The bacterial enhancer binding protein vasH promotes expression of a type vi secretion system in vibrio fischeri during symbiosis

Kirsten R. Guckes, Andrew G. Cecere, Amanda L. Williams, Anjali E. McNeil, Tim Miyashiro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Vibrio fischeri is a bacterial symbiont that colonizes the light organ of the Hawaiian bobtail squid, Euprymna scolopes. Certain strains of V. fischeri express a type VI secretion system (T6SS), which delivers effectors into neighboring cells that result in their death. Strains that are susceptible to the T6SS fail to establish symbiosis with a T6SS-positive strain within the same location of the squid light organ, which is a phenomenon termed strain incompatibility. This study investigates the regulation of the T6SS in V. fischeri strain FQ-A001. Here, we report that the expression of Hcp, a necessary structural component of the T6SS, depends on the alternative sigma factor σ54 and the bacterial enhancer binding protein VasH. VasH is necessary for FQ-A001 to kill other strains, suggesting that VasH-dependent regulation is essential for the T6SS of V. fischeri to affect intercellular interactions. In addition, this study demonstrates VasH-dependent transcription of hcp within host-associated populations of FQ-A001, suggesting that the T6SS is expressed within the host environment. Together, these findings establish a model for transcriptional control of hcp in V. fischeri within the squid light organ, thereby increasing understanding of how the T6SS is regulated during symbiosis. IMPORTANCE Animals harbor bacterial symbionts with specific traits that promote host fitness. Mechanisms that facilitate intercellular interactions among bacterial symbionts impact which bacterial lineages ultimately establish symbiosis with the host. How these mechanisms are regulated is poorly characterized in nonhuman bacterial symbionts. This study establishes a model for the transcriptional regulation of a contact-dependent killing machine, thereby increasing understanding of mechanisms by which different strains compete while establishing symbiosis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere00777-19
JournalJournal of bacteriology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology


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