Co-ordinated bacteriocin production and competence development: a possible mechanism for taking up DNA from neighbouring species

Authors

  • Jens Kreth,

    1. Department of Oral Biology and Medicine, UCLA School of Dentistry, P.O. Box 951668, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1668, USA.
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  • Justin Merritt,

    1. Department of Oral Biology and Medicine, UCLA School of Dentistry, P.O. Box 951668, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1668, USA.
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  • Wenyuan Shi,

    1. Department of Oral Biology and Medicine, UCLA School of Dentistry, P.O. Box 951668, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1668, USA.
    2. UCLA Molecular Biology Institute, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA.
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  • Fengxia Qi

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Oral Biology and Medicine, UCLA School of Dentistry, P.O. Box 951668, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1668, USA.
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E-mail fqi@dent.ucla.edu; Tel. (+1) 310 825 0203; Fax (+1) 310 794 7109.

Summary

It is important to ensure DNA availability when bacterial cells develop competence. Previous studies in Streptococcus pneumoniae demonstrated that the competence-stimulating peptide (CSP) induced autolysin production and cell lysis of its own non-competent cells, suggesting a possible active mechanism to secure a homologous DNA pool for uptake and recombination. In this study, we found that in Streptococcus mutans CSP induced co-ordinated expression of competence and mutacin production genes. This mutacin (mutacin IV) is a non-lantibiotic bacteriocin which kills closely related Streptococcal species such as S. gordonii. In mixed cultures of S. mutans and S. gordonii harbouring a shuttle plasmid, plasmid DNA transfer from S. gordonii to S. mutans was observed in a CSP and mutacin IV-dependent manner. Further analysis demonstrated an increased DNA release from S. gordonii upon addition of the partially purified mutacin IV extract. On the basis of these findings, we propose that Streptococcus mutans, which resides in a multispecies oral biofilm, may utilize the competence-induced bacteriocin production to acquire transforming DNA from other species living in the same ecological niche. This hypothesis is also consistent with a well-known phenomenon that a large genomic diversity exists among different S. mutans strains. This diversity may have resulted from extensive horizontal gene transfer.

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