[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: In Sinorhizobium meliloti, the production of exopolysaccharides such as succinoglycan and exopolysaccharide II (EPS II) enables the bacterium to invade root nodules on Medicago sativa and establish a nitrogen-fixing symbiosis. While extensive research has focused on succinoglycan, less is known concerning the regulation of EPS II or the mechanism by which it mediates entrance into the host plant. Previously, we reported that the ExpR/Sin quorum-sensing system is required to produce the symbiotically active low-molecular-weight fraction of this exopolysaccharide. Here, we show that this system induces EPS II production by increasing expression of the expG-expC operon, encoding both a transcriptional regulator (ExpG) and a glycosyl transferase (ExpC). ExpG derepresses EPS II production at the transcriptional level from MucR, a RosR homolog, while concurrently elevating expression of expC, resulting in the synthesis of the low-molecular-weight form. While the ExpR/Sin system abolishes the role of MucR on EPS II production, it preserves a multitude of other quorum-sensing-independent regulatory functions which promote the establishment of symbiosis. In planktonic S. meliloti, MucR properly coordinates a diverse set of bacterial behaviors by repressing a variety of genes intended for expression during symbiosis and enhancing the bacterial ability to induce root nodule formation. Quorum sensing precisely modulates the functions of MucR to take advantage of both the production of symbiotically active EPS II as well as the proper coordination of bacterial behavior required to promote symbiosis.
Journal of bacteriology 11/2010; 193(2):485-96. · 3.94 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The mammalian gastrointestinal (GI) tract is colonized by a complex consortium of bacterial species. Bacteria engage in chemical signaling to coordinate population-wide behavior. However, it is unclear if chemical sensing plays a role in establishing mammalian host-bacterial commensal relationships. Enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC) is a deadly human pathogen but is a member of the GI flora in cattle, its main reservoir. EHEC harbors SdiA, a regulator that senses acyl-homoserine lactones (AHLs) produced by other bacteria. Here, we show that SdiA is necessary for EHEC colonization of cattle and that AHLs are prominent within the bovine rumen but absent in other areas of the GI tract. We also assessed the rumen metagenome of heifers, and we show that it is dominated by Clostridia and/or Bacilli but also harbors Bacteroidetes. Of note, some members of the Bacteroidetes phyla have been previously reported to produce AHLs. SdiA-AHL chemical signaling aids EHEC in gauging these GI environments, and promotes adaptation to a commensal lifestyle. We show that chemical sensing in the mammalian GI tract determines the niche specificity for colonization by a commensal bacterium of its natural animal reservoir. Chemical sensing may be a general mechanism used by commensal bacteria to sense and adapt to their mammalian hosts. Additionally, because EHEC is largely prevalent in cattle herds, interference with SdiA-mediated cattle colonization is an exciting alternative to diminish contamination of meat products and cross-contamination of produce crops because of cattle shedding of this human pathogen.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 05/2010; 107(21):9831-6. · 9.81 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Sinorhizobium meliloti is a soil bacterium that elicits the formation of root organs called nodules on its host plant, Medicago sativa. Inside these structures, the bacteria are able to convert atmospheric nitrogen into ammonia, which is then used by the plant as a nitrogen source. The synthesis by S. meliloti of at least one exopolysaccharide, succinoglycan or EPS II, is essential for a successful symbiosis. While exopolysaccharide-deficient mutants induce the formation of nodules, they fail to invade them, and as a result, no nitrogen fixation occurs. Interestingly, the low-molecular-weight fractions of these exopolysaccharides are the symbiotically active forms, and it has been suggested that they act as signals to the host plant to initiate infection thread formation. In this work, we explored the role of these rhizobial exopolysaccharides in biofilm formation and their importance in the symbiotic relationship with the host. We showed that the ExpR/Sin quorum-sensing system controls biofilm formation in S. meliloti through the production of EPS II, which provides the matrix for the development of structured and highly organized biofilms. Moreover, the presence of the low-molecular-weight fraction of EPS II is vital for biofilm formation, both in vitro and in vivo. This is the first report where the symbiotically active fraction of EPS II is shown to be a critical factor for biofilm formation and root colonization. Thus, the ability of S. meliloti to properly attach to root surfaces and form biofilms conferred by the synthesis of exopolysaccharides may embody the main function of these symbiotically essential molecules.
