Cell-Wall-Targeting Antibiotics Cause Lag-Phase Bacteria to Form Surface-Mediated Filaments Promoting the Formation of Biofilms and Aggregates

Yuchen Jin, Hewen Zheng, Arizza Chiara S. Ibanez, Pankaj D. Patil, Suqi Lv, Minrui Luo, Thomas M. Duncan, Yan Yeung Luk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Antibiotics are known to promote bacterial formation of enhanced biofilms, the mechanism of which is not well understood. Here, using biolayer interferometry, we have shown that bacterial cultures containing antibiotics that target cell walls cause biomass deposition on surfaces over time with a linear profile rather than the Langmuir-like profiles exhibited by bacterial adherence in the absence of antibiotics. We observed about three times the initial rate and 12 times the final biomass deposition on surfaces for cultures containing carbenicillin than without. Unexpectedly, in the presence of antibiotics, the rate of biomass deposition inversely correlated with bacterial densities from different stages of a culture. Detailed studies revealed that carbenicillin caused faster growth of filaments that were seeded on surfaces from young bacteria (from lag phase) than those from high-density fast-growing bacteria, with rates of filament elongation of about 0.58 and 0.13 μm min−1, respectively. With surfaces that do not support bacterial adherence, few filaments were observed even in solution. These filaments aggregated in solution and formed increased amounts of biofilms on surfaces. These results reveal the lifestyle of antibiotic-induced filamentous bacteria, as well as one way in which the antibiotics promote biofilm formation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)825-835
Number of pages11
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 16 2020



  • antibiotics
  • bio-layer interferometry
  • biofilms
  • cell adhesion
  • filamentous bacteria

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Molecular Biology
  • Organic Chemistry

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