Mutant analysis was used to identify Moraxella catarrhalis gene products necessary for biofilm development in a crystal violet-based assay involving 24-well tissue culture plates. The wild-type M. catarrhalis strains that formed the most extensive biofilms in this system proved to be refractory to transposon mutagenesis, so an M. catarrhalis strain was constructed that was both able to form biofilms in vitro and amenable to transposon mutagenesis. Chromosomal DNA from the biofilm-positive strain O46E was osed to transform the biofflm-negative strain O35E; transformants able to form biofilms were identified and subjected to transposon-mediated mutagenesis. Biofilm-negative mutants of these transformants were shown to have a transposon insertion in the uspA1 gene. Nucleotide sequence analysis revealed that the biofilm-positive transformant T14 contained a hybrid O46E-O35E uspA1 gene, with the N-terminal 155 amino acids being derived from the O46E UspA1 protein. Transformant T14 was also shown to be unable to express the Hag protein, which normally extends from the surface of the M. catarrhalis cell. Introduction of a wild-type O35E hag gene into T14 eliminated its ability to form a biofilm. When the hybrid O46E-O35E uspA1 gene from T14 was used to replace the uspA1 gene of O35E, this transformant strain did not form a biofilm. However, inactivation of the hag gene did allow biofilm formation by strain O35E expressing the hybrid O46E-O35E uspA1 gene product. The Hag protein was shown to have an inhibitory or negative effect on biofilm formation by these M. catarrhalis strains in the crystal violet-based assay.
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