Journal of bacteriology 09/2009; 191(23):7216-24. · 3.94 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The nitrogen-fixing symbiont Sinorhizobium meliloti senses and responds to constantly changing environmental conditions as it makes its way through the soil in search of its leguminous plant host, Medicago sativa (alfalfa). As a result, this bacterium regulates various aspects of its physiology in order to respond appropriately to stress, starvation, and competition. For example, exopolysaccharide production, which has been shown to play an important role in the ability of S. meliloti to successfully invade its host, also helps the bacterium withstand osmotic changes and other environmental stresses. In an effort to further elucidate the intricate regulation of this important cell component, we set out to identify genetic factors that may affect its production. Here we characterize novel genes that encode a small protein (EmmA) and a putative two-component system (EmmB-EmmC). A mutation in any of these genes leads to increased production of the symbiotically important exopolysaccharide succinoglycan. In addition, emm mutants display membrane-associated defects, are nonmotile, and are unable to form an optimal symbiosis with alfalfa, suggesting that these novel genes may play a greater role in the overall fitness of S. meliloti both during the free-living stage and in its association with its host.
Journal of bacteriology 08/2009; 191(19):5890-900. · 3.94 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The ExpR/Sin quorum-sensing system of the gram-negative soil bacterium Sinorhizobium meliloti plays an important role in the establishment of symbiosis with its host plant Medicago sativa. A mutant unable to produce autoinducer signal molecules (sinI) is deficient in its ability to invade the host, but paradoxically, a strain lacking the quorum-sensing transcriptional regulator ExpR is as efficient as the wild type. We compared the whole-genome expression profile of the wild-type strain with strains missing one of the quorum-sensing regulatory components to identify genes controlled by the ExpR/Sin system throughout the different phases of the bacterial growth cycle, as well as in planta. Our analyses revealed that ExpR is a highly versatile regulator with a unique ability to show different regulatory capabilities in the presence or absence of an autoinducer. In addition, this study provided us with insight into the plant invasion defect displayed by the autoinducer mutant. We also discovered that the ExpR/Sin quorum-sensing system is repressed after plant invasion. Therefore, quorum sensing plays a crucial role in the regulation of many cell functions that ensures the successful invasion of the host and is inactivated once symbiosis is established.
Journal of bacteriology 05/2009; 191(13):4372-82. · 3.94 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Bacteria can modulate their behavior by releasing and responding to the accumulation of signal molecules. This population co-ordination, referred to as quorum sensing, is prevalent in Gram-negative and Gram-positive bacteria. The essential constituents of quorum-sensing systems include a signal producer, or synthase, and a cognate transcriptional regulator that responds to the accumulated signal molecules. With the availability of bacterial genome sequences and an increased elucidation of quorum-sensing circuits, genes that code for additional transcriptional regulators, usually in excess of the synthase, have been identified. These additional regulators are referred to as 'orphan' regulators, because they are not directly associated with a synthase. Here, we review orphan regulators characterized in various Gram-negative bacteria and their role in expanding the bacterial regulatory network.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The Sin/ExpR quorum-sensing system of Sinorhizobium meliloti plays an important role in the symbiotic association with its host plant, Medicago sativa. The LuxR-type response regulators of the Sin system include the synthase (SinI)-associated SinR and the orphan regulator ExpR. Interestingly, the S. meliloti Rm1021 genome codes for four additional putative orphan LuxR homologs whose regulatory roles remain to be identified. These response regulators contain the characteristic domains of the LuxR family of proteins, which include an N-terminal autoinducer/response regulatory domain and a C-terminal helix-turn-helix domain. This study elucidates the regulatory role of one of the orphan LuxR-type response regulators, NesR. Through expression and phenotypic analyses, nesR was determined to affect the active methyl cycle of S. meliloti. Moreover, nesR was shown to influence nutritional and stress response activities in S. meliloti. Finally, the nesR mutant was deficient in competing with the wild-type strain for plant nodulation. Taken together, these results suggest that NesR potentially contributes to the adaptability of S. meliloti when it encounters challenges such as high osmolarity, nutrient starvation, and/or competition for nodulation, thus increasing its chances for survival in the stressful rhizosphere.
