The Effect of pstS and phoB on Quorum Sensing and Swarming Motility in Pseudomonas aeruginosa

Inna Blus-Kadosh, Anat Zilka, Gal Yerushalmi, Ehud Banin

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Pseudomonas aeruginosa is an opportunistic pathogen that can cause a wide range of infections and inflammations in a variety of hosts, such as chronic biofilm associated lung infections in Cystic Fibrosis patients. Phosphate, an essential nutrient, has been recognized as an important signal that affects virulence in P. aeruginosa. In the current study we examined the connection between phosphate regulation and surface motility in P. aeruginosa. We focused on two important genes, pstS, which is involved in phosphate uptake, and phoB, a central regulator that responds to phosphate starvation. We found that a mutant lacking pstS is constantly starved for phosphate and has a hyper swarming phenotype. Phosphate starvation also induced swarming in the wild type. The phoB mutant, on the other hand, did not express phosphate starvation even when phosphate was limited and showed no swarming. A double mutant lacking both genes (pstS and phoB) showed a similar phenotype to the phoB mutant (i.e. no swarming). This highlights the role of phoB in controlling swarming motility under phosphate-depleted conditions. Finally, we were able to demonstrate that PhoB controls swarming by up-regulating the Rhl quorum sensing system in P. aeruginosa, which resulted in hyper production of rhamonlipids: biosurfactants that are known to induce swarming motility.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere74444
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number9
StatePublished - 4 Sep 2013


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