Doctor of Philosophy, Emory University (2013)
Bachelor of Arts, Agnes Scott College (2007)
Denise Monack, Postdoctoral Faculty Sponsor
The alarming rise in antibiotic resistance has led to an increase in patient mortality and health care costs. This problem is compounded by the absence of new antibiotics close to regulatory approval. Acinetobacter baumannii is a human pathogen that causes infections primarily in patients in intensive care units (ICUs) and is highly antibiotic resistant. Colistin is one of the last-line antibiotics for treating A. baumannii infections; however, colistin-resistant strains are becoming increasingly common. This cationic antibiotic attacks negatively charged bacterial membranes in a manner similar to that seen with cationic antimicrobials of the innate immune system. We therefore set out to determine if the increasing use of colistin, and emergence of colistin-resistant strains, is concomitant with the generation of cross-resistance to host cationic antimicrobials. We found that there is indeed a positive correlation between resistance to colistin and resistance to the host antimicrobials LL-37 and lysozyme among clinical isolates. Importantly, isolates obtained before and after treatment of individual patients demonstrated that colistin use correlated with increased resistance to cationic host antimicrobials. These data reveal the overlooked risk of inducing cross-resistance to host antimicrobials when treating patients with colistin as a last-line antibiotic. IMPORTANCE Increased use of the cationic antibiotic colistin to treat multidrug-resistant Acinetobacter baumannii has led to the development of colistin-resistant strains. Here we report that treatment of patients with colistin can induce not only increased resistance to colistin but also resistance to host cationic antimicrobials. This worrisome finding likely represents an example of a broader trend observed in other bacteria against which colistin is used therapeutically such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Klebsiella pneumoniae. Furthermore, these data suggest that the possible future use of an array of cationic antimicrobial peptides in development as therapeutics may have unintended negative consequences, eventually leading to the generation of hypervirulent strains that are resistant to innate host defenses. The potential for the induction of cross-resistance to innate immune antimicrobials should be considered during the development of new therapeutics.
View details for DOI 10.1128/mBio.00021-13
View details for Web of Science ID 000321187400003
View details for PubMedID 23695834
We recently identified a gene (FTN_0818) required for Francisella virulence that seemed likely involved in biotin metabolism. However, the molecular function of this virulence determinant was unclear. Here we show that this protein named BioJ is the enzyme of the biotin biosynthesis pathway that determines the chain length of the biotin valeryl side-chain. Expression of bioJ allows growth of an Escherichia coli bioH strain on biotin-free medium, indicating functional equivalence of BioJ to the paradigm pimeloyl-ACP methyl ester carboxyl-esterase, BioH. BioJ was purified to homogeneity, shown to be monomeric and capable of hydrolysis of its physiological substrate methyl pimeloyl-ACP to pimeloyl-ACP, the precursor required to begin formation of the fused heterocyclic rings of biotin. Phylogenetic analyses confirmed that distinct from BioH, BioJ represents a novel subclade of the α/β-hydrolase family. Structure-guided mapping combined with site-directed mutagenesis revealed that the BioJ catalytic triad consists of Ser151, Asp248 and His278, all of which are essential for activity and virulence. The biotin synthesis pathway was reconstituted reaction in vitro and the physiological role of BioJ directly assayed. To the best of our knowledge, these data represent further evidence linking biotin synthesis to bacterial virulence.
View details for DOI 10.1111/mmi.12460
View details for PubMedID 24313380
Cytosolic bacterial pathogens require extensive metabolic adaptations within the host to replicate intracellularly and cause disease. In phagocytic cells such as macrophages, these pathogens must respond rapidly to nutrient limitation within the harsh environment of the phagosome. Many cytosolic pathogens escape the phagosome quickly (15-60 min) and thereby subvert this host defense, reaching the cytosol where they can replicate. Although a great deal of research has focused on strategies used by bacteria to resist antimicrobial phagosomal defenses and transiently pass through this compartment, the metabolic requirements of bacteria in the phagosome are largely uncharacterized. We previously identified a Francisella protein, FTN_0818, as being essential for intracellular replication and involved in virulence in vivo. We now show that FTN_0818 is involved in biotin biosynthesis and required for rapid escape from the Francisella-containing phagosome (FCP). Addition of biotin complemented the phagosomal escape defect of the FTN_0818 mutant, demonstrating that biotin is critical for promoting rapid escape during the short time that the bacteria are in the phagosome. Biotin also rescued the attenuation of the FTN_0818 mutant during infection in vitro and in vivo, highlighting the importance of this process. The key role of biotin in phagosomal escape implies biotin may be a limiting factor during infection. We demonstrate that a bacterial metabolite is required for phagosomal escape of an intracellular pathogen, providing insight into the link between bacterial metabolism and virulence, likely serving as a paradigm for other cytosolic pathogens.
View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.1206411109
View details for Web of Science ID 000311149900081
View details for PubMedID 23071317
Modification of specific Gram-negative bacterial cell envelope components, such as capsule, O-antigen and lipid A, are often essential for the successful establishment of infection. Francisella species express lipid A molecules with unique characteristics involved in circumventing host defences, which significantly contribute to their virulence. In this study, we show that NaxD, a member of the highly conserved YdjC superfamily, is a deacetylase required for an important modification of the outer membrane component lipid A in Francisella. Mass spectrometry analysis revealed that NaxD is essential for the modification of a lipid A phosphate with galactosamine in Francisella novicida, a model organism for the study of highly virulent Francisella tularensis. Significantly, enzymatic assays confirmed that this protein is necessary for deacetylation of its substrate. In addition, NaxD was involved in resistance to the antimicrobial peptide polymyxin B and critical for replication in macrophages and in vivo virulence. Importantly, this protein is also required for lipid A modification in F. tularensis as well as Bordetella bronchiseptica. Since NaxD homologues are conserved among many Gram-negative pathogens, this work has broad implications for our understanding of host subversion mechanisms of other virulent bacteria.
