Muangkaew, Penthip, Vic De Roo, Lu Zhou, Léa Girard, Catherine Cesa-Luna, Monica Höfte, René De Mot, Annemieke Madder, Niels Geudens, and José C. Martins (2023) “Stereomeric Lipopeptides from a Single Non-Ribosomal Peptide Synthetase as an Additional Source of Structural and Functional Diversification in Pseudomonas Lipopeptide Biosynthesis.” International Journal of Molecular Sciences 24, no. 18 : 14302.

In Pseudomonas lipopeptides, the D-configuration of amino acids is generated by dedicated, dual-function epimerization/condensation (E/C) domains. The increasing attention to stereochemistry in lipopeptide structure elucidation efforts has revealed multiple examples where epimerization does not occur, even though an E/C-type domain is present. While the origin of the idle epimerization in those E/C-domains remains elusive, epimerization activity has so far shown a binary profile: it is either ‘on’ (active) or ‘off’ (inactive). Here, we report the unprecedented observation of an E/C-domain that acts ‘on and off’, giving rise to the production of two diastereoisomeric lipopeptides by a single non-ribosomal peptide synthetase system. Using dereplication based on solid-phase peptide synthesis and NMR fingerprinting, we first show that the two cyclic lipopeptides produced by Pseudomonas entomophila COR5 correspond to entolysin A and B originally described for P. entomophila L48. Next, we prove that both are diastereoisomeric homologues differing only in the configuration of a single amino acid. This configurational variability is maintained in multiple Pseudomonas strains and typically occurs in a 3:2 ratio. Bioinformatic analysis reveals a possible correlation with the composition of the flanking sequence of the N-terminal secondary histidine motif characteristic for dual-function E/C-type domains. In permeabilization assays, using propidium iodide entolysin B has a higher antifungal activity compared to entolysin A against Botrytis cinerea and Pyricularia oryzae spores. The fact that configurational homologues are produced by the same NRPS system in a Pseudomonas strain adds a new level of structural and functional diversification to those already known from substrate flexibility during the recruitment of the amino acids and fatty acids and underscores the importance of complete stereochemical elucidation of non-ribosomal lipopeptide structures.

IJMS | Free Full-Text | Stereomeric Lipopeptides from a Single Non-Ribosomal Peptide Synthetase as an Additional Source of Structural and Functional Diversification in Pseudomonas Lipopeptide Biosynthesis (

Cesa-Luna, Catherine , Niels Geudens, Léa Girard, Vic De Roo, Hassan R. Maklad, José C. Martins, Monica Höfte, and René De Mot. (2023) “Charting the Lipopeptidome of Nonpathogenic Pseudomonas.” mSystems : e00988-22.

A major source of pseudomonad-specialized metabolites is the nonribosomal peptide synthetases (NRPSs) assembling siderophores and lipopeptides. Cyclic lipopeptides (CLPs) of the Mycin and Peptin families are frequently associated with, but not restricted to, phytopathogenic species. We conducted an in silico analysis of the NRPSs encoded by lipopeptide biosynthetic gene clusters in nonpathogenic Pseudomonas genomes, covering 13 chemically diversified families. This global assessment of lipopeptide production capacity revealed it to be confined to the Pseudomonas fluorescens lineage, with most strains synthesizing a single type of CLP. Whereas certain lipopeptide families are specific for a taxonomic subgroup, others are found in distant groups. NRPS activation domain-guided peptide predictions enabled reliable family assignments, including identification of novel members. Focusing on the two most abundant lipopeptide families (Viscosin and Amphisin), a portion of their uncharted diversity was mapped, including characterization of two novel Amphisin family members (nepenthesin and oakridgin). Using NMR fingerprint matching, known Viscosin-family lipopeptides were identified in 15 (type) species spread across different taxonomic groups. A bifurcate genomic organization predominates among Viscosin-family producers and typifies Xantholysin-, Entolysin-, and Poaeamide-family producers but most families feature a single NRPS gene cluster embedded between cognate regulator and transporter genes. The strong correlation observed between NRPS system phylogeny and rpoD-based taxonomic affiliation indicates that much of the structural diversity is linked to speciation, providing few indications of horizontal gene transfer. The grouping of most NRPS systems in four superfamilies based on activation domain homology suggests extensive module dynamics driven by domain deletions, duplications, and exchanges.

Charting the Lipopeptidome of Nonpathogenic Pseudomonas | mSystems (

De Roo, Vic, Yentl Verleysen, Benjámin Kovács, Matthias De Vleeschouwer, Penthip Muangkaew, Léa Girard, Monica Höfte, René De Mot, Annemieke Madder, Niels Geudens, and José C. Martins. (2022) ‘A nuclear magnetic resonance fingerprint matching approach for the identification and structural re-evaluation of Pseudomonas lipopeptides’, Microbiology Spectrum, 0: e01261-22.

