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Background: Pseudomonas species are adapted to evade innate immune responses and can persist at sites of relative tissue hypoxia, including the mucus-plugged airways of patients with cystic fibrosis and bronchiectasis.  The ability of these bacteria to directly sense and respond to changes in local oxygen availability is in part consequent upon expression of the 2-oxoglutarate oxygenase, Pseudomonas prolyl hydroxylase (PPHD), which acts on elongation factor Tu (EF-Tu), and is homologous with the human hypoxia inducible factor (HIF) prolyl hydroxylases. We report that PPHD expression regulates the neutrophil response to acute pseudomonal infection. Methods:In vitro co-culture experiments were performed with human neutrophils and PPHD-deficient and wild-type bacteria and supernatants, with viable neutrophil counts determined by flow cytometry. In vivo consequences of infection with PPHD deficient P. aeruginosa were determined in an acute pneumonia mouse model following intra-tracheal challenge. Results: Supernatants of PPHD-deficient bacterial cultures contained higher concentrations of the phenazine exotoxin pyocyanin and induced greater acceleration of neutrophil apoptosis than wild-type PAO1 supernatants in vitro.  In vivo infection with PPHD mutants compared to wild-type PAO1 controls resulted in increased levels of neutrophil apoptosis and impaired control of infection, with higher numbers of P. aeruginosa recovered from the lungs of mice infected with the PPHD-deficient strain.  This resulted in an overall increase in mortality in mice infected with the PPHD-deficient strain. Conclusions: Our data show that Pseudomonas expression of its prolyl hydroxylase influences the outcome of host-pathogen interactions in vitro and in vivo, demonstrating the importance of considering how both host and pathogen adaptations to hypoxia together define outcomes of infection. Given that inhibitors for the HIF prolyl hydroxylases are in late stage trials for the treatment of anaemia and that the active sites of PPHD and human HIF prolyl hydroxylases are closely related, the results are of current clinical interest.

Original publication




Journal article


Wellcome Open Res

Publication Date





Pseudomonas, Pseudomonas prolyl hydroxylase (PPHD), apoptosis., hypoxia, neutrophil, pyocyanin