Competence is a widespread bacterial differentiation program driving antibiotic resistance and virulence in many pathogens. Here, we studied the spatiotemporal localization dynamics of the key regulators that master the two intertwined and transient transcription waves defining competence in Streptococcus pneumoniae. The first wave relies on the stress-inducible phosphorelay between ComD and ComE proteins, and the second on the alternative sigma factor σX, which directs the expression of the DprA protein that turns off competence through interaction with phosphorylated ComE. We found that ComD, σX and DprA stably co-localize at one pole in competent cells, with σX physically conveying DprA next to ComD. Through this polar DprA targeting function, σX mediates the timely shut-off of the pneumococcal competence cycle, preserving cell fitness. Altogether, this study unveils an unprecedented role for a transcription σ factor in spatially coordinating the negative feedback loop of its own genetic circuit.
All data generated or analysed during this study are included in the manuscript and supporting files.
- Patrice Polard
- Patrice Polard
The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.
- Melanie Blokesch, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland
© 2020, Johnston et al.
This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.
The role of schools in the spread of SARS-CoV-2 is controversial, with some claiming they are an important driver of the pandemic and others arguing that transmission in schools is negligible. School cluster reports that have been collected in various jurisdictions are a source of data about transmission in schools. These reports consist of the name of a school, a date, and the number of students known to be infected. We provide a simple model for the frequency and size of clusters in this data, based on random arrivals of index cases at schools who then infect their classmates with a highly variable rate, fitting the overdispersion evident in the data. We fit our model to reports from four Canadian provinces, providing estimates of mean and dispersion for cluster size, as well as the distribution of the instantaneous transmission parameter β, whilst factoring in imperfect ascertainment. According to our model with parameters estimated from the data, in all four provinces (i) more than 65% of non-index cases occur in the 20% largest clusters, and (ii) reducing instantaneous transmission rate and the number of contacts a student has at any given time are effective in reducing the total number of cases, whereas strict bubbling (keeping contacts consistent over time) does not contribute much to reduce cluster sizes. We predict strict bubbling to be more valuable in scenarios with substantially higher transmission rates.
The environmental pathogen Cryptococcus neoformans claims over 180,000 lives each year. Survival of this basidiomycete at host CO2 concentrations has only recently been considered an important virulence trait. Through screening gene knockout libraries constructed in a CO2-tolerant clinical strain, we found mutations leading to CO2 sensitivity are enriched in pathways activated by heat stress, including calcineurin, Ras1-Cdc24, cell wall integrity, and Regulator of Ace2 and Morphogenesis (RAM). Overexpression of Cbk1, the conserved terminal kinase of the RAM pathway, partially restored defects of these mutants at host CO2 or temperature levels. In ascomycetes such as Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Candida albicans, transcription factor Ace2 is an important target of Cbk1, activating genes responsible for cell separation. However, no Ace2 homolog or any downstream component of the RAM pathway has been identified in basidiomycetes. Through in vitro evolution and comparative genomics, we characterized mutations in suppressors of cbk1Δ in C. neoformans that partially rescued defects in CO2 tolerance, thermotolerance, and morphology. One suppressor is the RNA translation repressor Ssd1, which is highly conserved in ascomycetes and basidiomycetes. The other is a novel ribonuclease domain-containing protein, here named PSC1, which is present in basidiomycetes and humans but surprisingly absent in most ascomycetes. Loss of Ssd1 in cbk1Δ partially restored cryptococcal ability to survive and amplify in the inhalation and intravenous murine models of cryptococcosis. Our discoveries highlight the overlapping regulation of CO2 tolerance and thermotolerance, the essential role of the RAM pathway in cryptococcal adaptation to the host condition, and the potential importance of post-transcriptional control of virulence traits in this global pathogen.