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A protein switch controls biofilm architecture

Architecture of V.cholera biofilm depends on RbmA

Congrats to Alicia Michael and Nicole Parsley for their work on our collaborative project with Fitnat Yildiz's lab at UCSC -- our paper was published recently in Elife (2017;6:e26163).

The complex architecture of V.cholerae found in biofilms contributes to infectivity and antibiotic resistance. Understanding how biofilm architecture is regulated by factors secreted from the bacterium (proteins & polysaccharides) brings us a step closer to treating this endemic disease. The Yildiz lab discovered RbmA, one of the first proteins to be secreted to initiate biofilm formation. Here we showed that RbmA undergoes a dynamic switch between two conformations to control interactions with Vibrio exopolysaccharide and formation of higher order structure in the biofilm. Mutants that lock this switch into its 'open' or 'closed' form have a profound effect on biofilm architecture (inset). This project was a fantastic example of how rewarding it can be to integrate biophysics, genetics and cell biology!

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