Bioluminescence in Vibrio fischeri is controlled by the redox-responsive regulator ArcA

Mol Microbiol. 2007 Jul;65(2):538-53. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2958.2007.05809.x. Epub 2007 Jun 21.


Bioluminescence generated by the Vibrio fischeri Lux system consumes oxygen and reducing power, and it has been proposed that cells use this to counteract either oxidative stress or the accumulation of excess reductant. These models predict that lux expression should respond to redox conditions; yet no redox-responsive regulator of lux is known. We found that the luxICDABEG operon responsible for bioluminescence is repressed by the ArcAB system, which is activated under reducing conditions. Consistent with a role for ArcAB in connecting redox monitoring to lux regulation, adding reductant decreased luminescence in an arc-dependent manner. ArcA binds to and regulates transcription from the luxICDABEG promoter, and it represses luminescence both in the bright strain MJ1 and in ES114, an isolate from the squid Euprymna scolopes that is not visibly luminescent in culture. In ES114, deleting arcA increased luminescence in culture approximately 500-fold to visible levels comparable to that of symbiotic cells. ArcA did not repress symbiotic luminescence, but by 48 h after inoculation, ArcA did contribute to colonization competitiveness. We hypothesize that inactivation of ArcA in response to oxidative stress during initial colonization derepresses luxICDABEG, but that ArcAB actively regulates other metabolic pathways in the more reduced environment of an established infection.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aliivibrio fischeri / genetics
  • Aliivibrio fischeri / metabolism*
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism*
  • Base Sequence
  • Binding Sites
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial*
  • Luminescence*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Operon / genetics*
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • Quorum Sensing / genetics
  • Repressor Proteins / genetics
  • Repressor Proteins / metabolism*


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Repressor Proteins