Proteus mirabilis interkingdom swarming signals attract blow flies

Qun Ma, Alicia Fonseca, Wenqi Liu, Andrew T. Fields, Meaghan L. Pimsler, Aline F. Spindola, Aaron M. Tarone, Tawni L. Crippen, Jeffery K. Tomberlin, Thomas K. Wood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

101 Scopus citations


Flies transport specific bacteria with their larvae that provide a wider range of nutrients for those bacteria. Our hypothesis was that this symbiotic interaction may depend on interkingdom signaling. We obtained Proteus mirabilis from the salivary glands of the blow fly Lucilia sericata; this strain swarmed significantly and produced a strong odor that attracts blow flies. To identify the putative interkingdom signals for the bacterium and flies, we reasoned that as swarming is used by this bacterium to cover the food resource and requires bacterial signaling, the same bacterial signals used for swarming may be used to communicate with blow flies. Using transposon mutagenesis, we identified six novel genes for swarming (ureR, fis, hybG, zapB, fadE and PROSTU-03490), then, confirming our hypothesis, we discovered that fly attractants, lactic acid, phenol, NaOH, KOH and ammonia, restore swarming for cells with the swarming mutations. Hence, compounds produced by the bacterium that attract flies also are utilized for swarming. In addition, bacteria with the swarming mutation rfaL attracted fewer blow flies and reduced the number of eggs laid by the flies. Therefore, we have identified several interkingdom signals between P. mirabilis and blow flies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1356-1366
Number of pages11
JournalISME Journal
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Microbiology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


Dive into the research topics of 'Proteus mirabilis interkingdom swarming signals attract blow flies'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this