Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Microbiology and Molecular Genetics

First Advisor

Matthew J. Wargo

Second Advisor

Mary J. Dunlop


Pseudomonas aeruginosa is found in numerous environments and is an opportunistic pathogen affecting those who are immunocompromised. Its large genome encodes tremendous metabolic and regulatory diversity that enables P. aeruginosa to adapt to various environments. We are interested in how P. aeruginosa senses and responds to the host-derived compounds, carnitine and acylcarnitines. Acylcarnitines can be hydrolyzed to carnitine, where the liberated carnitine and its catabolic product glycine betaine can be used as osmoprotectants, for induction of the virulence factor phospholipase C, and as sole carbon, nitrogen, and energy sources. P. aeruginosa is incapable of de novo synthesis of carnitine and acylcarnitines and therefore imports these compounds from exogenous source. Short-chain acylcarnitines are imported by the ABC transporter CaiX-CbcWV. Medium- and long-chain acylcarnitines are hydrolyzed extracytoplasmically and the liberated carnitine is transported through CaiX-CbcWV. Once in the cytoplasm, short-chain acylcarnitines are hydrolyzed by the L-enantiomer specific hydrolase, HocS. The transcriptional regulator CdhR is divergently transcribed from the carnitine catabolism operon and we have identified the upstream activating region, the binding site sequence, and essential residues required for CdhR binding and induction of the carnitine operon. Carnitine catabolism is repressed by glucose and glycine betaine at the transcriptional level. Furthermore, using two different cdhR translational fusions we show that CdhR enhances its own expression and that GbdR, a related transcription factor, contributes to cdhR expression by enhancing the level of basal expression. These studies are the first to determine the mechanism of O-acylcarnitine transport, metabolism, and the regulation of these processes, which contribute to utilization of these compounds for P. aeruginosa survival in diverse environments.



Number of Pages

266 p.