Abstract: Trillions of microorganisms that inhabit the intestinal tract form a diverse and intricate ecosystem with a deeply embedded symbiotic relationship with their hosts. As more detailed information on gut microbiota complexity and functional diversity accumulates, we are learning more about how diet-microbiota interactions can influence the immune system within and outside the gut and host health in general. Heat shock proteins are a set of highly conserved proteins that are present in all types of cells, from microbes to mammals. These proteins carry out crucial intracellular housekeeping functions and unexpected extracellular immuno-regulatory features in order to maintain the mucosal barrier integrity and gut homeostasis. It is becoming evident that the enteric microbiota is one of the major determinants of heat shock protein production in intestinal epithelial cells. This review will focus on the interactions between diet, gut microbiota and their role for regulating heat shock protein production and, furthermore, how these interactions influence the immune system and the integrity of the mucosal barrier.
Abstract: Rapid adaptation to fluctuations in the host milieu contributes to the host persistence and virulence of bacterial pathogens. Adaptation is frequently mediated by hypermutable sequences in bacterial pathogens. Early bacterial genomic studies identified the multiplicity and virulence-associated functions of these hypermutable sequences. Thus, simple sequence repeat tracts (SSRs) and site-specific recombination were found to control capsular type, lipopolysaccharide structure, pilin diversity and the expression of outer membrane proteins. We review how the population diversity inherent in the SSR-mediated mechanism of localised hypermutation is being unlocked by the investigation of whole genome sequences of disease isolates, analysis of clinical samples and use of model systems. A contrast is presented between the problematical nature of analysing simple sequence repeats in next generation sequencing data and in simpler, pragmatic PCR-based approaches. Specific examples are presented of the potential relevance of this localized hypermutation to meningococcal pathogenesis. This leads us to speculate on the future prospects for unravelling how hypermutable mechanisms may contribute to the transmission, spread and persistence of bacterial pathogens.
Abstract: Prions are unique elements in biology, being able to transmit biological information from one organism to another in the absence of nucleic acids. They have been identified as self-replicating proteinaceous agents responsible for the onset of rare and fatal neurodegenerative disorders—known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, or prion diseases—which affect humans and other animal species. More recently, it has been proposed that other proteins associated with common neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, can self-replicate like prions, thus sustaining the spread of neurotoxic entities throughout the nervous system. Here, we review findings that have contributed to expand the prion concept, and discuss if the involved toxic species can be considered bona fide prions, including the capacity to infect other organisms, or whether these pathogenic aggregates share with prions only the capability to self-replicate.
Abstract: The Pseudomonas syringae species complex has recently been named the number one plant pathogen, due to its economic and environmental impacts, as well as for its role in scientific research. The bacterium has been repeatedly reported to cause outbreaks on bean, cucumber, stone fruit, kiwi and olive tree, as well as on other crop and non-crop plants. It also serves as a model organism for research on the Type III secretion system (T3SS) and plant-pathogen interactions. While most of the current work on this pathogen is either carried out on one of three model strains found on dicot plants with completely sequenced genomes or on isolates obtained from recent outbreaks, not much is known about strains isolated from grasses (Poaceae). Here, we use comparative genomics in order to identify putative virulence-associated genes and other Poaceae-specific adaptations in several newly available genome sequences of strains isolated from grass species. All strains possess only a small number of known Type III effectors, therefore pointing to the importance of non-Type III secreted virulence factors. The implications of this finding are discussed.
Abstract: The mammalian gut houses a complex microbial community which is believed to play a significant role in host physiology. In recent years, several microbial community analysis methods have been implemented to study the whole gut microbial environment, in contrast to classical microbiological methods focusing on bacteria which can be cultivated. One of these is automated ribosomal intergenic spacer analysis (ARISA), an inexpensive and popular way of analyzing bacterial diversity and community fingerprinting in ecological samples. ARISA uses the natural variability in length of the DNA fragment found between the 16S and 23S genes in different bacterial lineages to infer diversity. This method is now being supplanted by affordable next-generation sequencing technologies that can also simultaneously annotate operational taxonomic units for taxonomic identification. We compared ARISA and pyrosequencing of samples from the rumen microbiome of cows, previously sampled at different stages of development and varying in microbial complexity using several ecological parameters. We revealed close agreement between ARISA and pyrosequencing outputs, especially in their ability to discriminate samples from different ecological niches. In contrast, the ARISA method seemed to underestimate sample richness. The good performance of the relatively inexpensive ARISA makes it relevant for straightforward use in bacterial fingerprinting analysis as well as for quick cross-validation of pyrosequencing data.