Exploring AI-2-mediated interspecies communications within rumen microbial communities
Xiaozhen Liu, Qinmeng Liu, Sihuai Sun, Hengxi Sun, Yao Wang, Xihui Shen and Lei Zhang
Background: The rumen is an ecosystem with a complex microbial microflora in which microbes initiate biofilm formation by attaching to plant surfaces for plant degradation and are capable of converting feed to nutrients and energy via microbial processes. Quorum sensing (QS) is a cell-to-cell communication mechanism that allows microbes to synchronize the expression of multiple genes in the group to perform social behaviors such as chemotaxis and biofilm formation using self-synthesized QS signaling molecules. Whereas QS has been extensively studied in model microorganisms under pure culture conditions, QS mechanisms are poorly understood in complex bacterial communities, such as the rumen microflora, in which cell-to-cell communication may be common. Results: Here, we analyzed 981 rumens bacterial and archaeal genomes from the Joint Genome Institute (JGI) and GenBank databases and identified 15 types of known QS signaling molecule-related genes. The analysis of the prevalence and abundance of genes involved in QS showed that 767 microbial genomes appeared to possess QS-related genes, including 680 bacterial genomes containing autoinducer-2 (AI-2) synthase- or receptor-encoding genes. Prevotella, Butyivibrio, Ruminococcus, Oribacterium, Selenomonas, and Treponema, known abundant bacterial genera in the rumen, possessed the greatest numbers of AI-2-related genes; these genes were highly expressed within the metatranscriptome dataset, suggesting that intra- and interspecies communication mediated by AI-2 among rumen microbes was universal in the rumen. The QS processes mediated by the dCache_1-containing AI-2 receptors (CahRs) with various functional modules may be essential for degrading plants, digesting food, and providing energy and nutrients to the host. Additionally, a universal natural network based on QS revealed how rumen microbes coordinate social behaviors via the AI-2-mediated QS system, most of which may potentially function via AI-2 binding to the extracellular sensor dCache_1 domain to activate corresponding receptors involved in different signal transduction pathways, such as methyl-accepting chemotaxis proteins, histidine kinases, serine phosphatases, c-di-GMP synthases and phosphodiesterases, and serine/threonine kinases in the rumen. Conclusions: The exploration of AI-2-related genes, especially CahR-type AI-2 receptors, greatly increased our insight into AI-2 as a potentially"universal" signal mediating social behaviors and will help us better understand microbial communication networks and the function of QS in plant-microbe interactions in complex microecosystems.