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Mol Microbiol. 1998 Sep;29(6):1391-405.

Characterization of the Erwinia chrysanthemi expI-expR locus directing the synthesis of two N-acyl-homoserine lactone signal molecules.

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Laboratoire de Génétique Moléculaire des Microorganismes et des Interactions Cellulaires, UMR-CNRS 5577, INSA, Villeurbanne, France.


The plant pathogen Erwinia chrysanthemi produces three acyl-homoserine lactones (acyl-HSLs). One has been identified as N-(3-oxohexanoyl)-homoserine lactone (OHHL), and the two others were supposed to be N (hexanoyl)-homoserine lactone (HHL) and N-(decanoyl)-homoserine lactone (DHL). The genes for a quorum-sensing signal generator (expI) and a response regulator (expR) were cloned. These genes are convergently transcribed and display high similarity to the expI-expR genes of Erwinia carotovora. ExpI is responsible for both OHHL and HHL production. Inactivation of expl had little effect on pectinase synthesis in E. chrysanthemi, as expression of only two of the pectate lyase genes, pelA and pelB, was decreased. E. chrysanthemi expR mutants still produced acyl-HSL and pectinases. However, gel shift and DNAse I footprinting experiments showed that the purified E. chrysanthemi ExpR protein binds specifically to the promoter regions of the five major pel genes. Addition of OHHL modified the ExpR-DNA bandshift profiles, indicating that ExpR interacts with OHHL and binds to DNA in different ways, depending on the OHHL concentration. Localization of the ExpR binding sites just upstream of promoter regions suggests that ExpR functions as an activator of pel expression in the presence of OHHL. The absence of a phenotype in expR mutants strongly suggests that at least an additional interchangeable ExpR homologue exists in E. chrysanthemi. Finally, transcription of expI::uidA and expR::uidA fusions is dependent on the population density, suggesting the existence of a quorum-sensing hierarchy in E. chrysanthemi. These results suggest that the expI-expR locus is part of a complex autoregulatory system that controls quorum sensing in E. chrysanthemi.

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