Scientific article
Open access

Cell dispersal in biofilms: an extracellular DNA masks nature's strongest glue

Published inMolecular microbiology, vol. 77, no. 4, p. 801-804
Publication date2010

Summary Growth in biofilms provides bacterial species with many advantages over growth in suspension, e.g. colonization of nutrient-rich areas. In the alpha-proteobacterium Caulobacter crescentus biofilm formation is facilitated through its asymmetric cell division, where one daughter cell becomes a motile flagellated swarmer cell able to colonize new surfaces while the other remains as a stalked cell attached to the substrate through the adhesive holdfast. The Caulobacter biofilm consists of stalked cells arranged either in a monolayer or in a multicellular 'mushroom' structure. In this issue of Molecular Microbiology, Berne et al. demonstrate that extracellular DNA (eDNA) from lysed cells prevents biofilm maturation. eDNA masks the adhesive properties of newly synthesized holdfast to enable the escape of swarmer cells from the biofilm. By contrast, holdfasts on previously attached stalked cells remain unaffected by eDNA. Surprisingly, the inhibitory effect was genus-specific, as only DNA from Caulobacter, but not from other genera, could interfere with biofilm maturation. This study reveals a new role for DNA in biofilms, as a regulatory rather than a structural component, and a novel mechanism to facilitate the escape of cells from biofilms. A compelling case is made for the existence of a new type of genus-specific 'macromolecular language'.

Citation (ISO format)
KIRKPATRICK, Clare, VIOLLIER, Patrick. Cell dispersal in biofilms: an extracellular DNA masks nature’s strongest glue. In: Molecular microbiology, 2010, vol. 77, n° 4, p. 801–804. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2958.2010.07268.x
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Article (Published version)
ISSN of the journal0950-382X

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