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Concept: Biofilm


Twitching motility-mediated biofilm expansion is a complex, multicellular behavior that enables the active colonization of surfaces by many species of bacteria. In this study we have explored the emergence of intricate network patterns of interconnected trails that form in actively expanding biofilms of Pseudomonas aeruginosa. We have used high-resolution, phase-contrast time-lapse microscopy and developed sophisticated computer vision algorithms to track and analyze individual cell movements during expansion of P. aeruginosa biofilms. We have also used atomic force microscopy to examine the topography of the substrate underneath the expanding biofilm. Our analyses reveal that at the leading edge of the biofilm, highly coherent groups of bacteria migrate across the surface of the semisolid media and in doing so create furrows along which following cells preferentially migrate. This leads to the emergence of a network of trails that guide mass transit toward the leading edges of the biofilm. We have also determined that extracellular DNA (eDNA) facilitates efficient traffic flow throughout the furrow network by maintaining coherent cell alignments, thereby avoiding traffic jams and ensuring an efficient supply of cells to the migrating front. Our analyses reveal that eDNA also coordinates the movements of cells in the leading edge vanguard rafts and is required for the assembly of cells into the “bulldozer” aggregates that forge the interconnecting furrows. Our observations have revealed that large-scale self-organization of cells in actively expanding biofilms of P. aeruginosa occurs through construction of an intricate network of furrows that is facilitated by eDNA.

Concepts: DNA, Archaea, Bacteria, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Cell wall, Polysaccharide, Biofilm, Quorum sensing


Quorum sensing (QS) is a bacterial cell-cell communication process that relies on the production and detection of extracellular signal molecules called autoinducers. QS allows bacteria to perform collective activities. Vibrio cholerae, a pathogen that causes an acute disease, uses QS to repress virulence factor production and biofilm formation. Thus, molecules that activate QS in V. cholerae have the potential to control pathogenicity in this globally important bacterium. Using a whole-cell high-throughput screen, we identified eleven molecules that activate V. cholerae QS: eight molecules are receptor agonists and three molecules are antagonists of LuxO, the central NtrC-type response regulator that controls the global V. cholerae QS cascade. The LuxO inhibitors act by an uncompetitive mechanism by binding to the pre-formed LuxO-ATP complex to inhibit ATP hydrolysis. Genetic analyses suggest that the inhibitors bind in close proximity to the Walker B motif. The inhibitors display broad-spectrum capability in activation of QS in Vibrio species that employ LuxO. To the best of our knowledge, these are the first molecules identified that inhibit the ATPase activity of a NtrC-type response regulator. Our discovery supports the idea that exploiting pro-QS molecules is a promising strategy for the development of novel anti-infectives.

Concepts: Bacteria, Microbiology, Receptor antagonist, Biofilm, Vibrio cholerae, Bioluminescence, Vibrio


Quorum sensing is a process of chemical communication that bacteria use to monitor cell density and coordinate cooperative behaviors. Quorum sensing relies on extracellular signal molecules and cognate receptor pairs. While a single quorum-sensing system is sufficient to probe cell density, bacteria frequently use multiple quorum-sensing systems to regulate the same cooperative behaviors. The potential benefits of these redundant network structures are not clear. Here, we combine modeling and experimental analyses of the Bacillus subtilis and Vibrio harveyi quorum-sensing networks to show that accumulation of multiple quorum-sensing systems may be driven by a facultative cheating mechanism. We demonstrate that a strain that has acquired an additional quorum-sensing system can exploit its ancestor that possesses one fewer system, but nonetheless, resume full cooperation with its kin when it is fixed in the population. We identify the molecular network design criteria required for this advantage. Our results suggest that increased complexity in bacterial social signaling circuits can evolve without providing an adaptive advantage in a clonal population.

Concepts: Bacteria, Microbiology, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Biofilm, Bacillus, Quorum sensing, Bioluminescence, Vibrio harveyi


