The inter-kingdom communication with the mammalian hosts mediated by autoinducer-3 (AI-3)/epinephrine (Epi)/norepinephrine (NE), and transduced by two-component systems QseBC has recently been described. As a fish pathogen and opportunistic pathogen for human beings, Edwardsiella tarda develops surface structures such as flagellar and fimbriae to cause different hemagglutination phenotypes and serotypes and initiate pathogen-host recognition and invasion process. E. tarda survives within macrophages in fish using type III secretion system (TTSS). Here, the genes of E. tarda two-component system, qseB and qseC, were found to be co-transcribed. Phylogenetic analysis indicated that evolution of QseC strongly correlated to different host niches. Compared with the wild type and their complemented strains, ΔqseB and ΔqseC mutants exhibited significant impaired flagellar motilities. Mammalian Epi was able to stimuli the flagellar motility in E. tarda via QseBC. Hemagglutination caused by fimbriae was induced in ΔqseB but repressed in ΔqseC. Disruption of qseB or qseC down-regulated the intracellular expressions of TTSS elements EseB and EsaC, and impaired their intracellular survival capabilities as well as in vivo competitive abilities. Furthermore, in vitro tests indicated that expression of EseB was induced by Epi via QseBC. Our results revealed that the QseBC system modified the virulence-related surface structures (flagellum, fimbriae and secretion system) and that hormone might stimulate the virulence of the pathogen in fish.
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