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Cell. 2012 Apr 27;149(3):684-92. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2012.02.055.

A self-produced trigger for biofilm disassembly that targets exopolysaccharide.

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  • 1Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.


Biofilms are structured communities of bacteria that are held together by an extracellular matrix consisting of protein and exopolysaccharide. Biofilms often have a limited lifespan, disassembling as nutrients become exhausted and waste products accumulate. D-amino acids were previously identified as a self-produced factor that mediates biofilm disassembly by causing the release of the protein component of the matrix in Bacillus subtilis. Here we report that B. subtilis produces an additional biofilm-disassembly factor, norspermidine. Dynamic light scattering and scanning electron microscopy experiments indicated that norspermidine interacts directly and specifically with exopolysaccharide. D-amino acids and norspermidine acted together to break down existing biofilms and mutants blocked in the production of both factors formed long-lived biofilms. Norspermidine, but not closely related polyamines, prevented biofilm formation by B. subtilis, Escherichia coli, and Staphylococcus aureus.

Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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