Cellular processes such as replication, transcription, translation, and metabolism take place concurrently within the complex cellular environment, occupying nearby space and competing for energy and resources, and thus have intrinsic conflicts with each other. Bacteria frequently encounter stresses including nutrient starvation and antibiotic assault, which could easily throw their intracellular environment into conflict and chaos. To survive and to adapt, bacteria developed mechanisms to rapidly signal different types of stress, to coordinate intracellular processes and to mitigate stress-induced conflicts. The central theme of our research is to elucidate these important, ill-understood signaling and coordination mechanisms. We combine genetics and biochemistry with high-throughput approaches for understanding the molecular details and network properties of stress signaling, regulation and evolution. Our goal is to establish fundamental principles using model organisms such as the Gram-positive bacterium Bacillus subtilis and the Gram-negative bacterium E. coli and apply our research to pathogenic bacteria to solve global issues including widespread antibiotic resistance in pathogens.
Bacteria have evolved protective networks against diverse stresses such as nutrient starvation, temperature changes, osmotic shifts, and antibiotic stress. The small signaling molecules are important components of this protective network. Results from my lab suggest that small molecules, including the starvation-signaling nucleotide (p)ppGpp and nucleotides AppppA, ppApp, and c-di-AMP, induce rapid and coordinated changes in cellular metabolism. Failure of metabolic regulation by signaling nucleotides results in metabolic conflict and cellular toxicity. We are systematically characterizing signaling molecule-proteome interactions, pinpointing the molecular details of allosteric enzyme regulations underlying the metabolic network, and characterizing how the metabolic network enables homeostatic control principles and rapid adjustment of cellular coordination in diverse environments.
Coordination of macromolecular machines and genome evolution
A central component of bacterial stress response is coordination between macromolecular machineries. Bacteria accurately duplicate and process their genetic information using macromolecular machines including the replisome, the transcription complex, and the ribosome. The signaling nucleotide (p)ppGpp not only regulates metabolism but also directly regulates the DNA replication primase, transcription factors, and translation machineries, thus coordinating macromolecular machines. Importantly, we unraveled the detrimental consequences of failure to coordinate macromolecular machines: stress-induced physical conflicts between replication and transcription machineries that threaten genome integrity. Our current goals are to pinpoint the impact of conflicts on genome evolution, elucidate multifaceted coordination of machineries beyond replication and transcription, and characterize conflict-resolution pathways.
Microbial 470: Microbial Genetics and Molecular Machines
Trainer, Molecular Biosciences Training Grant
Trainer, Genetics Training Program
Trainer, Cellular and Molecular Biology Program
Trainer, Biotechnology Training Program
Healthy mitochondria are critical for reproduction. During aging, both reproductive fitness and mitochondrial homeostasis decline. Mitochondrial metabolism and dynamics are key factors in supporting mitochondrial homeostasis. However, how they are coupled to control reproductive health remains unclear. We report that mitochondrial GTP (mtGTP) metabolism acts through mitochondrial dynamics factors to regulate reproductive aging. We discovered that germline-only inactivation of GTP- but not ATP-specific succinyl-CoA synthetase (SCS) promotes reproductive longevity in Caenorhabditis elegans. We further identified an age-associated increase in mitochondrial clustering surrounding oocyte nuclei, which is attenuated by GTP-specific SCS inactivation. Germline-only induction of mitochondrial fission factors sufficiently promotes mitochondrial dispersion and reproductive longevity. Moreover, we discovered that bacterial inputs affect mtGTP levels and dynamics factors to modulate reproductive aging. These results demonstrate the significance of mtGTP metabolism in regulating oocyte mitochondrial homeostasis and reproductive longevity and identify mitochondrial fission induction as an effective strategy to improve reproductive health.
RNA:DNA hybrids compromise replication fork progression and genome integrity in all cells. The overall impacts of naturally occurring RNA:DNA hybrids on genome integrity, and the relative contributions of ribonucleases H to mitigating the negative effects of hybrids, remain unknown. Here, we investigate the contributions of RNases HII (RnhB) and HIII (RnhC) to hybrid removal, DNA replication, and mutagenesis genome wide. Deletion of either rnhB or rnhC triggers RNA:DNA hybrid accumulation but with distinct patterns of mutagenesis and hybrid accumulation. Across all cells, hybrids accumulate strongly in noncoding RNAs and 5'-UTRs of coding sequences. For Δ rnhB , hybrids accumulate preferentially in untranslated regions and early in coding sequences. We show that hybrid accumulation is particularly sensitive to gene expression in Δ rnhC cells. DNA replication in Δ rnhC cells is disrupted, leading to transversions and structural variation. Our results resolve the outstanding question of how hybrids in native genomic contexts cause mutagenesis and shape genome organization.
RNA:DNA hybrids such as R-loops affect genome integrity and DNA replication fork progression. The overall impacts of naturally occurring RNA:DNA hybrids on genome integrity, and the relative contributions of ribonucleases H to mitigating the negative effects of hybrids, remain unknown. Here, we investigate the contributions of RNases HII (RnhB) and HIII (RnhC) to hybrid removal, DNA replication, and mutagenesis genome-wide. Deletion of either rnhB or rnhC triggers RNA:DNA hybrid accumulation, but with distinct patterns of mutagenesis and hybrid accumulation. Across all cells, hybrids accumulate most strongly in non-coding RNAs and 5'-UTRs of coding sequences. For Δ rnhB , hybrids accumulate preferentially in untranslated regions and early in coding sequences. Hybrid accumulation is particularly sensitive to gene expression in Δ rnhC ; in cells lacking RnhC, DNA replication is disrupted leading to transversions and structural variation. Our results resolve the outstanding question of how hybrids in native genomic contexts interact with replication to cause mutagenesis and shape genome organization.
Despite much progress, image processing remains a significant bottleneck for high-throughput analysis of microscopy data. One popular platform for single-cell time-lapse imaging is the mother machine, which enables long-term tracking of microbial cells under precisely controlled growth conditions. While several mother machine image analysis pipelines have been developed in the past several years, adoption by a non-expert audience remains a challenge. To fill this gap, we implemented our own software, MM3, as a plugin for the multidimensional image viewer napari. napari-MM3 is a complete and modular image analysis pipeline for mother machine data, which takes advantage of the high-level interactivity of napari. Here, we give an overview of napari-MM3 and test it against several well-designed and widely-used image analysis pipelines, including BACMMAN and DeLTA. In addition, the rapid adoption and widespread popularity of deep-learning methods by the scientific community raises an important question: to what extent can users trust the results generated by such "black box" methods? We explicitly demonstrate "What You Put Is What You Get" (WYPIWYG); i.e., the image analysis results can reflect the user bias encoded in the training dataset. Finally, while the primary purpose of this work is to introduce the image analysis software that we have developed over a decade in our lab, we also provide useful information for those who want to implement mother-machine-based high-throughput imaging and image analysis methods in their research. This includes our guiding principles and best practices to ensure transparency and reproducible results.
