Bacterial adhesion to surfaces does not always proceed according to theoretical expectations. Discrepancies are often attributed to surface heterogeneities that provide localized, favorable sites for bacterial attachment. The presence of these favorable deposition sites for bacteria, however, has never been directly measured. Atomic force microscopy (AFM) was used to quantify the distribution of attractive sites on clean substrata. Surfaces of silica and three different metal oxides mapped by adhesion force with regular or colloidal AFM tips showed a heterogeneous distribution of adhesion forces. Adhesion forces were normally distributed based on a colloid probe, but regular tips revealed a proportionately larger number of relatively more adhesive sites. No correlation was found between the average adhesion force (tip or colloid) and macroscopic adhesion tests using five strains of bacteria. However, when AFM tip results were compared to bacterial adhesion data on the basis of only the stickiest sites (the 5% of sites with the largest adhesion force), there was a good correlation of AFM data with adhesion data. These results demonstrate for the first time how overall bacterial adhesion to a surface effectively correlates with a relatively small fraction of highly adhesive sites rather than averaged adhesion force as detected using AFM.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Environmental Chemistry