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      Parallel Evolution in Pseudomonas aeruginosa over 39,000 Generations In Vivo

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          The Gram-negative bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a common cause of chronic airway infections in individuals with the heritable disease cystic fibrosis (CF). After prolonged colonization of the CF lung, P. aeruginosa becomes highly resistant to host clearance and antibiotic treatment; therefore, understanding how this bacterium evolves during chronic infection is important for identifying beneficial adaptations that could be targeted therapeutically. To identify potential adaptive traits of P. aeruginosa during chronic infection, we carried out global transcriptomic profiling of chronological clonal isolates obtained from 3 individuals with CF. Isolates were collected sequentially over periods ranging from 3 months to 8 years, representing up to 39,000 in vivo generations. We identified 24 genes that were commonly regulated by all 3 P. aeruginosa lineages, including several genes encoding traits previously shown to be important for in vivo growth. Our results reveal that parallel evolution occurs in the CF lung and that at least a proportion of the traits identified are beneficial for P. aeruginosa chronic colonization of the CF lung.


          Deadly diseases like AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis are the result of long-term chronic infections. Pathogens that cause chronic infections adapt to the host environment, avoiding the immune response and resisting antimicrobial agents. Studies of pathogen adaptation are therefore important for understanding how the efficacy of current therapeutics may change upon prolonged infection. One notorious chronic pathogen is Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a bacterium that causes long-term infections in individuals with the heritable disease cystic fibrosis (CF). We used gene expression profiles to identify 24 genes that commonly changed expression over time in 3 P. aeruginosa lineages, indicating that these changes occur in parallel in the lungs of individuals with CF. Several of these genes have previously been shown to encode traits critical for in vivo-relevant processes, suggesting that they are likely beneficial adaptations important for chronic colonization of the CF lung.

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          Most cited references 41

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          Bacterial Biofilms: A Common Cause of Persistent Infections

           J Costerton (1999)
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            Lung infections associated with cystic fibrosis.

            While originally characterized as a collection of related syndromes, cystic fibrosis (CF) is now recognized as a single disease whose diverse symptoms stem from the wide tissue distribution of the gene product that is defective in CF, the ion channel and regulator, cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR). Defective CFTR protein impacts the function of the pancreas and alters the consistency of mucosal secretions. The latter of these effects probably plays an important role in the defective resistance of CF patients to many pathogens. As the modalities of CF research have changed over the decades from empirical histological studies to include biophysical measurements of CFTR function, the clinical management of this disease has similarly evolved to effectively address the ever-changing spectrum of CF-related infectious diseases. These factors have led to the successful management of many CF-related infections with the notable exception of chronic lung infection with the gram-negative bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa. The virulence of P. aeruginosa stems from multiple bacterial attributes, including antibiotic resistance, the ability to utilize quorum-sensing signals to form biofilms, the destructive potential of a multitude of its microbial toxins, and the ability to acquire a mucoid phenotype, which renders this microbe resistant to both the innate and acquired immunologic defenses of the host.
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              Quorum-sensing signals indicate that cystic fibrosis lungs are infected with bacterial biofilms.

              The bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa permanently colonizes cystic fibrosis lungs despite aggressive antibiotic treatment. This suggests that P. aeruginosa might exist as biofilms--structured communities of bacteria encased in a self-produced polymeric matrix--in the cystic fibrosis lung. Consistent with this hypothesis, microscopy of cystic fibrosis sputum shows that P. aeruginosa are in biofilm-like structures. P. aeruginosa uses extracellular quorum-sensing signals (extracellular chemical signals that cue cell-density-dependent gene expression) to coordinate biofilm formation. Here we found that cystic fibrosis sputum produces the two principal P. aeruginosa quorum-sensing signals; however, the relative abundance of these signals was opposite to that of the standard P. aeruginosa strain PAO1 in laboratory broth culture. When P. aeruginosa sputum isolates were grown in broth, some showed quorum-sensing signal ratios like those of the laboratory strain. When we grew these isolates and PAO1 in a laboratory biofilm model, the signal ratios were like those in cystic fibrosis sputum. Our data support the hypothesis that P. aeruginosa are in a biofilm in cystic fibrosis sputum. Moreover, quorum-sensing signal profiling of specific P. aeruginosa strains may serve as a biomarker in screens to identify agents that interfere with biofilm development.

                Author and article information

                American Society of Microbiology (1752 N St., N.W., Washington, DC )
                21 September 2010
                Sep-Oct 2010
                : 1
                : 4
                Section of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas, USA [a ];
                Institute for Cellular and Molecular Biology and Center for Systems and Synthetic Biology, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas, USA [b ];
                Division of Infectious and Immunological Diseases, Department of Pediatrics, and Centre for Understanding and Preventing Infection in Children, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada [c ]; and
                Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Texas, Austin, Texas, USA [d ]
                Author notes
                Address correspondence to Marvin Whiteley, mwhiteley@ 123456mail.utexas.edu .

                H.K.H. and T.K. contributed equally to this work.

                Editor Richard Lenski, Michigan State University

                Copyright © 2010 Huse et al.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License, which permits unrestricted noncommercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

                Research Article

                Life sciences


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