Alternative modes of biofilm formation by plant-associated Bacillus cereus.

PMID 25828975


The ability to form multicellular communities known as biofilms is a widespread adaptive behavior of bacteria. Members of the Bacillus group of bacteria have been found to form biofilms on plant roots, where they protect against pathogens and promote growth. In the case of the model bacterium Bacillus subtilis the genetic pathway controlling biofilm formation and the production of an extracellular matrix is relatively well understood. However, it is unclear whether other members of this genus utilize similar mechanisms. We determined that a plant-associated strain of Bacillus cereus (905) can form biofilms by two seemingly independent pathways. In one mode involving the formation of floating biofilms (pellicles) B. cereus 905 appears to rely on orthologs of many of the genes known to be important for B. subtilis biofilm formation. We report that B. cereus 905 also forms submerged, surface-associated biofilms and in a manner that resembles biofilm formation by the pathogen Staphylococcus aureus. This alternative mode, which does not rely on B. subtilis-like genes for pellicle formation, takes place under conditions of glucose fermentation and depends on a drop in the pH of the medium.