Phenazine-1-carboxylic acid, a secondary metabolite of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, alters expression of immunomodulatory proteins by human airway epithelial cells

Gerene M. Denning, Shankar S. Iyer, Krzysztof J. Reszka, Yunxia O'Malley, George T. Rasmussen, Bradley E. Britigan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a gram-negative bacterium that causes both acute and chronic lung disease in susceptible patient populations. P. aeruginosa secretes numerous proteins and secondary metabolites, many of which have biological effects that likely contribute to disease pathogenesis. An unidentified small-molecular-weight factor was previously reported to increase IL-8 release both in vitro and in vivo. To identify this factor, we subjected the <3-kDa fraction from P. aeruginosa-conditioned medium to HPLC analysis. A peak fraction that stimulated IL-8 release was found by mass spectrometry to have a molecular mass (MM) of 224 Da. On the basis of this MM and other biochemical properties, we hypothesized that the factor was phenazine-1-carboxylic acid (PCA). Subsequent studies and comparison with purified PCA confirmed this hypothesis. Purified PCA exhibited a number of biological effects in human airway epithelial cells, including increasing IL-8 release and ICAM-1 expression, as well as decreasing RANTES and monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 (MCP-1) release. PCA also increased intracellular oxidant formation as measured by electron paramagnetic resonance and by an intracellular oxidant-sensitive probe. Antioxidants inhibited PCA-dependent increases in IL-8 and ICAM-1, suggesting that oxidants contributed to these effects. However, in contrast to the related phenazine compound pyocyanin, PCA did not oxidize NAD(P)H at physiologically relevant pH, providing preliminary evidence that PCA and pyocyanin may have distinct redox chemistries within the cell. Thus PCA is a biologically active factor secreted by P. aeruginosa that has several activities that could alter the host immune and inflammatory response and thereby contribute to bacterial disease pathogenesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)L584-L592
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology
Issue number3 29-3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Bacterial pathogenesis
  • Inflammation
  • Reactive oxygen species

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)
  • Cell Biology


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