Healthy mitochondria are critical for reproduction. During aging, both reproductive fitness and mitochondrial homeostasis decline. Mitochondrial metabolism and dynamics are key factors in supporting mitochondrial homeostasis. However, how they are coupled to control reproductive health remains unclear. We report that mitochondrial GTP metabolism acts through mitochondrial dynamics factors to regulate reproductive aging. We discovered that germline-only inactivation of GTP- but not ATP-specific succinyl-CoA synthetase (SCS), promotes reproductive longevity in Caenorhabditis elegans. We further revealed an age-associated increase in mitochondrial clustering surrounding oocyte nuclei, which is attenuated by the GTP-specific SCS inactivation. Germline-only induction of mitochondrial fission factors sufficiently promotes mitochondrial dispersion and reproductive longevity. Moreover, we discovered that bacterial inputs affect mitochondrial GTP and dynamics factors to modulate reproductive aging. These results demonstrate the significance of mitochondrial GTP metabolism in regulating oocyte mitochondrial homeostasis and reproductive longevity and reveal mitochondrial fission induction as an effective strategy to improve reproductive health.
Small alarmone hydrolases (SAHs) are alarmone metabolizing enzymes found in both metazoans and bacteria. In metazoans, the SAH homolog Mesh1 is reported to function in cofactor metabolism by hydrolyzing NADPH to NADH. In bacteria, SAHs are often identified in genomes with toxic alarmone synthetases for self-resistance. Here, we characterized a bacterial orphan SAH, i.e., without a toxic alarmone synthetase, in the phytopathogen Xanthomonas campestris pv. campestris ( Xcc SAH) and found that it metabolizes both cellular alarmones and cofactors. In vitro , Xcc SAH displays abilities to hydrolyze multiple nucleotides, including pppGpp, ppGpp, pGpp, pppApp, and NADPH. In vivo , X. campestris pv. campestris cells lacking sah accumulated higher levels of cellular (pp)pGpp and NADPH compared to wild-type cells upon amino acid starvation. In addition, X. campestris pv. campestris mutants lacking sah were more sensitive to killing by Pseudomonas during interbacterial competition. Interestingly, loss of sah also resulted in reduced growth in amino acid-replete medium, a condition that did not induce (pp)pGpp or pppApp accumulation. Further metabolomic characterization revealed strong depletion of NADH levels in the X. campestris pv. campestris mutant lacking sah , suggesting that NADPH/NADH regulation is an evolutionarily conserved function of both bacterial and metazoan SAHs and Mesh1. Overall, our work demonstrates a regulatory role of bacterial SAHs as tuners of stress responses and metabolism, beyond functioning as antitoxins. IMPORTANCE Small alarmone hydrolases (SAHs) comprise a widespread family of alarmone metabolizing enzymes. In metazoans, SAHs have been reported to control multiple aspects of physiology and stress resistance through alarmone and NADPH metabolisms, but their physiological functions in bacteria is mostly uncharacterized except for a few reports as antitoxins. Here, we identified an SAH functioning independently of toxins in the phytopathogen Xanthomonas campestris pv. campestris . We found that Xcc SAH hydrolyzed multiple alarmones and NADPH in vitro , and X. campestris pv. campestris mutants lacking sah displayed increased alarmone levels during starvation, loss of interspecies competitive fitness, growth defects, and strong reduction in NADH. Our findings reveal the importance of NADPH hydrolysis by a bacterial SAH. Our work is also the first report of significant physiological roles of bacterial SAHs beyond functioning as antitoxins and suggests that SAHs have far broader physiological roles and share similar functions across domains of life.
No abstract available.
Diadenosine tetraphosphate (Ap4A) is a putative second messenger molecule that is conserved from bacteria to humans. Nevertheless, its physiological role and the underlying molecular mechanisms are poorly characterized. We investigated the molecular mechanism by which Ap4A regulates inosine-5'-monophosphate dehydrogenase (IMPDH, a key branching point enzyme for the biosynthesis of adenosine or guanosine nucleotides) in Bacillus subtilis. We solved the crystal structure of BsIMPDH bound to Ap4A at a resolution of 2.45 Å to show that Ap4A binds to the interface between two IMPDH subunits, acting as the glue that switches active IMPDH tetramers into less active octamers. Guided by these insights, we engineered mutant strains of B. subtilis that bypass Ap4A-dependent IMPDH regulation without perturbing intracellular Ap4A pools themselves. We used metabolomics, which suggests that these mutants have a dysregulated purine, and in particular GTP, metabolome and phenotypic analysis, which shows increased sensitivity of B. subtilis IMPDH mutant strains to heat compared with wild-type strains. Our study identifies a central role for IMPDH in remodelling metabolism and heat resistance, and provides evidence that Ap4A can function as an alarmone.
Antibiotics combat bacteria through their bacteriostatic (by growth inhibition) or bactericidal (by killing bacteria) action. Mechanistically, it has been proposed that bactericidal antibiotics trigger cellular damage, while bacteriostatic antibiotics suppress cellular metabolism. Here, we demonstrate how the difference between bacteriostatic and bactericidal activities of the antibiotic chloramphenicol can be attributed to an antibiotic-induced bacterial protective response: the stringent response. Chloramphenicol targets the ribosome to inhibit the growth of the Gram-positive bacterium Bacillus subtilis. Intriguingly, we found that chloramphenicol becomes bactericidal in B. subtilis mutants unable to produce (p)ppGpp. We observed a similar (p)ppGpp-dependent bactericidal effect of chloramphenicol in the Gram-positive pathogen Enterococcus faecalis. In B. subtilis, chloramphenicol treatment induces (p)ppGpp accumulation through the action of the (p)ppGpp synthetase RelA. (p)ppGpp subsequently depletes the intracellular concentration of GTP and antagonizes GTP action. This GTP regulation is critical for preventing chloramphenicol from killing B. subtilis, as bypassing (p)ppGpp-dependent GTP regulation potentiates chloramphenicol killing, while reducing GTP synthesis increases survival. Finally, chloramphenicol treatment protects cells from the classical bactericidal antibiotic vancomycin, reminiscent of the clinical phenomenon of antibiotic antagonism. Taken together, our findings suggest a role of (p)ppGpp in the control of the bacteriostatic and bactericidal activity of antibiotics in Gram-positive bacteria, which can be exploited to potentiate the efficacy of existing antibiotics.
The nucleotide messenger (p)ppGpp allows bacteria to adapt to fluctuating environments by reprogramming the transcriptome. Despite its well-recognized role in gene regulation, (p)ppGpp is only known to directly affect transcription in Proteobacteria by binding to the RNA polymerase. Here, we reveal a different mechanism of gene regulation by (p)ppGpp in Firmicutes: (p)ppGpp directly binds to the transcription factor PurR to downregulate purine biosynthesis gene expression upon amino acid starvation. We first identified PurR as a receptor of (p)ppGpp in Bacillus anthracis. A co-structure with Bacillus subtilis PurR reveals that (p)ppGpp binds to a PurR pocket reminiscent of the active site of phosphoribosyltransferase enzymes that has been repurposed to serve a purely regulatory role, where the effectors (p)ppGpp and PRPP compete to allosterically control transcription. PRPP inhibits PurR DNA binding to induce transcription of purine synthesis genes, whereas (p)ppGpp antagonizes PRPP to enhance PurR DNA binding and repress transcription. A (p)ppGpp-refractory purR mutant in B. subtilis fails to downregulate purine synthesis genes upon amino acid starvation. Our work establishes the precedent of (p)ppGpp as an effector of a classical transcription repressor and reveals the key function of (p)ppGpp in regulating nucleotide synthesis through gene regulation, from soil bacteria to pathogens.
