Trophic cooperation promotes bacterial survival of Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa

ISME J. 2020 Dec;14(12):3093-3105. doi: 10.1038/s41396-020-00741-9. Epub 2020 Aug 19.


In the context of infection, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus are frequently co-isolated, particularly in cystic fibrosis (CF) patients. Within lungs, the two pathogens exhibit a range of competitive and coexisting interactions. In the present study, we explored the impact of S. aureus on the physiology of P. aeruginosa in the context of coexistence. Transcriptomic analyses showed that S. aureus significantly and specifically affects the expression of numerous genes involved in P. aeruginosa carbon and amino acid metabolism. In particular, 65% of the strains presented considerable overexpression of the genes involved in the acetoin catabolic (aco) pathway. We demonstrated that acetoin is (i) produced by clinical S. aureus strains, (ii) detected in sputa from CF patients and (iii) involved in P. aeruginosa's aco system induction. Furthermore, acetoin is catabolized by P. aeruginosa, a metabolic process that improves the survival of both pathogens by providing a new carbon source for P. aeruginosa and avoiding the toxic accumulation of acetoin on S. aureus. Due to its beneficial effects on both bacteria, acetoin catabolism could testify to the establishment of trophic cooperation between S. aureus and P. aeruginosa in the CF lung environment, thus promoting their persistence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biofilms
  • Humans
  • Microbial Interactions
  • Pseudomonas Infections*
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa / genetics
  • Staphylococcal Infections*
  • Staphylococcus aureus / genetics