Antibiotic treatment of Pseudomonas aeruginosa biofilms stimulates expression of mgtE, a virulence modulator

Carly Virginia Redelman, Purdue University


Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a gram negative opportunistic pathogen with the capacity to cause serious disease by forming biofilms, most notably in the lungs of cystic fibrosis (CF) patients. Biofilms are communities of microorganisms that adhere to a solid surface, undergo global regulatory changes, secrete exopolysaccharides, and are innately antibiotic resistant. Virulence modulation is an important tool utilized by P. aeruginosa to propagate infection and biofilm formation in the CF airway. Many different virulence modulatory pathways and proteins have been identified including the protein, MgtE. MgtE has recently been discovered and has been implicated in virulence modulation, as an isogeneic mutation of mgtE leads to increased cytotoxicity. To further elucidate the role of MgtE in P. aeruginosa infections, transcriptional and translational regulation of this protein following antibiotic treatment has been explored. I have demonstrated that mgtE is transcriptionally upregulated following antibiotic treatment of most of the twelve antibiotics tested utilizing RT-PCR and QRT-PCR. A novel model system was employed, which utilizes cystic fibrosis bronchial epithelial (CFBE) cells homozygous for the ΔF508 mutation for these studies. This model system allows P. aeruginosa biofilms to form on CFBE cells modeling the P. aeruginosa in the CF airway. Translational effects of antibiotic treatment on MgtE have been attempted via Western blotting and cytotoxicity assays. Furthermore, to explore the possibility that mgtE is interacting with a known regulatory pathway, a transposon-mutant library was utilized and the regulatory proteins, AlgR and NarX, among others have been identified as possibly interacting with MgtE. Lastly, an MgtE homologue from Staphylococcus aureus was utilized to further demonstrate the virulence modulatory effects of MgtE by demonstrating the expression of the homologue results in decreased cytotoxicity, exactly like expression of the native P. aeruginosa MgtE. This research explores a newly discovered protein that impacts cytotoxicity and biofilm formation and provides valuable information about P. aeruginosa virulence.




Anderson, Purdue University.

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