Layer by layer—Formation of bacterial biofilms

Research Areas:

Bacterial biofilms, Cell division, E. coli

Imaging Needs:

Time-lapse microscopy

Imaging System (time-lapse):
  • Leica DM IRBE inverted microscope
  • Leica 100x/1.4-NA oil objective lens
  • Hamamatsu ORCA-ER camera
  • Molecular Devices MetaMorph software
Imaging System (confocal laser scanning):
  • Leica SP5 confocal laser scanning microscope
  • Leica 100x/1.4-NA oil objective lens
  • Imaris 6.3.1 software
Imaging Bacteria

Achieving the resolution and sensitivities needed to visualize bacterial cells is not just the domain of the ORCA camera line. Find out how Ashley Cadby and colleagues visualize cell wall growth in bacteria using Hamamatsu’s ImagEM camera. Read now.


What forces shape the early growth of a bacterial biofilm?

Bacterial biofilms play essential roles in the natural world and medicine, from providing food for aquatic scavengers to enabling microbial infections and antibiotic resistance. Bacteria living within a biofilm are phenotypically distinct from their free-living counterparts of the same species, with large sets of genes differently regulated.

A biofilm is likely to form on any surface providing suitable attachment sites, food, and moisture. Sub-therapeutic doses of antibiotics have been shown to induce biofilm formation.


Once established, a biofilm can be tough to eradicate, with increased resistance to detergents and antibiotics. Disruption early in biofilm development could prove important to preventing tough infections or buildup on surfaces such as ships’ hulls.


Bacterial Colony from Two-Dimensional Division to Three-Dimensional Development
Pin-Tzu Su, Chih-Tang Liao, Jiunn-Ren Roan, Shao-Hung Wang, Arthur Chiou, Wan-Jr Syu
PLoS One. 2012 Nov; 7(11): e48098. PMCID: PMC3498271.

Su, et al,1 used confocal laser scanning microscopy and real-time imaging to study the early formation of a micro-colony of GFP-expressing Escherichia coli on agar substrate. Beginning from a single parent, the cells first form a nearly circular monolayer. Upon reaching a critical size, the colony begins to expand upward into two or more layers, from the center outward, retaining a single layer around the circumference in a ring of constant width. The authors conclude that the growth of the community can be accounted for from a combination of expansion force as cells divide with noncovalent adhesion between individuals and with the agar substrate.


Su, et al,1 captured time-lapse video of bacterial biofilm development using the Hamamatsu ORCA-ER camera. Find out what other microbiologists are discovering about the growth of individual cells—read Exciting Insights into Cell Growth.


  1. Su, et al. Bacterial Colony from Two-Dimensional Division to Three-Dimensional Development. PLoS One. 2012 Nov; 7(11): e48098. PMCID: PMC3498271.
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