Acanthamoeba castellanii and Naegleria fowleri are free-living amoebae (FLA) that cause untreatable, fatal infections of the central nervous system (CNS). FLA are bacterivorous, and one environmental bacterium they prey upon is Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Because of the evolutionary pressure for P. aeruginosa to defend itself against amoebal grazing and its well-known ability to produce a plethora of antimicrobial compounds, we hypothesize that P. aeruginosa may produce one or more secreted amoebicidal compounds that can be identified and serve as leads for new and much-needed drugs to treat amoeba infections in humans. We have demonstrated that the cell-free supernatants of a laboratory strain of P. aeruginosa contain stable small molecule(s) that are lethal to A. castellanii. These compound(s) will be isolated through a proven pipeline of organic extraction followed by chromatography and bioassay-guided fractionation. They will then be characterized using mass spectrometry and NMR, and the genes responsible for compound production will be identified by utilizing biosynthetic gene cluster mining tools. The isolated compound(s) will be tested for toxicity against FLA and human cells and for efficacy in an in vitro model of FLA infection of human neurons. Separately, we will identify bacterial genes required to kill amoebae by screening an arrayed P. aeruginosa transposon mutant library for amoebicidal activity. Filtered supernatants from each mutant will be incubated with A. castellanii and amoeba viability will be quantified. We have optimized a colorimetric assay to measure amoeba viability in a scalable manner using sulforhodamine B (SRB). It is our goal to identify leads for novel therapeutic agents to treat devastating human infections by A. castellanii and N. fowleri.
The free-living amoebae Acanthamoeba castellanii and Naegleria fowleri cause untreatable, deadly infections of the brain and spinal cord. These amoebae prey upon bacteria such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and bacteria defend themselves against being eaten. This study seeks to isolate amoeba-killing compounds secreted by P. aeruginosa to use as leads for developing drugs to treat devastating amoeba infections in humans.