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Acquisition of a mucoid phenotype by Pseudomonas sp. in the lungs of cystic fibrosis (CF) patients, with subsequent over-production of extracellular polymeric substance (EPS), plays an important role in mediating the persistence of multi-drug resistant (MDR) infections. The ability of a low molecular weight (Mn = 3200 g mol-1) alginate oligomer (OligoG CF-5/20) to modify biofilm structure of mucoid Pseudomonas aeruginosa (NH57388A) was studied in vitro using scanning electron microscopy (SEM), confocal laser scanning microscopy (CLSM) with Texas Red (TxRd®)-labelled OligoG and EPS histochemical staining. Structural changes in treated biofilms were quantified using COMSTAT image-analysis software of CLSM z-stack images, and nanoparticle diffusion. Interactions between the oligomers, Ca2+ and DNA were studied using molecular dynamics (MD) simulations, Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) and isothermal titration calorimetry (ITC). Imaging demonstrated that OligoG treatment (≥0.5%) inhibited biofilm formation, revealing a significant reduction in both biomass and biofilm height (P < 0.05). TxRd®-labelled oligomers readily diffused into established (24 h) biofilms. OligoG treatment (≥2%) induced alterations in the EPS of established biofilms; significantly reducing the structural quantities of EPS polysaccharides, and extracellular (e)DNA (P < 0.05) with a corresponding increase in nanoparticle diffusion (P < 0.05) and antibiotic efficacy against established biofilms. ITC demonstrated an absence of rapid complex formation between DNA and OligoG and confirmed the interactions of OligoG with Ca2+ evident in FTIR and MD modelling. The ability of OligoG to diffuse into biofilms, potentiate antibiotic activity, disrupt DNA-Ca2+-DNA bridges and biofilm EPS matrix highlights its potential for the treatment of biofilm-related infections.

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Journal article


NPJ Biofilms Microbiomes

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