Biofilm matrix assembly by Bacillus subtilis

Lead Research Organisation: University of Dundee
Department Name: School of Life Sciences


Biofilms are complex communities of microbial cells that are enclosed in an extracellular matrix. The biofilm matrix comprises self-produced macromolecules that serve to provide structural integrity and protection from mechanical, chemical and immunological stress. The formation of biofilms results in the establishment of chronic infections in mammalian hosts but can also be exploited for bio-remediation and bio-control processes in environmental settings. Bacillus subtilis is a Gram-positive soil bacterium that is an excellent model for examining the structure and function of the biofilm matrix. The B. subtilis biofilm matrix is formed by three specific components. The first is an exopolysaccharide that serves to retain moisture within the biofilm and functions as a signalling molecule. The second extracellular component needed for biofilm formation is the protein BslA, which forms a water-repellent coat at the surface of the biofilm, rendering it resistant to environmental insult. The third component of the biofilm matrix is the secreted protein TasA. The PhD student appointed will take an innovative interdisciplinary approach that combines expertise in biomolecular physics and molecular microbiology to help to elucidate the mechanism of biofilm matrix assembly.

Agriculture & Food Security
Industrial Biotechnology & Bioenergy
Bioscience for Health
World-Class underpinning Bioscience x
In the context of BBSRC strategic research priorities the proposed work fits centrally with priority 1 "agriculture and food security" with the goal of meeting "sustainable crop production such as enhancing yield and quality, preventing or combating pests, diseases and weeds". The organism that is the focus of this proposal, Bacillus subtilis, is sold commercially as a biocontrol agent. It has proven abilities to induce systemic resistance in plants and correspondingly provide protection to both root and aerial pathogens. This is dependent on the process of biofilm formation but currently in field trial situations biofilm formation can be highly varied in terms of success. Thus information generated here will influence the next-generation of biofilm agents by highlighting traits that should be selected for in natural wild isolates of B. subtilis. In addition, the translation opportunity of "Integration of emerging bioscience, such as synthetic biology, with industrial biofilm and surface science to aid biofilm culturing, creation and manipulation" and the requirement for rapid characterisation "particularly for traits relating to the biological, physical and chemical components of biofilms" is intimately linked with our research. Our desire to engineer an artificial biofilm will advance the BBSRC's strategic priority 2 - the use of industrial biotechnology to bring to market 'novel solutions through the use of biological processes derived from ...bacteria." At a fundamental level the work fits with the BBSRC remit of "World-class Bioscience" as evidenced by publications in PNAS, Cell, Nature Communications, and other highly respected journals.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
BB/M010996/1 01/10/2015 30/09/2023
2087443 Studentship BB/M010996/1 03/09/2018 02/09/2022 Margarita Kalamara