Continuous versus Arrested Spreading of Biofilms at Solid-Gas Interfaces: The Role of Surface Forces

Phys Rev Lett. 2017 Aug 18;119(7):078003. doi: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.119.078003. Epub 2017 Aug 16.


We introduce and analyze a model for osmotically spreading bacterial colonies at solid-air interfaces that includes wetting phenomena, i.e., surface forces. The model is based on a hydrodynamic description for liquid suspensions which is supplemented by bioactive processes. We show that surface forces determine whether a biofilm can expand laterally over a substrate and provide experimental evidence for the existence of a transition between continuous and arrested spreading for Bacillus subtilis biofilms. In the case of arrested spreading, the lateral expansion of the biofilm is confined, albeit the colony is biologically active. However, a small reduction in the surface tension of the biofilm is sufficient to induce spreading. The incorporation of surface forces into our hydrodynamic model allows us to capture this transition in biofilm spreading behavior.

MeSH terms

  • Bacillus subtilis*
  • Biofilms*
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Osmosis*
  • Surface Properties
  • Wettability