Methods For Making And Using Antimicrobial Peptides

  *US09925223B2*
  US009925223B2                                 
(12)United States Patent(10)Patent No.: US 9,925,223 B2
  et al. (45) Date of Patent:Mar.  27, 2018

(54)Methods for making and using antimicrobial peptides 
    
(75)Inventor: REGENTS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA,  Minneapolis, MN (US) 
(73)Assignee:REGENTS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA,  Minneapolis, MN (US), Type: US Company 
(*)Notice: Subject to any disclaimer, the term of this patent is extended or adjusted under 35 U.S.C. 154(b) by 0 days. 
(21)Appl. No.: 14/431,044 
(22)PCT Filed:Sep.  25, 2013 
(86)PCT No.: PCT/US2013/061659 
 § 371 (c)(1), (2), (4) Date: Sep.  25, 2013 
(87)PCT Pub. No.:WO20/14/052438 
 PCT Pub. Date:Apr.  3, 2014 
(65)Prior Publication Data 
 US 2015/0265660 A1 Sep.  24, 2015 
 Related U.S. Patent Documents 
(60)Provisional application No. 61/705,489, filed on Sep.  25, 2012.
 
Jan.  1, 2013 A 61 K 35 744 F I Mar.  27, 2018 US B H C Jan.  1, 2013 A 01 N 63 00 L I Mar.  27, 2018 US B H C Jan.  1, 2013 A 61 K 38 10 L I Mar.  27, 2018 US B H C Jan.  1, 2013 A 61 K 38 16 L I Mar.  27, 2018 US B H C Jan.  1, 2013 C 07 K 7 08 L I Mar.  27, 2018 US B H C Jan.  1, 2013 C 07 K 14 001 L I Mar.  27, 2018 US B H C Jan.  1, 2013 C 12 N 15 746 L I Mar.  27, 2018 US B H C Jan.  1, 2013 A 61 K 2035 11 L A Mar.  27, 2018 US B H C
(51)Int. Cl. C12N 001/20 (20060101); C12N 015/00 (20060101); G01N 033/554 (20060101); A61K 035/744 (20150101); A01N 063/00 (20060101); C12N 015/74 (20060101); A61K 038/10 (20060101); A61K 038/16 (20060101); C07K 007/08 (20060101); C07K 014/00 (20060101); A61K 035/00 (20060101)
(58)Field of Search  None

 
(56)References Cited
 
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     * cited by examiner
 
     Primary Examiner —Iqbal H Chowdhury
     Art Unit — 1652
     Exemplary claim number — 1
 
(74)Attorney, Agent, or Firm — Mueting, Raasch & Gebhardt, P.A.

(57)

Abstract

Provided herein are genetically modified microbes. In one embodiment, a genetically modified microbe includes an exogenous polynucleotide comprising a pheromone-responsive region. In one embodiment, the pheromone-responsive region is derived from a conjugative plasmid from a member of the genus Enterococcus spp. The pheromone-responsive region includes a pheromone-responsive promoter and an operably linked coding region encoding an antimicrobial peptide. In one embodiment, a genetically modified microbe includes an exogenous polynucleotide comprising a promoter and an operably linked coding sequence encoding an antimicrobial peptide, where expression of the coding region is controlled by a modulator polypeptide and is altered by a modulating agent, and where the coding region encodes an antimicrobial peptide. Also provided herein are methods of using the genetically modified microbes, including methods for inhibiting growth of an Enterococcus spp., a pathogenic E. coli, or a pathogenic Salmonella spp., for treating a subject, and for modifying a subject's gastrointestinal microflora.
14 Claims, 26 Drawing Sheets, and 26 Figures


CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

[0001] This application is the U.S. National Stage of International Application No. PCT/US2013/061659, filed on Sep. 25, 2013, which claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application No. 61/705,489, filed Sep. 25, 2012, each of which is incorporated by reference herein.

GOVERNMENT FUNDING

[0002] The invention was made with government support under GM086865 awarded by the National Institutes of Health, and CBET-0425882 and CBET-0644792 awarded by the National Science Foundation. The government has certain rights in the invention.

SEQUENCE LISTING

[0003] This application contains a Sequence Listing electronically submitted via EFS-Web to the United States Patent and Trademark Office as an ASCII text file entitled “110-03560101_SequenceListing_ST25.txt” having a size of 81 kilobytes and created on May 12, 2015. The information contained in the Sequence Listing is incorporated by reference herein.

BACKGROUND

[0004] There is growing concern worldwide that extensive use of antibiotics is resulting in the development of antibiotic resistance among pathogenic bacteria. In particular, antibiotic overuse in livestock feeds compromises the effectiveness of current therapies via dissemination of antibiotic resistance genes to both disease-causing and commensal microorganisms (Yan and Gilbert, 2004, Adv. Drug Deliv. Rev. 56, 1497-1521; DuPont, 2007, Clin. Infect. Dis. 45, 1353-1361).
[0005] Over 80% of the antibiotics produced in the United States are administered in swine, poultry and cattle farming. In addition to their intended use as therapeutics, antibiotics are administered throughout the life of food producing animals, even in the absence of infection to promote animal growth and improve feed efficiency (Witte, 1998, Science 279, 996-997; Mellon et al., 2001, Hogging it: estimates of antimicrobial abuse in livestock. Union of Concerned Scientists: Cambridge, Mass.). These growth-promoting antibiotics are applied at sub-therapeutic concentrations, establishing the conditions for development of resistance to antibiotics. Alarmingly, many of the antibiotics used in agriculture have also been listed as critically important for human health by the World Health Organization. Humans depend on many of these same antibiotics as a first line of defense against pathogens like Escherichia coli O157:H7, Salmonella typhimurium, Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa (FAO, 2007, OIE, 2008: Joint FAO/WHO/OIE Expert meeting on critically important antimicrobials, in Report of a meeting held in FAO, Rome, Italy, pp 26-30).
[0006] Enterococci are commensal organisms that form part of the normal intestinal flora of humans and animals. However they are fast emerging as pathogens causing serious and life threatening hospital borne infections. Over the last three decades enterococcal strains have evolved to resist in effect all antibiotics, including vancomycin, long considered an antibiotic of last resort for many infections (Cattoir and Leclercq et al., 2013, J Antimicrob Chemother. 68:731-42). Antibiotic-resistant enterococci are hard to treat and account for approximately 110,000 urinary tract infections, 25,000 cases of bacteremia, 40,000 wound infections, and 1,100 cases of endocarditis annually in the USA (Huycke et al., 1998, Emerg Infect Dis. 4:239-49). Enterococci are the leading cause of surgical site infection, the second leading cause of nosocomial infection, the second most common pathogen for nosocomial bacteremia and bloodstream infections, and the third leading cause of urinary tract infections (Deshpande et al., 2007, Diagn Microbiol Infect Dis. 58:163-170; Chou et al., 2008, J Microbiol Immunol Infect. 41: 124-129). The potential association between the use of broad-spectrum antibiotics and the increasing incidence of atopic and autoimmune diseases is a particular cause for concern.
[0007] One promising alternative to traditional antibiotic molecules are antimicrobial peptides (AMPs). AMPs are small, often positively-charged, peptides with high antimicrobial activity. The activity of AMPs can be broad, efficiently acting on many Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria species. There are however AMPs with very specific activity, targeting one particular bacteria species or even a specific subspecies of a given genus (Hancock and Lehrer, 1998, Trends Biotechnol. 16, 82-88; Ganz and Lehrer, 1999, Mol. Med. Today 5, 292-297; Kokryakov et al., 1993, FEBS letters 327, 231-236; Cotter et al., 2013, Nat. Rev. Microbiol. 11, 95-105; Brogden et al., 2005, Nat. Rev. Microb. 3, 238-250; Man et al., 2006, Curr. Opin. Pharmacol. 6, 468-472).
[0008] The current production, purification and delivery methods available for these peptides have numerous limitations. For example, solid state peptide synthesis and peptide production and purification from cell culture are both costly and time consuming (Marr et al., 2006, Curr. Opin. Pharmacol. 6, 468-472; Nilsson et al., 2005, Annu. Rev. Biophys. Biomol. Struct. 34, 91-118; Gräslund et al., 2008, Nat. Methods 5, 135-146). Additionally, the subsequent targeted delivery of active amounts of these compounds can be challenging. Generally, AMPs cannot be administered orally as they are quickly degraded before they are able to reach their target. AMPs cannot be administered systemically either, as they are rapidly identified and targeted for clearance by the immune system before they can reach the site of infection (Man et al., 2006, Curr. Opin. Pharmacol. 6, 468-472). Moreover, high peptide concentrations are required to achieve a therapeutic effect which would be cost-prohibitive and would, more importantly, cause severe toxic side-effects. Taken together, these limitations have thus far stifled the development of AMP-based therapeutics (Marr et al., 2006, Curr. Opin. Pharmacol. 6, 468-472).
[0009] In recent years probiotic bacteria have emerged as useful tools for effectively boosting overall human and animal health (Oelschlaeger et al., 2010, Int. J. Med. Microbiol. 300, 57-62). Probiotics are typically Gram-positive, bile-resistant, bacteria that either colonize or transiently inhabit the gastrointestinal (GI) tract of a host. When administered in adequate amounts they confer health benefits by improving nutrient absorption and decreasing the relative abundance of potentially pathogenic bacteria (Health and Nutritional Properties of Probiotics in Food Including Powder Milk with Live Lactic Acid Bacteria; Report of a Joint FAO/WHO Expert Consultation, Córdoba, Argentina, 1-4 Oct. 2001; FAO: Rome, 1-34; Amalaradjou et al., 2012, Adv. Food. Nutr. Res. 67, 185-239). Lactic acid bacteria (LAB), which include microbes in the genera Lactobacillus and Lactococcus, and Bifidobacterium, are currently the bacteria most commonly employed as probiotics (Oelschlaeger et al., 2010, Int. J. Med. Microbiol. 300, 57-62; Amalaradjou et al., 2012, Adv. Food. Nutr. Res. 67, 185-239). A number of probiotic bacteria are currently in use as nutritional supplements for humans and animals (Lodemann et al., 2006, Arch. Anim. Nutr. 60, 35-48; Lyra et al., 2010, BMC Gastroenterol. 10, 110; Percival et al., 1997, Clin. Nutr. Insights 6, 1-4; Whitley et al., 2009, J. Anim. Sci. 87, 723-728; Gerasimov et al., 2010, Am. J. Clin. Dermatol. 11, 351-361; Berman et al., 2006, Nutr. Res. 26, 454-459; Ahmed et al., 2007, J. Nutr. Health. Aging 11, 26-31). In addition, recombinant LAB are also significant therapeutic delivery vectors. They are presently being tested as candidates for the delivery of therapeutics inside the GI tract of humans for the treatment of inflammatory bowel syndrome and Crohn's disease (Braat et al., 2006, Clin. Gastroenterol. Hepatol. 4, 754-759; Dylaq et al., 2013, Curr. Pharma. Design 10; De Greef E et al., 2013, Acta Gastroenterol. Belg. 76, 15-9).

