Molecular Mechanisms Involved in Regulating the Mucoid-to-Nonmucoid Conversion of Pseudomonas aeruginosa Associated with Cystic Fibrosis Patients

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Ramos, Damaris
Florida International University
thesis / dissertation description
Pseudomonas aeruginosa is an opportunistic pathogen that has received attention because of its close association with cystic fibrosis (CF). Chronic pulmonary infection with the mucoid P. aeruginosa is the leading cause of mortality in CF patients. This bacterium has the ability to sense and adapt to the harsh environment in the CF lung by converting from a nonmucoid to a mucoid state. The mucoid phenotype is caused by overproduction of a polysaccharide called alginate. Alginate production is regulated by the algT/U operon containing five genes, algT/U-mucA-mucB-mucC-mucD. Alginate overproduction in CF isolates has been partially attributed to a loss-of-function mutation in mucA that results in the overexpression of algT. This mucoid phenotype is unstable, reverting to the nonmucoid form when the isolates are cultured outside of the CF lung. This study was undertaken to determine the mechanisms involved in the conversion from the mucoid to the nonmucoid form. Thirty-six spontaneous nonmucoid variants of a known mucoid isolate with a mucA mutation were analyzed. Ten of these isolates were complemented in trans by plasmids containing the algT operon and the algT gene. Chromosomal DNA was extracted and the mucA and algT genes were amplified by the polymerase chain reaction. Sequence analysis of the genes showed that these mutants retained the original mucA mutation but acquired secondary mutations in the algT gene.