Explosive cell lysis as a mechanism for the biogenesis of bacterial membrane vesicles and biofilms

Nat Commun. 2016 Apr 14;7:11220. doi: 10.1038/ncomms11220.


Many bacteria produce extracellular and surface-associated components such as membrane vesicles (MVs), extracellular DNA and moonlighting cytosolic proteins for which the biogenesis and export pathways are not fully understood. Here we show that the explosive cell lysis of a sub-population of cells accounts for the liberation of cytosolic content in Pseudomonas aeruginosa biofilms. Super-resolution microscopy reveals that explosive cell lysis also produces shattered membrane fragments that rapidly form MVs. A prophage endolysin encoded within the R- and F-pyocin gene cluster is essential for explosive cell lysis. Endolysin-deficient mutants are defective in MV production and biofilm development, consistent with a crucial role in the biogenesis of MVs and liberation of extracellular DNA and other biofilm matrix components. Our findings reveal that explosive cell lysis, mediated through the activity of a cryptic prophage endolysin, acts as a mechanism for the production of bacterial MVs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bacteriolysis* / drug effects
  • Biofilms* / drug effects
  • Cell Membrane / drug effects
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism*
  • DNA, Bacterial / metabolism
  • Endopeptidases / pharmacology
  • Extracellular Space / metabolism
  • Organelle Biogenesis*
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa / drug effects
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa / physiology*
  • Pyocins / pharmacology
  • Quinolones / pharmacology
  • Stress, Physiological / drug effects


  • 2-heptyl-3-hydroxy-4-quinolone
  • DNA, Bacterial
  • Pyocins
  • Quinolones
  • Endopeptidases
  • endolysin