Population density-dependent regulation of exopolysaccharide formation in the hyperthermophilic bacterium Thermotoga maritima

Mol Microbiol. 2005 Feb;55(3):664-74. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2958.2004.04419.x.


Co-cultivation of the hyperthermophiles Thermotoga maritima and Methanococcus jannaschii resulted in fivefold higher T. maritima cell densities when compared with monoculture as well as concomitant formation of exopolysaccharide and flocculation of heterotroph-methanogen cellular aggregates. Transcriptional analysis of T. maritima cells from these aggregates using a whole genome cDNA microarray revealed the induction of a putative exopolysaccharide synthesis pathway, regulated by intracellular levels of cyclic diguanosine 3',5'-(cyclic)phosphate (cyclic di-GMP) and mediated by the action of several GGDEF proteins, including a putative diguanylate cyclase (TM1163) and a putative phosphodiesterase (TM1184). Transcriptional analysis also showed that TM0504, which encodes a polypeptide containing a motif common to known peptide-signalling molecules in mesophilic bacteria, was strongly upregulated in the co-culture. Indeed, when a synthetically produced peptide based on TM0504 was dosed into the culture at ecologically relevant levels, the production of exopolysaccharide was induced at significantly lower cell densities than was observed in cultures lacking added peptide. In addition to identifying a pathway for polysaccharide formation in T. maritima, these results point to the existence of peptide-based quorum sensing in hyperthermophilic bacteria and indicate that cellular communication should be considered as a component of the microbial ecology within hydrothermal habitats.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism*
  • Culture Media
  • Ecosystem
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial*
  • Genome, Archaeal
  • Genome, Bacterial
  • Methanococcus / genetics
  • Methanococcus / growth & development*
  • Methanococcus / metabolism
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis
  • Polysaccharides, Bacterial / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction*
  • Temperature
  • Thermotoga maritima / growth & development*
  • Thermotoga maritima / metabolism
  • Transcription, Genetic


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Culture Media
  • Polysaccharides, Bacterial