Quorum Sensing Influences Burkholderia thailandensis Biofilm Development and Matrix Production

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Members of the genus Burkholderia are known to be adept at biofilm formation, which presumably assists in the survival of these organisms in the environment and the host. Biofilm formation has been linked to quorum sensing (QS) in several bacterial species. In this study, we characterized Burkholderia thailandensis biofilm development under flow conditions and sought to determine whether QS contributes to this process. B. thailandensis biofilm formation exhibited an unusual pattern: the cells formed small aggregates and then proceeded to produce mature biofilms characterized by “dome” structures filled with biofilm matrix material. We showed that this process was dependent on QS. B. thailandensis has three acyl-homoserine lactone (AHL) QS systems (QS-1, QS-2, and QS-3). An AHL-negative strain produced biofilms consisting of cell aggregates but lacking the matrix-filled dome structures. This phenotype was rescued via exogenous addition of the three AHL signals. Of the three B. thailandensis QS systems, we show that QS-1 is required for proper biofilm development, since a btaR1 mutant, which is defective in QS-1 regulation, forms biofilms without these dome structures. Furthermore, our data show that the wild-type biofilm biomass, as well as the material inside the domes, stains with a fucose-binding lectin. The btaR1 mutant biofilms, however, are negative for fucose staining. This suggests that the QS-1 system regulates the production of a fucose-containing exopolysaccharide in wild-type biofilms. Finally, we present data showing that QS ability during biofilm development produces a biofilm that is resistant to dispersion under stress conditions.