Glucose confers protection to Escherichia coli against contact killing by Vibrio cholerae.

Affiliation

Crisan CV(1)(2)(3), Nichols HL(1)(2)(3), Wiesenfeld S(1)(2)(3), Steinbach G(3)(4), Yunker PJ(3)(4), Hammer BK(5)(6)(7).
Author information:
(1)School of Biological Sciences, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA, USA.
(2)Parker H. Petit Institute for Bioengineering & Bioscience, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA, USA.
(3)Center for Microbial Dynamics and Infection, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA, USA.
(4)School of Physics, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA, USA.
(5)School of Biological Sciences, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA, USA. [Email]
(6)Parker H. Petit Institute for Bioengineering & Bioscience, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA, USA. [Email]
(7)Center for Microbial Dynamics and Infection, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA, USA. [Email]

Abstract

Evolutionary arms races are broadly prevalent among organisms including bacteria, which have evolved defensive strategies against various attackers. A common microbial aggression mechanism is the type VI secretion system (T6SS), a contact-dependent bacterial weapon used to deliver toxic effector proteins into adjacent target cells. Sibling cells constitutively express immunity proteins that neutralize effectors. However, less is known about factors that protect non-sibling bacteria from T6SS attacks independently of cognate immunity proteins. In this study, we observe that human Escherichia coli commensal strains sensitive to T6SS attacks from Vibrio cholerae are protected when co-cultured with glucose. We confirm that glucose does not impair V. cholerae T6SS activity. Instead, we find that cells lacking the cAMP receptor protein (CRP), which regulates expression of hundreds of genes in response to glucose, survive significantly better against V. cholerae T6SS attacks even in the absence of glucose. Finally, we show that the glucose-mediated T6SS protection varies with different targets and killers. Our findings highlight the first example of an extracellular small molecule modulating a genetically controlled response for protection against T6SS attacks. This discovery may have major implications for microbial interactions during pathogen-host colonization and survival of bacteria in environmental communities.