Apr 2, 2020

Assessment of a weak mode of bacterial adhesion by applying an electric field

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
Jay X TangJ. J. Oh

Abstract

Microbial attachment to surfaces is ubiquitous in nature. Most species of bacteria attach and adhere to surfaces via special appendages such as pili and fimbriae, the roles of which have been extensively studied. Here we report an experiment on pilus-less mutants of Caulobacter crescentus weakly attached to a plastic surface and subjected to an electric field parallel to the surface. We find that some individual cells transiently but repeatedly adhere to the surface in a stick-slip fashion in the presence of an electric field. Even while transiently detached, these bacteria move significantly slower than the unattached ones in the same field of view undergoing electrophoretic motion. We refer this behavior of repeated and transient attachment as "quasi-attachment". The speed of the quasi-attached bacteria exhibits large variations, frequently dropping close to zero for short intervals of time. This study suggests applying electric field as a useful method to investigate bacteria surface interaction, which is significant in broader contexts such as infection and environmental control.

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