The thermoacidophilic crenarchaeote Sulfolobus acidocaldarius displays three distinct type IV pili-like structures on its surface: (i) the flagellum, (ii) the UV-induced pili and (iii) the adhesive pili. In bacteria, surface appendages play an important role in the spatial organization of cells from initial surface attachment to the development of mature community structures. To investigate the influence of the diverse set of type IV pili-like structures in S. acidocaldarius, single, double and triple mutants lacking the cell surface appendages were constructed and analysed for their behaviour in attachment assays and during biofilm formation. A heat stable green fluorescent protein was employed the first time in a hyperthermophilic archaeon. A codon adjusted eCGP123 was expressed to study mixed biofilms of different deletion mutants to understand the interplay of the surface structures during biofilm formation. During this process the deletion of the adhesive pili and UV-induced pili led to the most pronounced effects, either an increase in cell density or increased cluster formation respectively. However, all three cell surface appendages played a role in the colonization of surfaces and only the interplay of all three appendages leads to the observed wild-type biofilm phenotype.
© 2011 Society for Applied Microbiology and Blackwell Publishing Ltd.