An adenylate cyclase-controlled signaling network regulates Pseudomonas aeruginosa virulence in a mouse model of acute pneumonia

Infect Immun. 2004 Mar;72(3):1677-84. doi: 10.1128/IAI.72.3.1677-1684.2004.


Infections caused by the opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa involve the interplay of several bacterial virulence factors. It has recently been established that the delivery of toxic effector proteins by the type III secretion system is an important virulence mechanism in several animal models. Furthermore, the expression of the type III secretion system and its effectors has been correlated with a poor clinical outcome during human infections. A novel cyclic AMP (cAMP) regulatory network that controls the expression of virulence factors, including the type III secretion system, was examined to determine its contribution to P. aeruginosa colonization and dissemination in a mouse pneumonia model. Mutants lacking the two genome-encoded adenylate cyclases, CyaA and CyaB, and the cAMP-dependent regulator Vfr were examined. Based on the enumeration of bacteria in lungs, livers, and spleens, as well as the assessment of mouse lung pathology, mutations in the cyaB and vfr genes resulted in a more significantly attenuated phenotype than mutations in cyaA. Moreover, in this model, expression of the type III secretion system was essential for lung colonization and pathology. Strains with mutations in the exsA gene, which encodes a type III regulatory protein, or pscC, which encodes an essential component of the secretion apparatus, were also significantly attenuated. Finally, we demonstrate that virulence can be restored in an adenylate cyclase mutant by the overexpression of exsA, which specifically restores expression of the type III secretion system in the absence of a functional cAMP-dependent regulatory network.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenylyl Cyclases / genetics
  • Adenylyl Cyclases / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Cyclic AMP Receptor Protein / genetics
  • Cyclic AMP Receptor Protein / metabolism
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Female
  • Genes, Bacterial
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mutation
  • Phenotype
  • Pneumonia, Bacterial / etiology*
  • Pneumonia, Bacterial / microbiology
  • Pneumonia, Bacterial / pathology
  • Pseudomonas Infections / etiology*
  • Pseudomonas Infections / microbiology
  • Pseudomonas Infections / pathology
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa / enzymology*
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa / genetics
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa / pathogenicity*
  • Signal Transduction
  • Trans-Activators / genetics
  • Trans-Activators / metabolism
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Virulence / genetics
  • Virulence / physiology


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Cyclic AMP Receptor Protein
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • ExsA protein, bacteria
  • Trans-Activators
  • Transcription Factors
  • Vfr protein, Pseudomonas aeruginosa
  • Adenylyl Cyclases