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Polyamines are absolute requirements for cell growth. When in excess, Pseudomonas aeruginosa possesses six γ-glutamylpolyamine synthetases (GPSs) encoded by the pauA1-pauA7 genes to initiate polyamine catabolism. Recently, the pauA2 mutant was reported to lose the capability to grow on spermine (Spm) and spermidine (Spd) as sole carbon and nitrogen sources. Although this mutant grew normally in defined minimal medium and LB broth, growth was completely abolished by the addition of Spm or Spd. These two compounds exert a bactericidal effect (Spm > Spd) on the mutants as demonstrated by MIC measurements (over 500-fold reduction) and time-killing curves. Spm toxicity in the pauA2 mutant was attenuated when the major uptake system was further deleted from the strain, suggesting cytoplasmic targets of toxicity. In addition, the synergistic effect of Spm and carbenicillin in the wild-type strain PAO1 was diminished in mutants without functional PauA2. Furthermore, Spm MIC was reduced by 8-fold when the Spm uptake system was deleted from the wild-type strain, suggesting a second target of Spm toxicity in the periplasm. Experiments were also conducted to test the hypothesis that native Spm and Spd in human serum may be sufficient to kill the pauA2 mutant. Growth of the mutant was completely inhibited by 40% (vol/vol) human serum, whereas the parental strain required 80%. Colony counts indicated that the mutant but not the parent was in fact killed by human plasma. In addition, carbenicillin MIC against the mutant was reduced by 16-fold in the presence of 20% human serum while that of the parental strain remained unchanged. Taking PauA2 as the template, sequence comparison indicates that putative PauA2 homologues are widespread in a variety of Gram-negative bacteria. In summary, this study reveals the importance of GPS in alleviation of polyamine toxicity when in excess, and it provides strong support to the feasibility of GPS as a molecular target for new antibiotic development.


Xiangyu Yao, Congran Li, Jianmei Zhang, Chung-Dar Lu. γ-glutamyl Spermine Synthetase PauA2 as a potential target of antibiotic development against Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Antimicrobial agents and chemotherapy. 2012 Oct;56(10):5309-14

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PMID: 22869561

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