Applied and Environmental Microbiology 01/2009; 75(4):946-55. · 3.95 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: A successful symbiotic relationship between Sinorhizobium meliloti and its host Medicago sativa (alfalfa) depends on several signaling mechanisms, such as the biosynthesis of exopolysaccharides (EPS) by S. meliloti. Previous work in our laboratory has shown that a quorum-sensing mechanism controls the production of the symbiotically active EPS II. Recent microarray analysis of the whole-genome expression profile of S. meliloti reveals that the ExpR/Sin quorum-sensing system regulates additional physiological processes that include low-molecular-weight succinoglycan production, nitrogen utilization, metal transport, motility, and chemotaxis. Nearly half of the flagellar genes and their dependence on quorum sensing are prominently displayed in our microarray analyses. We extend those observations in this work and confirm the findings by real-time PCR expression analysis of selected genes, including the flaF, flbT, flaC, cheY1, and flgB genes, involved in motility and chemotaxis. These genes code for regulators of flagellum synthesis, the chemotactic response, or parts of the flagellar apparatus. Gene expression analyses and visualization of flagella by electron microscopy performed at different points in the growth phase support our proposed model in which quorum sensing downregulates motility in S. meliloti. We demonstrate that the ExpR/Sin quorum-sensing system controls motility gene expression through the VisN/VisR/Rem relay. We also show that the ExoS-dependent two-component system suppresses motility gene expression through VisN and Rem in parallel to quorum sensing. This study contributes to our understanding of the mechanisms that govern motility in S. meliloti.
Journal of bacteriology 03/2008; 190(3):861-71. · 3.94 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Quorum sensing, the ability of bacteria to sense their own population density through the synthesis and detection of small molecule signals, has received a great deal of attention in recent years. Acyl homoserine lactones (AHLs) are a major class of quorum sensing signaling molecules. In nature, some bacteria that do not synthesize AHLs themselves have developed the ability to degrade these compounds by cleaving the amide bond or the lactone ring. By inactivating this signal used by competing bacteria, the degrading microbe is believed to gain a competitive advantage. In this work we report that CYP102A1, a widely studied cytochrome P450 from Bacillus megaterium, is capable of very efficient oxidation of AHLs and their lactonolysis products acyl homoserines. The previously known substrates for this enzyme, fatty acids, can also be formed in nature by hydrolysis of the amide of AHLs, so CYP102A1 is capable of inactivating the active parent compound and the products of both known pathways for AHL inactivation observed in nature. AHL oxidation primarily takes place at the omega-1, omega-2, and omega-3 carbons of the acyl chain, similar to this enzyme's well-known activity on fatty acids. Acyl homoserines and their lactones are better substrates for CYP102A1 than fatty acids. Bioassay of the quorum sensing activity of oxidation products reveals that the subterminally hydroxylated AHLs exhibit quorum sensing activity, but are 18-fold less active than the parent compound. In vivo, B. megaterium inactivates AHLs by a CYP102A1 dependent mechanism that must involve additional components that further sequester or metabolize the products, eliminating their quorum sensing activity. Cytochrome P450 oxidation of AHLs represents an important new mechanism of quorum quenching.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Sinorhizobium meliloti is a gram-negative soil bacterium capable of forming a symbiotic nitrogen-fixing relationship with its plant host, Medicago sativa. Various bacterially produced factors are essential for successful nodulation. For example, at least one of two exopolysaccharides produced by S. meliloti (succinoglycan or EPS II) is required for nodule invasion. Both of these polymers are produced in high- and low-molecular-weight (HMW and LMW, respectively) fractions; however, only the LMW forms of either succinoglycan or EPS II are active in nodule invasion. The production of LMW succinoglycan can be generated by direct synthesis or through the depolymerization of HMW products by the action of two specific endoglycanases, ExsH and ExoK. Here, we show that the ExpR/Sin quorum-sensing system in S. meliloti is involved in the regulation of genes responsible for succinoglycan biosynthesis as well as in the production of LMW succinoglycan. Therefore, quorum sensing, which has been shown to regulate the production of EPS II, also plays an important role in succinoglycan biosynthesis.
