Effect of ethanol on differential protein production and expression of potential virulence functions in the opportunistic pathogen Acinetobacter baumannii.

Nwugo CC, Arivett BA, Zimbler DL, Gaddy JA, Richards AM, Actis LA
PLoS One. 2012 7 (12): e51936

PMID: 23284824 · PMCID: PMC3527336 · DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0051936

Acinetobacter baumannii persists in the medical environment and causes severe human nosocomial infections. Previous studies showed that low-level ethanol exposure increases the virulence of A. baumannii ATCC 17978. To better understand the mechanisms involved in this response, 2-D gel electrophoresis combined with mass spectrometry was used to investigate differential protein production in bacteria cultured in the presence or absence of ethanol. This approach showed that the presence of ethanol significantly induces and represses the production of 22 and 12 proteins, respectively. Although over 25% of the ethanol-induced proteins were stress-response related, the overall bacterial viability was uncompromised when cultured under these conditions. Production of proteins involved in lipid and carbohydrate anabolism was increased in the presence of ethanol, a response that correlates with increased carbohydrate biofilm content, enhanced biofilm formation on abiotic surfaces and decrease bacterial motility on semi-solid surfaces. The presence of ethanol also induced the acidification of bacterial cultures and the production of indole-3-acetic acid (IAA), a ubiquitous plant hormone that signals bacterial stress-tolerance and promotes plant-bacteria interactions. These responses could be responsible for the significantly enhanced virulence of A. baumannii ATCC 17978 cells cultured in the presence of ethanol when tested with the Galleria mellonella experimental infection model. Taken together, these observations provide new insights into the effect of ethanol in bacterial virulence. This alcohol predisposes the human host to infections by A. baumannii and could favor the survival and adaptation of this pathogen to medical settings and adverse host environments.

MeSH Terms (15)

Acinetobacter baumannii Acinetobacter Infections Adaptation, Biological Animals Bacterial Proteins Biofilms Biosynthetic Pathways Ethanol Hydrogen-Ion Concentration Indoleacetic Acids Proteome Proteomics Reproducibility of Results Virulence Virulence Factors

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