Gene loss, gain, and transfer play an important role in shaping the genomes of all organisms; however, the interplay of these processes in isolated populations, such as in obligate intracellular bacteria, is less understood. Despite a general trend towards genome reduction in these microbes, our phylogenomic analysis of the phylum Chlamydiae revealed that within the family Parachlamydiaceae, gene family expansions have had pronounced effects on gene content. We discovered that the largest gene families within the phylum are the result of rapid gene birth-and-death evolution. These large gene families are comprised of members harboring eukaryotic-like ubiquitination-related domains, such as F-box and BTB-box domains, marking the largest reservoir of these proteins found among bacteria. A heterologous type III secretion system assay suggests that these proteins function as effectors manipulating the host cell. The large disparity in copy number of members in these families between closely related organisms suggests that nonadaptive processes might contribute to the evolution of these gene families. Gene birth-and-death evolution in concert with genomic drift might represent a previously undescribed mechanism by which isolated bacterial populations diversify.
Although the actin network is commonly hijacked by pathogens, there are few reports of parasites targeting microtubules. The proposed member of the LcrE protein family from some Chlamydia species (e.g. pCopN from C. pneumoniae) binds tubulin and inhibits microtubule assembly in vitro. From the pCopN structure and its similarity with that of MxiC from Shigella, we definitively confirm CopN as the Chlamydia homolog of the LcrE family of bacterial proteins involved in the regulation of type III secretion. We have also investigated the molecular basis for the pCopN effect on microtubules. We show that pCopN delays microtubule nucleation and acts as a pure tubulin-sequestering protein at steady state. It targets the ? subunit interface involved in the tubulin longitudinal self-association in a way that inhibits nucleotide exchange. pCopN contains three repetitions of a helical motif flanked by disordered N- and C-terminal extensions. We have identified the pCopN minimal tubulin-binding region within the second and third repeats. Together with the intriguing observation that C. trachomatis CopN does not bind tubulin, our data support the notion that, in addition to the shared function of type III secretion regulation, these proteins have evolved different functions in the host cytosol. Our results provide a mechanistic framework for understanding the C. pneumoniae CopN-specific inhibition of microtubule assembly.
Bacteria that interact with eukaryotic cells have developed a variety of strategies to divert host lipids, or cellular processes driven by lipids, to their benefit. Host lipids serve as building blocks for bacterial membrane formation and as energy source. They promote the formation of specific microdomains, facilitating interactions with the host. Host lipids are also critical players in the entry of bacteria or toxins into cells, and, for bacteria growing inside parasitophorous vacuoles, in building a secure shelter. Bacterial dissemination is often dependent on enzymatic activities targeting host lipids. Finally, on a larger scale, long lasting parasitic association can disturb host lipid metabolism so deeply as to 'reprogram' it, as proposed in the case of Mycobacterium infection.
Chlamydiae are obligate intracellular bacteria. These pathogens develop inside host cells through a biphasic cycle alternating between two morphologically distinct forms, the infectious elementary body and the replicative reticulate body. Recently, C. trachomatis strains stably expressing fluorescent proteins were obtained. The fluorochromes are expressed during the intracellular growth of the microbe, allowing bacterial visualization by fluorescence microscopy. Whether they are also present in the infectious form, the elementary body, to a detectable level has not been studied. Here, we show that a C. trachomatis strain transformed with a plasmid expressing the green fluorescent protein (GFP) accumulates sufficient quantities of the probe in elementary bodies for detection by microscopy and flow cytometry. Adhesion of single bacteria was detected. The precise kinetics of bacterial entry were determined by microscopy using automated procedures. We show that during the intracellular replication phase, GFP is a convenient read-out for bacterial growth with several advantages over current methods. In particular, infection rates within a non-homogenous cell population are easily quantified. Finally, in spite of their small size, individual elementary bodies are detected by flow cytometers, allowing for direct enumeration of a bacterial preparation. In conclusion, GFP-expressing chlamydiae are suitable to monitor, in a quantitative manner, progression throughout the developmental cycle. This will facilitate the identification of the developmental steps targeted by anti-chlamydial drugs or host factors.
