Indole cell signaling occurs primarily at low temperatures in Escherichia coli

Jintae Lee, Xue Song Zhang, Manjunath Hegde, William E. Bentley, Arul Jayaraman, Thomas K. Wood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

115 Scopus citations


We have shown that the quorum-sensing signals acylhomoserine lactones, autoinducer-2 (AI-2) and indole influence the biofilm formation of Escherichia coli. Here, we investigate how the environment, that is, temperature, affects indole and AI-2 signaling in E. coli. We show in biofilms that indole addition leads to more extensive differential gene expression at 30°C (186 genes) than at 37°C (59 genes), that indole reduces biofilm formation (without affecting growth) more significantly at 25 and 30°C than at 37°C and that the effect is associated with the quorum-sensing protein SdiA. The addition of indole at 30°C compared to 37°C most significantly repressed genes involved in uridine monophosphate (UMP) biosynthesis (carAB, pyrLBI, pyrC, pyrD, pyrF and upp) and uracil transport (uraA). These uracil-related genes are also repressed at 30°C by SdiA, which confirms SdiA is involved in indole signaling. Also, compared to 37°C, indole more significantly decreased flagella-related qseB, flhD and fliA promoter activity, enhanced antibiotic resistance and inhibited cell division at 30°C. In contrast to indole and SdiA, the addition of (S)-4,5-dihydroxy-2,3-pentanedione (the AI-2 precursor) leads to more extensive differential gene expression at 37°C (63 genes) than at 30°C (11 genes), and, rather than repressing UMP synthesis genes, AI-2 induces them at 37°C (but not at 30°C). Also, the addition of AI-2 induces the transcription of virulence genes in enterohemorrhagic E. coli O157:H7 at 37°C but not at 30°C. Hence, cell signals cause diverse responses at different temperatures, and indole- and AI-2-based signaling are intertwined.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1007-1023
Number of pages17
JournalISME Journal
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Microbiology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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