Key microbial processes in many bacterial species are heterogeneously expressed in single cells of bacterial populations. However, the paucity of adequate molecular tools for live, real-time monitoring of multiple gene expression at the single cell level has limited the understanding of phenotypic heterogeneity.In order to investigate phenotypic heterogeneity in the ubiquitous opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a genetic tool that allows gauging multiple gene expression at the single cell level has been generated. This tool, named pRGC, consists in a promoter-probe vector for transcriptional fusions that carries three reporter genes coding for the fluorescent proteins mCherry, green fluorescent protein (GFP) and cyan fluorescent protein (CFP). The pRGC vector has been characterized and validated via single cell gene expression analysis of both constitutive and iron-regulated promoters, showing clear discrimination of the three fluorescence signals in single cells of a P. aeruginosa population, without the need of image-processing for spectral crosstalk correction. In addition, two pRGC variants have been generated for either i) integration of the reporter gene cassette into a single neutral site of P. aeruginosa chromosome, that is suitable for long-term experiments in the absence of antibiotic selection, or ii) replication in bacterial genera other than PseudomonasThe easy-to-use genetic tools generated in this study will allow rapid and cost-effective investigation of multiple gene expression in populations of environmental and pathogenic bacteria, hopefully advancing the understanding of microbial phenotypic heterogeneity.IMPORTANCEWithin a bacterial population single cells can differently express some genes, even though they are genetically identical and experience the same chemical and physical stimuli. This phenomenon, known as phenotypic heterogeneity, is mainly driven by gene expression noise and results in the emergence of bacterial sub-populations with distinct phenotypes. The analysis of gene expression at the single cell level has shown that phenotypic heterogeneity is associated with key bacterial processes, including competence, sporulation and persistence. In this study, new genetic tools have been generated that allow easy cloning of up to three promoters upstream of distinct fluorescent genes, making it possible to gauge multiple gene expression at the single cell level by fluorescent microscopy, without the need of advanced image-processing procedures. A proof of concept has been provided by investigating iron-uptake and iron-storage gene expression in response to iron availability in P. aeruginosa.

Mellini, M., Lucidi, M., Imperi, F., Visca, P., Leoni, L., Rampioni, G. (2021). Generation of genetic tools for gauging multiple gene expression at single cell level. APPLIED AND ENVIRONMENTAL MICROBIOLOGY [10.1128/AEM.02956-20].

Generation of genetic tools for gauging multiple gene expression at single cell level

Mellini, Marta;Lucidi, Massimiliano;Imperi, Francesco;Visca, Paolo;Leoni, Livia;Rampioni, Giordano
2021-01-01

Abstract

Key microbial processes in many bacterial species are heterogeneously expressed in single cells of bacterial populations. However, the paucity of adequate molecular tools for live, real-time monitoring of multiple gene expression at the single cell level has limited the understanding of phenotypic heterogeneity.In order to investigate phenotypic heterogeneity in the ubiquitous opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a genetic tool that allows gauging multiple gene expression at the single cell level has been generated. This tool, named pRGC, consists in a promoter-probe vector for transcriptional fusions that carries three reporter genes coding for the fluorescent proteins mCherry, green fluorescent protein (GFP) and cyan fluorescent protein (CFP). The pRGC vector has been characterized and validated via single cell gene expression analysis of both constitutive and iron-regulated promoters, showing clear discrimination of the three fluorescence signals in single cells of a P. aeruginosa population, without the need of image-processing for spectral crosstalk correction. In addition, two pRGC variants have been generated for either i) integration of the reporter gene cassette into a single neutral site of P. aeruginosa chromosome, that is suitable for long-term experiments in the absence of antibiotic selection, or ii) replication in bacterial genera other than PseudomonasThe easy-to-use genetic tools generated in this study will allow rapid and cost-effective investigation of multiple gene expression in populations of environmental and pathogenic bacteria, hopefully advancing the understanding of microbial phenotypic heterogeneity.IMPORTANCEWithin a bacterial population single cells can differently express some genes, even though they are genetically identical and experience the same chemical and physical stimuli. This phenomenon, known as phenotypic heterogeneity, is mainly driven by gene expression noise and results in the emergence of bacterial sub-populations with distinct phenotypes. The analysis of gene expression at the single cell level has shown that phenotypic heterogeneity is associated with key bacterial processes, including competence, sporulation and persistence. In this study, new genetic tools have been generated that allow easy cloning of up to three promoters upstream of distinct fluorescent genes, making it possible to gauge multiple gene expression at the single cell level by fluorescent microscopy, without the need of advanced image-processing procedures. A proof of concept has been provided by investigating iron-uptake and iron-storage gene expression in response to iron availability in P. aeruginosa.
Mellini, M., Lucidi, M., Imperi, F., Visca, P., Leoni, L., Rampioni, G. (2021). Generation of genetic tools for gauging multiple gene expression at single cell level. APPLIED AND ENVIRONMENTAL MICROBIOLOGY [10.1128/AEM.02956-20].
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11590/380296
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