Anywhere water is in the liquid state, bacteria will exist as biofilms, which are complex communities of cells that are cemented together. Although frequently associated with disease and biofouling, biofilms are also important for engineering applications, such as bioremediation, biocatalysis and microbial fuel cells. Here, we review approaches to alter genetic circuits and cell signaling towards controlling biofilm formation, and emphasize utilizing these tools for engineering applications. Based on a better understanding of the genetic basis of biofilm formation, we find that biofilms might be controlled by manipulating extracellular signals, and that they might be dispersed using conserved intracellular signals and regulators. Biofilms could also be formed at specific locations where they might be engineered to make chemicals or treat human disease.
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