Many bacteria use quorum sensing (QS) to regulate virulence factor production in response to changes in population density. QS is mediated through the production, secretion, and detection of signaling molecules called autoinducers (AIs) to modulate population-wide behavioral changes. Four histidine kinases, LuxPQ, CqsS, CqsR and VpsS, have been identified in Vibrio cholerae as QS receptors to activate virulence gene expression at low cell density. Detection of AIs by these receptors leads to virulence gene repression at high cell density. The redundancy among these receptors is puzzling since any one of the four receptors is sufficient to support colonization of V. cholerae in the host small intestine. It is believed that one of the functions of such circuit architecture is to prevent interference on any single QS receptor. However, it is unclear what natural molecules can interfere V. cholerae QS and in what environment interference is detrimental. We show here mutants expressing only CqsR without the other three QS receptors are defective in colonizing the host large intestine. We identified ethanolamine, a common intestinal metabolite that can function as a chemical source of QS interference. Ethanolamine specifically interacts with the ligand-binding CACHE domain of CqsR and induces a premature QS response in V. cholerae mutants expressing only CqsR without the other three QS receptors. The effect of ethanolamine on QS gene expression and host colonization is abolished by mutations that disrupt CqsR signal sensing. V. cholerae defective in producing ethanolamine is still proficient in QS, therefore, ethanolamine functions only as an external cue for CqsR. Our findings suggest the inhibitory effect of ethanolamine on CqsR could be a possible source of QS interference but is masked by the presence of the other parallel QS pathways, allowing V. cholerae to robustly colonize the host.
Watve S, Barrasso K, Jung SA, Davis KJ, Hawver LA, Khataokar A, et al. (2020) Parallel quorum-sensing system in Vibrio cholerae prevents signal interference inside the host. PLoS Pathogens 16(2): e1008313. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1008313
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