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Sci Rep. 2015 Nov 20;5:16857. doi: 10.1038/srep16857.

Atomic force microscopy measurements of bacterial adhesion and biofilm formation onto clay-sized particles.

Huang Q1,2, Wu H1,2, Cai P1,2, Fein JB3, Chen W1.

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State Key Laboratory of Agricultural Microbiology, Huazhong Agricultural University, Wuhan 430070, China.
Key Laboratory of Arable Land Conservation (Middle and Lower Reaches of Yangtze River), Ministry of Agriculture, College of Resources and Environment, Huazhong Agricultural University, Wuhan 430070, China.
University of Notre Dame, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences, Notre Dame, IN 46556, USA.


Bacterial adhesion onto mineral surfaces and subsequent biofilm formation play key roles in aggregate stability, mineral weathering, and the fate of contaminants in soils. However, the mechanisms of bacteria-mineral interactions are not fully understood. Atomic force microscopy (AFM) was used to determine the adhesion forces between bacteria and goethite in water and to gain insight into the nanoscale surface morphology of the bacteria-mineral aggregates and biofilms formed on clay-sized minerals. This study yields direct evidence of a range of different association mechanisms between bacteria and minerals. All strains studied adhered predominantly to the edge surfaces of kaolinite rather than to the basal surfaces. Bacteria rarely formed aggregates with montmorillonite, but were more tightly adsorbed onto goethite surfaces. This study reports the first measured interaction force between bacteria and a clay surface, and the approach curves exhibited jump-in events with attractive forces of 97 ± 34 pN between E. coli and goethite. Bond strengthening between them occurred within 4 s to the maximum adhesion forces and energies of -3.0 ± 0.4 nN and -330 ± 43 aJ (10(-18) J), respectively. Under the conditions studied, bacteria tended to form more extensive biofilms on minerals under low rather than high nutrient conditions.

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