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J Bacteriol. 2012 Jan;194(1):185-94. doi: 10.1128/JB.05926-11. Epub 2011 Oct 21.

Sensor kinase RscS induces the production of antigenically distinct outer membrane vesicles that depend on the symbiosis polysaccharide locus in Vibrio fischeri.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Loyola University Medical Center, Maywood, Illinois, USA.


Robust biofilm formation by Vibrio fischeri depends upon activation of the symbiosis polysaccharide (syp) locus, which is achieved by overexpressing the RscS sensor kinase (RscS(+)). Other than the Syp polysaccharide, however, little is known about V. fischeri biofilm matrix components. In other bacteria, biofilms contain polysaccharides, secreted proteins, and outer membrane vesicles (OMVs). Here, we asked whether OMVs are part of V. fischeri biofilms. Transmission electron microscopy revealed OMV-like particles between cells within colonies. In addition, OMVs could be purified from culture supernatants of both RscS(+) and control cells, with the former releasing 2- to 3-fold more OMVs. The increase depended upon the presence of an intact syp locus, as an RscS(+) strain deleted for sypK, which encodes a putative oligosaccharide translocase, exhibited reduced production of OMVs; it also showed a severe defect in biofilm formation. Western immunoblot analyses revealed that the RscS(+) strain, but not the control strain or the RscS(+) sypK mutant, produced a distinct set of nonproteinaceous molecules that could be detected in whole-cell extracts, OMV preparations, and lipopolysaccharide (LPS) extracts. Finally, deletion of degP, which in other bacteria influences OMV production, decreased OMV production and reduced the ability of the cells to form biofilms. We conclude that overexpression of RscS induces OMV production in a manner that depends on the presence of the syp locus and that OMVs produced under these conditions contain antigenically distinct molecules, possibly representing a modified form of lipopolysaccharide (LPS). Finally, our data indicate a correlation between OMV production and biofilm formation by V. fischeri.

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