Synergy between Sophorolipid Biosurfactant and SDS Increases the Efficiency of P. aeruginosa Biofilm Disruption
Biofilms are communities of bacteria encased in selfsecreted extracellular polymeric substances (EPS) that adhere stubbornly to submerged surfaces. Once established, these communities can cause serious chronic illnesses in medical settings, while they can promote corrosion and biofouling in industrial settings. Due to the difficulty of their removal, strongly oxidizing chemicals and detergents can be used to degrade and remove biofilms by killing the cells and degrading the matrix; however, the
... choice of compounds is limited in delicate environments due to the potential damage they may cause. In the case of detergents, most are synthesized from nonrenewable petrochemicals that have a degree of aquatic toxicity. There is a growing need to identify and characterize alternatives to synthetic surfactants. Biosurfactants, which are surfactants produced by microorganisms, are a promising alternative since they can be synthesized from renewable resources, have low environmental toxicity, and have been shown to have higher degrees of specificity in the mechanism of action. Sophorolipids are a class of glycolipid surfactants produced by yeast that have demonstrated great promise due to large yields from renewable feedstocks and for antimicrobial properties; however, the effect of the application of sophorolipids to Gramnegative bacterial biofilms has not been well studied. We investigate the antibiofilm properties of sophorolipids by demonstrating its ability to cause the catastrophic disruption of Pseudomonas aeruginosa PAO1 biofilms in microfluidic channels. We show that while sophorolipids inflict little damage to the bacteria, they weaken the EPS biofilm matrix, leading to surface-detachment and breakup of the biofilm. Furthermore, we find that sophorolipids act cooperatively with the widely used surfactant, sodium dodecyl sulfate. When combined, concentrations ∼100-fold lower than the minimum effective concentration, when used independently, recover potency. Biosurfactants are typically expensive to produce, thus our work demonstrates a means to improve efficacy while simultaneously reducing both cost and the amount of environmentally harmful substances used.