The Pel and Psl polysaccharides provide Pseudomonas aeruginosa structural redundancy within the biofilm matrix
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Extracellular polysaccharides comprise a major component of the biofilm matrix. Many species that are adept at biofilm formation have the capacity to produce multiple types of polysaccharides. Pseudomonas aeruginosa produces at least three extracellular polysaccharides, alginate, Pel and Psl, that have been implicated in biofilm development. Non-mucoid strains can use either Pel or Psl as the primary matrix structural polysaccharide. In this study, we evaluated a range of clinical and environmental P.aeruginosa isolates for their dependence on Pel and Psl for biofilm development. Mutational analysis demonstrates that Psl plays an important role in surface attachment for most isolates. However, there was significant strain-to-strain variability in the contribution of Pel and Psl to mature biofilm structure. This analysis led us to propose four classes of strains based upon their Pel and Psl functional and expression profiles. Our data also suggest that Pel and Psl can serve redundant functions as structural scaffolds in mature biofilms. We propose that redundancy could help preserve the capacity to produce a biofilm when exopolysaccharide genes are subjected to mutation. To test this, we used PAO1, a common lab strain that primarily utilizes Psl in the matrix. As expected, a psl mutant strain initially produced a poor biofilm. After extended cultivation, we demonstrate that this strain acquired mutations that upregulated expression of the Pel polysaccharide, demonstrating the utility of having a redundant scaffold exopolysaccharide. Collectively, our studies revealed both unique and redundant roles for two distinct biofilm exopolysaccharides.
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