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Summary

The ability to form biofilms is seen as an increasingly important colonization strategy among both pathogenic and environmental bacteria. A survey of 185 plant-associated, phytopathogenic, soil and river Pseudomonas isolates resulted in 76% producing biofilms at the air–liquid (A–L) interface after selection in static microcosms. Considerable variation in biofilm phenotype was observed, including waxy aggregations, viscous and floccular masses, and physically cohesive biofilms with continuously varying strengths over 1500-fold. Calcofluor epifluorescent microscopy identified cellulose as the matrix component in biofilms produced by Pseudomonas asplenii, Pseudomonas corrugata, Pseudomonas fluorescens, Pseudomonas marginalis, Pseudomonas putida, Pseudomonas savastanoi and Pseudomonas syringae isolates. Cellulose expression and biofilm formation could be induced by the constitutively active WspR19 mutant of the cyclic-di-GMP-associated, GGDEF domain-containing response regulator involved in the P. fluorescens SBW25 wrinkly spreader phenotype and cellular aggregation in Pseudomonas aeruginosa PA01. WspR19 could also induce P. putida KT2440, which otherwise did not produce a biofilm or express cellulose, as well as Escherichia coli K12 and Salmonella typhimurium LT2, both of which express cellulose yet lack WspR homologues. Statistical analysis of biofilm parameters suggest that biofilm development is a more complex process than that simply described by the production of attachment and matrix components and bacterial growth. This complexity was also seen in multivariate analysis as a species-ecological habitat effect, underscoring the fact that in vitro biofilms are abstractions of those surface and volume colonization processes used by bacteria in their natural environments.