The fitness of host-associated microbes depends on their ability to access nutrients in vivo. Identifying these mechanisms is significant for understanding how microbes have evolved to fill specific ecological niches within a host. Vibrio fischeri is a bioluminescent bacterium that colonizes and proliferates within the light organ of the Hawaiian bobtail squid, which provides an opportunity to study how bacteria grow in vivo. Here, the transcription factor CysB is shown to be necessary for V. fischeri both to grow on several sulfur sources in vitro and to establish symbiosis with juvenile squid. CysB is also found to regulate several genes involved in sulfate assimilation and to contribute to the growth of V. fischeri on cystine, which is the oxidized form of cysteine. A mutant that grows on cystine but not sulfate could establish symbiosis, suggesting that V. fischeri acquires nutrients related to this compound within the host. Finally, CysB-regulated genes are shown to be differentially expressed among the V. fischeri populations occupying the various colonization sites found within the light organ. Together, these results suggest the biogeography of V. fischeri populations within the squid light organ impacts the physiology of this symbiotic bacterium in vivo through CysB-dependent gene regulation.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Biology