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Environ Microbiol. 2009 Jul;11(7):1792-802. doi: 10.1111/j.1462-2920.2009.01904.x. Epub 2009 Mar 31.

Turnover of quorum sensing signal molecules modulates cross-kingdom signalling.

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Plymouth Marine Laboratory, Prospect Place, Plymouth, PL1 3DH, UK.


N-acylhomoserine lactone (AHL) quorum-sensing molecules modulate the swimming behaviour of zoospores of the macroalga Ulva to facilitate the location of bacterial biofilms. Here we show that the intertidal surfaces colonized by Ulva are dominated by Alphaproteobacteria, particularly the Rhodobacteraceae family, and the Bacteroidetes family Flavobacteriaceae, and that this diverse assemblage both produces and degrades AHLs. N-acylhomoserine lactones could also be extracted from the surfaces of pebbles recovered from intertidal rock-pools. Bacteria representative of this assemblage were isolated and tested for the production and degradation of AHLs, and for their ability to modulate zoospore settlement at different biofilm densities. Of particular interest was a Shewanella sp. This strain produced three major AHLs (OC4, OC10 and OC12) in the late exponential phase, but the longer-chain AHLs were rapidly degraded in the stationary phase. Degradation occurred via both lactonase and amidase activity. A close relationship was found between AHL synthesis and Ulva zoospore settlement. The Shewanella isolate also interfered with AHL production by a Sulfitobacter isolate and its ability to enhance zoospore settlement in a polymicrobial biofilm. This influence on the attachment of Ulva zoospores suggests that AHL-degrading strains can affect bacterial community behaviour by interfering with quorum sensing between neighbouring bacteria. More importantly, these interactions may exert wider ecological effects across different kingdoms.

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