Imperial College London


Faculty of Natural SciencesDepartment of Life Sciences

Chair in Molecular Microbiology



+44 (0)20 7594 9651a.filloux Website CV




1.47Flowers buildingSouth Kensington Campus





Publication Type

204 results found

Nolan LM, Cain AK, Clamens T, Furniss RCD, Manoli E, Sainz-Polo MA, Dougan G, Albesa-Jove D, Parkhill J, Mavridou DAI, Filloux Aet al., 2021, Identification of Tse8 as a Type VI secretion system toxin from Pseudomonas aeruginosa that targets the bacterial transamidosome to inhibit protein synthesis in prey cells, NATURE MICROBIOLOGY, Vol: 6, Pages: 1199-+, ISSN: 2058-5276

Journal article

Larrouy-Maumus G, Katy J, katheryn H, laurent D, markus K, Filloux A, Plesiat Pet al., 2021, Detection of colistin resistance in Pseudomonas aeruginosa using the MALDIxin test on the routine MALDI Biotyper Sirius mass spectrometer, Frontiers in Microbiology, ISSN: 1664-302X

Colistin is frequently a last resort treatment for Pseudomonas aeruginosa infections caused by multidrug-resistant (MDR) and extensively drug resistant (XDR) strains, and detection of colistin resistance is essential for the management of infected patients. Therefore, we evaluated the recently developed MALDIxin test for the detection of colistin resistance in Pseudomonas aeruginosa clinical strains using the routine matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization (MALDI) Biotyper Sirius system. The test is based on the detection by mass spectrometry of modified lipid A by the addition of 4-amino-L-arabinose (L-ara4N) molecules on one or two phosphate groups, in strains resistant to colistin. Overproduction of L-Ara4N molecules is mainly due to the constitutive activation of the histidine kinase (PmrB) or the response regulator (PmrA) following an amino-acid substitution in clinical strains. The performance of the test was determined on a panel of 14 colistin-susceptible and 14 colistin-resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa clinical strains, the reference strain PAO1 and positive control mutants PmrB (V28G), PmrB (D172), PhoQ (D240-247) and ParR (M59I). In comparison with the broth microdilution (BMD) method, all the susceptible strains (n=14) and 8/14 colistin-resistant strains were detected in less than 1 hour, directly on whole bacteria. The remaining resistant strains (n=6) were all detected after a short pre-exposure (4h) to colistin before sample preparation. Validation of the method on a larger panel of strains will be the next step before its use in diagnostics laboratories. Our data showed that the MALDIxin test offers rapid and efficient detection of colistin resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa and is thus a valuable diagnostics tool to control the spread of these emerging resistant strains.

Journal article

Howard SA, Furniss RCD, Bonini D, Amin H, Paracuellos P, Zlotkin D, R D Costa T, Levy A, A I Mavridou D, Filloux Aet al., 2021, The breadth and molecular basis of Hcp-driven type six secretion system (T6SS) effector delivery, mBio, Vol: 12, Pages: 1-19, ISSN: 2150-7511

The type VI secretion system (T6SS) is a bacterial nanoscale weapon that delivers toxins into prey ranging from bacteria and fungi to animal hosts. The cytosolic contractile sheath of the system wraps around stacked hexameric rings of Hcp proteins, which form an inner tube. At the tip of this tube is a puncturing device comprising a trimeric VgrG topped by a monomeric PAAR protein. The number of toxins a single system delivers per firing event remains unknown, since effectors can be loaded on diverse sites of the T6SS apparatus, notably the inner tube and the puncturing device. Each VgrG or PAAR can bind one effector, and additional effector cargoes can be carried in the Hcp ring lumen. While many VgrG- and PAAR-bound toxins have been characterized, to date, very few Hcp-bound effectors are known. Here, we used 3 known Pseudomonas aeruginosa Hcp proteins (Hcp1 to -3), each of which associates with one of the three T6SSs in this organism (H1-T6SS, H2-T6SS, and H3-T6SS), to perform in vivo pulldown assays. We confirmed the known interactions of Hcp1 with Tse1 to -4, further copurified a Hcp1-Tse4 complex, and identified potential novel Hcp1-bound effectors. Moreover, we demonstrated that Hcp2 and Hcp3 can shuttle T6SS cargoes toxic to Escherichia coli. Finally, we used a Tse1-Bla chimera to probe the loading strategy for Hcp passengers and found that while large effectors can be loaded onto Hcp, the formed complex jams the system, abrogating T6SS function.

