Phenotypic variability among bacteria depends on gene expression in response to different environments, and it also reflects differences in genomic structure. In this study, we analyzed transcriptome sequencing (RNA-seq) profiles of 151 Pseudomonas aeruginosa clinical isolates under standard laboratory conditions and of one P. aeruginosa type strain under 14 different environmental conditions.
Our approach allowed dissection of the impact of the genetic background versus environmental cues on P. aeruginosa gene expression profiles and revealed that phenotypic variation was larger in response to changing environments than between genomically different isolates.
We demonstrate that mutations within the global regulator LasR affect more than one trait (pleiotropy) and that the interaction between mutations (epistasis) shapes the P. aeruginosa phenotypic plasticity landscape. Because of pleiotropic and epistatic effects, average genotype and phenotype measures appeared to be uncorrelated in P. aeruginosa.