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J Bacteriol. 1985 Sep;163(3):1210-4.

Diffusion of autoinducer is involved in regulation of the Vibrio fischeri luminescence system.


The enzymes for luminescence in Vibrio fischeri are induced by the accumulation of a species-specific metabolite (autoinducer) in the culture medium. Tritium-labeled autoinducer was used to study the mechanism of autoinduction. When 3H-autoinducer was added to suspensions of V. fischeri or Escherichia coli, cellular concentrations equaled external concentrations. For V. fischeri, equilibration of 3H-autoinducer was rapid (within 20 s), and greater than 90% of the cellular tritium remained in unmodified autoinducer. When V. fischeri or E. coli cells containing 3H-autoinducer were transferred to autoinducer-free buffer, 85 to 99.5% of the radiotracer escaped from the cells, depending on the strain. Concentrations of autoinducer as low as 10 nM, which is equivalent to 1 or 2 molecules per cell, were sufficient for induction, and the maximal response to autoinducer occurred at about 200 nM. If external autoinducer concentrations were decreased to below 10 nM after induction had commenced, the induction response did not continue. Based on this study, a model for autoinduction is described wherein autoinducer association with cells is by simple diffusion and binding of autoinducer to its active site is reversible.

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