Cyclic lipopeptides (CLiPs) are secondary metabolites secreted by a range of bacterial phyla. CLiPs from Pseudomonas in particular, display diverse structural variations in terms of the number of amino acid residues, macrocycle size, amino acid identity, and stereochemistry (e.g., d- versus l-amino acids). Reports detailing the discovery of novel or already characterized CLiPs from new sources appear regularly in literature. Increasingly, however, the lack of detailed characterization threatens to cause considerable confusion, especially if configurational heterogeneity is present for one or more amino acids. Using Pseudomonas CLiPs from the Bananamide, Orfamide, and Xantholysin groups as test cases, we demonstrate and validate that the combined 1H and 13C Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) chemical shifts of CLiPs constitute a spectral fingerprint that is sufficiently sensitive to differentiate between possible diastereomers of a particular sequence even when they only differ in a single d/l configuration. Rapid screening, involving simple matching of the NMR fingerprint of a newly isolated CLiP with that of a reference CLiP of known stereochemistry, can then be applied to resolve dead-ends in configurational characterization and avoid the much more cumbersome chemical characterization protocols. Even when the stereochemistry of a particular reference CLiP remains to be established, its spectral fingerprint allows to quickly verify whether a newly isolated CLiP is novel or already present in the reference collection. We show NMR fingerprinting leads to a simple approach for early on dereplication which should become more effective as more fingerprints are collected. To benefit research involving CLiPs, we have made a publicly available data repository accompanied by a ‘knowledge base’ at, where we present an overview of published NMR fingerprint data of characterized CLiPs, together with literature data on the originally determined structures.

Ferrarini, E., V. De Roo, N. Geudens, J. C. Martins, and M. Höfte. (2022). ‘Altering in vivo membrane sterol composition affects the activity of the cyclic lipopeptides tolaasin and sessilin against Pythium’, Biochim Biophys Acta Biomembr, 1864: 184008.

Cyclic lipopeptides (CLiPs) are secondary metabolites produced by a variety of bacteria. These compounds show a broad range of antimicrobial activities; therefore, they are studied for their potential applications in agriculture and medicine. It is generally assumed that the primary target of the CLiPs is the cellular membrane, where they can permeabilize the lipid bilayer. Model membrane systems are commonly used to investigate the effect of lipid composition on the permeabilizing activity of CLiPs, but these systems do not represent the full complexity of true biological membranes. Here, we introduce a novel method that uses sterol-auxotrophic oomycetes to investigate how the activity of membrane-active compounds is influenced by alterations in membrane sterol composition. More specifically, we investigated how ergosterol, cholesterol, beta-sitosterol and stigmasterol affect the activity of the structurally related Pseudomonas-derived CLiPs tolaasin and sessilin against the oomycete Pythium myriotylum. Both compounds were effective against oomycetes, although tolaasin was considerably more active. Interestingly, tolaasin and sessilin effects were similarly reduced by the presence of sterols, with cholesterol showing the highest reduction of activity.

McCann, Andréa, Christopher Kune, Philippe Massonnet, Johann Far, Marc Ongena, Gauthier Eppe, Loïc Quinton, and Edwin De Pauw. (2022). ‘Cyclic Peptide Protomer Detection in the Gas Phase: Impact on CCS Measurement and Fragmentation Patterns’, Journal of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry, 33: 851-58.

With the recent improvements in ion mobility resolution, it is now possible to separate small protomeric tautomers, called protomers. In larger molecules above 1000 Da such as peptides, a few studies suggest that protomers do exist as well and may contribute to their gas-phase conformational heterogeneity. In this work, we observed a CCS distribution that can be explained by the presence of protomers of surfactin, a small lipopeptide with no basic site. Following preliminary density functional theoretical calculations, several protonation sites in the gas phase were energetically favorable in positive ionization mode. Experimentally, at least three near-resolved IM peaks were observed in positive ionization mode, while only one was detected in negative ionization mode. These results were in good agreement with the DFT predictions. CID breakdown curve analysis after IM separation showed different inflection points (CE50) suggesting that different intramolecular interactions were implied in the stabilization of the structures of surfactin. The fragment ratio observed after collision-induced fragmentation was also different, suggesting different ring-opening localizations. All these observations support the presence of protomers on the cyclic peptide moieties of the surfactin. These data strongly suggest that protomeric tautomerism can still be observed on molecules above 1000 Da if the IM resolving power is sufficient. It also supports that the proton localization involves a change in the 3D structure that can affect the experimental CCS and the fragmentation channels of such peptides.

Müller, Wendy H., Andréa McCann, Anthony Argüelles Arias, Cedric Malherbe, Loïc Quinton, Edwin De Pauw, and Gauthier Eppe. (2022). ‘Imaging Metabolites in Agar-Based Bacterial Co-Cultures with Minimal Sample Preparation using a DIUTHAME Membrane in Surface-Assisted Laser Desorption/Ionization Mass Spectrometry’, ChemistrySelect, 7: e202200734.

While the imaging of bacteria, directly on agar-based media, has been reported in matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization (MALDI) mass spectrometry imaging (MSI), such samples usually require laborious and time-consuming preparation prior to analysis. Furthermore, the MALDI sample preparation may require desiccation, potentially causing sample deformation and/or degradation. Other issues may be associated with the use of a matrix in MALDI-MSI. Here, we propose an alternative approach to image a co-culture of Pseudomonas and Bacillus bacteria, grown on agar, in the positive and negative ionization modes, using surface-assisted laser desorption/ionization (SALDI) MSI. A rapid and easy sample preparation was performed using a “desorption/ionization using through-hole alumina membrane” (DIUTHAME) with a blotting method. The porous DIUTHAME membrane was used (1) for the transfer of the metabolites from the sample to the membrane, and (2) as assisting material in SALDI-MSI. The advantages and limitations of this new sample preparation are discussed in this paper.

Steigenberger, Jessica, Yentl Verleysen, Niels Geudens, Annemieke Madder, José C. Martins, and Heiko Heerklotz. (2022). ‘Complex electrostatic effects on the selectivity of membrane-permeabilizing cyclic lipopeptides’, Biophysical Journal.

