Microbiology


Protocols in Current Issue
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0 Q&A 1407 Views Jan 20, 2022

Light is a double-edged sword: it is essential for life on the planet but also causes cellular damage and death. Consequently, organisms have evolved systems not only for harvesting and converting light energy into chemical energy but also for countering its toxic effects. Despite the omnipresence and importance of such light-dependent effects, there are very few unbiased genetic screens, if any, investigating the mechanistic consequences that visible light has on cells. Baker’s yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, is one of the best annotated organisms thanks to several easily available mutant collections and its amenability to high-throughput genetic screening. However, until recently this yeast was thought to lack receptors for visible light, therefore its response to visible light was poorly understood. Nevertheless, a couple of years ago it was discovered that yeast senses light via a novel and unconventional pathway involving a peroxisomal oxidase, hydrogen peroxide, and a particular type of antioxidant protein, called peroxiredoxin. Here, we describe in detail a protocol for scoring yeast genes involved in the resistance to visible light (400-700 nm) on a genome-wide scale. Because cells in dense cultures shield each other from light exposure, resulting in apparent light resistance, our method involves adaptations to reduce inoculum size under conditions amenable to high-throughput screens, to properly be able to identify light-sensitive mutants. We also describe how to measure growth in the presence of light, including two follow-up validation tests. In this way, this method makes it possible to score light-sensitivity on a genome-wide scale with high confidence.


Graphic abstract:

Overview of strategy for high-throughput determination of yeast growth upon visible light stress.


0 Q&A 3405 Views Jul 5, 2021

Non-receptor protein-tyrosine kinases regulate cellular responses to many external signals and are important drug discovery targets for cancer and infectious diseases. While many assays exist for the assessment of kinase activity in vitro, methods that report changes in tyrosine kinase activity in single cells have the potential to provide information about kinase responses at the cell population level. In this protocol, we combined bimolecular fluorescence complementation (BiFC), an established method for the assessment of protein-protein interactions, and immunofluorescence staining with phosphospecific antibodies to characterize changes in host cell tyrosine kinase activity in the presence of an HIV-1 virulence factor, Nef. Specifically, two Tec family kinases (Itk and Btk) as well as Nef were fused to complementary, non-fluorescent fragments of the Venus variant of YFP. Each kinase was expressed in 293T cells in the presence or absence of Nef and immunostained for protein expression and activity with anti-phosphotyrosine (pTyr) antibodies. Multi-color confocal microscopy revealed the interaction of Nef with each kinase (BiFC), kinase activity, and kinase protein expression. Strong BiFC signals were observed when Nef was co-expressed with both Itk and Btk, indicative of interaction, and a strong anti-pTyr immunoreactivity was also seen. The BiFC, pTyr, and kinase expression signals co-localized to the plasma membrane, consistent with Nef-mediated kinase activation in this subcellular compartment. Image analysis allowed calculation of pTyr-to-kinase protein ratios, which showed a range of responses in individual cells across the population that shifted upward in the presence of Nef and back down in the presence of a kinase inhibitor. This method has the potential to reveal changes in steady-state non-receptor tyrosine kinase activity and subcellular localization in a cell population in response to other protein-kinase interactions, information that is not attainable from immunoblotting or other in vitro methods.

