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The RssAB Two-Component Signal Transduction System in Serratia marcescens Regulates Swarming Motility and Cell Envelope Architecture in Response to Exogenous Saturated Fatty Acids

American Society for Microbiology
Publication Date
  • Signal Transduction
  • Mathematics
  • Medicine


Serratia marcescens swarms at 30°C but not at 37°C on a nutrient-rich (LB) agar surface. Mini-Tn5 mutagenesis of S. marcescens CH-1 yielded a mutant (WC100) that swarms not only vigorously at 37°C but also earlier and faster than the parent strain swarms at 30°C. Analysis of this mutant revealed that the transposon was inserted into a gene (rssA) predicted to encode a bacterial two-component signal transduction sensor kinase, upstream of which a potential response regulator gene (rssB) was located. rssA and rssB insertion-deletion mutants were constructed through homologous recombination, and the two mutants exhibited similar swarming phenotypes on LB swarming agar, in which swarming not only occurred at 37°C but also initiated at a lower cell density, on a surface with a higher agar concentration, and more rapidly than the swarming of the parent strain at 30°C. Both mutants also exhibited increased hemolysin activity and altered cell surface topologies compared with the parent CH-1 strain. Temperature and certain saturated fatty acids (SFAs) were found to negatively regulate S. marcescens swarming via the action of RssA-RssB. Analysis of the fatty acid profiles of the parent and the rssA and rssB mutants grown at 30°C or 37°C and under different nutrition conditions revealed a relationship between cellular fatty acid composition and swarming phenotypes. The cellular fatty acid profile was also observed to be affected by RssA and RssB. SFA-dependent inhibition of swarming was also observed in Proteus mirabilis, suggesting that either SFAs per se or the modulation of cellular fatty acid composition and hence homeostasis of membrane fluidity may be a conserved mechanism for regulating swarming motility in gram-negative bacteria.

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