The impact of the conjugative IncP-1 plasmid pKJK5 on multispecies biofilm formation is dependent on the plasmid host


Correspondence: Mette Burmølle, Section of Microbiology, University of Copenhagen, Universitetsparken 15, bygn 1, 2100 Copenhagen Ø, Denmark. Tel.: +45 40220069; e-mail:


Horizontal gene transfer by conjugation has been reported to increase overall biofilm formation. Biofilm is considered a hot spot for plasmid transfer, and it has been found that social interactions during biofilm formation can increase the biomass. In this study, we demonstrate a contrast to previous studies by showing that the conjugative IncP-1 plasmid pKJK5 influences biofilm formation negatively. The results showed that a co-culture (Pseudomonas putida, Kluyvera sp., and Escherichia coli) formed significantly more biofilm than the strains did individually. When pKJK5 was inserted into P. putida, biofilm formation was significantly reduced compared with the co-culture without plasmid. A nonconjugative version of pKJK5 was also used, and the biofilm formation was restored. Visualization with the BioFlux 1000 facility showed that the presence of pKJK5-containing P. putida in the co-culture led to a changed biofilm structure, where the cells showed a higher tendency to attach to other cells rather than surfaces. This study thus indicates that the presence of conjugative plasmids in some species may decrease the surface-associated biofilm formation of a mixed co-culture by facilitating cell–cell attachment with reduced surface attachment as the consequence.