Abstract Biofilms are surface-attached groups of microbial cells encased in an extracellular matrix that are significantly less susceptible to antimicrobial agents than non-adherent, planktonic cells. Biofilm-based infections are, as a result, extremely difficult to cure. A wide range of molecular mechanisms contribute to the high degree of recalcitrance that is characteristic of biofilm communities. These mechanisms include, among others, interaction of antimicrobials with biofilm matrix components, reduced growth rates and the various actions of specific genetic determinants of antibiotic resistance and tolerance. Alone, each of these mechanisms only partially accounts for the increased antimicrobial recalcitrance observed in biofilms. Acting in concert, however, these defences help to ensure the survival of biofilm cells in the face of even the most aggressive antimicrobial treatment regimens. This review summarises both historical and recent scientific data in support of the known biofilm resistance and tolerance mechanisms. Additionally, suggestions for future work in the field are provided. This review article provides a discussion of the wide range of molecular mechanisms that contribute to the ability of pathogenic bacteria in biofilm communities to withstand antimicrobial therapy.
Abstract Globally, forests represent highly productive ecosystems that act as carbon sinks where soil organic matter is formed from residuals after biomass decomposition as well as from rhizodeposited carbon. Forests exhibit a high level of spatial heterogeneity and the importance of trees, the dominant primary producers, for their structure and functioning. Fungi, bacteria and archaea inhabit various forest habitats: foliage, the wood of living trees, the bark surface, ground vegetation, roots and the rhizosphere, litter, soil, deadwood, rock surfaces, invertebrates, wetlands or the atmosphere, each of which has its own specific features, such as nutrient availability or temporal dynamicy and specific drivers that affect microbial abundance, the level of dominance of bacteria or fungi as well as the composition of their communities. However, several microorganisms, and in particular fungi, inhabit or even connect multiple habitats, and most ecosystem processes affect multiple habitats. Forests are dynamic on a broad temporal scale with processes ranging from short-term events over seasonal ecosystem dynamics to long-term stand development after disturbances such as fires or insect outbreaks. The understanding of these processes can be only achieved by the exploration of the complex ‘ecosystem microbiome’ and its functioning using focused, integrative microbiological and ecological research performed across multiple habitats. Forests are specific ecosystems comprising a multitude of microbial habitats with specific properties, such as foliage, the wood of living trees, the bark surface, ground vegetation, roots and the rhizosphere, litter, soil, deadwood, rock surfaces, invertebrates, wetlands or the atmosphere that are dynamic on a broad temporal scale with ecosystem processes ranging from short-term events over seasonal ones to long-term stand development where fungi, bacteria and other organisms composing the ‘forest microbiome’ play important roles.
Abstract Klebsiella pneumoniae is an important multidrug-resistant (MDR) pathogen affecting humans and a major source for hospital infections associated with high morbidity and mortality due to limited treatment options. We summarize the wide resistome of this pathogen, which encompasses plentiful chromosomal and plasmid-encoded antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs). Under antibiotic selective pressure, K. pneumoniae continuously accumulates ARGs, by de novo mutations, and via acquisition of plasmids and transferable genetic elements, leading to extremely drug resistant (XDR) strains harboring a ‘super resistome’. In the last two decades, numerous high-risk (HiR) MDR and XDR K. pneumoniae sequence types have emerged showing superior ability to cause multicontinent outbreaks, and continuous global dissemination. The data highlight the complex evolution of MDR and XDR K. pneumoniae, involving transfer and spread of ARGs, and epidemic plasmids in highly disseminating successful clones. With the worldwide catastrophe of antibiotic resistance and the urgent need to identify the main pathogens that pose a threat on the future of infectious diseases, further studies are warranted to determine the epidemic traits and plasmid acquisition in K. pneumoniae. There is a need for future genomic and translational studies to decipher specific targets in HiR clones to design targeted prevention and treatment. This review highlights Klebsiella pneumoniae as a crucial pathogen in the burden of antibiotic resistance, encompassing multi and extremely drug resistant high-risk strains which cause worldwide infections. This poses the urgent need to identify new targeted strategies for prevention and treatment.
