'Life-style' control networks in Escherichia coli: signaling by the second messenger c-di-GMP

J Biotechnol. 2012 Jul 31;160(1-2):10-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jbiotec.2011.12.024. Epub 2011 Dec 31.


Most bacteria can exist in either a planktonic-motile single-cell state or an adhesive multicellular state known as a biofilm. Biofilms cause medical problems and technical damage since they are resistant against antibiotics, disinfectants or the attacks of the immune system. In recent years it has become clear that most bacteria use cyclic diguanylate (c-di-GMP) as a biofilm-promoting second messenger molecule. C-di-GMP is produced by GGDEF-domain-containing diguanylate cyclases and is degraded by phosphodiesterases featuring EAL or HD-GYP domains. Many bacterial species possess multiple proteins with GGDEF and EAL domains, which actually belong to the most abundant protein families in genomic data bases. Via an unprecedented variety of effector components, which include c-di-GMP-binding proteins as well as RNAs, c-di-GMP controls a wide range of targets that down-regulate motility, stimulate adhesin and biofilm matrix formation or even control virulence gene expression. Moreover, local c-di-GMP signaling in macromolecular complexes seems to allow the independent and parallel control of different output reactions. In this review, we use Escherichia coli as a paradigm for c-di-GMP signaling. Despite the huge diversity of components and molecular processes involved in biofilm formation throughout the bacterial kingdom, c-di-GMP signaling represents a unifying principle, which suggests that the enzymes that make and break c-di-GMP may be promising targets for anti-biofilm drugs.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Biofilms*
  • Cyclic GMP / analogs & derivatives*
  • Cyclic GMP / metabolism
  • Escherichia coli / metabolism
  • Escherichia coli / physiology*
  • Second Messenger Systems*


  • bis(3',5')-cyclic diguanylic acid
  • Cyclic GMP