Intra-colony channel morphology in Escherichia coli biofilms is governed by nutrient availability and substrate stiffness

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Abstract

Nutrient-transporting channels have been recently discovered in mature Escherichia coli biofilms, however the relationship between intra-colony channel structure and the surrounding environmental conditions is poorly understood. Using a combination of fluorescence mesoscopy and a purpose-designed open-source quantitative image analysis pipeline, we show that growth substrate composition and nutrient availability have a profound effect on the morphology of intra-colony channels in mature E. coli biofilms. Under all nutrient conditions, intra-colony channel width was observed to increase non-linearly with radial distance from the centre of the biofilm. Notably, the channels were around 25% wider at the centre of carbon-limited biofilms compared to nitrogen-limited biofilms. Channel density also differed in colonies grown on rich and minimal media, with the former creating a network of tightly packed channels and the latter leading to well-separated, wider channels with defined edges. Our approach paves the way for measurement of internal patterns in a wide range of biofilms, offering the potential for new insights into infection and pathogenicity.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100084
Number of pages14
JournalBiofilm
Volume4
Early online date13 Oct 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2022

Keywords

  • biofilms
  • Mesolens
  • intra-colony channel morphology
  • escherichia coli
  • nutrient availability
  • substrate stiffness

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