The opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa expresses a small molecular weight, cysteine-rich protein (PmtA), identified as a metallothionein (MT) protein family member. The MT family proteins have been well-characterized in eukaryotes as essential for zinc and copper homeostasis, protection against oxidative stress, and the ability to modify a variety of immune activities. Bacterial MTs share sequence homology, antioxidant chemistry, and heavy metal-binding capacity with eukaryotic MTs, however, the impact of bacterial MTs on virulence and infection have not been well-studied. In the present study, we investigated the role of PmtA in P. aeruginosa PAO1 using a PmtA-deficient strain (ΔpmtA). Here we demonstrated the virulence factor, pyocyanin, relies on the expression of PmtA. We showed that PmtA may be protective against oxidative stress, as an alternative antioxidant, glutathione, can rescue pyocyanin expression. Furthermore, the expression of phzM, which encodes a pyocyanin precursor enzyme, was decreased in the ΔpmtA mutant during early stationary phase. Upregulated pmtA expression was previously detected in confluent biofilms, which are essential for chronic infection, and we observed that the ΔpmtA mutant was disrupted for biofilm formation. As biofilms also modulate antibiotic susceptibility, we examined the ΔpmtA mutant susceptibility to antibiotics and found that the ΔpmtA mutant is more susceptible to cefepime and ciprofloxacin than the wild-type strain. Finally, we observed that the deletion of pmtA results in decreased virulence in a waxworm model. Taken together, our results support the conclusion that PmtA is necessary for the full virulence of P. aeruginosa and may represent a potential target for therapeutic intervention.
Keywords: antibiotic resistance; biofilm; metallothionein; pyocyanin; virulence.
Copyright © 2021 Thees, Pietrosimone, Melchiorre, Marden, Graf, Lynes and Maltz-Matyschsyk.