Biomacromolecules 2005 Mar-Apr;6(2):1122-31
Department of Chemical Engineering, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Worcester, Massachusetts 01609, USA.
Aureobasidium pullulans is a potentially pathogenic microfungus that produces and secretes the polysaccharide pullulan and other biomacromolecules, depending on the microbe's physiological state. The role of these macromolecules in mediating adhesion and attachment were examined. Interfacial forces and adhesion affinities of A. pullulans were probed for early-exponential phase (EEP) and late-exponential phase (LEP) cells, using atomic force microscopy (AFM). Biochemical assays showed that A. pullulans produces both pullulan and a uronic acid based polymer. The pullulan is not produced until the LEP, and it can be removed by treatment with pullulanase. Both adhesion forces between the microbe and the AFM tip (silicon nitride) and attachment of the cells to quartz sand grains were controlled by the density of the uronic acid polymer. Uronic acid polymers doubled in density between the EEP and the LEP and were unaffected by the enzyme pullulanase. Retention to quartz in a packed column was quantified using the collision efficiency (alpha), the fraction of collisions between the microbes, and the sand grains, that result in attachment. Adhesion forces and retention on glass were well correlated, with these values being higher for EEP cells (F(adh) = 7.65 +/-4.67 nN; alpha = 1.15) than LEP (F(adh) = 2.94 +/- 0.75; alpha = 0.49) and LEP + pullulanase cells (F(adh) = 2.33 +/-2.01 nN; alpha = 0.43). Steric interactions alone do not describe the adhesion behavior of this fungus, but they do provide information regarding the length and density of the macromolecules studied.