Inverse regulation of biofilm dispersal by polyamine signals.
The global pathogen undergoes cycles of biofilm formation and dispersal in the environment and the human host. Little is understood about biofilm dispersal. Here, we show that MbaA, a periplasmic polyamine sensor, and PotD1, a polyamine importer, regulate biofilm dispersal. Spermidine, a commonly produced polyamine, drives dispersal, whereas norspermidine, an uncommon polyamine produced by vibrios, inhibits dispersal. Spermidine and norspermidine differ by one methylene group. Both polyamines control dispersal via MbaA detection in the periplasm and subsequent signal relay. Our results suggest that dispersal fails in the absence of PotD1 because endogenously produced norspermidine is not reimported, periplasmic norspermidine accumulates, and it stimulates MbaA signaling. These results suggest that uses MbaA to monitor environmental polyamines, blends of which potentially provide information about numbers of 'self' and 'other'. This information is used to dictate whether or not to disperse from biofilms.