Biofilm dispersal cells of a cystic fibrosis Pseudomonas aeruginosa isolate exhibit variability in functional traits likely to contribute to persistent infection

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Journal Article
FEMS Immunology and Medical Microbiology, 2012, 66 (2), pp. 251 - 264
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Persistent lung infection by Pseudomonas aeruginosa is typically associated with the development of biofilms, the appearance of morphotypic variants and reduction in the expression of acute virulence factors. We have characterised and compared functional traits [carbon substrate utilisation, attachment and biofilm formation, protease and elastase activity, quorum-sensing (QS)] of the biofilm dispersal populations of a representative P. aeruginosa isolate from a chronically infected cystic fibrosis individual and P. aeruginosa strain PAO1. The dispersal variants of the clinical strain exhibited significantly greater heterogeneity in all of the phenotypes tested. All morphotypic variants from the dispersal population of the clinical strain showed a significant increase in QS signal and elastase production compared to the parental strain. In contrast, isolates from planktonic cultures were phenotypically identical to the inoculum strain, suggesting that the appearance of these variants was biofilm specific. The clinical strain was shown to have a 3.4-fold higher mutation frequency than PAO1 which corroborated with the increased diversity of dispersal isolates. These data suggest that the development of a chronic infection phenotype can be reversed to recover acute infection isolates and that growth within a biofilm facilitates diversification of P. aeruginosa which is important for ecological adaptation. © 2012 Federation of European Microbiological Societies. Published by Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
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