Chitin utilization by marine bacteria: Chemotaxis to chitin oligosaccharides by Vibrio furnissii

Bonnie L. Bassler, Patrick J. Gibbons, Charles Yu, Saul Roseman

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The adhesion/deadhesion apparatus of the marine bacterium Vibrio furnissii (Yu, C., Lee, A., Bassler, B. L., and Roseman, S. (1991) J. Biol. Chem. 266, 24260-24267) probably catalyzes the first step in colonizing chitin. Evidence is presented here for a second step, chemotaxis to chitin hydrolysis products. V. furnissii swarms toward chitin oligomers (GlcNAc)n, n = 1-6, at initial concentrations as low as 10 μM. A modified capillary assay was used for quantitation; the cells exhibit low level constitutive taxis to GlcNAc but not to the oligosaccharides. A mutant defective in the GlcNAc receptor (IINag of the phosphotransferase system) showed inducible taxis to the oligosaccharides. Two (or more) independently inducible receptors with overlapping specificities recognize (GlcNAc)n, n = 2-4. (GlcNAc)5 and (GlcNAc)6 were inactive in the capillary assay; expression of this receptor(s) apparently require special induction conditions. The (GlcNAc)n, n = 1-4, chemoreceptors of V. furnissii may be the most potent reported for bacteria. L-Amino acids were weak, constitutive attractants; glutamine, not known to be an attractant in other bacteria, was the most effective amino acid. The most potent receptor in Escherichia coli, Tar (aspartate), is not expressed in V. furnissii. The chemotactic responses were greatly affected by growth and induction conditions and the presence of nutrients in the assay media. Taxis to GlcNAc and GlcNAc oligomers was optimally induced by growth in lactate medium containing 0.6 mM sugar, while growth on the sugar per se resulted in poor taxis. Chemotaxis to the sugars increased 2- to 3-fold when the cells were starved. Nutrients in the assay medium, especially compounds that feed into or are part of the Krebs cycle, were potent inhibitors of taxis to the sugars and Gln. With the exception of isocitrate, inhibition of taxis correlated with the rate of oxidation of these compounds. The results suggest a link between catabolism and taxis in this organism, i.e. interactions or "cross-talk" between systems that are regulated by protein phosphorylation (Stock, J. A., Ninfa, A. J., and Stock, A. M. (1989) Microbiol. Rev. 53, 450-490).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)24268-24275
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number36
StatePublished - Dec 25 1991
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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