Journal article

Steinchen W, Ahmad S, Valentini M, Eilers K, Majkini M, Altegoer F, Lechner M, Filloux A, Whitney JC, Bange Get al., 2021, Dual role of a (p)ppGpp- and (p)ppApp-degrading enzyme in biofilm formation and interbacterial antagonism, Molecular Microbiology, Vol: 115, Pages: 1339-1356, ISSN: 0950-382X

The guanosine nucleotide‐based second messengers ppGpp and pppGpp (collectively: (p)ppGpp) enable adaptation of microorganisms to environmental changes and stress conditions. In contrast, the closely related adenosine nucleotides (p)ppApp are involved in type VI secretion system (T6SS)‐mediated killing during bacterial competition. Long RelA‐SpoT Homolog (RSH) enzymes regulate synthesis and degradation of (p)ppGpp (and potentially also (p)ppApp) through their synthetase and hydrolase domains, respectively. Small alarmone hydrolases (SAH) that consist of only a hydrolase domain are found in a variety of bacterial species, including the opportunistic human pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Here, we present the structure and mechanism of P. aeruginosa SAH showing that the enzyme promiscuously hydrolyses (p)ppGpp and (p)ppApp in a strictly manganese‐dependent manner. While being dispensable for P. aeruginosa growth or swimming, swarming, and twitching motilities, its enzymatic activity is required for biofilm formation. Moreover, (p)ppApp‐degradation by SAH provides protection against the T6SS (p)ppApp synthetase effector Tas1, suggesting that SAH enzymes can also serve as defense proteins during interbacterial competition.

Journal article

Bernal P, Furniss CD, Fecht S, Leung RCY, Spiga L, Mavridou DAI, Filloux ALAINet al., 2021, A novel stabilization mechanism for the type VI secretion system sheath, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of USA, Vol: 118, ISSN: 0027-8424

The type VI secretion system (T6SS) is a phage-derived contractile nanomachine primarily involved in interbacterial competition. Its pivotal component, TssA, is indispensable for the assembly of the T6SS sheath structure, the contraction of which propels a payload of effector proteins into neighboring cells. Despite their key function, TssA proteins exhibit unexpected diversity and exist in two major forms, a short form (TssAS) and a long form (TssAL). While TssAL proteins interact with a partner, called TagA, to anchor the distal end of the extended sheath, the mechanism for the stabilization of TssAS-containing T6SSs remains unknown. Here we discover a class of structural components that interact with short TssA proteins and contribute to T6SS assembly by stabilizing the polymerizing sheath from the baseplate. We demonstrate that the presence of these components is important for full sheath extension and optimal firing. Moreover, we show that the pairing of each form of TssA with a different class of sheath stabilization proteins results in T6SS apparatuses that either reside in the cell for some time or fire immediately after sheath extension. We propose that this diversity in firing dynamics could contribute to the specialization of the T6SS to suit bacterial lifestyles in diverse environmental niches.

Journal article

Lossi NS, Manoli E, Foerster A, Dajani R, Pape T, Freemont P, Filloux Aet al., 2021, The HsiB1C1 (TssB-TssC) complex of the pseudomonas aeruginosa Type VI secretion system forms a bacteriophage tail sheathlike structure, Journal of Biological Chemistry, Vol: 288, Pages: 7536-7548, ISSN: 0021-9258

Protein secretion systems in Gram-negative bacteria evolved into a variety of molecular nanomachines. They are related to cell envelope complexes, which are involved in assembly of surface appendages or transport of solutes. They are classified as types, the most recent addition being the type VI secretion system (T6SS). The T6SS displays similarities to bacteriophage tail, which drives DNA injection into bacteria. The Hcp protein is related to the T4 bacteriophage tail tube protein gp19, whereas VgrG proteins structurally resemble the gp27/gp5 puncturing device of the phage. The tube and spike of the phage are pushed through the bacterial envelope upon contraction of a tail sheath composed of gp18. In Vibrio cholerae it was proposed that VipA and VipB assemble into a tail sheathlike structure. Here we confirm these previous data by showing that HsiB1 and HsiC1 of the Pseudomonas aeruginosa H1-T6SS assemble into tubules resulting from stacking of cogwheel-like structures showing predominantly 12-fold symmetry. The internal diameter of the cogwheels is ∼100 Å, which is large enough to accommodate an Hcp tube whose external diameter has been reported to be 85 Å. The N-terminal 212 residues of HsiC1 are sufficient to form a stable complex with HsiB1, but the C terminus of HsiC1 is essential for the formation of the tubelike structure. Bioinformatics analysis suggests that HsiC1 displays similarities to gp18-like proteins in its C-terminal region. In conclusion, we provide further structural and mechanistic insights into the T6SS and show that a phage sheathlike structure is likely to be a conserved element across all T6SSs.

Journal article

Lin H-H, Filloux A, Lai E-M, 2020, Role of recipient susceptibility factors during contact-dependent interbacterial competition, Frontiers in Microbiology, Vol: 11, Pages: 1-15, ISSN: 1664-302X

Bacteria evolved multiple strategies to survive and develop optimal fitness in their ecological niche. They deployed protein secretion systems for robust and efficient delivery of antibacterial toxins into their target cells, therefore inhibiting their growth or killing them. To maximize antagonism, recipient factors on target cells can be recognized or hijacked to enhance the entry or toxicity of these toxins. To date, knowledge regarding recipient susceptibility (RS) factors and their mode of action is mostly originating from studies on the type Vb secretion system that is also known as the contact-dependent inhibition (CDI) system. Yet, recent studies on the type VI secretion system (T6SS), and the CDI by glycine-zipper protein (Cdz) system, also reported the emerging roles of RS factors in interbacterial competition. Here, we review these RS factors and their mechanistic impact in increasing susceptibility of recipient cells in response to CDI, T6SS, and Cdz. Past and future strategies for identifying novel RS factors are also discussed, which will help in understanding the interplay between attacker and prey upon secretion system-dependent competition. Understanding these mechanisms would also provide insights for developing novel antibacterial strategies to antagonize aggressive bacteria-killing pathogens.

