Environmental cues and genes involved in establishment of the superinfective Pf4 phage of Pseudomonas aeruginosa
Reference: Frontiers in Microbiology (2014) 5: Article 654

Biofilm development in Pseudomonas aeruginosa is in part dependent on a filamentous phage, Pf4, which contributes to biofilm maturation, cell death, dispersal and variant formation, e.g., small colony variants (SCVs). These biofilm phenotypes correlate with the conversion of the Pf4 phage into a superinfection (SI) variant that reinfects and kills the prophage carrying host, in contrast to other filamentous phage that normally replicate without killing their host. Here we have investigated the physiological cues and genes that may be responsible for this conversion. Flow through biofilms typically developed SI phage approximately days 4 or 5 of development and corresponded with dispersal. Starvation for carbon or nitrogen did not lead to the development of SI phage. In contrast, exposure of the biofilm to nitric oxide, H2O2 or the DNA damaging agent, mitomycin C, showed a trend of increased numbers of SI phage, suggesting that reactive oxygen or nitrogen species (RONS) played a role in the formation of SI phage. In support of this, mutation of oxyR, the major oxidative stress regulator in P. aeruginosa, resulted in higher level of and earlier superinfection compared to the wild-type (WT). Similarly, inactivation of mutS, a DNA mismatch repair gene, resulted in the early appearance of the SI phage and this was four log higher than the WT. In contrast, loss of recA, which is important for DNA repair and the SOS response, also resulted in a delayed and decreased production of SI phage. Treatments or mutations that increased superinfection also correlated with an increase in the production of morphotypic variants. The results suggest that the accumulation of RONS by the biofilm may result in DNA lesions in the Pf4 phage, leading to the formation of SI phage, which subsequently selects for morphotypic variants, such as SCVs.


Published By
Hui J.G.K., Mai-Prochnow A., Kjelleberg S., McDougald D., Rice S. A.