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  1. Bacteria orchestrate collective behaviors and accomplish feats that would be unsuccessful if carried out by a lone bacterium. Processes undertaken by groups of bacteria include bioluminescence, biofilm formation, virulence factor production, and release of public goods that are shared by the community. Collective behaviors are controlled by signal transduction networks that integrate sensory information and transduce the information internally. Here, we discuss network features and mechanisms that, even in the face of dramatically changing environments, drive precise execution of bacterial group behaviors. We focus on representative quorum-sensing and second-messenger cyclic dimeric GMP (c-di-GMP) signal relays. We highlight ligand specificity versusmore »sensitivity, how small-molecule ligands drive discrimination of kin versus nonkin, signal integration mechanisms, single-input sensory systems versus coincidence detectors, and tuning of input-output dynamics via feedback regulation. We summarize how different features of signal transduction systems allow groups of bacteria to successfully interpret and collectively react to dynamically changing environments. Expected final online publication date for the Annual Review of Microbiology, Volume 76 is September 2022. Please see for revised estimates.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available September 8, 2023
  2. Waldor, Matthew K. (Ed.)
    Bacterial biofilms are multicellular communities that collectively overcome environmental threats and clinical treatments. To regulate the biofilm lifecycle, bacteria commonly transduce sensory information via the second messenger molecule cyclic diguanylate (c-di-GMP). Using experimental and modeling approaches, we quantitatively capture c-di-GMP signal transmission via the bifunctional polyamine receptor NspS-MbaA, from ligand binding to output, in the pathogen Vibrio cholerae . Upon binding of norspermidine or spermidine, NspS-MbaA synthesizes or degrades c-di-GMP, respectively, which, in turn, drives alterations specifically to biofilm gene expression. A long-standing question is how output specificity is achieved via c-di-GMP, a diffusible molecule that regulates dozens of effectors.more »We show that NspS-MbaA signals locally to specific effectors, sensitizing V . cholerae to polyamines. However, local signaling is not required for specificity, as changes to global cytoplasmic c-di-GMP levels can selectively regulate biofilm genes. This work establishes the input–output dynamics underlying c-di-GMP signaling, which could be useful for developing bacterial manipulation strategies.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 18, 2023
  3. 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,more »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 in 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
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 23, 2023
  4. 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 IIImore »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, we 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
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 22, 2023
  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 autoinducermore »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, 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
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 1, 2023
  6. Sourjik, Victor ; Vogel, Joerg (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT Bacteria orchestrate collective behaviors using the cell-cell communication process called quorum sensing (QS). QS relies on the synthesis, release, and group-wide detection of small molecules called autoinducers. In Vibrio cholerae , a multicellular community aggregation program occurs in liquid, during the stationary phase, and in the high-cell-density QS state. Here, we demonstrate that this aggregation program consists of two subprograms. In one subprogram, which we call void formation, structures form that contain few cells but provide a scaffold within which cells can embed. The other subprogram relies on flagellar machinery and enables cells to enter voids. A genetic screenmore »for factors contributing to void formation, coupled with companion molecular analyses, showed that four extracellular proteases, Vca0812, Vca0813, HapA, and PrtV, control the onset timing of both void formation and aggregation; moreover, proteolytic activity is required. These proteases, or their downstream products, can be shared between void-producing and non-void-forming cells and can elicit aggregation in a normally nonaggregating V. cholerae strain. Employing multiple proteases to control void formation and aggregation timing could provide a redundant and irreversible path to commitment to this community lifestyle. IMPORTANCE Bacteria can work as collectives to form multicellular communities. Vibrio cholerae , the bacterium that causes the disease cholera in humans, forms aggregated communities in liquid. Aggregate formation relies on a chemical communication process called quorum sensing. Here, we show that, beyond overarching control by quorum sensing, there are two aggregation subprograms. One subprogram, which we call void formation, creates a scaffold within which cells can embed. The second subprogram, which allows bacteria to enter the scaffold, requires motility. We discovered that four extracellular proteases control the timing of both void formation and aggregation. We argue that, by using redundant proteases, V. cholerae ensures the reliable execution of this community formation process. These findings may provide insight into how V. cholerae persists in the marine environment or colonizes the human host, as both lifestyles are central to the spread of the disease cholera.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 21, 2022
