StressRegNet

A chemical-genomics approach to decipher stress response and virulence pathways in infection
Identifying stressor-regulator pairs involved in bacterial stress response, virulence, and antibiotic sensitivity using high-throughput approaches and machine learning.

Pathogens are constantly exposed to numerous environmental cues, which can originate from their host, the microbiome, as well as from food, antibiotics, and other drugs. Pathogens employ diverse strategies to adapt to these continuously changing environments, mostly through transcriptional or post-transcriptional gene-expression control. Besides proteins that act as global stress regulators at the transcriptional level, small regulatory RNAs (sRNAs) are important players that control stress response and virulence at the post-transcriptional level. In addition to regulation of virulence genes or metabolism during host colonization, there is an increasing number of examples where sRNAs can impact antibiotic resistance and tolerance. However, the external cues that trigger many molecular pathways and regulators are still largely elusive, as well as how these regulatory cascades impact bacterial virulence and sensitivity to antibiotics.

Using high-throughput approaches, our StressRegNet consortium aims to explore, which chemical signals (stressors) trigger pathways responsible for controlling bacterial adaptation to the host and to antibiotics in the two major human pathogens Salmonella and Campylobacter. Identifying such stressors will help unravel the extent of cross-talk (epistasis) between different sensing and adaptation mechanisms in bacteria, and expose unknown bacterial “Achilles heels”, such as virulence or antibiotic sensitivity pathways, as targets for novel therapeutic intervention.

Strategy and conditions

In our StressRegNet project, we will combine bacterial genetics, high-throughput screening, and machine learning approaches to obtain a general picture of chemical stimuli that trigger bacterial stress responses mediated by sRNAs and/or global regulators. To this end, we will establish a transcriptional reporter library of stress-related regulatory sRNAs in Salmonella and Campylobacter, and profile their activity upon exposure to >3,000 host-related small molecules. Subsequently, we will develop machine-learning techniques to decipher the implications of these pathways for bacterial sensitivity to antimicrobials. The interdisciplinary approach of our StressRegNet consortium enables this unique chemical genomics approach, as each of the three project partners contribute crucial complementary expertise and essential technology. The strong interactions between wet-lab scientists and mathematicians will advance infection biology research through digitalization.

Aims of the research project

The goal of our project is to identify stressors and bacterial regulatory pathways that control host adaptation and antibiotic sensitivity. By using a high-throughput chemical genomics approach, we will explore chemical stimuli from the host environment that induce stress response pathways in Salmonella and Campylobacter, and elucidate the underlying molecular crosstalk between sensory pathways of these microbes. We aim to generate predictive knowledge of bacterial responses to antibiotics, and of virulence determinants, thereby offering a significant contribution to the development of novel antimicrobial strategies. For example, we aim to identify stressors that affect expression of bacterial efflux pumps. Efflux pumps are activated by several stress pathways, and their activation/repression has direct consequences for virulence and antibiotic resistance. Interfering with their regulation could improve efficacy of antibiotics treatment.

Expected benefits for society

While antibiotics have been powerful tools to treat infectious diseases, their efficiency is seriously threatened by rising antibiotic resistances. A growing list of bacterial pathogens has acquired or developed new resistances, sometimes even multiple or against last resort antibiotics, making them harder, and sometimes impossible, to treat. This includes the intestinal pathogens Salmonella and Campylobacter, both of which were recently classified by the WHO with high priority for research and development of new antibiotics.

Based on a unique chemical-genomics approach, we will profile the molecular adaptation of these pathogens to host-derived and antibiotic stimuli. The systematic assessment of how environmental cues impact antibiotic activity and virulence pathways will be a groundbreaking step towards exploring the potential of host-related metabolites as antibiotic adjuvants to fight infections. Moreover, we believe that the unique combination of methods and expertise employed and developed with this project can be extended to other pathogens, enabling a strategic approach to address the rising threat of antibiotic resistance to global health.

Team

Cooperations

CoreUnit Systems Medicine (CU SysMed), Würzburg.

Helmholtz Institute for RNA-based Infection Research (HIRI), Würzburg.

Vertis Biotechnology AG, Freising.

