Pseudomonas aeruginosa core metabolism exerts a widespread growth-independent control on virulence

Sci Rep. 2020 Jun 11;10(1):9505. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-66194-4.


To assess the role of core metabolism genes in bacterial virulence - independently of their effect on growth - we correlated the genome, the transcriptome and the pathogenicity in flies and mice of 30 fully sequenced Pseudomonas strains. Gene presence correlates robustly with pathogenicity differences among all Pseudomonas species, but not among the P. aeruginosa strains. However, gene expression differences are evident between highly and lowly pathogenic P. aeruginosa strains in multiple virulence factors and a few metabolism genes. Moreover, 16.5%, a noticeable fraction of the core metabolism genes of P. aeruginosa strain PA14 (compared to 8.5% of the non-metabolic genes tested), appear necessary for full virulence when mutated. Most of these virulence-defective core metabolism mutants are compromised in at least one key virulence mechanism independently of auxotrophy. A pathway level analysis of PA14 core metabolism, uncovers beta-oxidation and the biosynthesis of amino-acids, succinate, citramalate, and chorismate to be important for full virulence. Strikingly, the relative expression among P. aeruginosa strains of genes belonging in these metabolic pathways is indicative of their pathogenicity. Thus, P. aeruginosa strain-to-strain virulence variation, remains largely obscure at the genome level, but can be dissected at the pathway level via functional transcriptomics of core metabolism.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial
  • Genes, Bacterial / genetics
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions
  • Male
  • Mutation
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa / genetics
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa / growth & development
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa / metabolism*
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa / pathogenicity*
  • Virulence