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Can J Microbiol. 2000 Apr;46(4):339-49.

Characterization of high density monolayers of the biofilm bacterium Caulobacter crescentus: evaluating prospects for developing immobilized cell bioreactors.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.


Caulobacters are biofilm-forming members of the natural flora of soil and aquatic environments, which exhibit several characteristics that make them attractive for development of high surface area microbial bioreactors or biosensors. Although caulobacters are well characterized genetically, little is known about their biofilm-forming characteristics as a monoculture, or their tolerance of bioreactor-like conditions. Here we investigated the ability of caulobacters to spontaneously form high-density monolayers on artificial surfaces under a variety of environmental conditions, using phase contrast image analysis to assess biofilm density, and epifluorescence with the vital stain DiBAC to assess viability. With adequate nutrition, extremely dense monolayers formed within 24-48 h, and maintained near 100% viability in experiments ranging up to 22 days. When areas were abraded to remove cells, repopulation occurred rapidly with characteristics similar to the population of a clean surface. When established monolayers were starved for nutrients, a significant fraction of the cells detached from the surface, and cells remaining on the surface no longer tested as viable. Within 4-6 h of nutrient restoration, however, cells in the monolayer again appeared normal and tested as 100% viable. This is the first demonstration that Caulobacter crescentus is stable and amenable to high density monolayer growth and resists starvation, though some cells may express a programmed response to detach from the surface under severe nutrient limitation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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