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Dynamics of gene transfer in bacterial biofilms

Confocal image at the center of a bacterial colony. Green bacteria are engineered to produce the Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP) and red bacteria produce a red fluorescent protein (mCherry). By means of gene transfer the genes encoding for different fluorescent proteins can be exchanged between both bacterial strains. Yellow bacteria (arrows) bear both genes required for producing GFP and mCherry.

Biofilms are considered ideal reaction chambers for horizontal gene transfer and development of multi-drug resistance. Yet, the rate at which genes are exchanged within biofilms and the factors that govern the exchange rate are unknown. How fast do DNA molecules move within biofilms? How fast do genes spread within biofilms formed by different bacterial strains or species? Single molecule fluorescence microscopy and advanced image analysis are developed to better understand gene transfer in biofilms.