Target identification of peptides from Xenorhabdus and Photorhabdus

  • Xenorhabdus and Photorhabdus are bacterial genera that live in symbiosis with entomopathogenic nematodes of the genera Steinernema and Heterorhabditis, respectively. These nematodes infect insect larvae through the trachea and then enter the hemocoel. Once inside the hemocoel, the nematodes release the bacteria through their intestine. Thereafter, the bacteria become active and kill the larvae within 48 h. During this process, the immune system of the insect host is compromised by molecules produced and secreted by the bacteria. This illustrates that the bacteria possess not only a large arsenal of biological weaponry such as antibiotics and fungicides but also lipases, proteases, etc. Therefore, they are not only able to kill the insect but also protect the cadaver from other food competitors. During the past decades, a large number of natural products have been identified from Xenorhabdus and Photorhabdus. However, the targets and functions for many of these biological molecules are still unknown. Therefore, the goal of the doctoral thesis is to elucidate the modes of action of these natural products from Xenorhabdus and Photorhabdus with the main focus on non-ribosomal peptides (NRPs). The work can be divided into two parts. Initially, it starts with the synthesis of natural compounds and various chemically modified derivatives. Besides that, a number of peptides were synthesized for other projects to either verify their structures or quantify the amount produced by the bacteria. Then, secondary analysis methods are applied and provide additional insight into the modes of action of these compounds. During the thesis, I carried out peptide synthesis either manually or with an automatic synthesizer system from Biotage. Here, the Fmoc-protecting group strategy was preferred in most cases. Natural products, such as silathride, xenoautoxin, phenylethylamide, tryptamide, rhabdopeptide, 3-hydroxyoctanoic acid, and PAX, were produced during this process. Furthermore, new peptide derivatives derived from synthetic NRPS approaches using the XU concept or SYNZIP were generated as standards. Most of these natural compounds were experimentally verified by MIC tests (broth microdilution, plate diffusion) to be biologically active. For example, silathride, phenylethylamide, and tryptamide showed quorum quenching effects when tested against Chromobacterium violaceum. Initial results from collaborators (PD Dr. Nadja Hellmann/Mainz) showed that tryptamide and phenylethylamide interact with membrane or membrane proteins. (R)-3-hydroxyoctanoic acid was synthesized to verify the molecule structure of phototemtide A, a cyclic lipopeptide with antiprotozoal activity. The rhabdopeptides are another class, which showed remarkable antiprotozoal effects. However, their mode of action was unknown. These compounds are relatively short peptide sequences, which contain hydrophobic residues, such as valine, leucine, or phenylalanine. Moreover, they possess N methylation, resulting in a rod-shaped highly hydrophobic structure. In this work, I synthesized eight new derivatives of rhabdopeptides for photo-affinity labeling (PAL). These molecules should react covalently under UV-light irradiation with the biological target of the peptides. In addition, these derivatives can be enriched in a pull-down assay using click chemistry. Afterward, analytic methods such as mass detection (proteome analysis) can be applied to elucidate the protein targets. The PAX peptides derivatives are well-known to have anti-microbial activities and believed to be secreted into the environment by the producing bacteria. However, I found that the majority of these peptides are located in the cell pellet fraction and not in the supernatant. This has been shown through quantification using HPLC MS. New PAX derivatives were synthesized, which carry a moiety suitable for covalent modification using click-chemistry, therefore being functionalizable with a fluorescence dye. In collaboration with Dr. Christoph Spahn (Prof. Dr. Mike Heilemann group), we used confocal, as well as super-resolution microscopy, in particular, single-molecule localization microscopy (SMLM) to investigate the spatial distribution of clickable PAX molecules and revealed that they localize at the bacterial membrane. Furthermore, bioactivity assays revealed that the promotor exchanged X. doucetiae PAX mutants, which do not produce PAX molecules without chemical induction (hereby termed as pax-), were more susceptible to several insect AMPs tested. Based on these findings, a new dual mechanism of action for PAX was proposed. Besides the previously shown antimicrobial activity, these molecules with a positive net charge of +5 (pH = 7) would bind to the negatively charged bacterial surface. Hereby, the surface charge (typically negative) would be inversed resulting in a protective effect for Xenorhabdus against other positively charged AMPs. Furthermore, PAX was investigated as AMP against E. coli to study its antimicrobial mechanism of action. Here, the results show that PAX can disrupt the E. coli membrane at higher concentrations (> 30 µg/ml), enter the cytosol, and lead to reorganization of subcellular structures, such as the nucleoid during this process. Another aspect of secondary analysis is the application of proteomic analysis. Therefore, I induced X. nematophila, X. szentirmaii, and P. luminescens with insect lysate. These samples were analyzed using HPLC-MS/MS (Q Exactive) together with a database approach (Maxquant/Andromeda). The results showed that in all strains the lipid degradation and the glyoxylate pathway were induced. This is in line with the given insect lysate diet, which mostly contained lipids. Moreover, several interesting unknown peptides and proteins were also upregulated and might get into the focus of future research.

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Author:Tien Duy Vo
Place of publication:Frankfurt am Main
Referee:Helge Björn BodeORCiDGND, Eugen ProschakORCiDGND
Document Type:Doctoral Thesis
Date of Publication (online):2021/01/05
Year of first Publication:2020
Publishing Institution:Universitätsbibliothek Johann Christian Senckenberg
Granting Institution:Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität
Date of final exam:2020/08/13
Release Date:2021/01/13
Page Number:231
Dewey Decimal Classification:5 Naturwissenschaften und Mathematik / 57 Biowissenschaften; Biologie / 570 Biowissenschaften; Biologie
Sammlung Biologie / Biologische Hochschulschriften (Goethe-Universität)
Licence (German):License LogoDeutsches Urheberrecht