Pseudomonas aeruginosa is an opportunistic pathogen capable of causing both acute and chronic infections in susceptible hosts. Chronic P. aeruginosa infections are thought to be caused by bacterial biofilms. Biofilms are highly structured, multicellular, microbial communities encased in an extracellular matrix that enable long-term survival in the host. The aim of this research was to develop an animal model that would allow an in vivo study of P. aeruginosa biofilm infections in a Drosophila melanogaster host. At 24 h post oral infection of Drosophila, P. aeruginosa biofilms localized to and were visualized in dissected Drosophila crops. These biofilms had a characteristic aggregate structure and an extracellular matrix composed of DNA and exopolysaccharide. P. aeruginosa cells recovered from in vivo grown biofilms had increased antibiotic resistance relative to planktonically grown cells. In vivo, biofilm formation was dependent on expression of the pel exopolysaccharide genes, as a pelB::lux mutant failed to form biofilms. The pelB::lux mutant was significantly more virulent than PAO1, while a hyperbiofilm strain (PAZHI3) demonstrated significantly less virulence than PAO1, as indicated by survival of infected flies at day 14 postinfection. Biofilm formation, by strains PAO1 and PAZHI3, in the crop was associated with induction of diptericin, cecropin A1 and drosomycin antimicrobial peptide gene expression 24 h postinfection. In contrast, infection with the non-biofilm forming strain pelB::lux resulted in decreased AMP gene expression in the fly. In summary, these results provide novel insights into host-pathogen interactions during P. aeruginosa oral infection of Drosophila and highlight the use of Drosophila as an infection model that permits the study of P. aeruginosa biofilms in vivo.
|Published - Oct. 2011