Quorum sensing-regulated chitin metabolism provides grazing resistance to Vibrio cholerae biofilms

Publication Type:
Journal Article
ISME Journal, 2015, 9 (8), pp. 1812 - 1820
Issue Date:
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© 2015 International Society for Microbial Ecology. All rights reserved. Association of Vibrio cholerae with chitinous surfaces of zooplankton is important for its persistence in marine environments, as it provides accessibility to nutrients and resistance to stresses. Predation by heterotrophic protists has a major impact on the survival of V. cholerae. V. cholerae forms biofilms as its main defensive strategy, and quorum sensing (QS) additionally regulates the production of antiprotozoal factors. The role of chitin and QS regulation in V. cholerae grazing resistance was investigated by exposing V. cholerae wild-type (WT) and QS mutant biofilms grown on chitin flakes to the bacteriotrophic, surface-feeding flagellate Rhynchomonas nasuta. V. cholerae formed more biofilm biomass on chitin flakes compared with nonchitinous surfaces. The growth of R. nasuta was inhibited by WT biofilms grown on chitin flakes, whereas the inhibition was attenuated in QS mutant biofilms. The chitin-dependent toxicity was also observed when the V. cholerae biofilms were developed under continuous flow or grown on a natural chitin source, the exoskeleton of Artemia. In addition, the antiprotozoal activity and ammonium concentration of V. cholerae biofilm supernatants were quantified. The ammonium levels (3.5 mM) detected in the supernatants of V. cholerae WT biofilms grown on chitin flakes were estimated to reduce the number of R. nasuta by >80% in add-back experiments, and the supernatant of QS mutant biofilms was less toxic owing to a decrease in ammonium production. Transcriptomic analysis revealed that the majority of genes involved in chitin metabolism and chemotaxis were significantly downregulated in QS mutant biofilms when grown on chitin compared with the WT biofilms.
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