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1.  Production of Rhamnolipids by Pseudomonas chlororaphis, a Nonpathogenic Bacterium 
Rhamnolipids, naturally occurring biosurfactants constructed of rhamnose sugar molecules and β-hydroxyalkanoic acids, have a wide range of potential commercial applications. In the course of a survey of 33 different bacterial isolates, we have identified, using a phenotypic assay for rhamnolipid production, a strain of the nonpathogenic bacterial species Pseudomonas chlororaphis that is capable of producing rhamnolipids. Rhamnolipid production by P. chlororaphis was achieved by growth at room temperature in static cultures of a mineral salts medium containing 2% glucose. We obtained yields of roughly 1 g/liter of rhamnolipids, an amount comparable to the production levels reported in Pseudomonas aeruginosa grown with glucose as the carbon source. The rhamnolipids produced by P. chlororaphis appear to be exclusively the mono-rhamnolipid form. The most prevalent molecular species had one monounsaturated hydroxy fatty acid of 12 carbons and one saturated hydroxy fatty acid of 10 carbons. P. chlororaphis, a nonpathogenic saprophyte of the soil, is currently employed as a biocontrol agent against certain types of plant fungal diseases. The pathogenic nature of all bacteria previously known to produce rhamnolipids has been a major obstacle to commercial production of rhamnolipids. The use of P. chlororaphis therefore greatly simplifies this matter by removing the need for containment systems and stringent separation processes in the production of rhamnolipids.
PMCID: PMC1087580  PMID: 15870313
2.  Stimulation of adult neural stem cells with a novel glycolipid biosurfactant 
Acta neurologica Belgica  2013;113(4):10.1007/s13760-013-0232-4.
Glycolipids are amphipatic molecules which are highly expressed on cell membranes in skin and brain where they mediate several key cellular processes. Neural stem cells are defined as undifferentiated, proliferative, multipotential cells with extensive self-renewal and are responsive to brain injury. Di-rhamnolipid: α-L-rhamnopyranosyl-(1-2)α-L-rhamnopyranosyl-3-hydroxydecanoyl-3-hydroxydecanoic acid, also referred to as di-rhamnolipid BAC-3, is a glycolipid isolated from bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa. In the previous studies di-rhamnolipid enhanced dermal tissue healing and regeneration. The present study provides the first assessment of di-rhamnolipid, and glycolipid-biosurfactants in general, on the nervous system. Treatment of neural stem cells isolated from the lateral ventricle of adult mice and cultured in defined media containing growth factors at 0.5 and 1 μg/ml of di-rhamnolipid increased the number of neurospheres (2.7 and 2.8 fold, respectively) compared to controls and this effect remained even after passaging in the absence of di-rhamnolipid. Additionally, neural stem cells treated with di-rhamnolipid at 50 and 100 μg/ml in defined media supplemented with fetal calf serum and without growth factors exhibited increased cell viability indicating an interaction between di-rhamnolipid and serum components in the regulation of neural stem cells and neuroprogenitors. Intracerebroventricular administration of di-rhamnolipid at 300 and 120 ng/day increased the number of neurospheres (1.3 and 1.63 fold, respectively) that could be derived from the anterior lateral ventricles of adult mice. These results indicate that di-rhamnolipid stimulates proliferation of neural stem cells and increases their endogenous pools which may have therapeutic potential in managing neurodegenerative or neuropsychiatric disorders and promoting nervous tissue regeneration following injury.
PMCID: PMC3855528  PMID: 23846482
di-rhamnolipid; Pseudomonas aeruginosa; biosurfactant; neural stem cells; nervous tissue regeneration
3.  HOY1, a homeo gene required for hyphal formation in Yarrowia lipolytica. 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  1997;17(11):6283-6293.
The dimorphic fungus Yarrowia lipolytica grows to form hyphae either in rich media or in media with GlcNAc as a carbon source. A visual screening, called FIL (filamentation minus), for Y. lipolytica yeast growth mutants has been developed. The FIL screen was used to identify three Y. lipolytica genes that abolish hypha formation in all media assayed. Y. lipolytica HOY1, a gene whose deletion prevents the yeast-hypha transition both in liquid and solid media, was characterized. HOY1 is predicted to encode a 509-amino-acid protein with a homeodomain homologous to that found in the chicken Hox4.8 gene. Analysis of the protein predicts a nuclear location. These observations suggest that Hoy1p may function as a transcriptional regulatory protein. In disrupted strains, reintroduction of HOY1 restored the capacity for hypha formation. Northern blot hybridization revealed the HOY1 transcript to be approximately 1.6 kb. Expression of this gene was detected when Y. lipolytica grew as a budding yeast, but an increase in its expression was observed by 1 h after cells had been induced to form hyphae. The possible functions of HOY1 in hyphal growth and the uses of the FIL screen to identify morphogenetic regulatory genes from heterologous organisms are discussed.
PMCID: PMC232479  PMID: 9343389
4.  Timing and Localization of Rhamnolipid Synthesis Gene Expression in Pseudomonas aeruginosa Biofilms 
Journal of Bacteriology  2005;187(1):37-44.
