Streptococcus pneumoniae becomes competent for genetic transformation when exposed to an autoinducer peptide known as competence-stimulating peptide (CSP). This peptide was originally described as a quorum-sensing signal, enabling individual cells to regulate competence in response to population density. However, recent studies suggest that CSP may instead serve as a probe for sensing environmental cues, such as antibiotic stress or environmental diffusion. Here, we show that competence induction can be simultaneously influenced by cell density, external pH, antibiotic-induced stress, and cell history. Our experimental data is explained by a mathematical model where the environment and cell history modify the rate at which cells produce or sense CSP. Taken together, model and experiments indicate that autoinducer concentration can function as an indicator of cell density across environmental conditions, while also incorporating information on environmental factors or cell history, allowing cells to integrate cues such as antibiotic stress into their quorum-sensing response. This unifying perspective may apply to other debated quorum-sensing systems.Peptide CSP regulates natural competence in pneumococci and has been proposed as a quorum-sensing signal or a probe for sensing environmental cues. Here, the authors show that CSP levels can indeed act as an indicator of cell density and also incorporate information on environmental factors or cell history.
- Journal Article