Homogentisate 1-2-Dioxygenase Downregulation in the Chronic Persistence of Pseudomonas aeruginosa Australian Epidemic Strain-1 in the CF Lung

07 March 2016

Some Pseudomonas aeruginosa strains including Australian Epidemic Strain-1 (AES-1 or AUS-01) cause persistent chronic infection in cystic fibrosis (CF) patients, with greater morbidity and mortality. Factors conferring persistence are largely unknown. Previously we analysed the transcriptomes of AES-1 grown in Luria broth, nematode growth medium for Caenorhabditis elegans assay (both aerobic) and artificial sputum medium (mainly hyp- oxic). Transcriptional comparisons included chronic AES-1 strains against PAO1 and acute AES-1 (AES-1R) against its chronic isogen (AES-1M), isolated 10.5 years apart from a CF patient and not eradicated in the meantime. Prominent amongst genes downregulated in AES-1M in all comparisons was homogentisate-1-2-dioxygenase (hmgA); an oxygen-dependent gene known to be mutationally deactivated in many chronic infection strains of P. aeruginosa. To investigate if hmgA downregulation and deactivation gave similar viru- lence persistence profiles, a hmgA mutant made in UCBPP-PA14 utilising RedS-recombinase and AES-1M were assessed in the C. elegans virulence assay, and the C57BL/6 mouse for pulmonary colonisation and TNF-α response. In C. elegans, hmgA deactivation resulted in significantly increased PA14 virulence while hmgA downregulation reduced AES-1M virulence. AES-1M was significantly more persistent in mouse lung and showed a significant increase in TNF-α (p<0.0001), sustained even with no detectable bacteria. PA14ΔhmgA did not show increased TNF-α. This study suggests that hmgA may have a role in P. aeruginosa persistence in chronic infection and the results provide a starting point for clarifying the role of hmgA in chronic AES-1.