Bacterial autoaggregation

AIMS Microbiol. 2018 Mar 1;4(1):140-164. doi: 10.3934/microbiol.2018.1.140. eCollection 2018.


Many bacteria, both environmental and pathogenic, exhibit the property of autoaggregation. In autoaggregation (sometimes also called autoagglutination or flocculation), bacteria of the same type form multicellular clumps that eventually settle at the bottom of culture tubes. Autoaggregation is generally mediated by self-recognising surface structures, such as proteins and exopolysaccharides, which we term collectively as autoagglutinins. Although a widespread phenomenon, in most cases the function of autoaggregation is poorly understood, though there is evidence to show that aggregating bacteria are protected from environmental stresses or host responses. Autoaggregation is also often among the first steps in forming biofilms. Here, we review the current knowledge on autoaggregation, the role of autoaggregation in biofilm formation and pathogenesis, and molecular mechanisms leading to aggregation using specific examples.

Keywords: autoagglutination; autoaggregation; bacterial stress responses; biofilm; flocculation; microcolony formation; self-recognition.

Publication types

  • Review