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ISME J. 2016 Aug;10(8):1823-35. doi: 10.1038/ismej.2016.3. Epub 2016 Feb 16.

High coverage metabolomics analysis reveals phage-specific alterations to Pseudomonas aeruginosa physiology during infection.

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Laboratory of Gene Technology, Department of Biosystems, KU Leuven, Heverlee, Belgium.
Institute of Molecular Systems Biology, Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule (ETH) Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland.
Unit Bacterial Diseases, Scientific Institute of Public Health (WIV-ISP), Brussels, Belgium.


Phage-mediated metabolic changes in bacteria are hypothesized to markedly alter global nutrient and biogeochemical cycles. Despite their theoretic importance, experimental data on the net metabolic impact of phage infection on the bacterial metabolism remains scarce. In this study, we tracked the dynamics of intracellular metabolites using untargeted high coverage metabolomics in Pseudomonas aeruginosa cells infected with lytic bacteriophages from six distinct phage genera. Analysis of the metabolomics data indicates an active interference in the host metabolism. In general, phages elicit an increase in pyrimidine and nucleotide sugar metabolism. Furthermore, clear phage-specific and infection stage-specific responses are observed, ranging from extreme metabolite depletion (for example, phage YuA) to complete reorganization of the metabolism (for example, phage phiKZ). As expected, pathways targeted by the phage-encoded auxiliary metabolic genes (AMGs) were enriched among the metabolites changing during infection. The effect on pyrimidine metabolism of phages encoding AMGs capable of host genome degradation (for example, YuA and LUZ19) was distinct from those lacking nuclease-encoding genes (for example, phiKZ), which demonstrates the link between the encoded set of AMGs of a phage and its impact on host physiology. However, a large fraction of the profound effect on host metabolism could not be attributed to the phage-encoded AMGs. We suggest a potentially crucial role for small, 'non-enzymatic' peptides in metabolism take-over and hypothesize on potential biotechnical applications for such peptides. The highly phage-specific nature of the metabolic impact emphasizes the potential importance of the 'phage diversity' parameter when studying metabolic interactions in complex communities.

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