Biofilm matrix assembly by Bacillus subtilis

Supervisors: Nicola Stanley-Wall, Cait MacPhee

Project Description
Biofilms are complex communities of microbial cells that are enclosed in an extracellular matrix. The biofilm matrix comprises self-produced macromolecules that serve to provide structural integrity and protection from mechanical, chemical and immunological stress. The formation of biofilms results in the establishment of chronic infections in mammalian hosts but can also be exploited for bio-remediation and bio-control processes in environmental settings. Bacillus subtilis is a Gram-positive soil bacterium that is an excellent model for examining the structure and function of the biofilm matrix. The B. subtilis biofilm matrix is formed by three specific components. The first is an exopolysaccharide that serves to retain moisture within the biofilm and functions as a signalling molecule. The second extracellular component needed for biofilm formation is the protein BslA, which forms a water-repellent coat at the surface of the biofilm, rendering it resistant to environmental insult. The third component of the biofilm matrix is the secreted protein TasA. The PhD student appointed will take an innovative interdisciplinary approach that combines expertise in biomolecular physics and molecular microbiology to help to elucidate the mechanism of biofilm matrix assembly