ALTERING THE AI-2 MEDIATED QUORUM SENSING CIRCUITRY TO QUENCH BACTERIAL COMMUNICATION NETWORKS
Bentley, William E
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The emergence of antibiotic resistant bacteria poses a global threat to human health and has been classified as a clinical super-challenge of the 21st century. This has necessitated research on new antimicrobials that inhibit bacterial virulence by mechanisms other than those that target bacterial growth or viability. Such approaches have been reported to pose less evolutionary pressure on bacteria to evolve and become resistant to antibiotics. Bacterial cell-cell communication, termed quorum sensing (QS), is mediated by signatures of small molecules. QS via these small molecules has been linked to numerous undesirable bacterial phenotypes such as biofilm formation, onset of pathogenicity, triggering of virulence genes etc. The small signaling molecules represent targets for intercepting bacterial communication (and their resultant undesirable phenotypes). We have devised two strategies that interrupt bacterial communication in multispecies bacterial cultures by targeting the interspecies signaling molecule autoinducer-2 (AI-2), which is produced or recognized by over 70 species of bacteria. Our first approach is to bring the native intracellular AI-2 signal processing mechanisms to the extracellular surroundings to quench the QS response of bacteria. Specifically we deliver the Escherichia coli AI-2 kinase, LsrK, to E. coli populations ex vivo and phosphorylate and degrade the extracellular AI-2. This significantly attenuates the native QS response in E. coli. Similar results are obtained in a tri-species synthetic ecosystem comprising E. coli, Salmonella typhimurium and Vibrio harveyi. In our second quenching strategy, we explore a panel of small synthetic molecules that are analogs of AI-2 (C1-alkyl analogs). The analogs are observed to cause species-specific and cross-species quorum quenching in the tri-species synthetic ecosystems of the aforementioned strains. Some of the AI-2 analogs quench pyocyanin (toxin production) in the opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Based on these observations, I used analog cocktails to quench QS en masse in assembled synthetic ecosystems. Finally, I tested the efficiency of the analogs in quenching pathogenic phenotypes such as biofilm formation in E. coli. The analogs inhibit biofilm formation and act in concert with antibiotics to reduce biofilm formation even further. Our results suggest entirely new modalities for interrupting or tailoring the networks of communication among bacteria and identifying drug targets to develop the next generation of antimicrobials based on QS.