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Summary

Pseudomonas aeruginosa forms diverse matrix-enclosed surface-associated multicellular assemblages (biofilms) that aid in its survival in a variety of environments. One such biofilm is the pellicle that forms at the air–liquid interface in standing cultures. We screened for transposon insertion mutants of P. aeruginosa PA14 that were unable to form pellicles. Analysis of these mutants led to the identification of seven adjacent genes, named pel genes, the products of which appear to be involved in the formation of the pellicle's extracellular matrix. In addition to being required for pellicle formation, the pel genes are also required for the formation of solid surface-associated biofilms. Sequence analyses predicted that three pel genes encode transmembrane proteins and that five pel genes have functional homologues involved in carbohydrate processing. Microscopic and macroscopic observations revealed that wild-type P. aeruginosa PA14 produces a cellulase-sensitive extracellular matrix able to bind Congo red; no extracellular matrix was produced by the pel mutants. A comparison of the carbohydrates produced by the wild-type strain and pel mutants suggested that glucose was a principal component of the matrix material. Together, these results suggest that the pel genes are responsible for the production of a glucose-rich matrix material required for the formation of biofilms by P. aeruginosa PA14.