Demolishing the great wall of biofilms in Gram-negative bacteria: To disrupt or disperse?

Miao Yu, Song Lin Chua

Research output: Journal article publicationReview articleAcademic researchpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Bacterial infections lead to high morbidity and mortality globally. While current therapies against bacteria often employ antibiotics, most bacterial pathogens can form biofilms and prevent effective treatment of infections. Biofilm cells can aggregate and encased themselves in a self-secreted protective exopolymeric matrix, to reduce the penetration by antibiotics. Biofilm formation is mediated by c-di-GMP signaling, the ubiquitous secondary messenger in bacteria. Synthesis of c-di-GMP by diguanylate cyclases leads to biofilm formation via the loss of motility, increased surface attachment, and production of biofilm matrix, whereas c-di-GMP degradation by phosphodiesterases causes biofilm dispersal to new sites via increased bacterial motility and matrix breakdown. The highly variable nature of biofilm development and antimicrobial tolerance imposes tremendous challenges in conventional antimicrobial therapies, indicating an imperative need to develop anti-biofilm drugs against biofilm infections. In this review, we focus on two main emergent approaches—active dispersal and disruption. While both approaches aim to demolish biofilms, we will discuss their fundamental differences and associated methods. Active dispersal of biofilms involves signaling the bacterial cells to leave the biofilm, where resident cells ditch their sessile lifestyle, gain motility and self-degrade their matrix. Biofilm disruption leads to direct matrix degradation that forcibly releases embedded biofilm cells. Without the protection of biofilm matrix, released bacterial cells are highly exposed to antimicrobials, leading to their eradication in biofilm infections. Understanding the advantages and disadvantages of both approaches will allow optimized utility with antimicrobials in clinical settings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1103-1116
Number of pages14
JournalMedicinal Research Reviews
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2020


  • antimicrobial treatment
  • biofilms
  • chronic infections
  • dispersal
  • disruption

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmacology
  • Drug Discovery

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