Bacterial adhesion force quantification by fluidic force microscopy

Quantification of detachment forces between bacteria and substrates facilitates the understanding of the bacterial adhesion process that affects cell physiology and survival. Here, we present a method that allows for serial, single bacterial cell force spectroscopy by combining the force control of atomic force microscopy with microfluidics. Reversible bacterial cell immobilization under physiological conditions on the pyramidal tip of a microchanneled cantilever is achieved by underpressure. Using the fluidic forcemicroscopy technology (FluidFM), we achieve immobilization forces greater than those of state-of-the-art cell-cantilever binding as demonstrated by the detachment of Escherichia coli from polydopamine with recorded forces between 4 and 8 nN for many cells. The contact time and setpoint dependence of the adhesion forces of E. coli and Streptococcus pyogenes, as well as the sequential detachment of bacteria out of a chain, are shown, revealing distinct force patterns in the detachment curves. This study demonstrates the potential of the FluidFM technology for quantitative bacterial adhesion measurements of cell-substrate and cell-cell interactions that are relevant in biofilms and infection biology.

Potthoff, Eva, Dario Ossola, Tomaso Zambelli, Julia A. Vorholt






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