BqsR/BqsS constitute a two-component system that senses extracellular Fe(II) in Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Academic Article uri icon


  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a ubiquitous gram-negative bacterium best known as the predominant opportunistic pathogen infecting the lungs of cystic fibrosis patients. In this context, it is thought to form biofilms, within which locally reducing and acidic conditions can develop that favor the stability of ferrous iron [Fe(II)]. Because iron is a signal that stimulates biofilm formation, we performed a microarray study to determine whether P. aeruginosa strain PA14 exhibits a specific transcriptional response to extracellular Fe(II). Among the genes that were most upregulated in response to Fe(II) were those encoding the two-component system BqsR/BqsS, previously identified for its role in P. aeruginosa strain PAO1 biofilm decay (13); here, we demonstrate its role in extracellular Fe(II) sensing. bqsS and bqsR form an operon together with two small upstream genes, bqsP and bqsQ, and one downstream gene, bqsT. BqsR/BqsS sense extracellular Fe(II) at physiologically relevant concentrations (>10 ?M) and elicit a specific transcriptional response, including its autoregulation. The sensor distinguishes between Fe(II), Fe(III), and other dipositive cations [Ca(II), Cu(II), Mg(II), Mn(II), Zn(II)] under aerobic or anaerobic conditions. The gene that is most upregulated by BqsR/BqsS, as measured by quantitative reverse transcription-PCR (qRT-PCR), is PA14_04180, which is predicted to encode a periplasmic oligonucleotide/oligosaccharide-binding domain (OB-fold) protein. Coincident with phenazine production during batch culture growth, Fe(II) becomes the majority of the total iron pool and bqsS is upregulated. The existence of a two-component system that senses Fe(II) indicates that extracellular Fe(II) is an important environmental signal for P. aeruginosa.

publication date

  • March 2012