Journal article

Sarah Wettstadt S, Lai E-M, Filloux AAM, 2020, Solving the puzzle: connecting a heterologous Agrobacterium tumefaciens T6SS effector to a Pseudomonas aeruginosa spike complex, Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology, Vol: 10, ISSN: 2235-2988

The type VI secretion system (T6SS) is a contractile injection apparatus that translocates a spike loaded with various effectors directly into eukaryotic and prokaryotic target cells. Such T6SS spike consists of a needle-shaped trimer of VgrG proteins topped by a conical and sharp PAAR protein that facilitates puncturing of the target membrane. T6SS-delivered effector proteins can be either fused to one of the two spike proteins or interact with either in a highly specific manner. In Agrobacterium tumefaciens the T6SS effector Tde1 is targeted to its cognate VgrG1 protein. Here, we attempted to use a VgrG shuttle to deliver a heterologous T6SS effector by directing Tde1 onto a T6SS spike in Pseudomonas aeruginosa. For this, we designed chimeras between VgrG1 from A. tumefaciens and VgrG1a from P. aeruginosa and showed that modification of the spike protein hampered T6SS functionality in the presence of the Tde1 effector complex. We provide evidence suggesting that Tde1 specifically binds to the VgrG spike in the heterologous environment and propose that there are additional requirements to allow proper effector delivery and translocation. Our work sheds light on complex aspects of the molecular mechanisms of T6SS delivery and highlights some limitations on how effectors can be translocated using this nanomachine.

Journal article

Larrouy-Maumus G, Dortet L, Filloux A, bonnin, le hello, bonnet, kostrzewaet al., 2020, Detection of colistin resistance in Salmonella enterica using MALDIxin test on the routine MALDI Biotyper Sirius mass spectrometer, Frontiers in Microbiology, Vol: 11, Pages: 1-6, ISSN: 1664-302X

Resistance to polymyxins in most Gram-negative bacteria arises from chemical modifications to the lipid A portion of their lipopolysaccharide (LPS) mediated by chromosomally-encoded mutations or the recently discovered plasmid-encoded mcr genes that have further complicated the landscape of colistin resistance. Currently, minimal inhibitory concentration (MIC) determination by broth microdilution, the gold standard for the detection of polymyxin resistance, is time consuming (24 hours) and challenging to perform in clinical and veterinatryveterinary laboratories. Here we present the use of the MALDIxin to detect colistin resistant Salmonella enterica using the MALDxin test on the routine matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization (MALDI) Biotyper Sirius system.

Journal article

Bernal P, Furniss C, Fecht S, Leung RCY, Spiga L, Mavridou DAI, Filloux Aet al., 2020, Novel structural components generate distinct type VI secretion system anchoring modes, Publisher: bioRxiv

The type VI secretion system (T6SS) is a phage-derived contractile nanomachine primarily involved in interbacterial competition. Its pivotal component, TssA, is indispensable for the assembly of the T6SS sheath structure, the contraction of which propels a payload of effector proteins into neighboring cells. Despite their key function, TssA proteins exhibit unexpected diversity and exist in two major forms, a short (TssA S ) and a long (TssA L ) TssA. Whilst TssA L proteins interact with a partner, called TagA, to anchor the distal end of the extended sheath, the mechanism for the stabilization of TssA S -containing T6SSs remains unknown. Here we discover a novel class of structural components that interact with short TssA proteins and contribute to T6SS assembly by stabilizing the polymerizing sheath from the baseplate. We demonstrate that the presence of these components is important for full sheath extension and optimal firing. Moreover, we show that the pairing of each form of TssA with a different class of sheath stabilization proteins results in T6SS apparatuses that either reside in the cell for a while or fire immediately after sheath extension, thus giving rise to different aggression behaviors. We propose that this functional diversity could contribute to the specialization of the T6SS to suit bacterial lifestyles in diverse environmental niches.

Working paper

Allsopp LP, Bernal P, Nolan LM, Filloux Aet al., 2020, Causalities of war: the connection between type VI secretion system and microbiota, Cellular Microbiology, Vol: 22, Pages: 1-9, ISSN: 1462-5814

Microbiota niches have space and/or nutrient restrictions, which has led to the coevolution of cooperation, specialisation, and competition within the population. Different animal and environmental niches contain defined resident microbiota that tend to be stable over time and offer protection against undesired intruders. Yet fluxes can occur, which alter the composition of a bacterial population. In humans, the microbiota are now considered a key contributor to maintenance of health and homeostasis, and its alteration leads to dysbiosis. The bacterial type VI secretion system (T6SS) transports proteins into the environment, directly into host cells or can function as an antibacterial weapon by killing surrounding competitors. Upon contact with neighbouring cells, the T6SS fires, delivering a payload of effector proteins. In the absence of an immunity protein, this results in growth inhibition or death of prey leading to a competitive advantage for the attacker. It is becoming apparent that the T6SS has a role in modulating and shaping the microbiota at multiple levels, which is the focus of this review. Discussed here is the T6SS, its role in competition, key examples of its effect upon the microbiota, and future avenues of research.

