Identification of signaling pathways, matrix-digestion enzymes, and motility components controlling Vibrio cholerae biofilm dispersal

Andrew A. Bridges, Chenyi Fei, Bonnie L. Bassler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Bacteria alternate between being free-swimming and existing as members of sessile multicellular communities called biofilms. The biofilm lifecycle occurs in three stages: cell attachment, biofilm maturation, and biofilm dispersal. Vibrio cholerae biofilms are hyperinfectious, and biofilm formation and dispersal are considered central to disease transmission. While biofilm formation is well studied, almost nothing is known about biofilm dispersal. Here, we conducted an imaging screen for V. cholerae mutants that fail to disperse, revealing three classes of dispersal components: signal transduction proteins, matrix-degradation enzymes, and motility factors. Signaling proteins dominated the screen and among them, we focused on an uncharacterized two-component sensory system that we term DbfS/DbfR for dispersal of biofilm sensor/regulator. Phospho-DbfR represses biofilm dispersal. DbfS dephosphorylates and thereby inactivates DbfR, which permits dispersal. Matrix degradation requires two enzymes: LapG, which cleaves adhesins, and RbmB, which digests matrix polysaccharides. Reorientation in swimming direction, mediated by CheY3, is necessary for cells to escape from the porous biofilm matrix. We suggest that these components act sequentially: signaling launches dispersal by terminating matrix production and triggering matrix digestion, and subsequent cell motility permits escape from biofilms. This study lays the groundwork for interventions aimed at modulating V. cholerae biofilm dispersal to ameliorate disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)32639-32647
Number of pages9
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number51
StatePublished - Dec 22 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


  • Biofilm dispersal
  • Highcontent imaging
  • Signal transduction
  • Vibrio cholerae
  • Virulence


Dive into the research topics of 'Identification of signaling pathways, matrix-digestion enzymes, and motility components controlling Vibrio cholerae biofilm dispersal'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this