The role of nano-scale heterogeneous electrostatic interactions in initial bacterial adhesion from flow: a case study with Staphylococcus aureus

Colloids Surf B Biointerfaces. 2010 Apr 1;76(2):489-95. doi: 10.1016/j.colsurfb.2009.12.009. Epub 2009 Dec 22.


This study investigated the initial adhesion of Staphylococcus aureus from flowing buffer onto modified albumin films with the objective of probing the influence of electrostatic heterogeneity on bacterial adhesion. Electrostatic heterogeneity, on the lengthscale of 10-100 nm, was incorporated into the protein film through the irreversible random deposition of small amounts of polycation coils to produce isolated positive "patches" on the otherwise negative albumin surface before exposure to bacteria, which also possess a net negative surface charge. The system was benchmarked against an appropriate analog using 1 microm silica spheres and the same cationic patches on a silica substrate. Bacterial adhesion from flow was measured with the surface oriented vertically to eliminate gravitational forces between the bacteria and collector. In both systems, a threshold in the surface density of polycation patches needed for bacterial (or silica particle) capture indicated multivalent binding: multiple polycation patches were needed to adhere the bacteria (particles). The shifting of the threshold to greater patch concentrations at lower ionic strengths confirmed that the electrostatic interaction area (zone of influence) was a key factor in modulating the interactions. The role of the contact area in this manner is important because it enables a quantitative explanation of counterintuitive bacterial adhesion onto net negative surfaces. The study further revealed a hydrodynamic crossover from a regime where flow aids bacterial adhesion to one where flow impedes adhesion. An explanation is put forth in terms of the relative hydrodynamic and surface forces.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adsorption
  • Bacterial Adhesion*
  • Methacrylates / chemistry
  • Nylons / chemistry
  • Particle Size
  • Serum Albumin, Bovine / chemistry
  • Silicon Dioxide / chemistry
  • Staphylococcus aureus / chemistry*
  • Static Electricity
  • Surface Properties


  • Methacrylates
  • Nylons
  • poly(2-(dimethylamino)ethyl methacrylate)
  • Serum Albumin, Bovine
  • Silicon Dioxide