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Asymmetric adhesion of rod-shaped bacteria controls microcolony morphogenesis

Marie-Cécilia Duvernoy, Thierry Mora, Maxime Ardré, Vincent Croquette, David Bensimon, Catherine Quilliet, Jean-Marc Ghigo, Martial Balland, Christophe Beloin, Sigolène Lecuyer, Nicolas Desprat.

Abstract :

Surface colonization underpins microbial ecology on terrestrial environments. Although factors that mediate bacteria–substrate adhesion have been extensively studied, their spatiotemporal dynamics during the establishment of microcolonies remains largely unexplored. Here, we use laser ablation and force microscopy to monitor single-cell adhesion during the course of microcolony formation. We find that adhesion forces of the rod-shaped bacteria Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa are polar. This asymmetry induces mechanical tension, and drives daughter cell rearrangements, which eventually determine the shape of the microcolonies. Informed by experimental data, we develop a quantitative model of microcolony morphogenesis that enables the prediction of bacterial adhesion strength from simple time-lapse measurements. Our results demonstrate how patterns of surface colonization derive from the spatial distribution of adhesive factors on the cell envelope.

More information

Nature Communications, volume 9, Article number : 1120 (2018). doi:10.1038/s41467-018-03446-y