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Microb Ecol. 2004 Jan;47(1):87-95.

Comparison of the phenotypes and genotypes of biofilm and solitary epiphytic bacterial populations on broad-leaved endive.

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Division of General Microbiology, University of Helsinki, Biocenter, P.O. Box 56, Helsinki, Finland.


The discovery that biofilms are ubiquitous among the epiphytic microflora of leaves has prompted research about the impact of biofilms on the ecology of epiphytic microorganisms and on the efficiency of strategies to manage these populations for disease control and to ensure food safety. Biofilms are likely to influence the microenvironment and phenotype of the microorganisms they harbor. However, it is also important to determine whether there are differences in the types of bacteria within biofilms compared to those outside of biofilms so as to better target microorganisms via disease control strategies. Broad-leaved endive (Cichorium endivia var. latifolia) harbors biofilms containing fluorescent pseudomonads. These bacteria can cause considerable post-harvest losses when this plant is used for manufacturing minimally processed salads. To determine whether the population structure of the fluorescent pseudomonads in biofilms is different from that outside of biofilms on the same leaves, bacteria were isolated quantitatively from the biofilm and solitary components of the epiphytic population on leaves of field-grown broad-leaved endive. Population structure was determined in terms of taxonomic identities of the bacteria isolated, in terms of genotypic profiles, and in terms of phenotypic traits related to surface colonization and biofilm formation. The results illustrate that there are no systematic differences in the composition and structure of biofilm and solitary populations of fluorescent pseudomonads, in terms of either genotypic profiles or phenotypic profiles of the strains. However, Gram-positive bacteria tended to occur more frequently within biofilms than outside of biofilms. We suggest that leaf colonization by fluorescent pseudomonads involves a flux of cells between biofilm and solitary states. This would allow bacteria to exploit the advantages of these two types of existence; biofilms would favor resistance to stressful conditions, whereas solitary cells could foster spread of bacteria to newly colonizable sites on leaves as environmental conditions fluctuate.

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