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Studies of the stringent response of Bacillus subtilis and search for small molecules capable of modulating RelA activity

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André Arashiro Pulschen
Total Authors: 1
Document type: Doctoral Thesis
Press: São Paulo.
Institution: Universidade de São Paulo (USP). Conjunto das Químicas (IQ e FCF) (CQ/DBDCQ)
Defense date:
Examining board members:
Frederico José Gueiros Filho; Regina Lúcia Baldini; Rodrigo da Silva Galhardo; Deborah Schechtman; Beny Spira
Advisor: Frederico José Gueiros Filho

In the environment, inside a host or other habitat, bacteria will always face adverse conditions, as for example exposure to antimicrobials or starvation. In situations like those, bacteria activate the stringent response, modulated by the alarmone (p)ppGpp. (p)ppGpp accumulation promotes inhibition of rRNA and tRNA transcription and suppression of translational process, at the same time that it activates several amino acid biosynthesis operons. It is known also that the stringent response it is related to other starvation stress in Escherichia coli, like lack of fatty acids, but there is no knowledge if the same occurs for Bacillus subtilis or other gram-positive bacteria. ppGpp acts directly and indirectly affecting several other cellular process, as motility, resistance to antibiotics, virulence and persistence, indicating that (p)ppGpp is a central regulator that integrates metabolic information and adaptive responses. This work aimed to study the correlation between the stringent response in B. subtilis with fatty acid starvation, and search for small moleculas capable of modulating RelA (the main enzyme responsible for ppGpp synthesis) and stop (p)ppGpp production. For fatty acid starvation induction, two strategies were used; use of the drug Cerulenin (inhibitor of the FabF protein) and conditional mutants of the FabF gene. We observed that mutants incapable of activating the stringent response (strains ppGpp(0) ou RelAD264G) presented great loss of viability during fatty acid starvation, whereas the wild-type strain keeps its viability. The main cause of death is due membrane rupture in some cells, but mainly due to membrane potential collapse. Although we did not observed increase of (p)ppGpp in wild-type strains during fatty acid starvation, we observed reduction in GTP/ATP ratios, a hallmark of (p)ppGpp production in gram-positive bacteria. In the strain ppGpp(0) GTP/ATP ratio increased, mainly due to GTP increase. Using the drug decoyinine, capable of reducing GTP levels, partially recued viability and protects cells of losing its membrane potential, indicating that GTP levels plays an important role during fatty acid starvation in B. subtilis. For the screening of small molecules capable of inhibit (p)ppGpp production, a library of 2320 different chemical compounds were used, and we looked for drugs capable of reverting the slow growth phenotype of B. subtilis strains with (p)ppGpp accumulation (using a mutant RelAH77A; and using a stringent response inductor, arginine hidroxamate). The first step selected for 40 molecules capable of rescuing the growth of cells treated with arginine hidroxamate, but only one drug, salicilanilyde could also rescue the growth of the strain RelAH77A. Although capable of rescuing growth of B. subtilis that accumulates (p)ppGpp, this rescue is limited. Several analogues of salicilanilyde were tested, but none were stronger than salicilanilyde itself in rescuing growth of slow growing strains of B. subtilis. In addition, the drug was not capable of increasing antibiotic sensibility and it is incapable of changing intracellular (p)ppGpp levels, but it does shifts ATP levels. Therefore, we believe that the observed effects of salicilanilyde is due indirect action, probably involving other phosphorylated nucleotides, rather than modifying (p)ppGpp levels (AU)

FAPESP's process: 14/26528-4 - Studies with B.subtilis stringent response and search for small molecules capable of modulating RelA protein
Grantee:André Arashiro Pulschen
Support Opportunities: Scholarships in Brazil - Doctorate (Direct)