The activity of the RNA polymerase (RNAP) molecular machine is highly regulated in response to the external environment. In this chapter, we focus on regulation of transcription by ribonucleotides, the substrates of RNAP, and by nucleotide derivatives that act as signaling molecules to control transcription. We explain how the concentration of the ribonucleotides directly regulates RNAP activity during transcription initiation by affecting the rate limiting step of nucleotide addition, which depends on both the identity of the initiating nucleotide and the promoter sequence. We describe recent breakthroughs about how the stress signaling nucleotide alarmones guanosine tetraphosphate (ppGpp) and guanosine pentaphosphate (pppGpp) [collectively known as (p)ppGpp] regulate the synthesis or degradation of the substrates of the transcription machinery regulated transcription in an organism-specific manner, or they directly modify the activity of the core transcription machinery itself in conjunction with the transcription factor DnaK suppressor A (DksA). Finally, we describe emerging work characterizing how (p)ppGpp and DksA act beyond transcription initiation by coordinating transcription with other macromolecular machines involved in DNA replication and repair to promote genome stability.
Bacterial stress-signaling alarmones are important components of a protective network against diverse stresses such as nutrient starvation and antibiotic assault. pppGpp and ppGpp, collectively (p)ppGpp, have well-documented regulatory roles in gene expression and protein translation. Recent work has highlighted another key function of (p)ppGpp: inducing rapid and coordinated changes in cellular metabolism by regulating enzymatic activities, especially those involved in purine nucleotide synthesis. Failure of metabolic regulation by (p)ppGpp results in the loss of coordination between metabolic and macromolecular processes, leading to cellular toxicity. In this review, we document how (p)ppGpp and newly characterized nucleotides pGpp and (p)ppApp directly regulate these enzymatic targets for metabolic remodeling. We examine targets' common determinants for alarmone interaction as well as their evolutionary diversification. We highlight classical and emerging themes in nucleotide signaling, including oligomerization and allostery along with metabolic interconversion and crosstalk, illustrating how they allow optimized bacterial adaptation to their environmental niches.
Primase is an essential component of the DNA replication machinery, responsible for synthesizing RNA primers that initiate leading and lagging strand DNA synthesis. Bacterial primase activity can be regulated by the starvation-inducible nucleotide (p)ppGpp. This regulation contributes to a timely inhibition of DNA replication upon amino acid starvation in the Gram-positive bacterium Bacillus subtilis. Here, we characterize the effect of (p)ppGpp on B. subtilis DnaG primase activity in vitro. Using a single-nucleotide resolution primase assay, we dissected the effect of ppGpp on the initiation, extension, and fidelity of B. subtilis primase. We found that ppGpp has a mild effect on initiation, but strongly inhibits primer extension and reduces primase processivity, promoting termination of primer extension. High (p)ppGpp concentration, together with low GTP concentration, additively inhibit primase activity. This explains the strong inhibition of replication elongation during starvation which induces high levels of (p)ppGpp and depletion of GTP in B. subtilis. Finally, we found that lowering GTP concentration results in mismatches in primer base pairing that allow priming readthrough, and that ppGpp reduces readthrough to protect priming fidelity. These results highlight the importance of (p)ppGpp in protecting replisome integrity and genome stability in fluctuating nucleotide concentrations upon onset of environmental stress.
Hydrolysis of nucleoside triphosphates releases similar amounts of energy. However, ATP hydrolysis is typically used for energy-intensive reactions, whereas GTP hydrolysis typically functions as a switch. SpoIVA is a bacterial cytoskeletal protein that hydrolyzes ATP to polymerize irreversibly during Bacillus subtilis sporulation. SpoIVA evolved from a TRAFAC class of P-loop GTPases, but the evolutionary pressure that drove this change in nucleotide specificity is unclear. We therefore reengineered the nucleotide-binding pocket of SpoIVA to mimic its ancestral GTPase activity. SpoIVA functioned properly as a GTPase but failed to polymerize because it did not form an NDP-bound intermediate that we report is required for polymerization. Further, incubation of SpoIVA with limiting ATP did not promote efficient polymerization. This approach revealed that the nucleotide base, in addition to the energy released from hydrolysis, can be critical in specific biological functions. We also present data suggesting that increased levels of ATP relative to GTP at the end of sporulation was the evolutionary pressure that drove the change in nucleotide preference in SpoIVA.
The alarmone nucleotides guanosine tetraphosphate and pentaphosphate, commonly referred to as (p)ppGpp, regulate bacterial responses to nutritional and other stresses. There is evidence for potential existence of a third alarmone, guanosine-5'-monophosphate-3'-diphosphate (pGpp), with less-clear functions. Here, we demonstrate the presence of pGpp in bacterial cells, and perform a comprehensive screening to identify proteins that interact respectively with pGpp, ppGpp and pppGpp in Bacillus species. Both ppGpp and pppGpp interact with proteins involved in inhibition of purine nucleotide biosynthesis and with GTPases that control ribosome assembly or activity. By contrast, pGpp interacts with purine biosynthesis proteins but not with the GTPases. In addition, we show that hydrolase NahA (also known as YvcI) efficiently produces pGpp by hydrolyzing (p)ppGpp, thus modulating alarmone composition and function. Deletion of nahA leads to reduction of pGpp levels, increased (p)ppGpp levels, slower growth recovery from nutrient downshift, and loss of competitive fitness. Our results support the existence and physiological relevance of pGpp as a third alarmone, with functions that can be distinct from those of (p)ppGpp.
(p)ppGpp is a highly conserved bacterial alarmone which regulates many aspects of cellular physiology and metabolism. In Gram-positive bacteria such as B. subtilis, cellular (p)ppGpp level is determined by the bifunctional (p)ppGpp synthetase/hydrolase RelA and two small alarmone synthetases (SASs) YjbM (SasB) and YwaC (SasA). However, it is less clear whether these enzymes are also involved in regulation of alarmones outside of (p)ppGpp. Here we developed an improved LC-MS-based method to detect a broad spectrum of metabolites and alarmones from bacterial cultures with high efficiency. By characterizing the metabolomic signatures of SasA expressing B. subtilis, we identified strong accumulation of the (p)ppGpp analog pGpp, as well as accumulation of ppApp and AppppA. The induced accumulation of these alarmones is abolished in the catalytically dead sasA mutant, suggesting that it is a consequence of SasA synthetase activity. In addition, we also identified depletion of specific purine nucleotides and their precursors including IMP precursors FGAR, SAICAR and AICAR (ZMP), as well as GTP and GDP. Furthermore, we also revealed depletion of multiple pyrimidine precursors such as orotate and orotidine 5′-phosphate. Taken together, our work shows that induction of a single (p)ppGpp synthetase can cause concomitant accumulation and potential regulatory interplay of multiple alarmones.
