Streptococcus pneumoniae (the pneumococcus) colonizes the human nasopharynx by forming multicellular biofilms. Due to the high level of asymptomatic carriage, transition to infections, such as otitis media, pneumonia, sepsis, and meningitis, occurs often enough that the pneumococcus remains a major cause of disease and death globally. Virus infection and virus-induced responses, such as increased temperature (fever), trigger release of virulent bacteria from colonizing biofilms. The exact mechanisms involved in pneumococcal egress during biofilm dispersal remain unknown, although we hypothesize that disruption of the biofilm matrix encasing the bacteria is necessary. Here, we utilized established in vitro biofilm dispersal models to investigate the involvement of proteases in bacterial egress from pneumococcal biofilms. We demonstrate the importance of protease activity, both through increased bacterial release following addition of proteases and reduced heat-induced biofilm dispersal in the presence of protease inhibitors. We identify a key role for the surface-exposed serine protease HtrA, but not PrtA, in heat-induced biofilm dispersal. Bacterial release from htrA-negative biofilms was significantly reduced compared to wild-type isogenic strains but was restored and increased above wild-type levels following addition of recombinant HtrA. Understanding the specific mechanisms involved in bacterial egress may provide novel targets for future strategies aimed to specifically interfere with disease progression without disturbing nasopharyngeal biofilm colonization.
- Immunologi inom det medicinska området