"We all think of DNA as an information storage element in our cells, but it's becoming clear that DNA has roles outside of that capacity," Wozniak said.
Wozniak and colleagues introduced a number of mutant genes and enzymes to the process to either block or generate extra Psl to test its role in matrix formation. All signs point to Psl as the key scaffolding component of the Pseudomonas biofilm matrix, he said.
It's too early to tell whether strategies to block Psl in these lab experiments would be a safe way to disrupt the polysaccharide's actions in the human body, Wozniak noted.
Surfaces to which bacterial biofilms can attach are key to their success, meaning that in addition to thriving in congested lungs, they also grow on catheters, ventilators and tracheal tubes any medical device that enters the body. But preventing bacterial biofilm development has implications beyond medicine.
Fortified by the moist environment, plentiful nutrients and easy access to the human mouth, biofilms are also responsible for tooth decay. These microcolonies, when they are able to contact water or soil, also attach to certain industrial surfaces, causing corrosion and other damage.
"Not all bacteria use biofilms, but many do," Wozniak said. "Biofilms have been recognized for some time, but only in the last decade have people been able to apply modern molecular techniques to address the problem."
|Contact: Daniel Wozniak|
Ohio State University