The transcriptional regulator, CosR, controls compatible solute biosynthesis and transport, motility and biofilm formation in Vibrio cholerae


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Vibrio cholerae inhabits aquatic environments and colonizes the human digestive tract to cause the disease cholera. In these environments, V. cholerae copes with fluctuations in salinity and osmolarity by producing and transporting small, organic, highly soluble molecules called compatible solutes, which counteract extracellular osmotic pressure. Currently, it is unclear how V. cholerae regulates the expression of genes important for the biosynthesis or transport of compatible solutes in response to changing salinity or osmolarity conditions. Through a genome-wide transcriptional analysis of the salinity response of V. cholerae, we identified a transcriptional regulator we name CosR for compatible solute regulator. The expression of cosR is regulated by ionic strength and not osmolarity. A transcriptome analysis of a ΔcosR mutant revealed that CosR represses genes involved in ectoine biosynthesis and compatible solute transport in a salinity-dependent manner. When grown in salinities similar to estuarine environments, CosR activates biofilm formation and represses motility independently of its function as an ectoine regulator. This is the first study to characterize a compatible solute regulator in V. cholerae and couples the regulation of osmotic tolerance with biofilm formation and motility.