Easy come easy go: surfaces containing immobilized nanoparticles or isolated polycation chains facilitate removal of captured Staphylococcus aureus by retarding bacterial bond maturation

ACS Nano. 2014 Feb 25;8(2):1180-90. doi: 10.1021/nn405845y. Epub 2014 Jan 14.


Adhesion of bacteria is a key step in the functioning of antimicrobial surfaces or certain types of on-line sensors. The subsequent removal of these bacteria, within a ∼ 10-30 min time frame, is equally important but complicated by the tendency of bacterial adhesion to strengthen within minutes of initial capture. This study uses Staphylococcus aureus as a model bacterium to demonstrate the general strategy of clustering adhesive surface functionality (at length scales smaller than the bacteria themselves) on otherwise nonadhesive surfaces to capture and retain bacteria (easy come) while limiting the progressive strengthening of adhesion. The loose attachment facilitates bacteria removal by moderate shearing flow (easy go). This strategy is demonstrated using surfaces containing sparsely and randomly arranged immobilized amine-functionalized nanoparticles or poly-l-lysine chains, about 10 nm in size. The rest of the surface is backfilled with a nonadhesive polyethylene glycol (PEG) brush that, by itself, repels S. aureus. The nanoparticles or polymer chains cluster cationic functionality, providing small regions that attract negatively charged S. aureus cells. Compared with surfaces of nearly uniform cationic character where S. aureus adhesion quickly becomes strong (on a time scale less than 5 min), placement of cationic charge in small clusters retards or prevents processes that increase bacteria adhesion on a time scale of ∼ 30 min, providing "easy go" surfaces.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Nanoparticles*
  • Polyamines / chemistry*
  • Polyelectrolytes
  • Staphylococcus aureus / chemistry*
  • Staphylococcus aureus / physiology
  • Surface Properties


  • Polyamines
  • Polyelectrolytes
  • polycations