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Physiology and Mechanisms of Pyocyanin Reduction in Pseudomonas aeruginosa


Price-Whelan, Alexa Mari (2009) Physiology and Mechanisms of Pyocyanin Reduction in Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/N42E-M534.


The opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa excretes redox-active small molecules called phenazines. This thesis addresses the possibility that the phenazine pyocyanin acts as an electron acceptor for energy metabolism and exerts beneficial effects on P. aeruginosa physiology. The effects of phenazine production and exposure on P. aeruginosa strain PA14 were examined by comparing the physiological status of the wild type to a mutant defective in phenazine production. Quantification of intracellular NADH and NAD+ pools revealed a more reduced intracellular redox state in the phenazine-null mutant compared to the wild type, consistent with the capacity of P. aeruginosa to reduce pyocyanin. High-performance liquid chromatography of culture metabolites showed that the wild type excreted pyruvate in late stationary phase, indicating that pyocyanin alters flux through central metabolic pathways.

We set out to identify mechanisms allowing P. aeruginosa to catalyze pyocyanin redox cycling. Through a genetic screen, we found two loci required for full pyocyanin-dependent ferric citrate reduction activity in P. aeruginosa PA14: (1) the gene gpsA, encoding the soluble glycerol-3-phosphate dehydrogenase (GpsA), and (2) the operon fbcFBC, encoding the respiratory cytochrome bc1 complex. Mutants lacking functional GpsA had oxidized cytoplasms and may be defective in pyocyanin reduction due to a lack of sufficient NADH. In contrast, mutants lacking a functional cytochrome bc1 complex produced ample reducing power for pyocyanin reduction, raising the possibility that the cytochrome bc1 complex directly catalyzes pyocyanin reduction.

Pyocyanin has previously been shown to affect the development of P. aeruginosa colonies on agar surfaces: phenazine-null mutants form wrinkled (rugose) colonies, while the wild type forms smooth colonies. Using this colony biofilm assay, we showed that the ΔgpsA mutant forms rugose colonies, consistent with a role for pyocyanin reduction in stimulating smooth colony formation. Modulation of electron acceptor availability through nitrate addition to the medium promoted smooth colony formation in rugose mutants. These results imply that rugosity is an adaptation to electron acceptor limitation.

The work in this thesis has provided insight into the physiological relevance of pyocyanin reduction in P. aeruginosa, mechanisms controlling intracellular redox state in bacteria, and mechanisms that may contribute to P. aeruginosa virulence.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:antibiotic; cystic fibrosis; redox homeostasis; secondary metabolite
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Major Option:Biology
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Newman, Dianne K.
Thesis Committee:
  • Leadbetter, Jared R. (chair)
  • Newman, Dianne K.
  • Meyerowitz, Elliot M.
  • Barton, Jacqueline K.
Defense Date:4 February 2009
Non-Caltech Author Email:alexapricewhelan (AT)
Record Number:CaltechETD:etd-02182009-100346
Persistent URL:
Price-Whelan, Alexa Mari0000-0001-7587-7534
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:674
Deposited By: Imported from ETD-db
Deposited On:29 May 2009
Last Modified:08 Nov 2023 00:46

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