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PLoS One. 2017 Dec 7;12(12):e0189066. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0189066. eCollection 2017.

The OxyR-regulated phnW gene encoding 2-aminoethylphosphonate:pyruvate aminotransferase helps protect Pseudomonas aeruginosa from tert-butyl hydroperoxide.

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Department of Molecular Genetics, Biochemistry and Microbiology, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, Cincinnati, OH.
Laboratory of Biotechnology, Chulabhorn Research Institute, Lak Si, Bangkok, Thailand.
Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada.
Department of Biotechnology, Faculty of Science, Mahidol University, Bangkok, Thailand.


The LysR member of bacterial transactivators, OxyR, governs transcription of genes involved in the response to H2O2 and organic (alkyl) hydroperoxides (AHP) in the Gram-negative pathogen, Pseudomonas aeruginosa. We have previously shown that organisms lacking OxyR are rapidly killed by <2 or 500 mM H2O2 in planktonic and biofilm bacteria, respectively. In this study, we first employed a bioinformatic approach to elucidate the potential regulatory breadth of OxyR by scanning the entire P. aeruginosa PAO1 genome for canonical OxyR promoter recognition sequences (ATAG-N7-CTAT-N7-ATAG-N7-CTAT). Of >100 potential OxyR-controlled genes, 40 were strategically selected that were not predicted to be involved in the direct response to oxidative stress (e.g., catalase, peroxidase, etc.) and screened such genes by RT-PCR analysis for potentially positive or negative control by OxyR. Differences were found in 7 of 40 genes when comparing an oxyR mutant vs. PAO1 expression that was confirmed by ß-galactosidase reporter assays. Among these, phnW, encoding 2-aminoethylphosphonate:pyruvate aminotransferase, exhibited reduced expression in the oxyR mutant compared to wild-type bacteria. Electrophoretic mobility shift assays indicated binding of OxyR to the phnW promoter and DNase I footprinting analysis also revealed the sequences to which OxyR bound. Interestingly, a phnW mutant was more susceptible to t-butyl-hydroperoxide (t-BOOH) treatment than wild-type bacteria. Although we were unable to define the direct mechanism underlying this phenomenon, we believe that this may be due to a reduced efficiency for this strain to degrade t-BOOH relative to wild-type organisms because of modulation of AHP gene transcription in the phnW mutant.

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