Pseudomonas aeruginosa biofilms can develop mushroom-like structures with stalks and caps consisting of discrete subpopulations of cells. Self-produced rhamnolipid surfactants have been shown to be important in development of the mushroom-like structures. The quorum-sensing-controlled rhlAB operon is required for rhamnolipid synthesis. We have introduced an rhlA-gfp fusion into a neutral site in the P. aeruginosa genome to study rhlAB promoter activity in rhamnolipid-producing biofilms. Expression of the rhlA-gfp fusion in biofilms requires the quorum-sensing signal butanoyl-homoserine lactone, but other factors are also required for expression. Early in biofilm development rhlA-gfp expression is low, even in the presence of added butanoyl-homoserine lactone. Expression of the fusion becomes apparent after microcolonies with a depth of >20 μm have formed and, as shown by differential labeling with rfp or fluorescent dyes, rhlA-gfp is preferentially expressed in the stalks rather than the caps of mature mushrooms. The rhlA-gfp expression pattern is not greatly influenced by addition of butanoyl-homoserine lactone to the biofilm growth medium. We propose that rhamnolipid synthesis occurs in biofilms after stalks have formed but prior to capping in the mushroom-like structures. The differential expression of rhlAB may play a role in the development of normal biofilm architecture.
PMCID: PMC538809  PMID: 15601686
5.  Enhanced octadecane dispersion and biodegradation by a Pseudomonas rhamnolipid surfactant (biosurfactant). 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  1992;58(10):3276-3282.
A microbial surfactant (biosurfactant) was investigated for its potential to enhance bioavailability and, hence, the biodegradation of octadecane. The rhamnolipid biosurfactant used in this study was extracted from culture supernatants after growth of Pseudomonas aeruginosa ATCC 9027 in phosphate-limited proteose peptone-glucose-ammonium salts medium. Dispersion of octadecane in aqueous solutions was dramatically enhanced by 300 mg of the rhamnolipid biosurfactant per liter, increasing by a factor of more than 4 orders of magnitude, from 0.009 to > 250 mg/liter. The relative enhancement of octadecane dispersion was much greater at low rhamnolipid concentrations than at high concentrations. Rhamnolipid-enhanced octadecane dispersion was found to be dependent on pH and shaking speed. Biodegradation experiments done with an initial octadecane concentration of 1,500 mg/liter showed that 20% of the octadecane was mineralized in 84 h in the presence of 300 mg of rhamnolipid per liter, compared with only 5% octadecane mineralization when no surfactant was present. These results indicate that rhamnolipids may have potential for facilitating the bioremediation of sites contaminated with hydrocarbons having limited water solubility.
PMCID: PMC183091  PMID: 1444363
6.  Pseudomonas aeruginosa Exopolysaccharide Psl Promotes Resistance to the Biofilm Inhibitor Polysorbate 80 
Polysorbate 80 (PS80) is a nonionic surfactant and detergent that inhibits biofilm formation by Pseudomonas aeruginosa at concentrations as low as 0.001% and is well tolerated in human tissues. However, certain clinical and laboratory strains (PAO1) of P. aeruginosa are able to form biofilms in the presence of PS80. To better understand this resistance, we performed transposon mutagenesis with a PS80-resistant clinical isolate, PA738. This revealed that mutation of algC rendered PA738 sensitive to PS80 biofilm inhibition. AlgC contributes to the biosynthesis of the exopolysaccharides Psl and alginate, as well as lipopolysaccharide and rhamnolipid. Analysis of mutations downstream of AlgC in these biosynthetic pathways established that disruption of the psl operon was sufficient to render the PA738 and PAO1 strains sensitive to PS80-mediated biofilm inhibition. Increased levels of Psl production in the presence of arabinose in a strain with an arabinose-inducible psl promoter were correlated with increased biofilm formation in PS80. In P. aeruginosa strains MJK8 and ZK2870, known to produce both Pel and Psl, disruption of genes in the psl but not the pel operon conferred susceptibility to PS80-mediated biofilm inhibition. The laboratory strain PA14 does not produce Psl and does not form biofilms in PS80. However, when PA14 was transformed with a cosmid containing the psl operon, it formed biofilms in the presence of PS80. Taken together, these data suggest that production of the exopolysaccharide Psl by P. aeruginosa promotes resistance to the biofilm inhibitor PS80.
PMCID: PMC3421584  PMID: 22585230
7.  Increase in Rhamnolipid Synthesis under Iron-Limiting Conditions Influences Surface Motility and Biofilm Formation in Pseudomonas aeruginosa▿ † 
Journal of Bacteriology  2010;192(12):2973-2980.
Iron is an essential element for life but also serves as an environmental signal for biofilm development in the opportunistic human pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Under iron-limiting conditions, P. aeruginosa displays enhanced twitching motility and forms flat unstructured biofilms. In this study, we present evidence suggesting that iron-regulated production of the biosurfactant rhamnolipid is important to facilitate the formation of flat unstructured biofilms. We show that under iron limitation the timing of rhamnolipid expression is shifted to the initial stages of biofilm formation (versus later in biofilm development under iron-replete conditions) and results in increased bacterial surface motility. In support of this observation, an rhlAB mutant defective in biosurfactant production showed less surface motility under iron-restricted conditions and developed structured biofilms similar to those developed by the wild type under iron-replete conditions. These results highlight the importance of biosurfactant production in determining the mature structure of P. aeruginosa biofilms under iron-limiting conditions.
PMCID: PMC2901684  PMID: 20154129
8.  Fatty Acid Cosubstrates Provide β-Oxidation Precursors for Rhamnolipid Biosynthesis in Pseudomonas aeruginosa, as Evidenced by Isotope Tracing and Gene Expression Assays 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2012;78(24):8611-8622.
