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J Bacteriol. 2000 Nov;182(21):5990-6.

Swarming of Pseudomonas aeruginosa is dependent on cell-to-cell signaling and requires flagella and pili.

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  • 1Department of Genetics and Microbiology, University Medical Center, Sciences III, University of Geneva, CH-1211 Geneva 4, Switzerland. Thilo.Kohler@medecine.unige.ch


We describe swarming in Pseudomonas aeruginosa as a third mode of surface translocation in addition to the previously described swimming and twitching motilities. Swarming in P. aeruginosa is induced on semisolid surfaces (0.5 to 0.7% agar) under conditions of nitrogen limitation and in response to certain amino acids. Glutamate, aspartate, histidine, or proline, when provided as the sole source of nitrogen, induced swarming, while arginine, asparagine, and glutamine, among other amino acids, did not sustain swarming. Cells from the edge of the swarm were about twice as long as cells from the swarm center. In both instances, bacteria possessing two polar flagella were observed by light and electron microscopy. While a fliC mutant of P. aeruginosa displayed slightly diminished swarming, a pilR and a pilA mutant, both deficient in type IV pili, were unable to swarm. Furthermore, cells with mutations in the las cell-to-cell signaling system showed diminished swarming behavior, while rhl mutants were completely unable to swarm. Evidence is presented for rhamnolipids being the actual surfactant involved in swarming motility, which explains the involvement of the cell-to-cell signaling circuitry of P. aeruginosa in this type of surface motility.

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