BolA is a transcriptional switch that turns off motility and turns on biofilm development

Clémentine Dressaire, Ricardo Moreira, Susana Barahona, António Pedro Alves de Matos, Cecília Maria Arraiano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Citations (Scopus)


Bacteria are extremely versatile organisms that rapidly adapt to changing environments. When bacterial cells switch from planktonic growth to biofilm, flagellum formation is turned off and the production of fimbriae and extracellular polysaccharides is switched on. BolA is present in most Gram-negative bacteria, and homologues can be found from proteobacteria to eukaryotes. Here, we show that BolA is a new bacterial transcription factor that modulates the switch from a planktonic to a sessile lifestyle. It negatively modulates flagellar biosynthesis and swimming capacity in Escherichia coli. Furthermore, BolA overexpression favors biofilm formation, involving the production of fimbria-like adhesins and curli. Our results also demonstrate that BolA is a protein with high affinity to DNA and is able to regulate many genes on a genome-wide scale. Moreover, we show that the most significant targets of this protein involve a complex network of genes encoding proteins related to biofilm development. Herein, we propose that BolA is a motile/adhesive transcriptional switch, specifically involved in the transition between the planktonic and the attachment stage of biofilm formation. IMPORTANCE Escherichia coli cells possess several mechanisms to cope with stresses. BolA has been described as a protein important for survival in late stages of bacterial growth and under harsh environmental conditions. BolA-like proteins are widely conserved from prokaryotes to eukaryotes. Although their exact function is not fully established at the molecular level, they seem to be involved in cell proliferation or cell cycle regulation. Here, we unraveled the role of BolA in biofilm development and bacterial motility. Our work suggests that BolA actively contributes to the decision of bacteria to arrest flagellar production and initiate the attachment to form structured communities, such as biofilms. The molecular studies of different lifestyles coupled with the comprehension of the BolA functions may be an important step for future perspectives, with health care and biotechnology applications.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere02352-14
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 17 Feb 2015


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