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J Bacteriol. 2002 Dec;184(23):6481-9.

Autolysis and autoaggregation in Pseudomonas aeruginosa colony morphology mutants.

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Department of Genome Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98195-7730, USA.


Two distinctive colony morphologies were noted in a collection of Pseudomonas aeruginosa transposon insertion mutants. One set of mutants formed wrinkled colonies of autoaggregating cells. Suppressor analysis of a subset of these mutants showed that this was due to the action of the regulator WspR and linked this regulator (and the chemosensory pathway to which it belongs) to genes that encode a putative fimbrial adhesin required for biofilm formation. WspR homologs, related in part by a shared GGDEF domain, regulate cell surface factors, including aggregative fimbriae and exopolysaccharides, in diverse bacteria. The second set of distinctive insertion mutants formed colonies that lysed at their center. Strains with the most pronounced lysis overproduced the Pseudomonas quinolone signal (PQS), an extracellular signal that interacts with quorum sensing. Autolysis was suppressed by mutation of genes required for PQS biosynthesis, and in one suppressed mutant, autolysis was restored by addition of synthetic PQS. The mechanism of autolysis may involve activation of the endogenous prophage and phage-related pyocins in the genome of strain PAO1. The fact that PQS levels correlated with autolysis suggests a fine balance in natural populations of P. aeruginosa between survival of the many and persistence of the few.

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