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  • Tsitko, Irina (Helsingin yliopisto, 2007)
    Species of the genera Rhodococcus, Gordonia and Mycobacterium are known as degraders of recalcitrant pollutants. These bacteria are good survivors in harsh environments. Due to such properties these organisms are able to occupy a wide range of environmental niches. The members of these taxa have been suggested as tools for biotechnical applications such as bioremediation and biosynthesis. At the same time several of the species are known as opportunistic human pathogens. Therefore, the detailed characterization of any isolate that has potential for biotechnological applications is very important. This thesis deals with several corynebacterial strains originating from different polluted environments: soil, water-damaged indoor walls, and drinking water distribution systems. A polyphasic taxonomic approach was applied for characterization of the isolates. We found that the strains degrading monoaromatic compounds belonged to Rhodococcus opacus, a species that has not been associated with any health problem. The taxonomic position of strain B293, used for many years in degradation research under different names, was clarified. We assigned it to the species Gordonia polyisoprenivorans. This species is classified under European Biohazard grouping 1, meaning that it is not considered a health hazard for humans. However, there are reports of catheter-associated bacteraemia caused by G. polyisoprenivorans. Our results suggested that the ability of the organism to grow on phthalate esters, used as softeners in medical plastics, may be associated with the colonization of catheters and other devices. In this thesis Mycobacterium lentiflavum, a new emerging opportunistic human pathogen, was isolated from biofilms growing in public drinking water distribution systems. Our report on isolation of M. lentiflavum from water supplies is the second report on this species from drinking water systems, which may thus constitute a reservoir of M. lentiflavum. Automated riboprinting was evaluated for its applicability in rapidly identifying environmental mycobacteria. The technique was found useful in the characterization of several species of rapidly and slowly growing environmental mycobacteria. The second aspect of this thesis refers to characterization of the degradation and tolerance power of several R. opacus, M. murale and G. polyisoprenivorans strains. R. opacus GM-14 utilizes a wide range of aromatic substrates, including benzene, 15 different halobenzenes, 18 phenols and 7 benzoates. This study revealed the high tolerance of R. opacus strains toward toxic hydrophobic compounds. R. opacus GM-14 grew in mineral medium to which benzene or monochlorobenzene was added in amounts of 13 or 3 g l-1, respectively. R. opacus GM-29 utilized toluene and benzene for growth. Strain GM-29 grew in mineral medium with 7 g l-1 of liquid toluene or benzene as the sole carbon source, corresponding to aqueous concentrations of 470 and 650 mg l-1, respectively. Most organic solvents, such as toluene and benzene, due to their high level of hydrophobicity, pass through the bacterial membrane, causing its disintegration. In this thesis the mechanisms of adaptation of rhodococci to toxic hydrophobic compounds were investigated. The rhodococcal strains increased the level of saturation of their cellular fatty acids in response to challenge with phenol, chlorophenol, benzene, chlorobenzene or toluene. The results indicated that increase in the saturation level of cellular fatty acids, particularly that in tuberculostearic acid, is part of the adaptation mechanism of strains GM-14 and GM-29 to the presence of toxic hydrophobic compounds.
  • Gonzalez, Manuel (2012)
    Campylobacter Spp are recognized as a major cause of bacterial food-borne gastroenteritis worldwide, with Campylobacter jejuni and Campylobacter coli being the most common species isolated in human infections (WHO, 2011). The number of registered cases of human campylobacteriosis in Finland has ranged from 3,796 cases in 2001 to 4,231 cases in 2011. The reported incidence in Finland in the last 10 years is higher than the European Union average. In order to compare human, chicken and cattle C. jejuni isolates, the presence or absence of four nonubiquitous genes were determined so that they could be associated with the source of the isolate. First, we tested the presence of dmsA, which encodes a subunit of the putative tripartite anaerobic dimethyl sulfoxide oxidoreductase (DMSO/trimethylamine N-oxide reductase). Second, we detected cj1585c, which encodes another oxidoreductase. Third, the serine protease gene cjj81176-1367/1371 was isolated. Fourth, γ-glutamyl-transpeptidase gene ggt was detected. We ascertained that ggt and dmsA are present more frequently in isolates obtained from humans and chickens, whereas cjj81176-1367/1371 and cj1585c are the most common in bovine isolates. Campylobacter jejuni is able to survive in different environments and in a wide range of temperatures. The study of C. jejuni inactivation in minced chicken meat and dug well water ascertain that the Weibull model could be applied optimally to the data to build a reliable prediction model for the survival of this microorganism as a function of temperature. The longest survival time found for C. jejuni in minced meat chicken was at the storage temperature of -20°C, and that of dug well water was at 4°C. We analyzed the effect of different seasoning as dry marinade combinations on accelerating the reduction of C. jejuni counts on chicken drumsticks and observed a decrease of more than 1 log CFU/g. In addition, our results showed that using some fractions of potato protein in combination with food additives and sodium lactate obtained inactivation levels in excess than 1.66 log CFU/g. The most important C. jejuni counts reductions were always obtained within the first hours after the application of the seasoning combinations onto the chicken meat.
