Tropodithietic Acid, a Multifunctional Antimicrobial, Facilitates Adaption and Colonization of the Producer, Phaeobacter piscinae

Laura Louise Lindqvist, Scott A. Jarmusch, Eva C. Sonnenschein, Mikael Lenz Strube, Janie Kim, Maike Wennekers Nielsen, Paul J. Kempen, Erwin M. Schoof, Sheng-Da Zhang, Lone Gram*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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Abstract

Despite the broad clinical usage of microbial secondary metabolites with antibiotic activity, little is known about their role in natural microbiomes. Here, we studied the effect of production of the antibiotic tropodithietic acid (TDA) on the producing strain, Phaeobacter piscinae S26, a member of the Roseobacter group. In the marine environment, surface-associated bacteria often produce an array of antimicrobial secondary metabolites, which have predominantly been perceived as competition molecules. However, they may also affect other hallmarks of surface-associated living, such as motility and biofilm formation. Here, we investigate the ecological significance of an antibiotic secondary metabolite, tropodithietic acid (TDA), in the producing bacterium, Phaeobacter piscinae S26. We constructed a markerless in-frame deletion mutant deficient in TDA biosynthesis, S26ΔtdaB. Molecular networking demonstrated that other chemical sulfur-containing features, likely related to TDA, were also altered in the secondary metabolome. We found several changes in the physiology of the TDA-deficient mutant, ΔtdaB, compared to the wild type. Growth of the two strains was similar; however, ΔtdaB cells were shorter and more motile. Transcriptome and proteome profiling revealed an increase in gene expression and protein abundance related to a type IV secretion system, and to a prophage, and a gene transfer agent in ΔtdaB. All these systems may contribute to horizontal gene transfer (HGT), which may facilitate adaptation to novel niches. We speculate that once a TDA-producing population has been established in a new niche, the accumulation of TDA acts as a signal of successful colonization, prompting a switch to a sessile lifestyle. This would lead to a decrease in motility and the rate of HGT, while filamentous cells could form the base of a biofilm. In addition, the antibiotic properties of TDA may inhibit invading competing microorganisms. This points to a role of TDA in coordinating colonization and adaptation. IMPORTANCE Despite the broad clinical usage of microbial secondary metabolites with antibiotic activity, little is known about their role in natural microbiomes. Here, we studied the effect of production of the antibiotic tropodithietic acid (TDA) on the producing strain, Phaeobacter piscinae S26, a member of the Roseobacter group. We show that TDA affects several phenotypes of the producing strain, including motility, cell morphology, metal metabolism, and three horizontal gene transfer systems: a prophage, a type IV secretion system, and a gene transfer agent. Together, this indicates that TDA participates in coordinating the colonization process of the producer. TDA is thus an example of a multifunctional secondary metabolite that can mediate complex interactions in microbial communities. This work broadens our understanding of the ecological role that secondary metabolites have in microbial community dynamics.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere00517-22
JournalmSphere
Volume8
Issue number1
Number of pages15
ISSN1535-9778
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Keywords

  • Biofilm
  • Motility
  • Phaeobacter
  • Secondary metabolites
  • Tropodithietic acid
  • Prophage
  • Gene transfer agent
  • Horizontal gene transfer
  • Niche colonization

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