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Appl Microbiol Biotechnol. 2000 Aug;54(2):231-7.

Artificial biofilm model--a useful tool for biofilm research.

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Gerhard-Mercator-University of Duisburg, Department of Aquatic Microbiology, Germany.


For biofilm studies, artificial models can be very helpful in studying processes in hydrogels of defined composition and structure. Two different types of artificial biofilm models were developed. Homogeneous agarose beads (50-500 microm diameter) and porous beads (260 microm mean diameter) containing pores with diameters from 10 to 80 microm (28 microm on average) allowed the embedding of cells, particles and typical biofilm matrix components such as proteins and polysaccharides. The characterisation of the matrix structures and of the distribution of microorganisms was performed by confocal laser scanning microscopy. The physiological condition of the embedded bacteria was examined by redox activity (CTC-assay) and membrane integrity (Molecular Probes LIVE/DEAD-Kit). Approximately 35% of the immobilised cells (Pseudomonas aeruginosa SG81) were damaged due to the elevated temperature required for the embedding process. It was shown that the surviving cells were able to multiply when provided with nutrients. In the case of homogeneous agarose beads, cell growth only occurred near the bead surface, while substrate limitation prevented growth of more deeply embedded cells. In the porous hydrogel, cell division was observed across the entire matrix due to better mass transport. It could be shown that embedding in the artificial gel matrix provided protection of immobilized cells against toxic substances such as sodium hypochlorite (0.5 mg/l, 30 min) in comparison to suspended cells, as observed in other immobilized systems. Thus, the model is suited to simulate important biofilm matrix properties.

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