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Science 306 (5705): 2270-2272

Copyright © 2004 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science

Enterococcus faecalis Senses Target Cells and in Response Expresses Cytolysin

Phillip S. Coburn,1 Christopher M. Pillar,2* Bradley D. Jett,2{dagger} Wolfgang Haas,2{ddagger} Michael S. Gilmore1,2*§

Abstract: Many virulent strains of Enterococcus faecalis produce a two-subunit toxin, termed cytolysin. Cytolysin expression is regulated by one of the subunits (CylLS'') through a quorum-sensing autoinduction mechanism. We found that when target cells are absent, the other subunit (CylLL'') forms a complex with CylLS'', blocking it from autoinducing the operon. When target cells are present, however, CylLL'' binds preferentially to the target, allowing free CylLS'' to accumulate above the induction threshold. Thus, enterococci use CylLL'' to actively probe the environment for target cells, and when target cells are detected, allows the organism to express high levels of cytolysin in response.

1 Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Stanton L. Young Biomedical Research Center, Room 356, Post Office Box 26901, Oklahoma City, OK 73190, USA.
2 Department of Ophthalmology, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Stanton L. Young Biomedical Research Center, Room 356, Post Office Box 26901, Oklahoma City, OK 73190, USA.

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* Present address: Department of Ophthalmology, Harvard Medical School, and The Schepens Eye Research Institute, 20 Staniford Street, Boston, MA 02114, USA.

{dagger} Present address: Department of Biology, Oklahoma Baptist University, Shawnee, OK 74804, USA.

{ddagger} Present address: Center for Oral Biology, University of Rochester, School of Medicine and Dentistry, Rochester, NY 14642, USA.

§ To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: mgilmore{at}

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