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Open Access Research article

The Pseudomonas aeruginosa rhlG and rhlAB genes are inversely regulated and RhlG is not required for rhamnolipid synthesis

Alexis Bazire* and Alain Dufour

Author Affiliations

Université de Bretagne-Sud, EA 3884, LBCM, IUEM, F-56100 Lorient, France

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BMC Microbiology 2014, 14:160  doi:10.1186/1471-2180-14-160

Published: 19 June 2014



Pseudomonas aeruginosa produces rhamnolipid biosurfactants involved in numerous phenomena including virulence. The transcriptional study of the rhlAB operon encoding two key enzymes for rhamnolipid synthesis led to the discovery of the quorum sensing system RhlRI. The latter positively controls the transcription of rhlAB, as well as of rhlC, which is required for di-rhamnolipid synthesis. The rhlG gene encodes an NADPH-dependent β-ketoacyl reductase. Although it was reported to be required for the biosynthesis of the fatty acid part of rhamnolipids, its function in rhamnolipid synthesis was later questioned. The rhlG transcription and its role in rhamnolipid production were investigated here.


Using 5′-RACE PCR, a luxCDABE-based transcriptional fusion, and quantitative reverse transcription-PCR, we confirmed two previously identified σ70- and σ54-dependent promoters and we identified a third promoter recognized by the extra-cytoplasmic function sigma factor AlgU. rhlG was inversely regulated compared to rhlAB and rhlC: the rhlG transcription was down-regulated in response to N-butyryl-L-homoserine lactone, the communication molecule of the RhlRI system, and was induced by hyperosmotic stress in an AlgU-dependent manner. Consistently with this transcriptional pattern, the single or double deletions of rhlG and PA3388, which forms an operon with rhlG, did not dramatically impair rhamnolipid synthesis.


This first detailed study of rhlG transcription reveals a complex regulation involving three sigma factors and N-butyryl-L-homoserine lactone. We furthermore present evidences that RhlG does not play a key role in rhamnolipid synthesis.

RhlG; Rhamnolipid; Pseudomonas aeruginosa; AlgU