Many bacteria harbour an incomplete quorum-sensing (QS) system, whereby they possess LuxR homologues without the QS acylhomoserine lactone (AHL) synthase, which is encoded by a luxI homologue. An artificial AHL-producing plasmid was constructed using a cviI gene encoding the C6-AHL [N-hexanoyl homoserine lactone (HHL)] synthase from Chromobacterium violaceum, and was introduced successfully into both the wild-type and a ppoR (luxR homologue) mutant of Pseudomonas putida. Our data provide evidence to suggest that the PpoR-HHL complex, but neither PpoR nor HHL alone, could attenuate growth, antibiotic resistance and biofilm formation ability. In contrast, swimming motility, siderophore production and indole degradation were enhanced by PpoR-HHL. The addition of exogenous indole increased biofilm formation and reduced swimming motility. Interestingly, indole proved ineffective in the presence of PpoR-HHL, thereby suggesting that the PpoR-HHL complex masks the effects of indole. Our data were supported by transcriptome analyses, which showed that the presence of the plasmid-encoded AHL synthase altered the expression of many genes on the chromosome in strain KT2440. Our results showed that heterologous luxI expression that occurs via horizontal gene transfer can regulate a broad range of specific target genes, resulting in alterations of the phenotype and physiology of host cells.
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