With high-throughput sequencing (HTS), we are able to explore the hidden world of microscopic organisms to an unpre-cedented level. The fast development of molecular technology and statistical methods means that microbial ecologists must keep their toolkits updated. Here, we review and evaluate some of the more widely adopted and emerging techniques for analysis of diversity and community composition, and the inference of species interactions from co-occurrence data generated by HTS of marker genes. We emphasize the importance of observational biases and statistical properties of the data and methods. The aim of the review is to critically discuss the advantages and disadvantages of established and emerging statistical methods, and to contribute to the integration of HTS-based marker gene data into community ecology. This is an overview of the more widely adopted and emerging techniques for analysis of diversity and community composition, and the inference of species interactions from co-occurrence data generated by high-throughput sequencing of marker genes. Graphical Abstract Figure. This is an overview of the more widely adopted and emerging techniques for analysis of diversity and community composition, and the inference of species interactions from co-occurrence data generated by high-throughput sequencing of marker genes.
Pathogenicity of most Gram-negative plant-pathogenic bacteria depends on the type III secretion (T3S) system, which translocates bacterial effector proteins into plant cells. Type III effectors modulate plant cellular pathways to the benefit of the pathogen and promote bacterial multiplication. One major virulence function of type III effectors is the suppression of plant innate immunity, which is triggered upon recognition of pathogen-derived molecular patterns by plant receptor proteins. Type III effectors also interfere with additional plant cellular processes including proteasome-dependent protein degradation, phytohormone signaling, the formation of the cytoskeleton, vesicle transport and gene expression. This review summarizes our current knowledge on the molecular functions of type III effector proteins with known plant target molecules. Furthermore, plant defense strategies for the detection of effector protein activities or effector-triggered alterations in plant targets are discussed. Translocated type III effector proteins from Gram-negative plant-pathogenic bacteria promote bacterial virulence by interfering with defense responses, signaling pathways, protein degradation, gene expression or the formation of the cytoskeleton.
Abstract Artemisinins are the most rapidly acting of currently available antimalarial drugs. Artesunate has become the treatment of choice for severe malaria, and artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) are the foundation of modern falciparum malaria treatment globally. Their safety and tolerability profile is excellent. Unfortunately, Plasmodium falciparum infections with mutations in the ‘K13’ gene, with reduced ring-stage susceptibility to artemisinins, and slow parasite clearance in patients treated with ACTs, are now widespread in Southeast Asia. We review clinical efficacy data from the region (2000–2015) that provides strong evidence that the loss of first-line ACTs in western Cambodia, first artesunate-mefloquine and then DHA-piperaquine, can be attributed primarily to K13 mutated parasites. The ring-stage activity of artemisinins is therefore critical for the sustained efficacy of ACTs; once it is lost, rapid selection of partner drug resistance and ACT failure are inevitable consequences. Consensus methods for monitoring artemisinin resistance are now available. Despite increased investment in regional control activities, ACTs are failing across an expanding area of the Greater Mekong subregion. Although multiple K13 mutations have arisen independently, successful multidrug-resistant parasite genotypes are taking over and threaten to spread to India and Africa. Stronger containment efforts and new approaches to sustaining long-term efficacy of antimalarial regimens are needed to prevent a global malaria emergency. Artemisinin resistance in Plasmodium falciparum malaria is causing failure of artemisinin-based combination therapies across an expanding area of Southeast Asia, undermining control and elimination efforts. The potential global consequences can only be avoided by new approaches that ensure sustained efficacy for antimalarial regimens in malaria affected populations.
