Extracellular DNA release from the genome-reduced pathogen Mycoplasma hyopneumoniae is essential for biofilm formation on abiotic surfaces

Sci Rep. 2018 Jul 10;8(1):10373. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-28678-2.


Mycoplasma hyopneumoniae is an economically devastating, globally disseminated pathogen that can maintain a chronic infectious state within its host, swine. Here, we depict the events underpinning M. hyopneumoniae biofilm formation on an abiotic surface and demonstrate for the first time, biofilms forming on porcine epithelial cell monolayers and in the lungs of pigs, experimentally infected with M. hyopneumoniae. Nuclease treatment prevents biofilms forming on glass but not on porcine epithelial cells indicating that extracellular DNA (eDNA), which localises at the base of biofilms, is critical in the formation of these structures on abiotic surfaces. Subpopulations of M. hyopneumoniae cells, denoted by their ability to take up the dye TOTO-1 and release eDNA, were identified. A visually distinct sub-population of pleomorphic cells, that we refer to here as large cell variants (LCVs), rapidly transition from phase dark to translucent "ghost" cells. The translucent cells accumulate the membrane-impermeable dye TOTO-1, forming readily discernible membrane breaches immediately prior to lysis and the possible release of eDNA and other intracellular content (public goods) into the extracellular environment. Our novel observations expand knowledge of the lifestyles adopted by this wall-less, genome-reduced pathogen and provide further insights to its survival within farm environments and swine.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biofilms / growth & development*
  • DNA / metabolism*
  • Deoxyribonucleases / pharmacology
  • Epithelial Cells / microbiology
  • Genome, Microbial / genetics*
  • Lung / microbiology
  • Mycoplasma hyopneumoniae / cytology
  • Mycoplasma hyopneumoniae / genetics*
  • Mycoplasma hyopneumoniae / physiology
  • Surface Properties
  • Swine


  • DNA
  • Deoxyribonucleases