Chlamydia trachomatis is an obligate intracellular pathogen responsible for loss of eyesight through trachoma and for millions of cases annually of sexually transmitted diseases. The bacteria develop within a membrane-bounded inclusion. They lack enzymes for several biosynthetic pathways, including those to make some phospholipids, and exploit their host to compensate. Three-dimensional fluorescence microscopy demonstrates that small organelles of the host, peroxisomes, are translocated into the Chlamydia inclusion and are found adjacent to the bacteria. In cells deficient for peroxisome biogenesis the bacteria are able to multiply and give rise to infectious progeny, demonstrating that peroxisomes are not essential for bacterial development in vitro. Mass spectrometry-based lipidomics reveal the presence in C. trachomatis of plasmalogens, ether phospholipids whose synthesis begins in peroxisomes and have never been described in aerobic bacteria before. Some of the bacterial plasmalogens are novel structures containing bacteria-specific odd-chain fatty acids; they are not made in uninfected cells nor in peroxisome-deficient cells. Their biosynthesis is thus accomplished by the metabolic collaboration of peroxisomes and bacteria.
Chlamydiae are obligate intracellular bacteria found as symbionts and pathogens in a wide range of eukaryotes, including protists, invertebrates, and vertebrates. It was recently proposed that an ancient chlamydial symbiont facilitated the establishment of primary plastids in a tripartite symbiosis with cyanobacteria and early eukaryotes. In this review, we summarize recent advances in understanding of the lifestyle and the evolutionary history of extant Chlamydiae. We reconstruct and describe key features of the ancient chlamydial symbiont. We propose that it was already adapted to an intracellular lifestyle before the emergence of Archaeplastida, and that several observations are compatible with an essential contribution of Chlamydiae to the evolution of algae and plants.
Chlamydia are obligate intracellular pathogens. Upon contact with the host, they use type III secretion to deliver proteins into the cell, thereby triggering actin-dependent entry and establishing the infection. We observed that Chlamydia caviae elicited a local and transient accumulation of ubiquitinated proteins at the entry sites, which disappeared within 20 min. We investigated the mechanism for the rapid clearance of ubiquitin. We showed that the OTU-like domain containing protein CCA00261, predicted to have deubiquitinase activity, was detected in infectious particles and was a type III secretion effector. This protein is present in several Chlamydia strains, including the human pathogen Chlamydia pneumoniae, and we further designate it as ChlaOTU. We demonstrated that ChlaOTU bound ubiquitin and NDP52, and we mapped these interactions to distinct domains. NDP52 was recruited to Chlamydia entry sites and was dispensable for infection and for bacterial growth. ChlaOTU functioned as a deubiquitinase in vitro. Heterologousexpression of ChlaOTU reduced ubiquitin accumulation at the entry sites, while a catalytic mutant of the deubiquitinase activity had the opposite effect. Altogether, we have identified a novel secreted protein of chlamydiae. ChlaOTU targets both ubiquitin and NDP52 and likely participates in the clearance of ubiquitin at the invasion sites.
Under the endosymbiont hypothesis, over a billion years ago a heterotrophic eukaryote entered into a symbiotic relationship with a cyanobacterium (the cyanobiont). This partnership culminated in the plastid that has spread to forms as diverse as plants and diatoms. However, why primary plastid acquisition has not been repeated multiple times remains unclear. Here, we report a possible answer to this question by showing that primary plastid endosymbiosis was likely to have been primed by the secretion in the host cytosol of effector proteins from intracellular Chlamydiales pathogens. We provide evidence suggesting that the cyanobiont might have rescued its afflicted host by feeding photosynthetic carbon into a chlamydia-controlled assimilation pathway.
