Global Expression Profile of Biofilm Resistance to Antimicrobial Compounds in the Plant-Pathogenic Bacterium Xylella fastidiosa Reveals Evidence of Persister Cells
Investigations of biofilm resistance response rarely focus on plant-pathogenic bacteria. Since Xylella fastidiosa is a multihost plant-pathogenic bacterium that forms biofilm in the xylem, the behavior of its biofilm in response to antimicrobial compounds needs to be better investigated. We analyzed here the transcriptional profile of X. fastidiosa subsp. pauca in response to inhibitory and subinhibitory concentrations of copper and tetracycline. Copper-based products are routinely used to control citrus diseases in the field, while antibiotics are more widely used for bacterial control in mammals. The use of antimicrobial compounds triggers specific responses to each compound, such as biofilm formation and phage activity for copper. Common changes in expression responses comprise the repression of genes associated with metabolic functions and movement and the induction of toxin-antitoxin systems, which have been associated with the formation of persister cells. Our results also show that these cells were found in the population at a ca. 0.05% density under inhibitory conditions for both antimicrobial compounds and that pretreatment with subinhibitory concentration of copper increases this number. No previous report has detected the presence of these cells in X. fastidiosa population, suggesting that this could lead to a multidrug tolerance response in the biofilm under a stressed environment. This is a mechanism that has recently become the focus of studies on resistance of human-pathogenic bacteria to antibiotics and, based on our data, it seems to be more broadly applicable.