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J Bacteriol. 2015 Dec;197(23):3676-85. doi: 10.1128/JB.00524-15. Epub 2015 Sep 8.

Regulation of Bioluminescence in Photobacterium leiognathi Strain KNH6.

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Department of Microbiology and Plant Biology, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma, USA
Department of Microbiology and Plant Biology, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma, USA.
Department of Microbiology, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, USA.
Department of Microbiology-Immunology, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, Illinois, USA.


Bacterial bioluminescence is taxonomically restricted to certain proteobacteria, many of which belong to the Vibrionaceae. In the most well-studied cases, pheromone signaling plays a key role in regulation of light production. However, previous reports have indicated that certain Photobacterium strains do not use this regulatory method for controlling luminescence. In this study, we combined genome sequencing with genetic approaches to characterize the regulation of luminescence in Photobacterium leiognathi strain KNH6, an extremely bright isolate. Using transposon mutagenesis and screening for decreased luminescence, we identified insertions in genes encoding components necessary for the luciferase reaction (lux, lum, and rib operons) as well as in nine other loci. These additional loci encode gene products predicted to be involved in the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle, DNA and RNA metabolism, transcriptional regulation, and the synthesis of cytochrome c, peptidoglycan, and fatty acids. The mutagenesis screen did not identify any mutants with disruptions of predicted pheromone-related loci. Using targeted gene insertional disruptions, we demonstrate that under the growth conditions tested, luminescence levels do not appear to be controlled through canonical pheromone signaling systems in this strain.


Despite the long-standing interest in luminous bacteria, outside a few model organisms, little is known about the regulation and function of luminescence. Light-producing marine bacteria are widely distributed and have diverse lifestyles, suggesting that the control and significance of luminescence may be similarly diverse. In this study, we apply genetic tools to the study of regulation of light production in the extremely bright isolate Photobacterium leiognathi KNH6. Our results suggest an unusual lack of canonical pheromone-mediated control of luminescence and contribute to a better understanding of alternative strategies for regulation of a key bacterial behavior. These experiments lay the groundwork for further study of the regulation and role of bioluminescence in P. leiognathi.

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