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Environ Microbiol. 2017 Jan;19(1):119-129. doi: 10.1111/1462-2920.13502. Epub 2016 Sep 7.

Photorhabdus-nematode symbiosis is dependent on hfq-mediated regulation of secondary metabolites.

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Fachbereich Biowissenschaften, Merck Stiftungsprofessur für Molekulare Biotechnologie, Goethe Universität Frankfurt, Frankfurt am Main, Germany.
Department of Computer Science, Bioinformatics Group, Albert Ludwigs University Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany.
BIOSS Centre for Biological Signaling Studies, University of Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany.
Buchmann Institute for Molecular Life Sciences (BMLS), Goethe Universität Frankfurt, Frankfurt am Main, Germany.


Photorhabdus luminescens maintains a symbiotic relationship with the nematodes Heterorhabditis bacteriophora and together they infect and kill insect larvae. To maintain this symbiotic relationship, the bacteria must produce an array of secondary metabolites to assist in the development and replication of nematodes. The regulatory mechanisms surrounding production of these compounds are mostly unknown. The global post-transcriptional regulator, Hfq, is widespread in bacteria and performs many functions, one of which is the facilitation of sRNA binding to target mRNAs, with recent research thoroughly exploring its various pleiotropic effects. Here we generate and characterize an hfq deletion mutant and show that in the absence of hfq, the bacteria are no longer able to maintain a healthy symbiosis with nematodes due to the abolishment of the production of all known secondary metabolites. RNAseq led us to produce a second deletion of a known repressor, HexA, in the same strain, which restored both metabolite production and symbiosis.

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