The Small RNAs PA2952.1 and PrrH as Regulators of Virulence, Motility, and Iron Metabolism in Pseudomonas aeruginosa

Shannon R. Coleman, Manjeet Bains, Maren L. Smith, Victor Spicer, Ying Lao, Patrick K. Taylor, Neeloffer Mookherjee, Robert E.W. Hancock

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Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a Gram-negative opportunistic pathogen that undergoes swarming motility in response to semisolid conditions with amino acids as a nitrogen source. With a genome encoding hundreds of potential inter-genic small RNAs (sRNAs), P. aeruginosa can easily adapt to different conditions and stresses. We previously identified 20 sRNAs that were differentially expressed (DE) under swarming conditions. Here, these sRNAs were overexpressed in strain PAO1 and were subjected to an array of phenotypic screens. Overexpression of the PrrH sRNA resulted in decreased swimming motility, whereas a DprrH mutant had decreased cytotoxicity and increased pyoverdine production. Overexpression of the previously uncharacterized PA2952.1 sRNA resulted in decreased swarming and swimming motilities, increased gentamicin and tobramycin resistance under swarming conditions, and increased trimethoprim susceptibility. Transcriptome sequencing (RNA-Seq) and proteomic analysis were performed on the wild type (WT) overexpressing PA2952.1 compared to the empty vector control under swarming conditions, and these revealed the differential expression (absolute fold change [FC] $ 1.5) of 784 genes and the differential abundance (absolute FC $ 1.25) of 59 proteins. Among these were found 73 transcriptional regulators, two-component systems, and sigma and anti-sigma factors. Downstream effectors included downregu-lated pilus and flagellar genes, the upregulated efflux pump MexGHI-OpmD, and the upregulated arn operon. Genes involved in iron and zinc uptake were generally upreg-ulated, and certain pyoverdine genes were upregulated. Overall, the sRNAs PA2952.1 and PrrH appeared to be involved in regulating virulence-related programs in P. aeruginosa, including iron acquisition and motility. IMPORTANCE Due to the rising incidence of multidrug-resistant (MDR) strains and the difficulty of eliminating P. aeruginosa infections, it is important to understand the regulatory mechanisms that allow this bacterium to adapt to and thrive under a variety of conditions. Small RNAs (sRNAs) are one regulatory mechanism that allows bacteria to change the amount of protein synthesized. In this study, we overexpressed 20 different sRNAs in order to investigate how this might affect different bacterial behaviors. We found that one of the sRNAs, PrrH, played a role in swimming motility and virulence phenotypes, indicating a potentially important role in clinical infections. Another sRNA, PA2952.1, affected other clinically relevant phenotypes, including motility and antibiotic resistance. RNA-Seq and proteomics of the strain overexpressing PA2952.1 revealed the differential expression of 784 genes and 59 proteins, with a total of 73 regulatory factors. This substantial dysregulation indicates an important role for the sRNA PA2952.1.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalApplied and Environmental Microbiology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021


  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa
  • antibiotic resistance
  • proteomics
  • small RNAs
  • swarming motility
  • transcriptomics
  • virulence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Food Science
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Ecology

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