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J Bacteriol. 2011 Jul;193(14):3624-32. doi: 10.1128/JB.00092-11. Epub 2011 May 20.

The xnp1 P2-like tail synthesis gene cluster encodes xenorhabdicin and is required for interspecies competition.

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  • 1Department of Biological Sciences, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53212, USA.


Xenorhabdus nematophila, the mutualistic bacterium of the nematode Steinernema carpocapsae, produces the R-type bacteriocin called xenorhabdicin, which is thought to confer a competitive advantage for growth in the insect host. We have identified a P2-like tail synthesis gene cluster (xnp1) that is required for xenorhabdicin production. The xnp1 genes were expressed constitutively during growth and were induced by mitomycin C. Deletion of either the sheath (xnpS1) or fiber (xnpH1) genes eliminated xenorhabdicin production. Production of R-type bacteriocins in a host organism had not been shown previously. We show that xenorhabdicin is produced in the hemocoel of insects infected with the wild type but not with the ΔxnpS1 deletion strain. Xenorhabdicin prepared from the wild-type strain killed the potential competitor Photorhabdus luminescens TT01. P. luminescens was eliminated during coculture with wild-type X. nematophila but not with the ΔxnpS1 strain. Furthermore, P. luminescens inhibited reproduction of S. carpocapsae in insect larvae, while coinjection with wild-type X. nematophila, but not the ΔxnpS1, strain restored normal reproduction, demonstrating that xenorhabdicin was required for killing P. luminescens and protecting the nematode partner. Xenorhabdicin killed X. nematophila from Steinernema anatoliense, demonstrating for the first time that it possesses intraspecies activity. In addition, activity was variable against diverse strains of Xenorhabdus and Photorhabdus and was not correlated with phylogenetic distance. These findings are discussed in the context of the role of xenorhabdicin in the life cycle of the mutualistic bacterium X. nematophila.

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