Abstract Persisters are transiently tolerant variants that allow populations to avoid eradication by antibiotic treatment. Their antibiotic tolerance is non-genetic, not inheritable and results from a phenotypic switch from the normal, sensitive cell type to the tolerant, persister state. Here we give a comprehensive overview on bacterial persistence. We first define persistence, summarize the various aspects of persister physiology and show their heterogeneous nature. We then focus on the role of key cellular processes and mechanisms controlling the formation of a subpopulation of tolerant cells. Being a prime example of a risk-spreading strategy, we next discuss the eco-evolutionary aspects of persistence, e.g. how persistence evolves in the face of treatment with antibiotics. Finally, we illustrate the clinical importance of persisters, as persistence is worsening the worldwide antibiotic crisis by prolonging antibiotic treatment, causing therapy failure or catalyzing the development of genetically encoded antibiotic resistance. A better understanding of this phenotype is critical in our fight against pathogenic bacteria and to obtain a better outlook on future therapies. Drug-tolerant persisters arise by various mechanisms, causing therapy failure and contributing to the ongoing antibiotic crisis.
Abstract Lactobacillus species are found in nutrient-rich habitats associated with food, feed, plants, animals and humans. Due to their economic importance, the metabolism, genetics and phylogeny of lactobacilli have been extensively studied. However, past research primarily examined lactobacilli in experimental settings abstracted from any natural history, and the ecological context in which these bacteria exist and evolve has received less attention. In this review, we synthesize phylogenetic, genomic and metabolic metadata of the Lactobacillus genus with findings from fine-scale phylogenetic and functional analyses of representative species to elucidate the evolution and natural history of its members. The available evidence indicates a high level of niche conservatism within the well-supported phylogenetic groups within the genus, with lifestyles ranging from free-living to strictly symbiotic. The findings are consistent with a model in which host-adapted Lactobacillus lineages evolved from free-living ancestors, with present-day species displaying substantial variations in terms of the reliance on environmental niches and the degree of host specificity. This model can provide a framework for the elucidation of the natural and evolutionary history of Lactobacillus species and valuable information to improve the use of this important genus in industrial and therapeutic applications. This review synthesizes phylogenetic, genomic and metabolic metadata with findings from ecological and population genetic studies to elucidate the natural history of species within the Lactobacillus genus. Based on this analysis, a model for the evolution of distinct lifestyles was proposed: lifestyles of lactobacilli range from free living to strictly host adapted, with substantial variation among species in terms of the reliance on environmental niches and the degree of host specificity.
Antibiotic resistance and its wider implications present us with a growing healthcare crisis. Recent research points to the environment as an important component for the transmission of resistant bacteria and in the emergence of resistant pathogens. However, a deeper understanding of the evolutionary and ecological processes that lead to clinical appearance of resistance genes is still lacking, as is knowledge of environmental dispersal barriers. This calls for better models of how resistance genes evolve, are mobilized, transferred and disseminated in the environment. Here, we attempt to define the ecological and evolutionary environmental factors that contribute to resistance development and transmission. Although mobilization of resistance genes likely occurs continuously, the great majority of such genetic events do not lead to the establishment of novel resistance factors in bacterial populations, unless there is a selection pressure for maintaining them or their fitness costs are negligible. To enable preventative measures it is therefore critical to investigate under what conditions and to what extent environmental selection for resistance takes place. In addition, understanding dispersal barriers is not only key to evaluate risks, but also to prevent resistant pathogens, as well as novel resistance genes, from reaching humans.
