Bacteria surround their cytoplasmic membrane with an essential, stress-bearing peptidoglycan (PG) layer. Growing and dividing cells expand their PG layer by using membrane-anchored PG synthases, which are guided by dynamic cytoskeletal elements. In Escherichia coli, growth of the mainly single-layered PG is also regulated by outer membrane-anchored lipoproteins. The lipoprotein LpoB is required for the activation of penicillin-binding protein (PBP) 1B, which is a major, bifunctional PG synthase with glycan chain polymerizing (glycosyltransferase) and peptide cross-linking (transpeptidase) activities. Here, we report the structure of LpoB, determined by NMR spectroscopy, showing an N-terminal, 54-aa-long flexible stretch followed by a globular domain with similarity to the N-terminal domain of the prevalent periplasmic protein TolB. We have identified the interaction interface between the globular domain of LpoB and the noncatalytic UvrB domain 2 homolog domain of PBP1B and modeled the complex. Amino acid exchanges within this interface weaken the PBP1B-LpoB interaction, decrease the PBP1B stimulation in vitro, and impair its function in vivo. On the contrary, the N-terminal flexible stretch of LpoB is required to stimulate PBP1B in vivo, but is dispensable in vitro. This supports a model in which LpoB spans the periplasm to interact with PBP1B and stimulate PG synthesis.
The cell envelope of Gram-negative bacteria is a formidable barrier that is difficult for antimicrobial drugs to penetrate. Thus, the list of treatments effective against these organisms is small and with the rise of new resistance mechanisms is shrinking rapidly. New therapies to treat Gram-negative bacterial infections are therefore sorely needed. This goal will be greatly aided by a detailed mechanistic understanding of envelope assembly. Although excellent progress in the identification of essential envelope biogenesis systems has been made in recent years, many aspects of the process remain to be elucidated. We therefore developed a simple, quantitative, and high-throughput assay for mutants with envelope biogenesis defects and used it to screen an ordered single-gene deletion library of Escherichia coli. The screen was robust and correctly identified numerous mutants known to be involved in envelope assembly. Importantly, the screen also implicated 102 genes of unknown function as encoding factors that likely impact envelope biogenesis. As a proof of principle, one of these factors, ElyC (YcbC), was characterized further and shown to play a critical role in the metabolism of the essential lipid carrier used for the biogenesis of cell wall and other bacterial surface polysaccharides. Further analysis of the function of ElyC and other hits identified in our screen is likely to uncover a wealth of new information about the biogenesis of the Gram-negative envelope and the vulnerabilities in the system suitable for drug targeting. Moreover, the screening assay described here should be readily adaptable to other organisms to study the biogenesis of different envelope architectures.
All bactericidal antibiotics were recently proposed to kill by inducing reactive oxygen species (ROS) production, causing destabilization of iron-sulfur (Fe-S) clusters and generating Fenton chemistry. We find that the ROS response is dispensable upon treatment with bactericidal antibiotics. Furthermore, we demonstrate that Fe-S clusters are required for killing only by aminoglycosides. In contrast to cells, using the major Fe-S cluster biosynthesis machinery, ISC, cells using the alternative machinery, SUF, cannot efficiently mature respiratory complexes I and II, resulting in impendence of the proton motive force (PMF), which is required for bactericidal aminoglycoside uptake. Similarly, during iron limitation, cells become intrinsically resistant to aminoglycosides by switching from ISC to SUF and down-regulating both respiratory complexes. We conclude that Fe-S proteins promote aminoglycoside killing by enabling their uptake.
Despite increasing concerns over inappropriate use of antibiotics in medicine and food production, population-level resistance transfer into the human gut microbiota has not been demonstrated beyond individual case studies. To determine the "antibiotic resistance potential" for entire microbial communities, we employ metagenomic data and quantify the totality of known resistance genes in each community (its resistome) for 68 classes and subclasses of antibiotics. In 252 fecal metagenomes from three countries, we show that the most abundant resistance determinants are those for antibiotics also used in animals and for antibiotics that have been available longer. Resistance genes are also more abundant in samples from Spain, Italy, and France than from Denmark, the United States, or Japan. Where comparable country-level data on antibiotic use in both humans and animals are available, differences in these statistics match the observed resistance potential differences. The results are robust over time as the antibiotic resistance determinants of individuals persist in the human gut flora for at least a year.
