Single particle tracking reveals spatial and dynamic organization of the Escherichia coli biofilm matrix

Alona Birjiniuk, Nicole Billings, Elizabeth Nance, Justin Hanes, Katharina Ribbeck, Patrick S. Doyle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Biofilms are communities of surface-adherent bacteria surrounded by secreted polymers known as the extracellular polymeric substance. Biofilms are harmful in many industries, and thus it is of great interest to understand their mechanical properties and structure to determine ways to destabilize them. By performing single particle tracking with beads of varying surface functionalization it was found that charge interactions play a key role in mediating mobility within biofilms. With a combination of single particle tracking and microrheological concepts, it was found that Escherichia coli biofilms display height dependent charge density that evolves over time. Statistical analyses of bead trajectories and confocal microscopy showed inter-connecting micron scale channels that penetrate throughout the biofilm, which may be important for nutrient transfer through the system. This methodology provides significant insight into a particular biofilm system and can be applied to many others to provide comparisons of biofilm structure. The elucidation of structure provides evidence for the permeability of biofilms to microscale objects, and the ability of a biofilm to mature and change properties over time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number085014
JournalNew Journal of Physics
StatePublished - Aug 2014


  • biofilms
  • biomaterials
  • particle tracking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Physics and Astronomy


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