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J Microbiol Methods. 2007 Jan;68(1):40-5. Epub 2006 Aug 17.

Direct quantification of N-(3-oxo-hexanoyl)-L-homoserine lactone in culture supernatant using a whole-cell bioreporter.

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Center for Environmental Biotechnology, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996-2010, USA.


The autoinducer N-(3-oxo-hexanoyl)-L-homoserine lactone (3-oxo-C6-HSL) plays a significant role in the quorum-sensing system of the marine bacterium Vibrio fischeri. Upon forming a transcriptional activation complex with LuxR, 3-oxo-C6-HSL induces transcription of the luxICDABEG operon, leading to the increased production of both the 3-oxo-C6-HSL synthase (LuxI) and the bioluminescent proteins. In order to quantitatively analyze this regulatory mechanism, a novel approach was developed to measure 3-oxo-C6-HSL concentrations in V. fischeri cell culture supernatant. A bioluminescent strain of Escherichia coli that responds to 3-oxo-C6-HSL was used as a bioreporter. Although a linear response of the bioreporter to exogenously added synthetic 3-oxo-C6-HSL was found over several orders of magnitude, we show that bioreporter performance was dramatically impacted by variations in the supernatants using samples from a V. fischeri LuxI- strain. However, when maintained in the same supernatant background, the normalized peak bioluminescence maintained a linear response to 3-oxo-C6-HSL concentrations. Therefore, a standard additions technique was developed in which a known concentration of 3-oxo-C6-HSL was added to supernatant samples from wild-type V. fischeri cultures, and the incremental increase of the normalized peak bioluminescence relative to the untreated sample was determined. The concentration of 3-oxo-C6-HSL in the supernatant of the unknown sample was then quantified from the slope of the response between the normalized bioluminescent peaks with and without the addition of 3-oxo-C6-HSL. Advantages of this method are that it is rapid, does not require concentration or extraction, uses a small sample volume (ca. 2 ml), and accounts for effects caused by the composition of the supernatant. Furthermore, the findings can be broadly applicable to other bioreporter systems involving variable background conditions.

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