Burkholderia thailandensis has three acyl-homoserine lactone (AHL) LuxR-LuxI quorum-sensing circuits and two orphan LuxR homologs. Orphans are LuxR-type transcription factors that do not have cognate LuxI-type AHL synthases. One of the orphans, MalR, is genetically linked to the mal gene cluster, which encodes enzymes required for production of the cytotoxic polyketide malleilactone. Under normal laboratory conditions the mal gene cluster is silent; however, antibiotics like trimethoprim induce mal transcription. We show that trimethoprim-dependent induction of the mal genes requires MalR. MalR has all of the conserved amino acid residues characteristic of AHL-responsive LuxR homologs, but in B. thailandensis, MalR activation of malleilactone synthesis genes is not responsive to AHLs. MalR can activate transcription from the mal promoter in E. coli without addition of AHLs or trimethoprim. Expression of malR in B. thailandensis is induced by trimethoprim. Our data indicate that MalR binds to a lux box-like element in the mal promoter and activates transcription of the mal genes in an AHL-independent manner. Antibiotics like trimethoprim appear to activate mal gene expression indirectly by somehow activating malR expression. MalR activation of the mal genes represents an example of a LuxR homolog that is not a receptor for an AHL quorum-sensing signal. Our evidence is consistent with the idea that mal gene activation depends solely on sufficient transcription of the malR gene.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Biology