c-di-GMP turn-over in Clostridium difficile is controlled by a plethora of diguanylate cyclases and phosphodiesterases

PLoS Genet. 2011 Mar;7(3):e1002039. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1002039. Epub 2011 Mar 31.


Clostridium difficile infections have become a major healthcare concern in the last decade during which the emergence of new strains has underscored this bacterium's capacity to cause persistent epidemics. c-di-GMP is a bacterial second messenger regulating diverse bacterial phenotypes, notably motility and biofilm formation, in proteobacteria such as Vibrio cholerae, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Salmonella. c-di-GMP is synthesized by diguanylate cyclases (DGCs) that contain a conserved GGDEF domain. It is degraded by phosphodiesterases (PDEs) that contain either an EAL or an HD-GYP conserved domain. Very little is known about the role of c-di-GMP in the regulation of phenotypes of Gram-positive or fastidious bacteria. Herein, we exposed the main components of c-di-GMP signalling in 20 genomes of C. difficile, revealed their prevalence, and predicted their enzymatic activity. Ectopic expression of 31 of these conserved genes was carried out in V. cholerae to evaluate their effect on motility and biofilm formation, two well-characterized phenotype alterations associated with intracellular c-di-GMP variation in this bacterium. Most of the predicted DGCs and PDEs were found to be active in the V. cholerae model. Expression of truncated versions of CD0522, a protein with two GGDEF domains and one EAL domain, suggests that it can act alternatively as a DGC or a PDE. The activity of one purified DGC (CD1420) and one purified PDE (CD0757) was confirmed by in vitro enzymatic assays. GTP was shown to be important for the PDE activity of CD0757. Our results indicate that, in contrast to most Gram-positive bacteria including its closest relatives, C. difficile encodes a large assortment of functional DGCs and PDEs, revealing that c-di-GMP signalling is an important and well-conserved signal transduction system in this human pathogen.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Biofilms / growth & development
  • Cell Migration Assays
  • Clostridium Infections / microbiology*
  • Clostridium difficile / enzymology*
  • Clostridium difficile / genetics
  • Cyclic GMP / analogs & derivatives*
  • Cyclic GMP / metabolism
  • Escherichia coli Proteins / genetics
  • Escherichia coli Proteins / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Phosphoric Diester Hydrolases / genetics
  • Phosphoric Diester Hydrolases / metabolism*
  • Phosphorus-Oxygen Lyases / genetics
  • Phosphorus-Oxygen Lyases / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction
  • Vibrio cholerae / enzymology
  • Vibrio cholerae / genetics


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Escherichia coli Proteins
  • bis(3',5')-cyclic diguanylic acid
  • Phosphoric Diester Hydrolases
  • Phosphorus-Oxygen Lyases
  • diguanylate cyclase
  • Cyclic GMP