A new assay for rhamnolipid detection-important virulence factors of Pseudomonas aeruginosa

Maisem Laabei, William D. Jamieson, Simon E. Lewis, Stephen P. Diggle, A. Tobias A. Jenkins

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Rhamnolipids (RLs) are heterogeneous glycolipid molecules that are composed of one or two l-rhamnose sugars and one or two β-hydroxy fatty acids, which can vary in their length and branch size. They are biosurfactants, predominantly produced by Pseudomonas aeruginosa and are important virulence factors, playing a major role in P. aeruginosa pathogenesis. Therefore, a fast, accurate and high-throughput method of detecting such molecules is of real importance. Here, we illustrate the ability to detect RL-producing P. aeruginosa strains with high sensitivity, based on an assay involving phospholipid vesicles encapsulated with a fluorescent dye. This vesicle-lysis assay is confirmed to be solely sensitive to RLs. We illustrate a half maximum concentration for vesicle lysis (EC50) of 40 μM (23.2 μg/mL) using pure commercial RLs and highlight the ability to semi-quantify RLs directly from the culture supernatant, requiring no extra extraction or processing steps or technical expertise. We show that this method is consistent with results from thin-layer chromatography detection and dry weight analysis of RLs but find that the widely used orcinol colorimetric test significantly underestimated RL quantity. Finally, we apply this methodology to compare RL production among strains isolated from either chronic or acute infections. We confirm a positive association between RL production and acute infection isolates (p = 0.0008), highlighting the role of RLs in certain infections.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7199-7209
Number of pages11
JournalApplied Microbiology and Biotechnology
Issue number16
Early online date29 Jun 2014
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2014


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