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J Bacteriol. 2011 Aug;193(16):4224-37. doi: 10.1128/JB.00432-11. Epub 2011 Jun 24.

Quorum sensing and silencing in Vibrio parahaemolyticus.

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


The quorum regulatory cascade is poorly characterized in Vibrio parahaemolyticus, in part because swarming and virulence factors--the hallmarks of the organism--are repressed by this scheme of gene control, and quorum sensing seems to be silenced in many isolates. In these studies, we examine a swarming-proficient, virulent strain and identify an altered-function allele of the quorum regulator luxO that is demonstrated to produce a constitutively active mimic of LuxO∼P. We find that LuxO* affects the expression of three small regulatory RNAs (Qrrs) and the activity of a translational fusion in opaR, the output regulator. Tests for epistasis showed that luxO* is dominant over luxO and that opaR is dominant over luxO. Thus, information flow through the central elements of the V. parahaemolyticus quorum pathway is proven for the first time. Quorum-sensing output was explored using microarray profiling: the OpaR regulon encompasses ∼5.2% of the genome. OpaR represses the surface-sensing and type III secretion system 1 (T3SS1) regulons. One novel discovery is that OpaR strongly and oppositely regulates two type VI secretion systems (T6SS). New functional consequences of OpaR control were demonstrated: OpaR increases the cellular cyclic di-GMP (c-di-GMP) level, positively controls chitin-induced DNA competency, and profoundly blocks cytotoxicity toward host cells. In expanding the previously known quorum effects beyond the induction of the capsule and the repression of swarming to elucidate the global scope of genes in the OpaR regulon, this study yields many clues to distinguishing traits of this Vibrio species; it underscores the profoundly divergent survival strategies of the quorum On/Off phase variants.

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