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Concept: Bacillus


Finding bacterial cellular targets for developing novel antibiotics has become a major challenge in fighting resistant pathogenic bacteria. We present a novel compound, Relacin, designed to inhibit (p)ppGpp production by the ubiquitous bacterial enzyme RelA that triggers the Stringent Response. Relacin inhibits RelA in vitro and reduces (p)ppGpp production in vivo. Moreover, Relacin affects entry into stationary phase in Gram positive bacteria, leading to a dramatic reduction in cell viability. When Relacin is added to sporulating Bacillus subtilis cells, it strongly perturbs spore formation regardless of the time of addition. Spore formation is also impeded in the pathogenic bacterium Bacillus anthracis that causes the acute anthrax disease. Finally, the formation of multicellular biofilms is markedly disrupted by Relacin. Thus, we establish that Relacin, a novel ppGpp analogue, interferes with bacterial long term survival strategies, placing it as an attractive new antibacterial agent.

Concepts: Bacteria, Microbiology, Pathogen, Bacillus, Antibiotic, Pathogenic bacteria, Anthrax, Bacteriology


BACKGROUND: The intentional release of Bacillus anthracis in the United States in 2001 has heightened concern about the use of pathogenic microorganisms in bioterrorism attacks. Many of the deadliest bacteria, including the Class A Select Agents Bacillus anthracis, Francisella tularensis, and Yersinia pestis, are highly infectious via the pulmonary route when released in aerosolized form. Hence, rapid, sensitive, and reliable methods for detection of these biothreats and characterization of their potential impact on the exposed population are of critical importance to initiate and support rapid military, public health, and clinical responses. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: We have developed microfluidic multiplexed PCR and sequencing assays based on the simultaneous interrogation of three pathogens per assay and ten loci per pathogen. Microfluidic separation of amplified fluorescently labeled fragments generated characteristic electrophoretic signatures for identification of each agent. The three sets of primers allowed significant strain typing and discrimination from non-pathogenic closely-related species and environmental background strains based on amplicon sizes alone. Furthermore, sequencing of the 10 amplicons per pathogen, termed “Rapid Focused Sequencing,” allowed an even greater degree of strain discrimination and, in some cases, can be used to determine virulence. Both amplification and sequencing assays were performed in microfluidic biochips developed for fast thermal cycling and requiring 7 µL per reaction. The 30-plex sequencing assay resulted in genotypic resolution of 84 representative strains belonging to each of the three biothreat species. CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: The microfluidic multiplexed assays allowed identification and strain differentiation of the biothreat agents Bacillus anthracis, Francisella tularensis, and Yersinia pestis and clear discrimination from closely-related species and several environmental background strains. The assays may be extended to detect a large number of pathogens, are applicable to the evaluation of both environmental and clinical samples, and have the potential to be applied in military, public health, and clinical diagnostic settings.

Concepts: Bacteria, Microbiology, Vaccination, Pathogen, Bacillus, Yersinia pestis, Francisella tularensis, Bacillus anthracis


Quorum sensing is a process of chemical communication that bacteria use to monitor cell density and coordinate cooperative behaviors. Quorum sensing relies on extracellular signal molecules and cognate receptor pairs. While a single quorum-sensing system is sufficient to probe cell density, bacteria frequently use multiple quorum-sensing systems to regulate the same cooperative behaviors. The potential benefits of these redundant network structures are not clear. Here, we combine modeling and experimental analyses of the Bacillus subtilis and Vibrio harveyi quorum-sensing networks to show that accumulation of multiple quorum-sensing systems may be driven by a facultative cheating mechanism. We demonstrate that a strain that has acquired an additional quorum-sensing system can exploit its ancestor that possesses one fewer system, but nonetheless, resume full cooperation with its kin when it is fixed in the population. We identify the molecular network design criteria required for this advantage. Our results suggest that increased complexity in bacterial social signaling circuits can evolve without providing an adaptive advantage in a clonal population.

