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Microrheology of bacterial biofilms In Vitro: staphylococcus aureus and pseudomonas aeruginosa

Rodgers, S.S. and van der Walle, Christopher F. and Waigh, T.A. (2008) Microrheology of bacterial biofilms In Vitro: staphylococcus aureus and pseudomonas aeruginosa. Langmuir, 24 (23). pp. 13549-13555. ISSN 0743-7463

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The rheology of bacterial biofilms at the micron scale is an important step to understanding the communal lifecycles of bacteria that adhere to solid surfaces, as it measures how they mutually adhere and desorb. Improvements in particle-tracking software and imaging hardware have allowed us to successfully employ particle-tracking microrheology to measuring single-species bacterial biofilms, based on Staphlococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. By tracking displacements of the cells at a range of timescales, we separate active and thermal contributions to the cell motion. The S. aureus biofilms in particular show power-law rheology, in common with other dense colloidal suspensions. By calculating the mean compliance of S. aureus biofilms, we observe them becoming less compliant during growth, and more compliant during starvation. The biofilms are rheologically inhomogeneous on the micron scale, as a result of the strength of initial adhesion to the flow cell surface, the arrangement of individual bacteria, and larger-scale structures such as flocs of P. aeruginosa. Our S. aureus biofilms became homogeneous as a function of height as they matured: the rheological environment experienced by a bacterium became independent of how far it lived from the flow cell surface. Particle-tracking microrheology provides a quantitative measure of the "strength" of a biofilm. It may therefore prove useful in identifying drug targets and characterizing the effect of specific molecular changes on the micron-scale rheology of biofilms.