Flagella-mediated adhesion and extracellular DNA release contribute to biofilm formation and stress tolerance of Campylobacter jejuni

PLoS One. 2014 Aug 28;9(8):e106063. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0106063. eCollection 2014.


Campylobacter jejuni is a leading cause of foodbourne gastroenteritis, despite fragile behaviour under standard laboratory conditions. In the environment, C. jejuni may survive within biofilms, which can impart resident bacteria with enhanced stress tolerance compared to their planktonic counterparts. While C. jejuni forms biofilms in vitro and in the wild, it had not been confirmed that this lifestyle confers stress tolerance. Moreover, little is understood about molecular mechanisms of biofilm formation in this pathogen. We previously found that a ΔcprS mutant, which carries a deletion in the sensor kinase of the CprRS two-component system, forms enhanced biofilms. Biofilms were also enhanced by the bile salt deoxycholate and contained extracellular DNA. Through more in-depth analysis of ΔcprS and WT under conditions that promote or inhibit biofilms, we sought to further define this lifestyle for C. jejuni. Epistasis experiments with ΔcprS and flagellar mutations (ΔflhA, ΔpflA) suggested that initiation is mediated by flagellum-mediated adherence, a process which was kinetically enhanced by motility. Lysis was also observed, especially under biofilm-enhancing conditions. Microscopy suggested adherence was followed by release of eDNA, which was required for biofilm maturation. Importantly, inhibiting biofilm formation by removal of eDNA with DNase decreased stress tolerance. This work suggests the biofilm lifestyle provides C. jejuni with resilience that has not been apparent from observation of planktonic bacteria during routine laboratory culture, and provides a framework for subsequent molecular studies of C. jejuni biofilms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Adhesion
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics*
  • Biofilms / growth & development*
  • Campylobacter jejuni / physiology*
  • Campylobacter jejuni / ultrastructure
  • DNA, Bacterial / metabolism*
  • DNA, Bacterial / ultrastructure
  • Epistasis, Genetic
  • Flagella / physiology*
  • Flagella / ultrastructure
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics
  • Mutation
  • Plankton / physiology
  • Stress, Physiological


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • DNA, Bacterial
  • FlhA protein, Bacteria
  • Membrane Proteins
  • PflA protein, Campylobacter jejuni