An rhs gene of Pseudomonas aeruginosa encodes a virulence protein that activates the inflammasome

Vanderlene L. Kung, Sonal Khare, Christian Stehlik, Elizabeth M. Bacon, Ami J. Hughes, Alan R. Hauser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations


The rhs genes are a family of enigmatic composite genes, widespread among Gram-negative bacteria. In this study, we characterized rhsT, a Pseudomonas aeruginosa rhs gene that encodes a toxic protein. Expression of rhsT was induced upon contact with phagocytic cells. The RhsT protein was exposed on the bacterial surface and translocated into phagocytic cells; these cells subsequently underwent inflammasome-mediated death. Moreover, RhsT enhanced host secretion of the potent proinflammatory cytokines IL-1β and IL-18 in an inflammasome-dependent manner. In a mouse model of acute pneumonia, infection with a P. aeruginosa strain lacking rhsT was associated with less IL-18 production, fewer recruited leukocytes, reduced pulmonary bacterial load, and enhanced animal survival. Thus, rhsT encodes a virulence determinant that activates the inflammasome.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1275-1280
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 24 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Pathogenesis
  • YD repeat
  • rhs element

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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