Prof. Dr. Cynthia M. Sharma
Project Management

Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg
Institut für Molekulare Infektionsbiologie

Dr. Ana Rita Brochado
Project Management

Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg
Biozentrum / Zentrum für Infektionsforschung

Prof. Dr. Christian L. Müller
Project Management

Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München
Fakultät für Mathematik, Informatik und Statistik

Publications
  • Antibiotikaresistenzen: Mit Grundlagenforschung und Datenvernetzung gegen die globale Herausforderung
    Kaltenhauser U, Hauser A
    Biotechnologie in Bayern 2022; München, bioM
  • Identification of Antimotilins, Novel Inhibitors of Helicobacter pylori Flagellar Motility That Inhibit Stomach Colonization in a Mouse Model
    Suerbaum S, Coombs N, Patel L, Pscheniza D, Rox K, Falk C, Gruber AD, Kershaw O, Chhatwal P, Brönstrup M, Bilitewski U, Josenhans C
    mbio 2022; 13(2): e0375521
  • Efficacy of Vancomycin and Meropenem in Central Nervous System Infections in Children and Adults: Current Update
    Schneider F, Gessner A, El-Najjar N
    Antibiotics (Basel) 2022; 11(2): 173
  • On microbial syringes: Advances in our understanding of type III secretion systems in bacterial pathogenesis
    Hornef MW, Jantsch J
    Phys Life Rev 2021; 39: 96-98
  • High Na(+) Environments Impair Phagocyte Oxidase-Dependent Antibacterial Activity of Neutrophils
    Krampert L, Bauer K, Ebner S, Neubert P, Ossner T, Weigert A, Schatz V, Toelge M, Schroder A, Herrmann M, Schnare M, Dorhoi A, Jantsch J
    Front Immunol 2021; 12: 712948
  • Sfaira accelerates data and model reuse in single cell genomics
    Fischer DS, Dony L, König M, Moeed A, Zappia L, Heumos L, Tritschler S, Holmberg O, Aliee H, Theis FJ
    Genome Biol 2021; 22(1): 248
  • Salt Transiently Inhibits Mitochondrial Energetics in Mononuclear Phagocytes
    Geisberger S, Bartolomaeus H, Neubert P, Willebrand R, Zasada C, Bartolomaeus T, McParland V, Swinnen D, Geuzens A, Maifeld A, Krampert L, Vogl M, Mähler A, Wilck N, Marko L, Tilic E, Forslund SK, Binger KJ, Stegbauer J, Dechend R, Kleinewietfeld M, Jantsch J, Kempa S, Müller DN
    Circulation 2021; 144: 144-158
  • Small RNA mediated gradual control of lipopolysaccharide biosynthesis affects antibiotic resistance in Helicobacter pylori
    Pernitzsch SR, Alzheimer M, Bremer BU, Robbe-Saule M, de Reuse H, Sharma CM
    Nature Communications 2021; 12(1): 4433
  • Sodium and its manifold impact on our immune system
    Jobin K, Müller DN, Jantsch J, Kurts C
    Trends Immunol 2021; 42(6): 469-479
  • Inflammasomes in dendritic cells: Friend or foe?
    Hatscher L, Amon L, Heger L, Dudziak D
    Immunol Lett 2021; 234: 16-32
  • Global RNA profiles show target selectivity and physiological effects of peptide-delivered antisense antibiotics
    Popella L, Jung J, Popova K, Durica-Mitić S, Barquist L, Vogel J
    Nucleic Acids Res 2021; 49(8): 4705-4724
  • Select hyperactivating NLRP3 ligands enhance the TH1- and TH17-inducing potential of human type 2 conventional dendritic cells
    Hatscher L, Lehmann CHK, Purbojo A, Onderka C, Liang C, Hartmann A, Cesnjevar R, Bruns H, Gross O, Nimmerjahn F, Ivanović-Burmazović I, Kunz M, Heger L, Dudziak D
    Science Signaling 2021; 14(680): eabe1757
  • Evolved to vary: genome and epigenome variation in the human pathogen Helicobacter pylori
    Ailloud F, Estibariz I und Suerbaum S
    FEMS Microbiol Rev 2021; 45(1): fuaa042
  • A Repeat-Associated Small RNA Controls the Major Virulence Factors of Helicobacter pylori.
    Eisenbart SK, Alzheimer M, Pernitzsch SR, Dietrich S, Stahl S, Sharma CM
    Molecular Cell 2020; 80(2): 210-226.e7
  • Human Fcγ-receptor IIb modulates pathogen-specific versus self-reactive antibody responses in lyme arthritis
    Danzer H, Glaesner J, Baerenwaldt A, Reitinger C, Lux A, Heger L, Dudziak D, Harrer T, Gessner A, Nimmerjahn F
    Elife 2020; 9: e55319
  • Harnessing the Complete Repertoire of Conventional Dendritic Cell Functions for Cancer Immunotherapy
    Amon L, Hatscher L, Heger L, Dudziak D, Lehmann CHK
