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Journal Article

The Type VI secretion systems of the insect pathogen Photorhabdus luminescens are involved in interbacterial competition, motility and secondary metabolism


Glatter,  Timo       
Core Facility Mass Spectrometry and Proteomics, Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology, Max Planck Society;

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Pisarz, F., Glatter, T., Süss, D.-T.-M., Heermann, R., & Regaiolo, A. (2024). The Type VI secretion systems of the insect pathogen Photorhabdus luminescens are involved in interbacterial competition, motility and secondary metabolism. The Microbe, 3: 100067. doi:10.1016/j.microb.2024.100067.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-000F-21BA-A
The Type VI Secretion System (T6SS) is used as weapon by a variety of Gram-negative bacteria in polymicrobial niche competition. Its characterization and study gained more interest in recent years. The system functions as a molecular nano-weapon: it is used in inter-kingdom competition by various bacteria to deliver toxic effectors in target cells. In this context, Photorhabdus luminescens subsp. luminescens strain DJC is a microorganism able to colonize different polymicrobial environments, like nematode guts, plant roots and larvae hemolymph. However, the mechanisms used by this microorganism to compete against other bacteria in the same environment have not been clearly described yet. We hypothesis that the T6SS of Photorhabdus luminescens subsp. luminescens strain DJC can play a role in same-niche environments. In this study we focused our attention on the characterization of the T6SS clusters in P. luminescens and its role in this bacteria lifestyle thought bioinformatic, proteomics analyses and inter-bacterial killing assays. Using bioinformatics analysis, we identified four T6SS gene clusters (T6SS-1, T6SS-2, T6SS-3 and T6SS-4) and multiple orphan T6SS related genes in the genome of P. luminescens. Furthermore, we highlighted 11 T6SS effector-immunity pairs, including three undescribed membrane disrupting effectors, each with putatively different antibacterial activities. By comparing the proteomes of P. luminescens wild type cells and the respective isogenic T6SS-deficient strains, we could point out a putative link between T6SS and other P. luminescens related defense mechanisms such as PVCs, T3SS and pyocins. Furthermore, T6SS-deficiency led to a change in phenotypic traits such as motility and secondary metabolism. Our findings shed light on the T6SS of P. luminescens DJC, suggesting a role of the system in the complex life cycle with a putative cross-link with various defense mechanisms and secondary metabolism. This study could help to gain more knowledge on bacterial T6SSs and better understand the P. luminescens ability to live in polymicrobial environments.