  • Beklen Tanzer, Arzu (Helsingin yliopisto, 2010)
    Periodontal Disease affects the supporting structures of the teeth and is initiated by a microbial biofilm called dental plaque. Severity ranges from superficial inflammation of the gingiva (gingivitis) to extensive destruction of connective tissue and bone leading to tooth loss (periodontitis). In periodontitis the destruction of tissue is caused by a cascade of microbial and host factors together with proteolytic enzymes. Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) are known to be central mediators of the pathologic destruction in periodontitis. Initially plaque bacteria provide pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs) which are sensed by Toll-like receptors (TLRs), and initiate intracellular signaling cascades leading to host inflammation. Our aim was to characterize TNF-α (tumor necrosis factor-alpha) and its type I and II receptors in periodontal tissues, as well as, the effects of TNF-α, IL-1β (interleukin-1beta) and IL-17 on the production and/or activation of MMP-3, MMP-8 and MMP-9. Furthermore we mapped the TLRs in periodontal tissues and assessed how some of the PAMPs binding to the key TLRs found in periodontal tissues affect production of TNF-α and IL-1β by gingival epithelial cells with or without combination of IL-17. TNF-α and its receptors were detected in pericoronitis. Furthermore, increased expression of interleukin-1β and vascular cell adhesion molecule-1 was found as a biological indicator of TNF-α ligand-receptor interaction. MMP-3, -8, and 9 were investigated in periodontitis affected human gingival crevicular fluid and gingival fibroblasts produced pro-MMP-3. Following that, the effect of IL-17 was studied on MMP and pro-inflammatory cytokine production. IL-17 was increased in periodontitis and up-regulated IL-1β, TNF-α, MMP-1 and MMP-3. We continued by demonstrating TLRs in gingival tissues, in which significant differences between patients with periodontitis and healthy controls were found. Finally, enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays were performed to show that the gingival cells response to inflammatory responses in a TLR-dependent manner. Briefly, this thesis demonstrates that TLRs are present in periodontal tissues and present differences in periodontitis compared to healthy controls. The cells of gingival tissues respond to inflammatory process in a TLR-dependent manner by producing pro-inflammatory cytokines. During the destruction of periodontal tissues, the release (IL-1β and TNF-α) and co-operation with other pro-inflammatory cytokines (IL-17), which in turn increase the inflammation and thus be more harmful to the host with the increased presence of MMPs (MMP-1, MMP-3, MMP-8, MMP-9) in diseased over healthy sites.
  • Savolainen, Laura (Helsingin yliopisto, 2014)
    Tuberculosis (TB) still ranks among the most lethal infectious diseases in the world. The traditional distinction between active tuberculosis and latent tuberculosis infection (LTBI) is changing; at the moment, tuberculosis infection is described as a continuum with different stages of infection. The development of TB prevention, treatment and diagnostics is hampered by the diverse pathogenesis of the disease and the ability of the bacteria to fight host defence mechanisms. Traditional culture methods are slow and staining methods not sufficiently sensitive. Nucleic acid amplification techniques (NAAT) tend to be costly and in some cases lack sensitivity. New methods are needed for rapid and inexpensive detection of active disease and to distinguish between stages of infection in cases where the patient presents with symptoms compatible with active TB and with a positive Interferon Gamma Release Assay (IGRA) result, but bacteriological confirmation is not yet available. In addition, methods are needed that enable us to predict the activation of infection or monitor the effects of treatment. The aim of this thesis was to investigate: a) the possible diagnostic use of heparin-binding haemagglutinin (HBHA), a surface protein of M. tuberculosis, in distinguishing between stages of infection in a vaccinated population; b) the effect of sample concentration on the properties of Clearview® TB ELISA, a urine antigen test measuring lipoarabinomannan (LAM), a M. tuberculosis glycolipid, in the diagnosis of active TB; c) the suitability of granzyme B (GrB), perforin (Prf), and interferon-gamma (IFN-γ)-producing and CD107a-degranulation factor-expressing cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) for differentiating between stages of infection; d) the suitability of IFN-γ, interleukin (IL) -17, IL-4, IL-4δ2 and Forkhead box P3 (FoxP3) mRNA expression levels for differentiation between stages of infection. The results showed that HBHA-specific cells producing IFN-γ were also found in the circulation of healthy subjects who had been given the Bacillus Calmette-Guérin vaccine. In view of this, use of the HBHA antigen for diagnostic purposes does not look promising in countries where a widespread vaccination programme has taken place. No differences were found in the numbers or phenotypic properties of CTLs between persons with active TB and those with LTBI, which is why they are not suited for the differential diagnosis of infection stages. Functional antigen-specific CTLs were found in the circulation of persons who had been treated for TB. This most significant finding of this thesis demonstrates that the T cell memory generated by active TB maintains functionally active CTL populations decades after infection and despite adequate treatment with rifampicin. Although no statistically significant differences