Pulse Generation in the Quorum Machinery of Pseudomonas aeruginosa

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Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a Gram-negative bacterium that is responsible for a wide range of infections in humans. Colonies employ quorum sensing (QS) to coordinate gene expression, including for virulence factors, swarming motility and complex social traits. The QS signalling system of P. aeruginosa is known to involve multiple control components, notably the las, rhl and pqs systems. In this paper, we examine the las system and, in particular, the repressive interaction of rsaL, an embedded small regulative protein, employing recent biochemical information to aid model construction. Using analytic methods, we show how this feature can give rise to excitable pulse generation in this subsystem with important downstream consequences for rhamnolipid production. We adopt a symmetric competitive inhibition to capture the binding in the lasI–rsaL intergenic region and show our results are not dependent on the exact choice of this functional form. Furthermore, we examine the coupling of lasR to the rhl system, the impact of the predicted capacity for pulse generation and the biophysical consequences of this behaviour. We hypothesize that the interaction between the las and rhl systems may provide a quorum memory to enable cells to trigger rhamnolipid production only when they are at the edge of an established aggregation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1360-1389
Number of pages30
JournalBulletin of Mathematical Biology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2017


  • Bifurcation analysis
  • Excitable behaviour
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa
  • Quorum sensing


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