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  1. Brun, Yves V. (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT The alphaproteobacterium Sinorhizobium meliloti secretes two acidic exopolysaccharides (EPSs), succinoglycan (EPSI) and galactoglucan (EPSII), which differentially enable it to adapt to a changing environment. Succinoglycan is essential for invasion of plant hosts and, thus, for the formation of nitrogen-fixing root nodules. Galactoglucan is critical for population-based behaviors such as swarming and biofilm formation and can facilitate invasion in the absence of succinoglycan on some host plants. The biosynthesis of galactoglucan is not as completely understood as that of succinoglycan. We devised a pipeline to identify putative pyruvyltransferase and acetyltransferase genes, construct genomic deletions in strains engineered to produce either succinoglycan or galactoglucan, and analyze EPS from mutant bacterial strains. EPS samples were examined by 13 C cross-polarization magic-angle spinning (CPMAS) solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR). CPMAS NMR is uniquely suited to defining chemical composition in complex samples and enables the detection and quantification of distinct EPS functional groups. Galactoglucan was isolated from mutant strains with deletions in five candidate acyl/acetyltransferase genes ( exoZ , exoH , SMb20810 , SMb21188 , and SMa1016 ) and a putative pyruvyltransferase ( wgaE or SMb21322 ). Most samples were similar in composition to wild-type EPSII by CPMAS NMR analysis. However, galactoglucan produced frommore »a strain lacking wgaE exhibited a significant reduction in pyruvylation. Pyruvylation was restored through the ectopic expression of plasmid-borne wgaE . Our work has thus identified WgaE as a galactoglucan pyruvyltransferase. This exemplifies how the systematic combination of genetic analyses and solid-state NMR detection is a rapid means to identify genes responsible for modification of rhizobial exopolysaccharides. IMPORTANCE Nitrogen-fixing bacteria are crucial for geochemical cycles and global nitrogen nutrition. Symbioses between legumes and rhizobial bacteria establish root nodules, where bacteria convert dinitrogen to ammonia for plant utilization. Secreted exopolysaccharides (EPSs) produced by Sinorhizobium meliloti (succinoglycan and galactoglucan) play important roles in soil and plant environments. The biosynthesis of galactoglucan is not as well characterized as that of succinoglycan. We employed solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) to examine intact EPS from wild-type and mutant S. meliloti strains. NMR analysis of EPS isolated from a wgaE gene mutant revealed a novel pyruvyltransferase that modifies galactoglucan. Few EPS pyruvyltransferases have been characterized. Our work provides insight into the biosynthesis of an important S. meliloti EPS and expands the knowledge of enzymes that modify polysaccharides.« less
  2. Brun, Yves V. (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT Bacteria adopt a wide variety of sizes and shapes, with many species exhibiting stereotypical morphologies. How morphology changes, and over what timescales, is less clear. Previous work examining cell morphology in an experiment with Escherichia coli showed that populations evolved larger cells and, in some cases, cells that were less rod-like. That experiment has now run for over two more decades. Meanwhile, genome sequence data are available for these populations, and new computational methods enable high-throughput microscopic analyses. In this study, we measured stationary-phase cell volumes for the ancestor and 12 populations at 2,000, 10,000, and 50,000 generations, including measurements during exponential growth at the last time point. We measured the distribution of cell volumes for each sample using a Coulter counter and microscopy, the latter of which also provided data on cell shape. Our data confirm the trend toward larger cells while also revealing substantial variation in size and shape across replicate populations. Most populations first evolved wider cells but later reverted to the ancestral length-to-width ratio. All but one population evolved mutations in rod shape maintenance genes. We also observed many ghost-like cells in the only population that evolved the novel ability to grow on citrate, supportingmore »the hypothesis that this lineage struggles with maintaining balanced growth. Lastly, we show that cell size and fitness remain correlated across 50,000 generations. Our results suggest that larger cells are beneficial in the experimental environment, while the reversion toward ancestral length-to-width ratios suggests partial compensation for the less favorable surface area-to-volume ratios of the evolved cells. IMPORTANCE Bacteria exhibit great morphological diversity, yet we have only a limited understanding of how their cell sizes and shapes evolve and of how these features affect organismal fitness. This knowledge gap reflects, in part, the paucity of the fossil record for bacteria. In this study, we revived and analyzed samples extending over 50,000 generations from 12 populations of experimentally evolving Escherichia coli to investigate the relation between cell size, shape, and fitness. Using this “frozen fossil record,” we show that all 12 populations evolved larger cells concomitant with increased fitness, with substantial heterogeneity in cell size and shape across the replicate lines. Our work demonstrates that cell morphology can readily evolve and diversify, even among populations living in identical environments.« less