Rhamnolipids have multiple potential applications as “green” surfactants for industry, remediation, and medicine. As a result, they have been intensively investigated to add to our understanding of their biosynthesis and improve yields. Several studies have noted that the addition of a fatty acid cosubstrate increases rhamnolipid yields, but a metabolic explanation has not been offered, partly because biosynthesis studies to date have used sugar or sugar derivatives as the carbon source. The objective of this study was to investigate the role of fatty acid cosubstrates in improving rhamnolipid biosynthesis. A combination of stable isotope tracing and gene expression assays was used to identify lipid precursors and potential lipid metabolic pathways used in rhamnolipid synthesis when fatty acid cosubstrates are present. To this end, we compared the rhamnolipids produced and their yields using either glucose alone or glucose and octadecanoic acid-d35 as cosubstrates. Using a combination of sugar and fatty acids, the rhamnolipid yield was significantly higher (i.e., doubled) than when glucose was used alone. Two patterns of deuterium incorporation (either 1 or 15 deuterium atoms) in a single Rha-C10 lipid chain were observed for octadecanoic acid-d35 treatment, indicating that in the presence of a fatty acid cosubstrate, both de novo fatty acid synthesis and β-oxidation are used to provide lipid precursors for rhamnolipids. Gene expression assays showed a 200- to 600-fold increase in the expression of rhlA and rhlB rhamnolipid biosynthesis genes and a more modest increase of 3- to 4-fold of the fadA β-oxidation pathway gene when octadecanoic acid was present. Taken together, these results suggest that the simultaneous use of de novo fatty acid synthesis and β-oxidation pathways allows for higher production of lipid precursors, resulting in increased rhamnolipid yields.
PMCID: PMC3502905  PMID: 23042167
9.  Biotreatment of oily wastewater by rhamnolipids in aerated active sludge system*  
Oily wastewater generated by various industries creates a major ecological problem throughout the world. The traditional methods for the oily wastewater treatment are inefficient and costly. Surfactants can promote the biodegradation of petroleum hydrocarbons by dispersing oil into aqueous environment. In the present study, we applied rhamnolipid-containing cell-free culture broth to enhance the biodegradation of crude oil and lubricating oil in a conventional aerobically-activated sludge system. At 20 °C, rhamnolipids (11.2 mg/L) increased the removal efficiency of crude oil from 17.7% (in the absence of rhamnolipids) to 63%. At 25 °C, the removal efficiency of crude oil was over 80% with the presence of rhamnolipids compared with 22.3% in the absence of rhamnolipids. Similarly, rhamnolipid treatment (22.5 mg/L) for 24 h at 20 °C significantly increased the removal rate of lubricating oil to 92% compared with 24% in the absence of rhamnolipids. The enhanced removal of hydrocarbons was mainly attributed to the improved solubility and the reduced interfacial tension by rhamnolipids. We conclude that a direct application of the crude rhamnolipid solution from cell culture is effective and economic in removing oily contaminants from wastewater.
PMCID: PMC2772891  PMID: 19882761
Oily wastewater; Rhamnolipid; Aerated active sludge system; Biodegradation
10.  The Autotransporter Esterase EstA of Pseudomonas aeruginosa Is Required for Rhamnolipid Production, Cell Motility, and Biofilm Formation▿  
Journal of Bacteriology  2007;189(18):6695-6703.
Pseudomonas aeruginosa PAO1 produces the biodetergent rhamnolipid and secretes it into the extracellular environment. The role of rhamnolipids in the life cycle and pathogenicity of P. aeruginosa has not been completely understood, but they are known to affect outer membrane composition, cell motility, and biofilm formation. This report is focused on the influence of the outer membrane-bound esterase EstA of P. aeruginosa PAO1 on rhamnolipid production. EstA is an autotransporter protein which exposes its catalytically active esterase domain on the cell surface. Here we report that the overexpression of EstA in the wild-type background of P. aeruginosa PAO1 results in an increased production of rhamnolipids whereas an estA deletion mutant produced only marginal amounts of rhamnolipids. Also the known rhamnolipid-dependent cellular motility and biofilm formation were affected. Although only a dependence of swarming motility on rhamnolipids has been known so far, the other kinds of motility displayed by P. aeruginosa PAO1, swimming and twitching, were also affected by an estA mutation. In order to demonstrate that EstA enzyme activity is responsible for these effects, inactive variant EstA* was constructed by replacement of the active serine by alanine. None of the mutant phenotypes could be complemented by expression of EstA*, demonstrating that the phenotypes affected by the estA mutation depend on the enzymatically active protein.
PMCID: PMC2045186  PMID: 17631636
11.  Flagellin Delivery by Pseudomonas aeruginosa Rhamnolipids Induces the Antimicrobial Protein Psoriasin in Human Skin 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(1):e16433.
The opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa can cause severe infections in patients suffering from disruption or disorder of the skin barrier as in burns, chronic wounds, and after surgery. On healthy skin P. aeruginosa causes rarely infections. To gain insight into the interaction of the ubiquitous bacterium P. aeruginosa and healthy human skin, the induction of the antimicrobial protein psoriasin by P. aeruginosa grown on an ex vivo skin model was analyzed. We show that presence of the P. aeruginosa derived biosurfactant rhamnolipid was indispensable for flagellin-induced psoriasin expression in human skin, contrary to in vitro conditions. The importance of the bacterial virulence factor flagellin as the major inducing factor of psoriasin expression in skin was demonstrated by use of a flagellin-deficient mutant. Rhamnolipid mediated shuttle across the outer skin barrier was not restricted to flagellin since rhamnolipids enable psoriasin expression by the cytokines IL-17 and IL-22 after topical application on human skin. Rhamnolipid production was detected for several clinical strains and the formation of vesicles was observed under skin physiological conditions. In conclusion we demonstrate herein that rhamnolipids enable the induction of the antimicrobial protein psoriasin by flagellin in human skin without direct contact of bacteria and responding cells. Hereby, human skin might control the microflora to prevent colonization of unwanted microbes in the earliest steps before potential pathogens can develop strategies to subvert the immune response.