Journal article

Wettstadt S, Filloux A, 2020, Manipulating the type VI secretion system spike to shuttle passenger proteins, PLoS One, Vol: 15, Pages: 1-20, ISSN: 1932-6203

The type VI secretion system (T6SS) is a contractile injection apparatus that translocates a spike loaded with various effectors directly into eukaryotic or prokaryotic target cells. Pseudomonas aeruginosa can load either one of its three T6SSs with a variety of toxic bullets using different but specific modes. The T6SS spike, which punctures the bacterial cell envelope allowing effector transport, consists of a torch-like VgrG trimer on which sits a PAAR protein sharpening the VgrG tip. VgrG itself sits on the Hcp tube and all elements, packed into a T6SS sheath, are propelled out of the cell and into target cells. On occasion, effectors are covalent extensions of VgrG, PAAR or Hcp proteins, which are then coined “evolved” components as opposed to canonical. Here, we show how various passenger domains could be fused to the C terminus of a canonical VgrG, VgrG1a from P. aeruginosa, and be sent into the bacterial culture supernatant. There is no restriction on the passenger type, although the efficacy may vary greatly, since we used either an unrelated T6SS protein, β-lactamase, a covalent extension of an “evolved” VgrG, VgrG2b, or a Hcp-dependent T6SS toxin, Tse2. Our data further highlights an exceptional modularity/flexibility for loading the T6SS nano-weapon. Refining the parameters to optimize delivery of passenger proteins of interest would have attractive medical and industrial applications. This may for example involve engineering the T6SS as a delivery system to shuttle toxins into either bacterial pathogens or tumour cells which would be an original approach in the fight against antimicrobial resistant bacteria or cancer.

Journal article

Dortet L, Broda A, bernabeu S, GLUPCZYNSKI Y, bogaerts P, bonnin R, naas T, Filloux A, Larrouy-Maumus Get al., 2020, Optimization of the MALDIxin test for the rapid identification of colistin resistance in Klebsiella pneumoniae using MALDI-TOF-MS, Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, Vol: 75, Pages: 110-116, ISSN: 0305-7453

Background. With the dissemination of carbapenemase producers, a revival of colistin was observed for the treatment of infections caused by multidrug-resistant Gram-negatives. Unfortunately, the increasing usage of colistin led to the emergence of resistance. In Klebsiella pneumoniae, colistin resistance arises through addition of L-arabinose-4N (L-Ara4N) or phosphoethanolamine (pEtN) on the native lipid A. The underlying mechanisms involve numerous chromosome-encoded genes or the plasmid-encoded phosphoethanolamine transferase MCR. Currently, detection of colistin resistance is time consuming since it still relies on MIC determination by broth microdilution. Recently, a rapid diagnostic test based on MALDI-TOF detection of modified lipid A was developed (the MALDIxin test) and tested on Escherichia coli and Acinetobacter baumannii.Objectives. Optimize the MALDIxin test for the rapid detection of colistin resistance in Klebsiella pneumoniae.Methods. This optimization consists on an additional mild-acid hydrolysis of 15 min in 1% acetic acid. The optimized method was tested on a collection of 81 clinical K. pneumoniae isolates including 49 colistin resistant strains among which 45 correspond to chromosome-encoded resistance, 3 MCR-related resistance and one isolate harbouring both mechanisms.Results. The optimized method allowed the rapid (< 30 min) identification of L-Ara4N and pEtN modified lipid A of K. pneumoniae which are known to be the real triggers of polymyxin resistance. In the same time, it discriminates between chromosome-encoded and MCR-related polymyxin resistance.Conclusions. The MALDIxin test has the potential to become an accurate tool for the rapid diagnostic of colistin resistance in clinically-relevant Gram negative bacteria.

Journal article

Furniss C, Dortet L, Bolland W, drews O, sparbier K, bonnin R, Filloux A, kostrzewa M, Mavridou D, Larrouy-Maumus Get al., 2019, Detection of colistin resistance in Escherichia coli using the MALDI Biotyper Sirius mass spectrometry system, Journal of Clinical Microbiology, Vol: 57, Pages: 1-7, ISSN: 0095-1137

