Predation, death, and survival in a biofilm: Bdellovibrio investigated by atomic force microscopy

Colloids and Surfaces. B, Biointerfaces
Megan E NúñezEileen M Spain


Biofilms are complex microbial communities that are resistant to attack by bacteriophages and to removal by drugs and chemicals. Here we use atomic force microscopy (AFM) to image the attack on Escherichia coli biofilms by Bdellovibrio bacteriovorus 109J. Bdellovibrio is a small, predatory bacterium that invades and devours other Gram-negative bacteria. We demonstrate that under dilute nutrient conditions, bdellovibrios can prevent the formation of simple bacterial biofilms and destroy established biofilms; under richer conditions the prey bacteria persist and are not eradicated, but may be shifted toward solution populations. Using AFM we explore these bacterial interactions with more detail and accuracy than available by more traditional staining assays or optical microscopy. AFM also allows us to investigate the nanoscale morphological changes of the predator, especially those related to motility. This demonstration of Bdellovibrio's successful predation in a biofilm inspires us to consider ways that it might be used productively for industrial, medical, agricultural, and biodefensive purposes.


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