The atomic force microscope (AFM) has been used to examine the stickiness of bacteria on the basis of the analysis of approach and retraction force curves between the AFM tip and the bacterial surface. One difficulty in analyzing approach curve data is that the distance between the AFM tip and the surface of the bacterium is difficult to define. The exact distances are difficult to determine because the surface of the bacterium deforms during force imaging, producing a highly nonlinear region in the approach curve. In this study, AFM approach and retraction curves were obtained using a colloid probe AFM for three strains of Escherichia coli (D21, D21f2, and JM109). These strains differed in their relative adhesion to glass surfaces, on the basis of measurements of sticking coefficients in packed bed flow through column tests. A gradient force curve analysis method was developed to model the interactions between the colloid probe and a surface. Gradient analysis of the approach curve revealed four different regions of colloid-surface interactions during the approach and contact of the probe with the bacterial surface: a noninteraction region, a noncontact phase, a contact phase, and a constant compliance region. The noncontact phase, which ranged from 28 to 59 nm for the three bacterial strains, was hypothesized to arise primarily from steric repulsion of the colloid by extracellular polymers on the bacterial surface. The contact phase, spanning 59-113 nm, was believed to arise from the initial pressure of the colloid on the outer membrane of the cell. The constant compliance region likely reflected the response of the colloid probe to the stiff peptidoglycan layer that confers strength and rigidity to gram negative bacteria. It was shown that the sticking coefficients reported for the three E. coli strains were correlated with the length of the noncontact phase but not the properties of the other phases. Sticking coefficients were also not correlated with any parameters determined from retraction force curves such as pull-off distances or separation energies. These results show that gradient analysis is useful for studying the contribution of the length of the exopolymers on the cell surface to bacterial adhesion to glass surfaces.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Materials Science(all)
- Condensed Matter Physics
- Surfaces and Interfaces