Salicylic acid (SA) is a phenolic metabolite produced by plants and is known to play an important role in several physiological processes, such as the induction of plant defense responses against pathogen attack. Here, using the Arabidopsis thaliana-Pseudomonas aeruginosa pathosystem, we provide evidence that SA acts directly on the pathogen, down regulating fitness and virulence factor production of the bacteria. Pseudomonas aeruginosa PA14 showed reduced attachment and biofilm formation on the roots of the Arabidopsis mutants lox2 and cpr5-2, which produce elevated amounts of SA, as well as on wild-type Arabidopsis plants primed with exogenous SA, a treatment known to enhance endogenous SA concentration. Salicylic acid at a concentration that did not inhibit PA14 growth was sufficient to significantly affect the ability of the bacteria to attach and form biofilm communities on abiotic surfaces. Furthermore, SA down regulated three known virulence factors of PA14: pyocyanin, protease, and elastase. Interestingly, P. aeruginosa produced more pyocyanin when infiltrated into leaves of the Arabidopsis transgenic line NahG, which accumulates less SA than wild-type plants. This finding suggests that endogenous SA plays a role in down regulating the synthesis and secretion of pyocyanin in vivo. To further test if SA directly affects the virulence of P. aeruginosa, we used the Caenorhabiditis elegans-P. aeruginosa infection model. The addition of SA to P. aeruginosa lawns significantly diminished the bacterium's ability to kill the worms, without affecting the accumulation of bacteria inside the nematodes' guts, suggesting that SA negatively affects factors that influence the virulence of P. aeruginosa. We employed microarray technology to identify SA target genes. These analyses showed that SA treatment affected expression of 331 genes. It selectively repressed transcription of exoproteins and other virulence factors, while it had no effect on expression of housekeeping genes. Our results indicate that in addition to its role as a signal molecule in plant defense responses, SA works as an anti-infective compound by affecting the physiology of P. aeruginosa and ultimately attenuating its virulence.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Infectious Diseases