Aryl-homoserine lactone quorum sensing in stem-nodulating photosynthetic bradyrhizobia.


Many Proteobacteria possess LuxI-LuxR-type quorum-sensing systems that produce and detect fatty acyl-homoserine lactone (HSL) signals. The photoheterotroph Rhodopseudomonas palustris is unusual in that it produces and detects an aryl-HSL, p-coumaroyl-HSL, and signal production requires an exogenous source of p-coumarate. A photosynthetic stem-nodulating member of the genus Bradyrhizobium produces a small molecule signal that elicits an R. palustris quorum-sensing response. Here, we show that this signal is cinnamoyl-HSL and that cinnamoyl-HSL is produced by the LuxI homolog BraI and detected by BraR. Cinnamoyl-HSL reaches concentrations on the order of 50 nM in cultures of stem-nodulating bradyrhizobia grown in the presence or absence of cinnamate. Acyl-HSLs often reach concentrations of 0.1-30 μM in bacterial cultures, and generally, LuxR-type receptors respond to signals in a concentration range from 5 to a few hundred nanomolar. Our stem-nodulating Bradyrhizobium strain responds to picomolar concentrations of cinnamoyl-HSL and thus, produces cinnamoyl-HSL in excess of the levels required for a signal response without an exogenous source of cinnamate. The ability of Bradyrhizobium to produce and respond to cinnamoyl-HSL shows that aryl-HSL production is not unique to R. palustris, that the aromatic acid substrate for aryl-HSL synthesis does not have to be supplied exogenously, and that some acyl-HSL quorum-sensing systems may function at very low signal production and response levels.

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