were found between patients with active TB and LTBI in the quantitative detection of IFN-γ, IL-17, or IL-4 mRNA from cells stimulated with purified protein derivative (PPD), this approach revealed a trend towards discrimination. The usefulness of combined quantitative IFN-γ, IL-17, and IL-4 mRNA expression for the differential diagnosis of active TB and LTBI should be retested with a larger sample size enrolling more homogenous patients in the LTBI group. The findings indicating that LAM may be detected with moderate sensitivity (57%) in the urine samples of TB patients show the greatest promise from a diagnostic point of view. The 100-fold concentration of urine used in this study improved the sensitivity of the Clearview® TB ELISA test from 7% to 57%, although specificity was decreased somewhat from 98% to 89%. Based on the results, demonstrating the presence of LAM in urine samples may be considered a potential diagnostic tool for detecting active TB. The method does require further development, however.
  • Palgi, Mari (Helsingin yliopisto, 2012)
    Among neurotrophic factors MANF/CDNF family is unique as their protein sequences are evolutionarily conserved between multicellular organisms. Still, little is known about their mechanism of action and interacting molecules. At the time of initiation of this study there were no known neurotrophic factors in invertebrates. According to the protein sequence homology there was an uncharacterized homologue to the novel neurotrophic factor MANF in Drosophila melanogaster. We found that Drosophila Manf (DmManf) is an essential gene in a fruit fly development. DmManf represents a true orthologue to mammalian MANF as its mutant lethality is rescued by human MANF. We have generated DmManf deletion mutant surviving to second instar larval stage with maternal contribution. When the maternal contribution of DmManf is abolished, the mutants die at the end of embryogenesis before hatching. In DmManf mutant the dopaminergic neurites degenerate and the dopamine level is extremely low. Ultrastructural analysis reveals nonapoptotic cell death in the embryonic ventral nerve cord and neuropile decomposition together with cell body glia activation taking place. In secretory cells like gastric caeca or fat body the visible loss of rough endoplasmic reticulum and drastic accumulation of vesicles, some filled with cellular debris, occur. According to microarray expression analysis data, expression of genes involved in vesicular transport and metabolism were altered in DmManf mutants. The expression of several genes implicated in pathology of Parkinson s disease (PD) was also altered. The degeneration of dopaminergic neurons is the hallmark for PD and this thesis work makes an effort to enlighten the mechanisms how the neurotrophic factor MANF protects these degenerating neurons.
  • Kärenlampi, Rauni (Helsingin yliopisto, 2007)
    Campylobacter jejuni and C. coli are the most frequent causes of bacterial gastroenteritis in Finland. Most Campylobacter infections are sporadic and the sources of infection remain unidentified. Risk factors for Campylobacter infections include eating undercooked meat, especially chicken, drinking unpasteurized milk or contaminated water, having contact with pets and foreign travel. The asaccharolytic nature and inertness in traditional biochemical tests makes the identification of Campylobacter spp. difficult. We studied the phylogeny of 12 Campylobacter spp. based on partial 593-bp groEL gene sequences. In general, lower interspecies sequence similarities were observed for groEL (range from 65% to 94%) than for the 16S rRNA gene (range from 90% to 99%). However, the intraspecies groEL sequence similarities were high (range from 95% to 100%) making groEL gene sequencing and the PCR-RFLP method developed in our study valuable for the identification of Campylobacter species. The minimum growth temperature of around 30°C makes multiplication of Campylobacter in foods highly unlikely. However, the survival in cool and humid conditions, such as chicken meat stored refrigerated, has been shown to be good. The survival of C. jejuni was investigated on iceberg lettuce, cantaloupe, cucumber, carrot and strawberries. Survival on strawberries was significantly lower than on the other produce, as was survival at 21°C compared to 7°C. Survival on the other produce was comparable with earlier reports in water and milk, but not as good as that observed on chicken meat. The association of Penner HS serotypes and pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) SmaI/KpnI genotypes of 208 human and 30 chicken caecal C. jejuni isolates was studied during the seasonal peak in 1999 in Finland. Of the strains from humans, 46% had overlapping sero/genotypes with those from chicken. During the seasonal peak in 2003, C. jejuni and C. coli isolates from human fecal samples showed 5.7% and 61% PFGE (KpnI) profile overlap with cattle fecal and poultry retail meat isolates, respectively, demonstrating the importance of genotypes circulating in chicken as compared to those isolated from cattle in human infections. However, in 1999, human cases were also isolated prior to the slaughter of the chicken flock colonized by the same Campylobacter sero/genotype, suggesting that common environmental sources may exist for both human infections and chicken flock contamination. Multilocus sequence typing analysis of 361 Finnish C. jejuni and C. coli isolates from human patients, cattle, chicken and turkey samples, provided new information on the potential association of some clonal groups of this diverse organism with source of isolation as well as demographic characteristics.
