Spatiotemporal distribution of Pseudomonas aeruginosa alkyl quinolones under metabolic and competitive stress

Tianyuan Cao, Jonathan V. Sweedler, Paul W. Bohn, Joshua D. Shrout

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Pseudomonas aeruginosa is an opportunistic human pathogen important to diseases such as cystic fibrosis. P. aeruginosa has multiple quorum-sensing (QS) systems, one of which utilizes the signaling molecule 2-heptyl-3-hydroxy-4-quinolone (Pseudomonas quinolone signal [PQS]). Here, we use hyperspectral Raman imaging to elucidate the spatiotemporal PQS distributions that determine how P. aeruginosa regulates surface colonization and its response to both metabolic stress and competition from other bacterial strains. These chemical imaging experiments illustrate the strong link between environmental challenges, such as metabolic stress caused by nutritional limitations or the presence of another bacterial species, and PQS signaling. Metabolic stress elicits a complex response in which limited nutrients induce the bacteria to produce PQS earlier, but the bacteria may also pause PQS production entirely if the nutrient concentration is too low. Separately, coculturing P. aeruginosa in the proximity of another bacterial species, or its culture supernatant, results in earlier production of PQS. However, these differences in PQS appearance are not observed for all alkyl quinolones (AQs) measured; the spatiotemporal response of 2-heptyl-4-hydroxyquinoline N-oxide (HQNO) is highly uniform for most conditions. These insights on the spatiotemporal distributions of quinolones provide additional perspective on the behavior of P. aeruginosa in response to different environmental cues. IMPORTANCE Alkyl quinolones (AQs), including Pseudomonas quinolone signal (PQS), made by the opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa have been associated with both population density and stress. The regulation of AQ production is known to be complex, and the stimuli that modulate AQ responses are not fully clear. Here, we have used hyperspectral Raman chemical imaging to examine the temporal and spatial profiles of AQs exhibited by P. aeruginosa under several potentially stressful conditions. We found that metabolic stress, effected by carbon limitation, or competition stress, effected by proximity to other species, resulted in accelerated PQS production. This competition effect did not require cell-to-cell interaction, as evidenced by the fact that the addition of supernatants from either Escherichia coli or Staphylococcus aureus led to early appearance of PQS. Lastly, the fact that these modulations were observed for PQS but not for all AQs suggests a high level of complexity in AQ regulation that remains to be discerned.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere00426-20
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2020


  • Chemical imaging
  • HQNO
  • PQS
  • Polymicrobial
  • Principal-component analysis
  • Quorum sensing
  • Raman spectroscopy
  • Staphylococcus aureus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology


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