Identification of an extracellular polysaccharide network essential for cytochrome anchoring and biofilm formation in Geobacter sulfurreducens

Janet B Rollefson, Camille S Stephen, Ming Tien, Daniel R Bond
Journal of Bacteriology 2011, 193 (5): 1023-33
Transposon insertions in Geobacter sulfurreducens GSU1501, part of an ATP-dependent exporter within an operon of polysaccharide biosynthesis genes, were previously shown to eliminate insoluble Fe(III) reduction and use of an electrode as an electron acceptor. Replacement of GSU1501 with a kanamycin resistance cassette produced a similarly defective mutant, which could be partially complemented by expression of GSU1500 to GSU1505 in trans. The Δ1501 mutant demonstrated limited cell-cell agglutination, enhanced attachment to negatively charged surfaces, and poor attachment to positively charged poly-d-lysine- or Fe(III)-coated surfaces. Wild-type and mutant cells attached to graphite electrodes, but when electrodes were poised at an oxidizing potential inducing a positive surface charge (+0.24 V versus the standard hydrogen electrode [SHE]), Δ1501 mutant cells detached. Scanning electron microscopy revealed fibrils surrounding wild-type G. sulfurreducens which were absent from the Δ1501 mutant. Similar amounts of type IV pili and pilus-associated cytochromes were detected on both cell types, but shearing released a stable matrix of c-type cytochromes and other proteins bound to polysaccharides. The matrix from the mutant contained 60% less sugar and was nearly devoid of c-type cytochromes such as OmcZ. The addition of wild-type extracellular matrix to Δ1501 cultures restored agglutination and Fe(III) reduction. The polysaccharide binding dye Congo red preferentially bound wild-type cells and extracellular matrix material over mutant cells, and Congo red inhibited agglutination and Fe(III) reduction by wild-type cells. These results demonstrate a crucial role for the xap (extracellular anchoring polysaccharide) locus in metal oxide attachment, cell-cell agglutination, and localization of essential cytochromes beyond the Geobacter outer membrane.

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