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Discovery of a biofilm electrocline using real-time 3D metabolite analysis

Dipankar Koley, Matthew M. Ramsey, Allen J. Bard and Marvin Whiteley
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Vol. 108, No. 50 (December 13, 2011), pp. 19996-20001
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/23060064
Page Count: 6
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Discovery of a biofilm electrocline using real-time 3D metabolite analysis
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Abstract

Bacteria are social organisms that possess multiple pathways for sensing and responding to small molecules produced by other microbes. Most bacteria in nature exist in sessile communities called biofilms, and the ability of biofilm bacteria to sense and respond to small molecule signals and cues produced by neighboring biofilm bacteria is particularly important. To understand microbial interactions between biofilms, it is necessary to perform rapid, real-time spatial quantification of small molecules in microenvironments immediately surrounding biofilms; however, such measurements have been elusive. In this study, scanning electrochemical microscopy was used to quantify small molecules surrounding a biofilm in 3D space. Measuring concentrations of the redox-active signaling molecule pyocyanin (PYO) produced by biofilms of the bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa revealed a high concentration of PYO that is actively maintained in the reduced state proximal to the biofilm. This gradient results in a reduced layer of PYO that we have termed the PYO "electrocline," a gradient of redox potential, which extends several hundred microns from the biofilm surface. We also demonstrate that the PYO electrocline is formed under electron acceptor-limiting conditions, and that growth conditions favoring formation of the PYO electrocline correlate to an increase in soluble iron. Additionally, we have taken a "reactive image" of a biofilm surface, demonstrating the rate of bacterial redox activity across a 2D surface. These studies establish methodology for spatially coordinated concentration and redox status measurements of microbe-produced small molecules and provide exciting insights into the roles these molecules play in microbial competition and nutrient acquisition.

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