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Arch Oral Biol. 2006 Apr;51(4):299-314. Epub 2005 Oct 13.

Environmental influences on Actinobacillus actinomycetemcomitans biofilm formation.

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Department of Oral Biology, University at Buffalo, 109 Foster Hall, 3435 Main Street, Buffalo, NY 14214, USA.


Fresh clinical isolates of the periodontal pathogen Actinobacillus actinomycetemcomitans have an adherent, rough colony morphology that transforms into a minimally adherent, smooth colony phenotype during successive in vitro passage. The objectives of this study were: (1) to compare biofilm formation of the rough (RVs) and smooth variants (SVs) of several strains of A. actinomycetemcomitans grown under various environmental conditions and (2) to examine the dynamics of biofilm formation. A microtitre plate biofilm assay was used to evaluate biofilm formation of strains grown in broth with modified salt concentration and pH, and to evaluate the effect of pre-conditioning films. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) was used to monitor microscopic changes in morphology. Dynamics of biofilm formation were measured in a flowcell monitored by confocal microscopy. The RVs generally produced greater biofilm than the SVs. However, medium-dependent differences in biofilm formation were evident for some rough/smooth pairs. The RVs were more tolerant to changes in salt and pH, and more resistant to chlorhexidine than the SVs. Horse serum virtually eliminated, and saliva significantly reduced, biofilm formation by the SVs in contrast to the RVs. SEM revealed no alteration in morphology with change of environment. In a flowcell, the RVs produced towers of microcolonies anchored by a small contact area, whereas the SVs produced an open architecture of reduced height. After 7 days in a flowcell, the rough to smooth phenotype transition could be demonstrated. In conclusion, strain, growth medium and conditioning film all affect biofilm formation. The RVs produce biofilms of unique architecture that may serve to protect the bacterium from environmental perturbations.

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