Concepts: Bacteria, Microbiology, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Biofilm, Bacillus, Quorum sensing, Bioluminescence, Vibrio harveyi


The effects of daily dietary Bacillus subtilis (Bs), and adding L-tryptophan, fructan, or casein to fecal fermentation broths were investigated as means to reduce the production of noxious gas during manure fermentation caused by ammonia, hydrogen sulfide (H2S), and 3-methylindole (skatole). Eighty swine (50.0±0.5 kg) were equally apportioned to an experimental group given Bs in daily feed, or a control group without Bs. After 6 weeks, fresh manure was collected from both groups for fermentation studies using a 3×3 orthogonal array, in which tryptophan, casein, and fructan were added at various concentrations. After fermentation, the ammonia, H2S, L-tryptophan, skatole, and microflora were measured. In both groups, L-tryptophan was the principle additive increasing skatole production, with significant correlation (r = 0.9992). L-tryptophan had no effect on the production of ammonia, H2S, or skatole in animals fed Bs. In both groups, fructan was the principle additive that reduced H2S production (r = 0.9981). Fructan and Bs significantly interacted in H2S production (p = 0.014). Casein was the principle additive affecting the concentration of ammonia, only in the control group. Casein and Bs significantly interacted in ammonia production (p = 0.039). The predominant bacteria were Bacillus spp. CWBI B1434 (26%) in the control group, and Streptococcus alactolyticus AF201899 (36%) in the experimental group. In summary, daily dietary Bs reduced ammonia production during fecal fermentation. Lessening L-tryptophan and increasing fructan in the fermentation broth reduced skatole and H2S.

Concepts: Bacteria, Hydrogen, Nitrogen, Bacillus, Hydrogen sulfide, Feces, Indole, Ammonia production


Transgenic crop “pyramids” producing two or more Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) toxins active against the same pest are used to delay evolution of resistance in insect pest populations. Laboratory and greenhouse experiments were performed with fall armyworm, Spodoptera frugiperda, to characterize resistance to Bt maize producing Cry1A.105 and Cry2Ab and test some assumptions of the “pyramid” resistance management strategy. Selection of a field-derived strain of S. frugiperda already resistant to Cry1F maize with Cry1A.105 + Cry2Ab maize for ten generations produced resistance that allowed the larvae to colonize and complete the life cycle on these Bt maize plants. Greenhouse experiments revealed that the resistance was completely recessive (Dx = 0), incomplete, autosomal, and without maternal effects or cross-resistance to the Vip3Aa20 toxin produced in other Bt maize events. This profile of resistance supports some of the assumptions of the pyramid strategy for resistance management. However, laboratory experiments with purified Bt toxin and plant leaf tissue showed that resistance to Cry1A.105 + Cry2Ab2 maize further increased resistance to Cry1Fa, which indicates that populations of fall armyworm have high potential for developing resistance to some currently available pyramided maize used against this pest, especially where resistance to Cry1Fa was reported in the field.

Concepts: Bacillus, Leaf, Bacillus thuringiensis, Endotoxin, Genetically modified food, Army worm, Spodoptera, Transgenic maize


We report the draft genome sequence of Bacillus pumilus strain Bonn associated with human skin infection. B. pumilus Bonn was isolated from a carbuncle-like necrotic site, resembling cutaneous anthrax, on the back of the hand of a 10-year-old child.

