Main content area

A unique regulator controls the activation threshold of quorum-regulated genes in Pseudomonas aeruginosa

Siehnel, Richard, Traxler, Beth, An, Ding Ding, Parsek, Matthew R., Schaefer, Amy L., Singh, Pradeep K.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 2010 v.107 no.17 pp. 7916-7921
Pseudomonas aeruginosa, gene activation, gene expression, pathogens, population density, quorum sensing, regulatory sequences, regulon, screening, transcription (genetics), translation (genetics)
Quorum-sensing (QS) systems allow organisms, such as the pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa, to link gene expression with their population density and the diffusion and flow characteristics of their environment. The leading hypotheses about QS systems' biological functions necessitate that QS-controlled gene expression be suppressed until a threshold culture density (the quorum) is reached. Despite a detailed understanding of QS in P. aeruginosa, known regulatory elements do not fully explain how the quorum threshold for gene activation is produced. Here we investigated the mechanism with a screening approach that used random gene activation. These experiments uncovered a regulator without close homologs in other species that produces the quorum expression threshold. Expression of this regulator (named QteE) reduces LasR protein stability without affecting LasR transcription or translation. QteE also independently reduces RhlR levels. Because QteE can block QS when signal levels are high, it could provide a mechanism for individual cells to exert autonomous control over their QS regulons. This unique regulator governs two central QS control points in P. aeruginosa and shapes the expression pattern thought fundamental to the biological functions of QS.