Replication-transcription conflicts promote mutagenesis and give rise to evolutionary signatures, with fundamental importance to genome stability ranging from bacteria to metastatic cancer cells. This review focuses on the interplay between replication-transcription conflicts and the evolution of gene directionality. In most bacteria, the majority of genes are encoded on the leading strand of replication such that their transcription is co-directional with the direction of DNA replication fork movement. This gene strand bias arises primarily due to negative selection against deleterious consequences of head-on replication-transcription conflict. However, many genes remain head-on. Can head-on orientation provide some benefit? We combine insights from both mechanistic and evolutionary studies, review published work, and analyze gene expression data to evaluate an emerging model that head-on genes are temporal targets for adaptive mutagenesis during stress. We highlight the alternative explanation that genes in the head-on orientation may simply be the result of genomic inversions and relaxed selection acting on nonessential genes. We seek to clarify how the mechanisms of replication-transcription conflict, in concert with other mutagenic mechanisms, balanced by natural selection, have shaped bacterial genome evolution.
The facultative intracellular pathogen Listeria monocytogenes , like many related Firmicutes , uses the nucleotide second messenger cyclic di-AMP (c-di-AMP) to adapt to changes in nutrient availability, osmotic stress, and the presence of cell wall-acting antibiotics. In rich medium, c-di-AMP is essential; however, mutations in cbpB , the gene encoding c-di-AMP binding protein B, suppress essentiality. In this study, we identified that the reason for cbpB -dependent essentiality is through induction of the stringent response by RelA. RelA is a bifunctional RelA/SpoT homolog (RSH) that modulates levels of (p)ppGpp, a secondary messenger that orchestrates the stringent response through multiple allosteric interactions. We performed a forward genetic suppressor screen on bacteria lacking c-di-AMP to identify genomic mutations that rescued growth while cbpB was constitutively expressed and identified mutations in the synthetase domain of RelA. The synthetase domain of RelA was also identified as an interacting partner of CbpB in a yeast-2-hybrid screen. Biochemical analyses confirmed that free CbpB activates RelA while c-di-AMP inhibits its activation. We solved the crystal structure of CbpB bound and unbound to c-di-AMP and provide insight into the region important for c-di-AMP binding and RelA activation. The results of this study show that CbpB completes a homeostatic regulatory circuit between c-di-AMP and (p)ppGpp in Listeria monocytogenes IMPORTANCE Bacteria must efficiently maintain homeostasis of essential molecules to survive in the environment. We found that the levels of c-di-AMP and (p)ppGpp, two nucleotide second messengers that are highly conserved throughout the microbial world, coexist in a homeostatic loop in the facultative intracellular pathogen Listeria monocytogenes Here, we found that cyclic di-AMP binding protein B (CbpB) acts as a c-di-AMP sensor that promotes the synthesis of (p)ppGpp by binding to RelA when c-di-AMP levels are low. Addition of c-di-AMP prevented RelA activation by binding and sequestering CbpB. Previous studies showed that (p)ppGpp binds and inhibits c-di-AMP phosphodiesterases, resulting in an increase in c-di-AMP. This pathway is controlled via direct enzymatic regulation and indicates an additional mechanism of ribosome-independent stringent activation.
The alarmones pppGpp and ppGpp mediate starvation response and maintain purine homeostasis to protect bacteria. In the bacterial phyla Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes, xanthine phosphoribosyltransferase (XPRT) is a purine salvage enzyme that produces the nucleotide XMP from PRPP and xanthine. Combining structural, biochemical, and genetic analyses, we show that pppGpp and ppGpp, as well as a third newly identified alarmone pGpp, all directly interact with XPRT from the Gram-positive bacterium Bacillus subtilis and inhibit XPRT activity by competing with its substrate PRPP. Structural analysis reveals that ppGpp binds the PRPP binding motif within the XPRT active site. This motif is present in another (p)ppGpp target, the purine salvage enzyme HPRT, suggesting evolutionary conservation in different enzymes. However, XPRT oligomeric interaction is distinct from HPRT in that XPRT forms a symmetric dimer with two (p)ppGpp binding sites at the dimer interface. (p)ppGpp's interaction with an XPRT bridging loop across the interface results in XPRT cooperatively binding (p)ppGpp. Also, XPRT displays differential regulation by the alarmones as it is potently inhibited by both ppGpp and pGpp, but only modestly by pppGpp. Lastly, we demonstrate that the alarmones are necessary for protecting GTP homeostasis against excess environmental xanthine in B. subtilis, suggesting that regulation of XPRT is key for regulating the purine salvage pathway.
No abstract available.
The mother machine is a microfluidic device for high-throughput time-lapse imaging of microbes. Here, we present MM3, a complete and modular image analysis pipeline. MM3 turns raw mother machine images, both phase contrast and fluorescence, into a data structure containing cells with their measured features. MM3 employs machine learning and non-learning algorithms, and is implemented in Python. MM3 is easy to run as a command line tool with the occasional graphical user interface on a PC or Mac. A typical mother machine experiment can be analyzed within one day. It has been extensively tested, is well documented and publicly available via Github.
The alarmone (p)ppGpp regulates diverse targets, yet its target specificity and evolution remain poorly understood. Here, we elucidate the mechanism by which basal (p)ppGpp inhibits the purine salvage enzyme HPRT by sharing a conserved motif with its substrate PRPP. Intriguingly, HPRT regulation by (p)ppGpp varies across organisms and correlates with HPRT oligomeric forms. (p)ppGpp-sensitive HPRT exists as a PRPP-bound dimer or an apo- and (p)ppGpp-bound tetramer, where a dimer-dimer interface triggers allosteric structural rearrangements to enhance (p)ppGpp inhibition. Loss of this oligomeric interface results in weakened (p)ppGpp regulation. Our results reveal an evolutionary principle whereby protein oligomerization allows evolutionary change to accumulate away from a conserved binding pocket to allosterically alter specificity of ligand interaction. This principle also explains how another (p)ppGpp target GMK is variably regulated across species. Since most ligands bind near protein interfaces, we propose that this principle extends to many other protein-ligand interactions.
