Motility influences biofilm architecture in Escherichia coli

Appl Microbiol Biotechnol. 2006 Sep;72(2):361-7. doi: 10.1007/s00253-005-0263-8. Epub 2006 Jan 6.


Eight Escherichia coli strains were studied in minimal medium with a continuous flow system using confocal microscopy. K12 wild-type strains ATCC 25404 and MG1655 formed the best biofilms ( approximately 43 microm thick, 21 to 34% surface coverage). JM109, DH5alpha, and MG1655 motA formed intermediate biofilms ( approximately 13 microm thick, 41 to 58% surface coverage). BW25113, MG1655 qseB, and MG1655 fliA had poor biofilms (surface coverage less than 5%). The best biofilm-formers, ATCC 25404 and MG1655, displayed the highest motility, whereas the worst biofilm former, BW25113, was motility-impaired. The differences in motility were due to differences in expression of the motility loci qseB, flhD, fliA, fliC, and motA (e.g., qseB expression in MG1655 was 139-fold higher than BW25113 and 209-fold higher than JM109). Motility affected the biofilm architecture as those strains which had poor motility (E. coli JM109, E. coli MG1655 motA, and DH5alpha) formed flatter microcolonies compared with MG1655 and ATCC 25404, which had more dramatic vertical structures as a result of their enhanced motility. The presence of flagella was also found to be important as qseB and fliA mutants (which lack flagella) had less biofilm than the isogenic paralyzed motA strain (threefold less thickness and 15-fold less surface coverage).

MeSH terms

  • Biofilms / growth & development*
  • Escherichia coli / genetics
  • Escherichia coli / growth & development*
  • Escherichia coli / physiology
  • Flagella / physiology*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Mutation / genetics
  • Sigma Factor / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / genetics


  • Sigma Factor
  • Transcription Factors
  • sporulation-specific sigma factors