Cyclic lipopeptides (CLiPs) have many biological functions, including the selective permeabilization of target membranes, and technical and medical applications. We studied the anionic CLiP viscosin from Pseudomonas along with a neutral analog, pseudodesmin A, and the cationic viscosin-E2K to better understand electrostatic effects on target selectivity. Calcein leakage from liposomes of anionic phosphatidylglycerol (PG) and phosphatidylethanolamine (PE) is measured in comparison with net-neutral phosphatidylcholine by time-resolved fluorescence. By contrast to the typical selectivity of cationic peptides against anionic membranes, we find viscosin more active against PG/PE at 30 μM lipid than viscosin-E2K. At very low lipid concentration, the selectivity is reversed. An equi-activity analysis reveals the reciprocal partition coefficients, 1/K, and the CLiP-to-lipid mole ratio within the membrane as leakage after 1 h reaches 50%, Re50. As expected, 1/K to PG/PE is much lower (higher affinity) for viscosin-E2K (3 μM) than viscosin (15 μM). However, the local damage to the PG/PE membrane caused by a viscosin molecule is much stronger than that of viscosin-E2K. This can be explained by the strong membrane expansion due to PG/viscosin repulsion inducing asymmetry stress between the two leaflets and, ultimately, transient limited leakage at Re50 = 0.08. PG/viscosin-E2K attraction opposes expansion and leakage starts only as the PG charges in the outer leaflet are essentially compensated by the cationic peptide (Re50 = 0.32). In the high-lipid regime (at lipid concentrations cL ≫ 1/K), virtually all CLiP is membrane bound anyway and Re50 governs selectivity, favoring viscosin. In the low-lipid regime at cL ≪ 1/K, virtually all CLiP is in solution, 1/K becomes important and the “cation attacks anionic membrane” selectivity gets restored. Overall, activity and selectivity data can only properly be interpreted if the lipid regime is known and predictions for other lipid concentrations or cell counts require knowledge of 1/K and Re50.

Andrić, S., T. Meyer, A. Rigolet, C. Prigent-Combaret, M. Höfte, G. Balleux, S. Steels, G. Hoff, R. De Mot, A. McCann, E. De Pauw, A. Argüelles Arias, and M. Ongena. (2021). ‘Lipopeptide Interplay Mediates Molecular Interactions between Soil Bacilli and Pseudomonads’, Microbiol Spectr, 9: e0203821.

Some Bacillus species, such as B. velezensis, are important members of the plant-associated microbiome, conferring protection against phytopathogens. However, our knowledge about multitrophic interactions determining the ecological fitness of these biocontrol bacteria in the competitive rhizosphere niche is still limited. Here, we investigated molecular mechanisms underlying interactions between B. velezensis and Pseudomonas as a soil-dwelling competitor. Upon their contact-independent in vitro confrontation, a multifaceted macroscopic outcome was observed and characterized by Bacillus growth inhibition, white line formation in the interaction zone, and enhanced motility. We correlated these phenotypes with the production of bioactive secondary metabolites and identified specific lipopeptides as key compounds involved in the interference interaction and motile response. Bacillus mobilizes its lipopeptide surfactin not only to enhance motility but also to act as a chemical trap to reduce the toxicity of lipopeptides formed by Pseudomonas. We demonstrated the relevance of these unsuspected roles of lipopeptides in the context of competitive tomato root colonization by the two bacterial genera.

Girard, L., N. Geudens, B. Pauwels, M. Höfte, J. C. Martins, and R. De Mot. (2021). ‘Transporter gene-mediated typing for detection and genome mining of lipopeptide-producing Pseudomonas’, Applied Environmental Microbiology: Aem0186921.

Pseudomonas lipopeptides (LPs) are involved in diverse ecological functions and have biotechnological application potential associated with their antimicrobial and/or antiproliferative activities. They are synthesized by multimodular nonribosomal peptide synthetases which, together with transport and regulatory proteins, are encoded by large biosynthetic gene clusters (BGCs). These secondary metabolites are classified in distinct families based on the sequence and length of the oligopeptide and size of the macrocycle, if present. The phylogeny of PleB, the MacB-like transporter that is part of a dedicated ATP-dependent tripartite efflux system driving export of Pseudomonas LPs, revealed a strong correlation with LP chemical diversity. As each LP BGC carries its cognate pleB, PleB is suitable as a diagnostic sequence for genome mining, allowing assignment of the putative metabolite to a particular LP family. In addition, pleB proved to be a suitable target gene for an alternative PCR method for detecting LP-producing Pseudomonas sp. and did not rely on amplification of catalytic domains of the biosynthetic enzymes. Combined with amplicon sequencing, this approach enabled typing of Pseudomonas strains as potential producers of a LP belonging to one of the known LP families, underscoring its value for strain prioritization. This finding was validated by chemical characterization of known LPs from three different families secreted by novel producers isolated from the rice or maize rhizosphere, namely, the type strains of Pseudomonas fulva (putisolvin), Pseudomonas zeae (tensin), and Pseudomonas xantholysinigenes (xantholysin). In addition, a new member of the Bananamide family, prosekin, was discovered in the type strain of Pseudomonas prosekii, which is an Antarctic isolate

Girard, L., C. Lood, M. Hofte, P. Vandamme, H. Rokni-Zadeh, V. van Noort, R. Lavigne, and R. De Mot. (2021). ‘The ever-expanding Pseudomonas genus: Description of 43 new species and partition of the Pseudomonas putida group’, Microorganisms, 9.

