The Effect of Topography on Surface Behavior of Pseudomonas aeruginosa
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Bacterial biofilms are communities of micro-organisms encased a self-produced extracellular matrix. While they form readily in a nature, biofilm formation in man-made systems have economic and health consequences. Prior research demonstrated that topographical features comprised of uniform, micro-meter sized particles hindered the biofilm formation of Pseudomonas aeruginosa (P. aeruginosa), an opportunistic human pathogen. The goal of the present work is to 1) further develop a potential anti-biofilm coating by improving its robustness and 2) study the mechanism(s) by which surface topography hinders biofilm formation. The robustness of a topographical coating comprised of an array of silica particles is improved by the introduction of silica bridges through a sol-gel reaction. To study the mechanism(s), specifically, we hypothesized that the motion, or surface motility, of P. aeruginosa is hindered by the presence of micro-meter scale obstacles via physical obstruction. To test this, we analyzed the behavior of single P. aeruginosa cells at micron-scale spatial resolutions using time-lapse fluorescence microscopy, image analysis, and particle tracking techniques. We fabricated various types of micron-scale topography with curvature (particle arrays) and recti-linear features (vertical steps) and varied the critical dimension within the range of 0.5 – 10 µm which spans the dimensions of a typical P. aeruginosa cell. We found that there was a threshold feature size of 1-2 µm at which bacterial surface motility is drastically impacted. On positively curved topography (particle arrays), we found that the frequent obstacles reduced the average speed of a bacterium from 6.2 0.3 µm per 5 min on a flat surface to 2.1 0.3 µm per 5 min on an array of 2 µm particles. Furthermore, we observed that bacteria often move in-between particles, suggesting that bacteria have difficulty climbing over tall obstacles. To further investigate P. aeruginosa's ability to cope with topography, we examined the effect of recti-linear features (vertical steps) on surface motility. We found that step heights > 0.9 µm drastically reduced the probability of crossing and that the average speed when approaching the step is reduced by a factor of 2. Interestingly, we find that bacteria have a slight preference to traverse down which is against the direction of gravity in our system. In summary, these results offer insights into how a surface motile bacterium copes with a topographical surface. Our data indicate that the topography of a surface can impede the surface motility of bacterium and thus, may be an important mechanism by which topography prevents biofilm formation.
- Doctoral Dissertations