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Acyl-Homoserine Lactone Recognition and Response Hindering the Quorum-Sensing Regulator EsaR
Schu, Daniel J.
Scruggs, Jessica M.
Geissenger, Jared S.
Michel, Katherine G.
Stevens, Ann M.
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During quorum sensing in the plant pathogen Pantoea stewartii subsp. stewartii, EsaI, an acyl-homoserine lactone (AHL) synthase, and the transcription factor EsaR coordinately control capsular polysaccharide production. The capsule is expressed only at high cell density when AHL levels are high, leading to inactivation of EsaR. In lieu of detailed structural information, the precise mechanism whereby EsaR recognizes AHL and is hindered by it, in a response opposite to that of most other LuxR homologues, remains unresolved. Hence, a random mutagenesis genetic approach was designed to isolate EsaR* variants that are immune to the effects of AHL. Error-prone PCR was used to generate the desired mutants, which were subsequently screened for their ability to repress transcription in the presence of AHL. Following sequencing, site-directed mutagenesis was used to generate all possible mutations of interest as single, rather than multiple amino acid substitutions. Eight individual amino acids playing a critical role in the AHL-insensitive phenotype have been identified. The ability of EsaR* variants to bind AHL and the effect of individual substitutions on the overall conformation of the protein were examined through in vitro assays. Six EsaR* variants had a decreased ability to bind AHL. Fluorescence anisotropy was used to examine the relative DNA binding affinity of the final two EsaR* variants, which retained some AHL binding capability but remained unresponsive to it, perhaps due to an inability of the N-terminal domain to transduce information to the C-terminal domain.