The genus Pseudomonas hosts an extensive genetic diversity and is one of the largest genera among Gram-negative bacteria. Type strains of Pseudomonas are well known to represent only a small fraction of this diversity and the number of available Pseudomonas genome sequences is increasing rapidly. Consequently, new Pseudomonas species are regularly reported and the number of species within the genus is constantly evolving. In this study, whole genome sequencing enabled us to define 43 new Pseudomonas species and provide an update of the Pseudomonas evolutionary and taxonomic relationships. Phylogenies based on the rpoD gene and whole genome sequences, including, respectively, 316 and 313 type strains of Pseudomonas, revealed sixteen groups of Pseudomonas and, together with the distribution of cyclic lipopeptide biosynthesis gene clusters, enabled the partitioning of the P. putida group into fifteen subgroups. Pairwise average nucleotide identities were calculated between type strains and a selection of 60 genomes of non-type strains of Pseudomonas. Forty-one strains were incorrectly assigned at the species level and among these, 19 strains were shown to represent an additional 13 new Pseudomonas species that remain to be formally classified. This work pinpoints the importance of correct taxonomic assignment and phylogenetic classification in order to perform integrative studies linking genetic diversity, lifestyle, and metabolic potential of Pseudomonas spp.

Hoff, G., A. Arguelles Arias, F. Boubsi, J. Pršić, T. Meyer, H. M. M. Ibrahim, S. Steels, P. Luzuriaga, A. Legras, L. Franzil, M. Lequart-Pillon, C. Rayon, V. Osorio, E. de Pauw, Y. Lara, E. Deboever, B. de Coninck, P. Jacques, M. Deleu, E. Petit, O. Van Wuytswinkel, and M. Ongena. (2021). ‘Surfactin Stimulated by Pectin Molecular Patterns and Root Exudates Acts as a Key Driver of the Bacillus-Plant Mutualistic Interaction’, mBio, 12: e0177421.

Bacillus velezensis is considered as a model species belonging to the so-called Bacillus subtilis complex that evolved typically to dwell in the soil rhizosphere niche and establish an intimate association with plant roots. This bacterium provides protection to its natural host against diseases and represents one of the most promising biocontrol agents. However, the molecular basis of the cross talk that this bacterium establishes with its natural host has been poorly investigated. We show here that these plant-associated bacteria have evolved a polymer-sensing system to perceive their host and that, in response, they increase the production of the surfactin-type lipopeptide. Furthermore, we demonstrate that surfactin synthesis is favored upon growth on root exudates and that this lipopeptide is a key component used by the bacterium to optimize biofilm formation, motility, and early root colonization. In this specific nutritional context, the bacterium also modulates qualitatively the pattern of surfactin homologues coproduced in planta and forms mainly variants that are the most active at triggering plant immunity. Surfactin represents a shared good as it reinforces the defensive capacity of the host.

Lam, Van Bach, Thibault Meyer, Anthony Arguelles Arias, Marc Ongena, Feyisara Eyiwumi Oni, and Monica Höfte. (2021). ‘Bacillus Cyclic Lipopeptides Iturin and Fengycin Control Rice Blast Caused by Pyricularia oryzae in Potting and Acid Sulfate Soils by Direct Antagonism and Induced Systemic Resistance’, Microorganisms, 9: 1441.

Rice monoculture in acid sulfate soils (ASSs) is affected by a wide range of abiotic and biotic constraints, including rice blast caused by Pyricularia oryzae. To progress towards a more sustainable agriculture, our research aimed to screen the biocontrol potential of indigenous Bacillus spp. against blast disease by triggering induced systemic resistance (ISR) via root application and direct antagonism. Strains belonging to the B. altitudinis and B. velezensis group could protect rice against blast disease by ISR. UPLC–MS and marker gene replacement methods were used to detect cyclic lipopeptide (CLiP) production and construct CLiPs deficient mutants of B. velezensis, respectively. Here we show that the CLiPs fengycin and iturin are both needed to elicit ISR against rice blast in potting soil and ASS conditions. The CLiPs surfactin, iturin and fengycin completely suppressed P. oryzae spore germination resulting in disease severity reduction when co-applied on rice leaves. In vitro microscopic assays revealed that iturin and fengycin inhibited the mycelial growth of the fungus P. oryzae, while surfactin had no effect. The capacity of indigenous Bacillus spp. to reduce rice blast by direct and indirect antagonism in ASS conditions provides an opportunity to explore their usage for rice blast control in the field.

McCann, A., C. Kune, R. La Rocca, J. Oetjen, A. A. Arias, M. Ongena, J. Far, G. Eppe, L. Quinton, and E. De Pauw. (2021). ‘Rapid visualization of lipopeptides and potential bioactive groups of compounds by combining ion mobility and MALDI imaging mass spectrometry’, Drug Discov Today Technol, 39: 81-88.

Mass spectrometry imaging (MSI) has become a powerful method for mapping metabolite distribution in a tissue. Applied to bacterial colonies, MSI has a bright future, both for the discovery of new bioactive compounds and for a better understanding of bacterial antibiotic resistance mechanisms. Coupled with separation techniques such as ion mobility mass spectrometry (IM-MS), the identification of metabolites directly on the image is now possible and does not require additional analysis such as HPLC-MS/MS. In this article, we propose to apply a semi-targeted workflow for rapid IM-MSI data analysis focused on the search for bioactive compounds. First, chemically-related compounds showing a repetitive mass unit (i.e. lipids and lipopeptides) were targeted based on the Kendrick mass defect analysis. The detected groups of potentially bioactive compounds were then confirmed by fitting their measured ion moibilites to their measured m/z values. Using both their m/z and ion mobility values, the selected groups of compounds were identified using the available databases and finally their distribution was observed on the image. Using this workflow on a co-culture of bacteria, we were able to detect and localize bioactive compounds involved in the microbial interaction.

