Biofilms are surface-adhered bacterial communities encased in an extracellular matrix composed of DNA, bacterial polysaccharides and proteins, which are up to 1000-fold more antibiotic resistant than planktonic cultures. To date, extracellular DNA has been shown to function as a structural support to maintain Pseudomonas aeruginosa biofilm architecture. Here we show that DNA is a multifaceted component of P. aeruginosa biofilms. At physiologically relevant concentrations, extracellular DNA has antimicrobial activity, causing cell lysis by chelating cations that stabilize lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and the outer membrane (OM). DNA-mediated killing occurred within minutes, as a result of perturbation of both the outer and inner membrane (IM) and the release of cytoplasmic contents, including genomic DNA. Sub-inhibitory concentrations of DNA created a cation-limited environment that resulted in induction of the PhoPQ- and PmrAB-regulated cationic antimicrobial peptide resistance operon PA3552-PA3559 in P. aeruginosa. Furthermore, DNAinduced expression of this operon resulted in up to 2560-fold increased resistance to cationic antimicrobial peptides and 640-fold increased resistance to aminoglycosides, but had no effect on b-lactam and fluoroquinolone resistance. Thus, the presence of extracellular DNA in the biofilm matrix contributes to cation gradients, genomic DNA release and inducible antibiotic resistance. DNA-rich environments, including biofilms and other infection sites like the CF lung, are likely the in vivo environments where extracellular pathogens such as P. aeruginosa encounter cation limitation.
|Published - Nov. 2008