skip to main content

Title: LuxT controls specific quorum-sensing-regulated behaviors in Vibrionaceae spp. via repression of qrr1, encoding a small regulatory RNA
Quorum sensing (QS) is a process of chemical communication bacteria use to transition between individual and collective behaviors. QS depends on the production, release, and synchronous response to signaling molecules called autoinducers (AIs). The marine bacterium Vibrio harveyi monitors AIs using a signal transduction pathway that relies on five small regulatory RNAs (called Qrr1-5) that post-transcriptionally control target genes. Curiously, the small RNAs largely function redundantly making it difficult to understand the necessity for five of them. Here, we identify LuxT as a transcriptional repressor of qrr1. LuxT does not regulate qrr2-5, demonstrating that qrr genes can be independently controlled to drive unique downstream QS gene expression patterns. LuxT reinforces its control over the same genes it regulates indirectly via repression of qrr1, through a second transcriptional control mechanism. Genes dually regulated by LuxT specify public goods including an aerolysin-type pore-forming toxin. Phylogenetic analyses reveal that LuxT is conserved among Vibrionaceae and sequence comparisons predict that LuxT represses qrr1 in additional species. The present findings reveal that the QS regulatory RNAs can carry out both shared and unique functions to endow bacteria with plasticity in their output behaviors.
; ; ;
Award ID(s):
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
PLOS genetics
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Storz, Gisela (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT Quorum sensing (QS) is a chemical communication process in which bacteria produce, release, and detect extracellular signaling molecules called autoinducers. Via combined transcriptional and posttranscriptional regulatory mechanisms, QS allows bacteria to collectively alter gene expression on a population-wide scale. Recently, the TetR family transcriptional regulator LuxT was shown to control Vibrio harveyi qrr 1, encoding the Qrr1 small RNA that functions at the core of the QS regulatory cascade. Here, we use RNA sequencing to reveal that, beyond the control of qrr 1, LuxT is a global regulator of 414 V. harveyi genes, including those involved in type III secretion, siderophore production, and aerolysin toxin biosynthesis. Importantly, LuxT directly represses swrZ , encoding a GntR family transcriptional regulator, and LuxT control of type III secretion, siderophore, and aerolysin genes occurs by two mechanisms, one that is SwrZ dependent and one that is SwrZ independent. All of these target genes specify QS-controlled behaviors that are enacted when V. harveyi is at low cell density. Thus, LuxT and SwrZ function in parallel with QS to drive particular low-cell-density behaviors. Phylogenetic analyses reveal that luxT is highly conserved among Vibrionaceae , but swrZ is less well conserved. In a test case, wemore »find that in Aliivibrio fischeri , LuxT also represses swrZ . SwrZ is a repressor of A. fischeri siderophore production genes. Thus, LuxT repression of swrZ drives the activation of A. fischeri siderophore gene expression. Our results indicate that LuxT is a major regulator among Vibrionaceae , and in the species that also possess swrZ , LuxT functions with SwrZ to control gene expression. IMPORTANCE Bacteria precisely tune gene expression patterns to successfully react to changes that occur in the environment. Defining the mechanisms that enable bacteria to thrive in diverse and fluctuating habitats, including in host organisms, is crucial for a deep understanding of the microbial world and also for the development of effective applications to promote or combat particular bacteria. In this study, we show that a regulator called LuxT controls over 400 genes in the marine bacterium Vibrio harveyi and that LuxT is highly conserved among Vibrionaceae species, ubiquitous marine bacteria that often cause disease. We characterize the mechanisms by which LuxT controls genes involved in virulence and nutrient acquisition. We show that LuxT functions in parallel with a set of regulators of the bacterial cell-to-cell communication process called quorum sensing to promote V. harveyi behaviors at low cell density.« less