Polymyxin antibiotics are a last-line treatment for multidrug-resistant Gram-negative bacteria. However, the emergence of colistin resistance, including the spread of mobile mcr genes, necessitates the development of improved diagnostics for the detection of colistin-resistant organisms in hospital settings. The recently developed MALDIxin test enables detection of colistin resistance by MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry in less than 15 minutes, but is not optimized for the mass spectrometers commonly found in clinical microbiology laboratories. In this study, we adapted the MALDIxin test for the MALDI Biotyper Sirius MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry system (Bruker Daltonics). We optimized the sample preparation protocol using a set of 6 MCR-expressing Escherichia coli clones and validated the assay with a collection of 40 E. coli clinical isolates, including 19 confirmed MCR producers, 12 colistin-resistant isolates which tested negative for commonly encountered mcr genes (i.e. likely chromosomally-resistant isolates) and 9 polymyxin-susceptible isolates. We calculated Polymyxin resistance ratio (PRR) values from the acquired spectra; a PRR value of zero, indicating polymyxin susceptibility, was obtained for all colistin-susceptible E. coli isolates, whereas positive PRR values, indicating resistance to polymyxins, were obtained for all resistant strains independent of the genetic basis of resistance. Thus, we report a preliminary feasibility study showing that an optimized version of the MALDIxin test, adapted for the routine MALDI Biotyper Sirius, provides an unbiased, fast, reliable, cost-effective and high-throughput way of detecting colistin resistance in clinical E. coli isolates.

Journal article

Smith WD, Cameron SJ, Fletcher OL, Bardin E, Takats Z, Hogg C, Filloux A, Bush A, Davies JCet al., 2019, PSEUDOMONAS AERUGINOSA METABOLOME DIFFERENCES BETWEEN CF AND NON-CF BRONCHIECTASIS DETECTED USING DIRECT-FROM-SAMPLE MASS SPECTROMETRY, Pediatric Pulmonology, Publisher: WILEY, Pages: S313-S313, ISSN: 8755-6863

Conference paper

Cain AK, Nolan LM, Sullivan GJ, Whitchurch CB, Filloux A, Parkhill Jet al., 2019, Complete genome sequence of pseudomonas aeruginosa reference strain PAK, Microbiology Resource Announcements, Vol: 8, ISSN: 2576-098X

We report the complete genome of Pseudomonas aeruginosa strain PAK, a strain which has been instrumental in the study of a range of P. aeruginosa virulence and pathogenesis factors and has been used for over 50 years as a laboratory reference strain.

Journal article

Wood TE, Howard SA, Forster A, Nolan LM, Manoli E, Bullen NP, Yau HCL, Hachani A, Hayward RD, Whitney JC, Vollmer W, Freemont PS, Filloux Aet al., 2019, The Pseudomonas aeruginosa T6SS delivers a periplasmic toxin that disrupts bacterial cell morphology, Cell Reports, Vol: 29, Pages: 187-201.e7, ISSN: 2211-1247

The type VI secretion system (T6SS) is crucialin interbacterial competition and is avirulence determinant ofmany Gram-negative bacteria. Several T6SS effectorsarecovalently fused to secreted T6SS structural components such asthe VgrG spike for delivery into target cells.In Pseudomonas aeruginosa, theVgrG2b effector waspreviously proposedto mediatebacterial internalisation into eukaryotic cells. In this work, wefind that the VgrG2b C-terminal domain(VgrG2bC-ter) elicits toxicity in the bacterial periplasm, counteracted by a cognate immunity protein.We resolve thestructure of VgrG2bC-ter and confirm it is a member ofthezinc-metallopeptidasefamily of enzymes. We show that this effector causesmembrane blebbing atmidcell, whichsuggests a distincttype of T6SS-mediated growthinhibition through interference with cell division, mimicking the impact of β-lactam antibiotics. Ourstudyintroduces a further effector family to the T6SS arsenaland demonstrates that VgrG2b can target both prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells.

Journal article

Howard SA, Filloux A, 2019, Bacterial Protein Secretion: Looking inside an injection system, eLife, Vol: 8, Pages: 1-3, ISSN: 2050-084X

The proteins injected by bacteria into eukaryotic organisms can lead to fates as diverse as death and metamorphosis

Journal article

Valentini M, Filloux A, 2019, Multiple Roles of c-di-GMP Signaling in Bacterial Pathogenesis, Annual Review of Microbiology, Vol: 73, Pages: 387-406, ISSN: 0066-4227

The intracellular signaling molecule cyclic di-GMP (c-di-GMP) regulates the lifestyle of bacteria and controls many key functions and mechanisms. In the case of bacterial pathogens, a wide variety of virulence lifestyle factors have been shown to be regulated by c-di-GMP. Evidence of the importance of this molecule for bacterial pathogenesis has become so great that new antimicrobial agents are tested for their capacity of targeting c-di-GMP signaling. This review summarizes the current knowledge on this topic and reveals its application for the development of new antivirulence intervention strategies.

Journal article

Fuqua C, Filloux A, Ghigo J-M, Visick KLet al., 2019, Biofilms 2018: a diversity of microbes and mechanisms, Journal of Bacteriology, Vol: 201, Pages: e00118-e00119, ISSN: 0021-9193

The 8th ASM Conference on Biofilms was held in Washington D.C. on October 7-11, 2018. This very highly subscribed meeting represented a wide breadth of current research in biofilms, and included over 500 attendees, 12 sessions with 64 oral presentations, and four poster sessions with about 400 posters.