  3. Brun, Yves V. (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT Fluctuations in osmolarity are one of the most prevalent stresses to which bacteria must adapt, both hypo- and hyperosmotic conditions. Most bacteria cope with high osmolarity by accumulating compatible solutes (osmolytes) in the cytoplasm to maintain the turgor pressure of the cell. Vibrio parahaemolyticus , a halophile, utilizes at least six compatible solute transporters for the uptake of osmolytes: two ABC family ProU transporters and four betaine-carnitine-choline transporter (BCCT) family transporters. The full range of compatible solutes transported by this species has yet to be determined. Using an osmolyte phenotypic microarray plate for growth analyses, we expanded the known osmolytes used by V. parahaemolyticus to include N , N -dimethylglycine (DMG), among others. Growth pattern analysis of four triple- bccT mutants, possessing only one functional BCCT, indicated that BccT1 (VP1456), BccT2 (VP1723), and BccT3 (VP1905) transported DMG. BccT1 was unusual in that it could take up both compounds with methylated head groups (glycine betaine [GB], choline, and DMG) and cyclic compounds (ectoine and proline). Bioinformatics analysis identified the four coordinating amino acid residues for GB in the BccT1 protein. In silico modeling analysis demonstrated that GB, DMG, and ectoine docked in the same binding pocket in BccT1. Using site-directedmore »mutagenesis, we showed that a strain with all four residues mutated resulted in the loss of uptake of GB, DMG, and ectoine. We showed that three of the four residues were essential for ectoine uptake, whereas only one of the residues was important for GB uptake. Overall, we have demonstrated that DMG is a highly effective compatible solute for Vibrio species and have elucidated the amino acid residues in BccT1 that are important for the coordination of GB, DMG, and ectoine transport. IMPORTANCE Vibrio parahaemolyticus possesses at least six osmolyte transporters, which allow the bacterium to adapt to high-salinity conditions. In this study, we identified several additional osmolytes that were utilized by V. parahaemolyticus . We demonstrated that the compound DMG, which is present in the marine environment, was a highly effective osmolyte for Vibrio species. We determined that DMG is transported via BCCT family carriers, which have not been shown previously to take up this compound. BccT1 was a carrier for GB, DMG, and ectoine, and we identified the amino acid residues essential for the coordination of these compounds. The data suggest that for BccT1, GB is more easily accommodated than ectoine in the transporter binding pocket.« less
  4. Brun, Yves V. (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT Bacteria have a variety of mechanisms for adapting to environmental perturbations. Changes in oxygen availability result in a switch between aerobic and anaerobic respiration, whereas iron limitation may lead to siderophore secretion. In addition to metabolic adaptations, many organisms respond by altering their cell shape. Caulobacter crescentus , when grown under phosphate-limiting conditions, dramatically elongates its polar stalk appendage. The stalk is hypothesized to facilitate phosphate uptake; however, the mechanistic details of stalk synthesis are not well characterized. We used a chemical mutagenesis approach to isolate and characterize stalk-deficient mutants, one of which had two mutations in the phosphomannose isomerase gene ( manA ) that were necessary and sufficient to inhibit stalk elongation. Transcription of the pho regulon was unaffected in the manA mutant; therefore, ManA plays a unique regulatory role in stalk synthesis. The mutant ManA had reduced enzymatic activity, resulting in a 5-fold increase in the intracellular fructose 6-phosphate/mannose 6-phosphate ratio. This metabolic imbalance impaired the synthesis of cellular envelope components derived from mannose 6-phosphate, namely, lipopolysaccharide O-antigen and exopolysaccharide. Furthermore, the manA mutations prevented C. crescentus cells from efficiently entering stationary phase. Deletion of the stationary-phase response regulator gene spdR inhibited stalk elongation in wild-type cells,more »while overproduction of the alarmone ppGpp, which triggers growth arrest and stationary-phase entry, increased stalk length in the manA mutant strain. These results demonstrate that sugar-phosphate metabolism regulates stalk elongation independently of phosphate starvation. IMPORTANCE Metabolic control of bacterial cell shape is an important mechanism for adapting to environmental perturbations. Caulobacter crescentus dramatically elongates its polar stalk appendage in response to phosphate starvation. To investigate the mechanism of this morphological adaptation, we isolated stalk-deficient mutants, one of which had mutations in the phosphomannose isomerase gene ( manA ) that blocked stalk elongation, despite normal activation of the phosphate starvation response. The mutant ManA resulted in an imbalance in sugar-phosphate concentrations, which had effects on the synthesis of cellular envelope components and entry into stationary phase. Due to the interconnectivity of metabolic pathways, our findings may suggest more generally that the modulation of bacterial cell shape involves the regulation of growth phase and the synthesis of cellular building blocks.« less