Besides being a major opportunistic human pathogen, Pseudomonas aeruginosa can be found in a wide range of environments. This versatility is linked to complex regulation, which is achieved through the action of transcriptional regulators, and post-transcriptional regulation by intracellular proteases including Lon. Indeed, lon mutants in this species show defects in motility, biofilm formation, pathogenicity and fluoroquinolone resistance. Here, the proteomic approach stable isotope labeling by amino acids in cell culture (SILAC) was used to search for novel proteolytic targets. One of the proteins that accumulated in the lon mutant was the RNA-binding protein Hfq. Further experiments demonstrated the ability of Lon to degrade Hfq in vitro. Also, overexpression of the hfq gene in the wild-type strain led to partial inhibition of swarming, swimming and twitching motilities, indicating that Hfq accumulation could contribute to the phenotypes displayed by Lon mutants. Hfq overexpression also led to the upregulation of the small regulatory RNA PhrS. Analysis of the phenotypes of strains lacking or overexpressing this sRNA indicated that the Lon protease might be indirectly regulating the levels and activity of sRNAs via Hfq. Overall, this study revealed new links in the complex regulatory chain that controls multicellular behaviours in P. aeruginosa.
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