Quorum sensing (QS) signaling allows bacteria to control gene expression once a critical population density is achieved. The Gram-negative human pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa uses N-acylhomoserine lactones (AHL) as QS signals, which coordinate the production of virulence factors and biofilms. These bacterial signals can also modulate human cell behavior. Little is known about the mechanisms of the action of AHL on their eukaryotic targets. Here, we found that N-3-oxo-dodecanoyl-L-homoserine lactone 3O-C(12)-HSL modulates human intestinal epithelial Caco-2 cell migration in a dose- and time-dependent manner. Using new 3O-C(12)-HSL biotin and fluorescently-tagged probes for LC-MS/MS and confocal imaging, respectively, we demonstrated for the first time that 3O-C(12)-HSL interacts and co-localizes with the IQ-motif-containing GTPase-activating protein IQGAP1 in Caco-2 cells. The interaction between IQGAP1 and 3O-C(12)-HSL was further confirmed by pull-down assay using a GST-tagged protein with subsequent Western blot of IQGAP1 and by identifying 3O-C(12)-HSL with a sensor bioassay. Moreover, 3O-C(12)-HSL induced changes in the phosphorylation status of Rac1 and Cdc42 and the localization of IQGAP1 as evidenced by confocal and STED microscopy and Western blots. Our findings suggest that the IQGAP1 is a novel partner for P.aeruginosa 3O-C(12)-HSL and likely the integrator of Rac1 and Cdc42- dependent altered cell migration. We propose that the targeting of IQGAP1 by 3O-C(12)-HSL can trigger essential changes in the cytoskeleton network and be an essential component in bacterial - human cell communication.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Cell nucleus, Gene expression, Cell, Bacteria, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Biofilm


Biofilms play an important role as a settlement cue for invertebrate larvae and significantly contribute to the nutrient turnover in aquatic ecosystems. Nevertheless, little is known about how biofilm community structure generally responds to environmental changes. This study aimed to identify patterns of bacterial dynamics in coral reef biofilms in response to associated macrofouling community structure, microhabitat (exposed vs. sheltered), seasonality, and eutrophication. Settlement tiles were deployed at four reefs along a cross-shelf eutrophication gradient and were exchanged every 4 months over 20 months. The fouling community composition on the tiles was recorded and the bacterial community structure was assessed with the community fingerprinting technique Automated Ribosomal Intergenic Spacer Analysis (ARISA). Bacterial operational taxonomic unit (OTU) number was higher on exposed tiles, where the fouling community was homogenous and algae-dominated, than in sheltered habitats, which were occupied by a variety of filter feeders. Furthermore, OTU number was also highest in eutrophied near-shore reefs, while seasonal variations in community structure were most pronounced in the oligotrophic mid-shelf reef. In contrast, the macrofouling community structure did not change significantly with seasons. Changes in bacterial community patterns were mostly affected by microhabitat, seasonal and anthropogenically derived changes in nutrient availability, and to a lesser extent by changes in the macrofouling community structure. Path analysis revealed a complex interplay of various environmental and biological factors explaining the spatial and temporal variations in bacterial biofilm communities under natural conditions.

Concepts: DNA, Bacteria, Coral reef, Ecosystem, Biofilm, Cnidaria, Aquatic ecology, Ecosystems


Motility helps many pathogens swim through the highly viscous intestinal mucus. Given the differing outcomes of Campylobacter concisus infection, the motility of eight C. concisus strains isolated from patients with Crohn’s disease (n=3), acute (n=3) and chronic (n=1) gastroenteritis and a healthy control (n=1) were compared. Following growth on solid or liquid media the eight strains formed two groups; however, the type of growth medium did not affect motility. In contrast, following growth in viscous liquid medium seven of the eight strains demonstrated significantly decreased motility. In media of increasing viscosities the motility of C. concisus UNSWCD had two marked increases at viscosities of 20.0 and 74.7 centipoises. Determination of the ability of UNSWCD to swim through a viscous medium, adhere to and invade intestinal epithelial cells showed that while adherence levels significantly decreased with increasing viscosity, invasion levels did not significantly change. In contrast, adherence to and invasion of UNSWCD to mucus-producing intestinal cells increased upon accumulation of mucus, as did bacterial aggregation. Given this aggregation, we determined the ability of the eight C. concisus strains to form biofilms, and showed that all strains formed biofilms. In conclusion, the finding that C. concisus strains could be differentiated into two groups based on their motility may suggest that strains with high motility have an increased ability to swim through the intestinal mucus and reach the epithelial layer.

Concepts: Bacteria, Epithelium, Stomach, Viscosity, Biofilm, Respiratory epithelium, Diarrhea, Intestinal epithelium


Many Gram-negative plant pathogenic bacteria employ a N-acylhomoserine lactone (AHL)-based quorum sensing (QS) system to regulate their virulence traits. A sustainable biocontrol strategy has been developed using quorum quenching (QQ) bacteria to interfere with QS and protect plants from pathogens. Here, the prevalence and the diversity of QQ strains inhabiting tobacco leaf surfaces were explored. A total of 1177 leaf-associated isolates were screened for their ability to disrupt AHL-mediated QS, using the biosensor Chromobacterium violaceum CV026. One hundred and sixty-eight strains (14%) are capable of interfering with AHL activity. Among these, 106 strains (63%) of the culturable quenchers can enzymatically degrade AHL molecules, while the remaining strains might use other QS inhibitors to interrupt the chemical communication. Moreover, almost 79% of the QQ strains capable of inactivating AHLs enzymatically have lactonase activity. Further phylogenetic analysis based on 16S rDNA revealed that the leaf-associated QQ bacteria can be classified as Bacillus sp., Acinetobacter sp., Lysinibacillus sp., Serratia sp., Pseudomonas sp., and Myroides sp. The naturally occurring diversity of bacterial quenchers might provide opportunities to use them as effective biocontrol reagents for suppressing plant pathogen in situ.

