Quorum sensing in Escherichia coli, Salmonella typhimurium, and Vibrio harveyi: a new family of genes responsible for autoinducer production.
In bacteria, the regulation of gene expression in response to changes in cell density is called quorum sensing. Quorum-sensing bacteria produce, release, and respond to hormone-like molecules (autoinducers) that accumulate in the external environment as the cell population grows. In the marine bacterium Vibrio harveyi two parallel quorum-sensing systems exist, and each is composed of a sensor-autoinducer pair. V. harveyi reporter strains capable of detecting only autoinducer 1 (AI-1) or autoinducer 2 (AI-2) have been constructed and used to show that many species of bacteria, including Escherichia coli MG1655, E. coli O157:H7, Salmonella typhimurium 14028, and S. typhimurium LT2 produce autoinducers similar or identical to the V. harveyi system 2 autoinducer AI-2. However, the domesticated laboratory strain E. coli DH5alpha does not produce this signal molecule. Here we report the identification and analysis of the gene responsible for AI-2 production in V. harveyi, S. typhimurium, and E. coli. The genes, which we have named luxSV.h., luxSS.t., and luxSE.c. respectively, are highly homologous to one another but not to any other identified gene. E. coli DH5alpha can be complemented to AI-2 production by the introduction of the luxS gene from V. harveyi or E. coli O157:H7. Analysis of the E. coli DH5alpha luxSE.c. gene shows that it contains a frameshift mutation resulting in premature truncation of the LuxSE.c. protein. Our results indicate that the luxS genes define a new family of autoinducer-production genes.