Escherichia coli biofilms have an organized and complex extracellular matrix structure

Chia Hung, Yizhou Zhou, Jerome S. Pinkner, Karen W. Dodson, Jan R. Crowley, John Heuser, Matthew R. Chapman, Maria Hadjifrangiskou, Jeffrey P. Henderson, Scott J. Hultgren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

150 Scopus citations


Bacterial biofilms are ubiquitous in nature, and their resilience is derived in part from a complex extracellular matrix that can be tailored to meet environmental demands. Although common developmental stages leading to biofilm formation have been described, how the extracellular components are organized to allow three-dimensional biofilm development is not well understood. Here we show that uropathogenic Escherichia coli (UPEC) strains produce a biofilm with a highly ordered and complex extracellular matrix (ECM). We used electron microscopy (EM) techniques to image floating biofilms (pellicles) formed by UPEC. EM revealed intricately constructed substructures within the ECM that encase individual, spatially segregated bacteria with a distinctive morphology. Mutational and biochemical analyses of these biofilms confirmed curli as a major matrix component and revealed important roles for cellulose, flagella, and type 1 pili in pellicle integrity and ECM infrastructure. Collectively, the findings of this study elucidated that UPEC pellicles have a highly organized ultrastructure that varies spatially across the multicellular community.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere00645-13
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 10 2013


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