The Pseudomonas Aeruginosa Oxidative Stress Regulator OxyR Influences Production of Pyocyanin and Rhamnolipids: Protective Role of Pyocyanin

Microbiology. 2010 Mar;156(Pt 3):678-86. doi: 10.1099/mic.0.031971-0. Epub 2009 Nov 19.


The LysR-type transcriptional regulator (LTTR) OxyR orchestrates the defence of the opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa against reactive oxygen species. In previous work we also demonstrated that OxyR is needed for the utilization of the ferrisiderophore pyoverdine, stressing the importance of this regulator. Here, we show that an oxyR mutant is unable to swarm on agar plates, probably as a consequence of absence of production of rhamnolipid surfactant molecules. Another obvious phenotypic change was the increased production of the phenazine redox-active molecule pyocyanin in the oxyR mutant. As already described, the oxyR mutant could not grow in LB medium, unless high numbers of cells (>10( 8) ml(-1)) were inoculated. However, its growth in Pseudomonas P agar (King's A), a medium inducing pyocyanin production, was like that of the wild-type, suggesting a protective action of this redox-active phenazine compound. This was confirmed by the restoration of the capacity to grow in LB medium upon addition of pure pyocyanin. Although both rhamnolipid and pyocyanin production are controlled by quorum sensing, no obvious changes were observed in the production of N-acylhomoserine lactones or the Pseudomonas quinolone signal (PQS). Complementation of rhamnolipid production and motility, and restoration of normal pyocyanin levels, was only possible when the oxyR gene was in single copy, while pyocyanin levels were increased when oxyR was present in a multicopy vector. Conversely, plating efficiency was increased only when the oxyR gene was present in multicopy, but not when in single copy in the chromosome, due to lower expression of oxyR compared with the wild-type, suggesting that some phenotypes are differently affected in function to the levels of OxyR molecules in the cell. Analysis of transcripts of oxidative stress-response enzymes showed a strong decrease of katB, ahpC and ahpB expression in the oxyR mutant grown in LB, but this was not the case when the mutant was grown on P agar, suggesting that the OxyR dependency for the transcription of these genes is not total.

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism*
  • Culture Media
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial
  • Genetic Complementation Test
  • Glycolipids / biosynthesis*
  • Mutation
  • Oxidative Stress*
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa / genetics
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa / growth & development
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa / metabolism*
  • Pyocyanine / biosynthesis*
  • Trans-Activators / genetics
  • Trans-Activators / metabolism*


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Culture Media
  • Glycolipids
  • OxyR protein, Pseudomonas aeruginosa
  • Trans-Activators
  • rhamnolipid
  • Pyocyanine