  2. LaRock, Christopher N. (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT Pseudomonas aeruginosa is an opportunistic pathogen that causes disease in immunocompromised individuals and individuals with underlying pulmonary disorders. P. aeruginosa virulence is controlled by quorum sensing (QS), a bacterial cell-cell communication mechanism that underpins transitions between individual and group behaviors. In P. aeruginosa , the PqsE enzyme and the QS receptor RhlR directly interact to control the expression of genes involved in virulence. Here, we show that three surface-exposed arginine residues on PqsE comprise the site required for interaction with RhlR. We show that a noninteracting PqsE variant [PqsE(NI)] possesses catalytic activity, but is incapable of promoting virulence phenotypes, indicating that interaction with RhlR, and not catalysis, drives these PqsE-dependent behaviors. Biochemical characterization of the PqsE-RhlR interaction coupled with RNA-seq analyses demonstrates that the PqsE-RhlR complex increases the affinity of RhlR for DNA, enabling enhanced expression of genes encoding key virulence factors. These findings provide the mechanism for PqsE-dependent regulation of RhlR and identify a unique regulatory feature of P. aeruginosa QS and its connection to virulence. IMPORTANCE Bacteria use a cell-cell communication process called quorum sensing (QS) to orchestrate collective behaviors. QS relies on the group-wide detection of molecules called autoinducers (AI). QS is required for virulence inmore »the human pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa , which can cause fatal infections in patients with underlying pulmonary disorders. In this study, we determine the molecular basis for the physical interaction between two virulence-driving QS components, PqsE and RhlR. We find that the ability of PqsE to bind RhlR correlates with virulence factor production. Since current antimicrobial therapies exacerbate the growing antibiotic resistance problem because they target bacterial growth, we suggest that the PqsE-RhlR interface discovered here represents a new candidate for targeting with small molecule inhibition. Therapeutics that disrupt the PqsE-RhlR interaction should suppress virulence. Targeting bacterial behaviors such as QS, rather than bacterial growth, represents an attractive alternative for exploration because such therapies could potentially minimize the development of resistance.« less
  3. ABSTRACT Quorum sensing (QS) is a process of cell-to-cell communication that bacteria use to orchestrate collective behaviors. QS relies on the cell-density-dependent production, accumulation, and receptor-mediated detection of extracellular signaling molecules called autoinducers (AIs). Gram-negative bacteria commonly use N -acyl homoserine lactones (AHLs) as their AIs, and they are detected by LuxR-type receptors. Often, LuxR-type receptors are insoluble when not bound to a cognate AI. In this report, we show that LuxR-type receptors are encoded on phage genomes, and in the cases we tested, the phage LuxR-type receptors bind to and are solubilized specifically by the AHL AI produced by the host bacterium. We do not yet know the viral activities that are controlled by these phage QS receptors; however, our observations, coupled with recent reports, suggest that their occurrence is more widespread than previously appreciated. Using receptor-mediated detection of QS AIs could enable phages to garner information concerning the population density status of their bacterial hosts. We speculate that such information can be exploited by phages to optimize the timing of execution of particular steps in viral infection. IMPORTANCE Bacteria communicate with chemical signal molecules to regulate group behaviors in a process called quorum sensing (QS). In this report,more »we find that genes encoding receptors for Gram-negative bacterial QS communication molecules are present on genomes of viruses that infect these bacteria. These viruses are called phages. We show that two phage-encoded receptors, like their bacterial counterparts, bind to the communication molecule produced by the host bacterium, suggesting that phages can “listen in” on their bacterial hosts. Interfering with bacterial QS and using phages to kill pathogenic bacteria represent attractive possibilities for development of new antimicrobials to combat pathogens that are resistant to traditional antibiotics. Our findings of interactions between phages and QS bacteria need consideration as new antimicrobial therapies are developed.« less
