Interactions between nematodes and bacteria can be positive (mutualistic) or negative (pathogenic/parasitic) and may be transient or stably maintained (symbiotic). Furthermore, since many mechanistic aspects of nematode-bacterium interactions are conserved, their study can provide broader insights into other types of associations, including those relevant to human diseases. Recently, genome-scale studies have been applied to diverse nematode-bacterial interactions and have helped reveal mechanisms of communication and exchange between the associated partners. In addition to providing specific information about the system under investigation, these studies also have helped inform our understanding of genome evolution, mutualism, and innate immunity. In this review we discuss the importance and diversity of nematodes, "omics"' studies in nematode-bacterial systems, and the wider implications of the findings.

An Entomopathogenic Nematode by Any Other Name

Mutational Analyses Reveal Overall Topology and Functional Regions of NilB, a Bacterial Outer Membrane Protein Required for Host Association in a Model of Animal-microbe Mutualism

The gammaproteobacterium Xenorhabdus nematophila is a mutualistic symbiont that colonizes the intestine of the nematode Steinernema carpocapsae. nilB (nematode intestine localization) is essential for X. nematophila colonization of nematodes and is predicted to encode an integral outer membrane beta-barrel protein, but evidence supporting this prediction has not been reported. The function of NilB is not known, but when expressed with two other factors encoded by nilA and nilC, it confers upon noncognate Xenorhabdus spp. the ability to colonize S. carpocapsae nematodes. We present evidence that NilB is a surface-exposed outer membrane protein whose expression is repressed by NilR and growth in nutrient-rich medium. Bioinformatic analyses reveal that NilB is the only characterized member of a family of proteins distinguished by N-terminal region tetratricopeptide repeats (TPR) and a conserved C-terminal domain of unknown function (DUF560). Members of this family occur in diverse bacteria and are prevalent in the genomes of mucosal pathogens. Insertion and deletion mutational analyses support a beta-barrel structure model with an N-terminal globular domain, 14 transmembrane strands, and seven extracellular surface loops and reveal critical roles for the globular domain and surface loop 6 in nematode colonization. Epifluorescence microscopy of these mutants demonstrates that NilB is necessary at early stages of colonization. These findings are an important step in understanding the function of NilB and, by extension, its homologs in mucosal pathogens.

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