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Brameyer, Sophie and Heermann, Ralf (2015): Specificity of Signal-Binding via Non-AHL LuxR-Type Receptors.
In: PLOS ONE 10(4), e0124093 [PDF, 5MB]

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Quorum sensing is a typical communication system among Gram-negative bacteria used to control group-coordinated behavior via small diffusible molecules dependent on cell number. The key components of a quorum sensing system are a LuxI-type synthase, producing acyl-homoserine lactones (AHLs) as signaling molecules, and a LuxR-type receptor that detects AHLs to control expression of specific target genes. Six conserved amino acids are present in the signal-binding domain of AHL-sensing LuxR-type proteins, which are important for ligand-binding and -specificity as well as shaping the ligand-binding pocket. However, many proteobacteria possess LuxR-type regulators without a cognate LuxI synthase, referred to as LuxR solos. The two LuxR solos PluR and PauR from Photorhabdus luminescens and Photorhabdus asymbiotica, respectively, do not sense AHLs. Instead PluR and PauR sense alpha-pyrones and dialkylresorcinols, respectively, and are part of cell-cell communication systems contributing to the overall virulence of these Photorhabdus species. However, PluR and PauR both harbor substitutions in the conserved amino acid motif compared to that in AHL sensors, which appeared to be important for binding the corresponding signaling molecules. Here we analyze the role of the conserved amino acids in the signal-binding domain of these two non-AHL LuxR-type receptors for their role in signal perception. Our studies reveal that the conserved amino acid motif alone is essential but not solely responsible for ligand-binding.

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