Calcium Increases Xylella fastidiosa Surface Attachment, Biofilm Formation, and Twitching Motility

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Xylella fastidiosa is a plant-pathogenic bacterium that forms biofilms inside xylem vessels, a process thought to be influenced by the chemical composition of xylem sap. In this work, the effect of calcium on the production of X. fastidiosa biofilm and movement was analyzed under in vitro conditions. After a dose-response study with 96-well plates using eight metals, the strongest increase of biofilm formation was observed when medium was supplemented with at least 1.0 mM CaCl2. The removal of Ca by extracellular (EGTA, 1.5 mM) and intracellular [1,2-bis(o-aminophenoxy)ethane-N,N,N',N'-tetraacetic acid acetoxymethyl ester (BAPTA/AM), 75 mu M] chelators reduced biofilm formation without compromising planktonic growth. The concentration of Ca influenced the force of adhesion to the substrate, biofilm thickness, cell-to-cell aggregation, and twitching motility, as shown by assays with microfluidic chambers and other assays. The effect of Ca on attachment was lost when cells were treated with tetracycline, suggesting that Ca has a metabolic or regulatory role in cell adhesion. A double mutant (fimA pilO) lacking type I and type IV pili did not improve biofilm formation or attachment when Ca was added to the medium, while single mutants of type I (fimA) or type IV (pilB) pill formed more biofilm under conditions of higher Ca concentrations. The concentration of Ca in the medium did not significantly influence the levels of exopolysaccharide produced. Our findings indicate that the role of Ca in biofilm formation may be related to the initial surface and cell-to-cell attachment and colonization stages of biofilm establishment, which rely on critical functions by fimbrial structures.


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  • Vitis vinifera
  • Xylella fastidiosa


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