Biofilm formation by mycoplasma species and its role in environmental persistence and survival.
Although mycoplasmas possess a very limited genome, little is known about their virulence mechanisms and methods of persistence in the host. Examination of a wide range of mycoplasma species found considerable variation in their ability to form a biofilm. Mycoplasma putrefaciens, M. cottewii, M. yeatsii, M. agalactiae and M. bovis produced prolific biofilms. Conversely, the highly pathogenic mycoplasma and causative agent of contagious bovine pleuropneumonia, Mycoplasma mycoides subsp. mycoides SC, was unable to produce a biofilm. Biofilms were found to be considerably more resistant to stress, including heat and desiccation, than planktonic cells. A link between the biofilm phenotype and genotype as determined by molecular typing was found for M. bovis. Analysis of biofilms using fluorescent staining combined with confocal microscopy demonstrated that mycoplasma biofilms formed a highly differentiated structure with stacks and channels. Biofilm formation may indicate that mycoplasmas are capable of surviving in the environment.