Pseudomonas aeruginosa Initiates a Rapid and Specific Transcriptional Response during Surface Attachment
Chronic biofilm infections by Pseudomonas aeruginosa are a major contributor to the morbidity and mortality of patients. The formation of multicellular bacterial aggregates, called biofilms, is associated with increased resistance to antimicrobials and immune clearance and the persistence of infections. Biofilm formation is dependent on bacterial cell attachment to surfaces, and therefore, attachment plays a key role in chronic infections. We hypothesized that bacteria sense various surfaces and initiate a rapid, specific response to increase adhesion and establish biofilms. RNA sequencing (RNA-Seq) analysis identified transcriptional changes of adherent cells during initial attachment, identifying the bacterial response to an abiotic surface over a 1-h period. Subsequent screens investigating the most highly regulated genes in surface attachment identified 4 genes, pfpI, phnA, leuD, and moaE, all of which have roles in both metabolism and biofilm formation. In addition, the transcriptional responses to several different medically relevant abiotic surfaces were compared after initial attachment. Surprisingly, there was a specific transcriptional response to each surface, with very few genes being regulated in response to surfaces in general. We identified a set of 20 genes that were differentially expressed across all three surfaces, many of which have metabolic functions, including molybdopterin cofactor biosynthesis and nitrogen metabolism. This study has advanced the understanding of the kinetics and specificity of bacterial transcriptional responses to surfaces and suggests that metabolic cues are important signals during the transition from a planktonic to a biofilm lifestyle.
IMPORTANCE Bacterial biofilms are a significant concern in many aspects of life, including chronic infections of airways, wounds, and indwelling medical devices; biofouling of industrial surfaces relevant for food production and marine surfaces; and nosocomial infections. The effects of understanding surface adhesion could impact many areas of life. This study utilized emerging technology in a novel approach to address a key step in bacterial biofilm development. These findings have elucidated both conserved and surface-specific responses to several disease-relevant abiotic surfaces. Future work will expand on this report to identify mechanisms of biofilm initiation with the aim of identifying bacterial factors that could be targeted to prevent biofilms.