Evaluation of PCR-based methods for discrimination of Francisella species and subspecies and development of a specific PCR that distinguishes the two major subspecies of Francisella tularensis.
Previous studies have demonstrated that the four subspecies of the human pathogen Francisella tularensis, despite showing marked variations in their virulence for mammals and originating from different regions in the Northern Hemisphere, display a very close phylogenetic relationship. This property has hampered the development of generally applicable typing methods. To overcome this problem, we evaluated the use of PCR for discrimination of the subspecies using various forms of long arbitrary primers or primers specific for repetitive extragenic palindromic sequences (REP) or enterobacterial repetitive intragenic consensus (ERIC) sequences. Patterns generated by use of REP, ERIC, or long arbitrary primers allowed differentiation at the species level and of the four subspecies of F. tularensis. With each of these three methods, similar or identical clustering of strains was found, and groups of strains of different geographical origins or differing in virulence showed distinct patterns. The discriminatory indices of the methods varied from 0.57 to 0.65; thus, the patterns were not sufficiently discriminatory to distinguish individual strains. The sequence of a fragment generated by amplification with an arbitrary primer was determined, and a region showing interstrain heterogeneity was identified. Specific primers were designed, and a PCR was developed that distinguished strains of F. tularensis subsp. holarctica from strains of other F. tularensis subspecies, including strains of the highly virulent F. tularensis subsp. tularensis. Notably, one European isolate showed the genetic pattern typical of the highly virulent F. tularensis subsp. tularensis, generally believed to exist only in North America. It is proposed that a combination of the specific PCR together with one method generating subspecies-specific patterns is suitable as a rapid and relatively simple strategy for discrimination of Francisella species and subspecies. (+info)
Molecular cloning of the recA gene and construction of a recA strain of Francisella novicida.
A gene locus that is functionally analogous to the recA gene of Escherichia coli was molecularly cloned from Francisella novicida. The cloned gene was found to suppress the sensitivity of an E. coli strain to DNA-damaging agents and to support genetic recombination in E. coli. After transposon mutagenesis, the recA-like gene locus was returned to F. novicida and a UV-sensitive F. novicida strain was isolated. In contrast to the wild-type strain, this UV-sensitive strain could not be transformed with chromosomal DNA. (+info)
Problems in identification of Francisella philomiragia associated with fatal bacteremia in a patient with chronic granulomatous disease.
Francisella philomiragia is a rare gram-negative, halophilic coccobacillus with bizarre spherical forms on primary isolation. A case of F. philomiragia bacteremia in a 24-year-old patient with chronic granulomatous disease is reported. Identification of F. philomiragia was problematic with conventional tests but was done correctly and rapidly by kit 16S ribosomal DNA sequencing. (+info)
MsbA transporter-dependent lipid A 1-dephosphorylation on the periplasmic surface of the inner membrane: topography of francisella novicida LpxE expressed in Escherichia coli.
The lipid A anchor of Francisella tularensis lipopolysaccharide (LPS) lacks both phosphate groups present in Escherichia coli lipid A. Membranes of Francisella novicida (an environmental strain related to F. tularensis) contain enzymes that dephosphorylate lipid A and its precursors at the 1- and 4'-positions. We now report the cloning and characterization of a membrane-bound phosphatase of F. novicida that selectively dephosphorylates the 1-position. By transferring an F. novicida genomic DNA library into E. coli and selecting for low level polymyxin resistance, we isolated FnlpxE as the structural gene for the 1-phosphatase, an inner membrane enzyme of 239 amino acid residues. Expression of FnlpxE in a heptose-deficient mutant of E. coli caused massive accumulation of a previously uncharacterized LPS molecule, identified by mass spectrometry as 1-dephospho-Kdo2-lipid A. The predicted periplasmic orientation of the FnLpxE active site suggested that LPS export might be required for 1-dephosphorylation of lipid A. LPS and phospholipid export depend on the activity of MsbA, an essential inner membrane ABC transporter. Expression of FnlpxE in the msbA temperature-sensitive E. coli mutant WD2 resulted in 90% 1-dephosphorylation of lipid A at the permissive temperature (30 degrees C). However, the 1-phosphate group of newly synthesized lipid A was not cleaved at the nonpermissive temperature (44 degrees C). Our findings provide the first direct evidence that lipid A 1-dephosphorylation catalyzed by LpxE occurs on the periplasmic surface of the inner membrane. (+info)
Construction and characterization of a highly efficient Francisella shuttle plasmid.
