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Microbiol Spectr


Persistence and survival of Pseudomonas aeruginosa in chronic lung infections is closely linked to the biofilm lifestyle. One biofilm component, functional amyloid of P. aeruginosa (Fap), imparts structural adaptations for biofilms; however, the role of Fap in pathogenesis is still unclear. Conservation of the fap operon encoding Fap and P. aeruginosa being an opportunistic pathogen of lung infections prompted us to explore its role in lung infection. We found that Fap is essential for establishment of lung infection in rats, as its genetic exclusion led to mild focal infection with quick resolution. Moreover, without an underlying cystic fibrosis (CF) genetic disorder, overexpression of Fap reproduced the CF pathotype. The molecular basis of Fap-mediated pulmonary adaptation was explored through surface-associated proteomics in vitro. Differential proteomics positively associated Fap expression with activation of known proteins related to pulmonary pathoadaptation, attachment, and biofilm fitness. The aggregative bacterial phenotype in the pulmonary niche correlated with Fap-influenced activation of biofilm sustainability regulators and stress response regulators that favored persistence-mediated establishment of pulmonary infection. Fap overexpression upregulated proteins that are abundant in the proteome of P. aeruginosa in colonizing CF lungs. Planktonic lifestyle, defects in anaerobic pathway, and neutrophilic evasion were key factors in the absence of Fap that impaired establishment of infection. We concluded that Fap is essential for cellular equilibration to establish pulmonary infection. Amyloid-induced bacterial aggregation subverted the immune response, leading to chronic infection by collaterally damaging tissue and reinforcing bacterial persistence.

IMPORTANCE: Pseudomonas aeruginosa is inextricably linked with chronic lung infections. In this study, the well-conserved Fap operon was found to be essential for pathoadaptation in pulmonary infection in a rat lung model. Moreover, the presence of Fap increased pathogenesis and biofilm sustainability by modulating bacterial physiology. Hence, a pathoadaptive role of Fap in pulmonary infections can be exploited for clinical application by targeting amyloids. Furthermore, genetic conservation and extracellular exposure of Fap make it a commendable target for such interventions.

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ePub ahead of print





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