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J Mol Microbiol Biotechnol. 2004;8(3):177-88.

Biofilm-defective mutants of Bacillus subtilis.

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Division of Biological Sciences, University of California at San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093-0116, USA.


Many bacteria can adopt organized, sessile, communal lifestyles. The gram-positive bacterium, Bacillus subtilis,forms biofilms on solid surfaces and at air-liquid interfaces, and biofilm development is dependent on environmental conditions. We demonstrate that biofilm formation by B. subtilis strain JH642 can be either activated or repressed by glucose, depending on the growth medium used, and that these glucose effects are at least in part mediated by the catabolite control protein, CcpA. Starting with a chromosomal Tn917-LTV3 insertional library, we isolated mutants that are defective for biofilm formation. The biofilm defects of these mutants were observable in both rich and minimal media, and both on polyvinylchloride abiotic surfaces and in borosilicate tubes. Two mutants were defective in flagellar synthesis. Chemotaxis was shown to be less important for biofilm formation than was flagellar-driven motility. Although motility is known to be required for biofilm formation in other bacteria, this had not previously been demonstrated for B. subtilis. In addition, our study suggests roles for glutamate synthase, GltAB, and an aminopeptidase, AmpS. The loss of these enzymes did not decrease growth or cellular motility but had dramatic effects on biofilm formation under all conditions assayed. The effect of the gltAB defect on biofilm formation could not be due to a decrease in poly-gamma-glutamate synthesis since this polymer proved to be nonessential for robust biofilm formation. High exogenous concentrations of glutamate, aspartate, glutamine or proline did not override the glutamate synthase requirement. This is the first report showing that glutamate synthase and a cytoplasmic aminopeptidase play roles in bacterial biofilm formation. Possible mechanistic implications and potential roles of biofilm formation in other developmental processes are discussed.

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