Pseudomonas aeruginosa is an opportunistic human pathogen that is able to sense and adapt to numerous environmental stimuli by the use of transcriptional regulators, including two-component regulatory systems.
In this study, we demonstrate that the sensor kinase PA4398 is involved in the regulation of swarming motility and biofilm formation in P. aeruginosa PA14. A PA4398- mutant strain was considerably impaired in swarming motility, while biofilm formation was increased by approximately 2-fold. The PA4398− mutant showed no changes in growth rate, rhamnolipid synthesis, or the production of the Pel exopolysaccharide but exhibited levels of the intracellular second messenger cyclic dimeric GMP (c-di-GMP) 50% higher than those in wild-type cells.
The role of PA4398 in gene regulation was investigated by comparing the PA4398− mutant to the wild-type strain by using microarray analysis, which demonstrated that 64 genes were up- or downregulated more than 1.5-fold (P < 0.05) under swarming conditions. In addition, more-sensitive real-time PCR studies were performed on genes known to be involved in c-di-GMP metabolism. Among the dysregulated genes were several involved in the synthesis and degradation of c-di-GMP or in the biosynthesis, transport, or function of the iron-scavenging siderophores pyoverdine and pyochelin, in agreement with the swarming phenotype observed.
By analyzing additional mutants of selected pyoverdine- and pyochelin-related genes, we were able to show that not only pvdQ but also pvdR, fptA, pchA, pchD, and pchH are essential for the normal swarming behavior of P. aeruginosa PA14 and may also contribute to the swarming-deficient phenotype of the PA4398− mutant in addition to elevated c-di-GMP levels.