Behind the Paper - Comparative transcriptomic analysis of Gardnerella vaginalis biofilms vs. planktonic cultures using RNA-seq

Discover the story behind our paper, "Comparative transcriptomic analysis of Gardnerella vaginalis biofilms vs. planktonic cultures using RNA-seq", which was published in npj Biofilms and Microbiomes

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Our article entitled "Comparative transcriptomic analysis of Gardnerella vaginalis biofilms vs. planktonic cultures using RNA-seq" was published in the journal npj Biofilms and Microbiomes. The Nature Research team had a few questions for us about our article, which we have answered below.

What was the main aim of your research and why did you decide to investigate this?

We were interested in determining if biofilm forming Gardnerella vaginalis can be the main etiological agent in Bacterial vaginosis (BV). Previously, we've shown that some strains of this bacterial species have significantly higher virulence than many other species commonly found in BV women. More than 200 bacterial species have been identified in BV patients, but practically nothing is known about their role. We think it's reasonable to assume that most are, in fact, not contributing to BV development. By understanding the physiology of G. vaginalis biofilms, we can highlight the role of this bacteria in the development of BV.

How did you go about designing your study?

Because nothing was yet described regarding the transcriptome of this bacterial species, we started from the beginning and simply followed the most common approach in biofilm-related studies: we compared the shift in mRNA expression from a planktonic to a biofilm culture. This helped us identify some relevant molecular mechanisms involved in the adaptation of G. vaginalis to biofilm lifestyle.

What challenges did you face?

As with many other fastidious microorganisms, our main challenge was to keep our bacteria well and alive ;). G. vaginalis frequently dies under lab conditions and we had to be persistent and be patient in order to have enough assays performed. All the other techniques used in this study are routinely used in our lab and no significant issues occurred.

What were the key findings from your research?

I think the most interesting finding in our paper was the discovery that vaginolysin, one of the best studied cytolysin of G. vaginalis, was significantly down-regulated in biofilm cultures. Overall, the transcriptome of G. vaginalis biofilms showed similar trends to other biofilm-related infections, such as decreased glucose metabolism and increased stress tolerance.

What next? What further research is needed in this area?

I believe it's now well accepted that G. vaginalis biofilms plays a pivotal role in BV. However, we can't discard all the other bacterial species found in BV women. Understanding how these multi-species communities behave will be a very big challenge, but I believe it will be fundamental to reveal a clear picture of BV and, hopefully, open the door for effective and long-lasting treatment options.

Read the article in full

Nuno Cerca

Principal Investigator, Universidade do Minho

Nuno Cerca works in the Center of Biological Engineering at the University of Minho. His research group interests is mainly focused on the pathogenesis of Staphylococcus epidermidis and Gardnerella vaginalis biofilms. He is an Investigador FCT.