Linearmycins Activate a Two-Component Signaling System Involved in Bacterial Competition and Biofilm Morphology. Academic Article uri icon


  • Bacteria use two-component signaling systems to adapt and respond to their competitors and changing environments. For instance, competitor bacteria may produce antibiotics and other bioactive metabolites and sequester nutrients. To survive, some species of bacteria escape competition through antibiotic production, biofilm formation, or motility. Specialized metabolite production and biofilm formation are relatively well understood for bacterial species in isolation. How bacteria control these functions when competitors are present is not well studied. To address fundamental questions relating to the competitive mechanisms of different species, we have developed a model system using two species of soil bacteria, Bacillus subtilis and Streptomyces sp. strain Mg1. Using this model, we previously found that linearmycins produced by Streptomyces sp. strain Mg1 cause lysis of B. subtilis cells and degradation of colony matrix. We identified strains of B. subtilis with mutations in the two-component signaling system yfiJK operon that confer dual phenotypes of specific linearmycin resistance and biofilm morphology. We determined that expression of the ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporter yfiLMN operon, particularly yfiM and yfiN, is necessary for biofilm morphology. Using transposon mutagenesis, we identified genes that are required for YfiLMN-mediated biofilm morphology, including several chaperones. Using transcriptional fusions, we found that YfiJ signaling is activated by linearmycins and other polyene metabolites. Finally, using a truncated YfiJ, we show that YfiJ requires its transmembrane domain to activate downstream signaling. Taken together, these results suggest coordinated dual antibiotic resistance and biofilm morphology by a single multifunctional ABC transporter promotes competitive fitness of B. subtilisIMPORTANCE DNA sequencing approaches have revealed hitherto unexplored diversity of bacterial species in a wide variety of environments that includes the gastrointestinal tract of animals and the rhizosphere of plants. Interactions between different species in bacterial communities have impacts on our health and industry. However, many approaches currently used to study whole bacterial communities do not resolve mechanistic details of interspecies interactions, including how bacteria sense and respond to their competitors. Using a competition model, we have uncovered dual functions for a previously uncharacterized two-component signaling system involved in specific antibiotic resistance and biofilm morphology. Insights gleaned from signaling within interspecies interaction models build a more complete understanding of gene functions important for bacterial communities and will enhance community-level analytical approaches.

altmetric score

  • 13

author list (cited authors)

  • Stubbendieck, R. M., & Straight, P. D.

citation count

  • 17

complete list of authors

  • Stubbendieck, Reed M||Straight, Paul D

editor list (cited editors)

  • Stock, A. M.

publication date

  • September 2017