    Pharmaceutics 2020; 12(7): 663
  • Proton Motive Force Disruptors Block Bacterial Competence and Horizontal Gene Transfer.
    Domenech A, Brochado AR, Sender V, Hentrich K, Henriques-Normark B, Typas A and Veening JW
    Cell Host Microbe 2020; 27(4): 544-555.e3
  • A Novel Rapid Sample Preparation Method for MALDI-TOF MS Permits Borrelia burgdorferi Sensu Lato Species and Isolate Differentiation
    Neumann-Cip AC, Fingerle V, Margos G, Straubinger RK, Overzier E, Ulrich S, Wieser A
    Front Microbiol 2020; 11: 690
  • An RNA biology perspective on species-specific programmable RNA antibiotics
    Vogel, Jörg
    Mol Microbiol 2020; 113(3): 550-559
  • A three-dimensional intestinal tissue model reveals factors and small regulatory RNAs important for colonization with Campylobacter jejuni.
    Alzheimer M, Svensson SL, König F, Schweinlin M, Metzger M, Walles H, Sharma CM
    PLoS Pathogens 2020; 16(2): e1008304
  • Precursors for Nonlymphoid-Tissue Treg Cells Reside in Secondary Lymphoid Organs and Are Programmed by the Transcription Factor BATF.
    Delacher M, Imbusch CD, Hotz-Wagenblatt A, Mallm JP, Bauer K, Simon M, Riegel D, Rendeiro AF, Bittner S, Sanderink L, Pant A, Schmidleithner L, Braband KL, Echtenachter B, Fischer A, Giunchiglia V, Hoffmann P, Edinger M, Bock C, Rehli M, Brors B, Schmidl C, Feuerer M
    Immunity 2020; 52(2): 295-312.e11
  • A decade of advances in transposon-insertion sequencing
    Cain AK, Barquist L, Goodman AL, Paulsen IT, Parkhill J
    Nat Rev Genet 2020; 9: 526-540
  • HIF1A and NFAT5 coordinate Na+-boosted antibacterial defense via enhanced autophagy and autolysosomal targeting
    Neubert P, Weichselbaum A, Reitinger C, Schatz V, Schröder A, Ferdinand JR, Simon M, Bär AL, Brochhausen C, Gerlach RG, Tomiuk S, Hammer K, Wagner S, van Zandbergen G, Binger KJ, Müller DN, Kitada K, Clatworthy MR, Kurts C, Titze J, Abdullah Z, Jantsch J
    Autophagy 2019; 15(11): 1899-1916
  • Deep learning: new computational modelling techniques for genomics
    Eraslan G, Avsec Ž, Gagneur J, Theis FJ
    Nat Rev Genet 2019; 20(7): 389-403
  • Community assessment to advance computational prediction of cancer drug combinations in a pharmacogenomic screen
    Menden MP, Wang D, Mason MJ, Szalai B, Bulusu KC, Guan Y, Yu T, Kang J, Jeon M, Wolfinger R, Nguyen T, Zaslavskiy M, AstraZeneca-Sanger Drug Combination DREAM Consortium, Jang IS, Ghazoui Z, Ahsen ME, Vogel R, Neto EC, Norman T, Tang EKY, Garnett MJ, Veroli GYD, Fawell S, Stolovitzky G, Guinney J, Dry JR, Saez-Rodriguez J
    Nat Commun 2019; 10(1): 2674
  • Microbial networks in SPRING – Semi-parametric rank-based correlation and partial correlation estimation for quantitative microbiome data
    Yoon G, Gaynanova I, Müller CL
    Frontiers in Genetics 2019; 10: 516
  • Within-host evolution of Helicobacter pylori shaped by niche-specific adaptation, intragastric migrations and selective sweeps
    Ailloud F, Didelot X, Woltemate S, Pfaffinger G, Overmann, J, Bader RC, Schulz C, Malfertheiner P, Suerbaum S
    Nat Commun 2019; 10(1): 2273
  • Rbpj expression in regulatory T cells is critical for restraining TH2 responses
    Delacher M, Schmidl C, Herzig Y, Breloer M, Hartmann W, Brunk F, Kägebein D, Träger U, Hofer AC, Bittner S, Weichenhan D, Imbusch CD, Hotz-Wagenblatt A, Hielscher T, Breiling A, Federico G, Gröne, HJ, Schmid RM, Rehli M, Abramson J, Feuerer M
    Nat Commun 2019; 10(1): 1621
  • Limitation of TCA Cycle Intermediates Represents an Oxygen-Independent Nutritional Antibacterial Effector Mechanism of Macrophages
    Hayek I, Fischer F, Schulze-Luehrmann J, Dettmer K, Sobotta K, Schatz V, Kohl L, Boden K, Lang R, Oefner PJ, Wirtz S, Jantsch J, Lührmann A
    Cell Rep 2019; 26(13): 3502-3510.e6
Associated Institutes

Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg
Medizinische Fakultät
Institut für Molekulare Infektionsbiologie

Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg
Biozentrum / Zentrum für Infektionsforschung

Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München
Fakultät für Mathematik, Informatik und Statistik