Indole and cAMP Promote Escherichia coli Survival in Mixed Culture
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In their natural environments, bacteria typically are found as mixed species communities and are often attached to some type of surface. There has been considerable interest in studying bacterial biofilms; however, little is known about the mechanisms that enable them to grow as mixed populations in biofilms or planktonic communities. Recent results from the McLean laboratory on transcriptional profiles of Escherichia coli MG1655 in mixed culture with Pseudomonas aeruginosa PAO1 showed a number of E. coli genes to be upregulated including purA-F and other genes associated with purine synthesis. In contrast, genes associated with pyrimidine synthesis were unaffected. Competition experiments in both planktonic and biofilm cultures, using three purine synthesis mutants, purD, purH, and purT showed little difference in E. coli survival from the parent strain As purines are components of the cell signals cAMP and c-di-GMP, in this study we conducted competition experiments with E. coli mutants lacking adenylate cyclase (cyaA), cAMP phosphodiesterase (cpdA), and the catabolite receptor protein (crp), as well as diguanylate cyclase (ydeH) associated with c-di-GMP synthesis. Survival of the cyaA and crp mutants during co-culture were significantly less than the parent strain. Supplementation of the media with 1mM cAMP could restore survival of the cyaA mutant but not the crp mutant. In contrast, survival of the cpdA mutant was similar to the parent strain. Survival of the ydeH mutant was unaffected, suggesting that cAMP has more impact on E. coli mixed culture growth than c-di-GMP. Addition of 1 mM indole restored the survival of both the cyaA and crp mutations. Mutants in genes for tryptophan synthesis (trpE) and indole production (tnaA) showed a loss of competition and recovery through indole supplementation, comparable to the cyaA and crp mutants. Overall, these results suggest indole and cAMP as major contributing factors to E. coli growth in mixed culture.