Discovery and characterization of a Gram-positive Pel polysaccharide biosynthetic gene cluster

PLoS Pathog. 2020 Apr 1;16(4):e1008281. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1008281. eCollection 2020 Apr.


Our understanding of the biofilm matrix components utilized by Gram-positive bacteria, and the signalling pathways that regulate their production are largely unknown. In a companion study, we developed a computational pipeline for the unbiased identification of homologous bacterial operons and applied this algorithm to the analysis of synthase-dependent exopolysaccharide biosynthetic systems. Here, we explore the finding that many species of Gram-positive bacteria have operons with similarity to the Pseudomonas aeruginosa pel locus. Our characterization of the pelDEADAFG operon from Bacillus cereus ATCC 10987, presented herein, demonstrates that this locus is required for biofilm formation and produces a polysaccharide structurally similar to Pel. We show that the degenerate GGDEF domain of the B. cereus PelD ortholog binds cyclic-3',5'-dimeric guanosine monophosphate (c-di-GMP), and that this binding is required for biofilm formation. Finally, we identify a diguanylate cyclase, CdgF, and a c-di-GMP phosphodiesterase, CdgE, that reciprocally regulate the production of Pel. The discovery of this novel c-di-GMP regulatory circuit significantly contributes to our limited understanding of c-di-GMP signalling in Gram-positive organisms. Furthermore, conservation of the core pelDEADAFG locus amongst many species of bacilli, clostridia, streptococci, and actinobacteria suggests that Pel may be a common biofilm matrix component in many Gram-positive bacteria.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bacillus cereus / genetics
  • Bacillus cereus / growth & development
  • Bacillus cereus / metabolism*
  • Bacterial Proteins / chemistry
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism*
  • Biofilms / growth & development*
  • Cyclic GMP / analogs & derivatives
  • Cyclic GMP / metabolism
  • Escherichia coli Proteins / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial*
  • Multigene Family*
  • Operon*
  • Phosphorus-Oxygen Lyases / metabolism
  • Phylogeny
  • Polysaccharides / metabolism*
  • Protein Conformation


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Escherichia coli Proteins
  • Polysaccharides
  • bis(3',5')-cyclic diguanylic acid
  • Phosphorus-Oxygen Lyases
  • diguanylate cyclase
  • Cyclic GMP