Synthesis of multiple N-acylhomoserine lactones is wide-spread among the members of the Burkholderia cepacia complex

Syst Appl Microbiol. 2001 Apr;24(1):1-14. doi: 10.1078/0723-2020-00013.


Seventy strains of the Burkholderia cepacia complex, which currently comprises six genomic species, were tested for their ability to produce N-acylhomoserine lactone (AHL) signal molecules. Using thin layer chromatography in conjunction with a range of AHL biosensors, we show that most strains primarily produce two AHLs, namely N-octanoylhomoserine lactone (C8-HSL) and N-hexanoylhomoserine lactone (C6-HSL). Furthermore, some strains belonging to B. vietnamiensis (genomovar V) produce additional long chain AHL molecules with acyl chains ranging from C10 to C14. For B. vietnamiensis R-921 the structure of the most abundant long chain AHL was confirmed as N-decanoylhomoserine lactone (C10-HSL) by liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS) in combination with total chemical synthesis. Interestingly, a number of strains, most notably all representatives of B. multivorans (genomovar II), did not produce AHLs at least under the growth conditions used in this study. All strains were also screened for the production of extracellular lipase, chitinase, protease, and siderophores. However, no correlation between the AHL production and the synthesis of these exoproducts was apparent. Southern blot analysis showed that all the B. cepacia complex strains investigated, including the AHL-negative strains, possess genes homologous to the C8-HSL synthase cepI and to cepR, which encodes the cognate receptor protein. The nucleotide sequence of the cepI and cepR genes from one representative strain from each of the six genomovars was determined. Furthermore, the cepI genes from the different genomovars were expressed in Escherichia coli and it is demonstrated that all genes encode functional proteins that direct the synthesis of C8-HSL and C6-HSL. Given that cepI from the B. multivorans strain encodes a functional AHL synthase, yet detectable levels of AHLs were not produced by the wild-type, this suggests that additional regulatory functions may be present in members of this genomovar that negatively affect expression of cepI.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 4-Butyrolactone / analogs & derivatives*
  • 4-Butyrolactone / biosynthesis
  • 4-Butyrolactone / chemistry
  • 4-Butyrolactone / metabolism*
  • Acylation
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Burkholderia Infections / microbiology
  • Burkholderia cepacia / classification
  • Burkholderia cepacia / genetics
  • Burkholderia cepacia / metabolism*
  • Chitinases / metabolism
  • Chromosome Mapping
  • Endopeptidases / metabolism
  • Fatty Acids / chemistry
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism*
  • Genes, Bacterial
  • Homoserine / analogs & derivatives
  • Homoserine / biosynthesis
  • Homoserine / chemistry
  • Homoserine / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Lactones
  • Ligases*
  • Lipase / metabolism
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Nuclear Localization Signals
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid
  • Siderophores / metabolism


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • CepR protein, Burkholderia
  • Fatty Acids
  • Lactones
  • N-hexanoyl-L-homoserine lactone
  • N-octanoylhomoserine lactone
  • Nuclear Localization Signals
  • Siderophores
  • homoserine lactone
  • Homoserine
  • Lipase
  • Chitinases
  • Endopeptidases
  • Ligases
  • N-acylhomoserine lactone synthase
  • 4-Butyrolactone