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Appl Environ Microbiol. 1998 Sep;64(9):3486-90.

Biofilms on indwelling urethral catheters produce quorum-sensing signal molecules in situ and in vitro.

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School of Pure and Applied Biology, University of Wales Cardiff, Wales, United Kingdom. SABDS@CARDIFF.AC.UK


Acylated homoserine lactones (AHLs) are chemical signals that mediate population density-dependent (quorum-sensing) gene expression in numerous gram-negative bacteria. In this study, gram-negative bacilli isolated from catheters were screened for AHL production by a cross-feeding assay utilizing an AHL-responsive Agrobacterium tumefaciens reporter strain. Positive reactions were obtained from 14 isolates of Pseudomonas aeruginosa; negative or weakly positive reactions were recorded for isolates of five other species. P. aeruginosa biofilms were then produced on catheters in a physical model of the bladder. Sections of colonized all-silicone catheters gave positive reactions for the quorum-sensing signal molecules as did sections that had been cleaned of biofilm and autoclaved. Control sections of unused catheters were negative in the tests. Sections from four of nine catheters that had been freshly removed from patients gave positive reactions for AHLs. Cleaned autoclaved sections of three of these catheters also gave strongly positive reactions for AHLs. These results demonstrate that AHLs are produced by biofilms as they develop on the catheters both in vitro in the model and in vivo in the patient's bladder. They represent the first demonstration of AHL production by biofilms in a clinical setting.

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