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Engineering a light-responsive, quorum quenching biofilm to mitigate biofouling on water purification membranes.
Quorum quenching (QQ) has been reported to be a promising approach for membrane biofouling control. Entrapment of QQ bacteria in porous matrices is required to retain them in continuously operated membrane processes and to prevent uncontrollable biofilm formation by the QQ bacteria on membrane surfaces. It would be more desirable if the formation and dispersal of biofilms by QQ bacteria could be controlled so that the QQ bacterial cells are self-immobilized, but the QQ biofilm itself still does not compromise membrane performance. In this study, we engineered a QQ bacterial biofilm whose growth and dispersal can be modulated by light through a dichromatic, optogenetic c-di-GMP gene circuit in which the bacterial cells sense near-infrared (NIR) light and blue light to adjust its biofilm formation by regulating the c-di-GMP level. We also demonstrated the potential application of the engineered light-responsive QQ biofilm in mitigating biofouling of water purification forward osmosis membranes. The c-di-GMP-targeted optogenetic approach for controllable biofilm development we have demonstrated here should prove widely applicable for designing other controllable biofilm-enabled applications such as biofilm-based biocatalysis.
Using Light-Activated Enzymes for Modulating Intracellular c-di-GMP Levels in Bacteria.
Signaling pathways involving second messenger c-di-GMP regulate various aspects of bacterial physiology and behavior. We describe the use of a red light-activated diguanylate cyclase (c-di-GMP synthase) and a blue light-activated c-di-GMP phosphodiesterase (hydrolase) for manipulating intracellular c-di-GMP levels in bacterial cells. We illustrate the application of these enzymes in regulating several c-di-GMP-dependent phenotypes, i.e., motility and biofilm phenotypes in E. coli and chemotactic behavior in the alphaproteobacterium Azospirillum brasilense. We expect these light-activated enzymes to be also useful in regulating c-di-GMP-dependent processes occurring at the fast timescale, for spatial control of bacterial populations, as well as for analyzing c-di-GMP-dependent phenomena at the single-cell level.
Optogenetic Module for Dichromatic Control of c-di-GMP Signaling.
Many aspects of bacterial physiology and behavior including motility, surface attachment, and cell cycle, are controlled by the c-di-GMP-dependent signaling pathways on the scale of seconds-to-minutes. Interrogation of such processes in real time requires tools for introducing rapid and reversible changes in intracellular c-di-GMP levels. Inducing expression of genes encoding c-di-GMP synthetic (diguanylate cyclases) and degrading (c-di-GMP phosphodiesterase) enzymes by chemicals may not provide adequate temporal control. In contrast, light-controlled diguanylate cyclases and phosphodiesterases can be quickly activated and inactivated. A red/near-infrared light-regulated diguanylate cyclase, BphS, has been engineered earlier, yet a complementary light-activated c-di-GMP phosphodiesterase has been lacking. In search of such a phosphodiesterase, we investigated two homologous proteins from Allochromatium vinosum and Magnetococcus marinus, designated BldP, which contain C-terminal EAL-BLUF modules, where EAL is a c-di-GMP phosphodiesterase domain and BLUF is a blue light sensory domain. Characterization of the BldP proteins in Escherichia coli and in vitro showed that they possess light-activated c-di-GMP phosphodiesterase activities. Interestingly, light activation in both enzymes was dependent on oxygen levels. The truncated EAL-BLUF fragment from A. vinosum BldP lacked phosphodiesterase activity, whereas a similar fragment from M. marinus BldP, designated EB1, possessed such activity that was highly (>30-fold) upregulated by light. Following light withdrawal, EB1 reverted to the inactive ground state with a half-life of ∼6 min. Therefore, the blue light-activated phosphodiesterase, EB1, can be used in combination with the red/near-infrared light-regulated diguanylate cyclase, BphS, for bidirectional regulation of c-di-GMP-dependent processes in E. coli as well as other bacterial and nonbacterial cells.IMPORTANCE Regulation of motility, attachment to surfaces, cell cycle, and other bacterial processes controlled by the c-di-GMP signaling pathways occurs at a fast (seconds-to-minutes) pace. Interrogating these processes at high temporal and spatial resolution using chemicals is difficult-to-impossible, while optogenetic approaches may prove useful. We identified and characterized a robust, blue light-activated c-di-GMP phosphodiesterase (hydrolase) that complements a previously engineered red/near-infrared light-regulated diguanylate cyclase (c-di-GMP synthase). These two enzymes form a dichromatic module for manipulating intracellular c-di-GMP levels in bacterial and nonbacterial cells.
Optogenetic manipulation of c-di-GMP levels reveals the role of c-di-GMP in regulating aerotaxis receptor activity in Azospirillum brasilense.
Bacterial chemotaxis receptors provide the sensory inputs that inform the direction of navigation in changing environments. Recently, we described the bacterial second messenger, c-di-GMP, as a novel regulator of a subclass of chemotaxis receptors. In Azospirillum brasilense, c-di-GMP binds to a chemotaxis receptor, Tlp1, and modulates its signaling function during aerotaxis. Here, we further characterize the role of c-di-GMP in aerotaxis using a novel dichromatic optogenetic system engineered for manipulating intracellular c-di-GMP levels in real time. This system comprises a red/near-infrared light-regulated diguanylate cyclase and a blue-light regulated c-di-GMP phosphodiesterase. It allows generation of transient changes in intracellular c-di-GMP concentrations within seconds of irradiation with appropriate light, which is compatible with the timescale of chemotaxis signaling. We provide experimental evidence that c-di-GMP binding to the Tlp1 receptor activates its signaling function during aerotaxis, which supports the role of transient changes in c-di-GMP levels as a means of adjusting the response of A. brasilense to oxygen gradients. We also show that intracellular c-di-GMP levels in A. brasilense changes with carbon metabolism. Our data support a model whereby c-di-GMP functions to imprint chemotaxis receptors with a record of recent metabolic experience, to adjust their contribution to the signaling output, thus allowing the cells to continually fine-tune chemotaxis sensory perception to their metabolic state.IMPORTANCE Motile bacteria use chemotaxis to change swimming direction in response to changes in environmental conditions. Chemotaxis receptors sense environmental signals and relay sensory information to the chemotaxis machinery, which ultimately controls the swimming pattern of cells. In bacteria studied to date, differential methylation has been known as a mechanism to control the activity of chemotaxis receptors and modulates their contribution to the overall chemotaxis response. Here, we used an optogenetic system to perturb intracellular concentrations of the bacterial second messenger, c-di-GMP, to show that in some chemotaxis receptors, c-di-GMP functions in a similar feedback loop to connect metabolic status of the cells to sensory activity of chemotaxis receptors.