No man's land: Species-specific formation of exclusion zones bordering Actinomyces graevenitzii microcolonies in nanoliter cultures

Microbiologyopen. 2021 Jan;10(1):e1137. doi: 10.1002/mbo3.1137. Epub 2021 Feb 5.


To survive within complex environmental niches, including the human host, bacteria have evolved intricate interspecies communities driven by competition for limited nutrients, cooperation via complementary metabolic proficiencies, and establishment of homeostatic relationships with the host immune system. The study of such complex, interdependent relationships is often hampered by the challenges of culturing many bacterial strains in research settings and the limited set of tools available for studying the dynamic behavior of multiple bacterial species at the microscale. Here, we utilize a microfluidic-based co-culture system and time-lapse imaging to characterize dynamic interactions between Streptococcus species, Staphylococcus aureus, and Actinomyces species. Co-culture of Streptococcus cristatus or S. salivarius in nanoliter compartments with Actinomyces graevenitzii revealed localized exclusion of Streptococcus and Staphylococcus from media immediately surrounding A. graevenitzii microcolonies. This community structure did not occur with S. mitis or S. oralis strains or in co-cultures containing other Actinomycetaceae species such as S. odontolyticus or A. naeslundii. Moreover, fewer neutrophils were attracted to compartments containing both A. graevenitzii and Staphylococcus aureus than to an equal number of either species alone, suggesting a possible survival benefit together during immune responses.

Keywords: Actinomyces graevenitzii; Staphylococcus; cell-microbe interactions; microbial interactions and pathogenesis; signalling.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Actinomyces / growth & development*
  • Actinomyces / immunology
  • Actinomyces / isolation & purification
  • Antibiosis / physiology*
  • Biofilms / growth & development*
  • Coculture Techniques
  • Host Microbial Interactions / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate / immunology
  • Microbiota / immunology
  • Microfluidics / methods
  • Mouth / microbiology
  • Neutrophils / immunology
  • Staphylococcus aureus / growth & development*
  • Staphylococcus aureus / immunology
  • Staphylococcus aureus / isolation & purification
  • Streptococcus / growth & development*
  • Streptococcus / immunology
  • Streptococcus / isolation & purification

Supplementary concepts

  • Actinomyces graevenitzii
  • Streptococcus cristatus