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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2012 Nov;78(22):8067-74. doi: 10.1128/AEM.01442-12. Epub 2012 Sep 14.

Phylogenetically novel LuxI/LuxR-type quorum sensing systems isolated using a metagenomic approach.

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National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan.


A great deal of research has been done to understand bacterial cell-to-cell signaling systems, but there is still a large gap in our current knowledge because the majority of microorganisms in natural environments do not have cultivated representatives. Metagenomics is one approach to identify novel quorum sensing (QS) systems from uncultured bacteria in environmental samples. In this study, fosmid metagenomic libraries were constructed from a forest soil and an activated sludge from a coke plant, and the target genes were detected using a green fluorescent protein (GFP)-based Escherichia coli biosensor strain whose fluorescence was screened by spectrophotometry. DNA sequence analysis revealed two pairs of new LuxI family N-acyl-L-homoserine lactone (AHL) synthases and LuxR family transcriptional regulators (clones N16 and N52, designated AubI/AubR and AusI/AusR, respectively). AubI and AusI each produced an identical AHL, N-dodecanoyl-L-homoserine lactone (C(12)-HSL), as determined by nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and mass spectrometry. Phylogenetic analysis based on amino acid sequences suggested that AusI/AusR was from an uncultured member of the Betaproteobacteria and AubI/AubR was very deeply branched from previously described LuxI/LuxR homologues in isolates of the Proteobacteria. The phylogenetic position of AubI/AubR indicates that they represent a QS system not acquired recently from the Proteobacteria by horizontal gene transfer but share a more ancient ancestry. We demonstrated that metagenomic screening is useful to provide further insight into the phylogenetic diversity of bacterial QS systems by describing two new LuxI/LuxR-type QS systems from uncultured bacteria.

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