A sensitive fluorescence reporter for monitoring quorum sensing regulated protease production in Vibrio harveyi

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Type of Publication:
Fluorescent proteins
Journal of Microbiological Methods
Many bacteria produce and secrete proteases during host invasion and pathogenesis. Vibrio harveyi, an opportunistic pathogen of shrimp, is known to use a two-component quorum sensing (QS) mechanism for coordination of gene expression including protease secretion at high population densities. We examined the role of V. harveyi's QS signaling molecules, N-(3-hydroxybutanoyl)-l-homoserine lactone (AI-1) and the boron derivative of autoinducer-2 (BAI-2) in extracellular protease production. A fusion protein, M3CLPY (Rajamani et al., 2007), consisting of a large protease sensitive BAI-2 mutant receptor LuxP (~ 38 kDa) flanked by two protease insensitive cyan and yellow variants of GFP (~ 28 kDa each) was utilized as a substrate to detect secreted protease activity. The M3CLPY fusion, with the addition of wild-type V. harveyi (BB120) cell-free culture filtrate showed a time-dependent loss in fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) associated with the cleavage of the LuxP linker protein and hence separation of the two flurophores. This cleavage of LuxP linker protein leading to decreased FRET efficiency was further confirmed by immunoblotting using anti-GFP antibody. The addition of cell-free filtrates from strains defective in one or both of the two-component QS pathways: luxN− (defective in AI-1), luxS− (defective in BAI-2), and luxN−/luxS− (defective in both AI-1/BAI-2) showed differential levels of protease production. The observed protease activities were most pronounced in wild-type, followed by the AI-1 defective mutant (BB170) and the least for luxS− mutant (MM30) and luxN−/luxS− double mutant (MM32) strains. Incidentally, the lowest protease producing strains MM30 and MM32 were both defective in BAI-2 production. This observation was validated by addition of synthetic BAI-2 to MM30 and MM32 strains to restore protease production. Our results indicate that BAI-2 signaling in the two-component QS pathway plays the key role in regulating extracellular protease production in V. harveyi.

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