Indole is an extracellular biofilm signal for Escherichia coli, and many bacterial oxygenases readily convert indole to various oxidized compounds including 7-hydroxyindole (7HI). Here we investigate the impact of indole and 7HI on Pseudomonas aeruginosa PAO1 virulence and quorum sensing (QS)-regulated phenotypes; this strain does not synthesize these compounds but degrades them rapidly. Indole and 7HI both altered extensively gene expression in a manner opposite that of acylhomoserine lactones; the most repressed genes encode the mexGHI-opmD multidrug efflux pump and genes involved in the synthesis of QS-regulated virulence factors including pyocyanin (phz operon), 2-heptyl-3-hydroxy-4(1H)-quinolone (PQS) signal (pqs operon), pyochelin (pch operon) and pyoverdine (pvd operon). Corroborating these microarray results, indole and 7HI decreased production of pyocyanin, rhamnolipid, PQS and pyoverdine and enhanced antibiotic resistance. In addition, indole affected the utilization of carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus, and 7HI abolished swarming motility. Furthermore, 7HI reduced pulmonary colonization of P. aeruginosa in guinea pigs and increased clearance in lungs. Hence, indole-related compounds have potential as a novel antivirulence approach for the recalcitrant pathogen P. aeruginosa.
© 2008 The Authors; Journal compilation © 2008 Society for Applied Microbiology and Blackwell Publishing Ltd.