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Mol Phys. 2014 Apr 3;112(7):887-894.

Solid-State NMR for Bacterial Biofilms.

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Department of Chemistry, Stanford University, CA 94305, United States.


Bacteria associate with surfaces and one another by elaborating an extracellular matrix to encapsulate cells, creating communities termed biofilms. Biofilms are beneficial in some ecological niches, but also contribute to the pathogenesis of serious and chronic infectious diseases. New approaches and quantitative measurements are needed to define the composition and architecture of bacterial biofilms to help drive the development of strategies to interfere with biofilm assembly. Solid-state NMR is uniquely suited to the examination of insoluble and complex macromolecular and whole-cell systems. This article highlights three examples that implement solid-state NMR to deliver insights into bacterial biofilm composition and changes in cell-wall composition as cells transition to the biofilm lifestyle. Most recently, solid-state NMR measurements provided a total accounting of the protein and polysaccharide components in the extracellular matrix of an E. coli biofilm and transform our qualitative descriptions of matrix composition into chemical parameters that permit quantitative comparisons among samples. We present additional data for whole biofilm samples (cells plus the extracellular matrix) that complement matrix-only analyses. The study of bacterial biofilms by solid-state NMR is an exciting avenue ripe with many opportunities and we close the article by articulating some outstanding questions and future directions in this area.

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