Competence-induced type VI secretion might foster intestinal colonization by Vibrio cholerae
The human pathogen Vibrio cholerae exhibits two distinct lifestyles: one in the aquatic environment where it often associates with chitinous surfaces and the other as the causative agent of the disease cholera. While much of the research on V. cholerae has focused on the host-pathogen interaction, knowledge about the environmental lifestyle of the pathogen remains limited. We recently showed that the polymer chitin, which is extremely abundant in aquatic environments, induces natural competence as a mode of horizontal gene transfer and that this competence regulon also includes the type VI secretion system (T6SS), a molecular killing device. Here, I discuss the putative consequences that chitin-induced T6SS activation could have on intestinal colonization and how the transmission route might influence disease outcome. Moreover, I propose that common infant animal models for cholera might not sufficiently take into account T6SS-mediated interbacterial warfare between V. cholerae and the intestinal microbiota.