Phenotypic Heterogeneity of Pseudomonas aeruginosa Populations in a Cystic Fibrosis Patient
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The opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa chronically infects the lower airways of patients with cystic fibrosis. Throughout the course of infection this organism undergoes adaptations that contribute to its long-term persistence in the airways. While P. aeruginosa diversity has been documented, it is less clear to what extent within-patient diversity contributes to the overall population structure as most studies have been limited to the analysis of only a few isolates per patient per time point. To examine P. aeruginosa population structure in more detail we collected multiple isolates from individual sputum samples of a patient chronically colonized with P. aeruginosa. This strain collection, comprised of 169 clonal isolates and representing three pulmonary exacerbations as well as clinically stable periods, was assayed for a wide selection of phenotypes. These phenotypes included colony morphology, motility, quorum sensing, protease activity, auxotrophy, siderophore levels, antibiotic resistance, and growth profiles. Each phenotype displayed significant variation even within isolates of the same colony morphotype from the same sample. Isolates demonstrated a large degree of individuality across phenotypes, despite being part of a single clonal lineage, suggesting that the P. aeruginosa population in the cystic fibrosis airways is being significantly under-sampled.
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