  • Sorsa, Johanna (Helsingin yliopisto, 2007)
    Extraintestinal pathogenic Escherichia coli (ExPEC) represent a diverse group of strains of E. coli, which infect extraintestinal sites, such as the urinary tract, the bloodstream, the meninges, the peritoneal cavity, and the lungs. Urinary tract infections (UTIs) caused by uropathogenic E. coli (UPEC), the major subgroup of ExPEC, are among the most prevalent microbial diseases world wide and a substantial burden for public health care systems. UTIs are responsible for serious morbidity and mortality in the elderly, in young children, and in immune-compromised and hospitalized patients. ExPEC strains are different, both from genetic and clinical perspectives, from commensal E. coli strains belonging to the normal intestinal flora and from intestinal pathogenic E. coli strains causing diarrhea. ExPEC strains are characterized by a broad range of alternate virulence factors, such as adhesins, toxins, and iron accumulation systems. Unlike diarrheagenic E. coli, whose distinctive virulence determinants evoke characteristic diarrheagenic symptoms and signs, ExPEC strains are exceedingly heterogeneous and are known to possess no specific virulence factors or a set of factors, which are obligatory for the infection of a certain extraintestinal site (e. g. the urinary tract). The ExPEC genomes are highly diverse mosaic structures in permanent flux. These strains have obtained a significant amount of DNA (predictably up to 25% of the genomes) through acquisition of foreign DNA from diverse related or non-related donor species by lateral transfer of mobile genetic elements, including pathogenicity islands (PAIs), plasmids, phages, transposons, and insertion elements. The ability of ExPEC strains to cause disease is mainly derived from this horizontally acquired gene pool; the extragenous DNA facilitates rapid adaptation of the pathogen to changing conditions and hence the extent of the spectrum of sites that can be infected. However, neither the amount of unique DNA in different ExPEC strains (or UPEC strains) nor the mechanisms lying behind the observed genomic mobility are known. Due to this extreme heterogeneity of the UPEC and ExPEC populations in general, the routine surveillance of ExPEC is exceedingly difficult. In this project, we presented a novel virulence gene algorithm (VGA) for the estimation of the extraintestinal virulence potential (VP, pathogenicity risk) of clinically relevant ExPECs and fecal E. coli isolates. The VGA was based on a DNA microarray specific for the ExPEC phenotype (ExPEC pathoarray). This array contained 77 DNA probes homologous with known (e.g. adhesion factors, iron accumulation systems, and toxins) and putative (e.g. genes predictably involved in adhesion, iron uptake, or in metabolic functions) ExPEC virulence determinants. In total, 25 of DNA probes homologous with known virulence factors and 36 of DNA probes representing putative extraintestinal virulence determinants were found at significantly higher frequency in virulent ExPEC isolates than in commensal E. coli strains. We showed that the ExPEC pathoarray and the VGA could be readily used for the differentiation of highly virulent ExPECs both from less virulent ExPEC clones and from commensal E. coli strains as well. Implementing the VGA in a group of unknown ExPECs (n=53) and fecal E. coli isolates (n=37), 83% of strains were correctly identified as extraintestinal virulent or commensal E. coli. Conversely, 15% of clinical ExPECs and 19% of fecal E. coli strains failed to raster into their respective pathogenic and non-pathogenic groups. Clinical data and virulence gene profiles of these strains warranted the estimated VPs; UPEC strains with atypically low risk-ratios were largely isolated from patients with certain medical history, including diabetes mellitus or catheterization, or from elderly patients. In addition, fecal E. coli strains with VPs characteristic for ExPEC were shown to represent the diagnostically important fraction of resident strains of the gut flora with a high potential of causing extraintestinal infections. Interestingly, a large fraction of DNA probes associated with the ExPEC phenotype corresponded to novel DNA sequences without any known function in UTIs and thus represented new genetic markers for the extraintestinal virulence. These DNA probes included unknown DNA sequences originating from the genomic subtractions of four clinical ExPEC isolates as well as from five novel cosmid sequences identified in the UPEC strains HE300 and JS299. The characterized cosmid sequences (pJS332, pJS448, pJS666, pJS700, and pJS706) revealed complex modular DNA structures with known and unknown DNA fragments arranged in a puzzle-like manner and integrated into the common E. coli genomic backbone. Furthermore, cosmid pJS332 of the UPEC strain HE300, which carried a chromosomal virulence gene cluster (iroBCDEN) encoding the salmochelin siderophore system, was shown to be part of a transmissible plasmid of Salmonella enterica. Taken together, the results of this project pointed towards the assumptions that first, (i) homologous recombination, even within coding genes, contributes to the observed mosaicism of ExPEC genomes and secondly, (ii) besides en block transfer of large DNA regions (e.g. chromosomal PAIs) also rearrangements of small DNA modules provide a means of genomic plasticity. The data presented in this project supplemented previous whole genome sequencing projects of E. coli and indicated that each E. coli genome displays a unique assemblage of individual mosaic structures, which enable these strains to successfully colonize and infect different anatomical sites.
