Burkholderia cenocepacia is a gram-negative opportunistic pathogen that belongs to the Burkholderia cepacia complex. B. cenocepacia can survive intracellularly within phagocytic cells, and some epidemic strains produce a brown melanin-like pigment that can scavenge free radicals, resulting in the attenuation of the host cell oxidative burst. In this work, we demonstrate that the brown pigment produced by B. cenocepacia C5424 is synthesized from a homogentisate (HGA) precursor. The disruption of BCAL0207 (hppD) by insertional inactivation resulted in loss of pigmentation. Steady-state kinetic analysis of the BCAL0207 gene product demonstrated that it has 4-hydroxyphenylpyruvic acid dioxygenase (HppD) activity. Pigmentation could be restored by complementation providing hppD in trans. The hppD mutant was resistant to paraquat challenge but sensitive to H2O2 and to extracellularly generated superoxide anions. Infection experiments in RAW 264.7 murine macrophages showed that the nonpigmented bacteria colocalized in a dextran-positive vacuole, suggesting that they are being trafficked to the lysosome. In contrast, the wild-type strain did not localize with dextran. Colocalization of the nonpigmented strain with dextran was reduced in the presence of the NADPH oxidase inhibitor diphenyleneiodonium, and also the inducible nitric oxide inhibitor aminoguanidine. Together, these observations suggest that the brown pigment produced by B. cenocepacia C5424 is a pyomelanin synthesized from an HGA intermediate that is capable of protecting the organism from in vitro and in vivo sources of oxidative stress.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology