Nanotubes Formation in P. aeruginosa

Cells. 2022 Oct 26;11(21):3374. doi: 10.3390/cells11213374.


The present study discusses a biofilm-positive P. aeruginosa isolate that survives at pH levels ranging from 4.0 to 9.0. The biofilm consortia were colonized with different phenotypes i.e., planktonic, slow-growing and metabolically inactive small colony variants (SCVs). The lower base of the consortia was occupied by SCVs. These cells were strongly attached to solid surfaces and interconnected through a network of nanotubes. Nanotubes were observed at the stationary phase of biofilm indwellers and were more prominent after applying weight to the consortia. The scanning electron micrographs indicated that the nanotubes are polar appendages with intraspecies connectivity. The micrographs indicated variations in physical dimensions (length, width, and height) and a considerable reduction in volume due to weight pressure. A total of 35 cells were randomly selected. The mean volume of cells before the application of weight was 0.288 µm3, which was reduced to 0.144 µm3 after the application of weight. It was observed that a single cell may produce as many as six nanotubes, connected simultaneously to six neighbouring cells in different directions. The in-depth analysis confirmed that these structures were the intra-species connecting tools as no free nanotubes were found. Furthermore, after the application of weight, cells incapable of producing nanotubes were wiped out and the surface was covered by nanotube producers. This suggests that the nanotubes give a selective advantage to the cells to resist harsh environmental conditions and weight pressure. After the removal of weight and proper supply of nutrients, these phenotypes reverted to normal planktonic lifestyles. It is concluded that the nanotubes are not merely the phenomenon of dying cells; rather they are a connectivity tool which helps connected cells to tolerate and resist environmental stress.

Keywords: adhesion; biofilms; nanotubes; pseudomonas; small colony variants.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biofilms
  • Nanotubes*
  • Plankton
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa* / metabolism

Grants and funding

This research was partially funded by the Program of shanghai Academic Research Leader (21XD1401200), the Agricultural Project of Shanghai Science and Technology Innovation Action Plan, China (19391901600).