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Biomaterials. 2008 Nov;29(33):4374-82. doi: 10.1016/j.biomaterials.2008.07.044. Epub 2008 Aug 29.

Adhesion forces between Staphylococcus epidermidis and surfaces bearing self-assembled monolayers in the presence of model proteins.

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Department of Chemical Engineering, Life Science and Bioengineering Center at Gateway Park, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, 100 Institute Road, Worcester, MA 01609, USA.


Self-assembled monolayers (SAMs) are being developed into coatings to reduce microbial biofilm formation on biomaterials. To test anti-adhesion properties, SAMs can be easily constructed on gold, and used to represent a coated biomaterial. However, coatings that prevent bacterial adhesion must also resist protein adsorption. We explored the competitive effects of bacteria and protein for adsorption to SAMs, choosing fetal bovine serum (FBS) to represent protein non-specific binding, and fibronectin (FN) to evaluate ligand/receptor binding. Staphylococcus epidermidis were immobilized on an atomic force microscope (AFM) tip and used as a force probe to detect the interaction forces between bacteria and gold-coated SAMs. The SAMs tested were alkanethiol molecules terminating in isophthalic acid (IPA) or isophthalic acid with silver (IAG). While S. epidermidis showed weak interactions with FBS, the bacteria showed strong adhesion with FN, due to ligand/receptor binding. Bacterial retention and viability experiments were correlated with the force measurements. S. epidermidis interacting with IAG SAMs showed a loss of viability, due to the mobility of silver ions. For most substrata, there was a link between high adhesion forces with bacteria and a high percentage of dead cells being retained on that substratum (even in the absence of a specific biocidal effect, such as silver). This may suggest that high adhesion forces can cause stress to the bacteria which contributed to their death. The relationship between highly adhesive SAMs and bacterial inactivation may be useful in future biomaterial design. When evaluating coatings for biomaterials, it is important to consider the interplay between bacteria, proteins, and the coating material.

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