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PQS Produced by the Pseudomonas Aeruginosa Stress Response Repels Swarms Away From Bacteriophage and Antibiotics

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PQS Produced by the Pseudomonas Aeruginosa Stress Response Repels Swarms Away From Bacteriophage and Antibiotics

Jean-Louis Bru et al. J Bacteriol.

Abstract

We investigate the effect of bacteriophage infection and antibiotic treatment on the coordination of swarming, a collective form of flagellum- and pilus-mediated motility in bacteria. We show that phage infection of the opportunistic bacterial pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa abolishes swarming motility in the infected subpopulation and induces the release of the Pseudomonas quinolone signaling molecule PQS, which repulses uninfected subpopulations from approaching the infected area. These mechanisms have the overall effect of limiting the infection to a subpopulation, which promotes the survival of the overall population. Antibiotic treatment of P. aeruginosa elicits the same response, abolishing swarming motility and repulsing approaching swarms away from the antibiotic-treated area through a PQS-dependent mechanism. Swarms are entirely repelled from the zone of antibiotic-treated P. aeruginosa, consistent with a form of antibiotic evasion, and are not repelled by antibiotics alone. PQS has multiple functions, including serving as a quorum-sensing molecule, activating an oxidative stress response, and regulating the release of virulence and host-modifying factors. We show that PQS serves additionally as a stress warning signal that causes the greater population to physically avoid cell stress. The stress response at the collective level observed here in P. aeruginosa is consistent with a mechanism that promotes the survival of bacterial populations.IMPORTANCE We uncover a phage- and antibiotic-induced stress response in the clinically important opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa Phage-infected P. aeruginosa subpopulations are isolated from uninfected subpopulations by the production of a stress-induced signal. Activation of the stress response by antibiotics causes P. aeruginosa to physically be repelled from the area containing antibiotics altogether, consistent with a mechanism of antibiotic evasion. The stress response observed here could increase P. aeruginosa resilience against antibiotic treatment and phage therapy in health care settings, as well as provide a simple evolutionary strategy to avoid areas containing stress.

Keywords: antibiotics; bacteriophage; quorum sensing; stress response; swarming.

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  • https://doi.org/10.1128/JB.00568-19

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