An environmental metabolomics study of the effect of abiotic substances on Pseudomonas putida by employing analytical techniques

  • Ali Sayqal

Student thesis: Phd


An exceptionally important stress response of Pseudomonas putida strains to toxic chemicals is the induction of efflux pumps that extrude solvents, as well as other toxicants, into the surrounding medium. However, the bacterial tolerance mechanisms are still not fully understood, thus in this thesis metabolomic approaches were used to detect and identify metabolites involved in P. putida DOT-T1E tolerance to abiotic stresses, in particular focussing on the role of efflux pumps. To elucidate any metabolome alterations several strains of P. putida, including the wild type DOT-T1E, and the efflux pump knockouts DOT-T1E-PS28 and DOT-T1E-18, were challenged with different levels of propranolol. Fourier-transform infrared (FT-IR) spectroscopy, which provided a rapid, high-throughput metabolic fingerprint of P. putida strains, was used to investigate any phenotypic changes resulting from exposure to propranolol. FT-IR data illustrated phenotypic changes associated with the presence of propranolol within the cell that could be assigned to the bacterial protein components. To complement this phenotypic fingerprinting approach metabolic profiling on the same samples was performed using gas chromatography mass spectrometry (GC-MS) to identify metabolites of interest during growth of bacteria following this toxic perturbation with propranolol. GC-MS revealed significant changes in ornithine levels which can be directly linked to bacterial tolerance mechanisms, and alterations in the levels of several other metabolites which were also modified in response to propranolol exposure. Moreover, the effect of the organic solvent toluene was also investigated using the same approach. Examination of FT-IR data indicated that protein and fatty acids were the most affected components of P. putida strains due to the presence of toluene within the cell. Moreover, application of GC-MS allowed for the identification and quantification of several metabolites which were differentially produced or consumed in the presence of toluene. To investigate the role of efflux pumps in P. putida DOT-T1E, several analytical techniques were employed including Raman spectroscopy, gas and liquid chromatography to identify and quantify the level of propranolol or toluene in P. putida cells. These analyses showed that propranolol and toluene accumulated in the mutant P. putida DOT-T1E-18 (lacking the TtgABC pump) at higher levels in comparison with the levels found in the wild-type DOT-T1E and the mutant DOT-T1E-PS28 (lacking the TtgGHI pump), indicating the key role of efflux pumps in solvent tolerance. Furthermore, the effect of Mg2+ and Ca2+ on the stabilisation of the toluene tolerance of P. putida DOT-T1E strains was examined in order to elucidate whether divalent cations interact with efflux pumps or other resistant mechanisms to improve solvent tolerance. FT-IR analysis suggested that the influence of divalent cations on the stabilisation of the toluene tolerance could be due to the contribution of metal ions towards other tolerance mechanisms such as lipopolysaccharide (LPS) instead of enhancing the activity of efflux pumps.In conclusion, this thesis presents evidence that phenotypic fingerprinting and metabolic profiling approaches in combination with chemometric methods can generate valuable information on phenotypic responses occurring within microbial cultures subjected to abiotic stress.
Date of Award1 Aug 2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorRoyston Goodacre (Supervisor)


  • Metabolomics, efflux pump, P. putida DOT-T1E, toluene, tolerance, ornithine, FT-IR, GC-MS, propranolol, glutamine, Fingerprinting, Metabolic profiling, LPS, Mg2+, Ca2+.

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