Burkholderia cepacia complex contact-dependent growth inhibition systems mediate interbacterial competition

Tanya Myers-Morales, A. Elizabeth Oates, Matthew S. Byrd, Erin C. Garcia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Burkholderia species, including opportunistic pathogens in the Burkholderia cepacia complex (Bcc), have genes to produce contact-dependent growth inhibition (CDI) system proteins. CDI is a phenomenon in which Gram-negative bacteria use the toxic C terminus of a polymorphic surface-exposed exoprotein, BcpA, to inhibit the growth of susceptible bacteria upon direct cell-cell contact. Production of a small immunity protein, BcpI, prevents autoinhibition. Although CDI systems appear widespread in Gram-negative bacteria, their function has been primarily examined in several model species. Here we demonstrate that genes encoding predicted CDI systems in Bcc species exhibit considerable diversity. We also show that Burkholderia multivorans, which causes pulmonary infections in patients with cystic fibrosis, expresses genes that encode two CDI systems, both of which appear distinct from the typical Burkholderia-type CDI system. Each system can mediate intrastrain interbacterial competition and contributes to bacterial adherence. Surprisingly, the immunity-protein-encoding bcpI gene of CDI system 1 could be mutated without obvious deleterious effects. We also show that nonpathogenic Burkholderia thailandensis uses CDI to control B. multivorans growth during coculture, providing one of the first examples of interspecies CDI and suggesting that CDI systems could be manipulated to develop therapeutic strategies targeting Bcc pathogens. IMPORTANCE Competition among bacteria affects microbial colonization of environmental niches and host organisms, particularly during polymicrobial infections. The Bcc is a group of environmental bacteria that can cause life-threatening opportunistic infections in patients who have cystic fibrosis or are immunocompromised. Understanding the mechanisms used by these bacterial pathogens to compete with one another may lead to the development of more effective therapies. Findings presented here demonstrate that a Bcc species, Burkholderia multivorans, produces functional CDI system proteins and that growth of this pathogen can be controlled by CDI system proteins produced by neighboring Burkholderia cells.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere00012-19
JournalJournal of Bacteriology
Issue number12
StatePublished - 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2019 American Society for Microbiology. All Rights Reserved.


  • Bacterial competition
  • Burkholderia
  • Contact-dependent growth inhibition
  • Secretion systems

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology


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