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J Bacteriol. 2004 May;186(9):2724-34.

The pgaABCD locus of Escherichia coli promotes the synthesis of a polysaccharide adhesin required for biofilm formation.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Emory University School of Medicine, 3105 Rollins Research Center, 1510 Clifton Road NE, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA.


Production of a polysaccharide matrix is a hallmark of bacterial biofilms, but the composition of matrix polysaccharides and their functions are not widely understood. Previous studies of the regulation of Escherichia coli biofilm formation suggested the involvement of an unknown adhesin. We now establish that the pgaABCD (formerly ycdSRQP) locus affects biofilm development by promoting abiotic surface binding and intercellular adhesion. All of the pga genes are required for optimal biofilm formation under a variety of growth conditions. A pga-dependent cell-bound polysaccharide was isolated and determined by nuclear magnetic resonance analyses to consist of unbranched beta-1,6-N-acetyl-D-glucosamine, a polymer previously unknown from the gram-negative bacteria but involved in adhesion by staphylococci. The pga genes are predicted to encode envelope proteins involved in synthesis, translocation, and possibly surface docking of this polysaccharide. As predicted, if poly-beta-1,6-GlcNAc (PGA) mediates cohesion, metaperiodate caused biofilm dispersal and the release of intact cells, whereas treatment with protease or other lytic enzymes had no effect. The pgaABCD operon exhibits features of a horizontally transferred locus and is present in a variety of eubacteria. Therefore, we propose that PGA serves as an adhesin that stabilizes biofilms of E. coli and other bacteria.

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