Surface swarming motility by Pectobacterium atrosepticum is a latent phenotype that requires O antigen and is regulated by quorum sensing

Steven D. Bowden, Nicola Hale, Jade C S Chung, James T. Hodgkinson, David R. Spring, Martin Welch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations

Abstract

We describe a previously cryptic phenotype associated with the opportunistic phytopathogen Pectobacterium atrosepticum (Pca): surface swarming. We found that when Pca was spotted onto plates containing<0.5% (w/v) agar, the culture produced copious amounts of extracellular matrix material containing highly motile cells. Once produced, this 'slime layer' spread rapidly across the plate either as an advancing front or as tendrils. Transposon mutagenesis was used to identify mutants that were affected in swarming. Hypo-swarmer mutants mostly carried insertions in a horizontally acquired island (HAI5), which encodes a cluster of genes involved in O antigen biosynthesis. Hyper-swarmer mutants mostly carried insertions in hexY, a known antagonist of the class I flagellar master regulator, FlhD4C2. In addition, we found that the nucleoid protein, histonelike nuclear structuring protein 2 (H-NS2), also regulated swarming behaviour. A mutant in which hns2 was overexpressed displayed a hyper-swarming phenotype, whereas a mutant in which the hns2 ORF was inactivated had a hypo-swarming phenotype. Swarming was also regulated by quorum sensing (QS) and by the carbon source being utilized. We show, using a range of epistasis experiments, that optimal swarming requires both motility and O antigen biosynthesis, and that H-NS2 and QS both promote swarming through their effects on motility.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2375-2385
Number of pages11
JournalMicrobiology (United Kingdom)
Volume159
Issue numberPART11
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2013

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