Moonlighting Functions of the Rv0805 Phosphodiesterase from Mycobacterium Tuberculosis
All organisms must sense and respond to their environment in order to survive. The processes that allow a living cell to sense changes in its environment, and respond appropriately are collectively referred to as ‘signal transduction’. Cyclic AMP is a ubiquitously used second messenger molecule that plays diverse roles from hormone signalling in mammalian cells to catabolite repression in enteric bacteria. In several bacterial pathogens such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa, cAMP has also been found to mediate pathogenesis, usually by regulating the production of several virulence factors aiding in colonisation of the host. Cyclic AMP signalling has been suggested to regulate the virulence of the obligate intracellular Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Mycobacteria, including M. tuberculosis, code for a large number of adenylyl cyclases, enzymes that synthesise cAMP. Of the 16 putative adenylyl cyclases encoded by M. tuberculosis H37Rv, 10 have received extensive biochemical attention. A knockout of one of these cyclases, Rv0386, resulted in compromised virulence of M. tuberculosis. Ten proteins predicted to bind cAMP and mediate its cellular roles have also been identified in M. tuberculosis. Among these are the cAMP-regulated transcription factor, CRPMt, and cAMP-regulated protein acetyl transferase, KATmt. Comparatively little information is available, however, regarding the roles of cAMP-degrading machinery in mycobacteria. Two phosphodiesterases, with modest activity against cAMP in vitro, have been identified from M. tuberculosis, and are encoded by the Rv0805 and Rv2795c loci. Of these, Rv2795c has orthologs in all sequenced mycobacterial genomes. However, Rv0805-like proteins are coded only by slow growing mycobacteria such as the M. tuberculosis-complex, M. marinum and M. leprae, several of which are human or animal pathogens. Rv0805 belongs to the metallophosphoesterase superfamily of proteins, consisting of metal-dependent phosphoesterases with substrates ranging from large polymers like nucleic acids to small molecules like cAMP and glycerophospholipids. Like other metallophosphoesterases, Rv0805 displays promiscuous substrate utilisation and efficient hydrolysis of 2’3’-cAMP in vitro. Rv0805 also hydrolyses 3’5’-cAMP in vitro. Overexpression of Rv0805 is reported to lead to reduction in intracellular cAMP levels in M. smegmatis and M. tuberculosis, suggesting that it is capable of hydrolysing cAMP in the bacterial cell as well. The structure of Rv0805 revealed a sandwich-like α/β fold, typical of metallophosphoesterases, along with a relatively flexible C-terminal domain of unknown function. Despite extensive biochemical and structural information on Rv0805 however, its roles in mycobacteria remain unknown. In this study, the cellular roles of Rv0805 are explored and using information from biochemical and structural analyses, novel activities and interactions of Rv0805 have been identified. Rv0805, when expressed in M. smegmatis, led to a reduction in intracellular cAMP, as previously reported. However, the extent of reduction was modest (~30 %) and limited to the exponential phase of growth when both Rv0805 and intracellular cAMP are at their highest levels. Overexpression of Rv0805 also resulted in hypersensitivity to cell wall perturbants like crystal violet and sodium dodecyl sulphate (SDS) indicative of a change in the properties of the cell envelope of M. smegmatis. Importantly, these effects were independent of cAMP-hydrolysis by Rv0805, as overexpression of catalytically inactive Rv0805N97A also elicited similar changes. Unexpectedly, Rv0805 was localised to the cell envelope, both in M. tuberculosis as well as in M. smegmatis. The ability of Rv0805 to localise to the cell envelope was dependent on it C-terminus, as truncation of Rv0805 in this region (Rv0805Δ10, Rv0805Δ20 and Rv0805Δ40) resulted in progressively greater enrichment in the cytosol of M. smegmatis. Overexpression of Rv0805Δ40, which was localised almost completely to the cytosol, did not result in hypersensitivity to SDS, suggesting that cell envelope localisation, rather than cAMP-hydrolysis, was crucial for the cell envelope modifying roles of Rv0805. A possible mechanism behind the cell envelope-related effects of Rv0805 overexpression was the ability of the protein to interact with the cell wall of mycobacteria in a C-terminus-dependent manner. Purified Rv0805, but not Rv0805Δ40, could associate with crude mycobacterial cell wall as well as purified cell wall core polymer (mycolyl-arabinogalactan-peptidoglycan complex) in vitro. In addition to the C-terminus, the architecture of the active site was also crucial for this interaction as mutations in the active site that compromised metal-binding also resulted in poor interaction with the cell wall. Most significant among these residues was His207, which when mutated to Ala almost completely abrogated interaction with the cell wall in vitro. Further, Rv0805H207A was unable to localise to the cell envelope when expressed in M. smegmatis, even in the presence of the C-terminus, highlighting the importance of