SUMMARY OF THE APPLICATION

[0010] Provided herein are genetically modified microbes. In one embodiment, a genetically modified microbe includes an exogenous polynucleotide that includes a pheromone-responsive region. The pheromone-responsive region includes a pheromone-responsive promoter, and a coding region encoding an antimicrobial peptide is operably linked to the pheromone-responsive promoter. In one embodiment, the polynucleotide is integrated into the chromosome of the genetically modified microbe, and in one embodiment it is present on a vector that replicates independently of the chromosome of the genetically modified microbe.
[0011] In one embodiment, a genetically modified microbe includes an exogenous first coding region operably linked to a pheromone-responsive promoter. The first coding region is typically part of a pheromone-responsive region. The expression of the first coding region by the pheromone-responsive promoter is repressed by a modulator polypeptide, and the first coding region encodes an antimicrobial peptide. The repression of the pheromone-responsive promoter is inhibited by a modulating agent selected from ALFSLVLAG, LVTLVFV, FLVMFLSG, and AIFILAS. The genetically modified microbe also includes second exogenous coding sequence operably linked to a promoter, wherein the second coding region encodes the modulator polypeptide.
[0012] In one embodiment, the pheromone-responsive region includes a nucleotide sequence that is essentially identical to nucleotides 1-1640 of SEQ ID NO:1, and in such an embodiment the complement of nucleotides 79-1027 of SEQ ID NO:1 may encode a polypeptide that is essentially identical to SEQ ID NO:3. In one embodiment, the pheromone-responsive region includes a prgQ coding region, wherein the prgQ coding region comprises a deletion of at least one codon encoding an amino acid of the PrgQ polypeptide. In one embodiment, the deletion includes codon ACC at nucleotides 1290-1292 of SEQ ID NO:1.
[0013] In one embodiment, the pheromone-responsive region includes a nucleotide sequence that is essentially identical to the nucleotide sequence of SEQ ID NO:5, and in such an embodiment the complement of nucleotides 6-968 of SEQ ID NO:5 may encode a polypeptide that is essentially identical to SEQ ID NO:53.
[0014] In one embodiment, the pheromone-responsive region includes a nucleotide sequence that is essentially identical to the nucleotide sequence of SEQ ID NO:6, and in such an embodiment the complement of nucleotides 10-969 of SEQ ID NO:6 may encode a polypeptide that is essentially identical to SEQ ID NO:54.
[0015] In one embodiment, the pheromone-responsive region includes a nucleotide sequence that is essentially identical to the nucleotide sequence of SEQ ID NO:7, and in such an embodiment the complement of nucleotides 1-1014 of SEQ ID NO:7 may encode a polypeptide that is essentially identical to SEQ ID NO:55.
[0016] In one embodiment, the genetically modified microbe further includes a coding region encoding a pheromone binding polypeptide that is essentially identical to SEQ ID NO:4. In one embodiment, the antimicrobial peptide is EntA, EntP, Hiracin, Protegrin, or a combination thereof, such as at least 2, or at least 3 coding regions encoding antimicrobial peptides, wherein each coding region is operably linked to the pheromone-responsive promoter.
[0017] In one embodiment, the genetically modified microbe is a lactic acid bacterium. In one embodiment, the lactic acid bacterium is a Lactococcus spp., such as L. lactis. In one embodiment, lactic acid bacterium is a Lactobacillus spp., such as Lb. acidophilus, Lb. bulgaricus, Lb. reuteri, or Lb. plantarum.
[0018] Also provided herein are vectors. In one embodiment, a vector includes a polynucleotide having a pheromone responsive region that includes a pheromone-responsive promoter. The pheromone-responsive region is essentially identical to nucleotides 1-1640 of SEQ ID NO:1, essentially identical to the nucleotide sequence of SEQ ID NO:5, essentially identical to the nucleotide sequence of SEQ ID NO:6, or essentially identical to the nucleotide sequence of SEQ ID NO:7. The pheromone-responsive promoter is operably linked to a coding region encoding at least on antimicrobial peptide. In one embodiment, a vector further includes a coding region that encodes a modulator polypeptide that represses the pheromone-responsive promoter.
[0019] Also provided herein are methods of using the genetically modified microbes. In one embodiment, the method is for inhibiting growth of an Enterococcus spp. The method includes combining a first composition that includes a genetically modified microbe described herein with a second composition that include the Enterococcus spp. to form a mixture. The mixture is incubated under conditions suitable for replication of the genetically modified microbe, and the genetically modified microbe expresses the antimicrobial peptide when it senses the presence of the Enterococcus spp. In one embodiment, the method includes administering the composition with the genetically modified microbe to a subject, and the mixture is present in the gastrointestinal tract of the subject.
[0020] In one embodiment, the method is for treating a subject. In one embodiment, the method includes administering to a subject in need thereof an effective amount of a composition that includes a genetically modified microbe described herein. In one embodiment, the subject has or is at risk for having an Enterococcus spp. in the gastrointestinal tract, such as an antibiotic resistant Enterococcus spp. In one embodiment, the Enterococcus spp. is E. faecalis or E. faecium.
[0021] In one embodiment, the method is for modifying a subject's gastrointestinal microflora. In one embodiment, the method includes administering to the subject a composition that includes a genetically modified microbe described herein. In one embodiment, the subject has or is at risk for having an Enterococcus spp. in the gastrointestinal tract, such as an antibiotic resistant Enterococcus spp. In one embodiment, the Enterococcus spp. is E. faecalis or E. faecium.
[0022] Also provided herein is a system includes (a) a microbe; and (b) a first exogenous polynucleotide. The polynucleotide may include a pheromone responsive region that is essentially identical to nucleotides 1-1640 of SEQ ID NO:1, essentially identical to the nucleotide sequence of SEQ ID NO:5, essentially identical to the nucleotide sequence of SEQ ID NO:6, or essentially identical to the nucleotide sequence of SEQ ID NO:7. The pheromone-responsive region includes a pheromone-responsive promoter, wherein a coding region encoding an antimicrobial peptide is operably linked to the pheromone-responsive promoter. In one embodiment, the microbe is a Lactococcus spp. or a Lactobacillus spp.
[0023] As used herein, the term “polypeptide” refers broadly to a polymer of two or more amino acids joined together by peptide bonds. The term “polypeptide” also includes molecules which contain more than one polypeptide joined by a disulfide bond, or complexes of polypeptides that are joined together, covalently or noncovalently, as multimers (e.g., dimers, trimers, tetramers). Thus, the terms peptide, oligopeptide, enzyme, subunit, and protein are all included within the definition of polypeptide and these terms are used interchangeably. It should be understood that these terms do not connote a specific length of a polymer of amino acids, nor are they intended to imply or distinguish whether the polypeptide is produced using recombinant techniques, chemical or enzymatic synthesis, or is naturally occurring.
[0024] As used herein, the term “polynucleotide” refers to a polymeric form of nucleotides of any length, either ribonucleotides or deoxynucleotides, and includes both double- and single-stranded RNA and DNA. A polynucleotide can be obtained directly from a natural source, or can be prepared with the aid of recombinant, enzymatic, or chemical techniques. A polynucleotide can be linear or circular in topology. A polynucleotide may be, for example, a portion of a vector, such as an expression or cloning vector, or a fragment. A polynucleotide may include nucleotide sequences having different functions, including, for instance, coding regions, and non-coding regions such as regulatory regions.
[0025] As used herein, the terms “coding region,” “coding sequence,” and “open reading frame” are used interchangeably and refer to a nucleotide sequence that encodes a polypeptide and, when placed under the control of appropriate regulatory sequences expresses the encoded polypeptide. The boundaries of a coding region are generally determined by a translation start codon at its 5′ end and a translation stop codon at its 3′ end. A “regulatory sequence” is a nucleotide sequence that regulates expression of a coding sequence to which it is operably linked Non-limiting examples of regulatory sequences include promoters, enhancers, transcription initiation sites, translation start sites, translation stop sites, and transcription terminators. The term “operably linked” refers to a juxtaposition of components such that they are in a relationship permitting them to function in their intended manner. A regulatory sequence is “operably linked” to a coding region when it is joined in such a way that expression of the coding region is achieved under conditions compatible with the regulatory sequence.
[0026] As used herein, “genetically modified microbe” refers to a microbe which has been altered “by the hand of man” A genetically modified microbe includes a microbe into which has been introduced an exogenous polynucleotide, e.g., an expression vector.
[0027] As used herein, a “vector” is a replicating polynucleotide, such as a plasmid, to which another polynucleotide may be attached so as to bring about the replication of the attached polynucleotide.
[0028] As used herein, an “exogenous polypeptide” and “exogenous polynucleotide” refers to a polypeptide and polynucleotide, respectively, that is not normally or naturally found in a microbe, and/or has been introduced into a microbe. An exogenous polynucleotide may be separate from the genomic DNA of a cell (e.g., it may be a vector, such as a plasmid), or an exogenous polynucleotide may be integrated into the genomic DNA of a cell.
[0029] Conditions that are “suitable” for an event to occur, such as expression of an exogenous polynucleotide in a cell to produce a polypeptide, or production of a product, or “suitable” conditions are conditions that do not prevent such events from occurring. Thus, these conditions permit, enhance, facilitate, and/or are conducive to the event.
[0030] The term “and/or” means one or all of the listed elements or a combination of any two or more of the listed elements.
[0031] The words “preferred” and “preferably” refer to embodiments of the invention that may afford certain benefits, under certain circumstances. However, other embodiments may also be preferred, under the same or other circumstances. Furthermore, the recitation of one or more preferred embodiments does not imply that other embodiments are not useful, and is not intended to exclude other embodiments from the scope of the invention.
[0032] The terms “comprises” and variations thereof do not have a limiting meaning where these terms appear in the description and claims.
[0033] Unless otherwise specified, “a,” “an,” “the,” and “at least one” are used interchangeably and mean one or more than one.
[0034] Also herein, the recitations of numerical ranges by endpoints include all numbers subsumed within that range (e.g., 1 to 5 includes 1, 1.5, 2, 2.75, 3, 3.80, 4, 5, etc.).
[0035] For any method disclosed herein that includes discrete steps, the steps may be conducted in any feasible order. And, as appropriate, any combination of two or more steps may be conducted simultaneously.
[0036] The above summary of the present invention is not intended to describe each disclosed embodiment or every implementation of the present invention. The description that follows more particularly exemplifies illustrative embodiments. In several places throughout the application, guidance is provided through lists of examples, which examples can be used in various combinations. In each instance, the recited list serves only as a representative group and should not be interpreted as an exclusive list.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE FIGURES

[0037] FIG. 1. Synthetic antimicrobial peptide (AMP) screen against E. coli, Salmonella and L. lactis. (a) Alyteserin and (b) A3APO were diluted and applied to E. coli, Salmonella and L. lactis IL1403. Inhibitory concentrations for E. coli and Salmonella are emphasized in boxed areas, the smallest of which is the MIC observed for each Gram-negative pathogen and AMP combination. L. lactis growth inhibition was not achieved by any AMP concentration tested.
[0038] FIG. 2. E. coli growth inhibition by Alyteserin. (a) Pathogenic (grey bars) and non-pathogenic (white bars) E. coli are inhibited by Alyteserin. Cultures grown in the presence of Alyteserin achieved a density 20-fold lower than the cultures grown in control supernatant (C-SN). (b) Pathogenic and non-pathogenic E. coli growth was inhibited by ≈100% when cultured in Alyteserin supernatant (Alyn-SN) (triangles) relative to the control supernatant (circles) through 15 h post-inoculation.
[0039] FIG. 3. Salmonella growth inhibition by Alyteserin and A3APO. (a) Salmonella infantis (grey bars) and typhimurium (white bars) are both inhibited by Alyteserin and A3APO. S. infantis culture density, in the presence of Alyteserin, was reduced by about one-half and S. typhimurium was reduced by 10-fold. S. infantis cultures grown in the presence of A3APO achieved a density 20-fold less than the cultures in the control supernatant while S. typhimurium culture density was reduced by 4-fold. (b) Salmonella growth is inhibited by 15% when cultured in the presence of Alyteserin (triangles) relative to the control supernatant (circles) through 15 h post-inoculation. Growth inhibition by A3APO is not observed at these longer times however (squares).
[0040] FIG. 4. Regulatory architectures cloned in lactic acid bacteria. pBK1 is a constitutive promoter. pBK2 maintains the prgX/prgQ region intact. pBK2iDT does not express inhibitor iCF10. Switching on is then possible at smaller concentrations of cCF10, making this a more sensitive promoter to the presence of EF.
[0041] FIG. 5. A. A schematic of pBK2. B. The nucleotide sequence of the plasmids pBK1, pBK2, and pBK2idT. The nucleotide sequence (SEQ ID NO:1) of pBK2 is shown. The nucleotide sequence of pBK1 is identical pBK2, but pBK1 does not include nucleotides 1-1044. The nucleotide sequence of pBK2idT is identical pBK2, but pBK2idT does not include nucleotides 1290-1292. The coding regions for prgX, prgQ, lacZ, cat, and repB are shown, and the ColE1 origin of replication is also shown.
[0042] FIG. 6. The nucleotide sequence (SEQ ID NO:2) of the P23 promoter and an operably linked prgZ coding region.
[0043] FIG. 7. LacZ-activity in Miller Units (M.U.) of L. lactis NZ9000 transformed with different recombinant vectors.
[0044] FIG. 8. The nucleotide sequence (SEQ ID NO:59) of the Bac fragment described in Table 7 of coding regions entA, hirJM79, entP, and Lys170, and the corresponding proteins encoded by the coding regions (SEQ ID NO:60, SEQ ID NO:62, SEQ ID NO:64, and SEQ ID NO:66, respectively), and immunity coding regions entiA, hiriJM79, entiP and the corresponding proteins encoded by the coding regions (SEQ ID NO:61, SEQ ID NO:62, and SEQ ID NO:65, respectively) are shown. The ribosome binding sites are underlined.
[0045] FIG. 9. The nucleotide sequences of promoters and coding sequence encoding corresponding repressor polypeptides. SEQ ID NO:8 includes a tetracyline promoter and coding region encoding a tetracyline repressor. SEQ ID NO:9 includes a lactose promoter and coding region encoding a lactose repressor. SEQ ID NO:10 includes a xylose promoter and coding region encoding a xylose repressor. Terminator, nucleotides corresponding to a transcription terminator; Ptet, nucleotides corresponding to a tet promoter; PC64a, nucleotides encoding a PC64a antimicrobial peptide; PnisA, nucleotides corresponding to a nisA promoter; tetR, nucleotides encoding a tet repressor; gfp, nucleotides encoding green fluorescent protein; Plac, nucleotides corresponding to a lac promoter; Alysteserin, nucleotides encoding an Alysteserin antimicrobial peptide; lad, nucleotides encoding a lac repressor; Pxyl, nucleotides corresponding to a xyl promoter; A3-APO, nucleotides encoding an A3-APO antimicrobial peptide; xylR, nucleotides encoding a xyl repressor.
[0046] FIG. 10. Amino acid sequences of PrgX (SEQ ID NO:3) and PrgZ (SEQ ID NO:4).
[0047] FIG. 11. Nucleotide sequences of pheromone-responsive regions. pPD1, SEQ ID NO:5; pAD1, SEQ ID NO:6; pAM373, SEQ ID NO:7. The underlined nucleotides of pPD1, pAD1, and pAM373 encode TraA, an analog of PrgX. The double underlined nucleotides of pPD1, pAD1, and pAM373 encode Ipd, Tad, and i373, respectively, analogs of PrgQ, the negative regulators of the pheromone-responsive promoters disclosed herein.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF ILLUSTRATIVE EMBODIMENTS

[0048] Provided herein are vectors. In one embodiment, a vector includes a first coding sequence operably linked to a first promoter, and a second coding sequence operably linked to a second promoter. The first promoter is a controllable promoter and the first coding sequence encodes one or more antimicrobial peptides (AMPs). The second coding region encodes a polypeptide that regulates the expression of the first promoter. Thus, the vectors described herein are a system for controlling expression of antimicrobial peptides. In one embodiment described herein, a genetically modified microbe expresses antimicrobial peptides only when it has sensed the presence of a predetermined target microbe.
[0049] The first coding sequence encodes an antimicrobial peptide. Antimicrobial peptides are small proteins, typically between 10 and 100 amino acids in length that inhibit, and often kill, certain bacteria. An antimicrobial peptide may affect the structural integrity of bacteria cell membranes, permeabilize the membrane of bacteria, and/or induce the collapse of cell transmembrane potential. In one embodiment, an antimicrobial peptide has antimicrobial activity for Gram negative microbes that is greater that the antimicrobial activity it has against Gram positive microbes. In one embodiment, an antimicrobial peptide has essentially similar antimicrobial activity for Gram negative microbes and Gram positive microbes. In one embodiment, an antimicrobial peptide has antimicrobial activity for Gram positive microbes that is greater that the antimicrobial activity it has against Gram negative microbes. In one embodiment, multiple coding regions may be operably linked to the first promoter. For instance, 1, 2, 3, or more coding regions may be operably linked, resulting in the expression of more than one antimicrobial peptide. In one embodiment, the multiple coding regions may be arranged to form an operon.
[0050] An antimicrobial peptide has antimicrobial activity that inhibits or kills a target microbe, for instance, E. coli, a member of the genus Salmonella, and/or a member of the genus Enterococcus. Examples of Enterococcus spp. include, for instance, E. faecalis and E. faecium. The target microbe may be in vitro or in vivo. In one embodiment, the antimicrobial peptide may disrupt the integrity of the bacterial cell membrane, which results in the collapse of the transmembrane potential across the membrane and the subsequent osmotic lysis of the cells. In another embodiment, an antimicrobial peptide may act as an immunomodulator of an animal's immune system. For instance, an antimicrobial peptide may induce animal immune cells to produce cytokines and/or chemokines, and attract and/or activate immune cells. Such immune system activation may aid in the clearance of a pathogenic microbe.
[0051] Whether an antimicrobial peptide has antimicrobial activity can be determined using different indicator strains. Examples of indicator strains include, but are not limited to, pathogenic Salmonella, enterohemorrhagic E. coli O157:H7, lactic acid bacteria such as Lactococcus lactis, Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lb. bulgaricus, and Enterococcus spp. Examples of suitable indicator strains include, but are not limited to, those listed in Table 1. In one embodiment, an indicator strain is a member of the genus Enterococcus, such as E. faecalis and E. faecium. Methods for testing the activity of an AMP include, but are not limited to, the stab-on-agar test as well as other methods useful for evaluating the activity of bacteriocins. Such methods are known in the art and are routine.
[0052] 
[00001] [TABLE-US-00001]
  TABLE 1
 
  Examples of indicator strains.
 
