The extracellular polymeric substance produced by many human pathogens during biofilm formation often contains extracellular DNA (eDNA). Strands of bacterial eDNA within the biofilm matrix can occur in a lattice-like network wherein a member of the DNABII family of DNA-binding proteins is positioned at the vertex of each crossed strand. To date, treatment of all biofilms tested with antibodies directed against one DNABII protein, Integration Host Factor (IHF), results in significant disruption. Here, using non-typeable Haemophilus influenzae as a model organism, we report that this effect was rapid, IHF-specific and mediated by binding of transiently dissociated IHF by anti-IHF even when physically separated from the biofilm by a nucleopore membrane. Further, biofilm disruption fostered killing of resident bacteria by previously ineffective antibiotics. We propose the mechanism of action to be the sequestration of IHF upon dissociation from the biofilm eDNA, forcing an equilibrium shift and ultimately, collapse of the biofilm. Further, antibodies against a peptide positioned at the DNA-binding tips of IHF were as effective as antibodies directed against the native protein. As incorporating eDNA and associated DNABII proteins is a common strategy for biofilms formed by multiple human pathogens, this novel therapeutic approach is likely to have broad utility.
© 2014 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.