Molecular Characterization c-di-GMP Signalling In Mycobacterium Smegmatis
Bharati, Binod Kumar
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Bacterial stationary phase is an interesting biological system to study, as the organism undergoes several metabolic changes during this period and new molecules are generated to support its survival. The stationary phase of mycobacteria has been extensively studied since the discovery of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the causative agent of tuberculosis. The stationary phase of mycobacteria adds further complication as many antibacterial drugs become less effective. The M. tuberculosis infects the alveolar macrophages and dendritic cells or monocytes recruited from peripheral blood. Macrophages are supposed to provide an initial barrier against the bacterial infection, but fails. Mycobacteria have evolved several strategies to survive and set up an initial residence within these cells and grow actively inside the host. The host immune system tries to limit the bacterial growth and confines the organism to a latent state in which the organism can persist indefinitely, known as granuloma stage. During latency or granuloma stage mycobacteria can retain the ability to resume the growth in the future. Mycobacteria must adapt to a highly dynamic and challenging environment because the interior environment of granuloma is devoid of or in low level of oxygen, depleted nutrient, high carbon dioxide, and possess increased levels of aliphatic organic acids and hydrolytic enzymes. The survival of a bacterium in less nutrient supply or in depleted oxygen is important for its long-¬term persistence inside the host under harsh environmental conditions. Mycobacterium smegmatis is the closest non-¬pathogenic homologue of M. tuberculosis, and has been used widely as a model system to study gene regulation under such conditions. In these harsh environmental conditions bacteria need to sense the external environment to modulate their gene expression. More importantly, each individual cell should communicate with its neighbours, and the response takes place in a concerted manner, which is termed as quorum sensing. Thus, the quorum sensing is a cell-¬cell signaling process that allow the bacteria to monitor the presence of other bacteria in their surroundings by producing and responding to small signaling molecules, which are known as autoinducers. It is a density dependent phenomenon and regulates the expression of the genes in response to fluctuation in cell¬-population density. A minimum threshold level of autoinducers is necessary to detect the signal and respond to it. Quorum sensing enables bacteria to behave like multicellular organisms and controls group activities like biofilm formation, sporulation, bioluminescence, virulence, and pigment production, etc (Bassler, 1999; Camilli & Bassler, 2006; Fuqua et al., 1996; Miller & Bassler, 2001). In Gram-¬negative bacteria, small-¬molecules, which are known as autoinducers are produced. They are acyl homoserine lactones (AHLs), which are derived from S¬adenosyl methionine (SAM) and particular fatty acyl carrier protein by LuxI¬type AHL synthases (Fuqua et al., 1996). In Gram-¬positive bacteria small peptides autoinducers, 5¬12 amino acids long, play an active role in communication. These oligopeptides are post--translationally modified by the incorporation of lactone and thiolactone rings, lanthionines and isoprenyl groups. These oligopeptide autoinducers are detected by membrane-¬bound two-¬component signaling proteins, and signal transduction occurs by a phosphorylation cascade (Camilli & Bassler, 2006; More et al., 1996; Novick, 2003; Zhang et al., 2002). In bacteria, the cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP), and guanosine pentaphosphate and/or tetraphosphate ((p)ppGpp) are well known second messengers, which play important role in relaying extracellular information, but recently cyclic diguanosine monophosphate (c-¬di¬-GMP) is being studied most comprehensively as a nucleotide-¬based second messenger. C-¬di¬-GMP was first discovered in Gluconacetobacter xylinus as a positive allosteric regulator of cellulose synthase (Ross et al., 1987; Tal et al., 1998; Weinhouse et al., 1997). The in vivo level of c-¬di-¬GMP in bacterial cell is maintained by the balance between diguanylate cyclase and phosphodiesterase activities. The GGDEF and EAL amino acids sequence are the signature motif for GGDEF and EAL domain protein within its active site, respectively. The GGDEF domain protein is involved in synthesis of c-¬di-¬GMP and the EAL domain protein is involved in the hydrolysis of c-¬di-¬GMP, and the majority of these proteins contain additional signal input domains (Paul et al., 2004; Ross et al., 1987; Ryjenkov et al., 2005; Tal et al., 1998). M. smegmatis has a single bi-¬functional protein having both the domains, GGDEF and EAL, for the diguanylate cyclase (DGC) and phosphodiesterase (PDE¬A) activities. In addition to GGDEF and EAL domain, one sensory domain, GAF, is also there at the N-terminal of MSMEG_2196 in M. smegmatis. In the present investigation, studies have been carried out to understand the regulation of c-¬di-¬GMP in M. smegmatis at protein and gene level. The entire study on mycobacterial MSMEG_2196 (msdgc¬1) can be broadly divided into five parts; the first part will cover the identification and biochemical characterization of MSDGC¬1 protein, responsible for the regulation of in vivo c-¬di-¬GMP concentration in M. smegmatis, and the presence of GGDEF¬EAL domain containing proteins in various mycobacterial species. The second part will cover the structure function relationship as a function of substrate, GTP and product, c-¬di-GMP, molecule using fluorescence spectroscopy as a tool, and the mutational and structural studies, which leads to the identification of a novel structural motif. The third part will cover the characterization of msdgc¬1 gene knockout and complementation studies in great detail. The fourth part will comprise in vivo and in vitro