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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Is autoinducer-2 a universal signal for interspecies communication: a comparative genomic and phylogenetic analysis of the synthesis and signal transduction pathways

Jibin Sun1, Rolf Daniel2, Irene Wagner-Döbler3* and An-Ping Zeng1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Genome Analysis, GBF – German Research Center for Biotechnology, Braunschweig, Germany

2 Institute for Microbiology and Genetics, University of Göttingen, Göttingen, Germany

3 Research Group Microbial Communication, GBF – German Research Center for Biotechnology, Braunschweig, Germany

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2004, 4:36  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-4-36

Published: 29 September 2004

Abstract

Background

Quorum sensing is a process of bacterial cell-to-cell communication involving the production and detection of extracellular signaling molecules called autoinducers. Recently, it has been proposed that autoinducer-2 (AI-2), a furanosyl borate diester derived from the recycling of S-adenosyl-homocysteine (SAH) to homocysteine, serves as a universal signal for interspecies communication.

Results

In this study, 138 completed genomes were examined for the genes involved in the synthesis and detection of AI-2. Except for some symbionts and parasites, all organisms have a pathway to recycle SAH, either using a two-step enzymatic conversion by the Pfs and LuxS enzymes or a one-step conversion using SAH-hydrolase (SahH). 51 organisms including most Gamma-, Beta-, and Epsilonproteobacteria, and Firmicutes possess the Pfs-LuxS pathway, while Archaea, Eukarya, Alphaproteobacteria, Actinobacteria and Cyanobacteria prefer the SahH pathway. In all 138 organisms, only the three Vibrio strains had strong, bidirectional matches to the periplasmic AI-2 binding protein LuxP and the central signal relay protein LuxU. The initial two-component sensor kinase protein LuxQ, and the terminal response regulator luxO are found in most Proteobacteria, as well as in some Firmicutes, often in several copies.

Conclusions

The genomic analysis indicates that the LuxS enzyme required for AI-2 synthesis is widespread in bacteria, while the periplasmic binding protein LuxP is only present in Vibrio strains. Thus, other organisms may either use components different from the AI-2 signal transduction system of Vibrio strains to sense the signal of AI-2, or they do not have such a quorum sensing system at all.