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Science 328 (5978): 627-629

Copyright © 2010 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science

D-Amino Acids Trigger Biofilm Disassembly

Ilana Kolodkin-Gal,1 Diego Romero,2 Shugeng Cao,3 Jon Clardy,3 Roberto Kolter,2 Richard Losick1,*

Abstract: Bacteria form communities known as biofilms, which disassemble over time. In our studies outlined here, we found that, before biofilm disassembly, Bacillus subtilis produced a factor that prevented biofilm formation and could break down existing biofilms. The factor was shown to be a mixture of D-leucine, D-methionine, D-tyrosine, and D-tryptophan that could act at nanomolar concentrations. D-Amino acid treatment caused the release of amyloid fibers that linked cells in the biofilm together. Mutants able to form biofilms in the presence of D-Amino acids contained alterations in a protein (YqxM) required for the formation and anchoring of the fibers to the cell. D-Amino acids also prevented biofilm formation by Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. D-amino acids are produced by many bacteria and, thus, may be a widespread signal for biofilm disassembly.

1 Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.
2 Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA.
3 Department of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA.

* To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: losick{at}

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