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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2002 Oct;68(10):4943-50.

Biofilm dispersal of Neisseria subflava and other phylogenetically diverse oral bacteria.

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Department of Oral Biology, New Jersey Dental School, Newark, New Jersey 07103, USA.


Polystyrene petri dishes containing liquid medium were inoculated with single-cell suspensions of a fresh clinical isolate of Neisseria subflava and were incubated under conditions of low vibration. N. subflava colonies grew firmly attached to the surface of the dish, while the broth remained clear. Growing colonies released cells into the medium, resulting in the appearance of 10(2) to 10(4) small satellite colonies attached to the surface of the dish in an area adjacent to each mature colony after 24 h. Satellite colonies grew in patterns of streamers shaped like jets and flares emanating from mature colonies and pointing toward the center of the dish. This dispersal pattern evidently resulted from the surface translocation of detached biofilm cells by buoyancy-driven convection currents that were generated due to slight temperature gradients in the medium. Streamers of satellite colonies ranged from 2 to >40 mm in length. Satellite colonies in very long streamers were relatively uniform in size regardless of their distance from the mature colony, suggesting that mature colonies released single cells or small clusters of cells into the medium and that the detachment, surface translocation, and subsequent surface reattachment of released cells were a transitory process. Incubation of N. subflava single cells in a perfused biofilm fermentor resulted in a large spike of the number of CFU in the perfusate after 9.5 h of growth, consistent with a rapid release of cells into the medium. Biofilm colonies of several other phylogenetically diverse oral bacteria, including Actinobacillus actinomycetemcomitans, Haemophilus aphrophilus, Streptococcus mitis, and a prevalent but previously uncultured oral Streptococcus sp., exhibited similar temperature-dependent dispersal patterns in broth culture. This in vitro spreading phenotype could be a useful tool for studying biofilm dispersal in these and other nonflagellated bacteria and may have physiological relevance to biofilm dispersal in the oral cavity.

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