Nanoscale reorganizations of histone-like nucleoid structuring proteins in Escherichia coli are caused by silver nanoparticles

by Alqahtany, Meaad; Khadka, Prabhat; Niyonshuti, Isabelle I.; Krishnamurthi, Venkata Rao; Sadoon, Asmaa A.; Challapalli, Sai Divya; Chen, Jingyi; Wang, Yong

Silver nanoparticles (AgNPs) and ions (Ag+) have recently gained broad attention due to their antimicrobial effects against bacteria and other microbes. In this work, we demonstrate the use of super-resolution fluorescence microscopy for investigating and quantifying the antimicrobial effect of AgNPs at the molecular level. We found that subjecting Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria to AgNPs led to nanoscale reorganization of histone-like nucleoid structuring (H-NS) proteins, an essential nucleoid associated protein in bacteria. We observed that H-NS proteins formed denser and larger clusters at the center of the bacteria after exposure to AgNPs. We quantified the spatial reorganizations of H-NS proteins by examining the changes of various spatial parameters, including the inter-molecular distances and molecular densities. Clustering analysis based on Voronoi-tessellation were also performed to characterize the change of H-NS proteins' clustering behavior. We found that AgNP-treatment led to an increase in the fraction of H-NS proteins forming clusters. Similar effects were observed for bacteria exposed to Ag+ ions, suggesting that the release of Ag+ ions plays an important role in the toxicity of AgNPs. On the other hand, we observed that AgNPs with two surface coatings showed difference in the nanoscale reorganization of H-NS proteins, indicating that particle-specific effects also contribute to the antimicrobial activities of AgNPs. Our results suggested that H-NS proteins were significantly affected by AgNPs and Ag+ ions, which has been overlooked previously. In addition, we examined the dynamic motion of AgNPs that were attached to the surface of bacteria. We expect that the current methodology can be readily applied to broadly and quantitatively study the spatial reorganization of biological macromolecules at the scale of nanometers caused by metal nanoparticles, which are expected to shed new light on the antimicrobial mechanism of metal nanoparticles.

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