A study recently published in Current Biology, including work from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute researchers, shows that Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteria can sacrifice some of its population to develop an antibiotic tolerant biofilm.
“What we’ve found is a suicidal pathway in which the sacrifice of some leads to a benefit for the community,” Rensselaer associate professor of biological sciences Blanca Barquera said. “One of Pseudomonas’ own molecules targets one of its own proteins, and while some die, the ones that survive are induced to make a biofilm. This research helps us to understand how Pseudomonas creates biofilms, and that could help us prevent biofilms that play a role in persistent and relapsing infections.”
Pseudomonas’ biofilm makes it difficult to combat with antibiotics, and it typically threatens patients with weakened immune systems. The molecule, 2-n-heptyl-4-hydroxyquinoline-N-oxide (HQNQ), has long been known to inhibit respiration, but the newly published research is the first to link it to cell death and biofilm formation.
“The survivors that are antibiotic tolerant cells make a biofilm,” Barquera said. “We know that this is part of a signaling process, but how it is regulated is not yet clear and will require further research.”
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