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The impact of the competence quorum sensing system on Streptococcus pneumoniae biofilms varies depending on the experimental model

Claudia Trappetti13, Luciana Gualdi1, Lorenzo Di Meola1, Prashant Jain2, Cindy C Korir2, Paul Edmonds2, Francesco Iannelli1, Susanna Ricci1, Gianni Pozzi1 and Marco R Oggioni1*

Author affiliations

1 Dipartimento di Biotecnologie, LAMMB, Policlinico Le Scotte (lotto 5 piano 1), Universita di Siena, 53100 Siena, Italy

2 School of Biology, Georgia Institute of Technology, 310 Ferst Drive, Atlanta, Georgia 30332, USA

3 Research Centre for Infectious Diseases, School of Molecular and Biomedical Science, University of Adelaide, South Australia, 5005, Australia

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Citation and License

BMC Microbiology 2011, 11:75  doi:10.1186/1471-2180-11-75

Published: 14 April 2011



Different models for biofilm in Streptococcus pneumoniae have been described in literature. To permit comparison of experimental data, we characterised the impact of the pneumococcal quorum-sensing competence system on biofilm formation in three models. For this scope, we used two microtiter and one continuous culture biofilm system.


In both microtiter models the competence system influences stability and structure of biofilm in the late attachment phase and synthetic competence stimulating peptide (CSP) restored wild type phenotypes in the comC mutants unable to produce the peptide. Early attachment of single cells to well bottoms was found for both systems to be competence independent, while later phases, including microcolony formation correlated to an intact competence system. The continuous culture biofilm model was not affected by mutations in the competence locus, but deletion of capsule had a significant impact in this model.


Since biofilm remains a largely uncharacterised multi-parameter phenotype it appears to be advisable to exploit more than one model in order to draw conclusion of possible relevance of specific genotypes on pneumococcal physiology.