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Quorum sensing signal autoinducer-2 inhibits sporulation of Bacillus by interacting with RapC and functions across species

By Qin Xiong, Huihui Zhang, Xia Shu, Xiting Sun, Haichao Feng, Zhihui Xu, Ákos T. Kovács, Ruifu Zhang, Yunpeng Liu

Posted 02 Nov 2021
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.11.02.466875

Collective behavior of bacteria is regulated by quorum sensing (QS). Bacterial cells sense the density of ?the population and induce corresponding traits and developmental processes. Autoinducer-2 (AI-2) is a common QS signal that regulates behavior of both Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria. In spite of the plethora of processes described to be influenced by AI-2 in diverse Gram-negative bacteria, the AI-2-regulated processes in Bacilli are relatively unexplored. Previously, we demonstrated that AI-2 regulates root colonization of Bacillus velezensis SQR9, a well-studied plant beneficial rhizobacterium. Here, we describe a novel function for AI-2 in B. velezensis SQR9 related to development of dormant spores. AI-2 inhibited the initiation of spore development throught the phosphatase RapC and the DNA binding regulator ComA. Using mutant strains and protein-protein interaction studies, we demonstrate that AI-2 interacts with RapC to stimulate its binding to ComA and therefore inactive ComA. We further demonstrate that ComA is essential for Spo0A-regulated sporulation in B. velezensis SQR9. Finally, the AI-2 molecule could be shared cross species for inhibiting Bacillus sporulation. Our study revealed a novel function and regulation mechanism of AI-2 in sporulation inhibition of Bacilli that overall suggests sporulation to be a population-level decision process in Bacilli rather than just a individual cell behavior.

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