 
  Escherichia coli serotype O157:H7  
  Salmonella enterica subsp enterica
  serovar Typhimurium
    serovar Tennessee
    serovar St. Paul
  serovar Infantis
  Lactococcus lactis subsp lactis IL1403
  Lactobacillus acidophilus ATCC 4356
  Lactobacillus bulgaricus ATCC 11842
  Enterococcus faecalis ATCC 700802
  Enterococcus faecalis ATCC 47077
   
[0053] An antimicrobial peptide may be naturally occurring or may be engineered. Antimicrobial peptides are produced by all classes of organisms, including mammals, bacteria, and phage. Examples of antimicrobial peptides are shown in Table 2. Examples of antimicrobial peptides from bacteria are bacteriocins, and include class I and class II bacteriocins. An example of class II bacteriocins includes members of the subclass IIa bacteriocins. Class IIa bacteriocins are small (usually 37 to 48 amino acid), heat-stable, and non-post-translationally modified proteins that are typically positively charged and may contain an N-terminal consensus sequence -Tyr-Gly-Asn-Gly-(Val/Lys)-Xaa-Cys-. Examples of bacteriocins include, but are not limited to, those described in Table 2. Another example of antimicrobial peptides includes endolysins. Endolysins are double-stranded DNA bacteriophage-encoded peptidoglycan hydrolases produced in phage-infected bacterial cells, and cause rapid lysis when applied to Gram-positive bacteria (Fenton et al., 2010, Bioeng Bugs. 1:9-16; Fischetti, 2008, Curr Opin Microbiol. 11:393-400). Other antimicrobial peptides are known to the person skilled in the art and may also be used as described herein. The present invention is not limited by the antimicrobial peptide.
[0054] 
[00002] [TABLE-US-00002]
  TABLE 2
 
  Antimicrobial    
  Peptide   Amino acid sequence   Origin
 
  Enterocin A   TTHSGKYYGNGVYCTKNKCTVDWAKATTCIAGMSIGGFLGGAIE. faecium (1)
  (EntA)   PGKC (SEQ ID NO: 11)  
 
  Enterocin P   ATRSYGNGVYCNNSKCWVNWGEAKENIAGIVISGWASGLAGE. faecium (2)
  (EntP)   MGH (SEQ ID NO: 12)  
 
  Hiracin JM79   ATYYGNGLYCNKEKCWVDWNQAKGEIGKIIVNGWVNHGPWE. hirae (3)
  (HirJM79)   APRR (SEQ ID NO: 13)  
 
  Protegrin 1   RGGRLCYCRRRFCVCVGR (SEQ ID NO: 14)   Pig leukocyte (5)
  (PG-1)    
 
  PC64A   LTYCRRRFCVTV (SEQ ID NO: 15)   PG-1 analogue (6)
 
  A3-APO   RPDKPRPYLPRPRPPRPVR (SEQ ID NO: 16)   Engineered antimicrobial
      peptide (7)
 
  Alyteserin-1a   GLKDIFKAGLGSLVKGIAAHVAN (SEQ ID NO: 17)   Peptide from the skin of the
    frog Alytesobstetricans (8)
 
  Fowlicidin   RVKRVWPLVIRTVIAGYNLYRAIKKK (SEQ ID NO: 18)   Cathelicidin from chicken (9)
 
  Microcin 24   AGDPLADPNSQIVRQIMSNAAWGPPLVPERFRGMAVGAAGEscherichia coli (10)
    GVTQTVLQGAAAHMPVNVPIPKVPMGPSWNGSKG   
    (SEQ ID NO: 19)  
 
  Colicin V   ASGRDIAMAIGTLSGQFVAGGIGAAAGGVAGGAIYDYASTHKEscherichia coli (11)
    PNPAMSPSGLGGTIKQKPEGIPSEAWNYAAGRLCNWSPNNLS  
    DVCL (SEQ ID NO: 20)  
 
  Acidocin LCHV   NVGVLNPPPLV (SEQ ID NO: 21)Bacteriocin from Lb.
  NP   acidophilus n.v. Er 317/402
      strain Narine (12)
 
  Acidocin LCHV   NVGVLNPPMLV (SEQ ID NO: 22)Bacteriocin from Lb.
  HV   acidophilus n.v. Er 317/402
      strain Narine (12)
 
  Acidocin LCHV   NVGVLLPPPLV (SEQ ID NO: 23)Bacteriocin from Lb.
  LP   acidophilus n.v. Er 317/402
      strain Narine (12)
 
  Acidocin LCHV   NVGVLLPPMLV (SEQ ID NO: 24)Bacteriocin from Lb.
  LM   acidophilus n.v. Er 317/402
      strain Narine (12)
 
  LGG NPSRQERR   NPSRQERR (SEQ ID NO: 25)   Small bioactive peptide from
    Lactobacillus GG (12)
 
  LGG PDENK   PDENK (SEQ ID NO: 26)   Small bioactive peptide from
    Lactobacillus GG (13)
 
  Endolysin 170   MAGEVFSSLITSVNPNPMNAGSRNGIPIDTIILHHNATTNKDVE. faecalis phage F170/08 (4)
  (Lys170)   AMNTWLLGGGAGTSAHYECTPTEIIGCVGEQYSAFHAGGTGG  
    IDVPKIANPNQRSIGIENVNSSGAPNWSVDPRTITNCARLVADI  
    CTRYGIPCDRQHVLGHNEVTATACPGGMDVDEVVRQAQQF  
    MAGGSNNAVKPEPSKPTPSKPSNNKNKEGVATMYCLYERPIN  
    SKTGVLEWNGDAWTVMFCNGVNCRRVSHPDEMKVIEDIYRK  
    NNGKDIPFYSQKEWNKNAPWYNRLETVCPVVGITKKS   
    (SEQ ID NO: 27)  
 
  PlyV12   MSNINMETAIANMYALKARGITYSMNYSRTGADGTGDCSGTV   Encoded by phage Fl (14)
    YDSLRKAGASDAGWVLNTDSMHSWLEKNGFKLIAQNKEWSA  
    KRGDVVIFGKKGASGGSAGHVVIFISSTQIIHCTWKSATANGVY  
    VDNEATTCPYSMGWYVYRLNGGSTPPKPNTKKVKVLKHATN  
    WSPSSKGAKMASFVKGGTFEVKQQRPISYSYSNQEYLIVNKGT  
    VLGWVLSQDIEGGYGSDRVGGSKPKLPAGFTKEEATFINGNAP  
    ITTRKNKPSLSSQTATPLYPGQSVRYLGWKSAEGYIWIYATDGR  
    YIPVRPVGKEAWGTFKQDIEGGYGSDRVGGSKPKLPAGETKEE  
    ATFINGNAPITTRKNKPSLSSQTATPLYPGQSVRYLGWKSAEGY  
    IWIYATDGRYIPVRPVGKEAWGTFK (SEQ ID NO: 28)  
 
  EFAL-1   MKLKGILLSVVTTFGLLFGATNVQAYEVNNEFNLQPWEGSQQ   Produced by phage EFAP-1 (15)
    LAYPNKIILHETANPRATGRNEATYMKNNWFNAHTTAIVGDG  
    GIVYKVAPEGNVSWGAGNANPYAPVQIELQHTNDPELFKANY  
    KAYVDYTRDMGKKEGIPMTLDQGGSLWEKGVVSHQWVTDF  
    VWGDHTDPYGYLAKMGISKAQLAHDLANGVSGNTATPTPKP  
    DKPKPTQPSKPSNKKRFNYRVDGLEYVNGMWQIYNEHLGKID  
    FNWTENGIPVEVVDKVNPATGQPTKDQVLKVGDYFNFQENST  
    GVVQEQTPYMGYTLSHVQLPNEFIWLFTDSKQALMYQ   
    (SEQ ID NO: 29)  
 
  ORF9   MAGEVESSLITSVNPNPMNAGSRNGIPIDTIILHHNATTNKDV   From phage jEF24C (16)
    AMNTWLLGGGAGTSAHYECTPTEIIGCVGEQYSAFHAGGTGG  
    IDVPKIANPNQRSIGIENVNSSGAPNWSVDPRTITNCARLVADI  
    CTRYGIPCDRQHVLGHNEVTATACPGGMDVDEVVRQAQQF  
    MAGGSNNAVKPEPSKPTPSKPSNNKNKEGVATMYCLYERPIN  
    SKTGVLEWNGDAWTVMFCNGVNCRRVSHPDEMKVIEDIYRK  
    NNGKDIPFYSQKEWNKNAPWYNRLETVCPVVGITKKS   
    (SEQ ID NO: 30)  
 
  Lys168   MVKLNDVLSYVNGLVGKGVDADGWYGTQCMDLTVDVMQR   From phage F168/08 (17)
    FFGWRPYGNAIALVDQPIPAGFQRIRTTSSTQIKAGDVMIWGL  
    GYYAQYGHTHIATEDGRADGTFVSVDQNWINPSLEVGSPAAA  
    IHHNMDGVWGVIRPPYEAESKPKPPAPKPDKPNLGQFKGDD  
    DIMFIYYKKTKQGSTEQWFVIGGKRIYLPTMTYVN EANDLIKRY  
    GGNTNVTTYNYDNFGLAMMEKAYPQVKL (SEQ ID NO: 31)
 