Biofilms are structured communities of tightly associated cells that constitute the predominant state of bacterial growth in natural and human-made environments. Although the core genetic circuitry that controls biofilm formation in model bacteria such as Bacillus subtilis has been well characterized, little is known about the role that metabolism plays in this complex developmental process. Here, we performed a time-resolved analysis of the metabolic changes associated with pellicle biofilm formation and development in B. subtilis by combining metabolomic, transcriptomic, and proteomic analyses. We report surprisingly widespread and dynamic remodeling of metabolism affecting central carbon metabolism, primary biosynthetic pathways, fermentation pathways, and secondary metabolism. Most of these metabolic alterations were hitherto unrecognized as biofilm associated. For example, we observed increased activity of the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle during early biofilm growth, a shift from fatty acid biosynthesis to fatty acid degradation, reorganization of iron metabolism and transport, and a switch from acetate to acetoin fermentation. Close agreement between metabolomic, transcriptomic, and proteomic measurements indicated that remodeling of metabolism during biofilm development was largely controlled at the transcriptional level. Our results also provide insights into the transcription factors and regulatory networks involved in this complex metabolic remodeling. Following upon these results, we demonstrated that acetoin production via acetolactate synthase is essential for robust biofilm growth and has the dual role of conserving redox balance and maintaining extracellular pH. This report represents a comprehensive systems-level investigation of the metabolic remodeling occurring during B. subtilis biofilm development that will serve as a useful road map for future studies on biofilm physiology. IMPORTANCE Bacterial biofilms are ubiquitous in natural environments and play an important role in many clinical, industrial, and ecological settings. Although much is known about the transcriptional regulatory networks that control biofilm formation in model bacteria such as Bacillus subtilis , very little is known about the role of metabolism in this complex developmental process. To address this important knowledge gap, we performed a time-resolved analysis of the metabolic changes associated with bacterial biofilm development in B. subtilis by combining metabolomic, transcriptomic, and proteomic analyses. Here, we report a widespread and dynamic remodeling of metabolism affecting central carbon metabolism, primary biosynthetic pathways, fermentation pathways, and secondary metabolism. This report serves as a unique hypothesis-generating resource for future studies on bacterial biofilm physiology. Outside the biofilm research area, this work should also prove relevant to any investigators interested in microbial physiology and metabolism.
No abstract available.
No abstract available.
The DNA replication and transcription machineries share a common DNA template and thus can collide with each other co-directionally or head-on. Replication–transcription collisions can cause replication fork arrest, premature transcription termination, DNA breaks, and recombination intermediates threatening genome integrity. Collisions may also trigger mutations, which are major contributors to genetic disease and evolution. However, the nature and mechanisms of collision-induced mutagenesis remain poorly understood. Here we reveal the genetic consequences of replication–transcription collisions in actively dividing bacteria to be two classes of mutations: duplications/deletions and base substitutions in promoters. Both signatures are highly deleterious but are distinct from the previously well-characterized base substitutions in the coding sequence. Duplications/deletions are probably caused by replication stalling events that are triggered by collisions; their distribution patterns are consistent with where the fork first encounters a transcription complex upon entering a transcription unit. Promoter substitutions result mostly from head-on collisions and frequently occur at a nucleotide that is conserved in promoters recognized by the major σ factor in bacteria. This substitution is generated via adenine deamination on the template strand in the promoter open complex, as a consequence of head-on replication perturbing transcription initiation. We conclude that replication–transcription collisions induce distinct mutation signatures by antagonizing replication and transcription, not only in coding sequences but also in gene regulatory elements.
During amino acid starvation, bacterial cells rapidly synthesize the nucleotides (p)ppGpp, causing a massive re-programming of the transcriptional profile known as the stringent response. The (p)ppGpp synthase RelA is activated by ribosomes harboring an uncharged tRNA at the A site. It is unclear whether synthesis occurs while RelA is bound to the ribosome or free in the cytoplasm. We present a study of three Escherichia coli strains, each expressing a different RelA-fluorescent protein (RelA-FP) construct: RelA-YFP, RelA-mEos2 and RelA-Dendra2. Single-molecule localization and tracking studies were carried out under normal growth conditions and during amino acid starvation. Study of three labeling schemes enabled us to assess potential problems with FP labeling of RelA. The diffusive trajectories and axial spatial distributions indicate that amino acid starvation induces net binding of all three RelA-FP constructs to 70S ribosomes. The data are most consistent with a model in which RelA synthesizes (p)ppGpp while bound to the 70S ribosome. We suggest a 'short hopping time' model of RelA activity during starvation. Our results contradict an earlier study of RelA-Dendra2 diffusion that inferred off-ribosome synthesis of (p)ppGpp. The reasons for the discrepancy remain unclear.
The bacterial stringent response (SR) is a conserved stress tolerance mechanism that orchestrates physiological alterations to enhance cell survival. This response is mediated by the intracellular accumulation of the alarmones pppGpp and ppGpp, collectively called (p)ppGpp. In Enterococcus faecalis, (p)ppGpp metabolism is carried out by the bifunctional synthetase/hydrolase E. faecalis Rel (RelEf) and the small alarmone synthetase (SAS) RelQEf. Although Rel is the main enzyme responsible for SR activation in Firmicutes, there is emerging evidence that SASs can make important contributions to bacterial homeostasis. Here, we showed that RelQEf synthesizes ppGpp more efficiently than pppGpp without the need for ribosomes, tRNA, or mRNA. In addition to (p)ppGpp synthesis from GDP and GTP, RelQEf also efficiently utilized GMP to form GMP 3'-diphosphate (pGpp). Based on this observation, we sought to determine if pGpp exerts regulatory effects on cellular processes affected by (p)ppGpp. We found that pGpp, like (p)ppGpp, strongly inhibits the activity of E. faecalis enzymes involved in GTP biosynthesis and, to a lesser extent, transcription of rrnB by Escherichia coli RNA polymerase. Activation of E. coli RelA synthetase activity was observed in the presence of both pGpp and ppGpp, while RelQEf was activated only by ppGpp. Furthermore, enzymatic activity of RelQEf is insensitive to relacin, a (p)ppGpp analog developed as an inhibitor of "long" RelA/SpoT homolog (RSH) enzymes. We conclude that pGpp can likely function as a bacterial alarmone with target-specific regulatory effects that are similar to what has been observed for (p)ppGpp. Accumulation of the nucleotide second messengers (p)ppGpp in bacteria is an important signal regulating genetic and physiological networks contributing to stress tolerance, antibiotic persistence, and virulence. Understanding the function and regulation of the enzymes involved in (p)ppGpp turnover is therefore critical for designing strategies to eliminate the protective effects of this molecule. While characterizing the (p)ppGpp synthetase RelQ of Enterococcus faecalis (RelQEf), we found that, in addition to (p)ppGpp, RelQEf is an efficient producer of pGpp (GMP 3'-diphosphate). In vitro analysis revealed that pGpp exerts complex, target-specific effects on processes known to be modulated by (p)ppGpp. These findings provide a new regulatory feature of RelQEf and suggest that pGpp may represent a new member of the (pp)pGpp family of alarmones.
Bacteria produce guanosine tetraphosphate and pentaphosphate, collectively named (p)ppGpp, in response to a variety of environmental stimuli. These two remarkable molecules regulate many cellular processes, including the central dogma processes and metabolism, to ensure survival and adaptation. Work in Escherichia coli laid the foundation for understanding the molecular details of (p)ppGpp and its cellular functions. As recent studies expand to other species, it is apparent that there exists considerable variation, with respect to not only (p)ppGpp metabolism, but also to its mechanism of action. From an evolutionary standpoint, this diversification is an elegant example of how different species adapt a particular regulatory network to their diverse lifestyles.
The nucleotide (p)ppGpp mediates bacterial stress responses, but its targets and underlying mechanisms of action vary among bacterial species and remain incompletely understood. Here, we characterize the molecular interaction between (p)ppGpp and guanylate kinase (GMK), revealing the importance of this interaction in adaptation to starvation. Combining structural and kinetic analyses, we show that (p)ppGpp binds the GMK active site and competitively inhibits the enzyme. The (p)ppGpp-GMK interaction prevents the conversion of GMP to GDP, resulting in GMP accumulation upon amino acid downshift. Abolishing this interaction leads to excess (p)ppGpp and defective adaptation to amino acid starvation. A survey of GMKs from phylogenetically diverse bacteria shows that the (p)ppGpp-GMK interaction is conserved in members of Firmicutes, Actinobacteria, and Deinococcus-Thermus, but not in Proteobacteria, where (p)ppGpp regulates RNA polymerase (RNAP). We propose that GMK is an ancestral (p)ppGpp target and RNAP evolved more recently as a direct target in Proteobacteria.
