MICROBIOLOGY: Intercellular communication and conjugation are mediated by ESX secretion systems in mycobacteria

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Communal bacterial processes require intercellular communication mediated by secretion systems to coordinate appropriate molecular responses. Intercellular communication has not been described previously in mycobacteria. Here we show that the ESX secretion-system family member ESX-4 is essential for conjugal recipient activity inMycobacterium smegmatis.Transcription ofesx4genes in the recipient requires coculture with a donor strain and a functional ESX-1 apparatus in the recipient. Conversely, mutation of the donor ESX-1 apparatus amplifies the esx4 transcriptional response in the recipient. The effect of ESX-1 on esx4 transcription correlates with conjugal DNA transfer efficiencies. Our data show that intercellular communication via ESX-1 controls the expression of its evolutionary progenitor, ESX-4, to promote conjugation between mycobacteria.

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