Influence of Membrane-Damaging Agents and the Sigma Factor AlgU on the Induction of the MexCD-OprJ Efflux System of Pseudomonas Aeruginosa
Campigotto, Aaron James
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The MexCD-OprJ multidrug efflux pump of Pseudomonas aeruginosa confers resistance to a range of antimicrobials. Although not expressed under normal laboratory conditions, exposure to the membrane-active biocides, chlorhexidine or benzalkonium chloride, results in mexCD-oprJ expression. This suggests that membrane disruption provides the inducing signal. Consistent with this, increased mexCD-oprJ expression was demonstrated in the presence of additional membrane-damaging agents including polymyxin B, ethanol, SDS, EDTA, the organic solvents n-hexane and p-xylene, and the antimicrobial peptides melittin, V8 and V681. MexCD-OprJ expression was initially verified through increased resistance to known MexCD-OprJ antimicrobial substrates and subsequently using a mexC-lacZ transcriptional fusion and RT-PCR. Since the P. aeruginosa sigma factor AlgU is responsive to envelope stress, it was of interest to ascertain whether AlgU is capable of mediating this increased mexCD-oprJ expression. Thus, the impact of AlgU loss on mexCD-oprJ expression in response to membrane-damaging agents was assessed in a algU strain. In contrast with above, little or no mexCD-oprJ expression (assessed using resistance to MexCD-OprJ antimicrobial substrates, the mexC-lacZ transcriptional fusion and RT-PCR) occurred in response to membrane-damaging agents in the algU strain, consistent with AlgU playing a role in the envelope stress inducibility of mexCD-oprJ. Overall, envelope stress, and the ability to react to this stress through AlgU, appears to play an important role in mexCD-oprJ induction. This suggests an important role for MexCD-OprJ in alleviating envelope stress, independent of its ability to export and provide resistance to antimicrobials. A gene, PA4596, whose product shows substantial homology to the NfxB repressor of mexCD-oprJ expression, occurs downstream of mexCD-oprJ and shows AlgU-dependence and chlorhexidine inducibility, suggesting a role in the chlorhexidine-induced, AlgU-mediated expression of mexCD-oprJ. Thus, the impact of PA4596 loss on mexCD-oprJ expression was assessed. Paradoxically, the loss of PA4596 increases mexCD-oprJ expression in wild-type cells in response to chlorhexidine treatment (as assessed through RT-PCR), while its loss compromises mexCD-oprJ expression in an nfxB mutant. Nonetheless, this suggests that PA4596 is involved in the induction of mexCD-oprJ and that its ability to induce mexCD-oprJ differs depending on the state of nfxB.