  1. Aymerich et al., 1996, Appl Environ Microbiol. 62:1676-1682;
  2. Cintas et al., 1997, Appl Environ Microbiol., 63:4321-4330;
  3. Sánchez et al., 2007, FEMS Microbiol Lett. 270:227-236;
  4. Proença et al., 2012, Microb Drug Resist., 18:322-332;
5. Fahrner et al., 1996, Chemistry & Biology 3:543-550;
  6. Chang et al., U.S. Pat No. 5,994,306;
7. Szabo et al., 2010, International journal of antimicrobial agents 35:357-361;
8. Conlon et al., 2009, Peptides 30, 1069-1073;
9. Xiao, 2005, Journal of Biological Chemistry 281:2858-2867;
10. O'Brien et al., 1994, Plasmid 31:288-296;
11. Gillor et al., 2004, Advances in applied microbiology 54:129-146;
12. Mkrtchyan et al., 2010, International journal of antimicrobial agents 35:255-260;
13. Lu et al., 2009, J Pediatr. Gastroenterol. Nutr. 49:23-30;
  14. Yoong et al., 2004, J. Bacteriol. 186:4808-4812;
  15. Uchiyama et al., 2011, Appl Environ Microbiol. 77:580-585;
  16. Son et al., 2010, J. Appl Microbiol. 108:1769-1779;
  17. Proença et al., 2012, .Microb Drug Resist. 18:322-332.
[0055] Examples of antimicrobial peptides also include those that are essentially identical to any one of the AMPs in Table 2. As used herein, in the context of a polypeptide “essentially identical” refers to a polypeptide that differs from one of the polypeptides disclosed herein. A polypeptide that is essentially identical to an AMP differs from one of the AMPs in Table 2 at 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, or 12 amino acid residues and has antimicrobial activity. In one embodiment, the difference is a conservative substitution. Conservative amino acid substitutions are defined to result from exchange of amino acids residues from within one of the following classes of residues: Class I: Ala, Gly, Ser, Thr, and Pro (representing small aliphatic side chains and hydroxyl group side chains); Class II: Cys, Ser, Thr, and Tyr (representing side chains including an —OH or —SH group); Class III: Glu, Asp, Asn, and Gln (carboxyl group containing side chains): Class IV: His, Arg, and Lys (representing basic side chains); Class V: Ile, Val, Leu, Phe, and Met (representing hydrophobic side chains); and Class VI: Phe, Trp, Tyr, and His (representing aromatic side chains).
[0056] A nucleotide sequence of a coding sequence encoding an antimicrobial peptide may be easily predicted based on reference to the standard genetic code. When an antimicrobial peptide is to be expressed in a particular microbe, a nucleotide sequence encoding the antimicrobial peptide may be produced with reference to preferred codon usage for the particular microbe.
[0057] The first coding sequence may further include nucleotides encoding a secretion signaling polypeptide, such that the antimicrobial peptide and the secretion signaling polypeptide are fused and expressed as a single polypeptide. A secretion signaling polypeptide targets a polypeptide for secretion out of the cell. A secretion signaling polypeptide is usually present at the amino-terminal end of a polypeptide. Secretion signaling polypeptides useful in prokaryotic microbes are known in the art and routinely used. Examples of secretion signaling polypeptides useful in lactic acid bacteria, including L. lactis, Lb. acidophilus, Lb. acidophilus, Lb. bulgaricus, Lb. reuteri, and Lb. plantarum are known. One example of a useful secretion signaling polypeptide is from the protein Usp45 (Van Asseldonk et al., 1990, Gene, 95, 155-160).
[0058] The first promoter controls expression of the operably linked coding region encoding an antimicrobial peptide. The first promoter may be a controllable promoter, such as an inducible promoter or a repressible promoter. Examples of controllable promoters include promoters to which a modulating polypeptide binds to inhibit or activate transcription in the presence of a modulating agent. Modulating polypeptides and modulating agents are described below. Examples of such promoters include the tetracycline promoter, the lactose promoter, the xylose promoter, and the PnisA promoter. Such controllable promoters are known in the art and are routinely used to control expression of operably linked coding regions in prokaryotes. Such promoters often include −35 and −10 regions with an operator site also present, typically between the −35 and −10 regions. Variants of known controllable promoters may be produced and used as described herein.
[0059] An example of a useful tetracycline promoter is shown at nucleotides 64 to 182 of SEQ ID NO:8). An example of a useful lactose promoter is shown at nucleotides 64 to 200 of SEQ ID NO: 9). An example of a useful xylose promoter is shown at nucleotides 64 to 234 of SEQ ID NO: 10). An example of other useful promoters include those described in Volzing et al. (ACS Chem. Biol., 2011, 6:1107-1116).
[0060] The second coding sequence of the vectors described herein encode a modulating polypeptide. A modulating polypeptide is a polypeptide that modulates expression of a coding sequence operably linked to a first promoter described herein. In one embodiment, a modulating polypeptide binds to a promoter or to other nucleotides around the promoter and modulates expression of a coding sequence operably linked to that promoter. The modulating polypeptide may either induce or prevent expression of the operably linked coding sequence in the presence of a modulating agent. Examples of modulating polypeptides that bind to a tetracycline promoter are known in the art and include tetracycline repressor proteins, reverse tetracycline repressor proteins, as well as synthetic repressor and activator proteins PROTEON and PROTEOFF described in Volzing et al. (ACS Chem. Biol., 2011, 6:1107-111). Modulating agents that interact with tetracycline repressor proteins, reverse tetracycline repressor proteins, PROTEON and PROTEOFF proteins include tetracycline, doxycycline and anhydrotetracycline (aTc). Examples of modulating polypeptides that bind to a lactose promoter are known in the art and include lac-repressor, and modulating agents that interact with a lac-repressor include lactose, and isopropyl β-D-1-thiogalactopyranoside (IPTG). Examples of modulating polypeptides that bind to a xylose promoter are known in the art and include xyl-repressor, and modulating agents that interact with a xyl-repressor include xylose. Examples of modulating polypeptides that bind to a PnisA promoter are known in the art and include NisR polypeptide.
[0061] The second promoter controls expression of the operably linked coding region encoding a modulating polypeptide. The second promoter may be a constitutive promoter. Examples of constitutive promoters include, but are not limited to, P23 and PnisR. These and other constitutive promoters are known in the art and routinely used to control expression of operably linked coding regions in prokaryotes. Variants of known constitutive promoters may be produced and used as described herein.
[0062] In one embodiment, the first promoter and the second promoter are part of a pheromone-responsive region. A pheromone-responsive region includes a first promoter, also referred to as a pheromone-responsive promoter, which is a controllable promoter where expression of an operably linked coding sequence is repressed in the presence of a modulating peptide, and is induced in the presence of a modulating agent. In the context of a pheromone-responsive promoter, a modulating agent may be referred to as a pheromone.
[0063] Examples of pheromone-responsive regions are found in many conjugative plasmids of E. faecalis (Clewell and Dunny, 2002, In: The Enterococci: Pathogenesis, Molecular Biology, and Antibiotic Resistance, Eds Gilmore et al., ASM Press, pp. 265-300; Wirth, 1994, Eur. J. Biochem., 222:235-246). The conjugative plasmids of E. faecalis are a family of mobile genetic elements whose ability to transfer from a donor to a recipient bacterial cell is controlled by intercellular signaling via a pheromone peptide. The pheromone-responsive regions present on these conjugative plasmids include a pheromone-responsive promoter and a second promoter that drives expression of a modulating peptide. These two promoters correspond to the first promoter and second promoter described for the vectors of the present invention. The two promoters are in opposite orientations that overlap and face each other in a convergent transcription configuration, where a first promoter is repressed by a modulating peptide, and the modulating peptide is expressed by the second promoter. As a result, these promoters display a very tight bistable switch behavior; expression of the first promoter is essentially off until a threshold of pheromone concentration is reached.
[0064] One example of a conjugative plasmid of E. faecalis is pCF10. Donor cells carrying pCF10 are induced to high expression of conjugative transfer by a pheromone peptide. Donor cells import the pheromone peptide into the cytoplasm, where its binding to the pCF10-encoded modulator peptide PrgX abolishes repression of transcription of the prgQ operon encoding the conjugation genes. The mating response of donor cells to the pheromone peptide is encoded by pCF10, whereas the pheromone peptide is produced from a conserved chromosomal gene present in most if not all E. faecalis strains (Chatterjee et al., 2013, Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 110: 7086-7090). Donor E. faecalis cells harboring pCF10 produce reduced levels of the pheromone (Buttaro et al., 2000, J Bacteriol. 182: 4926-33). This residual pheromone activity is neutralized by the production of the peptide iCF10 from the prgQ locus of pCF10, which negatively regulates the promoter for the prgQ operon. Therefore the molar ratio of chromosomally encoded pheromone peptide to plasmid-encoded inhibitor (iCF10) determines the induction state of the donor cell (Nakayama et al., 1994, J Bacteriol. 176: 7405-7408).
[0065] The pheromone-responsive regions of the conjugative plasmids are complex, with transcriptional interference and sense-antisense regulation playing roles in the regulation of expression of the prgQ locus. Further, in the pCF10 plasmid the effect of the pheromone peptide on transcription from the prgQ locus is enhanced greatly by several co-transcriptional and post-transcriptional mechanisms (Chatterjee et al., 2011, PNAS, 108:9721-9726; Chatterjee et al., 2013, PNAS, 110:7086-7090). For these reasons, it was surprising to find that a relatively small region of the pCF10 conjugative plasmid could be expressed in a non-Enterococcal cell yet retain sensitivity to a pheromone peptide and the ability to be regulated by a pheromone peptide.
[0066] An example of a pheromone-responsive region present on a pCF10 conjugative plasmid is shown in FIG. 5. In one embodiment, a pheromone-responsive region includes nucleotides 1-1640 of SEQ ID NO:1. In one embodiment, a pheromone-responsive region includes nucleotides 80-1640 of SEQ ID NO:1. In this embodiment, the nucleotides of the first promoter that are required for controllable expression are present and drive expression of a coding sequence that is located downstream of nucleotide 1640. In FIG. 5, a coding region encoding LacZ is present. As described herein, the nucleotides encoding LacZ may be, and preferably are, replaced with nucleotides that encode one or more antimicrobial peptides.
[0067] In one embodiment, a pheromone-responsive region includes a nucleotide sequence that is essentially identical to nucleotides 1-1640 of SEQ ID NO:1, or essentially identical to nucleotides 1028-1640 of SEQ ID NO:1. In the context of a polynucleotide “essentially identical” refers to a polynucleotide that differs from one of the polynucleotides disclosed herein. A polynucleotide that is essentially identical to nucleotides 1-1640 of SEQ ID NO:1, or essentially identical to nucleotides 1028-1640 of SEQ ID NO:1, includes an altered nucleotide sequence but retains the characteristics of the pheromone responsive region. Thus, while the nucleotide sequence is different, the nucleotide sequence maintains the bistable switch behavior of a wild type pheromone responsive region. In one embodiment, a pheromone responsive region is essentially identical to a wild type pheromone responsive region if it includes between 1 and 160 differences in the nucleotide sequence.
[0068] The pheromone-responsive region includes the prgQ coding region. This encodes iCF10, which includes AITLIFI (SEQ ID NO:49), and negatively regulates the promoter for the prgQ operon. In one embodiment, this coding region is expressed by a pheromone-responsive region in a genetically modified microbe, and in one embodiment this coding region encodes an inactive peptide in a genetically modified microbe. For instance, in one embodiment, the nucleotides at positions 1290-1292 are deleted, which results in deletion of one amino acid in the PrgQ peptide encoded by the prgQ coding region, but does not decrease expression of the operably linked antimicrobial peptide coding regions located downstream of the prgQ coding region. Decreased expression of the prgQ coding region modifies the induction state of the cell that can express the antimicrobial peptides, and results in greater levels of expression of the antimicrobial peptides when a pheromone peptide is present.
[0069] An example of the pheromone peptide that abolishes repression of expression by the first promoter of pheromone-responsive region present on a pCF10 conjugative plasmid, for instance, nucleotides 1-1640 of SEQ ID NO:1 or nucleotides 80-1640 of SEQ ID NO:1, is the heptapeptide LVTLVFV. This pheromone peptide is naturally expressed by a cell, such as a member of the genus Enterococcus, including E. faecalis and E. faecium, that does not include a pCF10 conjugative plasmid.
[0070] With respect to the nucleotides that encode the modulating peptide PrgX (the complement of nucleotides 1027-79), the skilled person will recognize that the nucleotide sequence disclosed in FIG. 5 is not necessary, and that due to codon degeneracy many different nucleotide sequences are possible but still encode a PrgX polypeptide as described by SEQ ID NO:3. A PrgX polypeptide includes those that are essentially identical to SEQ ID NO:3. A PrgX polypeptide that is essentially identical to SEQ ID NO:3 has between 1 and 30 amino acid substitutions, and all integers subsumed within that range. In one embodiment, one or more of the substitutions are conservative substitutions.
[0071] Other examples of pheromone-responsive regions present on conjugative plasmids are shown in FIG. 11. In one embodiment, a pheromone-responsive region is from a pPD1 conjugative plasmid, and has the nucleotide sequence SEQ ID NO:5, or essentially identical to SEQ ID NO:5. In this embodiment, nucleotides encoding one or more antimicrobial peptides may be inserted at the 3′ end of SEQ ID NO:5. This pheromone-responsive region includes the ipd coding region (the nucleotides double underlined in SEQ ID NO:5). This encodes the analog of iCF10, and negatively regulates the promoter for the ipd operon. In one embodiment, this coding region is expressed by a pheromone-responsive region in a genetically modified microbe, and in one embodiment this coding region encodes an inactive peptide a genetically modified microbe. For instance, in one embodiment, it is expected that nucleotides within the ipd coding region (nucleotides 1188-1211 of SEQ ID NO:5) can be deleted to result in deletion of one amino acid in the portion of the Ipd peptide (ALILTLVS, SEQ ID NO:50) encoded by the ipd coding region, but not decrease expression of the operably linked antimicrobial peptide coding regions located downstream of the ipd coding region. With respect to the nucleotides that encode the modulating peptide TraA (the complement of nucleotides underlined in SEQ ID NO:5), the skilled person will recognize that the nucleotide sequence disclosed in FIG. 5 is not necessary, and that due to codon degeneracy many different nucleotide sequences are possible but still encode a TraA polypeptide. In one embodiment, a TraA polypeptide includes those that are essentially identical to SEQ ID NO:53. A TraA polypeptide that is essentially identical to SEQ ID NO:53 has between 1 and 30 amino acid substitutions, and all integers subsumed within that range. In one embodiment, one or more of the substitutions are conservative substitutions.
[0072] In one embodiment, a pheromone-responsive region is from a pAD1 conjugative plasmid, and has the nucleotide sequence SEQ ID NO:6, or essentially identical to SEQ ID NO:6. In this embodiment, nucleotides encoding one or more antimicrobial peptides may be inserted at the 3′ end of SEQ ID NO:6. This pheromone-responsive region includes the iad coding region (the nucleotides double underlined in SEQ ID NO:6). This encodes the analog of iCF10, and negatively regulates the promoter for the iad operon. In one embodiment, this coding region is expressed by a pheromone-responsive region in a genetically modified microbe, and in one embodiment this coding region encodes an inactive peptide a genetically modified microbe. For instance, in one embodiment, it is expected that nucleotides within the iad coding region (nucleotides 1194-1217 of SEQ ID NO:6) can be deleted to result in deletion of one amino acid in the portion of the Iad peptide (LFVVTLCG, SEQ ID NO:51) encoded by the iad coding region, but not decrease expression of the operably linked antimicrobial peptide coding regions located downstream of the kid coding region. With respect to the nucleotides that encode the modulating peptide TraA (the complement of nucleotides underlined in SEQ ID NO:6), the skilled person will recognize that the nucleotide sequence disclosed in FIG. 5 is not necessary, and that due to codon degeneracy many different nucleotide sequences are possible but still encode a TraA polypeptide. In one embodiment, a TraA polypeptide includes those that are essentially identical to SEQ ID NO:54. A TraA polypeptide that is essentially identical to SEQ ID NO:54 has between 1 and 30 amino acid substitutions, and all integers subsumed within that range. In one embodiment, one or more of the substitutions are conservative substitutions.
[0073] In one embodiment, a pheromone-responsive region is from a pAM373 conjugative plasmid, and has the nucleotide sequence SEQ ID NO:7, or essentially identical to SEQ ID NO:7. In this embodiment, nucleotides encoding one or more antimicrobial peptides may be inserted at the 3′ end of SEQ ID NO:7. This pheromone-responsive region includes the i373 coding region (the nucleotides double underlined in SEQ ID NO:7). This encodes the analog of iCF10, and negatively regulates the promoter for the i373 operon. In one embodiment, this coding region is expressed by a pheromone-responsive region in a genetically modified microbe, and in one embodiment this coding region encodes an inactive peptide a genetically modified microbe. For instance, in one embodiment, it is expected that nucleotides within the ipd coding region (nucleotides 1226-1246 of SEQ ID NO:7) can be deleted to result in deletion of one amino acid in the portion of the Ipd peptide (SIFTLVA, SEQ ID NO:52) encoded by the ipd coding region, but not decrease expression of the operably linked antimicrobial peptide coding regions located downstream of the ipd coding region. With respect to the nucleotides that encode the modulating peptide TraA (the complement of nucleotides underlined in SEQ ID NO:7), the skilled person will recognize that the nucleotide sequence disclosed in FIG. 5 is not necessary, and that due to codon degeneracy many different nucleotide sequences are possible but still encode a TraA polypeptide. In one embodiment, a TraA polypeptide includes those that are essentially identical to SEQ ID NO:55. A TraA polypeptide that is essentially identical to SEQ ID NO:55 has between 1 and 30 amino acid substitutions, and all integers subsumed within that range. In one embodiment, one or more of the substitutions are conservative substitutions.
[0074] Construction of vectors described herein may employ standard ligation techniques known in the art. See, e.g., (Sambrook et al., 1989. Molecular cloning: a laboratory manual, 2nd ed. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y.). Selection of a vector depends upon a variety of desired characteristics in the resulting construct, such as a selection marker, vector replication rate, and the like. Vectors can be introduced into a host cell using methods that are known and used routinely by the skilled person. The vector may replicate separately from the chromosome present in the microbe, or the polynucleotide may be integrated into a chromosome of the microbe. A vector introduced into a host cell optionally includes one or more marker sequences, which typically encode a molecule that inactivates or otherwise detects or is detected by a compound in the growth medium. For example, the inclusion of a marker sequence may render the transformed cell resistant to an antibiotic, or it may confer compound-specific metabolism on the transformed cell. Examples of a marker sequence include, but are not limited to, sequences that confer resistance to kanamycin, ampicillin, chloramphenicol, tetracycline, streptomycin, neomycin, and erythromycin. Generally, introduction of a vector into a host cell, origin of replication, ribosomal sites, marker sequences, and other aspects of vectors may vary depending on whether the host cell is a gram positive or a gram negative microbe; however, these aspects of vector biology and heterologous gene expression are known to the skilled person.
[0075] Also provided herein are genetically modified microbes that include a vector disclosed herein. Compared to a control microbe that is not genetically modified in the same way, a genetically modified microbe will exhibit expression and secretion of an antimicrobial polypeptide in the presence of a modulating agent. In one embodiment, a genetically modified microbe may produce detectable levels of an antimicrobial peptide in the absence of an inducer; however, such levels of an antimicrobial peptide are substantially lower than the levels detectable in the presence of a modulating agent. A vector may be present in the microbe as a vector or integrated into a chromosome. In one embodiment, a portion of the vector is integrated into a microbe chromosome.
[0076] Examples of useful bacterial host cells that may be modified to have a vector described herein include, but are not limited to, those that are normally part of the gastrointestinal microflora of an animal. Useful characteristics of a bacterial host cell include, for instance, resistance to bile-acids, generally recognized as safe (GRAS), suited to surviving passage to the gastrointestinal tract, and ability to colonize the gastrointestinal tract. Examples of useful bacterial hosts include, but are not limited to, lactic acid bacteria, including members of the Order Lactobacillales, such as Lactobacillus spp., (including, but not limited to, Lb. acidophilus, Lb. acidophilus, Lb. bulgaricus, Lb. reuteri, and Lb. plantarum), Lactococcus spp., (including, but not limited to, L. lactis), and Enterococcus spp.; members of the family Clostridiaceae, such as Clostridium spp.; members of the family Bifidobacteriaceae, such as Bifidobacterium spp.; and enterobacteria, such as E. coli. In one embodiment, a bacterial host cell is probiotic microbe.
[0077] In one embodiment, a genetically modified microbe includes an additional polypeptide that aids entry of the modulating agent (e.g., a pheromone) into a cell, and thereby increases the sensitivity of a genetically modified microbe to a pheromone peptide. Such a polypeptide is referred to as a pheromone binding polypeptide. The polypeptide is a surface receptor that binds the modulating agent (e.g., pheromone), which is then imported into the cell. Such a polypeptide is referred to as a pheromone binding polypeptide. The pheromone binding polypeptide depends upon the type of pheromone-responsive region present in the genetically modified microbe. When the pheromone-responsive region is from a pCF10 conjugative plasmid, the pheromone binding polypeptide is PrgZ, which is encoded by the prgZ coding region on the pCF10 plasmid. An example of a PrgZ polypeptide is shown at SEQ ID NO:4. A PrgZ polypeptide includes those that are essentially identical to SEQ ID NO:4. A PrgZ polypeptide that is essentially identical to SEQ ID NO:4 has between 1 and 30 amino acid substitutions, and all integers subsumed within that range. In one embodiment, one or more of the substitutions are conservative substitutions.
[0078] Also provided are methods of using the vectors and genetically modified microbes disclosed herein. In one embodiment, the method includes co-culturing a genetically modified microbe and a second microbe. The co-culturing may be in vitro (in an artificial environment, such as a test tube) or in vivo (within the body of a subject).
[0079] The genetically modified microbe may be present in a composition, such as a pharmaceutically acceptable formulation. In one embodiment, a formulation may be a fluid composition. Fluid compositions include, but are not limited to, solutions, suspensions, dispersions, and the like. In one embodiment, a formulation may be a solid composition. Solid compositions include, but are not limited to, powder, granule, compressed tablet, pill, capsule, chewing gum, wafer, and the like. Those formulations may include a pharmaceutically acceptable carrier to render the composition appropriate for administration to a subject. As used herein “pharmaceutically acceptable carrier” includes pharmacologically inactive compounds compatible with pharmaceutical administration. The compositions may be formulated to be compatible with its intended route of administration. A composition may be administered by any method suitable for depositing in the gastrointestinal tract of a subject. Examples of routes of administration include rectal administration (e.g., by suppository, enema, upper endoscopy, upper push enteroscopy, or colonoscopy), intubation through the nose or the mouth (e.g., by nasogastric tube, nasoenteric tube, or nasal jejunal tube), or oral administration (e.g., by a solid such as a pill, tablet, or capsule, or by liquid).
[0080] For therapeutic use, a composition may be conveniently administered in a form containing one or more pharmaceutically acceptable carriers. Suitable carriers are well known in the art and vary with the desired form and mode of administration of the composition. For example, they may include diluents or excipients such as fillers, binders, wetting agents, disintegrators, surface-active agents, glidants, lubricants, and the like. Typically, the carrier may be a solid (including powder), liquid, or combinations thereof. Each carrier is preferably “acceptable” in the sense of being compatible with the other ingredients in the composition and not injurious to the subject. The carrier is preferably biologically acceptable and inert, i.e., it permits the composition to maintain viability of the biological material until delivered to the appropriate site.
[0081] Oral compositions may include an inert diluent or an edible carrier. For the purpose of oral therapeutic administration, the active compound can be incorporated with excipients and used in the form of tablets, troches, or capsules, e.g., gelatin capsules. Oral compositions can also be prepared by combining a composition of the present invention with a food. In one embodiment a food used for administration is chilled. Pharmaceutically compatible binding agents, and/or adjuvant materials can be included as part of the composition. The tablets, pills, capsules, troches and the like can contain any of the following ingredients, or compounds of a similar nature: a binder such as microcrystalline cellulose, gum tragacanth or gelatin; an excipient such as starch or lactose, a disintegrating agent such as alginic acid, Primogel, or corn starch; a lubricant such as magnesium stearate or Sterotes; a glidant such as colloidal silicon dioxide; a sweetening agent such as sucrose or saccharin; or a flavoring agent such as peppermint, methyl salicylate, or orange flavoring.
[0082] The active compounds can also be prepared in the form of suppositories (e.g., with conventional suppository bases such as cocoa butter and other glycerides) or retention enemas for rectal delivery.
[0083] The active compounds may be prepared with carriers that will protect the compound against rapid elimination from the body, such as a controlled release formulation, including implants. Biodegradable, biocompatible polymers can be used, such as ethylene vinyl acetate, polyanhydrides, polyglycolic acid, collagen, polyorthoesters, and polylactic acid. Such formulations can be prepared using standard techniques. The materials can also be obtained commercially from, for instance, Alza Corporation and Nova Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Liposomal suspensions can also be used as pharmaceutically acceptable carriers. These can be prepared according to methods known to those skilled in the art.
[0084] In one embodiment, a composition may be encapsulated. For instance, when the composition is to be administered orally, the dosage form is formulated so the composition is not exposed to conditions prevalent in the gastrointestinal tract before the desired site, e.g., high acidity and digestive enzymes present in the stomach and/or upper intestine. The encapsulation of compositions for therapeutic use is routine in the art. Encapsulation may include hard-shelled capsules, which may be used for dry, powdered ingredients soft-shelled capsules. Capsules may be made from aqueous solutions of gelling agents such as animal protein (e.g., gelatin), plant polysaccharides or derivatives like carrageenans and modified forms of starch and cellulose. Other ingredients may be added to a gelling agent solution such as plasticizers (e.g., glycerin and or sorbitol), coloring agents, preservatives, disintegrants, lubricants and surface treatment.
[0085] In one embodiment, the method includes administering an effective amount of a genetically modified microbe to a subject in need of such a genetically modified microbe. The subject may be, for instance, a human, or avian (including, for instance, chickens or turkeys), bovine (including, for instance, cattle), caprine (including, for instance, goats), ovine (including, for instance, sheep), porcine (including, for instance, swine), equine (including, for instance, horses), canine (including, for instance, dogs), or feline (including, for instance, cats). The subject may be of any age. A subject in need of genetically modified microbe includes a subject having a gastrointestinal microflora that requires modification. For instance, a subject may have a microbial pathogen, such as a nosocomial pathogen, present in its gastrointestinal tract.
[0086] In one embodiment, the method may further include administering to the subject a modulating agent. In one embodiment, such a modulating agent will interact with the modulating polypeptide, e.g., a tet-repressor, and result in expression of the coding sequence encoding the antimicrobial peptide. The modulating agent may be administered to the subject before, with, or after the administration of the genetically modified microbe, or a combination thereof.
[0087] In one embodiment, it is not necessary to administer a modulating agent to the subject. When the genetically modified microbe includes a vector that includes a pheromone-responsive region, the modulating agent is produced by the target microbe, and sensed by the genetically modified microbe to result in induction of the first promoter of the pheromone-responsive promoter and the expression of the operably linked coding regions encoding one or more antimicrobial peptides. The target microbe in this embodiment is one that produces the appropriate modulating agent, e.g., the peptide LVTLVFV (SEQ ID NO:32) when the pheromone-responsive region is from a pCF10 plasmid (e.g., nucleotides 1-1640 of SEQ ID NO:1), the peptide ALFSLVLAG (SEQ ID NO:33) when the pheromone-reponsive region is from a pAD1 plasmid (e.g., SEQ ID NO:5), the peptide FLVMFLSG (SEQ ID NO:34) when the pheromone-reponsive region is from a pPD1 plasmid (e.g., SEQ ID NO:6), or the peptide AIFILAS (SEQ ID NO:35) when the pheromone-responsive region is from a pAM373 plasmid (e.g., SEQ ID NO:7), such as E. faecalis or E. faecium.
[0088] In one embodiment, a method includes treating a subject having a pathogenic microbe present in its gastrointestinal tract. In another embodiment, the present invention is directed to methods for treating certain conditions in a subject that may be caused by, or associated with, a microbe. Such conditions include, for instance, Gram negative microbial infections and Gram positive microbial infections of the gastrointestinal tract. Examples of conditions that may be caused by the presence of certain microbes in a subject's gastrointestinal tract include, but are not limited to, diarrhea, gastroenteritis, hemolytic-uremic syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel disease, and Crohn's Disease.
[0089] Treating a subject, such as a subject having a pathogenic microbe or a subject having a condition, can be prophylactic or, alternatively, can be initiated after the need for treatment arises. Treatment that is prophylactic, for instance, initiated before a subject manifests symptoms of a condition caused by a pathogenic microbe, such as a member of the genus Enterococcus, is referred to herein as treatment of a subject that is “at risk” of developing the condition. Typically, a subject “at risk” of developing a condition is a subject likely to be exposed to a pathogenic microbe, such as a member of the genus Enterococcus, causing the condition. For instance, the subject is present in an area where the condition has been diagnosed in at least one other subject (e.g., a hospital in the case of a nosocomial infection). Accordingly, administration of a composition can be performed before, during, or after the occurrence of a condition caused by a pathogenic microbe. Treatment initiated after the development of a condition may result in decreasing the severity of the symptoms of one of the conditions, or completely removing the symptoms. In this aspect of the invention, an “effective amount” is an amount effective to prevent the manifestation of symptoms of a condition, decrease the severity of the symptoms of a condition, and/or completely remove the symptoms. The potency of a composition described herein can be tested according to routine methods (see, for instance, Stanfield et al., Microb Pathog., 3:155-165 (1987), Fox et al., Am. J. Vet. Res., 48:85-90 (1987), Ruiz-Palacios, Infect. Immun., 34:250-255 (1981), and Humphrey et al., J. Infect. Dis., 151:485-493 (1985)). Methods for determining whether a subject a condition caused by a pathogenic microbe and symptoms associated with the conditions are routine and known to the art.
[0090] The microbe targeted by the antimicrobial peptide expressed and secreted by a genetically modified microbe may be a Gram negative or a Gram positive microbe. Examples of Gram negative microbes include, but are not limited to, Salmonella spp., E. coli (including E. coli O157:117, enterotoxigenic E. coli, enteroinvasive E. coli, and enteropathogenic E. coli), Shigella spp., Campylobacter spp., Listeria spp., and Vibrio spp. Examples of Gram positive microbes include, but are not limited to, Staphylococcus spp. Target microbes may be microbes transmitted to a subject through the ingestion of contaminated food, or by transmission from another subject (for instance, transmission from animal to animal, including animal to human).
[0091] The method may further include determining whether at least one symptom associated with a condition cause by a target microbe is reduced, and/or determining whether the shedding of the target microbe by the subject is reduced. Methods for determining whether a subject has a reduction in a symptom associated with a condition are routine and known in the art. Methods for measuring shedding of a microbe are likewise routine and known in the art.
[0092] The present invention is illustrated by the following examples. It is to be understood that the particular examples, materials, amounts, and procedures are to be interpreted broadly in accordance with the scope and spirit of the invention as set forth herein.

