Anti-activator QslA defines the quorum sensing threshold and response in Pseudomonas aeruginosa


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Quorum sensing (QS) in a bacterial population is activated when extracellular concentration of QS signal reaches a threshold, but how this threshold is determined remains largely unknown. In this study, we report the identification and characterization of a novel anti-activator encoded by qslA in Pseudomonas aeruginosa. The null mutation of qslA elevated AHL-dependent QS and PQS signalling, increased the expression of QS-dependent genes, and enhanced the virulence factor production and pathogenicity. We further present evidence that modulation of QS by QslA is due to protein–protein interaction with LasR, which prevents LasR from binding to its target promoter. QslA also influences the threshold concentration of QS signal needed for QS activation; in the absence of qslA, QS is activated by nine times less N-3-oxo-dodecanoyl-homoserine lactone (3-oxo-C12-HSL) than that in wild type. The findings from this study depict a new mechanism that governs the QS threshold in P. aeruginosa.