  4. Bacterial cells alter gene expression in response to changes in population density in a process called quorum sensing (QS). In Vibrio harveyi, LuxO, a low cell density activator of sigma factor-54 (RpoN), is required for transcription of five non-coding regulatory sRNAs, Qrr1-Qrr5, which each repress translation of the master QS regulator LuxR. Vibrio parahaemolyticus, the leading cause of bacterial seafood-borne gastroenteritis, also contains five Qrr sRNAs that control OpaR (the LuxR homolog), controlling capsule polysaccharide (CPS), motility, and metabolism. We show that in a Δ luxO deletion mutant, opaR was de-repressed and CPS and biofilm were produced. However, in a Δ rpoN mutant, opaR was repressed, no CPS was produced, and less biofilm production was observed compared to wild type. To determine why opaR was repressed, expression analysis in Δ luxO showed all five qrr genes were repressed, while in Δ rpoN the qrr2 gene was significantly de-repressed. Reporter assays and mutant analysis showed Qrr2 sRNA can act alone to control OpaR. Bioinformatics analysis identified a sigma-70 (RpoD) -35 -10 promoter overlapping the canonical sigma-54 (RpoN) -24 -12 promoter in the qrr2 regulatory region. The qrr2 sigma-70 promoter element was also present in additional Vibrio species indicating it is widespread.more »Mutagenesis of the sigma-70 -10 promoter site in the Δ rpoN mutant background, resulted in repression of qrr2. Analysis of qrr quadruple deletion mutants, in which only a single qrr gene is present, showed that only Qrr2 sRNA can act independently to regulate opaR . Mutant and expression data also demonstrated that RpoN and the global regulator, Fis, act additively to repress qrr2 . Our data has uncovered a new mechanism of qrr expression and shows that Qrr2 sRNA is sufficient for OpaR regulation. Importance The quorum sensing non-coding sRNAs are present in all Vibrio species but vary in number and regulatory roles among species. In the Harveyi clade, all species contain five qrr genes, and in V. harveyi these are transcribed by sigma-54 and are additive in function. In the Cholerae clade, four qrr genes are present, and in V. cholerae the qrr genes are redundant in function. In V. parahaemolyticus , qrr2 is controlled by two overlapping promoters. In an rpoN mutant, qrr2 is transcribed from a sigma-70 promoter that is present in all V. parahaemolyticus strains and in other species of the Harveyi clade suggesting a conserved mechanism of regulation. Qrr2 sRNA can function as the sole Qrr sRNA to control OpaR.« less
  5. Bondy-Denomy, Joseph (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT Chemical communication between bacteria and between bacteria and the bacteriophage (phage) viruses that prey on them can shape the outcomes of phage-bacterial encounters. Quorum sensing (QS) is a bacterial cell-to-cell communication process that promotes collective undertaking of group behaviors. QS relies on the production, release, accumulation, and detection of signal molecules called autoinducers. Phages can exploit QS-mediated communication to manipulate their hosts and maximize their own survival. In the opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa , the LasI/R QS system induces the RhlI/R QS system, and in opposing manners, these two systems control the QS system that relies on the autoinducer called PQS. A P. aeruginosa Δ lasI mutant is impaired in PQS synthesis, leading to accumulation of the precursor molecule HHQ, and HHQ suppresses growth of the P. aeruginosa Δ lasI strain. We show that, in response to a phage infection, the P. aeruginosa Δ lasI mutant reactivates QS, which, in turn, restores pqsH expression, enabling conversion of HHQ into PQS. Moreover, downstream QS target genes encoding virulence factors are induced. Additionally, phage-infected P. aeruginosa Δ lasI cells transiently exhibit superior growth compared to uninfected cells. IMPORTANCE Clinical isolates of P. aeruginosa frequently harbor mutations in particular QS genes. Here,more »we show that infection by select temperate phages restores QS, a cell-to-cell communication mechanism in a P. aeruginosa QS mutant. Restoration of QS increases expression of genes encoding virulence factors. Thus, phage infection of select P. aeruginosa strains may increase bacterial pathogenicity, underscoring the importance of characterizing phage-host interactions in the context of bacterial mutants that are relevant in clinical settings.« less