Journal of Bacteriology 11/2007; 189(19):7077-88. · 3.19 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Quorum sensing is widely recognized as an efficient mechanism to regulate expression of specific genes responsible for communal behavior in bacteria. Several bacterial phenotypes essential for the successful establishment of symbiotic, pathogenic, or commensal relationships with eukaryotic hosts, including motility, exopolysaccharide production, biofilm formation, and toxin production, are often regulated by quorum sensing. Interestingly, eukaryotes produce quorum-sensing-interfering (QSI) compounds that have a positive or negative influence on the bacterial signaling network. This eukaryotic interference could result in further fine-tuning of bacterial quorum sensing. Furthermore, recent work involving the synthesis of structural homologs to the various quorum-sensing signal molecules has resulted in the development of additional QSI compounds that could be used to control pathogenic bacteria. The creation of transgenic plants that express bacterial quorum-sensing genes is yet another strategy to interfere with bacterial behavior. Further investigation on the manipulation of quorum-sensing systems could provide us with powerful tools against harmful bacteria.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Sinorhizobium meliloti is a gram-negative soil bacterium, capable of establishing a nitrogen-fixing symbiosis with its legume host, alfalfa (Medicago sativa). Quorum sensing plays a crucial role in this symbiosis, where it influences the nodulation process and the synthesis of the symbiotically important exopolysaccharide II (EPS II). S. meliloti has three quorum-sensing systems (Sin, Tra, and Mel) that use N-acyl homoserine lactones as their quorum-sensing signal molecule. Increasing evidence indicates that certain eukaryotic hosts involved in symbiotic or pathogenic relationships with gram-negative bacteria produce quorum-sensing-interfering (QSI) compounds that can cross-communicate with the bacterial quorum-sensing system. Our studies of alfalfa seed exudates suggested the presence of multiple signal molecules capable of interfering with quorum-sensing-regulated gene expression in different bacterial strains. In this work, we choose one of these QSI molecules (SWI) for further characterization. SWI inhibited violacein production, a phenotype that is regulated by quorum sensing in Chromobacterium violaceum. In addition, this signal molecule also inhibits the expression of the S. meliloti exp genes, responsible for the production of EPS II, a quorum-sensing-regulated phenotype. We identified this molecule as l-canavanine, an arginine analog, produced in large quantities by alfalfa and other legumes.