PMCID: PMC3026827  PMID: 21283546
12.  Growth independent rhamnolipid production from glucose using the non-pathogenic Pseudomonas putida KT2440 
Rhamnolipids are potent biosurfactants with high potential for industrial applications. However, rhamnolipids are currently produced with the opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa during growth on hydrophobic substrates such as plant oils. The heterologous production of rhamnolipids entails two essential advantages: Disconnecting the rhamnolipid biosynthesis from the complex quorum sensing regulation and the opportunity of avoiding pathogenic production strains, in particular P. aeruginosa. In addition, separation of rhamnolipids from fatty acids is difficult and hence costly.
Here, the metabolic engineering of a rhamnolipid producing Pseudomonas putida KT2440, a strain certified as safety strain using glucose as carbon source to avoid cumbersome product purification, is reported. Notably, P. putida KT2440 features almost no changes in growth rate and lag-phase in the presence of high concentrations of rhamnolipids (> 90 g/L) in contrast to the industrially important bacteria Bacillus subtilis, Corynebacterium glutamicum, and Escherichia coli. P. putida KT2440 expressing the rhlAB-genes from P. aeruginosa PAO1 produces mono-rhamnolipids of P. aeruginosa PAO1 type (mainly C10:C10). The metabolic network was optimized in silico for rhamnolipid synthesis from glucose. In addition, a first genetic optimization, the removal of polyhydroxyalkanoate formation as competing pathway, was implemented. The final strain had production rates in the range of P. aeruginosa PAO1 at yields of about 0.15 g/gglucose corresponding to 32% of the theoretical optimum. What's more, rhamnolipid production was independent from biomass formation, a trait that can be exploited for high rhamnolipid production without high biomass formation.
A functional alternative to the pathogenic rhamnolipid producer P. aeruginosa was constructed and characterized. P. putida KT24C1 pVLT31_rhlAB featured the highest yield and titer reported from heterologous rhamnolipid producers with glucose as carbon source. Notably, rhamnolipid production was uncoupled from biomass formation, which allows optimal distribution of resources towards rhamnolipid synthesis. The results are discussed in the context of rational strain engineering by using the concepts of synthetic biology like chassis cells and orthogonality, thereby avoiding the complex regulatory programs of rhamnolipid production existing in the natural producer P. aeruginosa.
PMCID: PMC3258213  PMID: 21999513
flux analysis; quantitative physiology; metabolic network; biodetergent; non-pathogenic Pseudomonas; biosurfactants; rhamnolipids; off-gas analysis; 13C labeling; BlueSens
13.  Disruption of Contact Lens–Associated Pseudomonas aeruginosa Biofilms Formed in the Presence of Neutrophils 
This study identifies a mechanism for neutrophil-enhanced early biofilm development on contact lens surfaces and indicates a potential new strategy in the prevention of pathogenic biofilm formation during contact lens wear.
To evaluate the capacity of neutrophils to enhance biofilm formation on contact lenses by an infectious Pseudomonas aeruginosa (PA) corneal isolate. Agents that target F-actin and DNA were tested as a therapeutic strategy for disrupting biofilms formed in the setting of neutrophils in vitro and for limiting the infectious bioburden in vivo.
Biofilm formation by infectious PA strain 6294 was assessed in the presence of neutrophils on a static biofilm plate and on unworn etafilcon A soft contact lenses. A d-isomer of poly(aspartic acid) was used alone and with DNase to reduce biofilm formation on test contact lenses. The gentamicin survival assay was used to determine the effectiveness of the test compound in reducing subsequent intracellular bacterial load in the corneal epithelium in a contact lens infection model in the rabbit.
In a static reactor and on hydrogel lenses, PA biofilm density was enhanced 30-fold at 24 hours in the presence of neutrophils (P < 0.0001). The combination of DNase and anionic poly(aspartic acid) reduced the PA biofilms formed in the presence of activated neutrophils by 79.2% on hydrogel contact lenses (P < 0.001). An identical treatment resulted in a 41% reduction in internalized PA in the rabbit corneal epithelium after 24 hours (P = 0.03).
These results demonstrate that PA can exploit the presence of neutrophils to form biofilm on contact lenses within a short time. Incorporation of F-actin and DNA represent a mechanism for neutrophil-induced biofilm enhancement and are targets for available agents to disrupt pathogenic biofilms formed on contact lenses and as a treatment for established corneal infections.
