Sandrine Borgeaud, Lisa C. Metzger, Tiziana Scrignari, Melanie Blokesch*
Natural competence for transformation is a common mode of horizontal gene transfer and contributes to bacterial evolution. Transformation occurs through the uptake of external DNA and its integration into the genome. Here we show that the type VI secretion system (T6SS), which serves as a predatory killing device, is part of the competence regulon in the naturally transformable pathogen Vibrio cholerae. The T6SS-encoding gene cluster is under the positive control of the competence regulators TfoX and QstR and is induced by growth on chitinous surfaces. Live-cell imaging revealed that deliberate killing of nonimmune cells via competence-mediated induction of T6SS releases DNA and makes it accessible for horizontal gene transfer in V. cholerae.