Abstract The major targets for antibiotics in staphylococci are (i) the cell envelope, (ii) the ribosome and (iii) nucleic acids. Several novel targets emerged from recent targeted drug discovery programmes including the ClpP protease and FtsZ from the cell division machinery. Resistance can either develop by horizontal transfer of resistance determinants encoded by mobile genetic elements viz plasmids, transposons and the staphylococcal cassette chromosome or by mutations in chromosomal genes. Horizontally acquired resistance can occur by one of the following mechanisms: (i) enzymatic drug modification and inactivation, (ii) enzymatic modification of the drug binding site, (iii) drug efflux, (iv) bypass mechanisms involving acquisition of a novel drug-resistant target, (v) displacement of the drug to protect the target. Acquisition of resistance by mutation can result from (i) alteration of the drug target that prevents the inhibitor from binding, (ii) derepression of chromosomally encoded multidrug resistance efflux pumps and (iii) multiple stepwise mutations that alter the structure and composition of the cell wall and/or membrane to reduce drug access to its target. This review focuses on development of resistance to currently used antibiotics and examines future prospects for new antibiotics and informed use of drug combinations. Staphylococcus aureus has become resistant to all antibiotics used to combat infection through acquisition of resistance mechanisms acquired by horizontal transfer and by chromosomal mutations. The current dearth of treatment options might be overcome by new discoveries and synergistic combinations
Quorum sensing (QS) is a microbial cell-to-cell communication process that relies on the production and detection of chemical signals called autoinducers (AIs) to monitor cell density and species complexity in the population. QS allows bacteria to behave as a cohesive group and coordinate collective behaviors. While most QS receptors display high specificity to their AI ligands, others are quite promiscuous in signal detection. How do specific QS receptors respond to their cognate signals with high fidelity? Why do some receptors maintain low signal recognition specificity? In addition, many QS systems are composed of multiple intersecting signaling pathways: what are the benefits of preserving such a complex signaling network when a simple linear ‘one-to-one’ regulatory pathway seems sufficient to monitor cell density? Here, we will discuss different molecular mechanisms employed by various QS systems that ensure productive and specific QS responses. Moreover, the network architectures of some well-characterized QS circuits will be reviewed to understand how the wiring of different regulatory components achieves different biological goals. This review focuses on the specificity and complexity of quorum-sensing circuits in both Gram-negative and Gram-positive bacterial species. Graphical Abstract Figure. This review focuses on the specificity and complexity of quorum-sensing circuits in both Gram-negative and Gram-positive bacterial species.
Actinomycetes are a diverse family of filamentous bacteria that produce a plethora of natural products relevant for agriculture, biotechnology and medicine, including the majority of the antibiotics we use in the clinic. Rather than as free-living bacteria, many actinomycetes have evolved to live in symbiosis with among others plants, fungi, insects and sponges. As a common theme, these organisms profit from the natural products and enzymes produced by the actinomycetes, for example, for protection against pathogenic microbes, for growth promotion or for the degradation of complex natural polymers such as lignocellulose. At the same time, the actinomycetes benefit from the resources of the hosts they interact with. Evidence is accumulating that these interactions control the expression of biosynthetic gene clusters and have played a major role in the evolution of the high chemical diversity of actinomycete-produced secondary metabolites. Many of the biosynthetic gene clusters for antibiotics are poorly expressed under laboratory conditions, but they are likely expressed in response to host-specific demands. Here, we review the environmental triggers and cues that control natural product formation by actinomycetes and provide pointers as to how these insights may be harnessed for drug discovery.
The Gram-negative bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS) is a major component of the outer membrane that plays a key role in host–pathogen interactions with the innate immune system. During infection, bacteria are exposed to a host environment that is typically dominated by inflammatory cells and soluble factors, including antibiotics, which provide cues about regulation of gene expression. Bacterial adaptive changes including modulation of LPS synthesis and structure are a conserved theme in infections, irrespective of the type or bacteria or the site of infection. In general, these changes result in immune system evasion, persisting inflammation and increased antimicrobial resistance. Here, we review the modifications of LPS structure and biosynthetic pathways that occur upon adaptation of model opportunistic pathogens (Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Burkholderia cepacia complex bacteria, Helicobacter pylori and Salmonella enterica) to chronic infection in respiratory and gastrointestinal sites. We also discuss the molecular mechanisms of these variations and their role in the host–pathogen interaction. The authors review modifications of lipopolysaccharide structure and biosynthetic pathways that occur upon bacterial adaptation to chronic respiratory and gastrointestinal infections. Graphical Abstract Figure. The authors review modifications of lipopolysaccharide structure and biosynthetic pathways that occur upon bacterial adaptation to chronic respiratory and gastrointestinal infections.
