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Clin Microbiol Rev. Apr 1991; 4(2): 191–206.
PMCID: PMC358191

Alginate synthesis by Pseudomonas aeruginosa: a key pathogenic factor in chronic pulmonary infections of cystic fibrosis patients.


Pulmonary infection by mucoid, alginate-producing Pseudomonas aeruginosa is the leading cause of mortality among patients suffering from cystic fibrosis. Alginate-producing P. aeruginosa is uniquely associated with the environment of the cystic fibrosis-affected lung, where alginate is believed to increase resistance to both the host immune system and antibiotic therapy. Recent evidence indicates that P. aeruginosa is most resistant to antibiotics when the infecting cells are present as a biofilm, as they appear to be in the lungs of cystic fibrosis patients. Inhibition of the protective alginate barrier with nontoxic compounds targeted against alginate biosynthetic and regulatory proteins may prove useful in eradicating P. aeruginosa from this environment. Our research has dealt with elucidating the biosynthetic pathway and regulatory mechanism(s) responsible for alginate synthesis by P. aeruginosa. This review summarizes reports on the role of alginate in cystic fibrosis-associated pulmonary infections caused by P. aeruginosa and provides details about the biosynthesis and regulation of this exopolysaccharide.

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