Matrix exopolysaccharides; the sticky side of biofilm formation

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The Gram-negative pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa is found ubiquitously within the environment and is recognised as an opportunistic human pathogen that commonly infects burn wounds and immunocompromised individuals, or patients suffering from the autosomal recessive disorder cystic fibrosis (CF). During chronic infection, P. aeruginosa is thought to form structured aggregates known as biofilms characterised by a self-produced matrix which encases the bacteria, protecting them from antimicrobial attack and the host immune response. In many cases, antibiotics are ineffective at eradicating P. aeruginosa from chronically infected CF airways. Cyclic-di-GMP has been identified as a key regulator of biofilm formation; however, the way in which its effector proteins elicit a change in biofilm formation remains unclear. Identifying regulators of biofilm formation is a key theme of current research and understanding the factors that activate biofilm formation may help to expose potential new drug targets that slow the onset of chronic infection. This minireview outlines the contribution made by exopolysaccharides to biofilm formation, and describes the current understanding of biofilm regulation in P. aeruginosa with a particular focus on CF airway-associated infections.

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