  7. Crosson, Sean (Ed.)
    Quorum sensing is a chemical communication process that bacteria use to coordinate group behaviors. In the global pathogen Vibrio cholerae , one quorum-sensing receptor and transcription factor, called VqmA (VqmA Vc ), activates expression of the vqmR gene encoding the small regulatory RNA VqmR, which represses genes involved in virulence and biofilm formation. Vibriophage VP882 encodes a VqmA homolog called VqmA Phage that activates transcription of the phage gene qtip , and Qtip launches the phage lytic program. Curiously, VqmA Phage can activate vqmR expression but VqmA Vc cannot activate expression of qtip . Here, we investigate the mechanism underlyingmore »this asymmetry. We find that promoter selectivity is driven by each VqmA DNA-binding domain and key DNA sequences in the vqmR and qtip promoters are required to maintain specificity. A protein sequence-guided mutagenesis approach revealed that the residue E194 of VqmA Phage and A192, the equivalent residue in VqmA Vc , in the helix-turn-helix motifs contribute to promoter-binding specificity. A genetic screen to identify VqmA Phage mutants that are incapable of binding the qtip promoter but maintain binding to the vqmR promoter delivered additional VqmA Phage residues located immediately C-terminal to the helix-turn-helix motif as required for binding the qtip promoter. Surprisingly, these residues are conserved between VqmA Phage and VqmA Vc . A second, targeted genetic screen revealed a region located in the VqmA Vc DNA-binding domain that is necessary to prevent VqmA Vc from binding the qtip promoter, thus restricting DNA binding to the vqmR promoter. We propose that the VqmA Vc helix-turn-helix motif and the C-terminal flanking residues function together to prohibit VqmA Vc from binding the qtip promoter.« less
  8. The global pathogen Vibrio cholerae undergoes cycles of biofilm formation and dispersal in the environment and the human host. Little is understood about biofilm dispersal. Here, we show that MbaA, a periplasmic polyamine sensor, and PotD1, a polyamine importer, regulate V. cholerae biofilm dispersal. Spermidine, a commonly produced polyamine, drives V. cholerae dispersal, whereas norspermidine, an uncommon polyamine produced by vibrios, inhibits dispersal. Spermidine and norspermidine differ by one methylene group. Both polyamines control dispersal via MbaA detection in the periplasm and subsequent signal relay. Our results suggest that dispersal fails in the absence of PotD1 because endogenously produced norspermidinemore »is not reimported, periplasmic norspermidine accumulates, and it stimulates MbaA signaling. These results suggest that V. cholerae uses MbaA to monitor environmental polyamines, blends of which potentially provide information about numbers of 'self' and 'other'. This information is used to dictate whether or not to disperse from biofilms.« less
  9. Bacterial cells can self-organize into structured communities at fluid-fluid interfaces. These soft, living materials composed of cells and extracellular matrix are called pellicles. Cells residing in pellicles garner group-level survival advantages such as increased antibiotic resistance. The dynamics of pellicle formation and, more generally, how complex morphologies arise from active biomaterials confined at interfaces are not well understood. Here, using Vibrio cholerae as our model organism, a custom-built adaptive stereo microscope, fluorescence imaging, mechanical theory, and simulations, we report a fractal wrinkling morphogenesis program that differs radically from the well-known coalescence of wrinkles into folds that occurs in passive thinmore »films at fluid-fluid interfaces. Four stages occur: growth of founding colonies, onset of primary wrinkles, development of secondary curved ridge instabilities, and finally the emergence of a cascade of finer structures with fractal-like scaling in wavelength. The time evolution of pellicle formation depends on the initial heterogeneity of the film microstructure. Changing the starting bacterial seeding density produces three variations in the sequence of morphogenic stages, which we term the bypass, crystalline, and incomplete modes. Despite these global architectural transitions, individual microcolonies remain spatially segregated, and thus the community maintains spatial and genetic heterogeneity. Our results suggest that the memory of the original microstructure is critical in setting the morphogenic dynamics of a pellicle as an active biomaterial.« less
  10. 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 controlledmore »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.« less