Stress-induced outer membrane vesicle production by Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

Thumbnail Image



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title

Repository Usage Stats


Citation Stats


As an opportunistic Gram-negative pathogen, Pseudomonas aeruginosa must be able to adapt and survive changes and stressors in its environment during the course of infection. To aid survival in the hostile host environment, P. aeruginosa has evolved defense mechanisms, including the production of an exopolysaccharide capsule and the secretion of a myriad of degradative proteases and lipases. The production of outer membrane-derived vesicles (OMVs) serves as a secretion mechanism for virulence factors as well as a general bacterial response to envelope-acting stressors. This study investigated the effect of sublethal physiological stressors on OMV production by P. aeruginosa and whether the Pseudomonas quinolone signal (PQS) and the MucD periplasmic protease are critical mechanistic factors in this response. Exposure to some environmental stressors was determined to increase the level of OMV production as well as the activity of AlgU, the sigma factor that controls MucD expression. Overexpression of AlgU was shown to be sufficient to induce OMV production; however, stress-induced OMV production was not dependent on activation of AlgU, since stress caused increased vesiculation in strains lacking algU. We further determined that MucD levels were not an indicator of OMV production under acute stress, and PQS was not required for OMV production under stress or unstressed conditions. Finally, an investigation of the response of P. aeruginosa to oxidative stress revealed that peroxide-induced OMV production requires the presence of B-band but not A-band lipopolysaccharide. Together, these results demonstrate that distinct mechanisms exist for stress-induced OMV production in P. aeruginosa.





Published Version (Please cite this version)


Publication Info

Macdonald, Ian A, and Meta J Kuehn (2013). Stress-induced outer membrane vesicle production by Pseudomonas aeruginosa. J Bacteriol, 195(13). pp. 2971–2981. 10.1128/JB.02267-12 Retrieved from

This is constructed from limited available data and may be imprecise. To cite this article, please review & use the official citation provided by the journal.



Margarethe Joanna Kuehn

Associate Professor of Biochemistry

Enterotoxigenic E. coli (ETEC) causes traveler's diarrhea and infant mortality in underdeveloped countries, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa is an opportunistic pathogen for immunocompromised patients. Like all gram negative bacteria studied to date, ETEC and P. aeruginosa produce small outer membrane vesicles that can serve as delivery "bombs" to host tissues. Vesicles contain a subset of outer membrane and soluble periplasmic proteins and lipids. In tissues and sera of infected hosts, vesicles have been observed to bud from the pathogen and come in close contact with epithelial cells. Despite their association with disease, the ability of pathogenic bacteria to distribute an arsenal of virulence factors to the host cells via vesicles remains relatively unexplored.

In our lab, we focus on the genetic, biochemical and functional features of bacterial vesicle production. Using a genetic screen, we have identified genes essential in the vesiculation process, we have identified specific proteins that are enriched in vesicles, and we have identified critical molecules that govern the internalization of vesicles into host cells. Using biochemical analysis of purified vesicles from cell-free culture supernatants, we have found that heat-labile enterotoxin, an important virulence factor of ETEC, is exported from the cells bound to the external surface of vesicles. Presented in this context, it is able to mediate the entry of the entire ETEC vesicle into human colorectal tissue culture cells. We have also discovered that the ability of vesicles to bind to specific cell types depends on their strain of origin: for example, P. aeruginosa vesicles produced by a strain that was cultured from the lungs of a patient with Cystic Fibrosis adhered better to lung than to gut epithelial cells, whereas a strain that was isolated from sera showed no such preference for lung cells. The vesicles stimulate epithelial cells and macrophages to elicit a cytokine response that is distinct from that of LPS (a major component of the vesicles) alone.

These studies will provide new insights into the membrane dynamics of gram-negative bacteria and consequently aid in the identification of new therapeutic targets for important human pathogens.

Unless otherwise indicated, scholarly articles published by Duke faculty members are made available here with a CC-BY-NC (Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial) license, as enabled by the Duke Open Access Policy. If you wish to use the materials in ways not already permitted under CC-BY-NC, please consult the copyright owner. Other materials are made available here through the author’s grant of a non-exclusive license to make their work openly accessible.