Polysorbate 80 inhibition of Pseudomonas aeruginosa biofilm formation and its cleavage by the secreted lipase LipA

Christine M. Toutain-Kidd, Samoneh C. Kadivar, Carolyn T. Bramante, Stephen A. Bobin, Michael E. Zegans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


Surface-associated bacterial communities known as biofilms are an important source of nosocomial infections. Microorganisms such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa can colonize the abiotic surfaces of medical implants, leading to chronic infections that are difficult to eradicate. Our study demonstrates that polysorbate 80 (PS80), a surfactant commonly added to food and medicines, is able to inhibit biofilm formation by P. aeruginosa on a variety of surfaces, including contact lenses. Many clinical isolates of P. aeruginosa, as well as gram-negative and gram-positive clinical isolates, were also inhibited in their ability to form biofilms in the presence of PS80. A P. aeruginosa mutant able to form biofilms in the presence of this surfactant was identified and characterized, and it was revealed that this mutant overexpresses a lipase, LipA. Surfactants such as PS80 can be cleaved by lipases, and we demonstrate that PS80 is cleaved by LipA at its ester bond. Finally, polyethoxylated(20) oleyl alcohol, a chemical with a structure that is similar to that of PS80 but that lacks the ester bond of PS80, can inhibit the biofilm formation of P. aeruginosa strains, including the mutant overexpressing LipA. Our results demonstrate that surfactants such as PS80 can inhibit bacterial biofilm formation on medically relevant materials at concentrations demonstrated to be safe in humans and suggest that the understanding of the mechanisms of bacterial resistance to such surfactants will be important in developing clinically effective derivatives.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)136-145
Number of pages10
JournalAntimicrobial agents and chemotherapy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2009
Externally publishedYes


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