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Geisel School of Medicine


While complex intra- and interspecies microbial community dynamics are apparent during chronic infections and likely alter patient health outcomes, our understanding of these interactions is currently limited. For example, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus are often found to coinfect the lungs of patients with cystic fibrosis (CF), yet these organisms compete under laboratory conditions. Recent observations that coinfection correlates with decreased health outcomes necessitate we develop a greater understanding of these interbacterial interactions. In this study, we tested the hypothesis that P. aeruginosa and/or S. aureus adopts phenotypes that allow coexistence during infection. We compared competitive interactions of P. aeruginosa and S. aureus isolates from mono- or coinfected CF patients employing in vitro coculture models. P. aeruginosa isolates from monoinfected patients were more competitive toward S. aureus than P. aeruginosa isolates from coinfected patients. We also observed that the least competitive P. aeruginosa isolates possessed a mucoid phenotype. Mucoidy occurs upon constitutive activation of the sigma factor AlgT/U, which regulates synthesis of the polysaccharide alginate and dozens of other secreted factors, including some previously described to kill S. aureus. Here, we show that production of alginate in mucoid strains is sufficient to inhibit anti-S. aureus activity independent of activation of the AlgT regulon. Alginate reduces production of siderophores, 2-heptyl-4-hydroxyquinolone-N-oxide (HQNO), and rhamnolipids—each required for efficient killing of S. aureus. These studies demonstrate alginate overproduction may be an important factor driving P. aeruginosa coinfection with S. aureus.



Original Citation

Limoli DH, Whitfield GB, Kitao T, et al. Pseudomonas aeruginosa Alginate Overproduction Promotes Coexistence with Staphylococcus aureus in a Model of Cystic Fibrosis Respiratory Infection. mBio. 2017;8(2):e00186-17. Published 2017 Mar 21. doi:10.1128/mBio.00186-17