The bacterial attachment to surfaces is the first step of biofilm formation. This attachment is governed by adhesion forces which act between the bacterium and the substrate. Such forces can be measured by single cell force spectroscopy, where a single bacterium is attached to a cantilever of a scanning force microscope, and force-distance curves are measured. For the productive sea-water bacterium Paracoccus seriniphilus, pH dependent measurements reveal the highest adhesion forces at pH 4. Adhesion forces measured at salinities between 0% and 4.5% NaCl are in general higher for higher salinity. However, there is an exception for 0.9% where a higher adhesion force was measured than expected. These results are in line with zeta potential measurements of the bacterium, which also show an exceptionally low zeta potential at 0.9% NaCl. In the absence of macromolecular interactions, the adhesion forces are thus governed by (unspecific) electrostatic interactions, which can be adjusted by pH and ionic strength. It is further shown that microstructures on the titanium surface increase the adhesion force. Growth medium reduces the interaction forces dramatically, most probably through macromolecular bridging.

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