EXAMPLE 1

[0093] Presented herein are results of tests with recombinant Lactococcus lactis that produce and secrete heterologous antimicrobial peptides with activity against Gram-negative pathogenic Escherichia coli and Salmonella. In an initial screening, the activities of numerous candidate antimicrobial peptides, made by solid state synthesis, were assessed against several indicator pathogenic E. coli and Salmonella strains. Peptides A3APO and Alyteserin were selected as top performers based on high antimicrobial activity against the pathogens tested and on significantly lower antimicrobial activity against L. lactis. Expression cassettes containing the signal peptide of the protein Usp45 fused to the codon optimized sequence of mature A3APO and Alyteserin were cloned under the control of a nisin-inducible promoter nisA and transformed into L. lactis IL1403. The resulting recombinant strains were induced to express and secrete both peptides. A3APO- and Alyteserin-containing supernatants from these recombinant L. lactis inhibited the growth of pathogenic E. coli and Salmonella by up to 20-fold, while maintaining the host's viability. This system may serve as a model for the production and delivery of antimicrobial peptides by lactic acid bacteria to target Gram-negative pathogenic bacteria populations.

Methods

Synthetic Peptide Synthesis

[0094] The synthetic AMPs used in this study (Table 4) were synthesized by solid-phase methods at the BioMedical Genomics Center at the University of Minnesota (20 mg aliquots at 99% purity).
[0095] 
[00003] [TABLE-US-00003]
  TABLE 4
 
  Synthetic peptides used in this study.
  Synthetic peptides   Description
 
  A3APO (single chain)   RPDKPRPYLPRPRPPRPVR
    (SEQ ID NO: 36)
 
  Alyteserin-1a   GLKDIFKAGLGSLVKGIA
    AHVAN (SEQ ID NO: 37)
 

Bacterial Strains and Growth Conditions
[0096] The bacteria used in this study are listed in Table 5. L. lactis IL1403 was cultured at 30° C. in M17 broth (Oxoid Ltd., Basingstoke, UK) supplemented with 0.5% (w/v) glucose (GM17). The E. coli and Salmonella strains were grown in LB broth (Fisher Scientific, Fair Lawn, N.J., USA) at 37° C., with shaking Agar plates were made by the addition of 1.5% (wt/vol) agar (Oxoid) to the liquid media. When necessary, erythromycin (Sigma Chemical Co., St. Louis, Mo., USA) was added to the cultures at 200 μg/ml and 5 μg/ml, for E. coli and L. lactis respectively.
[0097] 
[00004] [TABLE-US-00004]
  TABLE 5
 
  Strains used in this study
    Description
   
    Strains  
  E. coli JM109 (1)   Selection of recombinant plasmids
  L. lactis IL1403 (2)   Plasmid-free strain, non-bacteriocin
      producer
    Indicator organisms
  E. coli BL21 (3)   AMP indicator
  E. coli 0157-H7
    2026   AMP indicator
    2031   AMP indicator
  S. infantis 129B   AMP indicator
  S. typhimurium 2219B   AMP indicator
   
  (1). Yanisch-Perron et al., 1985, Gene 33, 103-19;
  (2). Chopin et al., 1984, Plasmid 11, 260-263;
  (3). Wood, 1966, J. Mol Biol. 16, 118-33.

Molecular Biology
[0098] The amino acid sequences of the peptides Alyteserin and A3APO (Table 4) were used as templates for design of the synthetic genes. The nucleotide sequences for each peptide were then based on the preferred codon usage for expression by L. lactis. The nucleotide sequences of the synthetic expression cassettes contained the Usp45 signal peptide nucleotide sequence (SPusp45) (Table 6) and a 5′-nucleotide extension containing a NcoI restriction site at the N-terminus. It also included and a 3′-nucleotide extension with the stop codon (TAA) and the XbaI restriction site. All synthetic genes were supplied by GeneArt® (Life Technologies, Paisley, UK).
[0099] Molecular cloning techniques were performed according to Sambrook et al (1989, Molecular cloning. Cold spring harbor laboratory press New York) and all DNA restriction enzymes were supplied from New England BioLabs (Beverly, Mass., USA) and used as recommended by the supplier. Ligations were performed with the T4 DNA ligase (New England Biolabs). E. coli JM109 competent cells were transformed as described by the supplier, and electrocompetent L. lactis cells were transformed with a Gene Pulser XCell™ (Bio-Rad Laboratories, Hercules, Calif., USA) as described previously (Holo and Nes, 1995, Methods Mol. Biol. 47:195-199).

