A study by Indiana University biologists and Brown University physicists found certain bacteria wait until the last minute to synthesize the glue that allows them to attach permanently to surfaces.
The research, published in the journal Molecular Microbiology, found single bacterial cells use their flagella and pili to facilitate the timely release of adhesive polysaccharides upon initial contact with other surfaces.
"For bacteria, surface attachment by single cells is the first step to important processes such as biofilm formation and host infection," IU microbiologist Pamela Brown said Tuesday in a release. "What we found is that the interaction of bacterial cells with a surface using their flagellum and pili stimulates the on-the-spot production of polysaccharide adhesins, propelling the transition from transient to permanent attachment."
Indiana University said the findings suggest pathogenic bacteria may carefully time adhesin release to protect themselves from premature exposure to a host's immune system during infection.