Bacteriocins are proteinaceous antimicrobials produced by bacteria which are active against other strains of the same species. R-type pyocins are phage tail-like bacteriocins produced by Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Due to their anti-pseudomonal activity, R-pyocins have potential as therapeutics in infection. P. aeruginosa is a Gram-negative opportunistic pathogen and is particularly problematic for individuals with cystic fibrosis (CF). P. aeruginosa from CF lung infections develop increasing resistance to antibiotics, making new treatment approaches essential. P. aeruginosa populations become phenotypically and genotypically diverse during infection, however, little is known of the efficacy of R-pyocins against heterogeneous populations. R-pyocins vary by subtype (R1-R5), distinguished by binding to different residues on the lipopolysaccharide (LPS). Each type varies in killing spectrum, and each strain produces only one R-type. To evaluate the prevalence of different R-types, we screened P. aeruginosastrains from the International Pseudomonas Consortium Database (IPCD) and from our biobank of CF strains. We found that (i) R1-types were the most prevalent R-type among strains from respiratory sources; (ii) there are a large number of strains lacking R-pyocin genes, and (iii) isolates collected from the same patient have the same R-type. We then assessed the impact of diversity on R-pyocin susceptibility and found a heterogenous response to R-pyocins within populations, likely due to differences in the LPS core. Our work reveals that heterogeneous populations of microbes exhibit variable susceptibility to R-pyocins and highlights that there is likely heterogeneity in response to other types of LPS-binding antimicrobials, including phage.

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