Current antibiotic treatments are insufficient in eradicating bacterial biofilms, which represent the primary cause of chronic bacterial infections. Thus, there is an urgent need for new strategies to eradicate biofilm infections. The second messenger c-di-GMP is a positive regulator of biofilm formation in many clinically relevant bacteria. It is hypothesized that drugs lowering the intracellular level of c-di-GMP will force biofilm bacteria into a more treatable planktonic lifestyle. To identify compounds capable of lowering c-di-GMP levels in Pseudomonas aeruginosa, we screened 5000 compounds for their potential c-di-GMP-lowering effect using a recently developed c-di-GMP biosensor strain. Our screen identified the anti-cancerous drug doxorubicin as a potent c-di-GMP inhibitor. In addition, the drug decreased the transcription of many biofilm-related genes. However, despite its effect on the c-di-GMP content in P. aeruginosa, doxorubicin was unable to inhibit biofilm formation or disperse established biofilms. On the contrary, the drug was found to promote P. aeruginosa biofilm formation, possibly through release of extracellular DNA from a subpopulation of killed bacteria. Our findings emphasize that lowering of the c-di-GMP content in bacteria might not be sufficient to mediate biofilm inhibition or dispersal.
Microbiology, 2016, Vol 162, Issue 10, p. 1797-1807