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J Bacteriol. 1999 Mar;181(5):1623-9.

Roles of Pseudomonas aeruginosa las and rhl quorum-sensing systems in control of twitching motility.

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  • 1Department of Biology, University of Dayton, Dayton, Ohio 45469, USA.


Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a ubiquitous environmental bacterium and an important human pathogen. The production of several virulence factors by P. aeruginosa is controlled through two quorum-sensing systems, las and rhl. We have obtained evidence that both the las and rhl quorum-sensing systems are also required for type 4 pilus-dependent twitching motility and infection by the pilus-specific phage D3112cts. Mutants which lack the ability to synthesize PAI-1, PAI-2, or both autoinducers were significantly or greatly impaired in twitching motility and in susceptibility to D3112cts. Twitching motility and phage susceptibility in the autoinducer-deficient mutants were partially restored by exposure to exogenous PAI-1 and PAI-2. Both twitching motility and infection by pilus-specific phage are believed to be dependent on the extension and retraction of polar type 4 pili. Western blot analysis of whole-cell lysates and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays of intact cells were used to measure the amounts of pilin on the cell surfaces of las and rhl mutants relative to that of the wild type. It appears that PAI-2 plays a crucial role in twitching motility and phage infection by affecting the export and assembly of surface type 4 pili. The ability of P. aeruginosa cells to adhere to human bronchial epithelial cells was also found to be dependent on the rhl quorum-sensing system. Microscopic analysis of twitching motility indicated that mutants which were unable to synthesize PAI-1 were defective in the maintenance of cellular monolayers and migrating packs of cells. Thus, PAI-1 appears to have an essential role in maintaining cell-cell spacing and associations required for effective twitching motility.

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