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Microbiology. 2009 Nov;155(Pt 11):3500-8. doi: 10.1099/mic.0.031443-0. Epub 2009 Jul 30.

Pseudomonas aeruginosa recognizes and responds aggressively to the presence of polymorphonuclear leukocytes.

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Department of Systems Biology, Technical University of Denmark, DK-2800 Lyngby, Denmark.


Polymorphonuclear neutrophilic leukocytes (PMNs) play a central role in innate immunity, where they dominate the response to infections, in particular in the cystic fibrosis lung. PMNs are phagocytic cells that produce a wide range of antimicrobial agents aimed at killing invading bacteria. However, the opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa can evade destruction by PMNs and thus cause persistent infections. In this study, we show that biofilm cells of P. aeruginosa recognize the presence of attracted PMNs and direct this information to their fellow bacteria through the quorum sensing (QS) signalling system. The bacteria respond to the presence of PMNs by upregulating synthesis of a number of QS-controlled virulence determinants including rhamnolipids, all of which are able to cripple and eliminate cells of the host defence. Our in vitro and in vivo analyses support a 'launch a shield' model by which rhamnolipids surround the biofilm bacteria and on contact eliminate incoming PMNs. Our data strengthen the view that cross-kingdom communication plays a key role in P. aeruginosa recognition and evasion of the host defence.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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