Journal of Bacteriology 01/2006; 187(24):8427-36. · 3.19 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Some members of the moderately halophilic genus Halomonas, such as H. eurihalina, H. maura, H. ventosae and H. anticariensis, produce exopolysaccharides with applications in many industrial fields. We report here that these four species also produce autoinducer molecules that are involved in the cell-to-cell signaling process known as quorum sensing. By using the N-acyl homoserine lactone (AHL) indicator strains Agrobacterium tumefaciens NTL4 (pZRL4) and Chromobacterium violaceum CV026, we discovered that all the Halomonas strains examined synthesize detectable AHL signal molecules. The synthesis of these compounds was growth-phase dependent and maximal activity was reached during the late exponential to stationary phases. One of these AHLs seems to be synthesized only in the stationary phase. Some of the AHLs produced by H. anticariens FP35(T) were identified by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry and electrospray ionization tandem mass spectrometry as N-butanoyl homoserine lactone (C(4)-HL), N-hexanoyl homoserine lactone (C(6)-HL), N-octanoyl homoserine lactone (C(8)-HL) and N-dodecanoyl homoserine lactone (C(12)-HL). This study suggests that quorum sensing may also play an important role in extreme environments.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Quorum sensing, a population density-dependent mechanism for bacterial communication and gene regulation, plays a crucial role in the symbiosis between alfalfa and its symbiont Sinorhizobium meliloti. The Sin system, one of three quorum sensing systems present in S. meliloti, controls the production of the symbiotically active exopolysaccharide EPS II. Based on DNA microarray data, the Sin system also seems to regulate a multitude of S. meliloti genes, including genes that participate in low-molecular-weight succinoglycan production, motility, and chemotaxis, as well as other cellular processes. Most of the regulation by the Sin system is dependent on the presence of the ExpR regulator, a LuxR homolog. Gene expression profiling data indicate that ExpR participates in additional cellular processes that include nitrogen fixation, metabolism, and metal transport. Based on our microarray analysis we propose a model for the regulation of gene expression by the Sin/ExpR quorum sensing system and another possible quorum sensing system(s) in S. meliloti.
Journal of Bacteriology 09/2004; 186(16):5460-72. · 3.19 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Population-density-dependent gene expression in gram-negative bacteria involves the production of signal molecules characterized as N-acyl homoserine lactones (AHLs). The synthesis of AHLs by numerous microorganisms has been identified by using biosensor strains based on the Agrobacterium tumefaciens and Chromobacterium violaceum quorum-sensing systems. The symbiotic nitrogen-fixing bacterium Sinorhizobium meliloti is rapidly becoming a model organism for the study of quorum sensing. This organism harbors at least three different quorum-sensing systems (Sin, Mel, and Tra), which play a role in its symbiotic relationship with its host plant, alfalfa. The Sin system is distinguished among them for the production of long-chain AHLs, including C(18)-HL, the longest AHL reported so far. In this work, we show that construction of a sinI::lacZ transcriptional fusion results in a strain that detects long-chain AHLs with exquisite sensitivity. Overexpression of the SinR regulator protein from a vector promoter increases its sensitivity without loss of specificity. We also show that the resulting indicator strain can recognize long-chain AHLs produced by unrelated bacteria such as Paracoccus denitrificans and Rhodobacter capsulatus. This S. meliloti indicator strain should serve as a tool for the specific detection of long-chain AHLs in new systems.
Applied and Environmental Microbiology 07/2004; 70(6):3715-23. · 3.95 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Members of the rhizobia are distinguished for their ability to establish a nitrogen-fixing symbiosis with leguminous plants. While many details of this relationship remain a mystery, much effort has gone into elucidating the mechanisms governing bacterium-host recognition and the events leading to symbiosis. Several signal molecules, including plant-produced flavonoids and bacterially produced nodulation factors and exopolysaccharides, are known to function in the molecular conversation between the host and the symbiont. Work by several laboratories has shown that an additional mode of regulation, quorum sensing, intercedes in the signal exchange process and perhaps plays a major role in preparing and coordinating the nitrogen-fixing rhizobia during the establishment of the symbiosis. Rhizobium leguminosarum, for example, carries a multitiered quorum-sensing system that represents one of the most complex regulatory networks identified for this form of gene regulation. This review focuses on the recent stream of information regarding quorum sensing in the nitrogen-fixing rhizobia. Seminal work on the quorum-sensing systems of R. leguminosarum bv. viciae, R. etli, Rhizobium sp. strain NGR234, Sinorhizobium meliloti, and Bradyrhizobium japonicum is presented and discussed. The latest work shows that quorum sensing can be linked to various symbiotic phenomena including nodulation efficiency, symbiosome development, exopolysaccharide production, and nitrogen fixation, all of which are important for the establishment of a successful symbiosis. Many questions remain to be answered, but the knowledge obtained so far provides a firm foundation for future studies on the role of quorum-sensing mediated gene regulation in host-bacterium interactions.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Sinorhizobium meliloti is a soil bacterium capable of invading and establishing a symbiotic relationship with alfalfa plants. This invasion process requires the synthesis, by S. meliloti, of at least one of the two symbiotically important exopolysaccharides, succinoglycan and EPS II. We have previously shown that the sinRI locus of S. meliloti encodes a quorum-sensing system that plays a role in the symbiotic process. Here we show that the sinRI locus exerts one level of control through regulation of EPS II synthesis. Disruption of the autoinducer synthase gene, sinI, abolished EPS II production as well as the expression of several genes in the exp operon that are responsible for EPS II synthesis. This phenotype was complemented by the addition of acyl homoserine lactone (AHL) extracts from the wild-type strain but not from a sinI mutant, indicating that the sinRI-specified AHLs are required for exp gene expression. This was further confirmed by the observation that synthetic palmitoleyl homoserine lactone (C(16:1)-HL), one of the previously identified sinRI-specified AHLs, specifically restored exp gene expression. Most importantly, the absence of symbiotically active EPS II in a sinI mutant was confirmed in plant nodulation assays, emphasizing the role of quorum sensing in symbiosis.
