Phosphorus limitation enhances biofilm formation of the plant pathogen Agrobacterium tumefaciens through the PhoR-PhoB regulatory system

T. Danhorn, Morten Hentzer, Michael Christian Givskov, M.R. Parsek, C. Fuqua

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


    The plant pathogen Agrobacterium tumefaciens forms architecturally complex biofilms on inert surfaces. Adherence of A. tumefaciens C58 was significantly enhanced under phosphate limitation compared to phosphate-replete conditions, despite slower overall growth under low-phosphate conditions. Replacement of Pi with sn-glycerol-3-phosphate and 2-aminoethylphosphonate yielded similar results. The increase in surface interactions under phosphate limitation was observed in both static culture and continuous-culture flow cells. Statistical analysis of confocal micrographs obtained from the How cell biofilms revealed that phosphate limitation increased both the overall attached biomass and the surface coverage, whereas the maximum thickness of the biofilm was not affected. Functions encoded on the two large plasmids of A. tumefaciens C58, pTiC58 and pAtC58, were not required for the observed phosphate effect. The phosphate concentration at which increased attachment was observed triggered the phosphate limitation response, controlled in many bacteria by the two-component regulatory system PhoR-PhoB. The A. tumefaciens phoB and phoR orthologues could only be disrupted in the presence of plasmid-borne copies of the genes, suggesting that this regulatory system might be essential. Expression of the A. tumefaciens phoB gene from a tightly regulated inducible promoter, however, correlated with the amount of biofilm under both phosphate-limiting and nonlimiting conditions, demonstrating that components of the Pho regulon influence A. tumefaciens surface interactions.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalJournal of Bacteriology
    Pages (from-to)4492-4501
    Publication statusPublished - 2004

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