Pseudomonas aeruginosa AlgR Phosphorylation Status Differentially Regulates Pyocyanin and Pyoverdine Production

mBio. 2018 Jan 30;9(1):e02318-17. doi: 10.1128/mBio.02318-17.


Pseudomonas aeruginosa employs numerous, complex regulatory elements to control expression of its many virulence systems. The P. aeruginosa AlgZR two-component regulatory system controls the expression of several crucial virulence phenotypes. We recently determined, through transcriptomic profiling of a PAO1 ΔalgR mutant strain compared to wild-type PAO1, that algZR and hemCD are cotranscribed and show differential iron-dependent gene expression. Previous expression profiling was performed in strains without algR and revealed that AlgR acts as either an activator or repressor, depending on the gene. Thus, examination of P. aeruginosa gene expression from cells locked into different AlgR phosphorylation states reveals greater physiological relevance. Therefore, gene expression from strains carrying algR alleles encoding a phosphomimetic (AlgR D54E) or a phosphoablative (AlgR D54N) form were compared by microarray to PAO1. Transcriptome analyses of these strains revealed 25 differentially expressed genes associated with iron siderophore biosynthesis or heme acquisition or production. The PAO1 algR D54N mutant produced lower levels of pyoverdine but increased expression of the small RNAs prrf1 and prrf2 compared to PAO1. In contrast, the algR D54N mutant produced more pyocyanin than wild-type PAO1. On the other hand, the PAO1 algR D54E mutant produced higher levels of pyoverdine, likely due to increased expression of an iron-regulated gene encoding the sigma factor pvdS, but it had decreased pyocyanin production. AlgR specifically bound to the prrf2 and pvdS promoters in vitro AlgR-dependent pyoverdine production was additionally influenced by carbon source rather than the extracellular iron concentration per se AlgR phosphorylation effects were also examined in a Drosophila melanogaster feeding, murine acute pneumonia, and punch wound infection models. Abrogation of AlgR phosphorylation attenuated P. aeruginosa virulence in these infection models. These results show that the AlgR phosphorylation state can directly, as well as indirectly, modulate the expression of iron acquisition genes that may ultimately impact the ability of P. aeruginosa to establish and maintain an infection.IMPORTANCE Pyoverdine and pyocyanin production are well-known P. aeruginosa virulence factors that obtain extracellular iron from the environment and from host proteins in different manners. Here, we show that the AlgR phosphorylation state inversely controls pyoverdine and pyocyanin production and that this control is carbon source dependent. P. aeruginosa expressing AlgR D54N, mimicking the constitutively unphosphorylated state, produced more pyocyanin than cells expressing wild-type AlgR. In contrast, a strain expressing an AlgR phosphomimetic (AlgR D54E) produced higher levels of pyoverdine. Pyoverdine production was directly controlled through the prrf2 small regulatory RNA and the pyoverdine sigma factor, PvdS. Abrogating pyoverdine or pyocyanin gene expression has been shown to attenuate virulence in a variety of models. Moreover, the inability to phosphorylate AlgR attenuates virulence in three different models, a Drosophila melanogaster feeding model, a murine acute pneumonia model, and a wound infection model. Interestingly, AlgR-dependent pyoverdine production was responsive to carbon source, indicating that this regulation has additional complexities that merit further study.

Keywords: AlgR; Pseudomonas aeruginosa; iron acquisition; pyocyanin; pyoverdine; virulence regulation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Drosophila melanogaster
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial*
  • Mice
  • Microarray Analysis
  • Oligopeptides / biosynthesis*
  • Phosphorylation
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational*
  • Pseudomonas Infections / pathology
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa / genetics*
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa / metabolism*
  • Pyocyanine / biosynthesis*
  • Trans-Activators / genetics
  • Trans-Activators / metabolism*
  • Virulence


  • AlgR protein, Pseudomonas aeruginosa
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Oligopeptides
  • Trans-Activators
  • pyoverdin
  • Pyocyanine