Journal article

Wood TE, Howard SA, Wettstadt S, Filloux Aet al., 2019, PAAR proteins act as the ‘sorting hat’ of the type VI secretion system, Microbiology, Vol: 165, Pages: 1203-1218, ISSN: 1350-0872

Bacteria exist in polymicrobial environments and compete to prevail in a niche. The type VI secretion system (T6SS) is a nanomachine employed by Gram-negative bacteria to deliver effector proteins into target cells. Consequently, T6SS-positive bacteria produce a wealth of antibacterial effector proteins to promote their survival among a prokaryotic community. These toxins are loaded onto the VgrG–PAAR spike and Hcp tube of the T6SS apparatus and recent work has started to document the specificity of effectors for certain spike components. Pseudomonas aeruginosa encodes several PAAR proteins, whose roles have been poorly investigated. Here we describe a phospholipase family antibacterial effector immunity pair from Pseudomonas aeruginosa and demonstrate that a specific PAAR protein is necessary for the delivery of the effector and its cognate VgrG. Furthermore, the PAAR protein appears to restrict the delivery of other phospholipase effectors that utilise distinct VgrG proteins. We provide further evidence for competition for PAAR protein recruitment to the T6SS apparatus, which determines the identities of the delivered effectors.

Journal article

McCarthy RR, Yu M, Eilers K, Wang Y-C, Lai E-M, Filloux Aet al., 2019, Cyclic di-GMP inactivates T6SS and T4SS activity in Agrobacterium tumefaciens, Molecular Microbiology, Vol: 112, Pages: 632-648, ISSN: 0950-382X

The Type VI secretion system (T6SS) is a bacterial nanomachine that delivers effector proteins into prokaryotic and eukaryotic preys. This secretion system has emerged as a key player in regulating the microbial diversity in a population. In the plant pathogen Agrobacterium tumefaciens, the signalling cascades regulating the activity of this secretion system are poorly understood. Here, we outline how the universal eubacterial second messenger cyclic di-GMP impacts the production of T6SS toxins and T6SS structural components. We demonstrate that this has a significant impact on the ability of the phytopathogen to compete with other bacterial species in vitro and in planta. Our results suggest that, as opposed to other bacteria, c-di-GMP turns down the T6SS in A. tumefaciens thus impacting its ability to compete with other bacterial species within the rhizosphere. We also demonstrate that elevated levels of c-di-GMP within the cell decrease the activity of the Type IV secretion system (T4SS) and subsequently the capacity of A. tumefaciens to transform plant cells. We propose that such peculiar control reflects on c-di-GMP being a key second messenger that silences energy-costing systems during early colonization phase and biofilm formation, while low c-di-GMP levels unleash T6SS and T4SS to advance plant colonization.

Journal article

Wettstadt S, Wood TE, Fecht S, Filloux Aet al., 2019, Delivery of the Pseudomonas aeruginosa phospholipase effectors PldA and PldB in a VgrG- and H2-T6SS-dependent manner, Frontiers in Microbiology, Vol: 10, Pages: 1-18, ISSN: 1664-302X

The bacterial pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa uses three type VI secretion systems (T6SSs) to drive a multitude of effector proteins into eukaryotic or prokaryotic target cells. The T6SS is a supramolecular nanomachine, involving a set of 13 core proteins, which resembles the contractile tail of bacteriophages and whose tip is considered as a puncturing device helping to cross membranes. Effectors can attach directly to the T6SS spike which is composed of a VgrG (valine-glycine-rich proteins) trimer, of which P. aeruginosa produces several. We have previously shown that the master regulator RsmA controls the expression of all three T6SS gene clusters (H1-, H2- and H3-T6SS) and a range of remote vgrG and effector genes. We also demonstrated that specific interactions between VgrGs and various T6SS effectors are prerequisite for effector delivery in a process we called “à la carte delivery”. Here, we provide an in-depth description on how the two H2-T6SS-dependent effectors PldA and PldB are delivered via their cognate VgrGs, VgrG4b and VgrG5, respectively. We show that specific recognition of the VgrG C terminus is required and effector specificity can be swapped by exchanging these C-terminal domains. Importantly, we established that effector recognition by a cognate VgrG is not always sufficient to achieve successful secretion, but it is crucial to provide effector stability. This study highlights the complexity of effector adaptation to the T6SS nanomachine and shows how the VgrG tip can possibly be manipulated to achieve effector delivery.

Journal article

Filloux A, Davies JC, 2019, Chronic infection by controlling inflammation, NATURE MICROBIOLOGY, Vol: 4, Pages: 378-379, ISSN: 2058-5276

Journal article

Lorenz A, Preusse M, Bruchmann S, Pawar V, Grahl N, Pils MC, Nolan LM, Filloux A, Weiss S, Haeussler Set al., 2019, Importance of flagella in acute and chronic Pseudomonas aeruginosa infections, Environmental Microbiology, Vol: 21, Pages: 883-897, ISSN: 1462-2912