Chlamydiae are obligate intracellular bacteria that multiply in a vacuolar compartment, the inclusion. Several chlamydial proteins containing a bilobal hydrophobic domain are translocated by a type III secretion (TTS) mechanism into the inclusion membrane. They form the family of Inc proteins, which is specific to this phylum. Based on their localization, Inc proteins likely play important roles in the interactions between the microbe and the host. In this paper we sought to identify and analyze, using bioinformatics tools, all putative Inc proteins in published chlamydial genomes, including an environmental species.
Chlamydiae are Gram-negative, obligate intracellular pathogens that replicate within a membrane-bounded compartment termed an inclusion. Throughout their development, they actively modify the eukaryotic environment. The type III secretion (TTS) system is the main process by which the bacteria translocate effector proteins into the inclusion membrane and the host cell cytoplasm. Here we describe a family of type III secreted effectors that are present in all pathogenic chlamydiae and absent in the environment-related species. It is defined by a common domain of unknown function, DUF582, that is present in four or five proteins in each Chlamydiaceae species. We show that the amino-terminal extremity of DUF582 proteins functions as a TTS signal. DUF582 proteins from C. trachomatis CT620, CT621, and CT711 are expressed at the middle and late phases of the infectious cycle. Immunolocalization further revealed that CT620 and CT621 are secreted into the host cell cytoplasm, as well as within the lumen of the inclusion, where they do not associate with bacterial markers. Finally, we show that DUF582 proteins are present in nuclei of infected cells, suggesting that members of the DUF582 family of effector proteins may target nuclear cell functions. The expansion of this family of proteins in pathogenic chlamydiae and their conservation among the different species suggest that they play important roles in the infectious cycle.
Sequence analysis of the genome of the strict intracellular pathogen Chlamydia trachomatis revealed the presence of a SET domain containing protein, proteins that primarily function as histone methyltransferases. In these studies, we demonstrated secretion of this protein via a type III secretion mechanism. During infection, the protein is translocated to the host cell nucleus and associates with chromatin. We therefore named the protein nuclear effector (NUE). Expression of NUE in mammalian cells by transfection reconstituted nuclear targeting and chromatin association. In vitro methylation assays confirmed NUE is a histone methyltransferase that targets histones H2B, H3 and H4 and itself (automethylation). Mutants deficient in automethylation demonstrated diminished activity towards histones suggesting automethylation functions to enhance enzymatic activity. Thus, NUE is secreted by Chlamydia, translocates to the host cell nucleus and has enzymatic activity towards eukaryotic substrates. This work is the first description of a bacterial effector that directly targets mammalian histones.
Reactive oxygen species (ROS) are many-faceted compounds involved in cell defense against pathogens, as well as in cell signaling. Their involvement in the response to infection in epithelial cells remains poorly documented. Here, we investigated the production of ROS during infection with Chlamydia trachomatis, a strict intracellular pathogen, in HeLa cells. C. trachomatis induced a transient increase in the ROS level within a few hours, followed by a return to basal level 9 hours after infection. At this time point, the host enzyme dedicated to ROS production, NADPH oxidase, could no longer be activated by external stimuli, such as interleukin-1beta. In addition, Rac, a regulatory subunit of the NADPH oxidase complex, was relocated to the membrane of the compartment in which the bacteria develop, the inclusion, while other subunits were not. Altogether, these results indicate that C. trachomatis infection elicits the production of ROS and that the bacteria rapidly target the activity of NADPH oxidase to shut it down. Prevention of ROS production at the onset of the bacterial developmental cycle might delay the host response to infection.
