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Nickel Promotes Biofilm Formation by Escherichia coli K-12 Strains That Produce Curli▿

By Claire Perrin, Romain Briandet, Gregory Jubelin, Philippe Lejeune, Marie-Andrée Mandrand-Berthelot, Agnès Rodrigue and Corinne Dorel


The survival of bacteria exposed to toxic compounds is a multifactorial phenomenon, involving well-known molecular mechanisms of resistance but also less-well-understood mechanisms of tolerance that need to be clarified. In particular, the contribution of biofilm formation to survival in the presence of toxic compounds, such as nickel, was investigated in this study. We found that a subinhibitory concentration of nickel leads Escherichia coli bacteria to change their lifestyle, developing biofilm structures rather than growing as free-floating cells. Interestingly, whereas nickel and magnesium both alter the global cell surface charge, only nickel promotes biofilm formation in our system. Genetic evidence indicates that biofilm formation induced by nickel is mediated by the transcriptional induction of the adhesive curli-encoding genes. Biofilm formation induced by nickel does not rely on efflux mechanisms using the RcnA pump, as these require a higher concentration of nickel to be activated. Our results demonstrate that the nickel-induced biofilm formation in E. coli is an adaptational process, occurring through a transcriptional effect on genes coding for adherence structures. The biofilm lifestyle is obviously a selective advantage in the presence of nickel, but the means by which it improves bacterial survival needs to be investigated

Topics: Genetics and Molecular Biology
Publisher: American Society for Microbiology (ASM)
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Provided by: PubMed Central
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