Two genomic regions encoding exopolysaccharide production systems have complementary functions in B. cereus multicellularity and host interaction

Sci Rep. 2020 Jan 22;10(1):1000. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-57970-3.


Bacterial physiology and adaptation are influenced by the exopolysaccharides (EPS) they produce. These polymers are indispensable for the assembly of the biofilm extracellular matrix in multiple bacterial species. In a previous study, we described the profound gene expression changes leading to biofilm assembly in B. cereus ATCC14579 (CECT148). We found that a genomic region putatively dedicated to the synthesis of a capsular polysaccharide (eps2) was overexpressed in a biofilm cell population compared to in a planktonic population, while we detected no change in the transcript abundance from another genomic region (eps1) also likely to be involved in polysaccharide production. Preliminary biofilm assays suggested a mild role for the products of the eps2 region in biofilm formation and no function for the products of the eps1 region. The aim of this work was to better define the roles of these two regions in B. cereus multicellularity. We demonstrate that the eps2 region is indeed involved in bacterial adhesion to surfaces, cell-to-cell interaction, cellular aggregation and biofilm formation, while the eps1 region appears to be involved in a kind of social bacterial motility. Consistent with these results, we further demonstrate using bacterial-host cell interaction experiments that the eps2 region is more relevant to the adhesion to human epithelial cells and the zebrafish intestine, suggesting that this region encodes a bacterial factor that may potentiate gut colonization and enhance pathogenicity against humans.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bacillus cereus / genetics*
  • Bacillus cereus / metabolism
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics*
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Extracellular Polymeric Substance Matrix / genetics*
  • Extracellular Polymeric Substance Matrix / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial*
  • Genomics
  • Polysaccharides, Bacterial / genetics*
  • Polysaccharides, Bacterial / metabolism


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Polysaccharides, Bacterial