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Quorum sensing signal production and inhibition by coral-associated vibrios


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Corals are inhabited by complex communities of microbes that affect their growth and survival. Several studies suggest that coral disease may be attributed to the success of vibrios in out-competing other bacteria in the mucus and tissues of corals. Vibrios utilize a variety of quorum sensing (QS) signal molecules to regulate processes that could be used to colonize corals during adverse environmental conditions. We therefore screened a range of Vibrios isolated from a variety of healthy and diseased corals, for the production of the QS signal molecules, N-acylhomoserine lactones (AHLs) and the AI-2 (autoinducer-2) small furanone signal molecule. All 29 strains examined activated the AI-2 biosensor, but only 17 activated an AHL biosensor. Using reverse phase thin-layer chromatography, we showed that the effect of temperature on AHL production varied considerably among the isolates. For the first time, the QS inhibition by Vibrio harveyi is reported. This only occurred at higher temperatures and does not appear to be due to degradation of AHLs. The large diversity of vibrios and the different effects of temperature on signal production may partly explain the complexity of coral-associated community changes in response to environmental factors.