1 species of pathogen can produce 2 distinct biofilms

Aug 02, 2011

Many medical devices, ranging from artificial hip joints to dentures and catheters, can come with unwelcome guests – complex communities of microbial pathogens called biofilms that are resistant to the human immune system and antibiotics, thus proving a serious threat to human health. However, researchers may have a new way of looking at biofilms, thanks to a study conducted by University of Iowa biologist David Soll and his colleagues published in the Aug 2 issue of the online, open access journal PLoS Biology.

Previously, researchers believed that each pathogen formed one kind of biofilm, but Soll and his colleagues have discovered that the pernicious fungal pathogen Candida albicans makes two kinds of biofilms; a traditional pathogenic one, and a second sexual one. This discovery provides new and profound insights into developing new therapies that target pathogenic biofilms for disruption.

Soll and his colleagues showed for the first time that the majority – about 90 percent – of colonizing humans make a pathogenic biofilm that cannot be penetrated by antifungal agents, antibodies or white blood cells. These majority cells are sexually incompetent. But a minority – about 10 percent – of cells, which are sexually competent, form highly permeable and penetrable biofilms, which Soll and his colleagues have shown act as a supportive environment for mating. They demonstrate that although the pathogenic and sexual biofilms appear macroscopically similar, they are regulated by entirely different signalling pathways.

"Having two outwardly similar, but functionally different, biofilms provides us with one means of finding out what makes the pathogenic biofilm resistant to all challenges, and the sexual biofilm non-resistant," Soll said. "Whatever that difference is will represent a major target for future drug discovery."

Explore further: Research reveals evolution of cells' signaling networks in diverse organisms

More information: Yi S, Sahni N, Daniels KJ, Lu KL, Srikantha T, et al. (2011) Alternative Mating Type Configurations (a/a versus a/a or a/a) of Candida albicans Result in Alternative Biofilms Regulated by Different Pathways. PLoS Biol 9(8): e1001117. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1001117

Related Stories

Fighting fungal infections with bacteria

May 01, 2010

A bacterial pathogen can communicate with yeast to block the development of drug-resistant yeast infections, say Irish scientists writing in the May issue of Microbiology. The research could be a step toward ...

Researchers discover new ways to treat chronic infections

Dec 18, 2009

Researchers at Binghamton University, State University of New York, have identified three key regulators required for the formation and development of biofilms. The discovery could lead to new ways of treating ...

Recommended for you

For resetting circadian rhythms, neural cooperation is key

10 hours ago

Fruit flies are pretty predictable when it comes to scheduling their days, with peaks of activity at dawn and dusk and rest times in between. Now, researchers reporting in the Cell Press journal Cell Reports on April 17th h ...

Rapid and accurate mRNA detection in plant tissues

11 hours ago

Gene expression is the process whereby the genetic information of DNA is used to manufacture functional products, such as proteins, which have numerous different functions in living organisms. Messenger RNA (mRNA) serves ...

For cells, internal stress leads to unique shapes

Apr 16, 2014

From far away, the top of a leaf looks like one seamless surface; however, up close, that smooth exterior is actually made up of a patchwork of cells in a variety of shapes and sizes. Interested in how these ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Deadly human pathogen Cryptococcus fully sequenced

Within each strand of DNA lies the blueprint for building an organism, along with the keys to its evolution and survival. These genetic instructions can give valuable insight into why pathogens like Cryptococcus ne ...

Hackathon team's GoogolPlex gives Siri extra powers

(Phys.org) —Four freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania have taken Apple's personal assistant Siri to behave as a graduate-level executive assistant which, when asked, is capable of adjusting the temperature ...

Better thermal-imaging lens from waste sulfur

Sulfur left over from refining fossil fuels can be transformed into cheap, lightweight, plastic lenses for infrared devices, including night-vision goggles, a University of Arizona-led international team ...