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Keywords:

  • Vibrio cholerae;
  • quorum sensing;
  • autoinducers;
  • chitin;
  • natural transformation;
  • horizontal gene transfer

Abstract

Vibrio cholerae, the causative agent of cholera and a natural inhabitant of aquatic environments, regulates numerous behaviors using a quorum-sensing (QS) system conserved among many members of the marine genus Vibrio. The Vibrio QS response is mediated by two extracellular autoinducer (AI) molecules: CAI-I, which is produced only by Vibrios, and AI-2, which is produced by many bacteria. In marine biofilms on chitinous surfaces, QS-proficient V. cholerae become naturally competent to take up extracellular DNA. Because the direct role of AIs in this environmental behavior had not been determined, we sought to define the contribution of CAI-1 and AI-2 in controlling transcription of the competence gene, comEA, and in DNA uptake. In this study we demonstrated that comEA transcription and the horizontal acquisition of DNA by V. cholerae are induced in response to purified CAI-1 and AI-2, and also by autoinducers derived from other Vibrios co-cultured with V. cholerae within a mixed-species biofilm. These results suggest that autoinducer communication within a consortium may promote DNA exchange among Vibrios, perhaps contributing to the evolution of these bacterial pathogens.