McCann, A., S. Rappe, R. La Rocca, M. Tiquet, L. Quinton, G. Eppe, J. Far, E. De Pauw, and C. Kune. (2021). ‘Mass shift in mass spectrometry imaging: comprehensive analysis and practical corrective workflow’, Anal Bioanal Chem, 413: 2831-44.

MALDI mass spectrometry imaging (MSI) allows the mapping and the tentative identification of compounds based on their m/z value. In typical MSI, a spectrum is taken at incremental 2D coordinates (pixels) across a sample surface. Single pixel mass spectra show the resolving power of the mass analyzer. Mass shift, i.e., variations of the m/z of the same ion(s), may occur from one pixel to another. The superposition of shifted masses from individual pixels peaks apparently degrades the resolution and the mass accuracy in the average spectrum. This leads to low confidence annotations and biased localization in the image. Besides the intrinsic performances of the analyzer, the sample properties (local composition, thickness, matrix deposition) and the calibration method are sources of mass shift. Here, we report a critical analysis and recommendations to mitigate these sources of mass shift. Mass shift 2D distributions were mapped to illustrate its effect and explore systematically its origin. Adapting the sample preparation, carefully selecting the data acquisition settings, and wisely applying post-processing methods (i.e., m/z realignment or individual m/z recalibration pixel by pixel) are key factors to lower the mass shift and to improve image quality and annotations. A recommended workflow, resulting from a comprehensive analysis, was successfully applied to several complex samples acquired on both MALDI ToF and MALDI FT-ICR instruments.

Steigenberger, Jessica, Yentl Verleysen, Niels Geudens, José C. Martins, and Heiko Heerklotz. (2021). ‘The optimal lipid chain length of a membrane-permeabilizing lipopeptide results from the balance of membrane partitioning and local damage’, Frontiers in Microbiology, 12.

Pseudodesmin A (PSD) is a cyclic lipodepsipeptide produced by Pseudomonas that kills certain bacteria at MIC1/2 in the single micromolar range, probably by permeabilizing their cellular membranes. Synthetic PSD variants, where the native decanoic (C10) acyl chain is varied in length from C4 to C8 and C12 to C14 carbons, were described to be not or less active against a panel of gram-positive strains, as compared to native PSD-C10. Here, we test the membrane-permeabilizing activity of PSD-C4 through PSD-C14 in terms of calcein release from liposomes, which is characterized in detail by the fluorescence-lifetime based leakage assay. Antagonistic concentrations and their chain length dependence agree well for liposome leakage and antimicrobial activity. The optimal chain length is governed by a balance between membrane partitioning (favoring longer chains) and the local perturbation or “damage” inflicted by a membrane-bound molecule (weakening for longer chains). Local perturbation, in turn, may involve at least two modes of action. Asymmetry stress between outer and inner leaflet builds up as the lipopeptides enter the outer leaflet and when it reaches a system-specific stability threshold, it causes a transient membrane failure that allows for the flip of some molecules from the outer to the inner leaflet. This cracking-in may be accompanied by transient, incomplete leakage from the aqueous cores of the liposomes observed, typically, for some seconds or less. The mismatch of the lipopeptide with the lipid leaflet geometry, expressed for example in terms of a spontaneous curvature, has two effects. First, it affects the threshold for transient leakage as described. Second, it controls the rate of equilibrium leakage proceeding as the lipopeptide has reached sufficient local concentrations in both leaflets to form quasi-toroidal defects or pores. Both modes of action, transient and equilibrium leakage, synergize for intermediate chain lengths such as the native, i.e., for PSD-C10. These mechanisms may also account for the reported chain-length dependent specificities of antibiotic action against the target bacteria.

Andric S, Meyer T and Ongena M (2020) Bacillus Responses to Plant-Associated Fungal and Bacterial Communities. Frontiers in Microbiology. 11:1350.

Some members of root-associated Bacillus species have been developed as biocontrol agents due to their contribution to plant protection by directly interfering with the growth of pathogens or by stimulating systemic resistance in their host. As rhizosphere-dwelling bacteria, these bacilli are surrounded and constantly interacting with other microbes via different types of communications. With this review, we provide an updated vision of the molecular and phenotypic responses of Bacillus upon sensing other rhizosphere microorganisms and/or their metabolites. We illustrate how Bacillus spp. may react by modulating the production of secondary metabolites, such as cyclic lipopeptides or polyketides. On the other hand, some developmental processes, such as biofilm formation, motility, and sporulation may also be modified upon interaction, reflecting the adaptation of Bacillus multicellular communities to microbial competitors for preserving their ecological persistence. This review also points out the limited data available and a global lack of knowledge indicating that more research is needed in order to, not only better understand the ecology of bacilli in their natural soil niche, but also to better assess and improve their promising biocontrol potential.

Crouzet J, Arguelles-Arias A, Dhondt-Cordelier S, Cordelier S, Pršic J, Hoff G, Mazeyrat-Gourbeyre F, Baillieul F, Clément C, Ongena M and Dorey S (2020) “Biosurfactants in Plant Protection Against Diseases: Rhamnolipids and Lipopeptides Case Study.” Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology. 8:1014.

