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Quenching quorum-sensing-dependent bacterial infection by an N-acyl homoserine lactonase


Bacterial cells sense their population density through a sophisticated cell–cell communication system and trigger expression of particular genes when the density reaches a threshold. This type of gene regulation, which controls diverse biological functions including virulence, is known as quorum sensing1,2. Quorum-sensing signals, such as acyl-homoserine lactones (AHLs), are the essential components of the communication system. AHLs regulate virulence gene expression in a range of plant and animal (including human) bacterial pathogens3,4,5,6,7,8,9. AHL-producing tobacco restored the pathogenicity of an AHL-negative mutant of Erwinia carotovora10. Different bacterial species may produce different AHLs, which vary in the length and substitution of the acyl chain but contain the same homoserine lactone moiety. Here we show that the acyl-homoserine lactonase (AHL-lactonase), a new enzyme from Bacillus sp.11, inactivates AHL activity by hydrolysing the lactone bond of AHLs. Plants expressing AHL-lactonase quenched pathogen quorum-sensing signalling and showed significantly enhanced resistance to E. carotovora infection. Our results highlight a promising potential to use quorum-sensing signals as molecular targets for disease control, thereby broadening current approaches for prevention of bacterial infections.

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Figure 1: ESI-MS and tandem mass spectrometry analysis of the hydrolysis product of OHHL.
Figure 2: Genetic constructs for plant transformation and expression of aiiA messenger RNA in transgenic plants.
Figure 3: AHL-lactonase enzyme activity and E. carotovora inoculation.
Figure 4: Plant inoculation with Erwinia carotovora SCG1.

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The 16S rDNA sequence of Bacillus sp. 240B1 has been deposited in GenBank under accession number AF350926.


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We thank A. Kerr, M. E. Tate, V. Sundaresan and K. Sampath for critical reviews of the manuscript. Funding was provided by the National Science and Technology Board of Singapore.

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Correspondence to Lian-Hui Zhang.

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Dong, YH., Wang, LH., Xu, JL. et al. Quenching quorum-sensing-dependent bacterial infection by an N-acyl homoserine lactonase. Nature 411, 813–817 (2001).

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