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Infect Immun. 2010 Apr;78(4):1437-46. doi: 10.1128/IAI.00621-09. Epub 2010 Feb 1.

Pathogenicity islands PAPI-1 and PAPI-2 contribute individually and synergistically to the virulence of Pseudomonas aeruginosa strain PA14.

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Department of Infection, University of Leicester, Leicester LE1 9HN, United Kingdom.


Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a leading cause of hospital-acquired pneumonia and severe chronic lung infections in cystic fibrosis patients. The reference strains PA14 and PAO1 have been studied extensively, revealing that PA14 is more virulent than PAO1 in diverse infection models. Among other factors, this may be due to two pathogenicity islands, PAPI-1 and PAPI-2, both present in PA14 but not in PAO1. We compared the global contributions to virulence of PAPI-1 and PAPI-2, rather than that of individual island-borne genes, using murine models of acute pneumonia and bacteremia. Three isogenic island-minus mutants (PAPI-1-minus, PAPI-2-minus, and PAPI-1-minus, PAPI-2-minus mutants) were compared with the wild-type parent strain PA14 and with PAO1. Our results showed that both islands contributed significantly to the virulence of PA14 in acute pneumonia and bacteremia models. However, in contrast to the results for the bacteremia model, where each island was found to contribute individually, loss of the 108-kb PAPI-1 island alone was insufficient to measurably attenuate the mutant in the acute pneumonia model. Nevertheless, the double mutant was substantially more attenuated, and exhibited a lesser degree of virulence, than even PAO1 in the acute pneumonia model. In particular, its ability to disseminate from the lungs to the bloodstream was markedly inhibited. We conclude that both PAPI-1 and PAPI-2 contribute directly and synergistically in a major way to the virulence of PA14, and we suggest that analysis of island-minus strains may be a more appropriate way than individual gene knockouts to assess the contributions to virulence of large, horizontally acquired segments of DNA.

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