Microbiology

Chemical Crosstalk in a Biofilm

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Science  21 Sep 2001:
Vol. 293, Issue 5538, pp. 2171
DOI: 10.1126/science.293.5538.2171a

The bacterial pathogens Burkholderia cepacia and Pseudomonas aeruginosa contribute to the death of cystic fibrosis patients. This association is no accident. P. aeruginosa produces volumes of slimy polysaccharides and lipopeptides that form the structural components of a biofilm and help to shield the bacteria from antibiotics. Biofilm production is regulated by a density-dependent mechanism called quorum sensing, which is mediated by hormone-like N-acyl homoserine lactones. These molecules control the production not only of biofilm matrix material but also of virulence factors such as proteases, flagellae, and fimbriae.

Huber et al. have found that B. cepacia shares the same quorum-sensing molecules as P. aeruginosa; thus, these organisms potentially enhance each other's virulence. Mutations in the cep quorum-sensing system of B. cepacia resulted in an immature biofilm and an absence of swarming behavior, although the latter deficit could be reversed by adding biosurfactants. — CA

Microbiology 147, 2517 (2001).

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