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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

The exopolysaccharide alginate protects Pseudomonas aeruginosa biofilm bacteria from IFN-gamma-mediated macrophage killing.

The ability of Pseudomonas aeruginosa to form biofilms and cause chronic infections in the lungs of cystic fibrosis patients is well documented. Numerous studies have revealed that P. aeruginosa biofilms are highly refractory to antibiotics. However, dramatically fewer studies have addressed P. aeruginosa biofilm resistance to the host's immune system. In planktonic, unattached (nonbiofilm) P. aeruginosa, the exopolysaccharide alginate provides protection against a variety of host factors yet the role of alginate in protection of biofilm bacteria is unclear. To address this issue, we tested wild-type strains PAO1, PA14, the mucoid cystic fibrosis isolate, FRD1 (mucA22+), and the respective isogenic mutants which lacked the ability to produce alginate, for their susceptibility to human leukocytes in the presence and absence of IFN-gamma. Human leukocytes, in the presence of recombinant human IFN-gamma, killed biofilm bacteria lacking alginate after a 4-h challenge at 37 degrees C. Bacterial killing was dependent on the presence of IFN-gamma. Killing of the alginate-negative biofilm bacteria was mediated through mononuclear cell phagocytosis since treatment with cytochalasin B, which prevents actin polymerization, inhibited leukocyte-specific bacterial killing. By direct microscopic observation, phagocytosis of alginate-negative biofilm bacteria was significantly increased in the presence of IFN-gamma vs all other treatments. Addition of exogenous, purified alginate to the alginate-negative biofilms restored resistance to human leukocyte killing. Our results suggest that although alginate may not play a significant role in bacterial attachment, biofilm development, and formation, it may play an important role in protecting mucoid P. aeruginosa biofilm bacteria from the human immune system.[1]


  1. The exopolysaccharide alginate protects Pseudomonas aeruginosa biofilm bacteria from IFN-gamma-mediated macrophage killing. Leid, J.G., Willson, C.J., Shirtliff, M.E., Hassett, D.J., Parsek, M.R., Jeffers, A.K. J. Immunol. (2005) [Pubmed]
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