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Cell–cell and cell–surface interactions mediated by cellulose and a novel exopolysaccharide contribute to Pseudomonas putida biofilm formation and fitness under water-limiting conditions

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E-mail larryh@iastate.edu; Tel. (+1) 515 294 0495; Fax (+1) 515 294 6019.

Summary

The composition of the exopolysaccharide matrix of Pseudomonas putida mt2 biofilms is relatively undefined as well as the contributions of each polymer to ecological fitness. Here, we describe the role of two putative exopolysaccharide gene clusters, putida exopolysaccharide A (pea) and bacterial cellulose (bcs) in biofilm formation and stability, rhizosphere colonization and matrix hydration under water-limiting conditions. Our findings suggest that pea is involved in the production of a novel glucose, galactose, and mannose-rich polymer that contributes to cell–cell interactions necessary for pellicle and biofilm formation and stability. In contrast, Bcs plays a minor role in biofilm formation and stability, although it does contribute to rhizosphere colonization based on a competition assay. We show that pea expression is highly induced transiently under water-limiting conditions but only slightly by high osmolarity, as determined by qRT-PCR. In contrast, both forms of water stress highly induced bcs expression. Cells deficient in making one or more exopolysaccharide experienced greater dehydration-mediated cell-envelope stress, leading to increased alginate promoter activity. However, this did not lead to increased exopolysaccharide production, except in bcs or pea mutants unable to produce alginate, indicating that P. putida compensates by producing, presumably more Pea or Bcs exopolysaccharides, to facilitate biofilm hydration. Collectively, the data suggest that Pea and Bcs contribute to biofilm formation and in turn their presence contributes to fitness under water-limiting conditions, but not to the extent of alginate.

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