Pseudomonas aeruginosa induces pigment production and enhances virulence in a white phenotypic variant of Staphylococcus aureus
Vlado Antonic,1–3 Alexander Stojadinovic,3–5 Binxue Zhang,1–3 Mina J Izadjoo,1–3,5 Mohammad Alavi1–3
1Henry M Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine, Bethesda, MD, USA; 2Diagnostic and Translational Research Center, Gaithersburg, MD, USA; 3Combat Wound Initiative Program, Bethesda, MD, USA; 4Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda, MD, USA; 5Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, MD, USA
Abstract: Staphyloxanthin is a virulence factor which protects Staphylococcus aureus in stress conditions. We isolated two pigment variants of S. aureus and one strain of Pseudomonas aeruginosa from a single wound infection. S. aureus variants displayed white and yellow colony phenotypes. The sequence of the operons for staphyloxanthin synthesis indicated that coding and promoter regions were identical between the two pigment variants. Quorum sensing controls pigment synthesis in some bacteria. It is also shown that P. aeruginosa quorum-sensing molecules affect S. aureus transcription. We explored whether the co-infecting P. aeruginosa can affect pigment production in the white S. aureus variant. In co-culture experiments between the white variants and a selected number of Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria, only P. aeruginosa induced pigment production in the white variant. Gene expression analysis of the white variant did not indicate upregulation of the crtM and other genes known to be involved in pigment production (sigB, sarA, farnesyl pyrophosphate synthase gene [FPP-synthase], hfq). In contrast, transcription of the catalase gene was significantly upregulated after co-culture. P. aeruginosa-induced pigment synthesis and catalase upregulation correlated with increased resistance to polymyxin B, hydrogen peroxide, and the intracellular environment of macrophages. Our data indicate the presence of silent but functional staphyloxanthin synthesis machinery in a white phenotypic variant of S. aureus which is activated by a co-infecting P. aeruginosa via inter-species communication. Another S. aureus virulence factor, catalase is also induced by this co-infecting bacterium. The resulting phenotypic changes are directly correlated with resistance of the white variant to stressful conditions.
Keywords: Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, staphyloxanthin, catalase, interspecies interaction
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