The hydrocarbon-degrading marine bacterium Cobetia sp. strain MM1IDA2H-1 produces a biosurfactant that interferes with quorum sensing of fish pathogens by signal hijacking

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Microbial Biotechnology, 2013, 6, (4), pp. 394-405
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Biosurfactants are produced by hydrocarbon-degrading marine bacteria in response to the presence of water-insoluble hydrocarbons. This is believed to facilitate the uptake of hydrocarbons by bacteria. However, these diffusible amphiphilic surface-active molecules are involved in several other biological functions such as microbial competition and intra- or inter-species communication. We report the isolation and characterization of a marine bacterial strain identified as Cobetia sp. MM1IDA2H-1, which can grow using the sulfur-containing heterocyclic aromatic hydrocarbon dibenzothiophene (DBT). As with DBT, when the isolated strain is grown in the presence of a microbial competitor, it produces a biosurfactant. Because the obtained biosurfactant was formed by hydroxy fatty acids and extracellular lipidic structures were observed during bacterial growth, we investigated whether the biosurfactant at its critical micelle concentration can interfere with bacterial communication systems such as quorum sensing. We focused on Aeromonas salmonicida subsp. salmonicida, a fish pathogen whose virulence relies on quorum sensing signals. Using biosensors for quorum sensing based on Chromobacterium violaceum and Vibrio anguillarum, we showed that when the purified biosurfactant was mixed with N-acyl homoserine lactones produced by A. salmonicida, quorum sensing was inhibited, although bacterial growth was not affected. In addition, the transcriptional activities of A. salmonicida virulence genes that are controlled by quorum sensing were repressed by both the purified biosurfactant and the growth in the presence of Cobetia sp. MM1IDA2H-1. We propose that the biosurfactant, or the lipid structures interact with the N-acyl homoserine lactones, inhibiting their function. This could be used as a strategy to interfere with the quorum sensing systems of bacterial fish pathogens, which represents an attractive alternative to classical antimicrobial therapies in fish aquaculture.
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