View details for DOI 10.1111/mmi.12004
View details for Web of Science ID 000310238200009
View details for PubMedID 22966934
Francisella tularensis is a gram-negative intracellular pathogen and the causative agent of the disease tularemia. Inhalation of as few as 10 bacteria is sufficient to cause severe disease, making F. tularensis one of the most highly virulent bacterial pathogens. The initial stage of infection is characterized by the "silent" replication of bacteria in the absence of a significant inflammatory response. Francisella achieves this difficult task using several strategies: (i) strong integrity of the bacterial surface to resist host killing mechanisms and the release of inflammatory bacterial components (pathogen-associated molecular patterns [PAMPs]), (ii) modification of PAMPs to prevent activation of inflammatory pathways, and (iii) active modulation of the host response by escaping the phagosome and directly suppressing inflammatory pathways. We review the specific mechanisms by which Francisella achieves these goals to subvert host defenses and promote pathogenesis, highlighting as-yet-unanswered questions and important areas for future study.
View details for DOI 10.1128/MMBR.05027-11
View details for Web of Science ID 000305508000008
View details for PubMedID 22688817
Francisella tularensis is a gram-negative facultative intracellular pathogen and the causative agent of tularemia. Recently, genome-wide screens have identified Francisella genes required for virulence in mice. However, the mechanisms by which most of the corresponding proteins contribute to pathogenesis are still largely unknown. To further elucidate the roles of these virulence determinants in Francisella pathogenesis, we tested whether each gene was required for replication of the model pathogen F. novicida within macrophages, an important virulence trait. Fifty-three of the 224 genes tested were involved in intracellular replication, including many of those within the Francisella pathogenicity island (FPI), validating our results. Interestingly, over one third of the genes identified are annotated as hypothetical, indicating that F. novicida likely utilizes novel virulence factors for intracellular replication. To further characterize these virulence determinants, we selected two hypothetical genes to study in more detail. As predicted by our screen, deletion mutants of FTN_0096 and FTN_1133 were attenuated for replication in macrophages. The mutants displayed differing levels of attenuation in vivo, with the FTN_1133 mutant being the most attenuated. FTN_1133 has sequence similarity to the organic hydroperoxide resistance protein Ohr, an enzyme involved in the bacterial response to oxidative stress. We show that FTN_1133 is required for F. novicida resistance to, and degradation of, organic hydroperoxides as well as resistance to the action of the NADPH oxidase both in macrophages and mice. Furthermore, we demonstrate that F. holarctica LVS, a strain derived from a highly virulent human pathogenic species of Francisella, also requires this protein for organic hydroperoxide resistance as well as replication in macrophages and mice. This study expands our knowledge of Francisella's largely uncharacterized intracellular lifecycle and demonstrates that FTN_1133 is an important novel mediator of oxidative stress resistance.
View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0024201
View details for Web of Science ID 000294689200023
View details for PubMedID 21915295
A subset of invasive nontypeable Haemophilus influenzae (NTHI) strains has evidence of IS1016, an insertion element associated with division I H. influenzae capsule serotypes. We examined IS1016-positive invasive NTHI isolates collected as part of Active Bacterial Core Surveillance within the Georgia Emerging Infections Program for the presence or absence of hmw1 and hmw2 (two related adhesin genes that are common in NTHI but absent in encapsulated H. influenzae) and hia (homologue of hsf, an encapsulated H. influenzae adhesin gene). Isolates were serotyped using slide agglutination, confirmed as NTHI strains using PCR capsule typing, and biotyped. Two hundred twenty-nine invasive NTHI isolates collected between August 1998 and December 2006 were screened for IS1016; 22/229 (9.6%) were positive. Nineteen of 201 previously identified IS1016-positive invasive NTHI isolates collected between January 1989 and July 1998 were also examined. Forty-one IS1016-positive and 56 randomly selected IS1016-negative invasive NTHI strains were examined. The hia adhesin was present in 39 of 41 (95%) IS1016-positive NTHI strains and 1 of 56 (1.8%) IS1016-negative NTHI strains tested; hmw (hmw1, hmw2, or both) was present in 50 of 56 (89%) IS1016-negative NTHI isolates but in only 5 of 41 (12%; all hmw2) IS1016-positive NTHI isolates. IS1016-positive NTHI strains were more often biotype V (P < 0.001) or biotype I (P = 0.04) than IS1016-negative NTHI strains, which were most often biotype II. Pulsed-field gel electrophoresis revealed the expected genetic diversity of NTHI with some clustering based on IS1016, hmw or hia, and biotypes. A significant association of IS1016 with biotypes V and I and the presence of hia adhesins was found among invasive NTHI. IS1016-positive NTHI strains may represent a unique subset of NTHI strains, with characteristics more closely resembling those of encapsulated H. influenzae.
View details for DOI 10.1128/IAI.00672-08
View details for Web of Science ID 000260165500047
View details for PubMedID 18794287