  • Kisko, Kaisa (Helsingin yliopisto, 2008)
    Hydrophobins are a group of particularly surface active proteins. The surface activity is demonstrated in the ready adsorption of hydrophobins to hydrophobic/hydrophilic interfaces such as the air/water interface. Adsorbed hydrophobins self-assemble into ordered films, lower the surface tension of water, and stabilize air bubbles and foams. Hydrophobin proteins originate from filamentous fungi. In the fungi the adsorbed hydrophobin films enable the growth of fungal aerial structures, form protective coatings and mediate the attachment of fungi to solid surfaces. This thesis focuses on hydrophobins HFBI, HFBII, and HFBIII from a rot fungus Trichoderma reesei. The self-assembled hydrophobin films were studied both at the air/water interface and on a solid substrate. In particular, using grazing-incidence x-ray diffraction and reflectivity, it was possible to characterize the hydrophobin films directly at the air/water interface. The in situ experiments yielded information on the arrangement of the protein molecules in the films. All the T. reesei hydrophobins were shown to self-assemble into highly crystalline, hexagonally ordered rafts. The thicknesses of these two-dimensional protein crystals were below 30 Å. Similar films were also obtained on silicon substrates. The adsorption of the proteins is likely to be driven by the hydrophobic effect, but the self-assembly into ordered films involves also specific protein-protein interactions. The protein-protein interactions lead to differences in the arrangement of the molecules in the HFBI, HFBII, and HFBIII protein films, as seen in the grazing-incidence x-ray diffraction data. The protein-protein interactions were further probed in solution using small-angle x-ray scattering. Both HFBI and HFBII were shown to form mainly tetramers in aqueous solution. By modifying the solution conditions and thereby the interactions, it was shown that the association was due to the hydrophobic effect. The stable tetrameric assemblies could tolerate heating and changes in pH. The stability of the structure facilitates the persistence of these secreted proteins in the soil.
  • Munsterhjelm, Edward (Helsingin yliopisto, 2006)
    Aim: To characterize the inhibition of platelet function by paracetamol in vivo and in vitro, and to evaluate the possible interaction of paracetamol and diclofenac or valdecoxib in vivo. To assess the analgesic effect of the drugs in an experimental pain model. Methods: Healthy volunteers received increasing doses of intravenous paracetamol (15, 22.5 and 30 mg/kg), or the combination of paracetamol 1 g and diclofenac 1.1 mg/kg or valdecoxib 40 mg (as the pro-drug parecoxib). Inhibition of platelet function was assessed with photometric aggregometry, the platelet function analyzer (PFA-100), and release of thromboxane B2. Analgesia was assessed with the cold pressor test. The inhibition coefficient of platelet aggregation by paracetamol was determined as well as the nature of interaction between paracetamol and diclofenac by an isobolographic analysis in vitro. Results: Paracetamol inhibited platelet aggregation and TxB2-release dose-dependently in volunteers and concentration-dependently in vitro. The inhibition coefficient was 15.2 mg/L (95% CI 11.8 - 18.6). Paracetamol augmented the platelet inhibition by diclofenac in vivo, and the isobole showed that this interaction is synergistic. Paracetamol showed no interaction with valdecoxib. PFA-100 appeared insensitive in detecting platelet dysfunction by paracetamol, and the cold-pressor test showed no analgesia. Conclusions: Paracetamol inhibits platelet function in vivo and shows synergism when combined with diclofenac. This effect may increase the risk of bleeding in surgical patients with an impaired haemostatic system. The combination of paracetamol and valdecoxib may be useful in patients with low risk for thromboembolism. The PFA-100 seems unsuitable for detection of platelet dysfunction and the cold-pressor test seems unsuitable for detection of analgesia by paracetamol.
