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Molecular Architecture and Assembly Principles of Vibrio cholerae Biofilms

Science  13 Jul 2012:
Vol. 337, Issue 6091, pp. 236-239
DOI: 10.1126/science.1222981

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Biofilms Up Close

Many bacterial infections involve biofilm formation. Cells within a biofilm are significantly more resistant to immune clearance and antibiotics compared to unattached, planktonic cells. Berk et al. (p. 236) applied superresolution optical methods to image living bacteria with nanometer-scale precision as they form a biofilm. Vibrio cholerae biofilms were observed to have three distinct levels of spatial organization: cells, clusters of cells, and collections of clusters. Each cell cluster was wrapped in a flexible, elastic envelope. Several V. cholerae matrix proteins played complementary architectural roles during biofilm development. RbmA provided cell-cell adhesion, Bap1 allowed the developing biofilm to adhere to surfaces, and heterogeneous mixtures of VPS, RbmC, and Bap1 formed the dynamic, flexible, and ordered envelopes that encase the cell clusters.

Abstract

In their natural environment, microbes organize into communities held together by an extracellular matrix composed of polysaccharides and proteins. We developed an in vivo labeling strategy to allow the extracellular matrix of developing biofilms to be visualized with conventional and superresolution light microscopy. Vibrio cholerae biofilms displayed three distinct levels of spatial organization: cells, clusters of cells, and collections of clusters. Multiresolution imaging of living V. cholerae biofilms revealed the complementary architectural roles of the four essential matrix constituents: RbmA provided cell-cell adhesion; Bap1 allowed the developing biofilm to adhere to surfaces; and heterogeneous mixtures of Vibrio polysaccharide, RbmC, and Bap1 formed dynamic, flexible, and ordered envelopes that encased the cell clusters.

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