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J Bacteriol. 2006 Aug;188(16):5945-57.

Membrane vesicles: an overlooked component of the matrices of biofilms.

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Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology and AFMnet-NCE, College of Biological Science, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario N1G 2W1, Canada.


The matrix helps define the architecture and infrastructure of biofilms and also contributes to their resilient nature. Although many studies continue to define the properties of both gram-positive and gram-negative bacterial biofilms, there is still much to learn, especially about how structural characteristics help bridge the gap between the chemistry and physical aspects of the matrix. Here, we show that membrane vesicles (MVs), structures derived from the outer membrane of gram-negative bacteria, are a common particulate feature of the matrix of Pseudomonas aeruginosa biofilms. Biofilms grown using different model systems and growth conditions were shown to contain MVs when thin sectioned for transmission electron microscopy, and mechanically disrupted biofilms revealed MVs in association with intercellular material. MVs were also isolated from biofilms by employing techniques for matrix isolation and a modified MV isolation protocol. Together these observations verified the presence and frequency of MVs and indicated that MVs were a definite component of the matrix. Characterization of planktonic and biofilm-derived MVs revealed quantitative and qualitative differences between the two and indicated functional roles, such as proteolytic activity and binding of antibiotics. The ubiquity of MVs was supported by observations of biofilms from a variety of natural environments outside the laboratory and established MVs as common biofilm constituents. MVs appear to be important and relatively unacknowledged particulate components of the matrix of gram-negative or mixed bacterial biofilms.

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