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An Interdisciplinary Research Centre at the University of Cambridge

Researchers at the University of Cambridge and the University of Saarland (Germany) have performed a systemic analysis of the metabolism of Pseudomonas aeruginosa – a WHO “critical priority pathogen” responsible for causing serious airway infections in humans – and have identified an unusual and unexpected mechanism that aids its survival in infected tissues. The finding opens the door towards developing better strategies to fight the pathogen. 



  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa is common in the built environment and is responsible for causing a variety of serious respiratory infections. People with cystic fibrosis are especially susceptible to this pathogen.
  • Pseudomonas can adapt very easily to different infection environments due to its remarkable metabolic plasticity: if a particular nutrient is missing, it readily “rewires” its metabolism to use another.
  • Metabolic enzymes usually catalyse very specific reactions. However, some enzymes are “promiscuous” and can catalyze several different reactions.
  • During infection, Pseudomonas favours using a very specific set of nutrients, and by blocking (“inhibiting”) the enzymes involved, the infection can potentially be halted.
  • Under some circumstances, Pseudomonas finds a way of “bypassing” these important reactions.


In their study, researchers used advanced computational methods to look at which metabolic pathways are expressed during growth on different infection-related nutrients. In doing this, they identified one particularly crucial reaction. However, when this reaction was blocked, the Pseudomonas was able to readily rewire its metabolism by activating a “latent” promiscuous enzyme that could overcome the blockage. This opens the door towards developing better, more targeted therapies for treating Pseudomonas infections. At a time where antibiotic resistance is becoming widespread, disentangling mechanisms such as this key to widening the strategies against this type of pathogenic bacteria.


Read the original paper:


Original article

Systems-Wide Dissection of Organic Acid Assimilation in Pseudomonas aeruginosa Reveals a Novel Path To Underground Metabolism

Stephen K Dolan, et al., ASM Journals, DOI:

Published: 15 November 2022


"Lung cells infection by Pseudomonas aeruginosa" by Laventie Benoit-Joseph, University of Basel

© CC-BY-NC-ND: Laventie Benoit-Joseph