Bacillus subtilis biofilm development

Correspondence between evolution and development has been discussed for more than two centuries. Recent work reveals that phylogeny−ontogeny correlations are indeed present in developmental transcriptomes of eukaryotic clades with complex multicellularity.

Nevertheless, it has been largely ignored that the pervasive presence of phylogeny−ontogeny correlations is a hallmark of development in eukaryotes. This perspective opens a possibility to look for similar parallelisms in biological settings where developmental logic and multicellular complexity are more obscure. For instance, it has been increasingly recognized that multicellular behavior underlies biofilm formation in bacteria.

However, it remains unclear whether bacterial biofilm growth shares some basic principles with development in complex eukaryotes. Here we show that the ontogeny of growing Bacillus subtilis biofilms recapitulates phylogeny at the expression level. Using time-resolved transcriptome and proteome profiles, we found that biofilm ontogeny correlates with the evolutionary measures, in a way that evolutionary younger and more diverged genes were increasingly expressed toward later timepoints of biofilm growth.

Molecular and morphological signatures also revealed that biofilm growth is highly regulated and organized into discrete ontogenetic stages, analogous to those of eukaryotic embryos. Together, this suggests that biofilm formation in Bacillus is a bona fide developmental process comparable to organismal development in animals, plants, and fungi. Given that most cells on Earth reside in the form of biofilms and that biofilms represent the oldest known fossils, we anticipate that the widely adopted vision of the first life as a single-cell and free-living organism needs rethinking.


Domazet-Lošo Research Group

Macroevolution Research. Our lab focuses on macro-evolutionary patterns across the tree of life.
Ruđer Bošković Institute

Division of Molecular Biology
Laboratory of Evolutionary Genetics
wing 5 / rooms 109-111

Biljenička cesta 54
HR-10000 Zagreb
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram