Inhibition of virulence factor expression and swarming differentiation in Proteus mirabilis by p-nitrophenylglycerol

J Med Microbiol. 2000 Aug;49(8):725-731. doi: 10.1099/0022-1317-49-8-725.


Proteus mirabilis is a common cause of upper urinary tract infections that can involve invasion of host urothelial cells. The ability to invade urothelial cells is coupled closely to swarming, a form of multicellular behaviour in which vegetative bacteria differentiate into hyperflagellate, filamentous swarming cells capable of co-ordinated and rapid population migration. Co-ordinate expression of virulence factors including urease, protease, haemolysin and flagellin during swarm-cell differentiation in P. mirabilis has been reported. To investigate the effects of p-nitrophenylglycerol (PNPG), a potent anti-swarming agent, on the various swarming-associated traits of P. mirabilis and to elucidate the relationships among them, P. mirabilis growth rate, swarming/swimming activity, cell invasion ability and the ability to express various virulence factors were monitored in the presence or absence of PNPG. It was found that PNPG could inhibit the growth rate, swarming differentiation and swarming/swimming activities of P. mirabilis. The expression of virulence factors such as protease, urease, haemolysin and flagellin in P. mirabilis was also inhibited by PNPG. The ability of P. mirabilis to invade human urothelial cells was reduced dramatically in the presence of PNPG. These results suggest that PNPG has the potential to be developed as an agent active against the effects of P. mirabilis infection.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Nitrobenzenes / pharmacology*
  • Proteus mirabilis / drug effects*
  • Proteus mirabilis / pathogenicity
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured
  • Virulence


  • Nitrobenzenes
  • 4-nitrophenylglycerol