Quorum-sensing based bacteriocin production is down-regulated by N-terminally truncated species of gene activators
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Down-regulation of quorum-sensing based pathways is an important but yet poorly understood process in bacterial gene regulation. In this study, we show that the gene regulator plnC not only acts as an activator gene in the quorum-sensing based bacteriocin production in Lactobacillus plantarum C11, but it also concurrently codes for truncated forms that were shown to repress bacteriocin production. By amino acid N-terminal sequencing and DNA sequence analysis, the truncated species of PlnC are believed to be translated from alternative start codons located in the so-called receiver domain of the regulator. To analyse the structure–function relationship of truncated species of PlnC, we performed a series of systematic truncation mutations: ten in the receiver domain, one in the hinge region and two in the C-terminal DNA-binding domain. It was revealed that any truncation mutation containing a disrupted receiver domain together with an intact DNA-binding domain displayed a repressive effect on bacteriocin production. Such a gene repression mechanism mediated by truncated regulators was also found in two other quorum-sensing based bacteriocin systems (spp in L. sakei LTH673 and NC8-pln in L. plantarum NC8), suggesting that this mode of repression might represent a common means applied by bacteria to down-regulate certain quorum-sensing based pathways.
KeywordsQuorum-sensing Gene regulation Repression Three-component regulatory system Bacteriocins
The work in this study was supported by grants from the Research Council of Norway.
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