Phenazines Regulate Nap-Dependent Denitrification in
Microbes in biofilms face the challenge of substrate limitation. In particular, oxygen often becomes limited for cells in
biofilms growing in the laboratory or during host colonization. Previously we found that phenazines, antibiotics produced by
, balance the intracellular redox state of cells in biofilms. Here, we show that genes involved in denitrification are induced in phenazine-null (Δ
) mutant biofilms grown under an aerobic atmosphere, even in the absence of nitrate. This finding suggests that resident cells employ a bet-hedging strategy to anticipate the potential availability of nitrate and counterbalance their highly reduced redox state. Consistent with our previous characterization of aerobically grown colonies supplemented with nitrate, we found that the pathway that is induced in Δ
mutant colonies combines the nitrate reductase activity of the periplasmic enzyme Nap with the downstream reduction of nitrite to nitrogen gas catalyzed by the enzymes Nir, Nor, and Nos. This regulatory relationship differs from the denitrification pathway that functions under anaerobic growth, with nitrate as the terminal electron acceptor, which depends on the membrane-associated nitrate reductase Nar. We identified the sequences in the promoter regions of the
operons that are required for the effects of phenazines on expression. We also show that specific phenazines have differential effects on
gene expression. Finally, we provide evidence that individual steps of the denitrification pathway are catalyzed at different depths within aerobically grown biofilms, suggesting metabolic cross-feeding between community subpopulations.
An understanding of the unique physiology of cells in biofilms is critical to our ability to treat fungal and bacterial infections. Colony biofilms of the opportunistic pathogen
grown under an aerobic atmosphere but without nitrate express a denitrification pathway that differs from that used for anaerobic growth. We report that the components of this pathway are induced by electron acceptor limitation and that they are differentially expressed over the biofilm depth. These observations suggest that (i)
exhibits “bet hedging,” in that it expends energy and resources to prepare for nitrate availability when other electron acceptors are absent, and (ii) cells in distinct biofilm microniches may be able to exchange substrates to catalyze full denitrification.
Lin, Y-C; Sekedat, MD; Cornell, WC; Silva, GM; Okegbe, C; Price-Whelan, A; Vogel, C; Dietrich, LEP
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