The OxyR-regulated phnW gene encoding 2-aminoethylphosphonate:pyruvate aminotransferase helps protect Pseudomonas aeruginosa from tert-butyl hydroperoxide

PLoS One. 2017 Dec 7;12(12):e0189066. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0189066. eCollection 2017.


The LysR member of bacterial transactivators, OxyR, governs transcription of genes involved in the response to H2O2 and organic (alkyl) hydroperoxides (AHP) in the Gram-negative pathogen, Pseudomonas aeruginosa. We have previously shown that organisms lacking OxyR are rapidly killed by <2 or 500 mM H2O2 in planktonic and biofilm bacteria, respectively. In this study, we first employed a bioinformatic approach to elucidate the potential regulatory breadth of OxyR by scanning the entire P. aeruginosa PAO1 genome for canonical OxyR promoter recognition sequences (ATAG-N7-CTAT-N7-ATAG-N7-CTAT). Of >100 potential OxyR-controlled genes, 40 were strategically selected that were not predicted to be involved in the direct response to oxidative stress (e.g., catalase, peroxidase, etc.) and screened such genes by RT-PCR analysis for potentially positive or negative control by OxyR. Differences were found in 7 of 40 genes when comparing an oxyR mutant vs. PAO1 expression that was confirmed by ß-galactosidase reporter assays. Among these, phnW, encoding 2-aminoethylphosphonate:pyruvate aminotransferase, exhibited reduced expression in the oxyR mutant compared to wild-type bacteria. Electrophoretic mobility shift assays indicated binding of OxyR to the phnW promoter and DNase I footprinting analysis also revealed the sequences to which OxyR bound. Interestingly, a phnW mutant was more susceptible to t-butyl-hydroperoxide (t-BOOH) treatment than wild-type bacteria. Although we were unable to define the direct mechanism underlying this phenomenon, we believe that this may be due to a reduced efficiency for this strain to degrade t-BOOH relative to wild-type organisms because of modulation of AHP gene transcription in the phnW mutant.

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics*
  • DNA Footprinting
  • Electrophoretic Mobility Shift Assay
  • Genes, Bacterial*
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa / drug effects*
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa / genetics*
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • tert-Butylhydroperoxide / pharmacology*


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • tert-Butylhydroperoxide