PMCID: PMC3088567  PMID: 21245396
14.  Effect of a Pseudomonas rhamnolipid biosurfactant on cell hydrophobicity and biodegradation of octadecane. 
In this study, the effect of a purified rhamnolipid biosurfactant on the hydrophobicity of octadecane-degrading cells was investigated to determine whether differences in rates of octadecane biodegradation resulting from the addition of rhamnolipid to four strains of Pseudomonas aeruginosa could be related to measured differences in hydrophobicity. Cell hydrophobicity was determined by a modified bacterial adherence to hydrocarbon (BATH) assay. Bacterial adherence to hydrocarbon quantitates the preference of cell surfaces for the aqueous phase or the aqueous-hexadecane interface in a two-phase system of water and hexadecane. On the basis of octadecane biodegradation in the absence of rhamnolipid, the four bacterial strains were divided into two groups: the fast degraders (ATCC 15442 and ATCC 27853), which had high cell hydrophobicities (74 and 55% adherence to hexadecane, respectively), and the slow degraders (ATCC 9027 and NRRL 3198), which had low cell hydrophobicities (27 and 40%, respectively). Although in all cases rhamnolipid increased the aqueous dispersion of octadecane at least 10(4)-fold, at low rhamnolipid concentrations (0.6 mM), biodegradation by all four strains was initially inhibited for at least 100 h relative to controls. At high rhamnolipid concentrations (6 mM), biodegradation by the fast degraders was slightly inhibited relative to controls, but the biodegradation by the slow degraders was enhanced relative to controls. Measurement of cell hydrophobicity showed that rhamnolipids increased the cell hydrophobicity of the slow degraders but had no effect on the cell hydrophobicity of the fast degraders. The rate at which the cells became hydrophobic was found to depend on the rhamnolipid concentration and was directly related to the rate of octadecane biodegradation.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)
PMCID: PMC201607  PMID: 8031099
15.  Maggot Excretions Inhibit Biofilm Formation on Biomaterials 
Biofilm-associated infections in trauma surgery are difficult to treat with conventional therapies. Therefore, it is important to develop new treatment modalities. Maggots in captured bags, which are permeable for larval excretions/secretions, aid in healing severe, infected wounds, suspect for biofilm formation. Therefore we presumed maggot excretions/secretions would reduce biofilm formation.
We studied biofilm formation of Staphylococcus aureus, Staphylococcus epidermidis, Klebsiella oxytoca, Enterococcus faecalis, and Enterobacter cloacae on polyethylene, titanium, and stainless steel. We compared the quantities of biofilm formation between the bacterial species on the various biomaterials and the quantity of biofilm formation after various incubation times. Maggot excretions/secretions were added to existing biofilms to examine their effect.
Comb-like models of the biomaterials, made to fit in a 96-well microtiter plate, were incubated with bacterial suspension. The formed biofilms were stained in crystal violet, which was eluted in ethanol. The optical density (at 595 nm) of the eluate was determined to quantify biofilm formation. Maggot excretions/secretions were pipetted in different concentrations to (nonstained) 7-day-old biofilms, incubated 24 hours, and finally measured.
The strongest biofilms were formed by S. aureus and S. epidermidis on polyethylene and the weakest on titanium. The highest quantity of biofilm formation was reached within 7 days for both bacteria. The presence of excretions/secretions reduced biofilm formation on all biomaterials. A maximum of 92% of biofilm reduction was measured.
Our observations suggest maggot excretions/secretions decrease biofilm formation and could provide a new treatment for biofilm formation on infected biomaterials.
PMCID: PMC2939353  PMID: 20309656
16.  Maggot Excretions Inhibit Biofilm Formation on Biomaterials 
Biofilm-associated infections in trauma surgery are difficult to treat with conventional therapies. Therefore, it is important to develop new treatment modalities. Maggots in captured bags, which are permeable for larval excretions/secretions, aid in healing severe, infected wounds, suspect for biofilm formation. Therefore we presumed maggot excretions/secretions would reduce biofilm formation.
We studied biofilm formation of Staphylococcus aureus, Staphylococcus epidermidis, Klebsiella oxytoca, Enterococcus faecalis, and Enterobacter cloacae on polyethylene, titanium, and stainless steel. We compared the quantities of biofilm formation between the bacterial species on the various biomaterials and the quantity of biofilm formation after various incubation times. Maggot excretions/secretions were added to existing biofilms to examine their effect.
Comb-like models of the biomaterials, made to fit in a 96-well microtiter plate, were incubated with bacterial suspension. The formed biofilms were stained in crystal violet, which was eluted in ethanol. The optical density (at 595 nm) of the eluate was determined to quantify biofilm formation. Maggot excretions/secretions were pipetted in different concentrations to (nonstained) 7-day-old biofilms, incubated 24 hours, and finally measured.
The strongest biofilms were formed by S. aureus and S. epidermidis on polyethylene and the weakest on titanium. The highest quantity of biofilm formation was reached within 7 days for both bacteria. The presence of excretions/secretions reduced biofilm formation on all biomaterials. A maximum of 92% of biofilm reduction was measured.
Our observations suggest maggot excretions/secretions decrease biofilm formation and could provide a new treatment for biofilm formation on infected biomaterials.
PMCID: PMC2939353  PMID: 20309656
17.  Rhamnolipid (biosurfactant) effects on cell aggregation and biodegradation of residual hexadecane under saturated flow conditions. 
