Quorum sensing and self-quorum quenching in the intracellular pathogen Brucella melitensis

Matthieu Terwagne, Aurélie Mirabella, Julien Lemaire, Chantal Deschamps, Xavier De Bolle, Jean-Jacques Letesson

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Abstract

Brucella quorum sensing has been described as an important regulatory system controlling crucial virulence determinants such as the VirB type IV secretion system and the flagellar genes. However, the basis of quorum sensing, namely the production of autoinducers in Brucella has been questioned. Here, we report data obtained from the use of a genetic tool allowing the in situ detection of long-chain N-acyl-homoserine lactones (AHL) activity at single bacterium level in Brucella melitensis. These data are consistent with an intrinsic production of AHL by B. melitensis in low concentration both during in vitro growth and macrophage infection. Moreover, we identified a protein, named AibP, which is homologous to the AHL-acylases of various bacterial species. In vitro and during infection, expression of aibP coincided with a decrease in endogenous AHL activity within B. melitensis, suggesting that AibP could efficiently impair AHL accumulation. Furthermore, we showed that deletion of aibP in B. melitensis resulted in enhanced virB genes expression and VirB8 production as well as in a reduced flagellar genes expression and production of FlgE (hook protein) and FliC (flagellin) in vitro. Altogether, these results suggest that AHL-dependent quorum sensing and AHL-quorum quenching coexist in Brucella, at least to regulate its virulence. © 2013 Terwagne et al.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere82514
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume8
Issue number12
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 11 Dec 2013

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