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Environ Microbiol. 2005 Jul;7(7):981-94.

Persister cells, the biofilm matrix and tolerance to metal cations in biofilm and planktonic Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

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1
Department of Biological Sciences, University of Calgary, 2500 University Drive N.W. Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2N 1N4.

Abstract

In this study, we examined Pseudomonas aeruginosa ATCC 27853 biofilm and planktonic cell susceptibility to metal cations. The minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC), the minimum bactericidal concentration (MBC) required to eradicate 100% of the planktonic population (MBC 100), and the minimum biofilm eradication concentration (MBEC) were determined using the MBEC trade mark-high throughput assay. Six metals - Co(2+), Ni(2+), Cu(2+), Zn(2+), Al(3+) and Pb(2+)- were each tested at 2, 4, 6, 8, 10 and 27 h of exposure to biofilm and planktonic cultures grown in rich or minimal media. With 2 or 4 h of exposure, biofilms were approximately 2-25 times more tolerant to killing by metal cations than the corresponding planktonic cultures. However, by 27 h of exposure, biofilm and planktonic bacteria were eradicated at approximately the same concentration in every instance. Viable cell counts evaluated at 2 and 27 h of exposure revealed that at high concentrations, most of the metals assayed had killed greater than 99.9% of biofilm and planktonic cell populations. The surviving cells were propogated in vitro and gave rise to biofilm and planktonic cultures with normal sensitivity to metals. Further, retention of copper by the biofilm matrix was investigated using the chelator sodium diethlydithiocarbamate. Formation of visible brown metal-chelates in biofilms treated with Cu(2+) suggests that the biofilm matrix may coordinate and sequester metal cations from the aqueous surroundings. Overall, our data suggest that both metal sequestration in the biofilm matrix and the presence of a small population of 'persister' cells may be contributing factors in the time-dependent tolerance of both planktonic cells and biofilms to high concentrations of metal cations.

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