Microbial biofilms are tolerant to antibiotic treatment and therefore cause problematic infections. Knowledge about the molecular mechanisms underlying biofilm-associated antimicrobial tolerance will aid the development of antibiofilm drugs. Screening of a Streptococcus mutans transposon mutant library for genes that are important for biofilm-associated antimicrobial tolerance provided evidence that the dlt genes play a role in the tolerance of S. mutans biofilms towards gentamicin. The minimum bactericidal concentration for biofilm cells (MBC-B) for a dltA transposon mutant was eight-fold lower than that of the wild-type. The minimum bactericidal concentration for planktonic cells (MBC-P) was only slightly reduced, indicating that the mechanism involved in the observed antimicrobial tolerance has a predominant role specifically in biofilms. Experiments with a knockout dltA mutant and complemented strain confirmed that the dlt genes in S. mutans play a role in biofilm-associated tolerance to gentamicin. Confocal laser scanning microscopy analyses of biofilms grown on glass slides showed that the dltA mutant produced roughly the same amount of biofilm as the wild-type, indicating that the reduced antimicrobial tolerance of the dltA mutant is not due to a defect in biofilm formation. The products of the dlt genes have been shown to mediate alanylation of teichoic acids, and in accordance the dltA mutant showed a more negatively charged surface than the wild-type, which likely is an important factor in the reduced tolerance of the dltA mutant biofilms towards the positively charged gentamicin.
International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents, 2016, Vol 48, Issue 3, p. 298-304