Pseudomonas aeruginosa produces the toxic secondary metabolite hydrogen cyanide (HCN) at high cell population densities and low aeration. Here, we investigated the impact of HCN as a signal in cell-cell communication by comparing the transcriptome of the wild-type strain PAO1 to that of an HCN-negative mutant under cyanogenic conditions. HCN repressed four genes and induced 12 genes. While the individual functions of these genes are unknown, with one exception (i.e. a ferredoxin-dependent reductase), a highly inducible six-gene cluster (PA4129-PA4134) was found to be crucial for protection of P. aeruginosa from external HCN intoxication. A double mutant deleted for PA4129-PA4134 and cioAB (encoding cyanide-insensitive oxidase) did not grow with 100 μM KCN, whereas the corresponding single mutants were essentially unaffected, suggesting a synergistic action of the PA4129-PA4134 gene products and cyanide-insensitive oxidase.
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