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Trends Microbiol. 2008 Apr;16(4):158-64. doi: 10.1016/j.tim.2008.01.005. Epub 2008 Mar 14.

Uniquely insidious: Yersinia pestis biofilms.

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1
Department of Cell and Tissue Biology, University of California, San Francisco, Box 0640/Room C-734, San Francisco, CA 94143-0640, USA. creg.darby@ucsf.edu

Abstract

Bubonic plague, one of history's deadliest infections, is transmitted by fleas infected with Yersinia pestis. The bacteria can starve fleas by blocking their digestive tracts, which stimulates the insects to bite repeatedly and thereby infect new hosts. Direct examination of infected fleas, aided by in vitro studies and experiments with the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, have established that Y. pestis forms a biofilm in the insect. The extracellular matrix of the biofilm seems to contain a homopolymer of N-acetyl-d-glucosamine, which is a constituent of many bacterial biofilms. A regulatory mechanism involved in Y. pestis biofilm formation, cyclic-di-GMP signaling, is also widespread in bacteria; yet only Y. pestis forms biofilms in fleas. Here, the historical background of bubonic plague is briefly described and recent studies investigating the mechanisms by which these unique and deadly biofilms are formed are discussed.

PMID:
18339547
DOI:
10.1016/j.tim.2008.01.005
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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