Codon-Dependent Transcriptional Changes in Response to Tryptophan Limitation in the Tryptophan Auxotrophic Pathogens Chlamydia trachomatis and Streptococcus pyogenes

Scot P. Ouellette, Nathan D. Hatch, Nicholas A. Wood, Andrea L. Herrera, Michael S. Chaussee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Chlamydia trachomatis and Streptococcus pyogenes are among the most prevalent bacterial pathogens of humans. Interestingly, both pathogens are tryptophan (Trp) auxotrophs and must acquire this essential amino acid from their environment. For Chlamydia, an obligate intracellular bacterium, this means scavenging Trp from the host cell in which they reside. For Streptococcus, a primarily extracellular bacterium, this means scavenging Trp from the local environment. In the course of a natural immune response, both pathogens can be exposed to Trp-limiting conditions through the action of the interferon gamma-inducible IDO1 enzyme, which catabolizes Trp to N-formylkynurenine. How these pathogens respond to Trp starvation is incompletely understood. However, we have previously demonstrated that genes enriched in Trp codons were preferentially transcribed in C. pneumoniae during Trp limitation. Chlamydia, but not Streptococcus, lacks a stringent response, which is a global regulon activated by uncharged tRNAs binding in the A site of the ribosome. We hypothesized that the chlamydial response to Trp limitation is a consequence of lacking a stringent response. To test this, we compared global transcription profiles of C. trachomatis to both wild-type and stringent response mutant strains of Streptococcus during Trp starvation. We observed that both Trp auxotrophs respond with codon-dependent changes in their transcriptional profiles that correlate with Trp codon content but not transcript stability. Importantly, the stringent response had no impact on these transcriptional changes, suggesting an evolutionarily conserved adaptation to Trp starvation. Therefore, we have revealed a novel response of Trp auxotrophic pathogens in response to Trp starvation. IMPORTANCE Chlamydia trachomatis and Streptococcus pyogenes are important pathogens of humans. Interestingly, both are auxotrophic for tryptophan and acquire this essential amino acid from the host environment. However, part of the host defense against pathogens includes the degradation of tryptophan pools. Therefore, Chlamydia and Streptococcus are particularly susceptible to tryptophan starvation. Most model bacteria respond to amino acid starvation by using a global regulon called the stringent response. However, Chlamydia lacks a stringent response. Here, we investigated the chlamydial response to tryptophan starvation and compared it to both wild-type and stringent response mutant strains of S. pyogenes to determine what role a functional stringent response plays during tryptophan starvation in these pathogens. We determined that both of these pathogens respond to tryptophan starvation by increasing transcription of tryptophan codon-rich genes. This effect was not dependent on the stringent response and highlights a previously unrecognized and potentially evolutionarily conserved mechanism for surviving tryptophan starvation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere01269-21
JournalmSystems
Volume6
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2021

Keywords

  • Chlamydia
  • Interferon gamma
  • Persistence
  • RelA
  • Streptococcus
  • Stringent response
  • Tryptophan

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Biochemistry
  • Physiology
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Computer Science Applications

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