In this study, we delineated the role of N-acylhomoserine lactone(s) (AHLs)-mediated quorum sensing (QS) in the virulence of diarrhoeal isolate SSU of Aeromonas hydrophila by generating a double knockout ΔahyRI mutant. Protease production was substantially reduced in the ΔahyRI mutant when compared with that in the wild-type (WT) strain. Importantly, based on Western blot analysis, the ΔahyRI mutant was unable to secrete type VI secretion system (T6SS)-associated effectors, namely haemolysin coregulated protein and the valine-glycine repeat family of proteins, while significant levels of these effectors were detected in the culture supernatant of the WT A. hydrophila. In contrast, the production and translocation of the type III secretion system (T3SS) effector AexU in human colonic epithelial cells were not affected when the ahyRI genes were deleted. Solid surface-associated biofilm formation was significantly reduced in the ΔahyRI mutant when compared with that in the WT strain, as determined by a crystal violet staining assay. Scanning electron microscopic observations revealed that the ΔahyRI mutant was also defective in the formation of structured biofilm, as it was less filamentous and produced a distinct exopolysaccharide on its surface when compared with the structured biofilm produced by the WT strain. These effects of AhyRI could be complemented either by expressing the ahyRI genes in trans or by the exogeneous addition of AHLs to the ΔahyRI/ahyR+ complemented strain. In a mouse lethality experiment, 50 % attenuation was observed when we deleted the ahyRI genes from the parental strain of A. hydrophila. Together, our data suggest that AHL-mediated QS modulates the virulence of A. hydrophila SSU by regulating the T6SS, metalloprotease production and biofilm formation.
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