this residue in maintaining the structural integrity of Rv0805, and demonstrating that the structure of the C-terminus, rather than its sequence alone, played a role in cell envelope localisation and interaction. In order to verify that the observed sensitivity of Rv0805-overexpressing M. smegmatis to cell wall perturbants was due to a change in cell envelope properties atomic force microscopy was employed. Two distinct modes of operation were used to analyse surface and bulk properties of the mycobacterial cell envelope. These were tapping mode phase imaging, and contact mode force spectroscopy. Using tapping mode phase imaging, it was found that the cell surface of M. smegmatis was inherently heterogeneous in its mechanical properties. Further, contact mode force-spectroscopy revealed that the cell envelope of M. smegmatis in cross-section had at least three layers of varying stiffness. Typically, a middle layer of high stiffness was observed, sandwiched between two lower stiffness layers. This organisation is reminiscent of the current model of the mycobacterial cell envelope, possessing a central polysaccharide rich layer and outer and inner lipid rich layers. Treatment of wild type M. smegmatis with cell wall-perturbing antibiotics isoniazid and ethambutol resulted in markedly altered phase images, as well as significantly lower stiffness of the bacterial cell envelopes, validating that the methodology employed could indeed be used to assess cell wall perturbation in mycobacteria. Further, M. smegmatis harbouring deletions in cell envelope biosynthesis related genes, MSMEG_4722 and aftC, showed significantly lower cell wall stiffness than wild type M. smegmatis, providing evidence that genetic perturbation of the cell wall of mycobacteria could also be studied using atomic force microscopy. While phase imaging revealed similar surface properties of Rv0805-overexpressing and control M. smegmatis, force spectroscopy revealed significantly lower cell envelope stiffness, particularly of the middle layer, of the former. Cell envelope stiffness was, however, unaffected by expression of Rv0805Δ40 in M. smegmatis, providing direct evidence for C-terminus-dependent cell envelope perturbation upon Rv0805 overexpression. Additionally, overexpression of Rv0805N97A, but not Rv0805H207A led to reduced stiffness of the cell envelope of M. smegmatis, demonstrating that the cell wall remodelling activity of Rv0805 was independent of cAMP-hydrolysis, but dependent on cellular localisation and cell wall interaction. Like in M. smegmatis, overexpression of Rv0805 also led to lower cAMP levels in M. tuberculosis. Using a microarray-based transcriptomics approach, pathways affected by Rv0805 overexpression were identified. Rv0805 overexpression elicited a transcriptional response, leading to the down-regulation of a number of virulence associated genes such as whiB7, eis, prpC and prpD. Importantly, Rv0805-overexpression associated gene expression changes did not include genes regulated by CRPMt, the primary cAMP-regulated transcription factor in M. tuberculosis. Further, Rv0805N97A overexpression in M. tuberculosis led to similar changes in gene expression as overexpression of the wild type protein. These observations reiterated that, at least upon overexpression, the effects of Rv0805 were largely independent of cAMP-hydrolysis. Using overexpression in M. smegmatis and M. tuberculosis, cAMP-hydrolysis independent roles of Rv0805 in mycobacteria were identified. To further validate these observations, a knockout strain of the Rv0805 gene was generated in M. bovis BCG, a well-established model to study M. tuberculosis. Curiously, deletion of Rv0805 did not lead to a change in intracellular cAMP levels, demonstrating that cAMP-hydrolysis by Rv0805 may not contribute to the modulation of mycobacterial cAMP levels under standard laboratory growth conditions. Rv0805 deletion led to altered colony morphology and possible reduction in cell wall thickness, reaffirming the roles of this phosphodiesterase in regulating cell envelope physiology of mycobacteria. Additionally, Rv0805 deletion also resulted in compromised growth of M. bovis BCG in fatty acid-deficient media, implicating Rv0805 as a possible regulator of carbon metabolism. In summary, this thesis explores novel links between Rv0805 and the mycobacterial cell wall and elucidates the critical importance of the C-terminus domain of this metallophosphodiesterase in modulating its cellular localisation to, and interaction with, the mycobacterial cell envelope. En route to understanding the effects of Rv0805 overexpression on the cell wall of M. smegmatis, an atomic force microscopy-based methodology to assess perturbation of the cell envelope of mycobacteria was also developed. Finally, using a combination of biochemical and genetic analyses, cellular roles of Rv0805, independent of cAMP-hydrolysis, were identified in slow-growing mycobacteria. This study therefore provides direct evidence against the sole role of this mycobacterial phosphodiesterase as a regulator of intracellular cAMP levels, and opens up new avenues to understanding the cellular functions of Rv0805 and indeed other members of the metallophosphoesterase superfamily.