Research ArticleBIOCHEMISTRY

Evidence of link between quorum sensing and sugar metabolism in Escherichia coli revealed via cocrystal structures of LsrK and HPr

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Science Advances  01 Jun 2018:
Vol. 4, no. 6, eaar7063
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aar7063

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Quorum sensing (QS), a bacterial process that regulates population-scale behavior, is mediated by small signaling molecules, called autoinducers (AIs), that are secreted and perceived, modulating a “collective” phenotype. Because the autoinducer AI-2 is secreted by a wide variety of bacterial species, its “perception” cues bacterial behavior. This response is mediated by the lsr (LuxS-regulated) operon that includes the AI-2 transporter LsrACDB and the kinase LsrK. We report that HPr, a phosphocarrier protein central to the sugar phosphotransferase system of Escherichia coli, copurifies with LsrK. Cocrystal structures of an LsrK/HPr complex were determined, and the effects of HPr and phosphorylated HPr on LsrK activity were assessed. LsrK activity is inhibited when bound to HPr, revealing new linkages between QS activity and sugar metabolism. These findings help shed new light on the abilities of bacteria to rapidly respond to changing nutrient levels at the population scale. They also suggest new means of manipulating QS activity among bacteria and within various niches.

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