Flagellar and twitching motility are necessary for Pseudomonas aeruginosa biofilm development


Roberto Kolter E-mail kolter@mbcrr.harvard.edu; Tel. (617) 432 1776; Fax (617) 738 7664.


The formation of complex bacterial communities known as biofilms begins with the interaction of planktonic cells with a surface in response to appropriate environmental signals. We report the isolation and characterization of mutants of Pseudomonas aeruginosa PA14 defective in the initiation of biofilm formation on an abiotic surface, polyvinylchloride (PVC) plastic. These mutants are designated surface attachment defective (sad ). Two classes of sad mutants were analysed: (i) mutants defective in flagellar-mediated motility and (ii) mutants defective in biogenesis of the polar-localized type IV pili. We followed the development of the biofilm formed by the wild type over 8 h using phase-contrast microscopy. The wild-type strain first formed a monolayer of cells on the abiotic surface, followed by the appearance of microcolonies that were dispersed throughout the monolayer of cells. Using time-lapse microscopy, we present evidence that microcolonies form by aggregation of cells present in the monolayer. As observed with the wild type, strains with mutations in genes required for the synthesis of type IV pili formed a monolayer of cells on the PVC plastic. However, in contrast to the wild-type strain, the type IV pili mutants did not develop microcolonies over the course of the experiments, suggesting that these structures play an important role in microcolony formation. Very few cells of a non-motile strain (carrying a mutation in flgK ) attached to PVC even after 8 h of incubation, suggesting a role for flagella and/or motility in the initial cell-to-surface interactions. The phenotype of these mutants thus allows us to initiate the dissection of the developmental pathway leading to biofilm formation.