The quorum sensing transcription factor AphA directly regulates natural competence in Vibrio cholerae

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Lucas M Walker
  • Jennifer L Chlebek
  • Triana N Dalia
  • Ankur B Dalia

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • Indiana University


Many bacteria use population density to control gene expression via quorum sensing. In Vibrio cholerae, quorum sensing coordinates virulence, biofilm formation, and DNA uptake by natural competence. The transcription factors AphA and HapR, expressed at low and high cell density respectively, play a key role. In particular, AphA triggers the entire virulence cascade upon host colonisation. In this work we have mapped genome-wide DNA binding by AphA. We show that AphA is versatile, exhibiting distinct modes of DNA binding and promoter regulation. Unexpectedly, whilst HapR is known to induce natural competence, we demonstrate that AphA also intervenes. Most notably, AphA is a direct repressor of tfoX, the master activator of competence. Hence, production of AphA markedly suppressed DNA uptake; an effect largely circumvented by ectopic expression of tfoX. Our observations suggest dual regulation of competence. At low cell density AphA is a master repressor whilst HapR activates the process at high cell density. Thus, we provide deep mechanistic insight into the role of AphA and highlight how V. cholerae utilises this regulator for diverse purposes.


Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1008362
JournalPLoS Genetics
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 28 Oct 2019