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Bacteria tune attractive forces to shape biofilms

Cell sorting with respect to differential interaction forces. In a growing bacterial colony consisting of strongly interacting cells (grey) and weakly interacting cells (orange), the weakly interacting cells segregate to the periphery.

Most bacterial species form structured communities called colonies or biofilms. Structure, viscosity, and surface tension of these colonies are governed by various physical interactions between bacteria. They include steric repulsion, bridging attraction, depletion forces, and osmotic pressure. Bacteria actively tune these interactions by adjusting the production level of proteins and polymers at the cell surface. How do changes in surface proteins affect attractive forces between bacteria? How do these forces control colony structure and dynamics? We combine laser tweezers technology with advanced microscopy, image analysis, and molecular biology to address these questions.

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Oldewurtel, E.R., Kouzel, N., Dewenter, L., Henseler, K., Maier, B., Differential interaction forces govern cell sorting in early biofilms, eLife;10.7554/eLife.10811 (2015)

This project is associated with the IHRS school BioSoft.