Construction of Expression Vectors

[0100] The plasmids and synthetic genes used in this study are listed in Table 6. The SPusp45:Alyteserin and SPusp45:A3APO containing NcoI-XbaI fragments were obtained from the digestion of the Geneart vectors pMK-RQ-Alys and pMK-RQ-A3APO, respectively. These fragments were inserted into plasmid pMSP3545, in frame with the strong inducible Nisin A (PnisA) promoter, obtaining plasmids pMS-Alys and pMS-A3APO, respectively.
[0101] 
[00005] [TABLE-US-00005]
  TABLE 6
 
  Plasmids and synthetic genes used in this study.
 
 
  Plasmids   Description   Reference
 
  pMK-RQ-Kanr, pMK-RQ plasmid carrying    Geneart
  A3APOSPusp45:A3APO  
 
  pMK-RQ-AlysKanr, pMK-RQ plasmid carrying    Geneart
  SPusp45:Alys  
 
  pMSP3545Emr; expression vector   1
 
  pMS-A3APOEmr; pMSP3545 derivative carrying   This work
  SPusp45:A3APO  
 
  pMS-AlysEmr; pMSP3545 derivative carrying   This work
  SPusp45:Alys  
 
  pMS-Emr; pMSP3545 derivative carrying   This work
  A3APO:HISSPusp45:A3APO:HIS  
 
  pMS-Alys:HISEmr; pMSP3545 derivative carrying    This work
  SPusp45:Alys:HIS
 
  Synthetic genes   Nucleotide sequence
 
SPusp45:A3APOATGGATGAAAAAAAAGATTATCTCAGCTATTTTAATGTCTA
  CAGTGATACTTTCTGCTGCAGCCCCGTTGTCAGGTGTTTAC
  GCTCGTCCAGATAAACCACGTCCATATTTACCACGTCCACG
    TCCACCACGTCCAGTTCGT (SEQ ID NO: 38)
 
SPusp45:AlysATGAAAAAAAAGATTATCTCAGCTATTTTAATGTCTACAGT
  GATACTTTCTGCTGCAGCCCCGTTGTCAGGTGTTTACGCTG
    GTTTAAAAGATATTTTTAAAGCTGGTTTAGGTTCATTAGTT
    AAAGGTATTGCTGCTCATGTTGCTAAT 
    (SEQ ID NO: 39)
 
1. Bryan et al., 2000, Plasmid 44:183-190. The underlined nucleotides encode the Usp45 signal sequence.

Protein Production
[0102] Recombinant L. lactis were induced to produce both AMPs upon reaching an OD600 of 0.5, using nisin A (Sigma) at a final concentration of 25 ng/ml as the inducer. Cell-free culture supernatants were obtained by centrifugation of cultures at 12,000×g at 4° C. for 10 min and filtering through 0.2 μm pore-size filters (Whatman Int. Ltd., Maidstone, UK.). Supernatants were stored at −20° C. until use.

Peptide Transcript Quantification by qPCR

[0103] A3APO and Alyteserin production was induced as described above. At 3 hrs post-induction mRNA was isolated using the RNeasy kit and RNAprotect Bacteria Reagent (Qiagen). cDNA libraries were made from each RNA sample using SuperScript II reverse transcriptase (Life Technologies) as directed and qPCR was performed using Brilliant III Ultra-Fast SYBR Green QPCR Master Mix (Agilent Technologies) as directed using the internal ROX dye as a reference. Primers Alys-qPCR-F (CGTTGTCAGGTGTTTACGCTGGTTT) (SEQ ID NO:40) and Alys-qPCR-R (CGTTTAATTAGCAACATGAGCAGCAA) (SEQ ID NO:41) were designed to amplify a 95 bp product of Alyteserin gene. Primers A3APO-qPCR-F (TTTTAATGTCTACAGTGATACTTTCTGCTGC) (SEQ ID NO:42) and A3APO-qPCR-R (ATACGTTTAACGAACTGGACGTGGTG) (SEQ ID NO:43) were designed to amplify a 122 bp product of A3APO gene. Primers Tuf-qPCR-F (GCGTTCTGGAGTTGGGATGT) (SEQ ID NO:44) and Tuf-qPCR-R (CCTCTTGAGCGAATACGATT) (SEQ ID NO:45) were designed to amplify a 149 bp product of the elongation factor Tu gene (tuf), which was used as an internal control. Relative transcript increases upon induction were calculated for both AMPs from CT values.

Production and Immunodetection of His-Tagged Proteins.

[0104] To confirm the production of recombinant Alyteserin and A3APO by L. lactis using immulogical technics, a 6×His-tag sequence was fused to the C-terminus of the cloned genes. Primers SPUsp45-F (ACTCATCATGAAAAAAAAGATTATCTCAGC) (SEQ ID NO:46) and A3APO-HIS-R (GATCTAGATTAGTGATGGTGATGGTGATGACCACCACGAACTGGACGTGGTGG) (SEQ ID NO:47) were used in a PCR reaction to amplify a BspHI/XbaI 180 bp fragment containing SPusp45:A3APO fused to a C-terminal 6×His-tag (fragment SPusp45:A3APO:HIS). Primers SPUsp45-F and Alys-HIS-R (GATCTAGATTAGTGATGGTGATGGTGATGACCACCATTAGCAACATGAGCAGC) (SEQ ID NO:48) were used in a PCR reaction to amplify a BspHI/XbaI 192 bp fragment containing SPusp45:Alys fused to a C-terminal 6×His-tag (fragment SPusp45:Alys:HIS). Fragments SPusp45:A3APO:HIS and SPusp45:Alys:HIS were digested with the indicated restriction enzymes and inserted into pMSP3545, digested with NcoI and XbaI. The ligation mixtures were used to transform L. lactis IL1403 competent cells. The plasmid derivatives pMS-Alys:HIS and pMS-A3APO:HIS, respectively, were checked by PCR and sequencing of the inserts.
[0105] L. lactis IL1403 (pMSP3545), L. lactis IL1403 (pMS-A3APO:HIS) and L. lactis IL1403 (pMS-Alys:HIS) strains were grown in 100 ml of GM17 medium and induced with nisin A at an OD600 of 0.5 as previously described. At 3 hours after induction the cultures were centrifuged at 12,000×g at 4° C. for 15 min. 50 ml of the supernatants (SN) were stored at −20° C. until use, while the remaining 50 ml were subjected to precipitation with ammonium sulphate (50%) and resuspended in 1 ml phosphate-buffered saline (PBS) (AS-SN). The cell-pellets where washed with PBS and resuspended in 2 ml of ice-cold PBS. Cells were lysed in a Fast-prep apparatus (Biospec) using 0.1 mm glass beads and 6 cycles of 45 s (speed 6.0), with cooling intervals of 45 s on ice. The unbroken cells, cell debris and glass beads were separated from the cell lysate (CL) by centrifugation at 16,100×g at 4° C. for 30 min 20 μl of SN, AS-SN and CL were spotted into a Amersham Hybond-P PVDF membrane (GE Healthcare) as indicated by the manufacturer. After transfer of the proteins onto the membranes, a dot blots analysis was performed using the Chemiluminescent Western Breeze kit (Invitrogen, Carlsbad, Calif., USA). For detection of Alys:His and A3APO:His, an anti-His (C-term) mouse monoclonal antibody (Invitrogen) was used as recommended by the manufacturer.

Bioassays for Antimicrobial Activity

[0106] MICs of the synthetic AMPs were determined in triplicate by a liquid growth inhibition microdilution assays in flat-bottom sterile polypropylene 96-well plates (Maxisorp, Nunc, Roskilde, Denmark), in a final volume of 150 μl. The bacteria were diluted 2% in fresh media and grown to an OD600=0.5±0.05 (OD600=1≈109 cells/ml). The cells were diluted 50-fold to 107 cells/ml in fresh media. The AMP stocks were serially diluted (150 μl/well) in liquid growth media in a 96-well plate, covering a concentration range of 1,000 μg/ml-1 ng/ml. Briefly, 150 μl of the serially diluted AMPs were inoculated with 5 μl of the bacterial strains to achieve a final indicator concentration of 3×105 cells/ml. For each strain a row with no peptide was included as growth control, and for each test a row of medium-only wells was included as a sterility control. Plates were then incubated at 37° C. for 16-20 h without shaking, and growth inhibition was assessed measuring OD600 using a microplate reader (SpectraMax® Plus384; Molecular Devices, Sunnyvale, Calif., USA). MICs were identified as the lowest antimicrobial concentration where the OD600 just exceed that of the control.
[0107] The loss of cell viability was monitored to determine the antimicrobial activity of the supernatants from the recombinant L. lactis strains. Briefly, 0.3 ml of fresh medium, individually inoculated with the target strains, was added to tubes containing 0.7 ml of the supernatants, to reach a final concentration of 1×103 cells/ml. As a control, a supernatant sample from the L. lactis strain containing only the expression vector pMSP3545 (C-SN) was used. Tubes were incubated at 37° C. with agitation. Samples were taken at 30 min, 2 and 6 h, and the number of colony forming units per ml (CFU/ml) was determined by plating 25 μl on LB agar plates. The plates were incubated for 16 h at 37° C., and the number of viable cells was assessed by counting CFUs. Additionally, the OD600 was monitored up to 15 h post-inoculation to follow the influence of AMPs on culture growth.

Results and Discussion

[0108] Motivated by the current state of antibiotic overuse and the rapid emergence of bacterial strains with resistance to antibiotics molecules, the overall goal of this work was to engineer a LAB strain to inducibly express and secrete AMPs with high activity against important Gram-negative pathogens. In summary, this was achieved by first screening AMPs for high activity against pathogenic E. coli and Salmonella strains and low activity against LAB. Genes encoding peptides that displayed the most favorable activity were then included in expression cassettes for use in L. lactis. In the following, we detail how we 1) selected the AMPs of interest, 2) engineered L. lactis to express the heterologous peptides and 3) tested the recombinant expression systems. To our knowledge this is one of the first works in which LAB have been engineered to express and secrete AMPs that are specifically active against Gram-negative pathogens.

Screening of AMPs with Activity Against Gram-Negative Bacteria

[0109] Recently discovered AMPs that have been introduced into clinical practice largely display activity against Gram-positive organisms while being ineffective against Gram-negative bacteria (Gruenheid and Moual, 2012, FEMS Microbiol. Lett. 330:81-89). This is due in part to the unique cell wall and membrane structure of these two classes of bacteria (Papagianni et al., 2009, Microb. Cell Fact. 8:3; Bassetti et al., 2011, Crit. Care 15:215). However there are a few exceptional AMPs that show high specific activity against Gram-negative bacteria (Hoffmann et al., 1999, Biochim. Biophys. Acta 1426:459-467; Cassone et al., 2008, Peptides 29:1878-1886). To select top candidate AMPs to use in our study, we initially searched the literature for functional peptides fulfilling the following requirements: 1) lack of post-translational modifications and disulfide bonds, 2) activity against Gram-negative bacteria at low concentrations (≤500 μg/ml) and 3) no or significantly less activity against Gram-positive bacteria, in particular against the L. lactis host LAB. From this first screen, numerous candidates were chosen and chemically synthesized as described in Methods. The minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) of the synthetic peptides was evaluated against a panel of pathogenic strains of E. coli and Salmonella and against L. lactis.
[0110] Two peptides, Alyteserin-1a (Alyteserin) and A3APO, emerged as promising candidate AMPs. Alyteserin was previously identified in the secretions on frog skin while A3APO was discovered in a synthetic peptide library screen (Szabo et al., 2010, Int. J. Antimicrob. Agents 35:357-361; Conlon et al., 2009, Peptides 30:1069-1073). The MIC of pure Alyteserin was 500 μg/ml against indicator E. coli and Salmonella strains. Additionally, L. lactis remained viable despite treatment with up to 1 mg/ml Alyteserin (FIG. 1a). Inhibition of E. coli by A3APO was observed only at a concentration of 1 mg/ml. However, Salmonella growth was inhibited by 30 μg/ml Alyteserin, reducing viability through the highest concentration tested (1 mg/ml). Similarly, L. lactis growth was not inhibited with the different A3APO concentrations tested (FIG. 1b).
[0111] The two AMPs chosen in this study did not require post-translational modifications for activity. The heterologous production of proteins that require post-translational modifications to be active can be problematic when using LAB as hosts. There are several examples where recombinant peptides that required post-translational modifications were being produced at high concentrations but had low specific activity (Borrero et al., 2011, J. Biotechnol. 156:76-86). This has been attributed to a variety of causes, such as non-efficient disulfide bond formation, problems in protein folding, and protein aggregation (Borrero et al., 2011, Appl. Microbiol. Biotechnol. 89:131-143).
[0112] Once the two candidate peptides were identified, L. lactis was engineered to express Alyteserin and A3APO. Details of this process are presented in the Materials and Methods. The resulting L. lactis were cultured to express and secrete the peptides. The cell-free supernatants containing these AMPs were isolated and their effect on E. coli and Salmonella growth and viability were assessed as also described in the Materials and Methods.

Construction of Recombinant L. lactis Strains for AMP Production

[0113] Lactococcus lactis strain IL1403 was engineered to express the AMPs Alyteserin and A3APO as detailed in the Materials and Methods. Briefly, the codon-optimized nucleotide sequences of both peptides were synthesized by GeneArt and fused to the Usp45 secretion signal peptide sequence (SPusp45) (Van Asseldonk et al., 1990, Gene 95:155-160). The expression cassettes were cloned downstream of the nisin inducible promoter, PnisA, from plasmid pMSP3545 (Bryan et al., 2000, Plasmid 44:183-190) resulting in recombinant vectors pMS-Alys and pMS-A3APO, respectively. L. lactis IL1403 was transformed with both recombinant vectors, and the resulting L. lactis (pMS-A3APO) and L. lactis (pMS-Alys) strains, as well as the control L. lactis strain (L. lactis containing the empty pMSP3545 vector), were cultured to express and secrete each AMP. The AMP-containing supernatants (AMP-SNs: Alys-SN, A3APO-SN and C-SN for supernatants containing AMPs Alyteserin, A3APO and the control supernatant lacking AMPs, respectively) were collected as described in Methods.
[0114] Growth of pathogenic and non-pathogenic E. coli strains was assessed in medium containing these AMP-SNs while only pathogenic Salmonella strains were tested. In all cases, AMP-SNs diluted 7:3 with LB were inoculated with each indicator strain and growth was monitored spectrophotometrically at 600 nm for 15 hr.