The past 20 years have seen tremendous advances in our understanding of the mechanisms underlying bacterial cytokinesis, particularly the composition of the division machinery and the factors controlling its assembly . At the same time, we understand very little about the relationship between cell division and other cell-cycle events in bacteria. Here we report that inhibiting division in Bacillus subtilis and Staphylococcus aureus quickly leads to an arrest in the initiation of new rounds of DNA replication, followed by a complete arrest in cell growth. Arrested cells are metabolically active but are unable to initiate new rounds of either DNA replication or division when shifted to permissive conditions. Inhibiting DNA replication results in entry into a similar quiescent state in which cells are unable to resume growth or division when returned to permissive conditions. Our data suggest the presence of two failsafe mechanisms: one linking division to the initiation of DNA replication and another linking the initiation of DNA replication to division. These findings contradict the prevailing view of the bacterial cell cycle as a series of coordinated but uncoupled events. Importantly, the terminal nature of the cell-cycle arrest validates the bacterial cell-cycle machinery as an effective target for antimicrobial development.
Bacterial cells sense external nutrient availability to regulate macromolecular synthesis and consequently their growth. In the Gram-positive bacterium Bacillus subtilis, the starvation-inducible nucleotide (p)ppGpp negatively regulates GTP levels, both to resist nutritional stress and to maintain GTP homeostasis during growth. Here, we quantitatively investigated the relationship between GTP level, survival of amino acid starvation, and growth rate when GTP synthesis is uncoupled from its major homeostatic regulator, (p)ppGpp. We analyzed growth and nucleotide levels in cells that lack (p)ppGpp and found that their survival of treatment with a nonfunctional amino acid analog negatively correlates with both growth rate and GTP level. Manipulation of GTP levels modulates the exponential growth rate of these cells in a positive dose-dependent manner, such that increasing the GTP level increases growth rate. However, accumulation of GTP levels above a threshold inhibits growth, suggesting a toxic effect. Strikingly, adenine counteracts GTP stress by preventing GTP accumulation in cells lacking (p)ppGpp. Our results emphasize the importance of maintaining appropriate levels of GTP to maximize growth: cells can survive amino acid starvation by decreasing GTP level, which comes at a cost to growth, while (p)ppGpp enables rapid adjustment to nutritional stress by adjusting GTP level, thus maximizing fitness.
In bacteria, translation-transcription coupling inhibits RNA polymerase (RNAP) stalling. We present evidence suggesting that, upon amino acid starvation, inactive ribosomes promote rather than inhibit RNAP stalling. We developed an algorithm to evaluate genome-wide polymerase progression independently of local noise and used it to reveal that the transcription factor DksA inhibits promoter-proximal pausing and increases RNAP elongation when uncoupled from translation by depletion of charged tRNAs. DksA has minimal effect on RNAP elongation in vitro and on untranslated RNAs in vivo. In these cases, transcripts can form RNA structures that prevent backtracking. Thus, the effect of DksA on transcript elongation may occur primarily upon ribosome slowing/stalling or at promoter-proximal locations that limit the potential for RNA structure. We propose that inactive ribosomes prevent formation of backtrack-blocking mRNA structures and that, in this circumstance, DksA acts as a transcription elongation factor in vivo.
DNA replication in Escherichia coli is normally initiated at a single origin, oriC, dependent on initiation protein DnaA. However, replication can be initiated elsewhere on the chromosome at multiple ectopic oriK sites. Genetic evidence indicates that initiation from oriK depends on RNA-DNA hybrids (R-loops), which are normally removed by enzymes such as RNase HI to prevent oriK from misfiring during normal growth. Initiation from oriK sites occurs in RNase HI-deficient mutants, and possibly in wild-type cells under certain unusual conditions. Despite previous work, the locations of oriK and their impact on genome stability remain unclear. We combined 2D gel electrophoresis and whole genome approaches to map genome-wide oriK locations. The DNA copy number profiles of various RNase HI-deficient strains contained multiple peaks, often in consistent locations, identifying candidate oriK sites. Removal of RNase HI protein also leads to global alterations of replication fork migration patterns, often opposite to normal replication directions, and presumably eukaryote-like replication fork merging. Our results have implications for genome stability, offering a new understanding of how RNase HI deficiency results in R-loop-mediated transcription-replication conflict, as well as inappropriate replication stalling or blockage at Ter sites outside of the terminus trap region and at ribosomal operons.
The nucleotide (p)ppGpp inhibits GTP biosynthesis in the Gram-positive bacterium Bacillus subtilis. Here we examined how this regulation allows cells to grow in the absence of amino acids. We showed that B. subtilis cells lacking (p)ppGpp, due to either deletions or point mutations in all three (p)ppGpp synthetase genes, yjbM, ywaC, and relA, strongly require supplementation of leucine, isoleucine, valine, methionine, and threonine and modestly require three additional amino acids. This polyauxotrophy is rescued by reducing GTP levels. Reduction of GTP levels activates transcription of genes responsible for the biosynthesis of the five strongly required amino acids by inactivating the transcription factor CodY, which represses the ybgE, ilvD, ilvBHC-leuABCD, ilvA, ywaA, and hom-thrCB operons, and by a CodY-independent activation of transcription of the ilvA, ywaA, hom-thrCB, and metE operons. Interestingly, providing the eight required amino acids does not allow for colony formation of (p)ppGpp(0) cells when transitioning from amino acid-replete medium to amino acid-limiting medium, and we found that this is due to an additional role that (p)ppGpp plays in protecting cells during nutrient downshifts. We conclude that (p)ppGpp allows adaptation to amino acid limitation by a combined effect of preventing death during metabolic transitions and sustaining growth by activating amino acid biosynthesis. This ability of (p)ppGpp to integrate a general stress response with a targeted reprogramming of gene regulation allows appropriate adaptation and is likely conserved among diverse bacteria.
