Role of protein acetylation, formation and dispersal of biofilms, and their impact on insects
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Bacterial biofilms form on liquid/air and liquid/solid surfaces and consist of cells combined with an extracellular matrix such as exopolysaccharides, extracellular DNA, and glycoproteins. Bacteria have up to a 1000-fold increase of antibiotic resistance in biofilms compared to planktonic cells. Furthermore, biofilm cells show better tolerance to adverse environmental conditions such as nutrition limitations, temperature changes, pH changes, and non-optimal osmotic conditions. In Escherichia coli, the outer membrane protein OmpA increased biofilm formation on polystyrene, polypropylene, and polyvinyl chloride surfaces while it decreased biofilm formation on glass surfaces. This surface-dependent phenotype was because OmpA inhibits cellulose production by inducing the CpxRA two-component signal transduction pathway, and cellulose inhibits biofilm formation on plastic due to its hydrophilic nature. We discovered, and then engineered, BdcA (formerly YjgI), for biofilm dispersal. We found that in E. coli, BdcA increases motility and extracellular DNA production while it decreases exopolysaccharide production, cell length, and aggregation. We reasoned that the 3, 5-cyclic diguanylic acid (c-di-GMP) levels increase upon deleting bdcA, and showed that BdcA binds c-di-GMP in vitro. In addition, we used protein engineering to evolve BdcA for greater c-di-GMP binding and found that the single amino acid change E50Q causes nearly complete biofilm dispersal. We isolated Proteus mirabilis from the blowfly Lucilia sericata, which swarmed significantly. By motility screening and complementation with putative interkingdom signal molecules that have been shown to attract flies, we found lactic acid, phenol, NaOH, KOH, putrescine, and ammonia restore the swarming motility of seven different swarming deficient mutants. These mutants and putative signal molecules will be further tested for fly attraction and oviposition. Acetylation of lysine residues is conserved in all three kingdoms although its role in bacteria is not clear. We demonstrated that acetylation enables E. coli to withstand environmental stresses. Specifically, the bacteria became more resistant to heat and oxidative stress. Furthermore, we showed that the increase in oxidative stress resistance is due to the induction of catalase gene katG. Hence we demonstrate for the first time a specific physiological role for acetylation in prokaryotes.
Ma, Qun (2011). Role of protein acetylation, formation and dispersal of biofilms, and their impact on insects. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from