Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor's Name

Kalai Mathee

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

John Makemson

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Third Advisor's Name

Fernando Noriega

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Jaroslava Miksovska

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fifth Advisor's Name

Lars Dietrich

Fifth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member


Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Two Component Systems (TCS), MifS-MifR Two-Component System, alpha-Ketoglutarate, Tricarboxylic acid Cycle, Metabolism, Antibiotic Resistance

Date of Defense



Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a Gram-negative, metabolically versatile, opportunistic pathogen that exhibits a multitude of virulence factors, and is extraordinarily resistant to a gamut of clinically significant antibiotics. This ability is in part mediated by two-component systems (TCS) that play a crucial role in regulating virulence mechanisms, metabolism and antibiotic resistance. Our sequence analysis of the P. aeruginosa PAO1 genome revealed the presence of two open reading frames, mifS and mifR, which encodes putative TCS proteins, a histidine sensor kinase MifS and a response regulator MifR, respectively. This two-gene operon was found immediately upstream of the poxAB operon, where poxB encodes a chromosomal ß-lactamase, hinting at the role of MifSR TCS in regulating antibiotic resistance. However, loss of mifSR had no effect on the antibiotic resistance profile when compared to P. aeruginosa parent PAO1 strain. Subsequently, our phenotypic microarray data (BioLOG) and growth profile studies indicated the inability of mifSR mutants to grow in α-ketoglutarate (α-KG), a key tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle intermediate, as a sole carbon source. To date, very little is known about the physiology of P. aeruginosa when provided with α-KG as its sole carbon source and the role of MifS and MifR TCS in virulence. Importantly, in the recent years, α-KG has gained notoriety for its newly identified role as a signaling molecule in addition to its conventional role in metabolism. This led us to hypothesize that MifSR TCS is involved in α-KG utilization and virulence in P. aeruginosa. Using mifS, mifR and mifSR clean in-frame deletion strains, our study demonstrates that the MifSR TCS modulates the expression P. aeruginosa kgtP (PA5530) and pcaT (PA0229) genes encoding putative α-KG permeases. In addition, our study shows that the MifSR-regulation of these transporters requires functional sigma factor RpoN (σ54). Loss of mifSR in the presence of α-KG, resulted in differential regulation of P. aeruginosa key virulence determinants including biofilm formation, motility, cell cytoxicity and the production of pyocyanin and pyoverdine. Involvement of multiple regulators and transporters suggests the presence of an intricate circuitry in the transport of α-KG and its importance in P. aeruginosa survival. This is further supported by the α-KG-dependent MifSR regulation of multiple virulence mechanisms. Simultaneous regulation of multiple mechanisms involved in P. aeruginosa pathogenesis suggests a complex mechanism of MifSR action. Understanding the physiological cues and regulation would provide a better stratagem to fight often indomitable P. aeruginosa infections.





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