Mining Public Mass Spectrometry Data to Characterize the Diversity and Ubiquity of P. aeruginosa Specialized Metabolites

Metabolites. 2020 Nov 5;10(11):445. doi: 10.3390/metabo10110445.


Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a ubiquitous environmental bacterium that causes chronic infections of burn wounds and in the lungs of cystic fibrosis (CF) patients. Vital to its infection is a myriad of specialized metabolites that serve a variety of biological roles including quorum sensing, metal chelation and inhibition of other competing bacteria. This study employed newly available algorithms for searching individual tandem mass (MS/MS) spectra against the publicly available Global Natural Product Social Molecular Networking (GNPS) database to identify the chemical diversity of these compounds and their presence in environmental, laboratory and clinical samples. For initial characterization, the metabolomes of eight clinical isolates of P. aeruginosa were analyzed using liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) and uploaded to GNPS for spectral searching. Quinolones, rhamnolipids, phenazines and siderophores were identified and characterized; including the discovery of modified forms of the iron chelator pyochelin. Quinolones were highly diverse with the three base forms Pseudomonas quinolone signal 2-heptyl-3-hydroxy-4(1H)-quinolone (PQS), 4-heptyl-4(1H)-quinolone (HHQ) and 2-heptyl-4-quinolone-N-oxide (HQNO) having extensive variation in the length of their acyl chain from as small as 3 carbons to as large as 17. Rhamnolipids were limited to either one or two sugars with a limited set of fatty acyl chains, but the base lipid form without the rhamnose was also detected. These specialized metabolites were identified from diverse sources including ant-fungal mutualist dens, soil, plants, human teeth, feces, various lung mucus samples and cultured laboratory isolates. Their prevalence in fecal samples was particularly notable as P. aeruginosa is not known as a common colonizer of the human gut. The chemical diversity of the compounds identified, particularly the quinolones, demonstrates a broad spectrum of chemical properties within these the metabolite groups with likely significant impacts on their biological functions. Mining public data with GNPS enables a new approach to characterize the chemical diversity of biological organisms, which includes enabling the discovery of new chemistry from pathogenic bacteria.

Keywords: GNPS; Pseudomonas aeruginosa; cystic fibrosis; quinolone; specialized metabolites.