Understanding how bacteria regulate and stabilise their existence as slimy sheets – biofilms – brings clues for stopping them
Living in a tight-knit community can provide safety and support. Bacteria find this too, and huddle together to form dense biofilms, which increase their survival and infectious potency. These films are glued together by a sugary slime called exopolysaccharides, without which the structure begins to fall apart. A new study has revealed a key factor in the production of this material in cholera biofilms (Vibrio exopolysaccharide, VPS). By adjusting the amount to which a particular enzyme attaches to and removes phosphate (dephosphorylation), the researchers changed the structural integrity of the biofilms (pictured, in several experiments). The production of VPS was directly regulated by the phosphorylation status, revealing a potential weakness that treatments could target to help prevent cholera settling in. Furthermore, these systems are similar among many bacteria that produce equivalent biofilms, meaning the insights could help tackle a wide range of diseases.
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