Several biotypes of the Gram-negative bacterium Serratia marcescens produce the tri-pyrole pigment and secondary metabolite prodigiosin. The biological activities of this pigment have therapeutic potential. For over half a century it has been known that biosynthesis of prodi giosin is inhibited when bacteria are grown at elevated temperatures, yet the fundamental mechanism underlying this thermoregulation has not been characterized. In this study, chromosomal and plasmid-borne luxCDABE transcriptional reporters revealed reduced transcription of the prodigiosin biosynthetic operon at 37°C compared to 30°C indicating transcriptional control of pigment production. Moreover, induced expression of the prodigiosin biosynthetic operon at 37°C was able to produce pigmented colonies and cultures demonstrating that physiological conditions at 37°C allow prodigiosin production and indicating that post-transcriptional control is not a major contributor to the thermoregulation of prodigiosin pigmentation. Genetic experiments support the model that the HexS transcription factor is a key contributor to thermoregulation of pigmentation, whereas CRP plays a minor role, and a clear role for EepR and PigP was not observed. Together, these data indicate that thermoregulation of prodigiosin production at elevated temperatures is controlled largely, if not exclusively, at the transcriptional level.

Publication timeframe:
4 times per year
Journal Subjects:
Life Sciences, Microbiology and Virology