0 Q&A 2664 Views Jan 20, 2021

Cyclic diguanylate monophosphate (c-di-GMP) is a second messenger signaling molecule that drives the transition from planktonic to the biofilm mode of growth in many bacterial species. Pseudomonas aeruginosa has at least two surface sensing systems that produce c-di-GMP in response to surface attachment, the Wsp and Pil-Chp systems. We recently used a plasmid-based c-di-GMP reporter (pPcdrA::gfp) to describe how the Wsp system generates heterogeneity in surface sensing, resulting in two physiologically distinct subpopulations of cells during early biofilm formation. One subpopulation has elevated c-di-GMP and produces biofilm matrix, serving as the founders of initial microcolonies. The other subpopulation has low c-di-GMP and engages in surface motility, allowing for exploration of the surface. Here, we describe the protocol for a key experiment to confirm our initial observation of c-di-GMP heterogeneity during surface sensing: the use of flow-assisted cell sorting (FACS) to isolate subpopulations of cells with high and low c-di-GMP reporter activity, followed by quantitative Reverse Transcriptase PCR (qRT-PCR) of genes that are known to be transcriptionally regulated in response to cellular c-di-GMP levels (pelA, pslA). This protocol can be adapted by others to isolate subpopulations of high- and low- c-di-GMP P. aeruginosa cells that are genetically identical, but phenotypically distinct for future experiments examining specific mRNA transcripts as we did or, presumably, for additional applications like RNAseq, proteomics, or TNseq.


Graphical abstract:


0 Q&A 2335 Views Jan 5, 2021

All living cells use cyclic nucleotides as second messengers for signal sensing and transduction. Cyclic di-3′,5′-adenosine monophosphate (c-di-AMP) is primarily involved in the control of bacterial and euryarcheal osmoadaptation and is produced by diadenylate cyclases from two molecules of ATP. Specific phosphodiesterases hydrolyze c-di-AMP to the linear phosphoadenylate adenosine 5′-pApA or to AMP. Different methods including high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), thin-layer chromatography (TLC) and ion exchange chromatography (IEX) can be used to determine activities of c-di-AMP-synthesizing and degrading enzymes. Here, we describe in detail the TLC and IEX methods adapted for characterization of the diadenylate cyclase DisA and the phosphodiesterase AtaC from Streptomyces venezuelae. TLC allows quick and easy separation of radioactive-labeled substrates and products, while IEX avoids utilization of potentially hazardous radioactive substrates and can be used as a good substitute if an HPLC system is not available. Unlike in TLC assays, samples cannot be analyzed in parallel by using the IEX assay, thus it is more time consuming.

0 Q&A 2629 Views Nov 5, 2020

Transcriptional analysis has become a cornerstone of biological research, and with the advent of cheaper and more efficient sequencing technology over the last decade, there exists a need for high-yield and efficient RNA extraction techniques. Fungi such as the human pathogen Candida albicans present a unique obstacle to RNA purification in the form of the tough cell wall made up of many different components such as chitin that are resistant to many common mammalian or bacterial cell lysis methods. Typical in vitro C. albicans cell harvesting methods can be time consuming and expensive if many samples are being processed with multiple opportunities for product loss or sample variation. Harvesting cells via vacuum filtration rather than centrifugation cuts down on time before the cells are frozen and therefore the available time for the RNA expression profile to change. Vacuum filtration is preferred for C. albicans for two main reasons: cell lysis is faster on non-pelleted cells due to increased exposed surface area, and filamentous cells are difficult to pellet in the first place unlike yeast or bacterial cells. Using mechanical cell lysis, by way of zirconia/silica beads, cuts down on time for processing as well as overall cost compared to enzymatic treatments. Overall, this method is a fast, efficient, and high-yield way to extract total RNA from in vitro cultures of C. albicans.

