Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Journal: Cell host & microbe


Rhizobia are a paraphyletic group of soil-borne bacteria that induce nodule organogenesis in legume roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen for plant growth. In non-leguminous plants, species from the Rhizobiales order define a core lineage of the plant microbiota, suggesting additional functional interactions with plant hosts. In this work, genome analyses of 1,314 Rhizobiales isolates along with amplicon studies of the root microbiota reveal the evolutionary history of nitrogen-fixing symbiosis in this bacterial order. Key symbiosis genes were acquired multiple times, and the most recent common ancestor could colonize roots of a broad host range. In addition, root growth promotion is a characteristic trait of Rhizobiales in Arabidopsis thaliana, whereas interference with plant immunity constitutes a separate, strain-specific phenotype of root commensal Alphaproteobacteria. Additional studies with a tripartite gnotobiotic plant system reveal that these traits operate in a modular fashion and thus might be relevant to microbial homeostasis in healthy roots.


Viruses are involved in various interactions both within and between infected cells. Social evolution theory offers a conceptual framework for how virus-virus interactions, ranging from conflict to cooperation, have evolved. A critical examination of these interactions could expand our understanding of viruses and be exploited for epidemiological and medical interventions.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Bacteria, Evolution, Biology, Organism, Sociology


Macrophages represent the first line of immune defense against pathogens, and phagosome acidification is a necessary step in pathogen clearance. Here, we identified the bicarbonate transporter SLC4A7, which is strongly induced upon macrophage differentiation, as critical for phagosome acidification. Loss of SLC4A7 reduced acidification of phagocytosed beads or bacteria and impaired the intracellular microbicidal capacity in human macrophage cell lines. The phenotype was rescued by wild-type SLC4A7, but not by SLC4A7 mutants, affecting transport capacity or cell surface localization. Loss of SLC4A7 resulted in increased cytoplasmic acidification during phagocytosis, suggesting that SLC4A7-mediated, bicarbonate-driven maintenance of cytoplasmic pH is necessary for phagosome acidification. Altogether, we identify SLC4A7 and bicarbonate-driven cytoplasmic pH homeostasis as an important element of phagocytosis and the associated microbicidal functions in macrophages.


Herpes simplex encephalitis (HSE) is a devastating infection of the central nervous system (CNS). Lafaille et al. (2012) show that susceptibility to HSE is due to mutations in Toll-like receptor response pathways that directly reduce the intrinsic resistance of neurons and other cells in the CNS to HSV infection.

Concepts: Central nervous system, Nervous system, Neuron, Brain, Virus, Herpes simplex virus, Herpes simplex, Cerebellum


To ensure spread from one cell to another, exocytosed vaccinia virions recruit cellular actin polymerization machinery to blast off from the cell surface on actin tails. Humphries et al. (2012) now show that the virus exploits clathrin to organize viral factors into a launch pad that facilitates efficient actin tail formation.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Gene, Organism, Virus, Vaccinia, Endocytosis, Radio resource management


Local infection in the Drosophila larval intestine elicits a systemic immune reaction in fat bodies. In this issue, Wu and colleagues (2012) show that this is a reactive oxygen species-dependent communication.

Concepts: Immune system, Inflammation, Infectious disease, Bacteria, Innate immune system, Infection, Immunity, Systemic acquired resistance


Dietary supplementation with fermentable fiber suppresses adiposity and the associated parameters of metabolic syndrome. Microbiota-generated fiber-derived short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) and free fatty acid receptors including GPR43 are thought to mediate these effects. We find that while fermentable (inulin), but not insoluble (cellulose), fiber markedly protected mice against high-fat diet (HFD)-induced metabolic syndrome, the effect was not significantly impaired by either inhibiting SCFA production or genetic ablation of GPR43. Rather, HFD decimates gut microbiota, resulting in loss of enterocyte proliferation, leading to microbiota encroachment, low-grade inflammation (LGI), and metabolic syndrome. Enriching HFD with inulin restored microbiota loads, interleukin-22 (IL-22) production, enterocyte proliferation, and antimicrobial gene expression in a microbiota-dependent manner, as assessed by antibiotic and germ-free approaches. Inulin-induced IL-22 expression, which required innate lymphoid cells, prevented microbiota encroachment and protected against LGI and metabolic syndrome. Thus, fermentable fiber protects against metabolic syndrome by nourishing microbiota to restore IL-22-mediated enterocyte function.

Concepts: Protein, Bacteria, Nutrition, Fatty acid, Obesity, Omega-3 fatty acid, Fat, Butyric acid


Ensuring that gut microbiota respond consistently to prescribed dietary interventions, irrespective of prior dietary practices (DPs), is critical for effective nutritional therapy. To address this, we identified DP-associated gut bacterial taxa in individuals either practicing chronic calorie restriction with adequate nutrition (CRON) or without dietary restrictions (AMER). When transplanted into gnotobiotic mice, AMER and CRON microbiota responded predictably to CRON and AMER diets but with variable response strengths. An individual’s microbiota is connected to other individuals' communities (“metacommunity”) by microbial exchange. Sequentially cohousing AMER-colonized mice with two different groups of CRON-colonized mice simulated metacommunity effects, resulting in enhanced responses to a CRON diet intervention and changes in several metabolic features in AMER animals. This response was driven by an influx of CRON DP-associated taxa. Certain DPs may impair responses to dietary interventions, necessitating the introduction of diet-responsive bacterial lineages present in other individuals and identified using the strategies described.

Concepts: Bacteria, Gut flora, Metabolism, Nutrition, Obesity, Escherichia coli, Calorie restriction, Diets


High mucosal and fecal concentrations of the antimicrobial siderophore-binding peptide Lipocalin-2 (Lcn2) are observed in inflammatory bowel disease. However, Lcn2 function in chronic intestinal inflammation remains unclear. Here, we demonstrate that Lcn2 protects from early-onset colitis and spontaneous emergence of right-sided colonic tumors resulting from IL-10 deficiency. Exacerbated inflammation in Lcn2(-/-)/Il10(-/-) mice is driven by IL-6, which also controls tumorigenesis. Lcn2(-/-)/Il10(-/-) mice exhibit profound alterations in gut microbial composition, which contributes to inflammation and tumorigenesis, as demonstrated by the transmissibility of the phenotype and protection conferred by antibiotics. Specifically, facultative pathogenic Alistipes spp. utilize enterobactin as iron source, bloom in Lcn2(-/-)/Il10(-/-) mice, and are sufficient to induce colitis and right-sided tumors when transferred into Il10(-/-) mice. Our results demonstrate that Lcn2 protects against intestinal inflammation and tumorigenesis associated with alterations in the microbiota.

Concepts: Immune system, Inflammation, Bacteria, Microbiology, Ulcerative colitis, Gastroenterology, Inflammatory bowel disease, Flatulence


Animal-microbe facultative symbioses play a fundamental role in ecosystem and organismal health. Yet, due to the flexible nature of their association, the selection pressures that act on animals and their facultative symbionts remain elusive. Here we apply experimental evolution to Drosophila melanogaster associated with its growth-promoting symbiont Lactobacillus plantarum, representing a well-established model of facultative symbiosis. We find that the diet of the host, rather than the host itself, is a predominant driving force in the evolution of this symbiosis. Furthermore, we identify a mechanism resulting from the bacterium’s adaptation to the diet, which confers growth benefits to the colonized host. Our study reveals that bacterial adaptation to the host’s diet may be the foremost step in determining the evolutionary course of a facultative animal-microbe symbiosis.