The Vibrio cholerae O139 O-antigen polysaccharide is essential for Ca2+-dependent biofilm development in sea water

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2003 Nov 25;100(24):14357-62. doi: 10.1073/pnas.2334614100. Epub 2003 Nov 12.


Vibrio cholerae is both an inhabitant of estuarine environments and the etiologic agent of the diarrheal disease cholera. Previous work has demonstrated that V. cholerae forms both an exopolysaccharide-dependent biofilm and a Ca2+-dependent biofilm. In this work, we demonstrate a role for the O-antigen polysaccharide of V. cholerae in Ca2+-dependent biofilm development in model and true sea water. Interestingly, V. cholerae biofilms, as well as the biofilms of several other Vibrio species, disintegrate when Ca2+ is removed from the bathing medium, suggesting that Ca2+ is interacting directly with the O-antigen polysaccharide. In the Bay of Bengal, cholera incidence has been correlated with increased sea surface height. Because of the low altitude of this region, increases in sea surface height are likely to lead to transport of sea water, marine particulates, and marine biofilms into fresh water environments. Because fresh water is Ca2+-poor, our results suggest that one potential outcome of an increase is sea surface height is the dispersal of marine biofilms with an attendant increase in planktonic marine bacteria such as V. cholerae. Such a phenomenon may contribute to the correlation of increased sea surface height with cholera.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / physiology
  • Biofilms / growth & development*
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Extracellular Matrix / physiology
  • Fimbriae Proteins / genetics
  • Fimbriae Proteins / physiology
  • Fimbriae, Bacterial / physiology
  • Fresh Water / microbiology
  • Genes, Bacterial
  • Hemagglutinins / genetics
  • Hemagglutinins / physiology
  • Mannose-Binding Lectin
  • O Antigens / genetics
  • O Antigens / physiology*
  • Seawater / microbiology*
  • Vibrio cholerae O139 / genetics
  • Vibrio cholerae O139 / physiology*


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Hemagglutinins
  • Mannose-Binding Lectin
  • MshA protein, Vibrio cholerae
  • O Antigens
  • Fimbriae Proteins
  • Calcium