Physiological characterization of Pseudomonas aeruginosa during exotoxin A synthesis: Glutamate, iron limitation, and aconitase activity

Greg Somerville, Carole Ann Mikoryak, Larry Reitzer

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47 Scopus citations


Glutamate enhances the yield of exotoxin A (ETA), which is induced by iron limitation, from Pseudomonas aeruginosa. We tested the possibility that glutamate affects growth during iron restriction. We confirmed that iron limitation caused early entry into stationary phase but had no effect on the exponential growth rate. We showed that glutamate, as well as citrate and isocitrate, partially overcame this growth limitation. Glutamate had no effect on toxA (ETA-encoding) transcription, which implies that glutamate primarily increases the number of toxin-producing cells. In contrast, citrate and isocitrate diminished toxA transcription. Since glutamate, citrate, and isocitrate stimulated growth, we suspected a block in the citric acid cycle. Iron limitation reduced the activity of the iron-containing aconitase 12- fold but had no effect on isocitrate dehydrogenase activity, which was assayed as a control. There is a reciprocal relationship between aconitase activity and ETA synthesis, and this correlation does not appear to be coincidental because aconitase-specific effectors affect ETA synthesis. We tested whether a metabolic block is sufficient to induce ETA synthesis, but an aconitase-specific inhibitor diminished ETA production, which argues against this possibility. Finally, we present preliminary evidence that iron limitation may reversibly and posttranslationally inactivate aconitase in vivo. In summary, the environmental factors that stimulate ETA synthesis are related: glutamate bypasses an iron limitation-dependent metabolic block that causes entry into stationary phase. We speculate that one or more of the aconitases in P. aeruginosa may contribute to the control of virulence factor synthesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1072-1078
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of bacteriology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 1999
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology


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