0 Q&A 2573 Views Oct 20, 2020
Ascorbic acid (AsA) and gluthathione (GSH) are two key components of the antioxidant machinery of eukaryotic and prokaryotic cells. The cyanobacterium Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803 presents both compounds in different concentrations (AsA, 20-100 μM and GSH, 2-5 mM). Therefore, it is important to have precise and sensitive methods to determine the redox status in the cell and to detect variations in this antioxidants. In this protocol, we describe an improved method to estimate the content of both antioxidants (in their reduced and oxidized forms) from the same sample obtained from liquid cultures of Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803.
0 Q&A 3370 Views Sep 5, 2020
Contact-dependent interbacterial competition is a common strategy used by bacteria to fight for their ecological niches. Interbacterial competition is monitored by a competition assay involving co-culturing the attacker and the recipient bacterial cells on agar, followed by recovery of the surviving recipient cells. Conventional interbacterial competition assays rely on serial dilution, plate spreading, and colony counting experiments for the readout. The high demand for time and labor in a competition assay limits its use for large-scale screening. However, a high-throughput interbacterial competition screening method is required to screen genetic factors involved in an interbacterial competition. Here, using Agrobacterium tumefaciens as an attacker and Escherichia coli as a recipient, we developed a robust, fast, efficient, and high-throughput type VI secretion system-dependent interbacterial competition screening platform. This system allows for 96 simultaneous competition assays without the need for serial dilution and plate spreading. Data analysis of this system relies on only direct and straightforward colony counting. This platform may be easily adapted to identify novel factors involved in any contact-dependent interbacterial competition systems.
0 Q&A 3497 Views Mar 5, 2020
Many bacteria take part in self recognition and kin discrimination behavior using contact-dependent effectors. Understanding the effects these effectors cause is important to explain bacterial community formation and population dynamics. Typically, kin discrimination effectors are toxins that kill target cells; their effect is therefore obvious and easily measurable. However, many self-recognition effectors, such as the Proteus mirabilis Ids system, are non-lethal and do not cause obvious physiological changes in target cells. Previously, experimental techniques to probe cells experiencing non-lethal kin recognition have been limited. Here we describe a technique to reliably isolate cells deemed self and non-self through Ids self-recognition for downstream phenotypic analysis. Liquid cultures of fluorescently labeled self-recognition mutants are mixed together and inoculated on swarm-permissive agar. Mixed swarms are harvested, and each strain is isolated through fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS). The growth rate of each strain is measured on a plate reader. This protocol is adaptable for other bacterial species. We describe briefly how sorted particles can be used for other analyses such as RNA-Seq library preparation.
0 Q&A 6434 Views Apr 20, 2018
The human body is colonized by vast communities of microbes, collectively known as microbiota, or microbiome. Although microbes colonize every surface of our bodies that is exposed to the external environment, the biggest collection of microbes colonizing humans and other mammals can be found in the gastrointestinal tract. Given the fact that the human gut is colonized by several hundred microbial species, our group hypothesized that the chemical diversity of this environment should be significant, and that many of the molecules present in that environment would have important signaling roles. Therefore, we devised a protocol to extract these molecules from human feces and test their signaling properties. Potentially bioactive extracts can be tested through addition to culture medium and analyses of bacterial growth and gene expression, among other properties. The protocol described herein provides an easy and rapid method for the extraction and testing of metabolites from fecal samples using Salmonella enterica as a model organism. This protocol can also be adapted to the extraction of small molecules from other matrices, such as cultured mammalian cells, tissues, body fluids, and axenic microbial cultures, and the resulting extracts can be tested against various microbial species.
0 Q&A 7516 Views Apr 5, 2018
Bacteria live in polymicrobial communities under tough competition. To persist in a specific niche many species produce toxic extracellular effectors as a strategy to interfere with the growth of nearby microbes. One of such effectors are the non-canonical D-amino acids. Here we describe a method to test the effect of D-amino acid production in fitness/survival of bacterial subpopulations within a community. Co-cultivation methods usually involve the growth of the competing bacteria in the same container. Therefore, within such mixed cultures the effect on growth caused by extracellular metabolites cannot be distinguished from direct physical interactions between species (e.g., T6SS effectors). However, this problem can be easily solved by using a filtration unit that allows free diffusion of small metabolites, like L- and D-amino acids, while keeping the different subpopulations in independent compartments.

With this method, we have demonstrated that D-arginine is a bactericide effector produced by Vibrio cholerae, which strongly influences survival of diverse microbial subpopulations. Moreover, D-arginine can be used as a cooperative instrument in mixed Vibrio communities to protect non-producing members from competing bacteria.



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