Advances in sequencing technology have provided an unprecedented view of bacterial diversity, along with a daunting number of novel genes. Within this new reality lies the challenge of developing large-scale approaches to assign function to the new genes and place them in pathways. Here, we highlight recent advances on this front, focusing on how high-throughput gene-gene, gene-drug and drug-drug interactions can yield functional and mechanistic inferences in bacteria.
How bacteria grow and divide while retaining a defined shape is a fundamental question in microbiology, but technological advances are now driving a new understanding of how the shape-maintaining bacterial peptidoglycan sacculus grows. In this Review, we highlight the relationship between peptidoglycan synthesis complexes and cytoskeletal elements, as well as recent evidence that peptidoglycan growth is regulated from outside the sacculus in Gram-negative bacteria. We also discuss how growth of the sacculus is sensitive to mechanical force and nutritional status, and describe the roles of peptidoglycan hydrolases in generating cell shape and of D-amino acids in sacculus remodelling.
As nascent polypeptides exit ribosomes, they are engaged by a series of processing, targeting, and folding factors. Here, we present a selective ribosome profiling strategy that enables global monitoring of when these factors engage polypeptides in the complex cellular environment. Studies of the Escherichia coli chaperone trigger factor (TF) reveal that, though TF can interact with many polypeptides, ?-barrel outer-membrane proteins are the most prominent substrates. Loss of TF leads to broad outer-membrane defects and premature, cotranslational protein translocation. Whereas in vitro studies suggested that TF is prebound to ribosomes waiting for polypeptides to emerge from the exit channel, we find that in vivo TF engages ribosomes only after ~100 amino acids are translated. Moreover, excess TF interferes with cotranslational removal of the N-terminal formyl methionine. Our studies support a triaging model in which proper protein biogenesis relies on the fine-tuned, sequential engagement of processing, targeting, and folding factors.
In bacteria, promoter identification by RNA polymerase is mediated by a dissociable ? factor. The housekeeping ?(70) factor of Escherichia coli recognizes two well characterized DNA sequence elements, known as the -10 and -35 hexamers. These elements are separated by spacer DNA, the sequence of which is generally considered unimportant. Here, we use a combination of bioinformatics, genetics and biochemistry to show that ?(70) can sense the sequence and conformation of the promoter spacer region. Our data illustrate how alterations in spacer region sequence can increase promoter activity. This stimulatory effect requires ?(70) side chain R451, which is located in close proximity to the non-template strand at promoter position -18. Conversely, R451 is not required to mediate transcriptional stimulation by improvement of the -10 element. Mutation of ?(70) residue R451, which is highly conserved, results in reduced growth rate, consistent with a central role in promoter recognition.
The explosion of sequence information in bacteria makes developing high-throughput, cost-effective approaches to matching genes with phenotypes imperative. Using E. coli as proof of principle, we show that combining large-scale chemical genomics with quantitative fitness measurements provides a high-quality data set rich in discovery. Probing growth profiles of a mutant library in hundreds of conditions in parallel yielded > 10,000 phenotypes that allowed us to study gene essentiality, discover leads for gene function and drug action, and understand higher-order organization of the bacterial chromosome. We highlight new information derived from the study, including insights into a gene involved in multiple antibiotic resistance and the synergy between a broadly used combinatory antibiotic therapy, trimethoprim and sulfonamides. This data set, publicly available at http://ecoliwiki.net/tools/chemgen/, is a valuable resource for both the microbiological and bioinformatic communities, as it provides high-confidence associations between hundreds of annotated and uncharacterized genes as well as inferences about the mode of action of several poorly understood drugs.
Growth of the mesh-like peptidoglycan (PG) sacculus located between the bacterial inner and outer membranes (OM) is tightly regulated to ensure cellular integrity, maintain cell shape, and orchestrate division. Cytoskeletal elements direct placement and activity of PG synthases from inside the cell, but precise spatiotemporal control over this process is poorly understood. We demonstrate that PG synthases are also controlled from outside of the sacculus. Two OM lipoproteins, LpoA and LpoB, are essential for the function, respectively, of PBP1A and PBP1B, the major E. coli bifunctional PG synthases. Each Lpo protein binds specifically to its cognate PBP and stimulates its transpeptidase activity, thereby facilitating attachment of new PG to the sacculus. LpoB shows partial septal localization, and our data suggest that the LpoB-PBP1B complex contributes to OM constriction during cell division. LpoA/LpoB and their PBP-docking regions are restricted to ?-proteobacteria, providing models for niche-specific regulation of sacculus growth.
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