  • Jalanka, Jonna (Helsingin yliopisto, 2014)
    The human gastrointestinal microbiota is a complex ecosystem harbouring trillions of bacteria from hundreds of species. Co-evolution has resulted in a mutually beneficial relationship in which gut bacteria make essential contributions to human health, moreover alterations in the microbiota composition and function have been associated to several disease states. In order to identify such changes in patients, it is essential to characterize the microbiota of healthy subjects. In this thesis the intestinal microbiota of healthy adults were thoroughly investigated and shown to display high subject-specificity and stability over time. Moreover, significant correlations between the microbiota and mild intestinal symptoms were identified, including the association of abdominal pain and bloating with the reduction of health-associated bifidobacteria. The intestinal microbiota of healthy subjects was benchmarked against two conditions that were hypothesized to perturb the microbial composition; bowel cleansing, a normal procedure prior colonoscopy and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a common disorder estimated to affect 10% of Finnish population. Adequate bowel cleansing by lavage has been shown to be safe for patients, but its long-term effects on the intestinal microbiota, and especially the potential alterations arising from different dosing regimes have not been addressed previously. We showed that there is a short but drastic reduction of the intestinal microbiota after lavage, however the microbiota recovers back to its original form within two weeks after the treatment. Additionally, we found that the recovery rate is dependent on the dosing of the purgative agent, suggesting that two smaller volumes of the purgative should be preferred over a single larger dose. There is growing evidence of the involvement of the intestinal microbiota in the pathophysiology of different IBS subtypes. However, the microbial component in post-infectious IBS patients has previously remained uncharacterised. In parallel to the characterization of intestinal microbiota of PI-IBS patients, the aim of this work was to address the associations between the intestinal microbiota and patient's clinical characteristics. We identified a bacterial signature of 27 taxa and the abundances of implicated bacteria correlated with clinical markers as well as expression levels of several host gene pathways, all suggesting an impaired gut epithelial barrier function in IBS. Observation of these specific associations between the host and intestinal microbiota may provide novel insights into the origin and mechanistic background of intestinal symptoms in IBS as well as enables novel stratification of the IBS patient material with a different aetiology. In summary, this thesis characterised the intestinal microbiota of healthy individuals and showed how perturbations such as IBS and bowel cleansing disrupt the composition, and detected associations between the microbiota and health parameters of the host. The results have clinical relevance by providing novel and a much needed tool for segregating the IBS patient material objectively as well as providing grounds for choosing the split-dosing regime of the purgative agent as an optimal bowel cleansing method. Furthermore, associations between the microbiota and health markers of the host were detected that will give grounds for future research on the aetiology of IBS.
  • Hänninen, Kaisa (Helsingin yliopisto, 2008)
    Increasing attention has been focused on methods that deliver pharmacologically active compounds (e.g. drugs, peptides and proteins) in a controlled fashion, so that constant, sustained, site-specific or pulsatile action can be attained. Ion-exchange resins have been widely studied in medical and pharmaceutical applications, including controlled drug delivery, leading to commercialisation of some resin based formulations. Ion-exchangers provide an efficient means to adjust and control drug delivery, as the electrostatic interactions enable precise control of the ion-exchange process and, thus, a more uniform and accurate control of drug release compared to systems that are based only on physical interactions. Unlike the resins, only few studies have been reported on ion-exchange fibers in drug delivery. However, the ion-exchange fibers have many advantageous properties compared to the conventional ion-exchange resins, such as more efficient compound loading into and release from the ion-exchanger, easier incorporation of drug-sized compounds, enhanced control of the ion-exchange process, better mechanical, chemical and thermal stability, and good formulation properties, which make the fibers attractive materials for controlled drug delivery systems. In this study, the factors affecting the nature and strength of the binding/loading of drug-sized model compounds into the ion-exchange fibers was evaluated comprehensively and, moreover, the controllability of subsequent drug release/delivery from the fibers was assessed by modifying the conditions of external solutions. Also the feasibility of ion-exchange fibers for simultaneous delivery of two drugs in combination was studied by dual loading. Donnan theory and theoretical modelling were applied to gain mechanistic understanding on these factors. The experimental results imply that incorporation of model compounds into the ion-exchange fibers was attained mainly as a result of ionic bonding, with additional contribution of non-specific interactions. Increasing the ion-exchange capacity of the fiber or decreasing the valence of loaded compounds increased the molar loading, while more efficient release of the compounds was observed consistently at conditions where the valence or concentration of the extracting counter-ion was increased. Donnan theory was capable of fully interpreting the ion-exchange equilibria and the theoretical modelling supported precisely the experimental observations. The physico-chemical characteristics (lipophilicity, hydrogen bonding ability) of the model compounds and the framework of the fibrous ion-exchanger influenced the affinity of the drugs towards the fibers and may, thus, affect both drug loading and release. It was concluded that precisely controlled drug delivery may be tailored for each compound, in particularly, by choosing a suitable ion-exchange fiber and optimizing the delivery system to take into account the external conditions, also when delivering two drugs simultaneously.
