The social amoeba Dictyostelium discoideum is widely studied for its multicellular development program as a response to starvation and constitutes a model of choice in microbial cooperation studies. Aggregates of up to 10 (6) cells form fruiting bodies containing two cell types: (i) dormant spores (~80%) that can persist for months in the absence of nutrients, and (ii) dead stalk cells (~20%) that promote the dispersion of the spores towards nutrient-rich areas. It is often overlooked that not all cells aggregate upon starvation. Using a new quantitative approach based on time-lapse fluorescence microscopy and a low ratio of reporting cells, we have quantified this fraction of non-aggregating cells. In realistic starvation conditions, up to 15% of cells do not aggregate, which makes this third cell fate a significant component of the population-level response of social amoebae to starvation. Non-aggregating cells have an advantage over cells in aggregates since they resume growth earlier upon arrival of new nutrients, but have a shorter lifespan under prolonged starvation. We find that phenotypic heterogeneities linked to cell nutritional state bias the representation of cells in the aggregating vs. non-aggregating fractions, and thus regulate population partitioning. Next, we report that the fraction of non-aggregating cells depends on genetic factors that regulate the timing of starvation, signal sensing efficiency and aggregation efficiency. In addition, interactions between clones in mixtures of non-isogenic cells affect the partitioning of each clone into both fractions. We further test the evolutionary significance of the non-aggregating cell fraction. The partitioning of cells into aggregating and non-aggregating fractions is optimal in fluctuating environments with an unpredictable duration of starvation periods. D. discoideum thus constitutes a model system lying at the intersection of microbial cooperation and bet hedging, defining a new frontier in microbiology and evolution studies.
Recent reports on the hitherto underestimated antigenicity of poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG), which is widely used for pharmaceutical applications, highlight the need for efficient testing of polymer antigenicity and for a better understanding of its molecular origins. With this goal in mind, we have used the phage-display technique to screen large, recombinant antibody repertoires of human origin in vitro for antibodies that bind poly(vinylpyrrolidone) (PVP). PVP is a neutral synthetic polymer of industrial and clinical interest that is also a well-known model antigen in animal studies, thus allowing the comparison of in vitro and in vivo responses. We have identified 44 distinct antibodies that bind specifically to PVP. Competitive binding assays show that the PVP-antibody binding constant is proportional to the polymerization degree of PVP and that specific binding is detected down to the vinylpyrrolidone (VP) monomer level. Statistical analysis of anti-PVP antibody sequences identifies an amino-acid motif that is shared by many phage-display-selected anti-PVP antibodies that are similar to a previously described natural anti-PVP antibody. This suggests a role for this motif in specific antibody/PVP interactions. Interestingly, sequence analysis also suggests that only a single antibody chain containing this shared motif is responsible for antibody binding to PVP, as confirmed upon systematic deletion of either antibody chain for 90% of selected anti-PVP antibodies. Overall, a large number of antibodies in the human repertoires we have screened bind specifically to PVP through a small number of shared amino acid motifs, and preliminary comparison points to significant correlations between the sequences of phage-display-selected anti-PVP antibodies and their natural counterparts isolated from immunized mice in previous studies. This study pioneers the use of antibody phage-display to explore the antigenicity of biotechnologically relevant polymers. It also paves the way for a fast, cost-effective, and systematic in vitro analysis, thus reducing the need for animal immunization experiments. Moreover, identifying the encoding DNA sequence of polymer-binding antibodies via phage-display enables future applications of a molecular biology approach to protein-polymer conjugation, based on protein-antibody fusion.
DNA is a versatile scaffold for molecular sensing in living cells, and various cellular applications of DNA nanodevices have been demonstrated. However, the simultaneous use of different DNA nanodevices within the same living cell remains a challenge. Here, we show that two distinct DNA nanomachines can be used simultaneously to map pH gradients along two different but intersecting cellular entry pathways. The two nanomachines, which are molecularly programmed to enter cells via different pathways, can map pH changes within well-defined subcellular environments along both pathways inside the same cell. We applied these nanomachines to probe the pH of early endosomes and the trans-Golgi network, in real time. When delivered either sequentially or simultaneously, both nanomachines localized into and independently captured the pH of the organelles for which they were designed. The successful functioning of DNA nanodevices within living systems has important implications for sensing and therapies in a diverse range of contexts.
