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Mol Microbiol. 2006 Jan;59(1):193-201.

Bile acids stimulate biofilm formation in Vibrio cholerae.

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Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, Harvard Medical School, 200 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


Vibrio cholerae is a Gram-negative bacterium that causes the acute diarrhoeal disease cholera. After the bacterium is ingested, it passes through the digestive tract, encountering various environmental stresses including the acidic milieu of the stomach and the toxic effects of bile in the duodenum. While these stresses serve as part of a host defence system, V. cholerae has evolved resistance mechanisms that allow it to evade these defences and establish infection. We examined the expression profiles of V. cholerae in response to bile or bile acids and found an induction of biofilm genes. We found that V. cholerae shows significantly enhanced biofilm formation in response to bile acids, and that bacteria within the biofilm are more resistant to the toxicity of bile acids compared with planktonic cells. Bile acid induction of biofilms was found to be dependent on the vps genes (Vibrio polysaccharide synthesis) and their transcriptional activator VpsR, but VpsT is not required. These results contribute to the developing picture of a complex relationship between V. cholerae and its environment within the host during infection.

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