Concepts: Inflammation, Bacteria, Human genome, Human Genome Project, Microbiology, Virus, Skin, Bacillus


Nine bacilli with fibrinolytic activities were isolated from Doenjang, a traditional Korean fermented soy food. Among them, RSB 34 showed the strongest activity and identified as Bacillus amyloliquefaciens by 16S rRNA and recA genes sequencing. During growth on LB up to 96 h, RSB34 showed the highest fibrinolytic activity (83.23 mU/μl) at 48 h. Three bands of 23, 27, and 42 kDa in size were observed when culture supernatant was analyzed by SDS-PAGE and 27 and 42 kDa bands by fibrin zymography. A gene encoding the 27 kDa major fibrinolytic enzyme, AprE34, was cloned by PCR. BLAST searches confirmed that the gene was a homolog to genes encoding AprE type proteases. aprE34 was overexpressed in Escherichia coli BL21 (DE3) using pET26b(+). Recombinant AprE34 was purified and examined for the properties. Km and Vmax values of recombinant AprE34 were 0.131±0.026 mM and 16.551±0.316 μM/l/min, respectively, when measured by using an artificial substrate, N-succinyl-ala-ala-pro-phe-p-nitroanilide. aprE34 was overexpressed in B. subtilis WB600 using pHY300PLK. B. subtilis transformants harboring pHYRSB34 (pHY300PLK with aprE34) showed higher fibrinolytic activity than B. amyloliquefaciens RSB34.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Bacteria, Molecular biology, RNA, Escherichia coli, Bacillus, Bacillus subtilis


Bacillus subtilis GQJK2 is a plant growth-promoting rhizobacterium with antifungal activity which was isolated from Lycium barbarum L. rhizosphere. Here, we report the complete genome sequence of B. subtilis GQJK2. Ten gene clusters involved in the biosynthesis of antagonistic compounds were predicted.

Concepts: DNA, Bacteria, Organism, Genome, Genomics, Bacillus, Bacillus subtilis, Wolfberry


The ability to solubilize fixed inorganic phosphorus (P) for plant growth is important for increasing crop yield. More P can be released by inoculating soil with inorganic-phosphate-solubilizing bacteria (iPSBs). We used 96-well microplates instead of traditional 200-mm petri dishes to rapidly screen iPSB strains for their solubilizing ability. We simultaneously obtained 76 iPSB isolates from 576 wells containing two agricultural soils. This method conveniently identified positive iPSB strains and effectively prevented fungal cross-contamination. Maximum-likelihood phylogenetic trees of the isolated strains showed that Bacillus megaterium was the most dominant iPSB, and strains Y99, Y95, Y924 and Y1412 were selected as representatives for the analysis of P solubilization. Succinic acid was the main organic acid of B. megaterium for releasing P. It was strongly correlated with the increase in soluble P concentration during 168 h of incubation of these four strains. pH was negatively exponentially correlated with the amount of soluble P in the medium, and the amount of succinic acid was strongly linearly correlated with the amount of P released (P < 0.001), suggesting that organic acid may mobilize microbial P. Our study provides an efficient and effective method for identifying and analyzing the growth of iPSB strains able to solubilize inorganic P and gives a better understanding of the mechanism of P solubilization.

Concepts: Oxygen, Bacteria, Agriculture, Acid, Soil, Bacillus, Phosphorus, Bacillus megaterium


In September 2011, a total of 511 human cases of anthrax (Bacillus anthracis) infection and 5 deaths were reported in a game management area in the district of Chama, Zambia, near where 85 hippopotamuses (Hippopotamus amphibious) had recently died of suspected anthrax. The human infections generally responded to antibiotics. To clarify transmission, we conducted a cross-sectional, interviewer-administered household survey in villages where human anthrax cases and hippopotamuses deaths were reported. Among 284 respondents, 84% ate hippopotamus meat before the outbreak. Eating, carrying, and preparing meat were associated with anthrax infection. Despite the risk, 23% of respondents reported they would eat meat from hippopotamuses found dead again because of food shortage (73%), lack of meat (12%), hunger (7%), and protein shortage (5%). Chronic food insecurity can lead to consumption of unsafe foods, leaving communities susceptible to zoonotic infection. Interagency cooperation is necessary to prevent outbreaks by addressing the root cause of exposure, such as food insecurity.

Concepts: Disease, Bacteria, Death, Food, Bacillus, Anthrax, Bacillus anthracis, Famine