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Biotechnol Lett. 2009 Apr;31(4):477-85. doi: 10.1007/s10529-008-9901-4. Epub 2008 Dec 31.

Time to "go large" on biofilm research: advantages of an omics approach.

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IBB, Institute for Biotechnology and Bioengineering, Centre of Biological Engineering, Universidade do Minho, Campus de Gualtar, Braga 4710-057, Portugal.


In nature, the biofilm mode of life is of great importance in the cell cycle for many microorganisms. Perhaps because of biofilm complexity and variability, the characterization of a given microbial system, in terms of biofilm formation potential, structure and associated physiological activity, in a large-scale, standardized and systematic manner has been hindered by the absence of high-throughput methods. This outlook is now starting to change as new methods involving the utilization of microtiter-plates and automated spectrophotometry and microscopy systems are being developed to perform large-scale testing of microbial biofilms. Here, we evaluate if the time is ripe to start an integrated omics approach, i.e., the generation and interrogation of large datasets, to biofilms--"biofomics". This omics approach would bring much needed insight into how biofilm formation ability is affected by a number of environmental, physiological and mutational factors and how these factors interplay between themselves in a standardized manner. This could then lead to the creation of a database where biofilm signatures are identified and interrogated. Nevertheless, and before embarking on such an enterprise, the selection of a versatile, robust, high-throughput biofilm growing device and of appropriate methods for biofilm analysis will have to be performed. Whether such device and analytical methods are already available, particularly for complex heterotrophic biofilms is, however, very debatable.

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