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Infect Immun. 2017 Apr 21;85(5). pii: e00764-16. doi: 10.1128/IAI.00764-16. Print 2017 May.

The Pseudomonas aeruginosa PrrF Small RNAs Regulate Iron Homeostasis during Acute Murine Lung Infection.

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University of Maryland, School of Medicine, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.
University of Maryland, School of Pharmacy, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.
West Virginia University School of Medicine, Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Cell Biology, Morgantown, West Virginia, USA.
University of Maryland, School of Medicine, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Baltimore, Maryland, USA


Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a Gram-negative opportunistic pathogen that requires iron for virulence. Iron homeostasis is maintained in part by the PrrF1 and PrrF2 small RNAs (sRNAs), which block the expression of iron-containing proteins under iron-depleted conditions. The PrrF sRNAs also promote the production of the Pseudomonas quinolone signal (PQS), a quorum sensing molecule that activates the expression of several virulence genes. The tandem arrangement of the prrF genes allows for expression of a third sRNA, PrrH, which is predicted to regulate gene expression through its unique sequence derived from the prrF1-prrF2 intergenic (IG) sequence (the PrrHIG sequence). Previous studies showed that the prrF locus is required for acute lung infection. However, the individual functions of the PrrF and PrrH sRNAs were not determined. Here, we describe a system for differentiating PrrF and PrrH functions by deleting the PrrHIG sequence [prrF(ΔHIG)]. Our analyses of this construct indicate that the PrrF sRNAs, but not PrrH, are required for acute lung infection by P. aeruginosa Moreover, we show that the virulence defect of the ΔprrF1-prrF2 mutant is due to decreased bacterial burden during acute lung infection. In vivo analysis of gene expression in lung homogenates shows that PrrF-mediated regulation of genes for iron-containing proteins is disrupted in the ΔprrF1-prrF2 mutant during infection, while the expression of genes that mediate PrrF-regulated PQS production are not affected by prrF deletion in vivo Combined, these studies demonstrate that regulation of iron utilization plays a critical role in P. aeruginosa's ability to survive during infection.


PQS; PrrF; PrrH; Pseudomonas aeruginosa; iron regulation; sRNA; small RNA

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