Conjugation is one of the most common ways bacteria acquire antibiotic resistance, contributing to the emergence of multidrug-resistant "superbugs." Bacteria of the genus Enterococcus faecalis are highly antibiotic-resistant nosocomial pathogens that use the mechanism of conjugation to spread antibiotic resistance between resistance-bearing donor cells and resistance-deficient recipient cells. Here, we report a unique quorum sensing-based communication system that uses two antagonistic signaling molecules to regulate conjugative transfer of tetracycline-resistance plasmid pCF10 in E. faecalis. A "mate-sensing" peptide sex pheromone produced by recipient cells is detected by donor cells to induce con-jugative genetic transfer. Using mathematical modeling and experimentation, we show that a second antagonistic "self-sensing" signaling peptide, previously known to suppress self-induction of donor cells, also serves as a classic quorum-sensing signal for donors that functions to reduce antibiotic-resistance transfer at high donor density. This unique form of quorum sensing may provide a means of limiting the spread of the plasmid and present opportunities to control antibiotic-resistance transfer through manipulation of intercellular signaling, with implications in the clinical setting.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Number of pages||5|
|Journal||Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America|
|State||Published - Apr 23 2013|