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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2013 Mar;79(6):1889-96. doi: 10.1128/AEM.03794-12. Epub 2013 Jan 11.

Chemoreceptor VfcA mediates amino acid chemotaxis in Vibrio fischeri.

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Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin, USA.


Flagellar motility and chemotaxis by Vibrio fischeri are important behaviors mediating the colonization of its mutualistic host, the Hawaiian bobtail squid. However, none of the 43 putative methyl-accepting chemotaxis proteins (MCPs) encoded in the V. fischeri genome has been previously characterized. Using both an available transposon mutant collection and directed mutagenesis, we isolated mutants for 19 of these genes, and screened them for altered chemotaxis to six previously identified chemoattractants. Only one mutant was defective in responding to any of the tested compounds; the disrupted gene was thus named vfcA (Vibrio fischeri chemoreceptor A; locus tag VF_0777). In soft-agar plates, mutants disrupted in vfcA did not exhibit the serine-sensing chemotactic ring, and the pattern of migration in the mutant was not affected by the addition of exogenous serine. Using a capillary chemotaxis assay, we showed that, unlike wild-type V. fischeri, the vfcA mutant did not undergo chemotaxis toward serine and that expression of vfcA on a plasmid in the mutant was sufficient to restore the behavior. In addition to serine, we demonstrated that alanine, cysteine, and threonine are strong attractants for wild-type V. fischeri and that the attraction is also mediated by VfcA. This study thus provides the first insights into how V. fischeri integrates information from one of its 43 MCPs to respond to environmental stimuli.

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