Peptide Production and Secretion

[0115] QPCR was performed to determine the transcript levels of Alysteserin and A3APO genes upon induction. A3APO transcript increased by over 100-fold upon induction while Alyteserin mRNA increased by 30-fold. To confirm the production of recombinant Alyteserin and A3APO by L. lactis, a His-tag sequence was fused to the C-terminus of both genes. The induced cultures were centrifuged and 2 fractions were collected: the cell pellet and the cell-free supernatant. The cell-pellet was lysed, as described in Methods, obtaining a cell lysate. The cell-free supernatants were treated with ammonium sulfate to 50% saturation to precipitate and concentrate the proteins. The crude supernatants, the ammonium sulfate and the cell-lysate fractions were subjected to dot blotting and immunological detection using Anti-His (C-terminal) antibodies. No signal was detected in any of the fractions obtained from the L. lactis control strain. A signal was detected in the crude supernatant samples from the AMP producing L. lactis and cell-lysate fractions. Increased signal was detected upon concentration with ammonium sulfate and in the cell-lysate fractions. Although this confirms the presence of AMPs in the supernatants, it illustrates that a significant amount of peptide still remains inside the cells. Similar observations have also been made with other recombinant peptides fused to the Usp45 signal peptide (Rodríguez-Rubio et al., 2012, Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 78:3469-3472). The protein size and the particular combination of signal peptide and mature protein are factors that may be limiting the secretion of the peptides.

E. coli Growth Inhibition by Alyteserin Produced by L. lactis

[0116] As shown in FIG. 2, Alys-SN inhibited growth of E. coli strains. Culture titer was assessed starting at 30 min post-inoculation and culture density was monitored by OD600 10-15 h post-inoculation. Prior to the 6 h time point, E. coli cultures treated with Alys-SN and C-SN were not statistically different. However, different culture concentrations were observed beginning 6 h post-inoculation (FIG. 2a), and this differential growth pattern was maintained through 15 h (FIG. 2b). Upon treatment with Alys-SN, culture concentrations were reduced by over 20-fold relative to those treated with C-SN at 6 h post-inoculation and maintained a density at or less than this value through the 15 h incubation period. The same trends were found with all E. coli strains tested. Growth rates for E. coli, as shown in Table 7, were calculated based on culture densities 10-15 h post inoculation. There was no significant E. coli growth when treated with Alys-SN during this time and the cultures never achieved exponential growth. Thus, Alys-SN effectively inhibited E. coli growth during the 15 h culture period.
[0117] 
[00006] [TABLE-US-00006]
  TABLE 7
 
Growth rates and relative culture growth of E. coli and Salmonella
  with AMP treatment.
  E. coliSalmonella
   
  Growth rate (hr−1)  
    C-SN   0.73   0.66
    Alys-SN   ≈0   0.57
    A3APO-SN   >0.8   0.7
    Relative Growth rate (%)  
    C-SN   100   100
    Alys-SN   ≈0   86
    A3APO-SN   >100   >100
   
[0118] In contrast, there was no change in E. coli culture concentration when strains were cultured with A3APO-SN. The MIC value for synthetic A3APO against E. coli strains was 1 mg/ml (FIG. 1) and it is reasonable that the concentration of active peptide is lower than this in tested supernatant samples.

Salmonella Growth Inhibition by Alyteserin-1a and A3APO Produced by L. lactis

[0119] Alys-SN and A3APO-SN inhibited growth of pathogenic S. typhimurium and S. infantis as shown in FIG. 3a. As before, the culture titer was assessed beginning 30 min post-inoculation and culture density was monitored by OD600 from 10 to 15 h. By 2 h post-inoculation, a differential titer between cultures treated with Alys-SN and A3APO-SN was observed (FIG. 3a). Relative to culture growth with C-SN treatment, growth of S. infantis treated with Alys-SN was reduced by about one-half while S. typhimurium was reduced by 10-fold. Moreover, A3APO-SN reduced the culture density of S. infantis by over 20-fold relative to C-SN while S. typhimurium culture density was reduced by 4-fold. The inhibition of Salmonella by Alys-SN was maintained through 15 h, while culture density with A3APO-SN was the same as C-SN by 10 h post-inoculation (FIG. 3b). At 15 h post inoculation, the Alys-SN maintained Salmonella culture densities at only 25% relative to the same strains treated with the C-SN. These trends were consistent across both the S. infantis and S. typhimurium strains tested.
[0120] The strong activity shown by A3APO-SN against Salmonella is consistent with the significantly lower MIC value observed (30 μg/ml) for synthetic A3APO peptide against Salmonella.
[0121] As shown in Table 7, growth rates for Salmonella were calculated based on culture densities 10 to 15 h post inoculation. In contrast to what was observed with E. coli, there was significant Salmonella growth in the presence of Alys-SN and the cultures achieved exponential growth. However, growth rates were reduced by 15% relative to cultures grown in C-SN during this time. Additionally, although the densities of the Salmonella cultures grown in A3APO-SN were significantly reduced at earlier time points, relative to C-SN, no differences were observed by 10 h after inoculation.

Improving Active Peptide Production

[0122] Currently, the factors that most significantly improve the antimicrobial activity of Alyteserin and A3APO produced by recombinant L. lactis are difficult to determine. We postulate that the use of SPusp45 to produce and secrete these peptides is likely to be one such factor as there are significant context dependencies between a secretion peptide and the molecule for which they are driving secretion (Ng et al., 2013, Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 79:347-356). Peptide translation, targeting the Sec-dependent protein to the membrane, the translocation process itself, and the peptide's subsequent processing by a signal peptidase likely represent the major bottlenecks for efficient translocation, and thus production of heterologous proteins (Degering et al., 2010, Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 76:6370-6376). Since there are no good prediction methods for determining the right combination of secretion peptide and target protein to achieve a high protein production system (Borrero et al., 2011, J. Biotechnol. 156:76-86; Brockmeier et al., 2006, J. Mol. Biol. 362:393-402), screening for a more efficient secretion peptide and protein combinations for overproduction and secretion may still further improve active peptide secretion (Degering et al., 2010, Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 76:6370-6376; Stammen et al., 2010, Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 76:4037-4046). Several strategies have been used in this direction. Using different signal peptides (Borrero et al., 2011, J. Biotechnol. 156:76-86), modifying the amino acids of the N-terminus of the signal peptide (Ng and Sarkar, 2013, Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 79:347-356) or adding a propeptide between the signal peptide and the mature protein may help increase peptide secretion (Le et al., 2001, Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 67:4119-4127). Further experiments must be performed in order to maximize the secretion of AMPs and further increase the antimicrobial activity of the supernatants. Improper protein folding may also account for compromised antagonistic activity. Thus, the use of chaperones, increasing specific peptide activity through rounds of mutagenesis, and increasing peptide gene copy number are approaches currently being pursued to improve these expression systems (Drouault et al., 2002, Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 68:3932-3942).

Summary

[0123] In this study we report that L. lactis can be used to produce and secrete the antimicrobial peptides Alyteserin-1a and A3APO, with sufficient activity to inhibit pathogenic E. coli and Salmonella strains, while maintaining the host's viability. Previous studies have reported the production and secretion of AMPs by recombinant L. lactis (Borrero et al., 2011, J. Biotechnol. 156:76-86; Borrero et al., 2011, Appl. Microbiol. Biotechnol. 89:131-143; Munoz et al., 2011, Recent Pat. Biotechnol. 5:199-211). However, these peptides have frequently displayed antimicrobial activity against Gram-positive bacteria but either no or poor activity against Gram-negative indicators (McCormick et al., 1999, Lett. Appl. Microbiol. 29:37-41; Acuña et al., 2011, Food Bioprocess Tech. 4:1029-1049). While the activity of A3APO and Alyteserin in the supernatants of recombinant L. lactis is still not at the level of many small molecule antibiotics, to our knowledge this is the first time that a synthetic or animal-origin AMP has been produced by L. lactis with activity against Gram-negative bacteria pathogens. This opens up possibilities for the design of new synthetic peptides and the engineering of known AMPs to improve their antimicrobial activity and spectrum of action.
[0124] Lactic acid bacteria are bile-resistant, generally considered safe to consume organisms that may take hold in the gastrointestinal tract of animal or human hosts. As such, they can be considered as promising delivery vehicles for AMPs to the site of gastrointestinal infections. By making and delivering peptides to the site of E. coli or Salmonella infections, AMP-producing organisms may circumvent previous limitations of the short half-lives that are characteristic of AMPs and the high production and purification costs also associated with peptides (Marr et al., 2006, Curr. Opin. Pharmacol. 6:468-472; Nilsson et al., 2005, Annu. Rev. Biophys. Biomol. Struct. 34:91-118; Gräslund et al., 2008, Nat. Methods 5:135-146).

EXAMPLE 2

Methods

Gene Design.

[0125] Based on the AMPs nucleotide sequences obtained from NCBI we designed two different genetic fragments (ANEX 1): a synthetic polycistronic operon containing the enterocin A structural (entA) and immunity gene (entiA) (GenBank: AF240561.1), the hiracin JM79 structural (hiriJM79) and immunity gene (hiriJM79) (GenBank: DQ664500.1), and the enterocin P structural (entP) and immunity gene (entiP) (GenBank: AF005726.1); and the gene from endolysin Lys170 (lys170) (Proença et al., 2012, Microb Drug Resist. 18: 322-332). In bacteria, most proteins are secreted via the general secretory pathway or Sec system, being synthesized as precursors containing the mature protein and N-terminal signal peptides (SP) (Borrero et al., 2011, J Biotechnol. 156:76-86). Both EntP and HirJM79 are produced with a signal peptide, but EntA is naturally produced with a leader sequence (LSEntA) and needs a dedicated ABC transporter system in order to be secreted. It has been shown that the substitution of LSEntA by the signal peptide from protein Usp45 (SPUsp45) is enough to secrete active EntA through the Sec system by L. lactis (Borrero et al., 2011, J Biotechnol. 156:76-86). Therefore both entA and lys170 were fused to SPUsp45. All the sequences were synthesized by Geneart (Invitrogen).

Construction of the Recombinant Vectors

[0126] All plasmids, PCR fragments and primers used in this study are summarized in Table 8. All fragments were digested with the indicated restriction enzymes and inserted into vector pBK2idTZ. The ligation mixtures were used to transform E. coli DH5α competent cells. The presence of the correct recombinant plasmids was checked by PCR and sequencing of the inserts. The recombinant vectors were then isolated from E. coli and used to transform L. lactis NZ9000 competent cells.
[0127] 
[00007] [TABLE-US-00007]
  TABLE 8
 
  Plasmids   Description   Source
 
  pBK2Cmr; inducible expression vector carrying the prgX/prgQ system   UMN
  pBK2idTCmr; inducible expression vector carrying the prgX/prgQ system with a 3 nucleotide   UMN
    deletion in prgQ
  pBK1Cmr; constitutive expression vector carrying the prgX/prgQ system with a deletion of   UMN
    the entire prgX gene
  pBK2Z   pBK2 carrying prgZ under the control of the constitutive promoter P23   This work
  pBK2idTZ   pBK2idT carrying prgZ under the control of the constitutive promoter P23   This work
  pBK2idtZ:Bac   pBK2idT derivative carrying fragment Bac   This work
  pBK2idTZ:EntA   pBK2idT derivative carrying fragment EntA   This work
  pBK2idTZ:HirJM79   pBK2idT derivative carrying fragment HirJM79   This work
  pBK2idTZ:EntP   pBK2idT derivative carrying fragment EntP   This work
  pBK2idTZ:Lys170   pBK2idT derivative carrying fragment Lys170   This work
 
    Fragments   Description
   
    Bac   1,628-bp BamHI-EcoRI fragment containing the enterocin A structural gene (entA) with its immunity
      gene (entiA), the enterocin P structural gene (entP) with its immunity gene (entiP) and the hiracin
      JM79 structural gene (hirJM79) with its immunity gene (hiriJM79)
    EntA   538-bp BamHI-EcoRI fragment containing entA + entiA
    HirJM79   546-bp BamHI-EcoRI fragment containing hirJM79 + hiriJM79
    EntP   504-bp BamHI-EcoRI fragment containing entP + entiP
    Lys170   538-bp BamHI-EcoRI fragment containing the endolysin 170 structural gene (Lys170)
   
    Primers   Amplification of fragment
   
    prg:usp45-F   Bac, EntA and Lys170
    EntiA-R   EntA
    prg:HirJM79-F   HirJM79
    HiriJM79-R   Bac and HirJM79
    prg:EntP-F   EntP
    EntiP-R   EntP
    Lys170-R   Lys170
   

Indicator Strains
[0128] The project has the aim of targeting pathogenic enterococci. Enterococcus faecalis are ubiquitous members of the mammalian gastrointestinal flora, a leading cause of nosocomial infections and a growing public health concern. The enterococci responsible for these infections are often resistant to multiple antibiotics and have become notorious for their ability to acquire and disseminate antibiotic resistances. In the current study we have selected several E. faecalis from different origins as indicator strains. These strains are listed in Table 9.
[0129] 
[00008] [TABLE-US-00008]
    TABLE 9
   
    Source   Description
   
 
E. faecalis (1)    
  V583   Blood   ATCC700802; St. Louis, MO, U.S.; First isolated Vancomycin-
    resistant and first sequenced E. faecalis genome
  Pan7   Commensal   Panose 7; fecal sample of healthy volunteer; Boston, MA,
      U.S.
  Com1   Commensal   Fecal sample of healthy volunteer; Boston, MA, U.S.
  CH116   Fecal   Boston, MA; U.S.; Gent/Kan/Strep/Tet/Erm/Pen
      resistant,b2lactamase-producing isolate; from L. B. Rice
  OG1RF   Oral   ATCC 47077; plasmid-free, Rif/Fus resistant mutant of OG1;
      common laboratory strain
  JRC105 (2)   UMN   OG1RF Δ(gelE-sprE)10
  JH2-2   Clinical   U.K.; Rif/Fus resistant mutant; common laboratory strain
E. faecium
  isolate 6   Urine   UMN isolate, Amp/Vanc/Linezolid resistant
  isolate 7a   Cerebrospinal   UMN isolate, Amp/Vanc/Linezolid resistant
    fluid (CSF)
  isolate 8   Urine   UMN isolate, Amp/Vanc/Linezolid resistant
  isolate 9b   Blood   UMN isolate, Amp/Vanc/Linezolid resistant
 
  (1). McBride et al., 2007, PLoS One. 2: e582;
  (2). Kristich et al., 2007, Plasmid. 57: 131-44.

