N-acylhomoserine lactones involved in quorum sensing control the type VI secretion system, biofilm formation, protease production, and in vivo virulence in a clinical isolate of Aeromonas hydrophila

Microbiology (Reading). 2009 Nov;155(Pt 11):3518-3531. doi: 10.1099/mic.0.031575-0. Epub 2009 Sep 3.


In this study, we delineated the role of N-acylhomoserine lactone(s) (AHLs)-mediated quorum sensing (QS) in the virulence of diarrhoeal isolate SSU of Aeromonas hydrophila by generating a double knockout Delta ahyRI mutant. Protease production was substantially reduced in the Delta ahyRI mutant when compared with that in the wild-type (WT) strain. Importantly, based on Western blot analysis, the Delta ahyRI mutant was unable to secrete type VI secretion system (T6SS)-associated effectors, namely haemolysin coregulated protein and the valine-glycine repeat family of proteins, while significant levels of these effectors were detected in the culture supernatant of the WT A. hydrophila. In contrast, the production and translocation of the type III secretion system (T3SS) effector AexU in human colonic epithelial cells were not affected when the ahyRI genes were deleted. Solid surface-associated biofilm formation was significantly reduced in the Delta ahyRI mutant when compared with that in the WT strain, as determined by a crystal violet staining assay. Scanning electron microscopic observations revealed that the Delta ahyRI mutant was also defective in the formation of structured biofilm, as it was less filamentous and produced a distinct exopolysaccharide on its surface when compared with the structured biofilm produced by the WT strain. These effects of AhyRI could be complemented either by expressing the ahyRI genes in trans or by the exogeneous addition of AHLs to the Delta ahyRI/ahyR(+) complemented strain. In a mouse lethality experiment, 50 % attenuation was observed when we deleted the ahyRI genes from the parental strain of A. hydrophila. Together, our data suggest that AHL-mediated QS modulates the virulence of A. hydrophila SSU by regulating the T6SS, metalloprotease production and biofilm formation.

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

  • Acyl-Butyrolactones / metabolism*
  • Aeromonas hydrophila / genetics
  • Aeromonas hydrophila / metabolism*
  • Aeromonas hydrophila / pathogenicity
  • Animals
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism*
  • Biofilms*
  • Cell Line
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial
  • Gene Knockout Techniques
  • Genetic Complementation Test
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Peptide Hydrolases / metabolism
  • Quorum Sensing*
  • Regulon
  • Virulence


  • Acyl-Butyrolactones
  • AhyRI protein, Aeromonas
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Peptide Hydrolases