The stringent response (SR), mediated by the alarmone (p)ppGpp, is a conserved bacterial adaptation system controlling broad metabolic alterations necessary for survival under adverse conditions. In Enterococcus faecalis, production of (p)ppGpp is controlled by the bifunctional protein RSH (for "Rel SpoT homologue"; also known as RelA) and by the monofunctional synthetase RelQ. Previous characterization of E. faecalis strains lacking rsh, relQ, or both revealed that RSH is responsible for activation of the SR and that alterations in (p)ppGpp production negatively impact bacterial stress survival and virulence. Despite its well-characterized role as the effector of the SR, the significance of (p)ppGpp during balanced growth remains poorly understood. Microarrays of E. faecalis strains producing different basal amounts of (p)ppGpp identified several genes and pathways regulated by modest changes in (p)ppGpp. Notably, expression of numerous genes involved in energy generation were induced in the rsh relQ [(p)ppGpp(0)] strain, suggesting that a lack of basal (p)ppGpp places the cell in a "transcriptionally relaxed" state. Alterations in the fermentation profile and increased production of H2O2 in the (p)ppGpp(0) strain substantiate the observed transcriptional changes. We confirm that, similar to what is seen in Bacillus subtilis, (p)ppGpp directly inhibits the activity of enzymes involved in GTP biosynthesis, and complete loss of (p)ppGpp leads to dysregulation of GTP homeostasis. Finally, we show that the association of (p)ppGpp with antibiotic survival does not relate to the SR but rather relates to basal (p)ppGpp pools. Collectively, this study highlights the critical but still underappreciated role of basal (p)ppGpp pools under balanced growth conditions. Drug-resistant bacterial infections continue to pose a significant public health threat by limiting therapeutic options available to care providers. The stringent response (SR), mediated by the accumulation of two modified guanine nucleotides collectively known as (p)ppGpp, is a highly conserved stress response that broadly remodels bacterial physiology to a survival state. Given the strong correlation of the SR with the ability of bacteria to survive antibiotic treatment and the direct association of (p)ppGpp production with bacterial infectivity, understanding how bacteria produce and utilize (p)ppGpp may reveal potential targets for the development of new antimicrobial therapies. Using the multidrug-resistant pathogen Enterococcus faecalis as a model, we show that small alterations to (p)ppGpp levels, well below concentrations needed to trigger the SR, severely affected bacterial metabolism and antibiotic survival. Our findings highlight the often-underappreciated contribution of basal (p)ppGpp levels to metabolic balance and stress tolerance in bacteria.
DNA replication is regulated in response to environmental constraints such as nutrient availability. While much is known about regulation of replication during initiation, little is known about regulation of replication during elongation. In the bacterium Bacillus subtilis, replication elongation is paused upon sudden amino acid starvation by the starvation-inducible nucleotide (p)ppGpp. However, in many bacteria including Escherichia coli, replication elongation is thought to be unregulated by nutritional availability. Here we reveal that the replication elongation rate in E. coli is modestly but significantly reduced upon strong amino acid starvation. This reduction requires (p)ppGpp and is exacerbated in a gppA mutant with increased pppGpp levels. Importantly, high levels of (p)ppGpp, independent of amino acid starvation, are sufficient to inhibit replication elongation even in the absence of transcription. Finally, in both E. coli and B. subtilis, (p)ppGpp inhibits replication elongation in a dose-dependent manner rather than via a switch-like mechanism, although this inhibition is much stronger in B. subtilis. This supports a model where replication elongation rates are regulated by (p)ppGpp to allow rapid and tunable response to multiple abrupt stresses in evolutionarily diverse bacteria.
Cells constantly adjust their metabolism in response to environmental conditions, yet major mechanisms underlying survival remain poorly understood. We discover a posttranscriptional mechanism that integrates starvation response with GTP homeostasis to allow survival, enacted by the nucleotide (p)ppGpp, a key player in bacterial stress response and persistence. We reveal that (p)ppGpp activates global metabolic changes upon starvation, allowing survival by regulating GTP. Combining metabolomics with biochemical demonstrations, we find that (p)ppGpp directly inhibits the activities of multiple GTP biosynthesis enzymes. This inhibition results in robust and rapid GTP regulation in Bacillus subtilis, which we demonstrate is essential to maintaining GTP levels within a range that supports viability even in the absence of starvation. Correspondingly, without (p)ppGpp, gross GTP dysregulation occurs, revealing a vital housekeeping function of (p)ppGpp; in fact, loss of (p)ppGpp results in death from rising GTP, a severe and previously unknown consequence of GTP dysfunction.
Primases are DNA-dependent RNA polymerases found in all cellular organisms. In bacteria, primer synthesis is carried out by DnaG, an essential enzyme that serves as a key component of DNA replication initiation, progression, and restart. How DnaG associates with nucleotide substrates and how certain naturally prevalent nucleotide analogs impair DnaG function are unknown. We have examined one of the earliest stages in primer synthesis and its control by solving crystal structures of the S. aureus DnaG catalytic core bound to metal ion cofactors and either individual nucleoside triphosphates or the nucleotidyl alarmones, pppGpp and ppGpp. These structures, together with both biochemical analyses and comparative studies of enzymes that use the same catalytic fold as DnaG, pinpoint the predominant nucleotide-binding site of DnaG and explain how the induction of the stringent response in bacteria interferes with primer synthesis.
DNA replication and transcription use the same template and occur concurrently in bacteria. The lack of temporal and spatial separation of these two processes leads to their conflict, and failure to deal with this conflict can result in genome alterations and reduced fitness. In recent years major advances have been made in understanding how cells avoid conflicts between replication and transcription and how such conflicts are resolved when they do occur. In this Review, we summarize these findings, which shed light on the significance of the problem and on how bacterial cells deal with unwanted encounters between the replication and transcription machineries.
Actively dividing cells perform robust and accurate DNA replication during fluctuating nutrient availability, yet factors that prevent disruption of replication remain largely unknown. Here we report that DksA, a nutrient-responsive transcription factor, ensures replication completion in Escherichia coli by removing transcription roadblocks. In the absence of DksA, replication is rapidly arrested upon amino acid starvation. This arrest requires active transcription and is alleviated by RNA polymerase mutants that compensate for DksA activity. This replication arrest occurs independently of exogenous DNA damage, yet it induces the DNA-damage response and recruits the main recombination protein RecA. This function of DksA is independent of its transcription initiation activity but requires its less-studied transcription elongation activity. Finally, GreA/B elongation factors also prevent replication arrest during nutrient stress. We conclude that transcription elongation factors alleviate fundamental conflicts between replication and transcription, thereby protecting replication fork progression and DNA integrity.
In many bacteria, there is a genome-wide bias towards co-orientation of replication and transcription, with essential and/or highly-expressed genes further enriched co-directionally. We previously found that reversing this bias in the bacterium Bacillus subtilis slows replication elongation, and we proposed that this effect contributes to the evolutionary pressure selecting the transcription-replication co-orientation bias. This selection might have been based purely on selection for speedy replication; alternatively, the slowed replication might actually represent an average of individual replication-disruption events, each of which is counter-selected independently because genome integrity is selected. To differentiate these possibilities and define the precise forces driving this aspect of genome organization, we generated new strains with inversions either over approximately 1/4 of the chromosome or at ribosomal RNA (rRNA) operons. Applying mathematical analysis to genomic microarray snapshots, we found that replication rates vary dramatically within the inverted genome. Replication is moderately impeded throughout the inverted region, which results in a small but significant competitive disadvantage in minimal medium. Importantly, replication is strongly obstructed at inverted rRNA loci in rich medium. This obstruction results in disruption of DNA replication, activation of DNA damage responses, loss of genome integrity, and cell death. Our results strongly suggest that preservation of genome integrity drives the evolution of co-orientation of replication and transcription, a conserved feature of genome organization.
