Three parallel quorum-sensing systems regulate gene expression in Vibrio harveyi.
In a process called quorum sensing, bacteria communicate using extracellular signal molecules termed autoinducers. Two parallel quorum-sensing systems have been identified in the marine bacterium Vibrio harveyi. System 1 consists of the LuxM-dependent autoinducer HAI-1 and the HAI-1 sensor, LuxN. System 2 consists of the LuxS-dependent autoinducer AI-2 and the AI-2 detector, LuxPQ. The related bacterium, Vibrio cholerae, a human pathogen, possesses System 2 (LuxS, AI-2, and LuxPQ) but does not have obvious homologues of V. harveyi System 1. Rather, System 1 of V. cholerae is made up of the CqsA-dependent autoinducer CAI-1 and a sensor called CqsS. Using a V. cholerae CAI-1 reporter strain we show that many other marine bacteria, including V. harveyi, produce CAI-1 activity. Genetic analysis of V. harveyi reveals cqsA and cqsS, and phenotypic analysis of V. harveyi cqsA and cqsS mutants shows that these functions comprise a third V. harveyi quorum-sensing system that acts in parallel to Systems 1 and 2. Together these communication systems act as a three-way coincidence detector in the regulation of a variety of genes, including those responsible for bioluminescence, type III secretion, and metalloprotease production.