Integrated whole-genome screening for Pseudomonas aeruginosa virulence genes using multiple disease models reveals that pathogenicity is host specific

Environ Microbiol. 2015 Apr 3. doi: 10.1111/1462-2920.12863. [Epub ahead of print]


Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a multi-host opportunistic pathogen causing a wide range of diseases because of the armoury of virulence factors it produces, and it is difficult to eradicate because of its intrinsic resistance to antibiotics. Using an integrated whole-genome approach, we searched for P. aeruginosa virulence genes with multi-host relevance. We constructed a random library of 57 360 Tn5 mutants in P. aeruginosa PAO1-L and screened it in vitro for those showing pleiotropic effects in virulence phenotypes (reduced swarming, exo-protease and pyocyanin production). A set of these pleiotropic mutants were assayed for reduced toxicity in Drosophila melanogaster, Caenorhabditis elegans, human cell lines and mice. Surprisingly, the screening revealed that the virulence of the majority of P. aeruginosa mutants varied between disease models, suggesting that virulence is dependent on the disease model used and hence the host environment. Genomic analysis revealed that these virulence-related genes encoded proteins from almost all functional classes, which were conserved among P. aeruginosa strains. Thus, we provide strong evidence that although P. aeruginosa is capable of infecting a wide range of hosts, many of its virulence determinants are host specific. These findings have important implication when searching for novel anti-virulence targets to develop new treatments against P. aeruginosa.