Biosurfactants are amphiphilic surface-active molecules that are produced by a variety of microorganisms including fungi and bacteria. PseudomonasBurkholderia, and Bacillus species are known to secrete rhamnolipids and lipopeptides that are used in a wide range of industrial applications. Recently, these compounds have been studied in a context of plant-microbe interactions. This mini-review describes the direct antimicrobial activities of these compounds against plant pathogens. We also provide the current knowledge on how rhamnolipids and lipopeptides stimulate the plant immune system leading to plant resistance to phytopathogens. Given their low toxicity, high biodegradability and ecological acceptance, we discuss the possible role of these biosurfactants as alternative strategies to reduce or even replace pesticide use in agriculture.

De Vleeschouwer, M., Van Kersavond, T., Verleysen, Y., Sinnaeve, D., Coenye, T., Martins, J. C., & Madder, A. (2020). “Identification of the Molecular Determinants Involved in Antimicrobial Activity of Pseudodesmin A, a Cyclic Lipopeptide From the Viscosin Group.” Frontiers in Microbiology, 11(646).

Cyclic lipo(depsi)peptides (CLiPs) from Pseudomonas constitute a class of natural products involved in a broad range of biological functions for their producers. They also display interesting antimicrobial potential including activity against Gram-positive bacteria. Literature has indicated that these compounds can induce membrane permeabilization, possibly through pore-formation, leading to the general view that the cellular membrane constitutes the primary target in their mode of action. In support of this view, we previously demonstrated that the enantiomer of pseudodesmin A, a member of the viscosin group of CLiPs, shows identical activity against a test panel of six Gram-positive bacterial strains. Here, a previously developed total organic synthesis route is used and partly adapted to generate 20 novel pseudodesmin A analogs in an effort to derive links between molecular constitution, structure and activity. From these, the importance of a macrocycle closed by an ester bond as well as a critical length of β-OH fatty acid chain capping the N-terminus is conclusively demonstrated, providing further evidence for the importance of peptide-membrane interactions in the mode of action. Moreover, an alanine scan is used to unearth the contribution of specific amino acid residues to biological activity. Subsequent interpretation in terms of a structural model describing the location and orientation of pseudodesmin A in a membrane environment, allows first insight in the peptide-membrane interactions involved. The biological screening also identified residue positions that appear less sensitive to conservative modifications, allowing the introduction of a non-perturbing tryptophan residue which will pave the way toward biophysical studies using fluorescence spectroscopy.

Girard, L., Höfte, M. and De Mot, R., (2020a) “Lipopeptide families at the interface between pathogenic and beneficial Pseudomonas-plant interactions”. Critical Reviews in Microbiology 46, 397–419.

Lipopeptides (LPs) are a prominent class of molecules among the steadily growing spectrum of specialized metabolites retrieved from Pseudomonas, in particular soil-dwelling and plant-associated isolates. Among the multiple LP families, pioneering research focussed on phytotoxic and antimicrobial cyclic lipopeptides (CLPs) of the ubiquitous plant pathogen Pseudomonas syringae (syringomycin and syringopeptin). Their non-ribosomal peptide synthetases (NRPSs) are embedded in biosynthetic gene clusters (BGCs) that are tightly co-clustered on a pathogenicity island. Other members of the P. syringae group (Pseudomonas cichorii) and some species of the Pseudomonas asplenii group and Pseudomonas fluorescens complex have adopted these biosynthetic strategies to co-produce their own mycin and peptin variants, in some strains supplemented with an analogue of the P. syringae linear LP (LLP), syringafactin. This capacity is not confined to phytopathogens but also occurs in some biocontrol strains, which indicates that these LP families not solely function as general virulence factors. We address this issue by scrutinizing the structural diversity and bioactivities of LPs from the mycin, peptin, and factin families in a phylogenetic and evolutionary perspective. BGC functional organization (including associated regulatory and transport genes) and NRPS modular architectures in known and candidate LP producers were assessed by genome mining.

Girard, L., Lood, C., Rokni-zadeh, H., Noort, V. Van, Lavigne, R. and De Mot, R. (2020b) “Reliable identification of environmental Pseudomonas isolates using the rpoD gene.” Microorganisms 8, 1–12.

The taxonomic affiliation of Pseudomonas isolates is currently assessed by using the 16S rRNA gene, MultiLocus Sequence Analysis (MLSA), or whole genome sequencing. Therefore, microbiologists are facing an arduous choice, either using the universal marker, knowing that these affiliations could be inaccurate, or engaging in more laborious and costly approaches. The rpoD gene, like the 16S rRNA gene, is included in most MLSA procedures and has already been suggested for the rapid identification of certain groups of Pseudomonas. However, a comprehensive overview of the rpoD-based phylogenetic relationships within the Pseudomonas genus is lacking. In this study, we present the rpoD-based phylogeny of 217 type strains of Pseudomonas and defined a cutoff value of 98% nucleotide identity to differentiate strains at the species level. To validate this approach, we sequenced the rpoD of 145 environmental isolates and complemented this analysis with whole genome sequencing. The rpoD sequence allowed us to accurately assign Pseudomonas isolates to 20 known species and represents an excellent first diagnostic tool to identify new Pseudomonas species. Finally, rpoD amplicon sequencing appears as a reliable and low-cost alternative, particularly in the case of large environmental studies with hundreds or thousands of isolates.

