Alvarez L, Aliashkevich A, de Pedro MA, Cava F
ISME J 12 (2) 438-450 [2018-02-00; online 2017-10-13]
Bacteria face tough competition in polymicrobial communities. To persist in a specific niche, many species produce toxic extracellular effectors to interfere with the growth of nearby microbes. These effectors include the recently reported non-canonical D-amino acids (NCDAAs). In Vibrio cholerae, the causative agent of cholera, NCDAAs control cell wall integrity in stationary phase. Here, an analysis of the composition of the extracellular medium of V. cholerae revealed the unprecedented presence of D-Arg. Compared with other D-amino acids, D-Arg displayed higher potency and broader toxicity in terms of the number of bacterial species affected. Tolerance to D-Arg was associated with mutations in the phosphate transport and chaperone systems, whereas D-Met lethality was suppressed by mutations in cell wall determinants. These observations suggest that NCDAAs target different cellular processes. Finally, even though virtually all Vibrio species are tolerant to D-Arg, only a few can produce this D-amino acid. Indeed, we demonstrate that D-Arg may function as part of a cooperative strategy in vibrio communities to protect non-producing members from competing bacteria. Because NCDAA production is widespread in bacteria, we anticipate that D-Arg is a relevant modulator of microbial subpopulations in diverse ecosystems.