The objective of this research was to evaluate the effect of low concentrations of a rhamnolipid biosurfactant on the in situ biodegradation of hydrocarbon entrapped in a porous matrix. Experiments were performed with sand-packed columns under saturated flow conditions with hexadecane as a model hydrocarbon. Application of biosurfactant concentrations greater than the CMC (the concentration at which the surfactant molecules spontaneously form micelles or vesicles [0.03 mM]) resulted primarily in the mobilization of hexadecane entrapped within the sand matrix. In contrast, application of biosurfactant concentrations less than the CMC enhanced the in situ mineralization of entrapped hexadecane; however, this effect was dependent on the choice of bacterial isolate. The two Pseudomonas isolates tested, R4 and ATCC 15524, were used because they exhibit different patterns of biodegradation of hexadecane, and they also differed in their physical response to rhamnolipid addition. ATCC 15524 cells formed extensive multicell aggregates in the presence of rhamnolipid while R4 cells were unaffected. This behavior did not affect the ability of the biosurfactant to enhance the biodegradation of hexadecane in well-mixed soil slurry systems but had a large affect on the extent of entrapped hexadecane biodegradation in the sand-packed-column system that was used in this study.
PMCID: PMC168669  PMID: 9293014
18.  A novel two-component system BqsS-BqsR modulates quorum sensing-dependent biofilm decay in Pseudomonas aeruginosa 
Pseudomonas aeruginosa can grow either as planktonic- or biofilm-form in response to environmental changes. Recent studies show that switching from biofilm to planktonic lifestyle requires rhamnolipids. Here we report the identification of a novel twocomponent system BqsS-BqsR that regulates biofilm decay in P. aeruginosa. BqsS is a multidomain sensor kinase and BqsR is an OmpR-like response regulator. Deletion of either bqsS or bqsR in P. aeruginosa mPAO1 resulted in a significant increase in biofilm formation. Time course analysis showed that the bqsS-bqsR mutants were defective in biofilm dispersal and in rhamnolipid production. Mutation of the BqsS-BqsR two-component system did not affect the biosynthesis of long chain quorum sensing (QS) signal N-3-oxo-dodecanoyl-homoserine lactone (3OC12HSL) but resulted in reduced production of the short chain QS signal N-butyryl-L-homoserine lactone (C4HSL) and the Pseudomonas quinolone signal (PQS). Exogenous addition of C4HSL, PQS or rhamnolipids to the bqsS mutant reduced the biofilm formation to the wild-type level. Evidence suggests that the BqsS-BqsR two-component system might promote conversion of anthranilate to PQS. Taken together, these results establish BqsS-BqsR as a novel two-component system that regulates biofilm decay in P. aeruginosa by modulating biosynthesis of QS signals and rhamnolipids.
PMCID: PMC2633808  PMID: 19513205
biofilms; two-component system; quorum sensing; PQS; rhamnolipids
19.  Salmonella enterica Serovar Typhimurium Swarming Mutants with Altered Biofilm-Forming Abilities: Surfactin Inhibits Biofilm Formation 
Journal of Bacteriology  2001;183(20):5848-5854.
Swarming motility plays an important role in surface colonization by several flagellated bacteria. Swarmer cells are specially adapted to rapidly translocate over agar surfaces by virtue of their more numerous flagella, longer cell length, and encasement of slime. The external slime provides the milieu for motility and likely harbors swarming signals. We recently reported the isolation of swarming-defective transposon mutants of Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium, a large majority of which were defective in lipopolysaccharide (LPS) synthesis. Here, we have examined the biofilm-forming abilities of the swarming mutants using a microtiter plate assay. A whole spectrum of efficiencies were observed, with LPS mutants being generally more proficient than wild-type organisms in biofilm formation. Since we have postulated that O-antigen may serve a surfactant function during swarming, we tested the effect of the biosurfactant surfactin on biofilm formation. We report that surfactin inhibits biofilm formation of wild-type S. enterica grown either in polyvinyl chloride microtiter wells or in urethral catheters. Other bio- and chemical surfactants tested had similar effects.
PMCID: PMC99661  PMID: 11566982
20.  Manuka-type honeys can eradicate biofilms produced by Staphylococcus aureus strains with different biofilm-forming abilities 
PeerJ  2014;2:e326.
Chronic wounds are a major global health problem. Their management is difficult and costly, and the development of antibiotic resistance by both planktonic and biofilm-associated bacteria necessitates the use of alternative wound treatments. Honey is now being revisited as an alternative treatment due to its broad-spectrum antibacterial activity and the inability of bacteria to develop resistance to it. Many previous antibacterial studies have used honeys that are not well characterized, even in terms of quantifying the levels of the major antibacterial components present, making it difficult to build an evidence base for the efficacy of honey as an antibiofilm agent in chronic wound treatment. Here we show that a range of well-characterized New Zealand manuka-type honeys, in which two principle antibacterial components, methylglyoxal and hydrogen peroxide, were quantified, can eradicate biofilms of a range of Staphylococcus aureus strains that differ widely in their biofilm-forming abilities. Using crystal violet and viability assays, along with confocal laser scanning imaging, we demonstrate that in all S. aureus strains, including methicillin-resistant strains, the manuka-type honeys showed significantly higher anti-biofilm activity than clover honey and an isotonic sugar solution. We observed higher anti-biofilm activity as the proportion of manuka-derived honey, and thus methylglyoxal, in a honey blend increased. However, methylglyoxal on its own, or with sugar, was not able to effectively eradicate S. aureus biofilms. We also demonstrate that honey was able to penetrate through the biofilm matrix and kill the embedded cells in some cases. As has been reported for antibiotics, sub-inhibitory concentrations of honey improved biofilm formation by some S. aureus strains, however, biofilm cell suspensions recovered after honey treatment did not develop resistance towards manuka-type honeys. New Zealand manuka-type honeys, at the concentrations they can be applied in wound dressings are highly active in both preventing S. aureus biofilm formation and in their eradication, and do not result in bacteria becoming resistant. Methylglyoxal requires other components in manuka-type honeys for this anti-biofilm activity. Our findings support the use of well-defined manuka-type honeys as a topical anti-biofilm treatment for the effective management of wound healing.
