Catabolism of nucleic acids by a cystic fibrosis Pseudomonas aeruginosa isolate: an adaptive pathway to cystic fibrosis sputum environment

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    Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in patients with cystic fibrosis (CF). We undertook Biolog Phenotype Microarray testing of P. aeruginosa CF isolates to investigate their catabolic capabilities compared to P. aeruginosa laboratory strains PAO1 and PA14. One strain, PASS4, displayed an unusual phenotype, only showing strong respiration on adenosine and inosine. Further testing indicated that PASS4 could grow on DNA as a sole carbon source, with a higher biomass production than PAO1. This suggested that PASS4 was specifically adapted to metabolize extracellular DNA, a substrate present at high concentrations in the CF lung. Transcriptomic and proteomic profiling of PASS4 and PAO1 when grown with DNA as a sole carbon source identified a set of upregulated genes, including virulence and host-adaptation genes. PASS4 was unable to utilize N-Acetyl-D-glucosamine, and when we selected PASS4 mutants able to grow on this carbon source, they also displayed a gain in ability to catabolize a broad range of other carbon sources. Genome sequencing of the mutants revealed they all contained mutations within the purK gene, encoding a key protein in the de novo purine biosynthesis pathway. This suggested that PASS4 was a purine auxotroph. Growth assays in the presence of 2 mM adenosine and the complementation of PASS4 with an intact purK gene confirmed this conclusion. Purine auxotrophy may represent a viable microbial strategy for adaptation to DNA-rich environments such as the CF lung.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number1199
    Pages (from-to)1-14
    Number of pages14
    JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
    Issue numberMay
    Publication statusPublished - 31 May 2019

    Bibliographical note

    Copyright the Author(s) 2019. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


    • Pseudomonas aeruginosa
    • cystic fibrosis
    • auxotrophy
    • carbon catabolism
    • biolog


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