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Open Access Research article

Autoinducer production and quorum-sensing dependent phenotypes of Pseudomonas aeruginosa vary according to isolation site during colonization of intubated patients

Sabine Favre-Bonté14, Eric Chamot2, Thilo Köhler1, Jacques-A Romand3 and Christian van Delden1*

Author Affiliations

1 Service des Maladies Infectieuses, Hôpital Universitaire de Genève, Rue Micheli-du- Crest 24, CH-1211 Genève 14, Switzerland

2 Department of Epidemiology, University of Alabama, Birmingham, USA

3 Service des Soins Intensifs, Hôpital Universitaire de Genève, Genève, Switzerland

4 UMR CNRS 5557-Ecologie Microbienne, Université Claude Bernard, Lyon 1, France

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BMC Microbiology 2007, 7:33  doi:10.1186/1471-2180-7-33

Published: 18 April 2007

Abstract

Background

Pseudomonas aeruginosa frequently colonizes and is responsible for severe ventilator-associated pneumonia in intubated patients. A quorum-sensing (QS) circuit, depending on the production of the two QS-signaling molecules (autoinducers, AIs) 3-oxo-C12-HSL and C4-HSL, regulates the production by P. aeruginosa of several virulence factors and is required for biofilm formation. Therefore QS-inhibition has been suggested as a new target for preventive and/or therapeutic strategies. However the precise role of QS during colonization and subsequent infections of intubated patients remains unclear.

Results

We wondered whether QS is active during colonization of intubated patients, and whether P. aeruginosa isolates growing inside the biofilm covering the intubation devices and those resident in the lungs of colonized patients differ in their QS-dependent phenotypes. We collected the intubation devices of eight patients colonized by P. aeruginosa. We detected 3-oxo-C12-HSL on eight, and C4-HSL on six of these devices. In three of these patients we also obtained P. aeruginosa isolates from tracheal aspirates at the time of extubation (n = 18), as well as isolates from the intubation devices (n = 25). We genotyped these isolates, quantified their AIs production, and determined three QS-dependent phenotypes (adherence capacity, biofilm and elastase production). The production of 3-oxo-C12-HSL was consistently increased for isolates from the intubation devices, whereas the production of C4-HSL was significantly higher for isolates from tracheal aspirates. Isolates from tracheal aspirates produced significantly higher amounts of elastase but less biofilm, and had a marginally reduced adhesion capacity than isolates from the intubation devices. Levels of 3-oxo-C12-HSL and elastase production correlated statistically for tracheal intubation isolates, whereas levels of 3-oxo-C12-HSL production and adhesion ability, as well as biofilm production, correlated weakly amongst intubation device isolates.

Conclusion

Our findings demonstrate that autoinducers are produced during the colonization of intubated patients by P. aeruginosa. The microenvironment, in which P. aeruginosa grows, may select for bacteria with different capacities to produce autoinducers and certain QS-dependent phenotypes. QS-inhibition might therefore affect differently isolates growing inside the biofilm covering intubation devices and those resident in the lungs.