PMCID: PMC3970805  PMID: 24711974
Staphylococcus aureus; Biofilm; Honey; Antibacterial; Wounds; Methylglyoxal
21.  Hsp90 Governs Dispersion and Drug Resistance of Fungal Biofilms 
PLoS Pathogens  2011;7(9):e1002257.
Fungal biofilms are a major cause of human mortality and are recalcitrant to most treatments due to intrinsic drug resistance. These complex communities of multiple cell types form on indwelling medical devices and their eradication often requires surgical removal of infected devices. Here we implicate the molecular chaperone Hsp90 as a key regulator of biofilm dispersion and drug resistance. We previously established that in the leading human fungal pathogen, Candida albicans, Hsp90 enables the emergence and maintenance of drug resistance in planktonic conditions by stabilizing the protein phosphatase calcineurin and MAPK Mkc1. Hsp90 also regulates temperature-dependent C. albicans morphogenesis through repression of cAMP-PKA signalling. Here we demonstrate that genetic depletion of Hsp90 reduced C. albicans biofilm growth and maturation in vitro and impaired dispersal of biofilm cells. Further, compromising Hsp90 function in vitro abrogated resistance of C. albicans biofilms to the most widely deployed class of antifungal drugs, the azoles. Depletion of Hsp90 led to reduction of calcineurin and Mkc1 in planktonic but not biofilm conditions, suggesting that Hsp90 regulates drug resistance through different mechanisms in these distinct cellular states. Reduction of Hsp90 levels led to a marked decrease in matrix glucan levels, providing a compelling mechanism through which Hsp90 might regulate biofilm azole resistance. Impairment of Hsp90 function genetically or pharmacologically transformed fluconazole from ineffectual to highly effective in eradicating biofilms in a rat venous catheter infection model. Finally, inhibition of Hsp90 reduced resistance of biofilms of the most lethal mould, Aspergillus fumigatus, to the newest class of antifungals to reach the clinic, the echinocandins. Thus, we establish a novel mechanism regulating biofilm drug resistance and dispersion and that targeting Hsp90 provides a much-needed strategy for improving clinical outcome in the treatment of biofilm infections.
Author Summary
Candida albicans and Aspergillus fumigatus are the most common causative agents of fungal infections worldwide. Both species can form biofilms on host tissues and indwelling medical devices that are highly resistant to antifungal treatment. Here we implicate the molecular chaperone Hsp90 as a key regulator of biofilm dispersion and drug resistance. Compromising Hsp90 function reduced biofilm formation of C. albicans in vitro and impaired dispersal of biofilm cells, potentially blocking their capacity to serve as reservoirs for infection. Further, compromise of Hsp90 function abrogated resistance of C. albicans biofilms to the most widely deployed class of antifungal, the azoles, both in vitro and in a mammalian model of catheter-associated candidiasis. Key drug resistance regulators were depleted upon reduction of Hsp90 levels in planktonic but not biofilm conditions, suggesting that Hsp90 regulates drug resistance through different mechanisms in these distinct cellular states. Reduction of Hsp90 markedly reduced levels of matrix glucan, a carbohydrate important for C. albicans biofilm drug resistance. Inhibition of Hsp90 also reduced resistance of A. fumigatus biofilms to the newest class of antifungal, the echinocandins. Thus, targeting Hsp90 provides a promising strategy for the treatment of biofilm infections caused by diverse fungal species.
PMCID: PMC3169563  PMID: 21931556
22.  Rhamnolipids Modulate Swarming Motility Patterns of Pseudomonas aeruginosa 
Journal of Bacteriology  2005;187(21):7351-7361.
Pseudomonas aeruginosa is capable of twitching, swimming, and swarming motility. The latter form of translocation occurs on semisolid surfaces, requires functional flagella and biosurfactant production, and results in complex motility patterns. From the point of inoculation, bacteria migrate as defined groups, referred to as tendrils, moving in a coordinated manner capable of sensing and responding to other groups of cells. We were able to show that P. aeruginosa produces extracellular factors capable of modulating tendril movement, and genetic analysis revealed that modulation of these movements was dependent on rhamnolipid biosynthesis. An rhlB mutant (deficient in mono- and dirhamnolipid production) and an rhlC mutant (deficient in dirhamnolipid production) exhibited altered swarming patterns characterized by irregularly shaped tendrils. In addition, agar supplemented with rhamnolipid-containing spent supernatant inhibited wild-type (WT) swarming, whereas agar supplemented with spent supernatant from mutants that do not make rhamnolipids had no effect on WT P. aeruginosa swarming. Addition of purified rhamnolipids to swarming medium also inhibited swarming motility of the WT strain. We also show that a sadB mutant does not sense and/or respond to other groups of swarming cells and this mutant was capable of swarming on media supplemented with rhamnolipid-containing spent supernatant or purified rhamnolipids. The abilities to produce and respond to rhamnolipids in the context of group behavior are discussed.
