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Int J Food Microbiol. 2014 Jul 2;181:19-27. doi: 10.1016/j.ijfoodmicro.2014.04.013. Epub 2014 Apr 22.

Butyric acid released during milk lipolysis triggers biofilm formation of Bacillus species.

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Department of Food Quality and Safety, Agricultural Research Organization (ARO), Bet-Dagan, Israel.
Department of Food Quality and Safety, Agricultural Research Organization (ARO), Bet-Dagan, Israel. Electronic address:


Bacillus species form biofilms within milking pipelines and on surfaces of equipment in the dairy industry which represent a continuous hygiene problem and can lead to serious economic losses due to food spoilage and equipment impairment. Although much is known about the mechanism by which the model organism Bacillus subtilis forms biofilms in laboratory mediums in vitro, little is known of how these biofilms are formed in natural environments such as milk. Besides, little is known of the signaling pathways leading to biofilm formation in other Bacillus species, such as Bacillus cereus and Bacillus licheniformis, both of which are known to contaminate milk. In this study, we report that milk triggers the formation of biofilm-related structures, termed bundles. We show this to be a conserved phenomenon among all Bacillus members tested. Moreover, we demonstrate that the tasA gene, which encodes a major portion of the matrix which holds the biofilm together, is vital for this process. Furthermore, we show that the free fatty acid (FFA) - butyric acid (BA), which is released during lipolysis of milk fat and demonstrates antimicrobial activity, is the potent trigger for biofilm bundle formation. We finally show that BA-triggered biofilm bundle formation is mediated by the histidine kinase, KinD. Taken together, these observations indicate that BA, which is a major FFA within milk triggers biofilm formation in a conserved mechanism among members of the Bacillus genus.


Bacillus species; Biofilm formation; Butyric acid; Free fatty acids; Microbial development; Milk

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