Abstract Soil, the living terrestrial skin of the Earth, plays a central role in supporting life and is home to an unimaginable diversity of microorganisms. This review explores key drivers for microbial life in soils under different climates and land-use practices at scales ranging from soil pores to landscapes. We delineate special features of soil as a microbial habitat (focusing on bacteria) and the consequences for microbial communities. This review covers recent modeling advances that link soil physical processes with microbial life (termed biophysical processes). Readers are introduced to concepts governing water organization in soil pores and associated transport properties and microbial dispersion ranges often determined by the spatial organization of a highly dynamic soil aqueous phase. The narrow hydrological windows of wetting and aqueous phase connectedness are crucial for resource distribution and longer range transport of microorganisms. Feedbacks between microbial activity and their immediate environment are responsible for emergence and stabilization of soil structure—the scaffolding for soil ecological functioning. We synthesize insights from historical and contemporary studies to provide an outlook for the challenges and opportunities for developing a quantitative ecological framework to delineate and predict the microbial component of soil functioning. Soil microorganisms live in complex pore spaces where nutrient heterogeneity and water dynamics play a fundamental role in shaping their ecology, diversity and functions at all scales.
Bacterial virulence relies on a delicate balance of signals interchanged between the invading microbe and the host. This communication has been extensively perceived as a battle involving harmful molecules produced by the pathogen and host defenses. In this review, we focus on a largely unexplored element of this dialogue, as are toxin–antitoxin (TA) systems of the pathogen. TA systems are reported to respond to stresses that are also found in the host and, as a consequence, could modulate the physiology of the intruder microbe. This view is consistent with recent studies that demonstrate a contribution of distinct TA systems to virulence since their absence alters the course of the infection. TA loci are stress response modules that, therefore, could readjust pathogen metabolism to favor the generation of slow-growing or quiescent cells ‘before’ host defenses irreversibly block essential pathogen activities. Some toxins of these TA modules have been proposed as potential weapons used by the pathogen to act on host targets. We discuss all these aspects based on studies that support some TA modules as important regulators in the pathogen–host interface. In this review, the authors discuss toxin–antitoxin systems due to their capacity to modulate bacterial physiology in response to stress, which, as a consequence, can influence host–pathogen interactions. Graphical Abstract Figure. In this review, the authors discuss toxin–antitoxin systems due to their capacity to modulate bacterial physiology in response to stress, which, as a consequence, can influence host–pathogen interactions.
Bacteria can utilize chemical signals to coordinate the expression of group-beneficial behaviors in a method of cell–cell communication called quorum sensing (QS). The discovery that QS controls the production of virulence factors and biofilm formation in many common pathogens has driven an explosion of research aimed at both deepening our fundamental understanding of these regulatory networks and developing chemical agents that can attenuate QS signaling. The inherently chemical nature of QS makes studying these pathways with small molecule tools a complementary approach to traditional microbiology techniques. Indeed, chemical tools are beginning to yield new insights into QS regulation and provide novel strategies to inhibit QS. Here, we review the most recent advances in the development of chemical probes of QS systems in Gram-negative bacteria, with an emphasis on the opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa. We first describe reports of novel small molecule modulators of QS receptors and QS signal synthases. Next, in several case studies, we showcase how chemical tools have been deployed to reveal new knowledge of QS biology and outline lessons for how researchers might best target QS to combat bacterial virulence. To close, we detail the outstanding challenges in the field and suggest strategies to overcome these issues. We describe the development and application of novel chemical tools to interrogate bacterial quorum sensing pathways—with a particular focus on the Gram-negative pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa—and outline several future challenges for this approach. Graphical Abstract Figure. We describe the development and application of novel chemical tools to interrogate bacterial quorum sensing pathways—with a particular focus on the Gram-negative pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa—and outline several future challenges for this approach.
