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New insights into biophysical aspects of biofilm formation


Bacteria organize in a variety of collective states, from swarming—rapid surface exploration, to biofilms—highly dense immobile communities attributed to stress resistance. It has been suggested that biofilm and swarming are oppositely controlled, making this transition  particularly  interesting  for  understanding  the  ability  of  bacterial  colonies to adapt to challenging environments. Researchers from PTB Department Modelling and Data Analysis together with colleagues from Ben-Gurion and Bar-Ilan Universities in Israel studied the swarm to biofilm transition on both an individual and collective scale. Analysis of bacterial dynamics shows that a few individual cells start the formation of biofilms by trapping more bacteria inside a stationary cluster. Both biological and physical processes facilitate the transition from swarm to biofilm, a key insight into the formation of biofilms.  Around aggregates, cells continue swarming almost unobstructed, while inside, trapped cells are added to the biofilm. While the experimental findings rule out previously suggested and theoretically predicted purely physical effects as the sole trigger for biofilm formation, the analysis of the experimental data shows how physical processes, such as clustering and jamming, accelerate biofilm formation substantially.

Figure: Overlapping trajectories of swarming bacteria cells. Groups of bacteria can organize in multiple ways, including swarming and dense, stationary biofilms. The shift between these disparate states exemplifies how bacteria adapt to challenging environments.

The publication is available:

VM Worlitzer, A Jose, I Grinberg, M Bär, S Heidenreich, A Eldar, G Ariel, ...Biophysical aspects underlying the swarm to biofilm transition Science Advances 8 (24), eabn81522022 (2022).  DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abn8152

Contact:Opens local program for sending email Sebastian Heidenreich (8.43), Opens local program for sending emailMarkus Bär (8.41)