Metabolism-dependent taxis and control of motility in Pseudomonas putida

Abstract: Bacteria living in soil and aquatic habitats rapidly adapt to changes in physico-chemical parameters that influence their energy status and thus their ability to proliferate and survive. One immediate survival strategy is to relocate to more metabolically optimal environments. To aid their movement through gradients (a process called taxis), many bacteria use whip like flagella organelles. Soil-dwelling Pseudomonas putida possesses a polar bundle of flagella that propel the bacterium forward in directed swimming motility. P. putida strains are generally fast growing, have a broad metabolic capacity, and are resistant to many harmful substances – qualities that make them interesting for an array of industrial and biotechnological application. This thesis identifies some of the factors that are involved in controlling the flagella driven motility of P. putida.In the first part of the thesis, I present evidence that P. putida displays energy-taxis towards metabolisable substrates and that the surface located Aer2 receptor (named after its similarities to the Escherichia coli Aer receptor) is responsible for detecting the changes in energy-status and oxygen-gradients that underlie this response. Aer2 is expressed simultaneously with the flagella needed for taxis responses and its expression is ensured during nutrient scares conditions through the global transcriptional regulators ppGpp and DksA.In addition to Aer2, P. putida possesses two more Aer-like receptors (Aer1 and Aer3) that are differentially expressed. Like Aer2, Aer1 and Aer3 co-localize to one cell pole. Although the signals to which Aer1 and Aer3 respond are unknown, analysis of Aer1 uncovered a role in motility control for a protein encoded within the same operon. This protein, called PP2258, instigated the work described in the second part of my thesis on the involvement of the second messenger c-di-GMP in regulation of P. putida motility. Genetic dissection of the catalytic activities of PP2258 revealed that it has the unusual capacity to both synthesize and degrade c-di-GMP. Coupling of the c-di-GMP signal originating from PP2258 to motility control was traced to the c-di-GMP binding properties of the protein PP4397. In the last part of the thesis, I present possible mechanisms for how these different components might interact to create a signal transduction cascade – from the surface located Aer1 receptor to PP2258 and the c-di-GMP responsive PP4397, and from there to the flagella motors – to ultimately determine flagella performance and the motility status of P. putida.