Two nanomachines drive evolution in diverse Vibrio species

Horizontal gene transfer (HGT) has a major impact on bacterial evolution, leading to acquisition or deletion of genes and gene clusters, including those encoding antibiotic resistances and virulence factors. HGT therefore contributes to pathogen emergence, which can have a major impact on human health. As a mode of HGT, natural competence for transformation allows bacteria to directly acquire DNA from the environment and to integrate parts of this genetic material within their genomes. The human pathogen Vibrio cholerae is naturally competent when it grows in association with the chitinous exoskeletons of zooplankton. Under this condition, the competence state is initiated by the regulatory protein TfoX, which co-induces a molecular killing device known as the type VI secretion system (T6SS). The co-regulation of the T6SS and competence results in the lysis of non-immune neighboring bacteria and the subsequent acquisition of their DNA, which fosters HGT. In V. cholerae, the T6SS is also activated by the TfoX homologue protein, named TfoY. In this study, we aimed at studying the regulatory pathways and the co-regulation of interbacterial predation and DNA uptake in order to provide new insights into the environmental lifestyle of V. cholerae and other vibrios. We first investigated the conserved function of TfoX- and TfoY in V. fischeri, V. alginolyticus, and V. parahaemolyticus using diverse methods such as qRT-PCR, interbacterial killing assays, and motility assessments. We demonstrated that TfoX-mediated T6SS and competence induction and TfoY-induced motility are conserved phenotypes in the tested Vibrio species, whereas the TfoY-mediated T6SS regulation varied. These variations might reflect diverse defense mechanisms, as these different species have adapted to cope with their environmental niches. Next, we tested the outcome of the TfoX-mediated co-regulation of the T6SS and competence in V. cholerae. Under conditions mimicking the bacterium’s natural habitat, we showed for the first time the extent of DNA that was integrated on V. cholerae’s genome after T6SS-mediated interbacterial predation. Indeed, we demonstrated that T6SS-dependent bacterial predation not only increased the transformation rates but also fostered the exchange of multiple and huge fragments of DNA. We also showed the necessity of an exquisite co-regulation between the T6SS, the competence-related DNA uptake machinery, and the competence-repressed nuclease. Finally, we disclosed that prey-released DNA is not a private good of the attacking bacterium but also accessible to other surrounding cells that have likewise entered the competence state. Altogether, our findings shed light on the conservation of the TfoX- and TfoY-driven phenotypes in several Vibrio species. We also contributed to a better understanding of the interplay between neighbor predation and DNA uptake and the consequences that this interplay has on genome plasticity.


Advisor(s):
Blokesch, Melanie
Year:
2019
Publisher:
Lausanne, EPFL
Keywords:
Laboratories:
UPBLO


Note: The status of this file is: EPFL only


 Record created 2019-10-15, last modified 2019-10-15

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