Foraging Signals Promote Swarming in Starving Pseudomonas aeruginosa

Divakar Badal, Abhijith Vimal Jayarani, Mohammad Ameen Kollaran, Deep Prakash, Monisha P, Varsha Singh (Lead / Corresponding author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)
14 Downloads (Pure)


The opportunistic human pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa is known for exhibiting diverse forms of collective behaviors, like swarming motility and bio-film formation. Swarming in P. aeruginosa is a collective movement of the bacterial population over a semisolid surface, but specific swarming signals are not clear. We hypothesize that specific environmental signals induce swarming in P. aeruginosa. We show that under nutrient-limiting conditions, a low concentration of ethanol provides a strong ecological motivation for swarming in P. aeruginosa strain PA14. Ethanol serves as a signal and not a source of carbon under these conditions. Moreover, ethanol-driven swarming relies on the ability of the bacteria to metabolize ethanol to acetaldehyde using a periplasmic quinoprotein alcohol dehydrogenase, ExaA. We found that ErdR, an orphan response regulator linked to ethanol oxidation, is necessary for the transcriptional regulation of a cluster of 17 genes, including exaA, during swarm lag. Further, we show that P. aeruginosa displays characteristic foraging motility on a lawn of Cryptococcus neoformans, a yeast species, in a manner dependent on the ethanol dehydrogenase ErdR and on rhamnolipids. Finally, we show that ethanol, as a volatile, could induce swarming in P. aeruginosa at a distance, suggesting long-range spatial effects of ethanol as a signaling molecule.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere02033-21
Number of pages18
Issue number5
Early online date5 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - 26 Oct 2021


  • Cryptococcus neoformans
  • Ethanol oxidation
  • Foraging signal
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa
  • Rhamnolipid
  • Starvation
  • Swarming motility

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Virology


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