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J Bacteriol. 2006 Apr;188(7):2625-35.

Three new regulators of swarming in Vibrio parahaemolyticus.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology, The University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA 52242, USA.


Movement on surfaces, or swarming motility, is effectively mediated by the lateral flagellar (laf) system in Vibrio parahaemolyticus. Expression of laf is induced by conditions inhibiting rotation of the polar flagellum, which is used for swimming in liquid. However, not all V. parahaemolyticus isolates swarm proficiently. The organism undergoes phase variation between opaque (OP) and translucent (TR) cell types. The OP cell produces copious capsular polysaccharide and swarms poorly, whereas the TR type produces minimal capsule and swarms readily. OP<-->TR switching is often the result of genetic alterations in the opaR locus. Previously, OpaR, a Vibrio harveyi LuxR homolog, was shown to activate expression of the cpsA locus, encoding capsular polysaccharide biosynthetic genes. Here, we show that OpaR also regulates swarming by repressing laf gene expression. However, in the absence of OpaR, the swarming phenotype remains tightly surface regulated. To further investigate the genetic controls governing swarming, transposon mutagenesis of a TR (DeltaopaR1) strain was performed, and SwrT, a TetR-type regulator, was identified. Loss of swrT, a homolog of V. harveyi luxT, created a profound defect in swarming. This defect could be rescued upon isolation of suppressor mutations that restored swarming. One class of suppressors mapped in swrZ, encoding a GntR-type transcriptional regulator. Overexpression of swrZ repressed laf expression. Using reporter fusions and quantitative reverse transcription-PCR, SwrT was demonstrated to repress swrZ transcription. Thus, we have identified the regulatory link that inhibits swarming of OP strains and have begun to elucidate a regulatory circuit that modulates swarming in TR strains.

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