Speed-dependent bacterial surface swimming

Appl Environ Microbiol. 2024 May 8:e0050824. doi: 10.1128/aem.00508-24. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

Solid surfaces submerged in liquid in natural environments alter bacterial swimming behavior and serve as platforms for bacteria to form biofilms. In the initial stage of biofilm formation, bacteria detect surfaces and increase the intracellular level of the second messenger c-di-GMP, leading to a reduction in swimming speed. The impact of this speed reduction on bacterial surface swimming remains unclear. In this study, we utilized advanced microscopy techniques to examine the effect of swimming speed on bacterial surface swimming behavior. We found that a decrease in swimming speed reduces the cell-surface distance and prolongs the surface trapping time. Both these effects would enhance bacterial surface sensing and increase the likelihood of cells adhering to the surface, thereby promoting biofilm formation. We also examined the surface-escaping behavior of wild-type Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, noting distinct surface-escaping mechanisms between the two bacterial species.

Importance: In the early phase of biofilm formation, bacteria identify surfaces and increase the intracellular level of the second messenger c-di-GMP, resulting in a decrease in swimming speed. Here, we utilized advanced microscopy techniques to investigate the impact of swimming speed on bacterial surface swimming, focusing on Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. We found that an increase in swimming speed led to an increase in the radius of curvature and a decrease in surface detention time. These effects were explained through hydrodynamic modeling as a result of an increase in the cell-surface distance with increasing swimming speed. We also observed distinct surface-escaping mechanisms between the two bacterial species. Our study suggests that a decrease in swimming speed could enhance the likelihood of cells adhering to the surface, promoting biofilm formation. This sheds light on the role of reduced swimming speed in the transition from motile to sedentary bacterial lifestyles.

Keywords: bacterial motility; biofilms; c-di-GMP.