Francisella tularensis is a facultative intracellular pathogen that infects a wide variety of mammals and causes tularemia in humans. It is recognized as a potential agent of bioterrorism due to its low infectious dose and multiple routes of transmission. To date, genetic manipulation in Francisella spp. has been limited due to the inefficiency of DNA transformation, the relative lack of useful selective markers, and the lack of stably replicating plasmids. Therefore, the goal of this study was to develop an enhanced shuttle plasmid that could be utilized for a variety of genetic procedures in both Francisella and Escherichia coli. A hybrid plasmid, pFNLTP1, was isolated that was transformed by electroporation at frequencies of >1 x 10(7) CFU mug of DNA(-1) in F. tularensis LVS, Francisella novicida U112, and E. coli DH5alpha. Furthermore, this plasmid was stably maintained in F. tularensis LVS after passage in the absence of antibiotic selection in vitro and after 3 days of growth in J774A.1 macrophages. Importantly, F. tularensis LVS derivatives carrying pFNLTP1 were unaltered in their growth characteristics in laboratory medium and macrophages compared to wild-type LVS. We also constructed derivatives of pFNLTP1 containing expanded multiple cloning sites or temperature-sensitive mutations that failed to allow plasmid replication in F. tularensis LVS at the nonpermissive temperature. In addition, the utility of pFNLTP1 as a vehicle for gene expression, as well as complementation, was demonstrated. In summary, we describe construction of a Francisella shuttle plasmid that is transformed at high efficiency, is stably maintained, and does not alter the growth of Francisella in macrophages. This new tool should significantly enhance genetic manipulation and characterization of F. tularensis and other Francisella biotypes. (+info)
Detection of diverse new Francisella-like bacteria in environmental samples.
Following detection of putative Francisella species in aerosol samples from Houston, Texas, we surveyed soil and water samples from the area for the agent of tularemia, Francisella tularensis, and related species. The initial survey used 16S rRNA gene primers to detect Francisella species and related organisms by PCR amplification of DNA extracts from environmental samples. This analysis indicated that sequences related to Francisella were present in one water and seven soil samples. This is the first report of the detection of Francisella-related species in soil samples by DNA-based methods. Cloning and sequencing of PCR products indicated the presence of a wide variety of Francisella-related species. Sequences from two soil samples were 99.9% similar to previously reported sequences from F. tularensis isolates and may represent new subspecies. Additional analyses with primer sets developed for detection and differentiation of F. tularensis subspecies support the finding of very close relatives to known F. tularensis strains in some samples. While the pathogenicity of these organisms is unknown, they have the potential to be detected in F. tularensis-specific assays. Similarly, a potential new subspecies of Francisella philomiragia was identified. The majority of sequences obtained, while more similar to those of Francisella than to any other genus, were phylogenetically distinct from known species and formed several new clades potentially representing new species or genera. The results of this study revise our understanding of the diversity and distribution of Francisella and have implications for tularemia epidemiology and our ability to detect bioterrorist activities. (+info)
Discrimination between Francisella tularensis and Francisella-like endosymbionts when screening ticks by PCR.
The presence of Francisella-like endosymbionts in tick species known to transmit tularemia poses a potential diagnostic problem for laboratories that screen tick samples by PCR for Francisella tularensis. Tick samples initially considered positive for F. tularensis based on standard 16S rRNA gene PCR were found to be positive only for Francisella-like endosymbionts using a multitarget F. tularensis TaqMan assay (ISFtu2, tul4, and iglC) and 16S rRNA gene sequencing. Specificity of PCR-based diagnostics for F. tularensis should be carefully evaluated with appropriate specimen types prior to diagnostic use. (+info)
Internalization and phagosome escape required for Francisella to induce human monocyte IL-1beta processing and release.
Macrophage responses to Francisella infection have been characterized previously by subdued proinflammatory responses; however, these studies have generally focused on macrophage cell lines or monocyte-derived macrophages. Therefore, we studied the ability of fresh human blood monocytes to engulf and respond to Francisella by using the live vaccine strain variant and Francisella novicida. Because Francisella organisms have been reported to escape from the phagolysosome into the cytosol, we hypothesized that this escape may trigger the activation of caspase-1. Francisella tularensis variants were readily taken up by fresh human CD14(+) monocytes, inducing the release of IL-1beta, as well as IL-8, in a time- and dose-dependent fashion. Importantly, whereas live and dead Escherichia coli, F. novicida, and live vaccine strain, as well as the LPS of E. coli, were able to induce abundant IL-1beta mRNA synthesis and intracellular pro-IL-1beta production, only live Francisella induced enhanced IL-1beta processing and release (51 +/- 10 vs. 7.1 +/- 2.1 ng/ml, for F. novicida vs. E. coli LPS; P = 0.0032). Cytochalasin D blocked the Francisella internalization and the Francisella-induced monocyte IL-1beta processing and release but not that induced by the exogenous stimulus E. coli LPS. Also, killing bacteria did not block uptake but significantly diminished the IL-1beta processing and release that was induced by Francisella. Blocking bacterial escape from the phagosome into the cytosol also decreased IL-1beta but not IL-8 release. These findings demonstrate that Francisella organisms efficiently induce IL-1beta processing and release in fresh monocytes by means of a sensing system that requires the uptake of live bacteria capable of phagosome escape. (+info)