Quorum sensing is a global regulatory mechanism in enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli O157:H7

V. Sperandio, A. G. Torres, J. A. Girón, J. B. Kaper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

333 Scopus citations


Enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC) O157:H7 is responsible for outbreaks of bloody diarrhea and hemolytic-uremic syndrome in many countries. EHEC virulence mechanisms include the production of Shiga toxins (Stx) and formation of attaching and effacing (AE) lesions on intestinal epithelial cells. We recently reported that genes involved in the formation of the AE lesion were regulated by quorum sensing through autoinducer-2, which is synthesized by the product of the luxS gene. In this study we hybridized an E. coli gene array with cDNA synthesized from RNA that was extracted from EHEC strain 86-24 and its isogenic luxS mutant. We observed that 404 genes were regulated by luxS at least fivefold, which comprises approximately 10% of the array genes; 235 of these genes were up-regulated and 169 were down-regulated in the wild-type strain compared to in the luxS mutant. Down-regulated genes included several involved in cell division, as well as ribosomal and tRNA genes. Consistent with this pattern of gene expression, the luxS mutant grows faster than the wild-type strain (generation times of 37.5 and 60 min, respectively, in Dulbecco modified Eagle medium). Up-regulated genes included several involved in the expression and assembly of flagella, motility, and chemotaxis. Using operon::lacZ fusions to class I, II, and III flagellar genes, we were able to confirm this transcriptional regulation. We also observed fewer flagella by Western blotting and electron microscopy and decreased motility halos in semisolid agar in the luxS mutant. The average swimming speeds for the wild-type strain and the luxS mutant are 12.5 and 6.6 μm/s, respectively. We also observed an increase in the production of Stx due to quorum sensing. Genes encoding Stx, which are transcribed along with λ-like phage genes, are induced by an SOS response, and genes involved in the SOS response were also regulated by quorum sensing. These results indicate that quorum sensing is a global regulatory mechanism for basic physiological functions of E. coli as well as for virulence factors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5187-5197
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of bacteriology
Issue number17
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology


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