  • Hakala, Terhi (Helsingin yliopisto, 2007)
    White-rot fungi are wood degrading organisms that are able to decompose all wood polymers; lignin, cellulose and hemicellulose. Especially the selective white-rot fungi that decompose preferentially wood lignin are promising for biopulping applications. In biopulping the pretreatment of wood chips with white-rot fungi enhances the subsequent pulping step and substantially reduces the refining energy consumption in mechanical pulping. Because it is not possible to carry out biopulping in industrial scale as a closed process it has been necessary to search for new selective strains of white-rot fungi which naturally occur in Finland and cause selective white-rot of Finnish wood raw-material. In a screening of 300 fungal strains a rare polypore, Physisporinus rivulosus strain T241i isolated from a forest burn research site, was found to be a selective lignin degrader and promising for the use in biopulping. Since selective lignin degradation is apparently essential for biopulping, knowledge on lignin-modifying enzymes and the regulation of their production by a biopulping fungus is needed. White-rot fungal enzymes that participate in lignin degradation are laccase, lignin peroxidase (LiP), manganese peroxidase (MnP), versatile peroxidase (VP) and hydrogen peroxide forming enzymes. In this study, P. rivulosus was observed to produce MnP, laccase and oxalic acid during growth on wood chips. In liquid cultures manganese and veratryl alcohol increased the production of acidic MnP isoforms detected also in wood chip cultures. Laccase production by P. rivulosus was low unless the cultures were supplemented with sawdust and charred wood, the components of natural growth environment of the fungus. In white-rot fungi the lignin-modifying enzymes are typically present as multiple isoforms. In this study, two MnP encoding genes, mnpA and mnpB, were cloned and characterized from P. rivulosus T241i. Analysis of the N-terminal amino acid sequences of two purified MnPs and putative amino acid sequence of the two cloned mnp genes suggested that P. rivulosus possesses at least four mnp genes. The genes mnpA and mnpB markedly differ from each other by the gene length, sequence and intron-exon structure. In addition, their expression is differentially affected by the addition of manganese and veratryl alcohol. P. rivulosus produced laccase as at least two isoforms. The results of this study revealed that the production of MnP and laccase was differentially regulated in P. rivulosus, which ensures the efficient lignin degradation under a variety of environmental conditions.
  • Laurén, Juha (Helsingin yliopisto, 2007)
    Some leucine-rich repeat (LRR) -containing membrane proteins are known regulators of neuronal growth and synapse formation. In this work I characterize two gene families encoding neuronal LRR membrane proteins, namely the LRRTM (leucine-rich repeat, transmembrane neuronal) and NGR (Nogo-66 receptor) families. I studied LRRTM and NGR family member's mRNA tissue distribution by RT-PCR and by in situ hybridization. Subcellular localization of LRRTM1 protein was studied in neurons and in non-neuronal cells. I discovered that LRRTM and NGR family mRNAs are predominantly expressed in the nervous system, and that each gene possesses a specific expression pattern. I also established that LRRTM and NGR family mRNAs are expressed by neurons, and not by glial cells. Within neurons, LRRTM1 protein is not transported to the plasma membrane; rather it localizes to endoplasmic reticulum. Nogo-A (RTN4), MAG, and OMgp are myelin-associated proteins that bind to NgR1 to limit axonal regeneration after central nervous system injury. To better understand the functions of NgR2 and NgR3, and to explore the possible redundancy in the signaling of myelin inhibitors of neurite growth, I mapped the interactions between NgR family and the known and candidate NgR1 ligands. I identified high-affinity interactions between RTN2-66, RTN3-66 and NgR1. I also demonstrate that Rtn3 mRNA is expressed in the same glial cell population of mouse spinal cord white matter as Nogo-A mRNA, and thus it could have a role in myelin inhibition of axonal growth. To understand how NgR1 interacts with multiple structurally divergent ligands, I aimed first to map in more detail the nature of Nogo-A:NgR1 interactions, and then to systematically map the binding sites of multiple myelin ligands in NgR1 by using a library of NgR1 expression constructs encoding proteins with one or multiple surface residues mutated to alanine. My analysis of the Nogo-A:NgR1 -interactions revealed a novel interaction site between the proteins, suggesting a trivalent Nogo-A:NgR1-interaction. Our analysis also defined a central binding region on the concave side of NgR1's LRR domain that is required for the binding of all known ligands, and a surrounding region critical for binding MAG and OMgp. To better understand the biological role of LRRTMs, I generated Lrrtm1 and Lrrtm3 knock out mice. I show here that reporter genes expressed from the targeted loci can be used for maping the neuronal connections of Lrrtm1 and Lrrtm3 expressing neurons in finer detail. With regard to LRRTM1's role in humans, we found a strong association between a 70 kb-spanning haplotype in the proposed promoter region of LRRTM1 gene and two possibly related phenotypes: left-handedness and schizophrenia. Interestingly, the responsible haplotype was linked to phenotypic variability only when paternally inherited. In summary, I identified two families of neuronal receptor-like proteins, and mapped their expression and certain protein-protein interactions. The identification of a central binding region in NgR1 shared by multiple ligands may facilitate the design and development of small molecule therapeutics blocking binding of all NgR1 ligands. Additionally, the genetic association data suggests that allelic variation upstream of LRRTM1 may play a role in the development of left-right brain asymmetry in humans. Lrrtm1 and Lrrtm3 knock out mice developed as a part of this study will likely be useful for schizophrenia and Alzheimer s disease research.
