Characterisation of spin coated engineered Escherichia coli biofilms using atomic force microscopy

Andreas N. Tsoligkas ; James Bowen ; Michael Winn ; Rebecca J. M. Goss ; Tim W. Overton ; Mark J. H. Simmons

Colloids and Surfaces B: Biointerfaces 2012, 89 152-160

The ability of biofilms to withstand chemical and physical extremes gives them the potential to be developed as robust biocatalysts. Critical to this issue is their capacity to withstand the physical environment within a bioreactor; in order to assess this capability knowledge of their surface properties and adhesive strength is required. Novel atomic force microscopy experiments conducted under growth conditions (30 °C) were used to characterise Escherichia coli biofilms, which were generated by a recently developed spin-coating method onto a poly-l-lysine coated glass substrate. High-resolution topographical images were obtained throughout the course of biofilm development, quantifying the tip–cell interaction force during the 10 day maturation process. Strikingly, the adhesion force between the Si AFM tip and the biofilm surface increased from 0.8 nN to 40 nN within 3 days. This was most likely due to the production of extracellular polymer substance (EPS), over the maturation period, which was also observed by electron microscopy. At later stages of maturation, multiple retraction events were also identified corresponding to biofilm surface features thought to be EPS components. The spin coated biofilms were shown to have stronger surface adhesion than an equivalent conventionally grown biofilm on the same glass substrate.