David M. Ojcius: 0000-0003-1461-4495
Iron availability affects swarming and biofilm formation in various bacterial species. However, how bacteria sense iron and coordinate swarming and biofilm formation remains unclear. Using Serratia marcescens as a model organism, we identify here a stage-specific iron-regulatory machinery comprising a two-component system (TCS) and the TCS-regulated iron chelator 2-isocyano-6,7-dihydroxycoumarin (ICDH-Coumarin) that directly senses and modulates environmental ferric iron (Fe3+) availability to determine swarming initiation and biofilm formation. We demonstrate that the two-component system RssA-RssB (RssAB) directly senses environmental ferric iron (Fe3+) and transcriptionally modulates biosynthesis of flagella and the iron chelator ICDH-Coumarin whose production requires the pvc cluster. Addition of Fe3+, or loss of ICDH-Coumarin due to pvc deletion results in prolonged RssAB signaling activation, leading to delayed swarming initiation and increased biofilm formation. We further show that ICDH-Coumarin is able to chelate Fe3+ to switch off RssAB signaling, triggering swarming initiation and biofilm reduction. Our findings reveal a novel cellular system that senses iron levels to regulate bacterial surface lifestyle.
Ojcius, D. M.,
Young, J. D.
An iron detection system determines bacterial swarming initiation and biofilm formation.
Scientific Reports, 6, 1–13.