The chemotaxis system enables motile bacteria to search for an optimum level of environmental factors. Salmonella typhimurium senses the amino acid cysteine as an attractant and its oxidized dimeric form, cystine, as a repellent. We investigated the dose-response dependence of changes in chemotactic signaling activity upon exposure to cysteine and cystine of ,S. typhimurium LT2 using in vivo fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) measurements. The dose-response curve of the attractant response to cysteine had a sigmoidal shape, typical for receptor-ligand interactions. However, in a knockout strain of the chemoreceptor genes tsr and tar, we detected a repellent response to cysteine solutions, scaling linearly with the logarithm of the cysteine concentration. Interestingly, the magnitude of the repellent response to cystine also showed linear dependence to the logarithm of the cystine concentration. This linear dependence was observed over more than four orders of magnitude, where detection started at nanomolar concentrations. Notably, low concentrations of another oxidized compound, benzoquinone, triggered similar responses. In contrast to S. typhimurium 14028, where no response to cystine was observed in a knockout strain of chemoreceptor genes mcpB and mcpC, here we showed that McpB / McpC-independent responses to cystine existed in the strain S. typhimurium LT2 even at nanomolar concentrations. Additionally, knocking out mcpB and mcpC did not affect the linear dose-response dependence, whereas enhanced responses were only observed to solutions that where not pH neutral (>100μM cystine) in the case of McpC overexpression. We discuss that the linear dependence of the response on the logarithm of cystine concentrations could be a result of a McpB / C-independent redox-sensing pathway that exists in S. typhimurium LT2. We supported this hypothesis with experiments with defined cysteine / cystine mixed solutions, where a transition from repellent to attractant response occurred depending on the estimated redox potential.

PLoS One
Physics of Behavior

Rosier, B. T., & Lazova, M. (2016). Dose-Response Analysis of Chemotactic Signaling Response in Salmonella typhimurium LT2 upon Exposure to Cysteine / Cystine Redox Pair. PLoS One, 11(4, Article number: e0152815), 1–16. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0152815