Characterization of a Pseudomonas putida rough variant evolved in a mixed species biofilm with Acinetobacter sp. strain C6

Susse Kirkelund Hansen, Janus Anders Juul Haagensen, Morten Gjermansen, Thomas Martini Jørgensen, Tim Tolker-Nielsen, Søren Molin

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    Genetic differentiation by natural selection is readily observed among microbial populations, but a more comprehensive understanding of evolutionary forces, genetic causes, and resulting phenotypic advantages is not often sought. Recently, a surface population of Pseudomonas putida bacteria was shown to evolve rapidly by natural selection of better-adapted variants in a mixed-species biofilm consortium (S. K. Hansen, P. B. Rainey, J. A. Haagensen, and S. Molin, Nature 445:533-536, 2007). Adaptation was caused by mutations in a wapH homolog (PP4943) involved in core lipopolysaccharide biosynthesis. Here we investigate further the biofilm physiology and the phenotypic characteristics of the selected P. putida rough colony variants. The coexistence of the P. putida population in a mixed-species biofilm with Acinetobacter sp. strain C6 is dependent on the benzoate excreted from Acinetobacter during the catabolism of benzyl alcohol, the sole carbon source. Examination of biofilm development and the dynamics of the wild-type consortium revealed that the biofilm environment became oxygen limited, possibly with low oxygen concentrations around Acinetobacter microcolonies. In contrast to P. putida wild-type cells, which readily dispersed from the mixed-species biofilm in response to oxygen starvation, the rough variant cells displayed a nondispersal phenotype. However, in monospecies biofilms proliferating on benzoate, the rough variant (like the wild-type population) dispersed in response to oxygen starvation. A key factor explaining this conditional, nondispersal phenotype is likely to be the acquired ability of the rough variant to coaggregate specifically with Acinetobacter cells. We further show that the P. putida rough variant displayed enhanced production of a cellulose-like polymer as a consequence of the mutation in wapH. The resulting phenotypic characteristics of the P. putida rough variant explain its enhanced fitness and ability to form tight structural associations with Acinetobacter microcolonies.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalJournal of Bacteriology
    Issue number13
    Pages (from-to)4932-4943
    Publication statusPublished - 2007


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