Prophage Spontaneous Activation Promotes DNA Release Enhancing Biofilm Formation in Streptococcus Pneumoniae

PLoS One. 2010 Dec 20;5(12):e15678. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0015678.

Abstract

Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus) is able to form biofilms in vivo and previous studies propose that pneumococcal biofilms play a relevant role both in colonization and infection. Additionally, pneumococci recovered from human infections are characterized by a high prevalence of lysogenic bacteriophages (phages) residing quiescently in their host chromosome. We investigated a possible link between lysogeny and biofilm formation. Considering that extracellular DNA (eDNA) is a key factor in the biofilm matrix, we reasoned that prophage spontaneous activation with the consequent bacterial host lysis could provide a source of eDNA, enhancing pneumococcal biofilm development. Monitoring biofilm growth of lysogenic and non-lysogenic pneumococcal strains indicated that phage-infected bacteria are more proficient at forming biofilms, that is their biofilms are characterized by a higher biomass and cell viability. The presence of phage particles throughout the lysogenic strains biofilm development implicated prophage spontaneous induction in this effect. Analysis of lysogens deficient for phage lysin and the bacterial major autolysin revealed that the absence of either lytic activity impaired biofilm development and the addition of DNA restored the ability of mutant strains to form robust biofilms. These findings establish that limited phage-mediated host lysis of a fraction of the bacterial population, due to spontaneous phage induction, constitutes an important source of eDNA for the S. pneumoniae biofilm matrix and that this localized release of eDNA favors biofilm formation by the remaining bacterial population.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Bacteriophages / genetics
  • Biofilms
  • Biomass
  • Cell Survival
  • DNA / genetics*
  • DNA / metabolism
  • DNA, Bacterial / genetics
  • Lysogeny
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Mutation
  • Prophages / genetics*
  • Stem Cells
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae / metabolism*
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae / virology*

Substances

  • Bacterial Proteins
  • DNA, Bacterial
  • DNA