promoter characterization and regulation of the msdgc¬1 gene under nutritional starvation. The last chapter will cover the characterization of novel synthetic glycolipids, which are working as a growth and biofilm inhibitors in mycobacteria, and can be used as a new drug candidates. Chapter 1 outlines the signal transduction and quorum sensing mechanism, and small molecule signaling modules in brief. The importance of the study started with a brief introduction about the historical aspect of tuberculosis, the current scenario of the treatment of tuberculosis. The urgent need for new drug targets and drugs will be discussed. The important role of the novel second messenger, c-¬di¬-GMP has been explained in greater details in both Gram-¬positive and Gram-¬negative bacteria, and the information available on the different cellular targets has been documented. Chapter 2 describes the identification and biochemical characterization of M. smegmatis MSMEG_2196 protein. The domain architecture and individual domain role have been studied. The MSMEG_2196 proteins consist of three domains, GAF, GGDEF and EAL in tandem, and individual role of each domain has been studied. The diguanylate cyclases containing GGDEF and phosphodiesterases containing EAL domains have been identified as the enzymes involved in the regulation of in vivo cellular concentration of c-¬di-¬GMP. GAF domain has been identified as a metal binding domain in other bacteria and may be playing a role in the regulation of synthesis and hydrolysis activities of c-¬di¬-GMP. The identification, cloning expression and purification of MSMEG_2196 and MSMEG_2774 have been discussed. We have reported that mycobacterial MSDGC¬1 protein has dual activity, which means that it can synthesize and hydrolyse c¬-di-¬GMP; and also full-¬length protein is necessary for its either of the activities. The synthesis and hydrolysis products, c-¬di-¬GMP and pGpG, of MSDGC¬1 protein have been identified and characterized using radiolabelled alpha [α¬32P]GTP and Matrix Assisted Laser Desorption/Ionization mass spectrometry (MALDI). The effects of temperature and pH on the activities of MSDGC¬1 have been studied. The circular dichroism studies show that the MSDGC¬1 protein is predominantly α¬helical in nature, and secondary structure does not alter upon GTP binding. The kinetic parameters for MSDGC¬1 protein have been calculated as a function of substrate, GTP. The protein, MSDGC¬1, exist as a monomer and a dimer in solution. The MSDGC¬1 protein has four cysteines, and we have shown here using mass spectrometric analysis that none of the cysteines is involved in the disulphide linkage. Chapter 3 deals with the structure-¬function relationship as a function of GTP and c¬-di-GMP molecules using fluorescence spectroscopy as a tool. In order to do so we have generated several cysteine mutants using site directed mutagenesis, and protein was labelled with thiol-¬specific fluorophores. The labelled protein was checked for its DGC and PDE¬A activities and specificity of labelling was confirmed using MALDI and radiometric analysis. The Fluorescence Resonance Energy Transfer (FRET) has been carried out to observe domain-¬domain interaction as a function of GTP and c¬-di-¬GMP. The bioinformatics, structural, and mutational analysis suggest that cysteine at 579 position is important for DGC and PDE¬A activities, and may be involved in the formation of a novel structural motif, GCXXXQGF, which is necessary for synthesis and degradation of c-¬di-¬GMP. Chapter 4 describes the construction of a deletion mutation of MSMEG_2196 gene in M. smegmatis. The strategy for the construction of the knockout strain has been shown and confirmation of the knockout event has been carried out using PCR and Southern hybridization. The effect of deletion of msdgc¬1 has been studied in great detail, and it was noticed that biofilm formation is not affected, but long-¬term survival is significantly compromised. It is hypothesized here that c-¬di¬-GMP is involved in the regulation of cell population density in mycobacteria. We have successfully detected the c-¬di¬-GMP in the total nucleotide extract using HLPC coupled with MALDI, and we have shown here that level of c-¬di-¬GMP increases many fold in the stationary phase of growth under nutritional starvation. Chapter 5 deals with the identification and characterization of the promoter element of msdgc¬1 in M. smegmatis. The study was undertaken to understand the mechanism of regulation at promoter level. We have observed here that msdgc¬1 promoter is starvation induced, and expression of msdgc¬1 increases many fold in the stationary phase under nutritional starvation. We have also tried to establish the link between the ppGpp and c-di¬-GMP signalling, and possible role of c-¬di-¬GMP in the regulation of cell population density have been discussed. Further, the +1 transcription start site has been identified using primer extension method. The putative ¬10 hexamer region for the RNA polymerase binding has been identified and confirmed using site-¬directed mutagenesis. It was found to be TCGATA, which is 14 bp upstream from the +1 transcription start site. The msdgc-1 promoter is specific for mycobacteria and does not function in E. coli. Moreover, we have identified the sigma factors, which regulate the msdgc¬1 promoter in growth phase dependent manner. Chapter 6 begins with the screening of synthetic glycolipids as a novel drug candidate. The different glycolipids have been tested for their effect on growth, biofilm formation, and sliding motility of M. smegmatis, and we have screened few of them, which were found to be effective in inhibiting the microbial growth, biofilm formation, and sliding motility. Chapter 7 summarizes the work presented in this thesis. Appendix: The protein sequences of MSDGC¬1 and MSDGC¬2, and the multiple sequence alignments of MSDGC¬1 protein have been documented. The FORTRAN program, which was used to calculate spectral overlap integral J, and the diagrams of the plasmids used in this study have been provided.