Inhibition of Escherichia coli biofilm formation by self-assembled monolayers of functional alkanethiols on gold

Shuyu Hou, Erik A. Burton, Karen A. Simon, Dustin Blodgett, Yan Yeung Luk, Dacheng Ren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


Bacterial biofilms cause serious problems, such as antibiotic resistance and medical device-related infections. To further understand bacterium-surface interactions and to develop efficient control strategies, self-assembled monolayers (SAMs) of alkanethiols presenting different functional groups on gold films were analyzed to determine their resistance to biofilm formation. Escherichia coli was labeled with green florescence protein, and its biofilm formation on SAM-modified surfaces was monitored by confocal laser scanning microscopy. The three-dimensional structures of biofilms were analyzed with the COMSTAT software to obtain information about biofilm thickness and surface coverage. SAMs presenting methyl, L-gulonamide (a sugar alcohol tethered with an amide bond), and tri(ethylene glycol) (TEG) groups were tested. Among these, the TEG-terminated SAM was the most resistant to E. coli biofilm formation; e.g., it repressed biofilm formation by E. coli DH5α by 99.5% ± 0.1% for 1 day compared to the biofilm formation on a bare gold surface. When surfaces were patterned with regions consisting of methyl-terminated SAMs surrounded by TEG-terminated SAMs, E. coli formed biofilms only on methyl-terminated patterns. Addition of TEG as a free molecule to growth medium at concentrations of 0.1 and 1.0% also inhibited biofilm formation, while TEG at concentrations up to 1.5% did not have any noticeable effects on cell growth. The results of this study suggest that the reduction in biofilm formation on surfaces modified with TEG-terminated SAMs is a result of multiple factors, including the solvent structure at the interface, the chemorepellent nature of TEG, and the inhibitory effect of TEG on cell motility.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4300-4307
Number of pages8
JournalApplied and Environmental Microbiology
Issue number13
StatePublished - Jul 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Food Science
  • Biotechnology
  • Ecology


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