To many pathogenic bacteria, human hosts are an evolutionary dead end. This begs the question what evolutionary forces have shaped their virulence traits. Why are these bacteria so virulent? The coincidental evolution hypothesis suggests that such virulence factors result from adaptation to other ecological niches. In particular, virulence traits in bacteria might result from selective pressure exerted by protozoan predator. Thus, grazing resistance may be an evolutionarily exaptation for bacterial pathogenicity. This hypothesis was tested by subjecting a well characterized collection of 31 Escherichia coli strains (human commensal or extra-intestinal pathogenic) to grazing by the social haploid amoeba Dictyostelium discoideum. We then assessed how resistance to grazing correlates with some bacterial traits, such as the presence of virulence genes. Whatever the relative population size (bacteria/amoeba) for a non-pathogenic bacteria strain, D. discoideum was able to phagocytise, digest and grow. In contrast, a pathogenic bacterium strain killed D. discoideum above a certain bacteria/amoeba population size. A plating assay was then carried out using the E. coli collection faced to the grazing of D. discoideum. E. coli strains carrying virulence genes such as iroN, irp2, fyuA involved in iron uptake, belonging to the B2 phylogenetic group and being virulent in a mouse model of septicaemia were resistant to the grazing from D. discoideum. Experimental proof of the key role of the irp gene in the grazing resistance was evidenced with a mutant strain lacking this gene. Such determinant of virulence may well be originally selected and (or) further maintained for their role in natural habitat: resistance to digestion by free-living protozoa, rather than for virulence per se.
Due to their unique ability to bind their targets with high fidelity, antibodies are used widely not only in biomedical research, but also in many clinical applications. Recombinant antibodies, including single chain variable fragments (scFv), are gaining momentum because they allow powerful in vitro selection and manipulation without loss of function. Regardless of the ultimate application or type of antibody used, precise understanding of the interaction between the antibodys binding site and its specific target epitope(s) is of great importance. However, such data is frequently difficult to obtain.
In the current post-genomic era, large scale efforts are underway to functionally explore the proteome by assembling large antibody libraries. However, because many proteins are modified post-translationally to regulate their function, collections of modification-specific sensors are also needed. Here we applied a novel approach to select monoclonal phosphospecific antibodies directly from the full-length protein and without up-front phosphoamino acid identification. We chose as antigen GRASP65, a well studied Golgi phosphoprotein. Bacterially produced full-length protein was first incubated with mitotic cytosol, thus allowing modification by naturally occurring kinases, and then used directly for affinity-based antibody selection using a single chain variable fragment phagemid library. In less than 1 week, three distinct and highly functional monoclonal phosphospecific antibodies against two GRASP65 epitopes were obtained and subsequently characterized. The presented approach is carried out fully in vitro, requires no prior knowledge of the phosphoamino acid identity, and is fast and inexpensive. It therefore has great potential to be an attractive alternative to classic animal-based protocols for the selection of post-translation modification sensors and thus to become an invaluable tool in our quest to understand the proteome in all its complexity.
Genomic, transcriptomic and proteomic projects often suffer from a lack of functional validation creating a strong demand for specific and versatile antibodies. Antibody phage display represents an attractive approach to select rapidly in vitro the equivalent of monoclonal antibodies, like single chain Fv antibodies, in an inexpensive and animal free way. However, so far, recombinant antibodies have not managed to impose themselves as efficient alternatives to natural antibodies.
Intracellularly expressed recombinant antibodies, or intrabodies, are powerful tools for cell biology studies as well as therapeutic applications. Cell biologists use them to either block the intracellular antibody target or to image endogenous target dynamics. We describe here methods to select recombinant antibodies from antibody phage display libraries and to subsequently express them as fluorescent intrabodies.
DNA has been used to build nanomachines with potential in cellulo and in vivo applications. However their different in cellulo applications are limited by the lack of generalizable strategies to deliver them to precise intracellular locations. Here we describe a new molecular design of DNA pH sensors with response times that are nearly 20 fold faster. Further, by changing the sequence of the pH sensitive domain of the DNA sensor, we have been able to tune their pH sensitive regimes and create a family of DNA sensors spanning ranges from pH 4 to 7.6. To enable a generalizable targeting methodology, this new sensor design also incorporates a handle domain. We have identified, using a phage display screen, a set of three recombinant antibodies (scFv) that bind sequence specifically to the handle domain. Sequence analysis of these antibodies revealed several conserved residues that mediate specific interactions with the cognate DNA duplex. We also found that all three scFvs clustered into different branches indicating that their specificity arises from mutations in key residues. When one of these scFvs is fused to a membrane protein (furin) that traffics via the cell surface, the scFv-furin chimera binds the handle and ferries a family of DNA pH sensors along the furin endocytic pathway. Post endocytosis, all DNA nanodevices retain their functionality in cellulo and provide spatiotemporal pH maps of retrogradely trafficking furin inside living cells. This new molecular technology of DNA-scFv-protein chimeras can be used to site-specifically complex DNA nanostructures for bioanalytical applications.
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