Mechanisms and regulation of surface interactions and biofilm formation in Agrobacterium

Jason E. Heindl, Yi Wang, Brynn C. Heckel, Bitan Mohari, Nathan Feirer, Clay Fuqua

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

76 Scopus citations


For many pathogenic bacteria surface attachment is a required first step during host interactions. Attachment can proceed to invasion of host tissue or cells or to establishment of a multicellular bacterial community known as a biofilm. The transition from a unicellular, often motile, state to a sessile, multicellular, biofilm-associated state is one of the most important developmental decisions for bacteria. Agrobacterium tumefaciens genetically transforms plant cells by transfer and integration of a segment of plasmid-encoded transferred DNA (T-DNA) into the host genome, and has also been a valuable tool for plant geneticists. A. tumefaciens attaches to and forms a complex biofilm on a variety of biotic and abiotic substrates in vitro. Although rarely studied in situ, it is hypothesized that the biofilm state plays an important functional role in the ecology of this organism. Surface attachment, motility, and cell division are coordinated through a complex regulatory network that imparts an unexpected asymmetry to the A. tumefaciens life cycle. In this review, we describe the mechanisms by which A. tumefaciens associates with surfaces, and regulation of this process. We focus on the transition between flagellar-based motility and surface attachment, and on the composition, production, and secretion of multiple extracellular components that contribute to the biofilm matrix. Biofilm formation by A. tumefaciens is linked with virulence both mechanistically and through shared regulatory molecules. We detail our current understanding of these and other regulatory schemes, as well as the internal and external (environmental) cues mediating development of the biofilm state, including the second messenger cyclic-di-GMP, nutrient levels, and the role of the plant host in influencing attachment and biofilm formation. A. tumefaciens is an important model system contributing to our understanding of developmental transitions, bacterial cell biology, and biofilm formation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number176
JournalFrontiers in Plant Science
Issue numberMAY
StatePublished - May 6 2014
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Plant Science


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