Background: Community-acquired pyogenic liver abscess (PLA) complicated with meningitis and endophthalmitis caused by Klebsiella pneumoniae is an emerging infectious disease. To investigate the mechanisms and effects of biofilm formation of K. pneumoniae causing PLA, microtiter plate assays were used to determine the levels of biofilm formed by K. pneumoniae clinical isolates and to screen for biofilm-altered mutants from a transposon mutant library of a K. pneumoniae PLA-associated strain.
Methodology/principal findings: The biofilm formation of K. pneumoniae was examined by microtiter plate assay. Higher levels of biofilm formation were demonstrated by K. pneumoniae strains associated with PLA. A total of 23 biofilm-decreased mutants and 4 biofilm-increased mutants were identified. Among these mutants, a biofilm-decreased treC mutant displayed less mucoviscosity and produced less capsular polysaccharide (CPS), whereas a biofilm-increased sugE mutant displayed higher mucoviscosity and produced more CPS. The biofilm phenotypes of treC and sugE mutants also were confirmed by glass slide culture. Deletion of treC, which encodes trehalose-6-phosphate hydrolase, impaired bacterial trehalose utilization. Addition of glucose to the culture medium restored the capsule production and biofilm formation in the treC mutant. Transcriptional profile analysis suggested that the increase of CPS production in ΔsugE may reflect elevated cps gene expression (upregulated through rmpA) in combination with increased treC expression. In vivo competition assays demonstrated that the treC mutant strain was attenuated in competitiveness during intragastric infection in mice.
Conclusions/significance: Genes important for biofilm formation by K. pneumoniae PLA strain were identified using an in vitro assay. Among the identified genes, treC and sugE affect biofilm formation by modulating CPS production. The importance of treC in gastrointestinal tract colonization suggests that biofilm formation contributes to the establishment and persistence of K. pneumoniae infection.