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Published November 2006 | Published + Supplemental Material
Journal Article Open

Spatiometabolic Stratification of Shewanella oneidensis Biofilms


Biofilms, or surface-attached microbial communities, are both ubiquitous and resilient in the environment. Although much is known about how biofilms form, develop, and detach, very little is understood about how these events are related to metabolism and its dynamics. It is commonly thought that large subpopulations of cells within biofilms are not actively producing proteins or generating energy and are therefore dead. An alternative hypothesis is that within the growth-inactive domains of biofilms, significant populations of living cells persist and retain the capacity to dynamically regulate their metabolism. To test this, we employed unstable fluorescent reporters to measure growth activity and protein synthesis in vivo over the course of biofilm development and created a quantitative routine to compare domains of activity in independently grown biofilms. Here we report that Shewanella oneidensis biofilm structures reproducibly stratify with respect to growth activity and metabolism as a function of size. Within domains of growth-inactive cells, genes typically upregulated under anaerobic conditions are expressed well after growth has ceased. These findings reveal that, far from being dead, the majority of cells in mature S. oneidensis biofilms have actively turned-on metabolic programs appropriate to their local microenvironment and developmental stage.

Additional Information

© 2006, American Society for Microbiology. Received 19 May 2006/ Accepted 19 August 2006. Published ahead of print on 25 August 2006. We thank William Berelson for help with O2 respiration measurements, Søren Molin for plasmids, and the Caltech Biological Imaging Center for use of the facility. This work was supported by grants from the Office of Naval Research, the Packard Foundation, and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to D.K.N. Supplemental material -- Description of Mini-Tn7 derivative construction and characterization.

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Published - TEAaem06.pdf

Supplemental Material - TEAaem06suppl.pdf


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