Pathogens use diverse molecular machines to penetrate host cells and manipulate intracellular vesicular trafficking. Viruses employ glycoproteins, functionally and structurally similar to the SNARE proteins, to induce eukaryotic membrane fusion. Intracellular pathogens, on the other hand, need to block fusion of their infectious phagosomes with various endocytic compartments to escape from the degradative pathway. The molecular details concerning the mechanisms underlying this process are lacking. Using both an in vitro liposome fusion assay and a cellular assay, we showed that SNARE-like bacterial proteins block membrane fusion in eukaryotic cells by directly inhibiting SNARE-mediated membrane fusion. More specifically, we showed that IncA and IcmG/DotF, two SNARE-like proteins respectively expressed by Chlamydia and Legionella, inhibit the endocytic SNARE machinery. Furthermore, we identified that the SNARE-like motif present in these bacterial proteins encodes the inhibitory function. This finding suggests that SNARE-like motifs are capable of specifically manipulating membrane fusion in a wide variety of biological environments. Ultimately, this motif may have been selected during evolution because it is an efficient structural motif for modifying eukaryotic membrane fusion and thus contribute to pathogen survival.
Chlamydiae are obligate intracellular pathogens that possess a type III secretion system to deliver proteins into the host cell during infection. Small molecule inhibitors of type III secretion in Yersinia, termed INPs (Innate Pharmaceuticals AB) were reported to strongly inhibit Chlamydia growth in epithelial cells. In this study we have analyzed the effect of these drugs on bacterial invasiveness.
Bacterial infections trigger the expression of type I and II interferon genes but little is known about their effect on type III interferon (IFN-?) genes, whose products play important roles in epithelial innate immunity against viruses. Here, we studied the expression of IFN-? genes in cultured human epithelial cells infected with different pathogenic bacteria and in the mouse placenta infected with Listeria monocytogenes. We first showed that in intestinal LoVo cells, induction of IFN-? genes by L. monocytogenes required bacterial entry and increased further during the bacterial intracellular phase of infection. Other Gram-positive bacteria, Staphylococcus aureus, Staphylococcus epidermidis and Enterococcus faecalis, also induced IFN-? genes when internalized by LoVo cells. In contrast, Gram-negative bacteria Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium, Shigella flexneri and Chlamydia trachomatis did not substantially induce IFN-?. We also found that IFN-? genes were up-regulated in A549 lung epithelial cells infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis and in HepG2 hepatocytes and BeWo trophoblastic cells infected with L. monocytogenes. In a humanized mouse line permissive to fetoplacental listeriosis, IFN-?2/?3 mRNA levels were enhanced in placentas infected with L. monocytogenes. In addition, the feto-placental tissue was responsive to IFN-?2. Together, these results suggest that IFN-? may be an important modulator of the immune response to Gram-positive intracellular bacteria in epithelial tissues.
Chlamydiae are obligate intracellular bacterial pathogens that have extensively reduced their genome in adapting to the intracellular environment. The chlamydial genome contains only three annotated cell division genes and lacks ftsZ. How this obligate intracellular pathogen divides is uncharacterized. Chlamydiae contain two high-molecular-weight (HMW) penicillin binding proteins (Pbp) implicated in peptidoglycan synthesis, Pbp2 and Pbp3/FtsI. We show here, using HMW Pbp-specific penicillin derivatives, that both Pbp2 and Pbp3 are essential for chlamydial cell division. Ultrastructural analyses of antibiotic-treated cultures revealed distinct phenotypes: Pbp2 inhibition induced internal cell bodies within a single outer membrane whereas Pbp3 inhibition induced elongated phenotypes with little internal division. Each HMW Pbp interacts with the Chlamydia cell division protein FtsK. Chlamydiae are coccoid yet contain MreB, a rod shape-determining protein linked to Pbp2 in bacilli. Using MreB-specific antibiotics, we show that MreB is essential for chlamydial growth and division. Importantly, co-treatment with MreB-specific and Pbp-specific antibiotics resulted in the MreB-inhibited phenotype, placing MreB upstream of Pbp function in chlamydial cell division. Finally, we showed that MreB also interacts with FtsK. We propose that, in Chlamydia, MreB acts as a central co-ordinator at the division site to substitute for the lack of FtsZ in this bacterium.
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