Interaction of the Pseudomonas Aeruginosa Secretory Products Pyocyanin and Pyochelin Generates Hydroxyl Radical and Causes Synergistic Damage to Endothelial Cells. Implications for Pseudomonas-associated Tissue Injury

J Clin Invest. 1992 Dec;90(6):2187-96. doi: 10.1172/JCI116104.


Pyocyanin, a secretory product of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, has the capacity to undergo redox cycling under aerobic conditions with resulting generation of superoxide and hydrogen peroxide. By using spin trapping techniques in conjunction with electron paramagnetic resonance spectrometry (EPR), superoxide was detected during the aerobic reduction of pyocyanin by NADH or porcine endothelial cells. No evidence of hydroxyl radical formation was detected. Chromium oxalate eliminated the EPR spectrum of the superoxide-derived spin adduct resulting from endothelial cell exposure to pyocyanin, suggesting superoxide formation close to the endothelial cell plasma membrane. We have previously reported that iron bound to the P. aeruginosa siderophore pyochelin (ferripyochelin) catalyzes the formation of hydroxyl free radical from superoxide and hydrogen peroxide via the Haber-Weiss reaction. In the present study, spin trap evidence of hydroxyl radical formation was detected when NADH and pyocyanin were allowed to react in the presence of ferripyochelin. Similarly, endothelial cell exposure to pyocyanin and ferripyochelin also resulted in hydroxyl radical production which appeared to occur in close proximity to the cell surface. As assessed by 51Cr release, endothelial cells which were treated with pyocyanin or ferripyochelin alone demonstrated minimal injury. However, endothelial cell exposure to the combination of pyochelin and pyocyanin resulted in 55% specific 51Cr release. Injury was not observed with the substitution of iron-free pyochelin and was diminished by the presence of catalase or dimethyl thiourea. These data suggest the possibility that the P. aeruginosa secretory products pyocyanin and pyochelin may act synergistically via the generation of hydroxyl radical to damage local tissues at sites of pseudomonas infection.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Endothelium, Vascular / injuries*
  • Free Radicals
  • Hydrogen Peroxide / chemistry
  • Hydroxides / toxicity*
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • NAD / metabolism
  • Phenols / administration & dosage*
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa / pathogenicity*
  • Pulmonary Artery / cytology
  • Pyocyanine / administration & dosage*
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / toxicity*
  • Swine
  • Thiazoles*


  • Free Radicals
  • Hydroxides
  • Phenols
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Thiazoles
  • NAD
  • pyochelin
  • Pyocyanine
  • Hydrogen Peroxide