Quorum sensing and LuxR solos in Photorhabdus

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Abstract

Bacterial communication via small diffusible molecules to mediate group-coordinated behaviour is commonly referred to as ‘quorum sensing’. The prototypical quorum sensing system of Gram-negative bacteria consists of a LuxI-type autoinducer synthase that produces acyl-homoserine lactones (AHLs) as signals and a LuxR-type receptor that detects the AHLs to control expression of specific genes. However, many bacteria possess LuxR homologs but lack a cognate LuxI-type AHL-synthase. Those LuxR-type receptors are designated as ‘LuxR orphans’ or ‘solos’. Entomopathogenic bacteria of the genus Photorhabdus all harbour a large number of LuxR solos, more than any other bacteria examined so far. Two novel quorum sensing systems were found to regulate cell clumping in Photorhabdus and therefore affect pathogenicity. In Photorhabdus luminescens and Photorhabdus temperata the LuxR solo PluR senses α-pyrones named ‘photopyrones’ instead of AHLs, which are produced by the pyrone synthase PpyS. In contrast, Photorhabdus asymbiotica, a closely related insect and human pathogen, has the PluR homolog PauR, which senses dialkylresorcinols produced by the DarABC pathway to regulate pathogenicity. All three Photorhabdus species harbour at least one LuxR solo with an intact AHL-binding motif, which might also allow sensing of exogenous AHLs. However, the majority of the LuxR solos in all Photorhabdus species have a PAS4 signal-binding domain. These receptors are assumed to detect eukaryotic compounds and are proposed to be involved in host sensing. Overall, because of the large number of LuxR solos they encode, bacteria of the genus Photorhabdus are ideal candidates to study and to identify novel bacterial communication networks.

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Brameyer, S., & Heermann, R. (2017). Quorum sensing and LuxR solos in Photorhabdus. In Current Topics in Microbiology and Immunology (Vol. 402, pp. 103–119). Springer Verlag. https://doi.org/10.1007/82_2016_28

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