Microbes colonize the apical surfaces of polarized epithelia in nearly all animal taxa. Crucial to the symbiont's success after entry is the ability to trigger the constriction of a host tissue region (the "bottleneck") at the entrance to the colonization site.
Microbes colonize the apical surfaces of polarized epithelia in nearly all animal taxa. In one example, the luminous bacterium Vibrio fischeri enters, grows to a dense population within, and persists for months inside, the light-emitting organ of the squid Euprymna scolopes. Crucial to the symbiont's success after entry is the ability to trigger the constriction of a host tissue region (the "bottleneck") at the entrance to the colonization site. Bottleneck constriction begins at about the same time as bioluminescence, which is induced in V. fischeri through an autoinduction process called quorum sensing. Here, we asked the following questions: (i) Are the quorum signals that induce symbiont bioluminescence also involved in triggering the constriction? (ii) Does improper signaling of constriction affect the normal maintenance of the symbiont population? We manipulated the presence of three factors, the two V. fischeri quorum signal synthases, AinS and LuxI, the transcriptional regulator LuxR, and light emission itself, and found that the major factor triggering and maintaining bottleneck constriction is an as yet unknown effector(s) regulated by LuxIR. Treating the animal with chemical inhibitors of actin polymerization reopened the bottlenecks, recapitulating the host's response to quorum-sensing defective symbionts, as well as suggesting that actin polymerization is the primary mechanism underlying constriction. Finally, we found that these host responses to the presence of symbionts changed as a function of tissue maturation. Taken together, this work broadens our concept of how quorum sensing can regulate host development, thereby allowing bacteria to maintain long-term tissue associations.