Fusobacterium nucleatum Adheres to Clostridioides difficile via the RadD Adhesin to Enhance Biofilm Formation in Intestinal Mucus

Melinda A. Engevik, Heather A. Danhof, Jennifer Auchtung, Bradley T. Endres, Wenly Ruan, Eugénie Bassères, Amy C. Engevik, Qinglong Wu, Maribeth Nicholson, Ruth Ann Luna, Kevin W. Garey, Sue E. Crawford, Mary K. Estes, Renate Lux, Mary Beth Yacyshyn, Bruce Yacyshyn, Tor Savidge, Robert A. Britton, James Versalovic

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Background & Aims: Although Clostridioides difficile infection (CDI) is known to involve the disruption of the gut microbiota, little is understood regarding how mucus-associated microbes interact with C difficile. We hypothesized that select mucus-associated bacteria would promote C difficile colonization and biofilm formation. Methods: To create a model of the human intestinal mucus layer and gut microbiota, we used bioreactors inoculated with healthy human feces, treated with clindamycin and infected with C difficile with the addition of human MUC2-coated coverslips. Results: C difficile was found to colonize and form biofilms on MUC2-coated coverslips, and 16S rRNA sequencing showed a unique biofilm profile with substantial cocolonization with Fusobacterium species. Consistent with our bioreactor data, publicly available data sets and patient stool samples showed that a subset of patients with C difficile infection harbored high levels of Fusobacterium species. We observed colocalization of C difficile and F nucleatum in an aggregation assay using adult patients and stool of pediatric patients with inflammatory bowel disease and in tissue sections of patients with CDI. C difficile strains were found to coaggregate with F nucleatum subspecies in vitro; an effect that was inhibited by blocking or mutating the adhesin RadD on Fusobacterium and removal of flagella on C difficile. Aggregation was shown to be unique between F nucleatum and C difficile, because other gut commensals did not aggregate with C difficile. Addition of F nucleatum also enhanced C difficile biofilm formation and extracellular polysaccharide production. Conclusions: Collectively, these data show a unique interaction of between pathogenic C difficile and F nucleatum in the intestinal mucus layer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1301-1314.e8
Issue number4
StatePublished - Mar 2021


  • Biofilm
  • Clostridioides difficile
  • MUC2
  • Mucus
  • Intestinal Mucosa/immunology
  • Flagella/genetics
  • Humans
  • Adhesins, Bacterial/genetics
  • Bacterial Adhesion/immunology
  • Clostridium Infections/immunology
  • HT29 Cells
  • Mucin-2/metabolism
  • Biofilms
  • Feces/microbiology
  • Bioreactors/microbiology
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome/immunology
  • Clostridioides difficile/genetics
  • Fusobacterium nucleatum/immunology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gastroenterology
  • Hepatology


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