Bacterial community morphogenesis is intimately linked to the intracellular redox state

Lars E.P. Dietrich, Chinweike Okegbe, Alexa Price-Whelan, Hassan Sakhtah, Ryan C. Hunter, Dianne K. Newmana

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

212 Scopus citations


Many microbial species form multicellular structures comprising elaborate wrinkles and concentric rings, yet the rules governing their architecture are poorly understood. The opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa produces phenazines, small molecules that act as alternate electron acceptors to oxygen and nitrate to oxidize the intracellular redox state and that influence biofilm morphogenesis. Here, we show that the depth occupied by cells within colony biofilms correlates well with electron acceptor availability. Perturbations in the environmental provision, endogenous production, and utilization of electron acceptors affect colony development in a manner consistent with redox control. Intracellular NADH levels peak before the induction of colony wrinkling. These results suggest that redox imbalance is a major factor driving the morphogenesis of P. aeruginosa biofilms and that wrinkling itself is an adaptation that maximizes oxygen accessibility and thereby supports metabolic homeostasis. This type of redox-driven morphological change is reminiscent of developmental processes that occur in metazoans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1371-1380
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of bacteriology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Apr 2013


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