Infection and Immunity
Evolutionary adaptation of Pseudomonas aeruginosa to the cystic fibrosis lung is limited by genetic variation, which depends on rates of horizontal gene transfer and mutation supply. Because each may increase following secondary infection or mutator emergence, we sought to ascertain the incidence of secondary infection and genetic variability in populations containing or lacking mutators. Forty-nine strains collected over 3 years from 16 patients were phenotyped for antibiotic resistance and mutator status and were genotyped by repetitive-sequence PCR (rep-PCR), pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE), and multilocus sequence typing (MLST). Though phenotypic and genetic polymorphisms were widespread and clustered more strongly within than between longitudinal series, their distribution revealed instances of secondary infection. Sequence data, however, indicated that interlineage recombination predated initial strain isolation. Mutator series were more likely to be multiply antibiotic resistant, but not necessarily more variable in their nucleotide sequences, than nonmutators. One mutator and one nonmutator series were sequenced at mismatch repair loci and analyzed for gene content using DNA microarrays. Both were wild type with respect to mutL, but mutators carried an 8-bp mutS deletion causing a frameshift mutation. Both series lacked 126 genes encoding pilins, siderophores, and virulence factors whose inactivation has been linked to adaptation during chronic infection. Mutators exhibited loss of severalfold more genes having functions related to mobile elements, motility, and attachment. A 105-kb, 86-gene deletion was observed in one nonmutator that resulted in loss of virulence factors related to pyoverdine synthesis and elements of the multidrug efflux regulon. Diminished DNA repair activity may facilitate but not be absolutely required for rapid evolutionary change.