Oni, F.E., Geudens, N., Adiobo, A., Omoboye, O.O., Enow, E.A., Onyeka, J.T., Salami, A.E., De Mot, R., Martins, J.C. and Höfte, M. (2020a) “Biosynthesis and antimicrobial activity of pseudodesmin and viscosinamide cyclic lipopeptides produced by pseudomonads associated with the cocoyam rhizosphere.” Microorganisms 8, 1–26.

Pseudomonas cyclic lipopeptides (CLPs) are encoded non-ribosomally by biosynthetic gene clusters (BGCs) and possess diverse biological activities. In this study, we conducted chemical structure and BGC analyses with antimicrobial activity assays for two CLPs produced by Pseudomonas strains isolated from the cocoyam rhizosphere in Cameroon and Nigeria. LC-MS and NMR analyses showed that the Pseudomonas sp. COR52 and A2W4.9 produce pseudodesmin and viscosinamide, respectively. These CLPs belong to the Viscosin group characterized by a nonapeptidic moiety with a 7-membered macrocycle. Similar to other Viscosin-group CLPs, the initiatory non-ribosomal peptide synthetase (NRPS) gene of the viscosinamide BGC is situated remotely from the other two NRPS genes. In contrast, the pseudodesmin genes are all clustered in a single genomic locus. Nano- to micromolar levels of pseudodesmin and viscosinamide led to the hyphal distortion and/or disintegration of Rhizoctonia solani AG2-2 and Pythium myriotylum CMR1, whereas similar levels of White Line-Inducing Principle (WLIP), another member of the Viscosin group, resulted in complete lysis of both soil-borne phytopathogens. In addition to the identification of the biosynthetic genes of these two CLPs and the demonstration of their interaction with soil-borne pathogens, this study provides further insights regarding evolutionary divergence within the Viscosin group.

Oni, F.E., Geudens, N., Onyeka, J.T., Olorunleke, O.F., Salami, A.E., Omoboye, O.O., Arias, A.A., Adiobo, A., De Neve, S., Ongena, M., Martins, J.C. and Höfte, M. (2020b) Cyclic lipopeptide-producing Pseudomonas koreensis group strains dominate the cocoyam rhizosphere of a Pythium root rot suppressive soil contrasting with P. putida prominence in conducive soils. Environmental Microbiology 00.

Pseudomonas isolates from tropical environments have been underexplored and may form an untapped reservoir of interesting secondary metabolites. In this study, we compared Pseudomonas and cyclic lipopeptide (CLP) diversity in the rhizosphere of a cocoyam root rot disease (CRRD) suppressive soil in Boteva, Cameroon with those from four conducive soils in Cameroon and Nigeria. Compared with other soils, Boteva andosols were characterized by high silt, organic matter, nitrogen and calcium. Besides, the cocoyam rhizosphere at Boteva was characterized by strains belonging mainly to the Pkoreensis and Pputida (sub)groups, with representations in the PfluorescensPchlororaphisPjessenii and Pasplenii (sub)groups. In contrast, Pputida isolates were prominent in conducive soils. Regarding CLP diversity, Boteva was characterized by strains producing 11 different CLP types with cocoyamide A producers, belonging to the Pkoreensis group, being the most abundant. However, putisolvin III‐V producers were the most dominant in the rhizosphere of conducive soils in both Cameroon and Nigeria. Furthermore, we elucidated the chemical structure of putisolvin derivatives—putisolvin III‐V, and described its biosynthetic gene cluster. We show that high Pseudomonas and metabolic diversity may be driven by microbial competition, which likely contributes to soil suppressiveness to CRRD.

Geudens N., Kovács B., Sinnaeve D., Oni, F.E., Höfte M. and Martins J.C. (2019). “Conformation and dynamics of the cyclic lipopeptide viscosinamide at the water-lipid interface” Molecules 24(12).

Cyclic lipodepsipeptides or CLiPs from Pseudomonas are secondary metabolites that mediate a wide range of biological functions for their producers, and display antimicrobial and anticancer activities. Direct interaction of CLiPs with the cellular membranes is presumed to be essential in causing these. To understand the processes involved at the molecular level, knowledge of the conformation and dynamics of CLiPs at the water-lipid interface is required to guide the interpretation of biophysical investigations in model membrane systems. We used NMR and molecular dynamics to study the conformation, location and orientation of the Pseudomonas CLiP viscosinamide in a water/dodecylphosphocholine solution. In the process, we demonstrate the strong added value of combining uniform, isotope-enriched viscosinamide and protein NMR methods. In particular, the use of techniques to determine backbone dihedral angles and detect and identify long-lived hydrogen bonds, establishes that the solution conformation previously determined in acetonitrile is maintained in water/dodecylphosphocholine solution. Paramagnetic relaxation enhancements pinpoint viscosinamide near the water-lipid interface, with its orientation dictated by the amphipathic distribution of hydrophobic and hydrophilic residues. Finally, the experimental observations are supported by molecular dynamics simulations. Thus a firm structural basis is now available for interpreting biophysical and bioactivity data relating to this class of compounds.

Kune, Christopher, Andréa McCann, La Rocca Raphaël, Anthony Arguelles Arias, Mathieu Tiquet, Daan Van Kruining, Pilar Martinez Martinez, Marc Ongena, Gauthier Eppe, Loïc Quinton, Johann Far, and Edwin De Pauw. (2019). ‘Rapid Visualization of Chemically Related Compounds Using Kendrick Mass Defect As a Filter in Mass Spectrometry Imaging’, Analytical Chemistry, 91: 13112-18.

