The lasA gene was the first of the Pseudomonas aeruginosa genes involved in proteolysis and elastolysis to be cloned and sequenced. Its function and significance have been studied by genetic approaches (D. S. Toder, M. J. Gambello, and B. H. Iglewski, Mol. Microbiol. 5:2003-2010, 1991) and by attempts to purify an active fragment of the protein (J. E. Peters and D. R. Galloway, J. Bacteriol. 172:2236-2240, 1990). To further study LasA in vivo, we have constructed and characterized an insertional mutant in the lasA gene in strain PAO1 (PAO-A1) and in the lasB insertional mutant, PAO-B1. Analysis of these isogenic strains demonstrates that the lasA lesion diminished elastolysis more than proteolysis and that LasA is required for staphylolytic activity. Despite previous suggestions that lasB elastase cleaves the LasA protein, the size of the LasA protein was the same whether or not lasB elastase was present. Expression of lasA in a lasR-negative mutant, PAO-R1, demonstrated that the LasA protein is produced in an active form in the absence of (lasB) elastase or alkaline protease and is itself a protease with elastolytic activity. We also observed that PAO-A1 was closer to the parental phenotype, with respect to elastolytic and proteolytic activities, than the previously characterized, chemically induced lasA mutant PAO-E64. Quantification of promoter activity with lasA::lacZ and lasB::lacZ fusions suggests that PAO-E64 harbors a mutation in a gene which regulates expression of both lasA and lasB
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