Quantitative input-output dynamics of a c-di-GMP signal transduction cascade in Vibrio cholerae.
Bacterial biofilms are multicellular communities that collectively overcome environmental threats and clinical treatments. To regulate the biofilm lifecycle, bacteria commonly transduce sensory information via the second messenger molecule cyclic diguanylate (c-di-GMP). Using experimental and modeling approaches, we quantitatively capture c-di-GMP signal transmission via the bifunctional polyamine receptor NspS-MbaA, from ligand binding to output, in the pathogen Vibrio cholerae. Upon binding of norspermidine or spermidine, NspS-MbaA synthesizes or degrades c-di-GMP, respectively, which, in turn, drives alterations specifically to biofilm gene expression. A long-standing question is how output specificity is achieved via c-di-GMP, a diffusible molecule that regulates dozens of effectors. We show that NspS-MbaA signals locally to specific effectors, sensitizing V. cholerae to polyamines. However, local signaling is not required for specificity, as changes to global cytoplasmic c-di-GMP levels can selectively regulate biofilm genes. This work establishes the input-output dynamics underlying c-di-GMP signaling, which could be useful for developing bacterial manipulation strategies.