Kendrick mass defect (KMD) analysis is widely used for helping the detection and identification of chemically related compounds based on exact mass measurements. We report here the use of KMD as a criterion for filtering complex mass spectrometry data set. The method allow automated, easy and efficient data processing, enabling the reconstruction of 2D distributions of families of homologous compounds from MSI images. We show that KMD filtering, based on in-house software, is suitable and robust for high resolution (full width at half-maximum, fwhm, at m/z 410 of 20 000) and very high-resolution (fwhm, at m/z 410 of 160 000) MSI data. This method has been successfully applied to two different types of samples, bacteria cocultures, and brain tissue sections.

Omoboye, O. O., Geudens, N., Duban, M., Chevalier, M., Flahaut, C., Martins, J. C., Leclere, V. Oni, F.E. & Höfte, M. (2019). “Pseudomonas sp. COW3 Produces New Bananamide-Type Cyclic Lipopeptides with Antimicrobial Activity against Pythium myriotylum and Pyricularia oryzae.“ Molecules, 24(22).

Pseudomonas species are metabolically robust, with capacity to produce secondary metabolites including cyclic lipopeptides (CLPs). Herein we conducted a chemical analysis of a crude CLP extract from the cocoyam rhizosphere-derived biocontrol strain Pseudomonas sp. COW3. We performed in silico analyses on its whole genome, and conducted in vitro antagonistic assay using the strain and purified CLPs. Via LC-MS and NMR, we elucidated the structures of four novel members of the bananamide group, named bananamides D-G. Besides variability in fatty acid length, bananamides D-G differ from previously described bananamides A-C and MD-0066 by the presence of a serine and aspartic acid at position 6 and 2, respectively. In addition, bananamide G has valine instead of isoleucine at position 8. Kendrick mass defect (KMD) allowed the assignment of molecular formulae to bananamides D and E. We unraveled a non-ribosomal peptide synthetase cluster banA, banB and banC which encodes the novel bananamide derivatives. Furthermore, COW3 displayed antagonistic activity and mycophagy against Pythium myriotylum, while it mainly showed mycophagy on Pyricularia oryzae. Purified bananamides D-G inhibited the growth of P. myriotylum and P. oryzae and caused hyphal distortion. Our study shows the complementarity of chemical analyses and genome mining in the discovery and elucidation of novel CLPs. In addition, structurally diverse bananamides differ in their antimicrobial activity.

Oni F. E., Geudens N., Omoboye O.O., Bertier L., Hua H.G.K., Abiodo A., Sinnaeve D., Martins J.C. and Höfte M. (2019). “Fluorescent Pseudomonas and cyclic lipopeptide diversity in the rhizosphere of cocoyam (Xanthosoma sagittifolium).” Environmental Microbiology.

Cocoyam (Xanthosoma sagittifolium (L.)), an important tuber crop in the tropics, is severely affected by the cocoyam root rot disease (CRRD) caused by Pythium myriotylum. The white cocoyam genotype is very susceptible while the red cocoyam has some field tolerance to CRRD. Fluorescent Pseudomonas isolates obtained from the rhizosphere of healthy red and white cocoyams from three different fields in Cameroon were taxonomically characterized. The cocoyam rhizosphere was enriched with P. fluorescens complex and P. putida isolates independent of the plant genotype. LC-MS and NMR analyses revealed that 50% of the Pseudomonas isolates produced cyclic lipopeptides (CLPs) including entolysin, lokisin, WLIP, putisolvin and xantholysin together with eight novel CLPs. In general, CLP types were linked to specific taxonomic groups within the fluorescent pseudomonads. Representative CLP-producing bacteria showed effective control against CRRD while purified CLPs caused hyphal branching or hyphal leakage in P. myriotylum. The structure of cocoyamide A, a CLP which is predominantly produced by P. koreensis group isolates within the P. fluorescens complex is described. Compared to the white cocoyam, the red cocoyam rhizosphere appeared to support a more diverse CLP spectrum. It remains to be investigated whether this contributes to the field tolerance displayed by the red cocoyam.

Geudens, N. and J. C. Martins (2018). “Cyclic lipodepsipeptides from Pseudomonas spp. – Biological Swiss-Army Knives.” Frontiers in Microbiology 9(1867).

Cyclic lipodepsipeptides produced by Pseudomonas spp. (Ps-CLPs) are biosurfactants that constitute a diverse class of versatile bioactive natural compounds with promising application potential. While chemically diverse, they obey a common structural blue-print, allowing the definition of 14 distinct groups with multiple structurally homologous members. In addition to antibacterial and antifungal properties the reported activity profile of Ps-CLPs includes their effect on bacterial motility, biofilm formation, induced defense responses in plants and their insecticidal activity and anti-proliferation effects on human cancer cell-lines. To further validate their status of potential bioactive substances, we assessed the results of 774 biological tests on 51 Ps-CLPs available from literature. From this, a fragmented overview emerges. While Ps-CLPs taken as a group demonstrate a broad activity profile, reports on individual Ps-CLPs mostly test on activities that reflect the scientific focus of the individual authors. The current data is therefore found to be to sparse to correlate structure and biological function. Consequently, generalizations with respect to activity across the Gram-positive and Gram-negative divide should be nuanced. As the discovery of novel Ps-CLPs accelerates, current challenges to complete and maintain a useful overview of biological activity are discussed.