Multiple holins contribute to extracellular DNA release in Pseudomonas aeruginosa biofilms

Amelia L. Hynen, James J. Lazenby, George M. Savva, Laura C. McCaughey, Lynne Turnbull, Laura M. Nolan, Cynthia B. Whitchurch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)
16 Downloads (Pure)


Bacterial biofilms are composed of aggregates of cells encased within a matrix of extracellular polymeric substances (EPS). One key EPS component is extracellular DNA (eDNA), which acts as a ‘glue’, facilitating cell–cell and cell–substratum interactions. We have previously demonstrated that eDNA is produced in Pseudomonas aeruginosa biofilms via explosive cell lysis. This phenomenon involves a subset of the bacterial population explosively lysing, due to peptidoglycan degradation by the endolysin Lys. Here we demonstrate that in P. aeruginosa three holins, AlpB, CidA and Hol, are involved in Lys-mediated eDNA release within both submerged (hydrated) and interstitial (actively expanding) biofilms, albeit to different extents, depending upon the type of biofilm and the stage of biofilm development. We also demonstrate that eDNA release events determine the sites at which cells begin to cluster to initiate microcolony formation during the early stages of submerged biofilm development. Furthermore, our results show that sustained release of eDNA is required for cell cluster consolidation and subsequent microcolony development in submerged biofilms. Overall, this study adds to our understanding of how eDNA release is controlled temporally and spatially within P. aeruginosa biofilms.
Original languageEnglish
Article number000990
Issue number2
Early online date5 Jan 2021
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021


  • EPS
  • biofilm initiation
  • explosive cell lysis
  • extracellular polymeric substance
  • microcolony formation

Cite this