Blizzard, John L. (University of Houston, Houston, Texas) and G. E. Peterson. Selective inhibition of proline-induced pigmentation in washed cells of Serratia marcescens. J. Bacteriol. 85:1136–1140. 1963.—Streptomycin, chloramphenicol, and tetracyclines inhibited the synthesis of prodigiosin by Serratia marcescens strain D1. This occurred at concentrations of the antibiotic too low to inhibit the growth of the organism in either agar media or broth cultures. Nonpigmented cells were produced in broth by either adding streptomycin or incubating at 37 C. After being washed and resuspended in aqueous saline containing either casein hydrolysate, l-proline, or a glycine-succinate mixture and incubated at 27 C for 24 hr, these cells formed pigment. The appearance of pigment was preceded by a lag period of 10 hr. Prodigiosin production by these washed suspensions of cells was completely inhibited by either streptomycin or glucose, or by incubation at 37 C instead of 27 C. Even though pigmentation by washed-cell suspensions was induced by proline, the utilization of proline was not affected by streptomycin or glucose, or by incubation at 37 C. To block pigmentation completely, streptomycin had to be added to proline-supplemented cells before they were 10 hr old. Addition of the antibiotic after the end of the induction period caused either partial or no inhibition of pigment production. Streptomycin caused an increase in the endogenous respiration of S. marcescens but failed to affect the constitutive enzymes that oxidize glucose. The possible relationships of these phenomena are discussed.
Weil (1952) reported that low concentrations of chloramphenicol and certain tetracyclines inhibit the synthesis of prodigiosin while permitting growth by Serratia marcescens. He noted the potential value to “mode-of-action” studies of an organism having certain functions selectively inhibited by antibiotics. We confirmed Weil's (1952) observations and found that streptomycin at low concentration would also inhibit the synthesis of prodigiosin without impeding growth.
Further studies of the selective inhibition of prodigiosin synthesis by streptomycin were performed using nonproliferating suspensions of washed cells (Gott and Williams, 1961). Either a glycine-succinate mixture or l-proline could cause nonproliferating cells to form pigment. A period of induction preceded the formation of pigment. Either streptomycin or glucose, or an incubation temperature of 37 C, inhibited the proline-induced pigmentation by washed cells. Further investigations provided insights to these findings.