Concepts: Bacteria, Microbiology, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Pathogen, Cell wall, Biofilm, Quorum sensing, Pathogenic bacteria


Protein drugs (PD) are minimally utilized in dental medicine due to high cost and invasive surgical delivery. There is limited clinical advancement in disrupting virulent oral biofilms, despite their high prevalence in causing dental caries. Poor efficacy of antimicrobials following topical treatments or to penetrate and disrupt formed biofilms is a major challenge. We report an exciting low-cost approach using plant-made antimicrobial peptides (PMAMPs) retrocyclin or protegrin with complex secondary structures (cyclic/hairpin) for topical use to control biofilms. The PMAMPs rapidly killed the pathogen Streptococcus mutans and impaired biofilm formation following a single topical application of tooth-mimetic surface. Furthermore, we developed a synergistic approach using PMAMPs combined with matrix-degrading enzymes to facilitate their access into biofilms and kill the embedded bacteria. In addition, we identified a novel role for PMAMPs in delivering drugs to periodontal and gingival cells, 13-48 folds more efficiently than any other tested cell penetrating peptides. Therefore, PDs fused with protegrin expressed in plant cells could potentially play a dual role in delivering therapeutic proteins to gum tissues while killing pathogenic bacteria when delivered as topical oral formulations or in chewing gums. Recent FDA approval of plant-produced PDs augurs well for clinical advancement of this novel concept.

Concepts: Protein, Bacteria, Microbiology, Biofilm, Dental caries, Dental plaque, Oral hygiene, Streptococcus mutans


Pseudomonas aeruginosa biofilm is commonly associated with chronic wound infection. A FDA approved wireless electroceutical dressing (WED), which in the presence of conductive wound exudate gets activated to generate electric field (0.3-0.9V), was investigated for its anti-biofilm properties. Growth of pathogenic P. aeruginosa strain PAO1 in LB media was markedly arrested in the presence of the WED. Scanning electron microscopy demonstrated that WED markedly disrupted biofilm integrity in a setting where silver dressing was ineffective. Biofilm thickness and number of live bacterial cells were decreased in the presence of WED. Quorum sensing genes lasR and rhlR and activity of electric field sensitive enzyme, glycerol-3-phosphate dehydrogenase was also repressed by WED. This work provides first electron paramagnetic resonance spectroscopy evidence demonstrating that WED serves as a spontaneous source of reactive oxygen species. Redox-sensitive multidrug efflux systems mexAB and mexEF were repressed by WED. Taken together, these observations provide first evidence supporting the anti-biofilm properties of WED.

Concepts: Immune system, Oxygen, Bacteria, Infection, Antibiotic resistance, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Biofilm, Quorum sensing


Bacteria have evolved multiple strategies for causing infections that include producing virulence factors, undertaking motility, developing biofilms, and invading host cells. N-acylhomoserine lactone (AHL)-mediated quorum sensing (QS) tightly regulates the expression of multiple virulence factors in the opportunistic pathogenic bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Thus, inhibiting QS could lead to health benefits. In this study, we demonstrate an anti-virulence activity of a cranberry extract rich in proanthocyanidins (cerPAC) against P. aeruginosa in the model host Drosophila melanogaster and show this is mediated by QS interference. cerPAC reduced the production of QS-regulated virulence determinants and protected D. melanogaster from fatal infection by P. aeruginosa PA14. Quantification of AHL production using liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry confirmed that cerPAC effectively reduced the level of AHLs produced by the bacteria. Furthermore, monitoring QS signaling gene expression revealed that AHL synthases LasI/RhlI and QS transcriptional regulators LasR/RhlR genes were inhibited and antagonized, respectively, by cerPAC. Molecular docking studies suggest that cranberry-derived proanthocyanidin binds to QS transcriptional regulators, mainly interacting with their ligand binding sites. These findings provide insights into the underlying mechanisms of action of a cerPAC to restrict the virulence of P. aeruginosa and can have implications in the development of alternative approaches to control infections.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Gene expression, Bacteria, Microbiology, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Biofilm