Flexible survival strategies of Pseudomonas aeruginosa in biofilms result in increased fitness compared with Candida albicans
The majority of microorganisms persist in nature as surface-attached communities often surrounded by an extracellular matrix, called biofilms. Most natural biofilms are not formed by a single species but by multiple species. Microorganisms not only cooperate as in some multispecies biofilms but also compete for available nutrients. The Gram-negative bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa and the polymorphic fungus Candida albicans are two opportunistic pathogens that are often found coexisting in a human host. Several models of mixed biofilms have been reported for these organisms showing antagonistic behavior. To investigate the interaction of P. aeruginosa and C. albicans in more detail, we analyzed the secretome of single and mixed biofilms of both organisms using MALDI-TOF MS/MS at several time points. Overall 247 individual proteins were identified, 170 originated from P. aeruginosa and 77 from C. albicans. Only 39 of the 131 in mixed biofilms identified proteins were assigned to the fungus whereby the remaining 92 proteins belonged to P. aeruginosa. In single-species biofilms, both organisms showed a higher diversity of proteins with 73 being assigned to C. albicans and 154 to P. aeruginosa. Most interestingly, P. aeruginosa in the presence of C. albicans secreted 16 proteins in significantly higher amounts or exclusively among other virulence factors such as exotoxin A and iron acquisition systems. In addition, the high affinity iron-binding siderophore pyoverdine was identified in mixed biofilms but not in bacterial biofilms, indicating that P. aeruginosa increases its capability to sequester iron in competition with C. albicans. In contrast, C. albicans metabolism was significantly reduced, including a reduction in detectable iron acquisition proteins. The results obtained in this study show that microorganisms not only compete with the host for essential nutrients but also strongly with the present microflora in order to gain a competitive advantage.