Antibiotic Susceptibility of Escherichia coli Cells during Early-Stage Biofilm Formation

Huan Gu, Sang Won Lee, Joseph Carnicelli, Zhaowei Jiang, Dacheng Ren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Bacteria form complex multicellular structures on solid surfaces known as biofilms, which allow them to survive in harsh environments. A hallmark characteristic of mature biofilms is the high-level antibiotic tolerance (up to 1,000 times) compared with that of planktonic cells. Here, we report our new findings that biofilm cells are not always more tolerant to antibiotics than planktonic cells in the same culture. Specifically, Escherichia coli RP437 exhibited a dynamic change in antibiotic susceptibility during its early-stage biofilm formation. This phenomenon was not strain specific. Upon initial attachment, surface-associated cells became more sensitive to antibiotics than planktonic cells. By controlling the cell adhesion and cluster size using patterned E. coli biofilms, cells involved in the interaction between cell clusters during microcolony formation were found to be more susceptible to ampicillin than cells within clusters, suggesting a role of cell-cell interactions in biofilm-associated antibiotic tolerance. After this stage, biofilm cells became less susceptible to ampicillin and ofloxacin than planktonic cells. However, when the cells were detached by sonication, both antibiotics were more effective in killing the detached biofilm cells than the planktonic cells. Collectively, these results indicate that biofilm formation involves active cellular activities in adaption to the attached life form and interactions between cell clusters to build the complex structure of a biofilm, which can render these cells more susceptible to antibiotics. These findings shed new light on bacterial antibiotic susceptibility during biofilm formation and can guide the design of better antifouling surfaces, e.g., those with micron-scale topographic structures to interrupt cell-cell interactions.IMPORTANCE Mature biofilms are known for their high-level tolerance to antibiotics; however, antibiotic susceptibility of sessile cells during early-stage biofilm formation is not well understood. In this study, we aim to fill this knowledge gap by following bacterial antibiotic susceptibility during early-stage biofilm formation. We found that the attached cells have a dynamic change in antibiotic susceptibility, and during certain phases, they can be more sensitive to antibiotics than planktonic counterparts in the same culture. Using surface chemistry-controlled patterned biofilm formation, cell-surface and cell-cell interactions were found to affect the antibiotic susceptibility of attached cells. Collectively, these findings provide new insights into biofilm physiology and reveal how adaptation to the attached life form may influence antibiotic susceptibility of bacterial cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of bacteriology
Volume201
Issue number18
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 15 2019

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Biofilms
Escherichia coli
Anti-Bacterial Agents
Cell Communication
Ampicillin
Sonication
Ofloxacin

Keywords

  • antibiotic tolerance
  • biofilm
  • cell-cell interaction
  • cell-surface interaction
  • patterned biofilm

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology

Cite this

Antibiotic Susceptibility of Escherichia coli Cells during Early-Stage Biofilm Formation. / Gu, Huan; Lee, Sang Won; Carnicelli, Joseph; Jiang, Zhaowei; Ren, Dacheng.

In: Journal of bacteriology, Vol. 201, No. 18, 15.09.2019.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Gu, Huan ; Lee, Sang Won ; Carnicelli, Joseph ; Jiang, Zhaowei ; Ren, Dacheng. / Antibiotic Susceptibility of Escherichia coli Cells during Early-Stage Biofilm Formation. In: Journal of bacteriology. 2019 ; Vol. 201, No. 18.
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