New proteomic techniques reveal workings of bacteria linked to cystic fibrosis

Researchers have identified a cell signaling system that may help the bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa establish itself in the lungs of cystic fibrosis patients. The researchers used a new technology to seek insights into an important and elusive enemy, and say the findings are important for biology and potentially important for therapy.

The researchers identified the activation of this signaling system by the use of new quantitative proteomic technology that analyzed Pseudomonas samples from the lungs of children with cystic fibrosis. Proteomics is the method for analyzing and cataloguing a complete cellular complement of proteins, which are produced based on information encoded by genes and are the workhorses of all living cells.

The analysis by researchers at University of Washington and the Institute for Systems Biology indicated that quorum sensing bacterial communication using small molecular signals -- may help P. aeruginosa become virulent. P. aeruginosa is so virulent that it will often kill cystic fibrosis patients. The highly sensitive quantitative proteomic analysis of a whole bacteria performed in this study implicates a cell signaling system, Pseudomonas quinolone signal, or PQS, that may help the bacteria adapt within the cystic fibrosis patient's airway and defy the body's efforts to suppress it.

The findings were published in the March 4, 2003, issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"It appears that PQS production is increased in isolates from young children with cystic fibrosis, as opposed to the production by laboratory strains of Pseudomonas," says Dr. Tina Guina, research assistant professor in the UW Department of Pediatrics. "The children's lungs are colonized with Pseudomonas very early in life, as a result of an unknown innate immune defect associated with mutation of a chloride channel. Further studies may show whether PQS might be important for early adaptation to the airways of

Contact: Walter Neary
University of Washington

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