Pseudomonas aeruginosa is an environmental microorganism and a causative agent of diverse acute and chronic, biofilm‐associated infections. Advancing research‐based knowledge on its adaptation to conditions within the human host is bound to reveal novel strategies and targets for therapeutic intervention. Here, we investigated the traits that P. aeruginosa PA14 as well as a virulence attenuated ΔlasR mutant need to survive in selected murine infection models. Experimentally, the genetic programs that the bacteria use to adapt to biofilm‐associated versus acute infections were dissected by passaging transposon mutant libraries through mouse lungs (acute) or mouse tumours (biofilm‐infection). Adaptive metabolic changes of P. aeruginosa were generally required during both infection processes. Counter‐selection against flagella expression was observed during acute lung infections. Obviously, avoidance of flagella‐mediated activation of host immunity is advantageous for the wildtype bacteria. For the ΔlasR mutant, loss of flagella did not confer a selective advantage. Apparently, other pathogenesis mechanisms are active in this virulence attenuated strain. In contrast, the infective process of P. aeruginosa in the chronic biofilm model apparently required expression of flagellin. Together, our findings imply that the host immune reactions against the infectious agent are very decisive for acuteness and duration of the infectious disease. They direct disease outcome.

Journal article

Pissaridou P, Allsopp LP, Wettstadt S, Howard SA, Mavridou DAI, Filloux Aet al., 2018, The Pseudomonas aeruginosa T6SS-VgrG1b spike is topped by a PAAR protein eliciting DNA damage to bacterial competitors, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Vol: 115, Pages: 12519-12524, ISSN: 0027-8424

The type VI secretion system (T6SS) is a supramolecular complex involved in the delivery of potent toxins during bacterial competition. Pseudomonas aeruginosa possesses three T6SS gene clusters and several hcp and vgrG gene islands, the latter encoding the spike at the T6SS tip. The vgrG1b cluster encompasses seven genes whose organization and sequences are highly conserved in P. aeruginosa genomes, except for two genes that we called tse7 and tsi7. We show that Tse7 is a Tox-GHH2 domain nuclease which is distinct from other T6SS nucleases identified thus far. Expression of this toxin induces the SOS response, causes growth arrest and ultimately results in DNA degradation. The cytotoxic domain of Tse7 lies at its C terminus, while the N terminus is a predicted PAAR domain. We find that Tse7 sits on the tip of the VgrG1b spike and that specific residues at the PAAR–VgrG1b interface are essential for VgrG1b-dependent delivery of Tse7 into bacterial prey. We also show that the delivery of Tse7 is dependent on the H1-T6SS cluster, and injection of the nuclease into bacterial competitors is deployed for interbacterial competition. Tsi7, the cognate immunity protein, protects the producer from the deleterious effect of Tse7 through a direct protein–protein interaction so specific that toxin/immunity pairs are effective only if they originate from the same P. aeruginosa isolate. Overall, our study highlights the diversity of T6SS effectors, the exquisite fitting of toxins on the tip of the T6SS, and the specificity in Tsi7-dependent protection, suggesting a role in interstrain competition.

Journal article

Dortet L, Bonnin RA, Pennisi I, Gauthier L, Jousset AB, Dabos L, Furniss RCD, Mavridou DAI, Bogaerts P, Glupczynski Y, Potron A, Plesiat P, Beyrouthy R, Robin F, Bonnet R, Naas T, Filloux A, Larrouy-Maumus Get al., 2018, Rapid detection and discrimination of chromosome-and MCR-plasmid-mediated resistance to polymyxins by MALDI-TOF MS in Escherichia coli: the MALDIxin test, Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, Vol: 73, Pages: 3359-3367, ISSN: 0305-7453

BackgroundPolymyxins are currently considered a last-resort treatment for infections caused by MDR Gram-negative bacteria. Recently, the emergence of carbapenemase-producing Enterobacteriaceae has accelerated the use of polymyxins in the clinic, resulting in an increase in polymyxin-resistant bacteria. Polymyxin resistance arises through modification of lipid A, such as the addition of phosphoethanolamine (pETN). The underlying mechanisms involve numerous chromosome-encoded genes or, more worryingly, a plasmid-encoded pETN transferase named MCR. Currently, detection of polymyxin resistance is difficult and time consuming.ObjectivesTo develop a rapid diagnostic test that can identify polymyxin resistance and at the same time differentiate between chromosome- and plasmid-encoded resistances.MethodsWe developed a MALDI-TOF MS-based method, named the MALDIxin test, which allows the detection of polymyxin resistance-related modifications to lipid A (i.e. pETN addition), on intact bacteria, in <15 min.ResultsUsing a characterized collection of polymyxin-susceptible and -resistant Escherichia coli, we demonstrated that our method is able to identify polymyxin-resistant isolates in 15 min whilst simultaneously discriminating between chromosome- and plasmid-encoded resistance. We validated the MALDIxin test on different media, using fresh and aged colonies and show that it successfully detects all MCR-1 producers in a blindly analysed set of carbapenemase-producing E. coli strains.ConclusionsThe MALDIxin test is an accurate, rapid, cost-effective and scalable method that represents a major advance in the diagnosis of polymyxin resistance by directly assessing lipid A modifications in intact bacteria.

