Pseudomonas aeruginosa causes acute lung injury via the catalytic activity of the patatin-like phospholipase domain of ExoU

Crit Care Med. 2004 Nov;32(11):2293-9. doi: 10.1097/01.ccm.0000145588.79063.07.


Objective: Acute lung injury in Pseudomonas aeruginosa pneumonia depends primarily on ExoU toxin being delivered directly into the eukaryotic cell cytosol through the type III secretion system. The amino-acid sequence of ExoU has a potato patatin-like phospholipase domain, similar to the sequence of mammalian Ca-independent phospholipase A2. We examined whether the acute lung injury caused by cytotoxic P. aeruginosa was dependent on the patatin-like phospholipase domain of ExoU.

Design: Laboratory investigation using an established mouse model for P. aeruginosa pneumonia with quantitative measurements of acute lung injury and mortality.

Setting: University experimental research laboratory.

Subjects: Balb/c mice.

Interventions: First, a site-directional mutation was introduced in the predicted catalytically active site of the patatin-like phospholipase domain of recombinant ExoU protein. The effect of the mutation on the catalytic activity of ExoU was tested by the in vitro lysophospholipase A assay. Second, the same site-directional mutation was introduced into the exoU gene of P. aeruginosa PA103. Mice were intratracheally infected with either a wild-type P. aeruginosa strain PA103 or an isogenic mutant containing the mutation in exoU. Acute epithelial lung injury, lung edema, bacteremia, and mortality were evaluated quantitatively.

Measurements and main results: Recombinant ExoU had lysophospholipase A activity. Site-directional mutations in the predicted catalytic site of ExoU caused a loss of the lysophospholipase A activity. Whereas the airspace instillation of PA103 caused acute lung injury and death of the infected mice, the airspace instillation of isogenic mutants secreting catalytically inactive ExoU were noncytotoxic and did not cause acute lung injury or death of the infected mice.

Conclusion: Virulent P. aeruginosa causes acute lung injury and death by the cytotoxic activity derived from the patatin-like phospholipase domain of ExoU.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Bacterial Proteins / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Bacterial Proteins / physiology*
  • Catalytic Domain / physiology
  • Cytosol / microbiology
  • Cytosol / physiology
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Eukaryotic Cells / microbiology
  • Eukaryotic Cells / physiology
  • Immunoblotting
  • Inflammation
  • Lysophospholipase / analysis
  • Lysophospholipase / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Lysophospholipase / physiology*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutagenesis, Site-Directed / physiology
  • Pneumonia, Bacterial / complications*
  • Pneumonia, Bacterial / enzymology
  • Point Mutation
  • Pseudomonas Infections / complications*
  • Pseudomonas Infections / enzymology
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa / pathogenicity
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa / physiology*
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome, Adult / microbiology*
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome, Adult / mortality
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome, Adult / pathology
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome, Adult / prevention & control
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Survival Rate


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • pseudomonas exoprotein A protein, Pseudomonas aeruginosa
  • Lysophospholipase