PMCID: PMC1273001  PMID: 16237018
23.  A coverslip-based technique for evaluating Staphylococcus aureus biofilm formation on human plasma 
The ability of the opportunistic pathogen, Staphylococcus aureus, to form biofilms is increasingly being viewed as an important contributor to chronic infections. In vitro methods for analyzing S. aureus biofilm formation have focused on bacterial attachment and accumulation on abiotic surfaces, such as in microtiter plate and flow cell assays. Microtiter plates provide a rapid measure of relative biomass levels, while flow cells have limited experimental throughput but are superior for confocal microscopy biofilm visualization. Although these assays have proven effective at identifying mechanisms involved in cell attachment and biofilm accumulation, the significance of these assays in vivo remains unclear. Studies have shown that when medical devices are implanted they are coated with host factors, such as matrix proteins, that facilitate S. aureus attachment and biofilm formation. To address the challenge of integrating existing biofilm assay features with a biotic surface, we have established an in vitro biofilm technique utilizing UV-sterilized coverslips coated with human plasma. The substratum more closely resembles the in vivo state and provides a platform for S. aureus to establish a robust biofilm. Importantly, these coverslips are amenable to confocal microscopy imaging to provide a visual reference of the biofilm growth stage, effectively merging the benefits of the microtiter and flow cell assays. We confirmed the approach using clinical S. aureus isolates and mutants with known biofilm phenotypes. Altogether, this new biofilm assay can be used to assess the function of S. aureus virulence factors associated with biofilm formation and for monitoring the efficacy of biofilm treatment modalities.
PMCID: PMC3417647  PMID: 22919630
Staphylococcus aureus; MRSA; biofilm; assay
24.  The Natural Antimicrobial Carvacrol Inhibits Quorum Sensing in Chromobacterium violaceum and Reduces Bacterial Biofilm Formation at Sub-Lethal Concentrations 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e93414.
The formation of biofilm by bacteria confers resistance to biocides and presents problems in medical and veterinary clinical settings. Here we report the effect of carvacrol, one of the major antimicrobial components of oregano oil, on the formation of biofilms and its activity on existing biofilms. Assays were carried out in polystyrene microplates to observe (a) the effect of 0–0.8 mM carvacrol on the formation of biofilms by selected bacterial pathogens over 24 h and (b) the effect of 0–8 mM carvacrol on the stability of pre-formed biofilms. Carvacrol was able to inhibit the formation of biofilms of Chromobacterium violaceum ATCC 12472, Salmonella enterica subsp. Typhimurium DT104, and Staphylococcus aureus 0074, while it showed no effect on formation of Pseudomonas aeruginosa (field isolate) biofilms. This inhibitory effect of carvacrol was observed at sub-lethal concentrations (<0.5 mM) where no effect was seen on total bacterial numbers, indicating that carvacrol's bactericidal effect was not causing the observed inhibition of biofilm formation. In contrast, carvacrol had (up to 8 mM) very little or no activity against existing biofilms of the bacteria described, showing that formation of the biofilm also confers protection against this compound. Since quorum sensing is an essential part of biofilm formation, the effect of carvacrol on quorum sensing of C. violaceum was also studied. Sub-MIC concentrations of carvacrol reduced expression of cviI (a gene coding for the N-acyl-L-homoserine lactone synthase), production of violacein (pigmentation) and chitinase activity (both regulated by quorum sensing) at concentrations coinciding with carvacrol's inhibiting effect on biofilm formation. These results indicate that carvacrol's activity in inhibition of biofilm formation may be related to the disruption of quorum sensing.
PMCID: PMC3972150  PMID: 24691035
25.  Biofilm formation by clinical isolates and the implications in chronic infections 
Biofilm formation is a major virulence factor contributing to the chronicity of infections. To date few studies have evaluated biofilm formation in infecting isolates of patients including both Gram-positive and Gram-negative multidrug-resistant (MDR) species in the context of numerous types of infectious syndromes. Herein, we investigated the biofilm forming capacity in a large collection of single patient infecting isolates and compared the relationship between biofilm formation to various strain characteristics.
The biofilm-forming capacity of 205 randomly sampled clinical isolates from patients, collected from various anatomical sites, admitted for treatment at Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC) from 2004–2011, including methicillin-resistant/methicillin susceptible Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA/MSSA) (n=23), Acinetobacter baumannii (n=53), Pseudomonas aeruginosa (n=36), Klebsiella pneumoniae (n=54), and Escherichia coli (n=39), were evaluated for biofilm formation using the high-throughput microtiter plate assay and scanning electron microscopy (SEM). Relationships between biofilm formation to clonal type, site of isolate collection, and MDR phenotype were evaluated. Furthermore, in patients with relapsing infections, serial strains were assessed for their ability to form biofilms in vitro.
Of the 205 clinical isolates tested, 126 strains (61.4%) were observed to form biofilms in vitro at levels greater than or equal to the Staphylococcus epidermidis, positive biofilm producing strain, with P. aeruginosa and S. aureus having the greatest number of biofilm producing strains. Biofilm formation was significantly associated with specific clonal types, the site of isolate collection, and strains positive for biofilm formation were more frequently observed to be MDR. In patients with relapsing infections, the majority of serial isolates recovered from these individuals were observed to be strong biofilm producers in vitro.
This study is the first to evaluate biofilm formation in a large collection of infecting clinical isolates representing diverse types of infections. Our results demonstrate: (1) biofilm formation is a heterogeneous property amongst clinical strains which is associated with certain clonal types, (2) biofilm forming strains are more frequently isolated from non-fluid tissues, in particular bone and soft tissues, (3) MDR pathogens are more often biofilm formers, and (4) strains from patients with persistent infections are positive for biofilm formation.
PMCID: PMC3568419  PMID: 23356488
Biofilm formation; Clinical isolates; Chronic infection; Multidrug-resistant; MRSA

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