Selective Proteomic Analysis of Antibiotic-Tolerant Cellular Subpopulations in Pseudomonas aeruginosa Biofilms

Biofilm infections exhibit high tolerance against antibiotic treatment. The study of biofilms is complicated by phenotypic heterogeneity; biofilm subpopulations differ in their metabolic activities and their responses to antibiotics. Here, we describe the use of the bio-orthogonal noncanonical amino acid tagging (BONCAT) method to enable selective proteomic analysis of a Pseudomonas aeruginosa biofilm subpopulation. Through controlled expression of a mutant methionyl-tRNA synthetase, we targeted BONCAT labeling to cells in the regions of biofilm microcolonies that showed increased tolerance to antibiotics. We enriched and identified proteins synthesized by cells in these regions. Compared to the entire biofilm proteome, the labeled subpopulation was characterized by a lower abundance of ribosomal proteins and was enriched in proteins of unknown function. We performed a pulse-labeling experiment to determine the dynamic proteomic response of the tolerant subpopulation to supra-MIC treatment with the fluoroquinolone antibiotic ciprofloxacin. The adaptive response included the upregulation of proteins required for sensing and repairing DNA damage and substantial changes in the expression of enzymes involved in central carbon metabolism. We differentiated the immediate proteomic response, characterized by an increase in flagellar motility, from the long-term adaptive strategy, which included the upregulation of purine synthesis. This targeted, selective analysis of a bacterial subpopulation demonstrates how the study of proteome dynamics can enhance our understanding of biofilm heterogeneity and antibiotic tolerance.

Brett M. Babin, Lydia Atangcho, Mark B. van Eldijk, Michael J. Sweredoski, Annie Moradian, Sonja Hess, Tim Tolker-Nielsen, Dianne K. Newman and David A. Tirrell
mBio
Volume: 8
Pages: e01593-17
Date: October, 2017
ICB Affiliated Authors: David A Tirrell