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Mol Microbiol. 2001 Mar;39(6):1452-63.

The multicellular morphotypes of Salmonella typhimurium and Escherichia coli produce cellulose as the second component of the extracellular matrix.

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Division of Cell Biology and Immunology, GBF, D-38124 Braunschweig, Germany.


Production of cellulose has been thought to be restricted to a few bacterial species such as the model organism Acetobacter xylinus. We show by enzymatic analysis and mass spectrometry that, besides thin aggregative fimbriae, the second component of the extracellular matrix of the multicellular morphotype (rdar) of Salmonella typhimurium and Escherichia coli is cellulose. The bcsA, bcsB, bcsZ and bcsC genes responsible for cellulose biosynthesis are not regulated by AgfD, the positive transcriptional regulator of the rdar morphotype. Transcription of the bcs genes was not co-expressed with the rdar morphotype under any of the environmental conditions examined. However, cellulose biosynthesis was turned on by the sole expression of adrA, a gene encoding a putative transmembrane protein regulated by agfD, indicating a novel pathway for the activation of cellulose synthesis. The co-expression of cellulose and thin aggregative fimbriae leads to the formation of a highly hydrophobic network with tightly packed cells aligned in parallel in a rigid matrix. As the production of cellulose would now appear to be a property widely distributed among bacteria, the function of the cellulose polymer in bacteria will have to be considered in a new light.

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