A Host-Produced Autoinducer-2 Mimic Activates Bacterial Quorum Sensing.
Host-microbial symbioses are vital to health; nonetheless, little is known about the role crosskingdom signaling plays in these relationships. In a process called quorum sensing, bacteria communicate with one another using extracellular signal molecules called autoinducers. One autoinducer, AI-2, is proposed to promote interspecies bacterial communication, including in the mammalian gut. We show that mammalian epithelia produce an AI-2 mimic activity in response to bacteria or tight-junction disruption. This AI-2 mimic is detected by the bacterial AI-2 receptor, LuxP/LsrB, and can activate quorum-sensing-controlled gene expression, including in the enteric pathogen Salmonella typhimurium. AI-2 mimic activity is induced when epithelia are directly or indirectly exposed to bacteria, suggesting that a secreted bacterial component(s) stimulates its production. Mutagenesis revealed genes required for bacteria to both detect and stimulate production of the AI-2 mimic. These findings uncover a potential role for the mammalian AI-2 mimic in fostering crosskingdom signaling and host-bacterial symbioses.