The effect of loss of O-antigen ligase on phagocytic susceptibility of motile and non-motilePseudomonas aeruginosa

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HighlightsNew bacterial mutants enable combinatorial test of motility and O-antigen loss on phagocytosis.Phagocytosis of P. aeruginosa is independent of presence of O-antigen.Non-motile P. aeruginosa, regardless of LPS architecture, are resistant to phagocytosis.Outcomes validated with primary human neutrophils.The bacterial pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa undergoes adaptation and selection over the course of chronic respiratory tract infections which results in repeatedly-observed phenotypic changes that are proposed to enable its persistence. Two of the clinically significant P. aeruginosa phenotypic changes are loss of flagellar motility and modifications to LPS structure, including loss of O-antigen expression. The effect of loss of O-antigen, frequently described as conversion from smooth to rough LPS, and the combined effect of loss of motility and O-antigen on phagocytic susceptibility by immune cells remain unknown. To address this, we generated genetic deletion mutants of waaL, which encodes the O-antigen ligase responsible for linking O-antigen to lipid A-core oligosaccharide, in both motile and non-motile P. aeruginosa strains. With the use of these bacterial strains we provide the first demonstration that, despite a progressive selection for P. aeruginosa with rough LPS during chronic pulmonary infections, loss of the LPS O-antigen does not confer phagocytic resistance in vitro. However, use of the waaLmotABmotCD mutant revealed that loss of motility confers resistance to phagocytosis regardless of the smooth or rough LPS phenotype. These findings reveal how the O-antigen of P. aeruginosa can influence bacterial clearance during infection and expand our current knowledge about the impact of bacterial phenotypic changes during chronic infection.

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