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Impairment of a cyanobacterial glycosyltransferase that modifies a pilin results in biofilm development.

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A biofilm inhibiting mechanism operates in the cyanobacterium Synechococcus elongatus. Here, we demonstrate that the glycosyltransferase homologue, Ogt, participates in the inhibitory process - inactivation of ogt results in robust biofilm formation. Furthermore, a mutational approach shows requirement of the glycosyltransferase activity for biofilm inhibition. This enzyme is necessary for glycosylation of the pilus subunit and for adequate pilus formation. In contrast to wild-type culture in which most cells exhibit several pili, only 25% of the mutant cells are piliated, half of which possess a single pilus. In spite of this poor piliation, natural DNA competence was similar to that of wild-type; therefore, we propose that the unglycosylated pili facilitate DNA transformation. Additionally, conditioned medium from wild-type culture, which contains a biofilm inhibiting substance(s), only partially blocks biofilm development by the ogt-mutant. Thus, we suggest that inactivation of ogt affects multiple processes including production or secretion of the inhibitor as well as the ability to sense or respond to it.

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