Sulfur is in cellular components of bacteria and is, therefore, an element necessary for growth. However, mechanisms by which bacteria satisfy their sulfur needs within a host are poorly understood. Vibrio fischeri is a bacterial symbiont that colonizes, grows, and produces bioluminescence within the light organ of the Hawaiian bobtail squid, which provides an experimental platform for investigating sulfur acquisition in vivo. Like other γ-proteobacteria, V. fischeri fuels sulfur-dependent anabolic processes with intracellular cysteine. Within the light organ, the abundance of a ΔcysK mutant, which cannot synthesize cysteine through sulfate assimilation, is attenuated, suggesting sulfate import is necessary for V. fischeri to establish symbiosis. Genes encoding sulfate-import systems of other bacteria that assimilate sulfate were not identified in the V. fischeri genome. A transposon mutagenesis screen implicated YfbS as a sulfate importer. YfbS is necessary for growth on sulfate and in the marine environment. During symbiosis, a ΔyfbS mutant is attenuated and strongly expresses sulfate-assimilation genes, which is a phenotype associated with sulfur-starved cells. Together, these results suggest V. fischeri imports sulfate via YfbS within the squid light organ, which provides insight into the molecular mechanisms by which bacteria harvest sulfur in vivo.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Biology