The Pseudomonas aeruginosa quinolone signal molecule overcomes the cell density-dependency of the quorum sensing hierarchy, regulates rhl-dependent genes at the onset of stationary phase and can be produced in the absence of LasR

Mol Microbiol. 2003 Oct;50(1):29-43. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2958.2003.03672.x.


In Pseudomonas aeruginosa, diverse exoproduct virulence determinants are regulated via N-acylhomoserine lactone-dependent quorum sensing. Here we show that 2-heptyl-3-hydroxy-4(1H)-quinolone (PQS) is also an integral component of the quorum sensing circuitry and is required for the production of rhl-dependent exoproducts at the onset of stationary phase. Analysis of spent P. aeruginosa culture supernatants revealed that PQS is produced at the end of exponential phase in the parent strain and in the late stationary phase of a lasR mutant. Mutants defective in both PQS production (pqsR-) and response (pqsE-) produced substantially reduced levels of exoproducts but retained wild-type N-butanoyl homoserine lactone (C4-HSL) levels. In the wild type, provision of exogenous PQS at the time of inoculation significantly increased PA-IL lectin, pyocyanin and elastase production during early stationary phase and promoted biofilm formation. Exogenous PQS but not PQS derivatives lacking the 3-hydroxy group overcame the cell density but not growth phase-dependent production of exoproducts. PQS also overcame the transcriptional and post-transcriptional repression of lecA (which codes for the PA-IL lectin) mediated via the negative regulators MvaT and RsmA respectively. Increased expression of lecA in the presence of exogenous PQS can be explained partially by increases in RhlR, RpoS and C4-HSL levels. A refined model for quorum sensing in P. aeruginosa is presented.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 4-Butyrolactone / analogs & derivatives*
  • 4-Butyrolactone / biosynthesis
  • Adaptation, Biological / genetics
  • Artificial Gene Fusion
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Biofilms / growth & development
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism*
  • Gene Deletion
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial*
  • Genes, Bacterial
  • Genes, Reporter
  • Lectins / genetics
  • Lectins / metabolism
  • Mutagenesis, Insertional
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa / growth & development
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa / pathogenicity*
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa / physiology
  • Pyocyanine / biosynthesis
  • Quinolones / analysis
  • Quinolones / metabolism*
  • Regulon
  • Sigma Factor / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / genetics*
  • Trans-Activators / genetics
  • Trans-Activators / metabolism*
  • Virulence Factors / biosynthesis
  • Virulence Factors / genetics


  • 2-heptyl-3-hydroxy-4-quinolone
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • LasR protein, Pseudomonas aeruginosa
  • Lectins
  • N-butyrylhomoserine lactone
  • Quinolones
  • RhlR protein, Pseudomonas aeruginosa
  • Sigma Factor
  • Trans-Activators
  • Virulence Factors
  • sigma factor KatF protein, Bacteria
  • Pyocyanine
  • 4-Butyrolactone