Journal of Bacteriology 02/2003; 185(1):325-31. · 3.19 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Sinorhizobium meliloti is a soil bacterium which can establish a nitrogen-fixing symbiosis with the legume Medicago sativa. Recent work has identified a pair of genes, sinR and sinI, which represent a potential quorum-sensing system and are responsible for the production of N-acyl homoserine lactones (AHLs) in two S. meliloti strains, Rm1021 and Rm41. In this work, we characterize the sinRI locus and show that these genes are responsible for the synthesis of several long-chain AHLs ranging from 12 to 18 carbons in length. Four of these, 3-oxotetradecanoyl HL, 3-oxohexadecenoyl HL, hexadecenoyl HL, and octadecanoyl HL, have novel structures. This is the first report of AHLs having acyl chains longer than 14 carbons. We show that a disruption in sinI eliminates these AHLs and that a sinR disruption results in only basal levels of the AHLs. Moreover, the same sinI and sinR mutations also lead to a decrease in the number of pink nodules during nodulation assays, as well as a slight delay in the appearance of pink nodules, indicating a role for quorum sensing in symbiosis. We also show that sinI and sinR mutants are still capable of producing several short-chain AHLs, one of which was identified as octanoyl HL. We believe that these short-chain AHLs are evidence of a second quorum-sensing system in Rm1021, which we refer to here as the mel system, for "S. meliloti."
Journal of Bacteriology 11/2002; 184(20):5686-95. · 3.19 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Sinorhizobium meliloti is a free-living soil bacterium which is capable of establishing a symbiotic relationship with the alfalfa plant (Medicago sativa). This symbiosis involves a network of bacterium-host signaling, as well as the potential for bacterium-bacterium communication, such as quorum sensing. In this study, we characterized the production of N-acyl homoserine lactones (AHLs) by two commonly used S. meliloti strains, AK631 and Rm1021. We found that AK631 produces at least nine different AHLs, while Rm1021 produces only a subset of these molecules. To address the difference in AHL patterns between the strains, we developed a novel screening method to identify the genes affecting AHL synthesis. With this screening method, chromosomal groEL (groELc) was shown to be required for synthesis of the AHLs that are unique to AK631 but not for synthesis of the AHLs that are made by both AK631 and Rm1021. We then used the screening procedure to identify a mutation in a gene homologous to traM of Agrobacterium tumefaciens, which was able to suppress the phenotype of the groELc mutation. A traR homolog was identified immediately upstream of traM, and we propose that its gene product requires a functional groELc for activity and is also responsible for inducing the synthesis of the AHLs that are unique to AK631. We show that the traR/traM locus is part of a quorum-sensing system unique to AK631 and propose that this locus is involved in regulating conjugal plasmid transfer. We also present evidence for the existence of a second quorum-sensing system, sinR/sinI, which is present in both AK631 and Rm1021.
Journal of Bacteriology 08/2002; 184(13):3466-75. · 3.19 Impact Factor