Escherichia coli is a common inhabitant of the human microbiota and a beacon model organism in biology. However, an understanding of its signaling systems that regulate population-level phenotypes known as quorum sensing remain incomplete. Here, we define the structure and biosynthesis of autoinducer-3 (AI-3), a metabolite of previously unknown structure involved in the pathogenesis of enterohemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC). We demonstrate that novel AI-3 analogs are derived from threonine dehydrogenase (Tdh) products and "abortive" tRNA synthetase reactions, and they are distributed across a variety of Gram-negative and Gram-positive bacterial pathogens. In addition to regulating virulence genes in EHEC, we show that the metabolites exert diverse immunological effects on primary human tissues. The discovery of AI-3 metabolites and their biochemical origins now provides a molecular foundation for investigating the diverse biological roles of these elusive yet widely distributed bacterial signaling molecules.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Chemical Engineering(all)