Biofilm formation on human airway epithelia by encapsulated Neisseria meningitidis serogroup B

Microbes Infect. 2009 Feb;11(2):281-7. doi: 10.1016/j.micinf.2008.12.001. Epub 2008 Dec 10.


Neisseria meningitidis is the etiologic agent of meningococcal meningitis. We compared 48-h biofilm formation by N. meningitidis serogroup B strains NMB, MC58, C311 and isogenic mutants defective in capsule formation on SV-40 transformed human bronchial epithelial (HBE) cells in a flow cell. We demonstrated that strains NMB and NMB siaA-D were defective in biofilm formation over glass, and there was a partial rescue of biofilm growth for strain NMB on collagen-coated coverslips at 48 h. We demonstrated all three serogroup B strains form biofilms of statistically equivalent average height on HBE cells as their isogenic capsular mutants. Strain NMB also formed a biofilm of statistically equivalent biomass as the NMB siaA-D mutant on HBE cells at 6 and 48 h. These biofilms are significantly larger than biofilms formed over glass or collagen. Verification that strain NMB expressed capsule in biofilms on HBE cells was demonstrated by staining with 2.2.B, a monoclonal antibody with specificity for the serogroup B capsule. ELISA analysis demonstrated that strains MC58 and C311 also produced capsules during biofilm growth. These findings suggest that encapsulated meningococci can form biofilms on epithelial cells suggesting that biofilm formation may play a role in nasopharyngeal colonization.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Capsules / genetics
  • Bacterial Capsules / metabolism*
  • Biofilms / growth & development*
  • Cell Line
  • Epithelial Cells / microbiology*
  • Humans
  • Neisseria meningitidis, Serogroup B / genetics
  • Neisseria meningitidis, Serogroup B / physiology*
  • Respiratory Mucosa / microbiology*
  • Virulence Factors / genetics
  • Virulence Factors / metabolism*


  • Virulence Factors