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

1 Scopus citations

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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere00034-19
JournalJournal of bacteriology
Volume201
Issue number18
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1 2019

Keywords

  • Antibiotic tolerance
  • Biofilm
  • Cell-cell interaction
  • Cell-surface interaction
  • Patterned biofilm

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology

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