Physiological Framework for the Regulation of Quorum Sensing-Dependent Public Goods in Pseudomonas aeruginosa

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  • Many bacteria possess cell density-dependent quorum-sensing (QS) systems that often regulate cooperative secretions involved in host-microbe or microbe-microbe interactions. These secretions, or “public goods,” are frequently coregulated by stress and starvation responses. Here we provide a physiological rationale for such regulatory complexity in the opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Using minimal-medium batch and chemostat cultures, we comprehensively characterized specific growth rate-limiting macronutrients as key triggers for the expression of extracellular enzymes and metabolites directly controlled by the las and rhl QS systems. Expression was unrelated to cell density, depended on the secreted product’s elemental composition, and was induced only when the limiting nutrient was not also a building block of the product; rhl-dependent products showed the strongest response, caused by the largely las-independent induction of the regulator RhlR and its cognate signal. In agreement with the prominent role of the rhl system, slow growth inverted the las-to-rhl signal ratio, previously considered a characteristic distinguishing between planktonic and biofilm lifestyles. Our results highlight a supply-driven, metabolically prudent regulation of public goods that minimizes production costs and thereby helps stabilize cooperative behavior. Such regulation would be beneficial for QS-dependent public goods that act broadly and nonspecifically, and whose need cannot always be accurately assessed by the producing cell. Clear differences in the capacities of the las and rhl systems to integrate starvation signals help explain the existence of multiple QS systems in one cell.
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  • Mellbye, B., & Schuster, M. (2013). Physiological framework for the regulation of quorum sensing-dependent public goods in Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Journal of Bacteriology, 196(6), 1155-1164. doi:10.1128/JB.01223-13
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  • 196
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  • 6
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  • This work was supported by National Institutes of Health grant AI079454 and by National Science Foundation grant 1158553 (both to M.S.). B.M. was supported in part by the P.F. and Nellie Buck Yerex Graduate Fellowship.



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