  • Zhang, Zhen (Helsingin yliopisto, 2014)
    Clostridium botulinum is an infamous pathogen that produces botulinum neurotoxin, the causative agent of potentially fatal, neuroparalytic disease in humans and animals called botulism. Despite decades of research, much remains unknown regarding neurotoxin gene location, toxigenesis, and physiology of C. botulinum. First, it is unclear whether mobile genetic elements can mediate transmission of type E neurotoxin gene. Second, the regulatory circuits of botulinum neurotoxin synthesis remain largely unknown. Third, the physiological mechanism of C. botulinum cold stress tolerance is of great importance in cold chain food processing and preservation, but remains poorly understood. The aim of this study was to investigate the location of the type E botulinum neurotoxin gene, identify the potential regulators of neurotoxin synthesis in Group I C. botulinum type A1 strain ATCC 3502, and to characterize the regulon of the two-component signal transduction system (TCS) CBO0366/CBO0365 and its role in cold stress tolerance in C. botulinum ATCC 3502. A group of 36 C. botulinum type E strains was examined by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis and Southern hybridization with probes specific for type E neurotoxin gene (botE) and orfX1, a member of type E neurotoxin gene cluster. The results suggest that three C. botulinum strains encode botE and orfX1 in large plasmids of about 146 kb in size. In C. botulinum ATCC 3502, TCS CBO0787/CBO0786 was found to negatively regulate botulinum neurotoxin expression. Inactivation of cbo0787 encoding a sensor histidine kinase, or of cbo0786 encoding a response regulator, resulted in significantly elevated neurotoxin gene expression levels and increased neurotoxin production. Recombinant CBO0786 regulator was shown to bind to the conserved -10 site of the core promoters of the ntnh-botA and ha operons, which encode the toxin structural and accessory proteins. Increasing concentration of CBO0786 inhibited BotR-directed transcription from the ntnh-botA and ha promoters, demonstrating direct transcriptional repression of the ntnh-botA and ha operons by CBO0786. CodY, a global regulator conserved in low-G+C Gram-positive bacteria, was shown to positively regulate the botulinum neurotoxin gene expression. Inactivation of codY resulted in decreased neurotoxin gene expression levels and reduced neurotoxin synthesis. Complementation of the codY mutation in trans rescued neurotoxin synthesis, and overexpression of codY in trans caused elevated neurotoxin production. Recombinant CodY was found to bind to probes possessing the neurotoxin gene promoters, but strongly interacted only with a 30-bp region in the promoter of ntnh-botA operon, suggesting regulation of the neurotoxin gene transcription through direct interaction. GTP enhanced the binding affinity of CodY to the ntnh-botA promoter, suggesting CodY-dependent neurotoxin regulation is associated with nutritional status. A total of about 150 genes regulated by TCS CBO0366/CBO0365, were identified by DNA microarray. Inactivation of CBO0365 regulon genes encoding acetone-butanol-ethanol fermentation pathway, phosphate transport and arsenical resistance did not affect the growth of C. botulinum ATCC 3502 at 37 °C, but significantly impacted growth after a temperature downshift to 17 °C. These results suggest TCS CBO0366/CBO0365-regulated acetone-butanol-ethanol fermentation, phosphate transport and arsenical resistance play an important role in cold tolerance in C. botulinum ATCC 3502.