Journal article

Dortet L, Potron A, Bonnin RA, Plesiat P, Naas T, Filloux A, Larrouy-Maumus Get al., 2018, Rapid detection of colistin resistance in Acinetobacter baumannii using MALDI-TOF-based lipidomics on intact bacteria, Scientific Reports, Vol: 8, ISSN: 2045-2322

With the dissemination of extremely drug resistant bacteria, colistin is now considered as the last-resort therapy for the treatment of infection caused by Gram-negative bacilli (including carbapenemase producers). Unfortunately, the increase use of colistin has resulted in the emergence of resistance as well. In A. baumannii, colistin resistance is mostly caused by the addition of phosphoethanolamine to the lipid A through the action of a phosphoethanolamine transferase chromosomally-encoded by the pmrC gene, which is regulated by the two-component system PmrA/PmrB. In A. baumannii clinical isolate the main resistance mechanism to colistin involves mutations in pmrA, pmrB or pmrC genes leading to the overexpression of pmrC. Although, rapid detection of resistance is one of the key issues to improve the treatment of infected patient, detection of colistin resistance in A. baumannii still relies on MIC determination through microdilution, which is time-consuming (16–24 h). Here, we evaluated the performance of a recently described MALDI-TOF-based assay, the MALDIxin test, which allows the rapid detection of colistin resistance-related modifications to lipid A (i.e phosphoethanolamine addition). This test accurately detected all colistin-resistant A. baumannii isolates in less than 15 minutes, directly on intact bacteria with a very limited sample preparation prior MALDI-TOF analysis.

Journal article

Nolan LM, Whitchurch CB, Barquist L, Katrib M, Boinett CJ, Mayho M, Goulding D, Charles IG, Filloux A, Parkhill J, Cain AKet al., 2018, A global genomic approach uncovers novel components for twitching motility-mediated biofilm expansion in Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Microbial Genomics, Vol: 4, Pages: 1-14, ISSN: 2057-5858

Pseudomonas aeruginosa is an extremely successful pathogen able to cause both acute and chronic infections in a range of hosts, utilizing a diverse arsenal of cell-associated and secreted virulence factors. A major cell-associated virulence factor, the Type IV pilus (T4P), is required for epithelial cell adherence and mediates a form of surface translocation termed twitching motility, which is necessary to establish a mature biofilm and actively expand these biofilms. P. aeruginosa twitching motility-mediated biofilm expansion is a coordinated, multicellular behaviour, allowing cells to rapidly colonize surfaces, including implanted medical devices. Although at least 44 proteins are known to be involved in the biogenesis, assembly and regulation of the T4P, with additional regulatory components and pathways implicated, it is unclear how these components and pathways interact to control these processes. In the current study, we used a global genomics-based random-mutagenesis technique, transposon directed insertion-site sequencing (TraDIS), coupled with a physical segregation approach, to identify all genes implicated in twitching motility-mediated biofilm expansion in P. aeruginosa. Our approach allowed identification of both known and novel genes, providing new insight into the complex molecular network that regulates this process in P. aeruginosa. Additionally, our data suggest that the flagellum-associated gene products have a differential effect on twitching motility, based on whether components are intra- or extracellular. Overall the success of our TraDIS approach supports the use of this global genomic technique for investigating virulence genes in bacterial pathogens.

Journal article

Boulant T, Boudehenr Y-M, Filloux A, Plesiat P, Naas T, Dortet Let al., 2018, Higher prevalence of PIdA, pseudomonas aeruginosa trans-kingdom H2-type VI secretion system effector, in clinical isolates responsible for acute infections and in multidrug resistant strains, Frontiers in Microbiology, Vol: 9, ISSN: 1664-302X

Pseudomonas aeruginosa can manipulate eukaryotic host cells using secreted effectors delivered by the type III or the type VI Secretion Systems (T3SS and T6SS). The T3SS allows the injection of bacterial effectors (Exo toxins) into eukaryotic cell. P. aeruginosa, encodes three T6SSs, H1-, H2- and H3-T6SS. The H1-T6SS is mainly involved in delivering toxins to kill bacterial competitors. Recently, two T6SS-secreted phospholipases D, PldA (H2-T6SS) and PldB (H3-T6SS), were identified as trans-kingdom virulence effectors, triggering both killing of bacterial competitors and internalization into non-phagocytic cells. We deciphered the prevalence of T3SS and T6SS effectors encoding genes in 185 clinical isolates responsible for infections (septicaemia, pulmonary infections, urinary tract infections, and chronic infections in CF patients), 47 environmental strains, and on 33 carbapenemase-producers. We included 107 complete genomes of P. aeruginosa available in public databases. The prevalence of pldA is increased in clinical isolates responsible for severe acute infection and particularly in multi-drug resistant strains. In contrast, the pldB prevalence was high (96.8%) in all isolates. Regarding T3SS effectors, exoT and exoY are present in nearly all isolates while exoS and exoU were found to be exclusive with a higher prevalence of exoU+ strains in severe acute infections. The hypervirulent exoU+ isolates are more prone to be pldA+, suggesting a role of PldA in virulence. Finally, we observed that extremely drug resistant isolates producing an IMP-type carbapenemase were all pldA+. Our results suggest that PldA might have a role during pulmonary infections and have been co-selected in multidrug resistant strains particularly IMP-producers.

Journal article

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