Abstract The spread of antibiotic resistance and increasing prevalence of biofilm-associated infections is driving demand for new means to treat bacterial infection. Nanotechnology provides an innovative platform for addressing this challenge, with potential to manage even infections involving multidrug-resistant (MDR) bacteria. The current review summarizes recent progress over the last 2 years in the field of antibacterial nanodrugs, and describes their unique properties, mode of action and activity against MDR bacteria and biofilms. Biocompatibility and commercialization are also discussed. As opposed to the more common division of nanoparticles (NPs) into organic- and inorganic-based materials, this review classifies NPs into two functional categories. The first includes NPs exhibiting intrinsic antibacterial properties and the second is devoted to NPs serving as a cargo for delivering antibacterial agents. Antibacterial nanomaterials used to decorate medical devices and implants are reviewed here as well. The rise in antimicrobial resistance requires the development of new therapeutic approaches, nano-based antimicrobial agents are gaining attention in recent years due to their potent antimicrobial activity even against multidrug-resistant bacteria.
Abstract Clostridium difficile is a bacterial pathogen that is the leading cause of nosocomial antibiotic-associated diarrhea and pseudomembranous colitis worldwide. The incidence, severity, mortality and healthcare costs associated with C. difficile infection (CDI) are rising, making C. difficile a major threat to public health. Traditional treatments for CDI involve use of antibiotics such as metronidazole and vancomycin, but disease recurrence occurs in about 30% of patients, highlighting the need for new therapies. The pathogenesis of C. difficile is primarily mediated by the actions of two large clostridial glucosylating toxins, toxin A (TcdA) and toxin B (TcdB). Some strains produce a third toxin, the binary toxin C. difficile transferase, which can also contribute to C. difficile virulence and disease. These toxins act on the colonic epithelium and immune cells and induce a complex cascade of cellular events that result in fluid secretion, inflammation and tissue damage, which are the hallmark features of the disease. In this review, we summarize our current understanding of the structure and mechanism of action of the C. difficile toxins and their role in disease. This review summarizes the structures, molecular mechanisms and physiological responses to the three toxins associated with disease symptoms in Clostridium difficile infection.
Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are widespread in marine ecosystems and originate from natural sources and anthropogenic activities. PAHs enter the marine environment in two main ways, corresponding to chronic pollution or acute pollution by oil spills. The global PAH fluxes in marine environments are controlled by the microbial degradation and the biological pump, which plays a role in particle settling and in sequestration through bioaccumulation. Due to their low water solubility and hydrophobic nature, PAHs tightly adhere to sediments leading to accumulation in coastal and deep sediments. Microbial assemblages play an important role in determining the fate of PAHs in water and sediments, supporting the functioning of biogeochemical cycles and the microbial loop. This review summarises the knowledge recently acquired in terms of both chronic and acute PAH pollution. The importance of the microbial ecology in PAH-polluted marine ecosystems is highlighted as well as the importance of gaining further in-depth knowledge of the environmental services provided by microorganisms. This review highlights the sources and fate of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in the marine environment with particular emphasis on the microbial ecology and the biological pump controlling global PAH fluxes.
Abstract High individuality, large complexity and limited understanding of the mechanisms underlying human intestinal microbiome function remain the major challenges for designing beneficial modulation strategies. Exemplified by the analysis of intestinal bacteria in a thousand Western adults, we discuss key concepts of the human intestinal microbiome landscape, i.e. the compositional and functional ‘core’, the presence of community types and the existence of alternative stable states. Genomic investigation of core taxa revealed functional redundancy, which is expected to stabilize the ecosystem, as well as taxa with specialized functions that have the potential to shape the microbiome landscape. The contrast between Prevotella- and Bacteroides-dominated systems has been well described. However, less known is the effect of not so abundant bacteria, for example, Dialister spp. that have been proposed to exhibit distinct bistable dynamics. Studies employing time-series analysis have highlighted the dynamical variation in the microbiome landscape with and without the effect of defined perturbations, such as the use of antibiotics or dietary changes. We incorporate ecosystem-level observations of the human intestinal microbiota and its keystone species to suggest avenues for designing microbiome modulation strategies to improve host health. A meta-analysis-based review discusses the key features of human intestinal microbiome, i.e. the compositional and functional ‘core’, community types, and the existence of alternative stable states and how these concepts can be used to improve host health.