New "language" from bacteria discovered: Pyrones as bacterial signaling molecules
Alexander O Brachmann, Sophie Brameyer, Darko Kresovic, Ivana Hitkova, Yannick Kopp, Christian Manske, Karin Schubert, Helge B Bode & Ralf Heermann
Bacteria communicate via small diffusible molecules and thereby mediate group-coordinated behavior, a process referred to as quorum sensing. The prototypical quorum sensing system found in Gram-negative bacteria consists of a LuxI-type autoinducer synthase that produces N-acyl homoserine lactones (AHLs) as signals and a LuxR-type receptor that detects the AHLs to control expression of specific genes. However, many proteobacteria have proteins with homology to LuxR receptors yet lack any cognate LuxI-like AHL synthase. Here we show that in the insect pathogen Photorhabdus luminescens the orphan LuxR-type receptor PluR detects endogenously produced α-pyrones that serve as signaling molecules at low nanomolar concentrations. Additionally, the ketosynthase PpyS was identified as pyrone synthase. Reconstitution of the entire system containing PluR, the PluR-target operon we termed pcf and PpyS in Escherichia coli demonstrated that the cell-cell communication circuit is portable. Our research thus deorphanizes a signaling system and suggests that additional modes of bacterial communication may await discovery.