Microbial glycoside hydrolases as antibiofilm agents with cross-kingdom activity

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2017 Jul 3;114(27):7124-7129. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1702798114. Epub 2017 Jun 20.


Galactosaminogalactan and Pel are cationic heteropolysaccharides produced by the opportunistic pathogens Aspergillus fumigatus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, respectively. These exopolysaccharides both contain 1,4-linked N-acetyl-d-galactosamine and play an important role in biofilm formation by these organisms. Proteins containing glycoside hydrolase domains have recently been identified within the biosynthetic pathway of each exopolysaccharide. Recombinant hydrolase domains from these proteins (Sph3h from A. fumigatus and PelAh from P. aeruginosa) were found to degrade their respective polysaccharides in vitro. We therefore hypothesized that these glycoside hydrolases could exhibit antibiofilm activity and, further, given the chemical similarity between galactosaminogalactan and Pel, that they might display cross-species activity. Treatment of A. fumigatus with Sph3h disrupted A. fumigatus biofilms with an EC50 of 0.4 nM. PelAh treatment also disrupted preformed A. fumigatus biofilms with EC50 values similar to those obtained for Sph3h In contrast, Sph3h was unable to disrupt P. aeruginosa Pel-based biofilms, despite being able to bind to the exopolysaccharide. Treatment of A. fumigatus hyphae with either Sph3h or PelAh significantly enhanced the activity of the antifungals posaconazole, amphotericin B, and caspofungin, likely through increasing antifungal penetration of hyphae. Both enzymes were noncytotoxic and protected A549 pulmonary epithelial cells from A. fumigatus-induced cell damage for up to 24 h. Intratracheal administration of Sph3h was well tolerated and reduced pulmonary fungal burden in a neutropenic mouse model of invasive aspergillosis. These findings suggest that glycoside hydrolases can exhibit activity against diverse microorganisms and may be useful as therapeutic agents by degrading biofilms and attenuating virulence.

Keywords: Aspergillus; Pseudomonas; biofilm; exopolysaccharide; therapeutics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • A549 Cells
  • Animals
  • Anti-Infective Agents / chemistry
  • Antifungal Agents / chemistry
  • Aspergillosis / microbiology
  • Aspergillosis / therapy*
  • Aspergillus fumigatus / enzymology*
  • Bacterial Proteins / chemistry*
  • Biofilms*
  • Female
  • Glycoside Hydrolases / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests
  • Polysaccharides / chemistry
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa / enzymology*
  • Species Specificity
  • Virulence


  • Anti-Infective Agents
  • Antifungal Agents
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Polysaccharides
  • Glycoside Hydrolases