Biofilm formation in Desulfovibrio vulgaris Hildenborough is dependent upon protein filaments


Desulfovibrio vulgaris Hildenborough is a gram-negative sulfate-reducing bacterium (SRB), and the physiology of SRBs can impact many anaerobic environments including radionuclide waste sites, oil reservoirs and metal pipelines. In an attempt to understand D. vulgaris as a population that can adhere to surfaces, D. vulgaris cultures were grown in a defined medium and analysed for carbohydrate production, motility and biofilm formation. Desulfovibrio vulgaris wild-type cells had increasing amounts of carbohydrate into stationary phase and approximately half of the carbohydrate remained internal. In comparison, a mutant that lacked the 200 kb megaplasmid, strain DeltaMP, produced less carbohydrate and the majority of carbohydrate remained internal of the cell proper. To assess the possibility of carbohydrate re-allocation, biofilm formation was investigated. Wild-type cells produced approximately threefold more biofilm on glass slides compared with DeltaMP; however, wild-type biofilm did not contain significant levels of exopolysaccharide. In addition, stains specific for extracellular carbohydrate did not reveal polysaccharide material within the biofilm. Desulfovibrio vulgaris wild-type biofilms contained long filaments as observed with scanning electron microscopy (SEM), and the biofilm-deficient DeltaMP strain was also deficient in motility. Biofilms grown directly on silica oxide transmission electron microscopy (TEM) grids did not contain significant levels of an exopolysaccharide matrix when viewed with TEM and SEM, and samples stained with ammonium molybdate also showed long filaments that resembled flagella. Biofilms subjected to protease treatments were degraded, and different proteases that were added at the time of inoculation inhibited biofilm formation. The data indicated that D. vulgaris did not produce an extensive exopolysaccharide matrix, used protein filaments to form biofilm between cells and silica oxide surfaces, and the filaments appeared to be flagella. It is likely that D. vulgaris used flagella for more than a means of locomotion to a surface, but also used flagella, or modified flagella, to establish and/or maintain biofilm structure.




Clark ME, Edelmann RE, Duley ML, Wall JD, Fields MW, "Biofilm formation in Desulfovibrio vulgaris Hildenborough is dependent upon protein filaments," Environ Microbiol 2007 9(11):2844-2854
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