Quantifying the integration of quorum-sensing signals with single-cell resolution.

Department of Physics, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, USA.
PLoS Biology (Impact Factor: 11.77). 04/2009; 7(3):e68. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1000068
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Cell-to-cell communication in bacteria is a process known as quorum sensing that relies on the production, detection, and response to the extracellular accumulation of signaling molecules called autoinducers. Often, bacteria use multiple autoinducers to obtain information about the vicinal cell density. However, how cells integrate and interpret the information contained within multiple autoinducers remains a mystery. Using single-cell fluorescence microscopy, we quantified the signaling responses to and analyzed the integration of multiple autoinducers by the model quorum-sensing bacterium Vibrio harveyi. Our results revealed that signals from two distinct autoinducers, AI-1 and AI-2, are combined strictly additively in a shared phosphorelay pathway, with each autoinducer contributing nearly equally to the total response. We found a coherent response across the population with little cell-to-cell variation, indicating that the entire population of cells can reliably distinguish several distinct conditions of external autoinducer concentration. We speculate that the use of multiple autoinducers allows a growing population of cells to synchronize gene expression during a series of distinct developmental stages.

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    ABSTRACT: Quorum sensing is the regulation of gene expression in response to changes in cell density. To measure their cell density, bacterial populations produce and detect diffusible molecules called autoinducers. Individual bacteria internally represent the external concentration of autoinducers via the level of monitor proteins. In turn, these monitor proteins typically regulate both their own production and the production of autoinducers, thereby establishing internal and external feedbacks. Here, we ask whether feedbacks can increase the information available to cells about their local density. We quantify available information as the mutual information between the abundance of a monitor protein and the local cell density for biologically relevant models of quorum sensing. Using variational methods, we demonstrate that feedbacks can increase information transmission, allowing bacteria to resolve up to two additional ranges of cell density. Our analysis is relevant to multi-agent systems that track an external driver implicitly via an endogenously generated signal.
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    ABSTRACT: Quorum sensing is a cell-cell communication process that bacteria use to transition between individual and social lifestyles. In vibrios, homologous small RNAs called the Qrr sRNAs function at the center of quorum-sensing pathways. The Qrr sRNAs regulate multiple mRNA targets including those encoding the quorum-sensing regulatory components luxR, luxO, luxM, and aphA. We show that a representative Qrr, Qrr3, uses four distinct mechanisms to control its particular targets: the Qrr3 sRNA represses luxR through catalytic degradation, represses luxM through coupled degradation, represses luxO through sequestration, and activates aphA by revealing the ribosome binding site while the sRNA itself is degraded. Qrr3 forms different base-pairing interactions with each mRNA target, and the particular pairing strategy determines which regulatory mechanism occurs. Combined mathematical modeling and experiments show that the specific Qrr regulatory mechanism employed governs the potency, dynamics, and competition of target mRNA regulation, which in turn, defines the overall quorum-sensing response. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
    Cell. 01/2015;
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    ABSTRACT: Populations of genetically identical Sinorhizobium fredii NGR234 cells differ significantly in their expression profiles of autoinducer (AI)-dependent and AI-independent genes. Promoter fusions of the NGR234 AI synthase genes traI and ngrI showed high levels of phenotypic heterogeneity during growth in TY medium on a single cell level. However, adding very high concentrations of N-(3-oxooctanoyl-)-L-homoserine lactone resulted in a more homogeneous expression profile. Similarly, the lack of internally synthesized AIs in the background of the NGR234-ΔtraI or the NGR234-ΔngrI mutant resulted in a highly homogenous expression of the corresponding promoter fusions in the population. Expression studies with reporter fusions of the promoter regions of the quorum quenching genes dlhR, qsdR1 and the pNGR234b encoded type IV pilus gene cluster suggested that other factors than AI molecules may affect NGR234 phenotypic heterogeneity. Further studies with root exudates and developing Arabidopsis thaliana seedlings provide first evidence that plant root exudates have strong impact on the heterogeneity of AI synthase and quorum quenching genes in NGR234. Thereby, plant-released octopine appears to play a key role in modulation of heterogeneous gene expression.
    Applied and Environmental Microbiology 07/2014; · 3.95 Impact Factor

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