Discovery of scmR as a global regulator of secondary metabolism and virulence in Burkholderia thailandensis E264

Dainan Mao, Leah B. Bushin, Kyuho Moon, Yihan Wu, Mohammad R. Seyedsayamdost

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations


Bacteria produce a diverse array of secondary metabolites that have been invaluable in the clinic and in research. These metabolites are synthesized by dedicated biosynthetic gene clusters (BGCs), which assemble architecturally complex molecules from simple building blocks. The majority of BGCs in a given bacterium are not expressed under normal laboratory growth conditions, and our understanding of how they are silenced is in its infancy. Here, we have addressed this question in the Gram-negativemodel bacterium Burkholderia thailandensis E264 using genetic, transcriptomic, metabolomic, and chemical approaches. We report that a previously unknown, quorum-sensing-controlled LysR-type transcriptional regulator, which we name ScmR (for secondary metabolite regulator), serves as a global gatekeeper of secondary metabolism and a repressor of numerous BGCs. Transcriptionally, we find that 13 of the 20 BGCs in B. thailandensis are significantly (threefold or more) upor down-regulated in a scmR deletion mutant (ΔscmR). Metabolically, the ΔscmR strain displays a hyperactive phenotype relative to wild type and overproduces a number of compound families by 18- to 210-fold, including the silent virulence factor malleilactone. Accordingly, the ΔscmR mutant is hypervirulent both in vitro and in a Caenorhabditis elegans model in vivo. Aside from secondary metabolism, ScmR also represses biofilm formation and transcriptionally activates ATP synthesis and stress response. Collectively, our data suggest that ScmR is a pleiotropic regulator of secondary metabolism, virulence, biofilm formation, and other stationary phase processes. A model for how the interplay of ScmR with pathwayspecific transcriptional regulators coordinately silences virulence factor production is proposed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E2920-E2928
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number14
StatePublished - Apr 4 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


  • Biosynthetic gene clusters
  • Burkholderia thailandensis
  • Natural products
  • Regulation
  • Virulence


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