Expression System
[0130] Herein, we prepare and use a set of novel vectors based on the peptide pheromone-inducible conjugation system of E. faecalis plasmids pCF10.
[0131] The antibiotic resistance plasmid pCF10 of E. faecalis is a member of a family of mobile genetic elements whose ability to transfer from a donor to a recipient bacterial cell is controlled by intercellular signalling via a peptide mating pheromone. Donor cells carrying pCF10 are induced to high expression of conjugative transfer and virulence genes by a heptapeptide (LVTLVFV)-mating pheromone cCF10 (also referred to as C, SEQ ID NO:32). Donor cells import C into the cytoplasm, where its binding to the pCF10-encoded master regulator Prg X [the protein product of pheromone responsive gene X (prgX)] abolishes repression of transcription of the prgQ operon encoding the conjugation genes. The mating response of donor cells to C is encoded by pCF10, whereas C is produced from a conserved chromosomal gene present in most if not all E. faecalis strains (Chatterjee et al., 2013, Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 110: 7086-90). The donor cells produce reduced but still significant levels of cCF10 in both cell wall fractions and supernatants (Buttaro et al., 2000, J Bacteriol. 182: 4926-33). This residual pheromone activity is neutralized by the production of the peptide iCF10 from the prgQ locus of pCF10, which negatively regulates the promoter for the prgQ operon. Therefore the molar ratio of chromosomally encoded pheromone (cCF10) to plasmid-encoded inhibitor (iCF10) determines the induction state of the donor cell (Nakayama et al., 1994, J Bacteriol. 176: 7405-8).
[0132] Based on the prgX/prgQ system, we developed a set of shuttle vectors able to replicate in E. coli and in Gram-positive bacteria. These new vectors contain the prgX/prgQ promoter region controlling the expression of both prgX and prgQ, respectively, in the same conformation as in pCF10. These vectors have been complemented with an E. coli and a gram-positive replication origin and a chloramphenicol resistance marker. Downstream of prgQ there is a multicloning site for the expression of the gene of interest under control of prgX/prgQ. As a start point the gene encoding the protein beta-galactosidase (lacZ) has been selected as reporter gene. Three different vectors have been constructed (FIG. 4 and FIG. 5):
[0133] pBK2: this vector maintains the prgX/prgQ region intact, so in normal conditions the expression of prgQ and lacZ is off. On the other hand, the addition of the mating-pheromone cCF10 to the media abolishes repression of the transcription of both prgQ and lacZ. The expression of both genes remains “on” until the levels of iCF10 (the peptide derived from PrgQ) are high enough to overcome the induction by cCF10 and turn back off the promoter.
[0134] pBK2idT: this vector presents a 3 amino acid deletion in prgQ that negatively affects the inhibitor activity of iCF10. It works the same way as pBK2 with the difference that upon induction with cCF10 the expression of prgQ and lacZ is on, and remains this way until the levels of cCF10 in the media are low enough to continue abolishing the repression of the expression of both genes.
[0135] pBK1: this vector has a deletion of the entire prgX gene. This deletion affects the repression of the prgQ promoter (PQ) by PrgX. Therefore it works as a constitutive promoter where both PrgQ and downstream genes are constitutively produced.
[0136] In a first approach, these vectors were used to transform competent cells of the strain L. lactis NZ9000. Using a β-galactosidase assay we were able to detect the expression of lacZ when the mating pheromone cCF10 was added to media. In order to quantify the leakiness of prgX/prgQ, the β-Galactosidase activity was measured spectrophotometrically in cell lysates, following cleavage of ONPG. No β-Gal activity was detected in the absence of cCF10, obtaining values similar to those observed with the wildtype strain (L. lactis without plasmid). On the other hand when the cultures were induced with cCF10, we were able to detect the expression of lacZ. These results confirm the tight regulation of prgX/prgQ.
[0137] One of the goals of this work is engineering LAB able to detect the presence of enterococci in the unpredictable and dynamic environment of the GI tract. Although the regulation of the gene encoding cCR10 has not been well characterized, it seems like most if not all enterococci include the chromosomal gene encoding for cCF10. In an initial approach we tested whether the presence of enterococci producing cCF10 was enough to activate the expression of prgX/prgQ in our recombinant L. lactis strains. We streaked 2 different E. faecalis strains in plates supplemented with X-Gal and put them in contact with L. lactis-pBK1, L. lactis-pBK2 and L. lactis-pBK2idT. Moreover, in a similar assay, we tested 8 different E. faecalis strains in contact with the recombinant L. lactis using a drop of the cultures. The recombinant L. lactis-pBK2 and L. lactis-pBK2idT were able to express lacZ when in close contact with the enterococci strains. This confirms that cCF10 is constitutively produced by the enterococci tested, and that the levels of cCF10 are enough to activate the expression of lacZ from the prgX/prgQ system in L. lactis. The activity observed when cCF10 was added directly to the media was much higher, suggesting that the basal production of cCF10 by E. faecalis is much lower than the 50 mg/ml used to induce the promoters.
[0138] Although these results were quite promising, the expression of lacZ was observed only in those colonies that directly interact with enterococci. This may indicate that cCF10 is associated with the cell wall of the enterococci, or that the concentration of cCF10 is only high enough to induce prgX/prgQ in the close proximity of these strains. Therefore we studied new mechanisms to improve the sensitivity of prgX/prgQ to cCF10. The first approach taken in this direction was the expression of prgZ in the recombinant vectors.
[0139] Recently PrgZ, a component of the prgQ operon, has been characterized. PrgZ is an anchored extra-cellular peptide-binding protein playing an important role in the transport of cCF10 inside the enterococcal cells (Dunny, 2007, Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 362:1185-93). Our hypothesis was that the presence of PrgZ in the membrane of the recombinant LAB may increase the transport of cCF10 inside the cell, and therefore a lower concentration of cCF10 may be required to induce prgX/prgQ. A set of vectors have been constructed that incorporate the prgZ gene under the control of a strong constitutive promoter (P23) (van der Vossen et al., 1987, Appl. Environ. Microbiol., 53:2451-2457). This fragment has been incorporated in plasmids pBK2 and pBK2idT (pBK2Z and pBK2idTZ, respectively). pBK2Z and pBK2idTZ were constructed by inserting the prgZ coding region and P23 promoter into pBK2 and pBK2idT at the PstI restriction site in the antisense strand (in the same direction as prgX). The prgZ coding region and P23 promoter are shown in FIG. 6. As observed in FIG. 7 under the same amount of cCF10 (50 ng/ml), the expression of lacZ was 18% and 32% higher in L. lactis-pBK2Z and L. lactis pBK2idTZ respectively, in comparison with the same plasmids lacking prgZ.

Antimicrobial Activity

[0140] The antimicrobial activity of individual L. lactis NZ9000 pBK2idTZ:Bac, L. lactis NZ9000 pBK2idTZ:EntA, L. lactis NZ9000 pBK2idTZ:HirJM79, L. lactis NZ9000 pBK2idTZ:EntP, L. lactis NZ9000 pBK2idTZ:Lys170 colonies was examined by the stab-on-agar test (SOAT). Briefly, individual colonies were stabbed onto M17 plates supplemented with glucose (GM17) and the inducer cCF10 (100 ng/ml), incubated at 32° C. for 5 h, and then 40 ml of the corresponding soft agar (0.8%, w/v) medium containing about 1×105 CFU/ml of the indicator strain was poured over the plates. After incubation at 37° C. for 16 h, the plates were checked for inhibition zones (absence of visible microbial growth around the stabbed cultures).
[0141] The strains L. lactis NZ9000 pBK2idTZ:Bac, L. lactis NZ9000 pBK2idTZ:EntA, L. lactis NZ9000 pBK2idTZ:HirJM79, L. lactis NZ9000 pBK2idTZ:EntP produced and secreted biologically active bacteriocins with activity against the indicator strain E. faecalis JH2-2. The strain L. lactis NZ9000 pBK2idTZ:Lys170 did not exhibit antimicrobial activity against the same indicator. The production of the three bacteriocins by the same strain (L. lactis NZ9000 pBK2idTZ:Bac) improved the inhibitory activity with respect those strains producing individual bacteriocins. This is probably due to a synergistic effect of the three bacteriocins together. Moreover, the production of the three bacteriocins by L. lactis NZ9000 pBK2idTZ:Bac was enough to inhibit the growth of all the different E. faecalis strains tested, E. faecalis V-583, E. faecalis JH2-2, E. faecalis Pan7, E. faecalis ComI, and E. faecalis CH116.
[0142] In a different set of experiments, L. lactis NZ9000 pBK2idtZ:Bac, E. faecalis JH2-2 and E. faecalis OG1RF pBK1 were grown in GM17 and BHI broth overnight at 32° C. and 37° C., respectively. The three cultures were inoculated (4%) in fresh media and grown 5 h, then 5 μl of the L. lactis NZ9000 pBK2idtZ:Bac culture and 10 μl of the E. faecalis JH2-2 culture were spotted onto GM17 plates supplemented with cCF10 (100 ng/ml) (GM17+cCF10) and onto GM17 plates. On the other hand, 10 μl of the L. lactis NZ9000 pBK2idtZ:Bac culture and 5 μl of the E. faecalis OG1RF pBK1 culture were spotted onto GM17 plates supplemented with X-gal. After incubation at 37° C. for 16 h, the plates were checked for inhibition zones. We observed that the presence of the cCF10-producing enterococal strains is enough to induce the expression of bacteriocins by recombinant L. lactis and inhibit the growth of both enterococci. In particular, we observe zones of inhibition inside enterococcus spots. We also observe the absence of blue colonies inside the L. lactis spot.

Discussion

[0143] From these results we can conclude that the construction of vectors using the prgX/prgQ system from plasmid pCF10 can be used for the expression and production of peptides of interest by L. lactis. Moreover, the cloning of the structural genes of the bacteriocins enterocin A (entA), enterocin P (entP) and hiracinJM79 (hirJM79), with their respective immunity genes into prgX/prgQ-based expression vectors permits the production of biologically active EntA, EntP and HirJM79 by L. lactis. The strain L. lactis NZ9000 pBK2idTZ:Bac is able to produce the bacteriocins EntA, EntP and HirJM79 with a synergistic activity against different E. faecalis strains. Finally, the presence of enterococcal strains in the close proximity is enough to trigger the expression and production of antimicrobial peptides by L. lactis using the prgX/prgQ-based vectors.
[0144] The complete disclosure of all patents, patent applications, and publications, and electronically available material (including, for instance, nucleotide sequence submissions in, e.g., GenBank and RefSeq, and amino acid sequence submissions in, e.g., SwissProt, PIR, PRF, PDB, and translations from annotated coding regions in GenBank and RefSeq) cited herein are incorporated by reference in their entirety. Supplementary materials referenced in publications (such as supplementary tables, supplementary figures, supplementary materials and methods, and/or supplementary experimental data) are likewise incorporated by reference in their entirety. In the event that any inconsistency exists between the disclosure of the present application and the disclosure(s) of any document incorporated herein by reference, the disclosure of the present application shall govern. The foregoing detailed description and examples have been given for clarity of understanding only. No unnecessary limitations are to be understood therefrom. The invention is not limited to the exact details shown and described, for variations obvious to one skilled in the art will be included within the invention defined by the claims.
[0145] Unless otherwise indicated, all numbers expressing quantities of components, molecular weights, and so forth used in the specification and claims are to be understood as being modified in all instances by the term “about.” Accordingly, unless otherwise indicated to the contrary, the numerical parameters set forth in the specification and claims are approximations that may vary depending upon the desired properties sought to be obtained by the present invention. At the very least, and not as an attempt to limit the doctrine of equivalents to the scope of the claims, each numerical parameter should at least be construed in light of the number of reported significant digits and by applying ordinary rounding techniques.
[0146] Notwithstanding that the numerical ranges and parameters setting forth the broad scope of the invention are approximations, the numerical values set forth in the specific examples are reported as precisely as possible. All numerical values, however, inherently contain a range necessarily resulting from the standard deviation found in their respective testing measurements.
[0147] All headings are for the convenience of the reader and should not be used to limit the meaning of the text that follows the heading, unless so specified.
(57)

Claims

1. A genetically modified microbe comprising:
an exogenous polynucleotide comprising an Enterococcal conjugative plasmid pheromone-responsive region,
wherein the Enterococcal conjugative plasmid pheromone-responsive region comprises a pheromone-responsive promoter,
wherein a coding region encoding an antimicrobial peptide is operably linked to the pheromone-responsive promoter,
wherein expression of the operably linked coding region encoding the antimicrobial peptide is repressed by a modulator polypeptide bound to the pheromone-responsive promoter and preventing expression of the operably linked coding region encoding the antimicrobial peptide, and the operably linked coding region encoding the antimicrobial peptide is induced in the presence of a modulating agent that binds the modulator polypeptide, and
wherein the microbe is a lactic acid bacteria, a member of the family Clostridiaceae, a member of the family Bifidobacteriaceae, or an Enterobacteria.
2. The genetically modified microbe of claim 1 wherein the pheromone-responsive region comprises a nucleotide sequence that comprises nucleotides 1-1640 of SEQ ID NO:1, comprises the nucleotide sequence of SEQ ID NO:5, comprises the nucleotide sequence of SEQ ID NO:6, or comprises the nucleotide sequence of SEQ ID NO:7.
3. The genetically modified microbe of claim 2 wherein the complement of nucleotides 79-1027 of SEQ ID NO:1 encode a polypeptide that comprises SEQ ID NO:3, wherein the complement of nucleotides 6-968 of SEQ ID NO:5 encode a polypeptide that comprises SEQ ID NO:53, wherein the complement of nucleotides 10-969 of SEQ ID NO:6 encode a polypeptide that comprises SEQ ID NO:54, wherein the complement of nucleotides 1-1014 of SEQ ID NO:7 encode a polypeptide that comprises SEQ ID NO:55, or a combination thereof.
4. The genetically modified microbe of claim 2 wherein the pheromone-responsive region comprises the nucleotide sequence that comprises nucleotides 1-1640 of SEQ ID NO:1 and a coding region at nucleotides 1236-1305 encoding an inactive polypeptide.
5. The genetically modified microbe of claim 1 wherein the genetically modified microbe further comprises a coding region encoding a pheromone binding polypeptide that comprises SEQ ID NO:4.
6. The genetically modified microbe of claim 1 wherein the polynucleotide comprising the pheromone-responsive region is present on a vector that replicates independently of the chromosome of the genetically modified microbe.
7. The genetically modified microbe of claim 1 wherein the antimicrobial peptide is selected from Enterocin A, Enterocin P, Hiracin, and Protegrin.
8. The genetically modified microbe of claim 7 wherein the genetically modified microbe comprises at least 2 coding regions encoding antimicrobial peptides, wherein each coding region is operably linked to the pheromone-responsive promoter.
9. The genetically modified microbe of claim 7 wherein the genetically modified microbe comprises at least 3 coding regions encoding antimicrobial peptides, wherein each coding region is operably linked to the pheromone-responsive promoter.
10. The genetically modified microbe of claim 1 wherein the genetically modified microbe is a lactic acid bacterium.
11. The genetically modified microbe of claim 1 wherein the modulating agent is selected from ALFSLVLAG (SEQ ID NO:33), LVTLVFV (SEQ ID NO:32), FLVMFLSG (SEQ ID NO:34), and AIFILAS (SEQ ID NO:35).
12. A method for inhibiting growth of an Enterococcus spp., the method comprising:
combining a first composition comprising a genetically modified microbe of claim 1 with a second composition comprising the Enterococcus spp. to form a mixture; and
incubating the mixture under conditions suitable for replication of the genetically modified microbe, wherein the genetically modified microbe expresses the antimicrobial peptide when it senses the presence of the Enterococcus spp. and the antimicrobial peptide inhibits growth of the Enterococcus spp.
13. The method of claim 12 wherein the combining comprises administering the first composition to a subject, and the second composition comprises the gastrointestinal tract of the subject.
14. A method for modifying a subject's gastrointestinal microflora, the method comprising:
administering to the subject a composition comprising the genetically modified microbe of claim 1.
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