Abstract

Bacteria are ubiquitous in our daily lives, either as motile planktonic cells or as immobilized surface-attached biofilms. These different phenotypic states play key roles in agriculture, environment, industry, and medicine; hence, it is critically important to be able to predict the conditions under which bacteria transition from one state to the other. Unfortunately, these transitions depend on a dizzyingly complex array of factors that are determined by the intrinsic properties of the individual cells as well as those of their surrounding environments, and are thus challenging to describe. To address this issue, here, we develop a generally-applicable biophysical model of the interplay between motility-mediated dispersal and biofilm formation under positive quorum sensing control. Using this model, we establish a universal rule predicting how the onset and extent of biofilm formation depend collectively on cell concentration and motility, nutrient diffusion and consumption, chemotactic sensing, and autoinducer production. Our work thus provides a key step toward quantitatively predicting and controlling biofilm formation in diverse and complex settings.

Data availability

All data generated or analyzed during this study are included in the manuscript and supporting file; Source Data files have been provided for all Figures

Article and author information

Author details

  1. Jenna Anne Moore-Ott

    Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Princeton University, Princeton, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0001-6832-0658
  2. Selena Chiu

    Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Princeton University, Princeton, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  3. Daniel B Amchin

    Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Princeton University, Princeton, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  4. Tapomoy Bhattacharjee

    Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment, Princeton University, Princeton, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  5. Sujit Sankar Datta

    Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Princeton University, Princeton, United States
    For correspondence
    ssdatta@princeton.edu
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0003-2400-1561

Funding

National Science Foundation (CBET-1941716)

  • Sujit Sankar Datta

National Science Foundation (EF-2124863)

  • Sujit Sankar Datta

National Science Foundation (DMR-2011750)

  • Sujit Sankar Datta

Pew Charitable Trusts (Pew Biomedical Scholars Program)

  • Sujit Sankar Datta

National Science Foundation (DGE-1656466)

  • Jenna Anne Moore-Ott

Princeton University (Eric and Wendy 708 Schmidt Transformative Technology Fund)

  • Sujit Sankar Datta

Princeton University (Princeton Catalysis Initiative)

  • Sujit Sankar Datta

Princeton University (Reiner G. Stoll Undergraduate Summer Fellowship)

  • Selena Chiu

The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.

Reviewing Editor

  1. Raymond E Goldstein, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom

Version history

  1. Preprint posted: December 5, 2021 (view preprint)
  2. Received: December 14, 2021
  3. Accepted: June 1, 2022
  4. Accepted Manuscript published: June 1, 2022 (version 1)
  5. Version of Record published: July 21, 2022 (version 2)

Copyright

© 2022, Moore-Ott et al.

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.

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  1. Jenna Anne Moore-Ott
  2. Selena Chiu
  3. Daniel B Amchin
  4. Tapomoy Bhattacharjee
  5. Sujit Sankar Datta
(2022)
A biophysical threshold for biofilm formation
eLife 11:e76380.
https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.76380

Share this article

https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.76380

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