A low molecular weight alginate oligosaccharide disrupts pseudomonal microcolony formation and enhances antibiotic effectiveness

Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy 2017, Aug 24;61(9). [In press] Pritchard MF, et al.


In chronic respiratory disease, the formation of dense, 3-dimensional “microcolonies” by Pseudomonas aeruginosa within the airway plays an important role in contributing to resistance to treatment. An in vitro biofilm model of pseudomonal microcolony formation using artificial-sputum (AS) medium was established to study the effects of low-molecular-weight alginate oligomers (OligoG CF-5/20) on pseudomonal growth, microcolony formation, and the efficacy of colistin. The studies employed clinical cystic fibrosis (CF) isolates (n = 3) and reference nonmucoid and mucoid multidrug-resistant (MDR) CF isolates (n = 7). Bacterial growth and biofilm development and disruption were studied using cell viability assays and image analysis with scanning electron and confocal laser scanning microscopy. Pseudomonal growth in AS medium was associated with increased ATP production (P < 0.05) and the formation (at 48 h) of discrete (>10-μm) microcolonies. In conventional growth medium, colistin retained an ability to inhibit growth of planktonic bacteria, although the MIC was increased (0.1 to 0.4 μg/ml) in AS medium compared to Mueller-Hinton (MH) medium. In contrast, in an established-biofilm model in AS medium, the efficacy of colistin was decreased. OligoG CF-5/20 (≥2%) treatment, however, induced dose-dependent biofilm disruption (P < 0.05) and led to colistin retaining its antimicrobial activity (P < 0.05). While circular dichroism indicated that OligoG CF-5/20 did not change the orientation of the alginate carboxyl groups, mass spectrometry demonstrated that the oligomers induced dose-dependent (>0.2%; P < 0.05) reductions in pseudomonal quorum-sensing signaling. These findings reinforce the potential clinical significance of microcolony formation in the CF lung and highlight a novel approach to treat MDR pseudomonal infections.