Formation of the Francisella tularensis Biofilm is Affected by Cell Surface Glycosylation, Growth Medium, and a Glucan Exopolysaccharide

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Springer Nature


Biofilms are matrix-associated communities that enable bacteria to colonise environments unsuitable for free-living bacteria. The facultative intracellular pathogen Francisella tularensis can persist in water, amoebae, and arthropods, as well as within mammalian macrophages. F. tularensis Types A and B form poor biofilms, but F. tularensis mutants lacking lipopolysaccharide O-antigen, O-antigen capsule, and capsule-like complex formed up to 15-fold more biofilm than fully glycosylated cells. The Type B live vaccine strain was also 50% less capable of initiating surface attachment than mutants deficient in O-antigen and capsule-like complex. However, the growth medium of all strains tested also influenced the formation of biofilm, which contained a novel exopolysaccharide consisting of an amylose-like glucan. In addition, the surface polysaccharide composition of the bacterium affected the protein: DNA: polysaccharide composition of the biofilm matrix. In contrast, F. novicida attached to surfaces more efficiently and made a more robust biofilm than Type A or B strains, but loss of O-antigen or capsule-like complex did not significantly affect F. novicida biofilm formation. These results indicated that suppression of surface polysaccharides may promote biofilm formation by F. tularensis Types A and B. Whether biofilm formation enhances survival of F. tularensis in aquatic or other environmental niches has yet to be determined.