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J Bacteriol. 2009 May;191(9):2993-3002. doi: 10.1128/JB.01156-08. Epub 2009 Mar 6.

Pseudomonas aeruginosa AlgR controls cyanide production in an AlgZ-dependent manner.

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University of Colorado Denver, School of Medicine, Department of Microbiology, 12800 E. 19th Avenue, Aurora, CO 80045, USA.


Pseudomonas aeruginosa is an opportunistic pathogen that causes chronic infections in individuals suffering from the genetic disorder cystic fibrosis. In P. aeruginosa, the transcriptional regulator AlgR controls a variety of virulence factors, including alginate production, twitching motility, biofilm formation, quorum sensing, and hydrogen cyanide (HCN) production. In this study, the regulation of HCN production was examined. Strains lacking AlgR or the putative AlgR sensor AlgZ produced significantly less HCN than did a nonmucoid isogenic parent. In contrast, algR and algZ mutants showed increased HCN production in an alginate-producing (mucoid) background. HCN production was optimal in a 5% O2 environment. In addition, cyanide production was elevated in bacteria grown on an agar surface compared to bacteria grown in planktonic culture. A conserved AlgR phosphorylation site (aspartate at amino acid position 54), which is required for surface-dependent twitching motility but not alginate production, was found to be critical for cyanide production. Nuclease protection mapping of the hcnA promoter identified a new transcriptional start site required for HCN production. A subset of clinical isolates that lack this start site produced small amounts of cyanide. Taken together, these data show that the P. aeruginosa hcnA promoter contains three transcriptional start sites and that HCN production is regulated by AlgZ and AlgR and is maximal under microaerobic conditions when the organism is surface attached.

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