Generation of cell-to-cell signals in quorum sensing: Acyl homoserine lactone synthase activity of a purified Vibrio fischeri LuxI protein

Amy L. Schaefer, Dale L. Val, Brian L. Hanzelka, John E. Cronan, E. P. Greenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Many bacteria use acyl homoserine lactone signals to monitor cell density in a type of gene regulation termed quorum sensing and response. Synthesis of these signals is directed by homologs of the lazy gene of Vibrio fischeri. This communication resolves two critical issues concerning the synthesis of the V. fischeri signal. (i) The lazy product is directly involved in signal synthesis-the protein is an acyl homoserine lactone synthase; and (ii) the substrates for acyl homoserine lactone synthesis are not amino acids from biosynthetic pathways or fatty acid degradation products, but rather they are S-adenosylmethionine (SAM) and an acylated acyl carrier protein (ACP) from the fatty acid biosynthesis pathway. We purified a maltose binding protein-Luxl fusion polypeptide and showed that, when provided with the appropriate substrates, it catalyzes the synthesis of an acyl homoserine lactone. In V. fischeri, luxl directs the synthesis of N-(3- oxohexanoyl)homoserine lactone and hexanoyl homoserine lactone. The purified maltose binding protein-Luxl fusion protein catalyzes the synthesis of hexanoyl homoserine lactone from hexanoyl-ACP and SAM. There is a high level of specificity for hexanoyl-ACP over ACPs with differing acyl group lengths, and hexanoyl homoserine lactone was not synthesized when SAM was replaced with other amino acids, such as methionine, S-adenosylhomocysteine, homoserine, or homoserine lactone, or when hexanoyl-SAM was provided as the substrate. This provides direct evidence that the Luxl protein is an autoinducer synthase that catalyzes the formation of an amide bond between SAM and a fatty acyl-ACP and then catalyzes the formation of the acyl homoserine lactone from the acyl-SAM intermediate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9505-9509
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number18
StatePublished - Sep 3 1996


  • autoinduction
  • cell density-dependent gene expression
  • lux genes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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