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Mol Microbiol. 2004 Apr;52(2):573-87.

Genetic evidence that the Vibrio cholerae monolayer is a distinct stage in biofilm development.

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Division of Geographic Medicine and Infectious Diseases, New England Medical Center, Boston, MA 02111, USA.


Biofilm development is conceived as a developmental process in which free swimming cells attach to a surface, first transiently and then permanently, as a single layer. This monolayer of immobilized cells gives rise to larger cell clusters that eventually develop into the biofilm, a three-dimensional structure consisting of large pillars of bacteria interspersed with water channels. Previous studies have shown that efficient development of the Vibrio cholerae biofilm requires a combination of pili, flagella and exopolysaccharide. Little is known, however, regarding the requirements for monolayer formation by wild-type V. cholerae. In this work, we have isolated the wild-type V. cholerae monolayer and demonstrated that the environmental signals, bacterial structures, and transcription profiles that induce and stabilize the monolayer state are unique. Cells in a monolayer are specialized to maintain their attachment to a surface. The surface itself activates mannose-sensitive haemagglutinin type IV pilus (MSHA)-mediated attachment, which is accompanied by repression of flagellar gene transcription. In contrast, cells in a biofilm are specialized to maintain intercellular contacts. Progression to this stage occurs when exopolysaccharide synthesis is induced by environmental monosaccharides. We propose a model for biofilm development in natural environments in which cells form a stable monolayer on a surface. As biotic surfaces are degraded with subsequent release of carbohydrates, the monolayer develops into a biofilm.

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