Bacterial colonies composed of genetically identical individuals can diversify to yield variant cells with distinct genotypes. Variant outgrowth manifests as sectors. Here, we show that Type VI secretion system (T6SS)-driven cell death in Vibrio cholerae colonies imposes a selective pressure for the emergence of variant strains that can evade T6SS-mediated killing. T6SS-mediated cell death occurs in two distinct spatiotemporal phases, and each phase is driven by a particular T6SS toxin. The first phase is regulated by quorum sensing and drives sectoring. The second phase does not require the T6SS-injection machinery. Variant V. cholerae strains isolated from colony sectors encode mutated quorum-sensing components that confer growth advantages by suppressing T6SS-killing activity while simultaneously boosting T6SS-killing defenses. Our findings show that the T6SS can eliminate sibling cells, suggesting a role in intra-specific antagonism. We propose that quorum-sensing-controlled T6SS-driven killing promotes V. cholerae genetic diversity, including in natural habitats and during disease.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- cell death
- genetic diversity
- quorum sensing
- type VI secretion system