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Microbiology. 2011 Jul;157(Pt 7):1929-44. doi: 10.1099/mic.0.046755-0. Epub 2011 Apr 21.

C-type natriuretic peptide modulates quorum sensing molecule and toxin production in Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

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  • 1Laboratory of Cold Microbiology - Signals and Micro-environment EA 4312, University of Rouen, 55 Rue Saint Germain, 27000 Evreux, France.


Pseudomonas aeruginosa coordinates its virulence expression and establishment in the host in response to modification of its environment. During the infectious process, bacteria are exposed to and can detect eukaryotic products including hormones. It has been shown that P. aeruginosa is sensitive to natriuretic peptides, a family of eukaryotic hormones, through a cyclic nucleotide-dependent sensor system that modulates its cytotoxicity. We observed that pre-treatment of P. aeruginosa PAO1 with C-type natriuretic peptide (CNP) increases the capacity of the bacteria to kill Caenorhabditis elegans through diffusive toxin production. In contrast, brain natriuretic peptide (BNP) did not affect the capacity of the bacteria to kill C. elegans. The bacterial production of hydrogen cyanide (HCN) was enhanced by both BNP and CNP whereas the production of phenazine pyocyanin was strongly inhibited by CNP. The amount of 2-heptyl-4-quinolone (HHQ), a precursor to 2-heptyl-3-hydroxyl-4-quinolone (Pseudomonas quinolone signal; PQS), decreased after CNP treatment. The quantity of 2-nonyl-4-quinolone (HNQ), another quinolone which is synthesized from HHQ, was also reduced after CNP treatment. Conversely, both BNP and CNP significantly enhanced bacterial production of acylhomoserine lactone (AHL) [e.g. 3-oxo-dodecanoyl-homoserine lactone (3OC12-HSL) and butanoylhomoserine lactone (C4-HSL)]. These results correlate with an induction of lasI transcription 1 h after bacterial exposure to BNP or CNP. Concurrently, pre-treatment of P. aeruginosa PAO1 with either BNP or CNP enhanced PAO1 exotoxin A production, via a higher toxA mRNA level. At the same time, CNP led to elevated amounts of algC mRNA, indicating that algC is involved in C. elegans killing. Finally, we observed that in PAO1, Vfr protein is essential to the pro-virulent effect of CNP whereas the regulator PtxR supports only a part of the CNP pro-virulent activity. Taken together, these data reinforce the hypothesis that during infection natriuretic peptides, particularly CNP, could enhance the virulence of PAO1. This activity is relayed by Vfr and PtxR activation, and a general diagram of the virulence activation cascade involving AHL, HCN and exotoxin A is proposed.

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