Bacteria utilize quorum-sensing systems to modulate environmental stress responses. The quorum-sensing system of Streptococcus mutans is mediated by the competence-stimulating peptide (CSP), whose precursor is encoded by the comC gene. A comC mutant of strain GS5 exhibited enhanced antimicrobial sensitivity to a wide variety of different agents. Since the addition of exogenous CSP did not complement this phenotype, it was determined that the increased tetracycline, penicillin, and triclosan sensitivities resulted from repression of the putative bacteriocin immunity protein gene, bip, which is located immediately upstream from comC. We further demonstrated that the inactivation of bip or smbG, another bacteriocin immunity protein gene present within the smb operon in S. mutans GS5, affected sensitivity to a variety of antimicrobial agents. Furthermore, both the bip and smbG genes were upregulated in the presence of low concentrations of antibiotics and were induced during biofilm formation relative to in planktonic cells. These results suggest, for the first time, that the antimicrobial sensitivity of a bacterium can be modulated by some of the putative bacteriocin immunity proteins expressed by the organism. The implications of these observations for the evolution of bacteriocin immunity protein genes as well as for potential new chemotherapeutic strategies are discussed.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology