April 21, 2020  |  

Genome rearrangements induce biofilm formation in Escherichia coli C, an old model organism with a new application in biofilm research

Escherichia coli C forms more robust biofilms than the other laboratory strains. Biofilm formation and cell aggregation under a high shear force depends on temperature and salt concentrations. It is the last of five E. coli strains (C, K12, B, W, Crooks) designated as safe for laboratory purposes whose genome has not been sequenced. Here we present the complete genomic sequence of this strain in which we utilized both long-read PacBio-based sequencing and high resolution optical mapping to confirm a large inversion in comparison to the other laboratory strains. Notably, DNA sequence comparison revealed the absence of several genes thought to be involved in biofilm formation, including antigen 43, waaSBOJYZUL for LPS synthesis, and cpsB for curli synthesis. The first main difference we identified that likely affects biofilm formation is the presence of an IS3-like insertion sequence in front of the carbon storage regulator csrA gene. This insertion is located 86 bp upstream of the csrA start codon inside the -35 region of P4 promoter and blocks the transcription from the sigma32 and sigma70 promoters P1-P3 located further upstream. The second is the presence of an IS5/IS1182 in front of the csgD gene, which may drive its overexpression in biofilm. And finally, E. coli C encodes an additional sigma70 subunit overexpressed in biofilm and driven by the same IS3-like insertion sequence. Promoter analyses using GFP gene fusions and total expression profiles using RNA-seq analyses comparing planktonic and biofilm envirovars provided insights into understanding this regulatory pathway in E. coli.


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