The high amino-acid content of sputum from cystic fibrosis patients promotes growth of auxotrophic Pseudomonas aeruginosa

J Med Microbiol. 1996 Aug;45(2):110-9. doi: 10.1099/00222615-45-2-110.


Many isolates of Pseudomonas aeruginosa from cystic fibrosis (CF) patients are auxotrophic and require amino acids for growth. A quantitative assay was used to determine the total content of free amino acids of sputum sol-phase extracts from CF and non-CF patients to assess the presence of amino acids in the airway. CF patients colonised with auxotrophic P. aeruginosa had a higher sputum amino-acid content (mean 6.77 mg/ml) than those colonised with prototrophs (mean 3.77 mg/ml); overall, CF specimens (mean 5.70 mg/ml) had a higher amino-acid content than non-CF samples (2.52 mg/ml). The amino-acid profile of sputum extracts was assessed by one-dimensional thin layer chromatography (TLC). Several amino acids were identified in the extracts, in particular, leucine, isoleucine, phenylalanine, tyrosine, alanine, serine and methionine or valine or both. All sputum specimens except two (which contained < 1.5 mg of amino acids/ml), promoted the growth, of 34 auxotrophic strains of P. aeruginosa from CF patients in a minimal medium. These results indicate, therefore, that amino acids are plentiful in the sputum of CF patients and are able to supply the requirements of auxotrophic strains. It is suggested that the increased amino-acid content in the airways of CF patients plays a significant role in the selection and maintenance of nutritionally deficient P. aeruginosa.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids / analysis*
  • Amino Acids / metabolism
  • Chromatography, Thin Layer
  • Cystic Fibrosis / complications
  • Cystic Fibrosis / metabolism*
  • Cystic Fibrosis / microbiology
  • Hot Temperature
  • Humans
  • Pseudomonas Infections / etiology
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa / growth & development*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sputum / chemistry*
  • Sputum / microbiology
  • Sterilization


  • Amino Acids