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Mol Microbiol. 2010 Sep;77(6):1527-38. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2958.2010.07303.x. Epub 2010 Aug 17.

Oxygen levels rapidly modulate Pseudomonas aeruginosa social behaviours via substrate limitation of PqsH.

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Section of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, Institute of Cell and Molecular Biology, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78712, USA.


Many bacteria use extracellular signals to coordinate group behaviours, a process referred to as quorum sensing (QS). The bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa utilizes a complex QS system to control expression of over 300 genes, including many involved in host colonization and disease. The Pseudomonas quinolone signal (PQS) is a component of P. aeruginosa QS, and although it contributes to virulence in some models of infection, the PQS biosynthetic pathway is not fully elucidated. Here, we show that PqsH catalyses the terminal step in PQS production, synthesizing PQS in vitro using the substrates 2-heptyl-4-quinolone (HHQ), NADH and oxygen. Structure function studies reveal that the alkyl side-chain of HHQ is critical for PqsH activity with the highest activity observed for alkyl chain lengths of 7 and 9 carbons. Due to the PqsH requirement for oxygen, PQS and PQS-controlled virulence factors are not produced by anaerobic P. aeruginosa. Interestingly, anaerobic P. aeruginosa produced PQS in the absence of de novo protein synthesis upon introduction of oxygen, indicating that oxygen is the sole limiting substrate during anaerobic growth. We propose a model in which PqsH poises anaerobic P. aeruginosa to activate PQS-controlled factors immediately upon exposure to molecular oxygen.

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