Surface-localized spermidine protects the Pseudomonas aeruginosa: Outer membrane from antibiotic treatment and oxidative stress

Lori Johnson, Heidi Mulcahy, Uliana Kanevets, Yan Shi, Shawn Lewenza

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Articlepeer-review

130 Citations (Scopus)


Extracellular DNA acts as a cation chelator and induces the expression of antibiotic resistance genes regulated by Mg 2+ levels. Here we report the characterization of novel DNA-induced genes in Pseudomonas aeruginosa that are annotated as homologs of the spermidine synthesis genes speD (PA4773) and speE (PA4774). The addition of sublethal concentrations of DNA and membrane-damaging antibiotics induced expression of the genes PA4773 to PA4775, as shown using transcriptional lux fusions and quantitative RT-PCR. Exogenous polyamine addition prevented DNA- and peptide-mediated gene induction. Mutation of PA4774 resulted in an increased outer membrane (OM) susceptibility phenotype upon polymyxin B, CP10A, and gentamicin treatment. When the membrane-localized fluorescent probe C 11-BODIPY 581/ 591 was used as an indicator of peroxidation of membrane lipids, the PA4774::lux mutant demonstrated an increased susceptibility to oxidative membrane damage from H 2O 2 treatment. Addition of exogenous polyamines protected the membranes of the PA4774::lux mutant from polymyxin B and H 2O 2 treatment. Polyamines from the outer surface were isolated and shown to contain putrescine and spermidine by using highperformance liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry. The PA4774::lux mutant did not produce spermidine on the cell surface, but genetic complementation restored surface spermidine production as well as the antibiotic and oxidative stress resistance phenotypes of the membrane. We have identified new functions for spermidine on the cell surface and propose that polyamines are produced under Mg 2+-limiting conditions as an organic polycation to bind lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and to stabilize and protect the outer membrane against antibiotic and oxidative damage.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)813-826
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Bacteriology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Feb. 2012


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