Adaptation to fluctuations in nutrient availability is a fact of life for single-celled organisms in the 'wild'. A decade ago our understanding of how bacteria adjust cell cycle parameters to accommodate changes in nutrient availability stemmed almost entirely from elegant physiological studies completed in the 1960s. In this Opinion article we summarize recent groundbreaking work in this area and discuss potential mechanisms by which nutrient availability and metabolic status are coordinated with cell growth, chromosome replication and cell division.
Whole-genome sequencing is a powerful technique for obtaining the reference sequence information of multiple organisms. Its use can be dramatically expanded to rapidly identify genomic variations, which can be linked with phenotypes to obtain biological insights. We explored these potential applications using the emerging next-generation sequencing platform Solexa Genome Analyzer, and the well-characterized model bacterium Bacillus subtilis. Combining sequencing with experimental verification, we first improved the accuracy of the published sequence of the B. subtilis reference strain 168, then obtained sequences of multiple related laboratory strains and different isolates of each strain. This provides a framework for comparing the divergence between different laboratory strains and between their individual isolates. We also demonstrated the power of Solexa sequencing by using its results to predict a defect in the citrate signal transduction pathway of a common laboratory strain, which we verified experimentally. Finally, we examined the molecular nature of spontaneously generated mutations that suppress the growth defect caused by deletion of the stringent response mediator relA. Using whole-genome sequencing, we rapidly mapped these suppressor mutations to two small homologs of relA. Interestingly, stable suppressor strains had mutations in both genes, with each mutation alone partially relieving the relA growth defect. This supports an intriguing three-locus interaction module that is not easily identifiable through traditional suppressor mapping. We conclude that whole-genome sequencing can drastically accelerate the identification of suppressor mutations and complex genetic interactions, and it can be applied as a standard tool to investigate the genetic traits of model organisms.
The small nucleotides pppGpp and ppGpp (or (p)ppGpp) are rapidly synthesized in response to nutritional stress. In Escherichia coli, the enzymes RelA and SpoT are triggered by different starvation signals to produce (p)ppGpp. In many Gram-positive bacteria this is carried out by RelA and two small homologs. (p)ppGpp, along with the transcription factor DksA, has profound effects on transcription initiation in E. coli. (p)ppGpp/DksA exert differential effects on promoters by playing upon their intrinsic kinetic parameters, and by facilitating the utilization of alternative sigma factors. (p)ppGpp also regulates replication and translation. These studies highlight (p)ppGpp as a key factor in bacterial physiology that responds rapidly to diverse stresses, by shutting down growth and priming cellular defensive and adaptive processes.
DNA replication is highly regulated in most organisms. Although much research has focused on mechanisms that regulate initiation of replication, mechanisms that regulate elongation of replication are less well understood. We characterized a mechanism that regulates replication elongation in the bacterium Bacillus subtilis. Replication elongation was inhibited within minutes after amino acid starvation, regardless of where the replication forks were located on the chromosome. We found that small nucleotides ppGpp and pppGpp, which are induced upon starvation, appeared to inhibit replication directly by inhibiting primase, an essential component of the replication machinery. The replication forks arrested with (p)ppGpp did not recruit the recombination protein RecA, indicating that the forks are not disrupted. (p)ppGpp appear to be part of a surveillance mechanism that links nutrient availability to replication by rapidly inhibiting replication in starved cells, thereby preventing replication-fork disruption. This control may be important for cells to maintain genomic integrity.
In many bacteria, there is a strong bias for genes to be encoded on the leading strand of DNA, resulting in coorientation of replication and transcription. In Bacillus subtilis, transcription of the majority of genes (75%) is cooriented with replication. By using genome-wide profiling of replication with DNA microarrays, we found that this coorientation bias reduces adverse effects of transcription on replication. We found that in wild-type cells, transcription did not appear to affect the rate of replication elongation. However, in mutants with reversed transcription bias for an extended region of the chromosome, replication elongation was slower. This reduced replication rate depended on transcription and was limited to the region in which the directions of replication and transcription are opposed. These results support the hypothesis that the strong bias to coorient transcription and replication is due to selective pressure for processive, efficient, and accurate replication.
DNA damage and perturbations in DNA replication can induce global transcriptional responses that can help organisms repair the damage and survive. RecA is known to mediate transcriptional responses to DNA damage in several bacterial species by inactivating the repressor LexA and phage repressors. To gain insight into how Bacillus subtilis responds to various types of DNA damage, we measured the effects of DNA damage and perturbations in replication on mRNA levels by using DNA microarrays. We perturbed replication either directly with p-hydroxyphenylazo-uracil (HPUra), an inhibitor of DNA polymerase, or indirectly with the DNA-damaging reagents mitomycin C (MMC) and UV irradiation. Our results indicate that the transcriptional responses to HPUra, MMC, and UV are only partially overlapping. recA is the major transcriptional regulator under all of the tested conditions, and LexA appears to directly repress the expression of 63 genes in 26 operons, including the 18 operons previously identified as LexA targets. MMC and HPUra treatments caused induction of an integrative and conjugative element (ICEBs1) and resident prophages (PBSX and SPbeta), which affected the expression of many host genes. Consistent with previous results, the induction of these mobile elements required recA. Induction of the phage appeared to require inactivation of LexA. Unrepaired UV damage and treatment with MMC also affected the expression of some of the genes that are controlled by DnaA. Furthermore, MMC treatment caused an increase in origin-proximal gene dosage. Our results indicate that different types of DNA damage have different effects on replication and on the global transcriptional profile.
The DNA replication machinery, various regions of the chromosome, and some plasmids occupy characteristic subcellular positions in bacterial cells. We visualized the location of a multicopy plasmid, pHP13, in living cells of Bacillus subtilis using an array of lac operators and LacI-green fluorescent protein (GFP). In the majority of cells, plasmids appeared to be highly mobile and randomly distributed. In a small fraction of cells, there appeared to be clusters of plasmids located predominantly at or near a cell pole. We also monitored the effects of the presence of multicopy plasmids on the position of DNA polymerase using a fusion of a subunit of DNA polymerase to GFP. Many of the plasmid-containing cells had extra foci of the replisome, and these were often found at uncharacteristic locations in the cell. Some of the replisome foci were dynamic and highly mobile, similar to what was observed for the plasmid. In contrast, replisome foci in plasmid-free cells were relatively stationary. Our results indicate that in B. subtilis, plasmid-associated replisomes are recruited to the subcellular position of the plasmid. Extending this notion to the chromosome, we postulated that the subcellular position of the chromosomally associated replisome is established by the subcellular location of oriC at the time of initiation of replication.
GroEL/S chaperonin ring complexes fold many unrelated proteins. To understand the basis and extent of the chaperonin substrate spectrum, we used rounds of selection and DNA shuffling to obtain GroEL/S variants that dramatically enhanced folding of a single substrate-green fluorescent protein (GFP). Changes in the substrate-optimized chaperonins increase the polarity of the folding cavity and alter the ATPase cycle. These findings reveal a surprising plasticity of GroEL/S, which can be exploited to aid folding of recombinant proteins. Our studies also reveal a conflict between specialization and generalization of chaperonins as increased GFP folding comes at the expense of the ability of GroEL/S to fold its natural substrates. This conflict and the nature of the ring structure may help explain the evolution of cellular chaperone systems.
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