Strain-dependent diversity in the Pseudomonas aeruginosa quorum-sensing regulon

Sudha Chugani, Byoung Sik Kim, Somsak Phattarasukol, Mitchell J. Brittnacher, Sang Ho Choi, Caroline S. Harwood, E. Peter Greenberg

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Quorum sensing allows bacteria to sense and respond to changes in population density. Acyl-homoserine lactones serve as quorum-sensing signals for many Proteobacteria , and acyl-homoserine lactone signaling is known to control cooperative activities. Quorum-controlled activities vary from one species to another. Quorum-sensing controls a constellation of genes in the opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which thrives in a number of habitats ranging from soil and water to animal hosts. We hypothesized that there would be significant variation in quorum-sensing regulons among strains of P. aeruginosa isolated from different habitats and that differences in the quorum-sensing regulons might reveal insights about the ecology of P. aeruginosa. As a test of our hypothesis we used RNA-seq to identify quorum-controlled genes in seven P. aeruginosa isolates of diverse origins. Although our approach certainly overlooks some quorum-sensing-regulated genes we found a shared set of genes, i.e., a core quorum-controlled gene set, and we identified distinct, strain-variable sets of quorum-controlled genes, i.e., accessory genes. Some quorum-controlled genes in some strains were not present in the genomes of other strains.We detected a correlation between traits encoded by some genes in the strain-variable subsets of the quorum regulons and the ecology of the isolates. These findings indicate a role for quorum sensing in extension of the range of habitats in which a species can thrive. This study also provides a framework for understanding the molecular mechanisms by which quorum-sensing systems operate, the evolutionary pressures by which they are maintained, and their importance in disparate ecological contexts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E2823-E2831
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number41
StatePublished - 9 Oct 2012


  • Bacterial communication
  • Systems biology
  • Transcription control


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