• Arginine decarboxylase;
  • Proteus mirabilis ;
  • proton motive force;
  • swarming;
  • swimming;
  • UTI


Swarming contributes to Proteus mirabilis pathogenicity by facilitating access to the catheterized urinary tract. We previously demonstrated that 0.1–20 mmol/L arginine promotes swarming on normally nonpermissive media and that putrescine biosynthesis is required for arginine-induced swarming. We also previously determined that arginine-induced swarming is pH dependent, indicating that the external proton concentration is critical for arginine-dependent effects on swarming. In this study, we utilized survival at pH 5 and motility as surrogates for measuring changes in the proton gradient (ΔpH) and proton motive force (μH+) in response to arginine. We determined that arginine primarily contributes to ΔpH (and therefore μH+) through the action of arginine decarboxylase (speA), independent of the role of this enzyme in putrescine biosynthesis. In addition to being required for motility, speA also contributed to fitness during infection. In conclusion, consumption of intracellular protons via arginine decarboxylase is one mechanism used by P. mirabilis to conserve ΔpH and μH+ for motility.