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Title: Surface attachment behaviour in Rhodobacter sphaeroides
Author: Chacko, Sarah Jane
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2013
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Motility and chemotaxis have been implicated in the process of biofilm formation in a wide range of species. Using a combination of microscopy and image analysis, genetics, microbiology and biochemistry, the initial approach of Rhodobacter sphaeroides cells to a solid surface has been characterised. Interestingly, these data suggest that for R. sphaeroides alterations in motility and swimming behaviour may result in differences in biofilm formation simply by changing the number of cells which reach the surface. This is in contrast to a few other well-studied species where the motility apparatus, the flagellum, has been shown to play an active role in surface sensing and the transition to biofilm growth. Tracking swimming cells and measuring surface attachment revealed that changes in motility affect the ability of cells to attach to a surface, with non-motile cells attaching least and mutants with frequent stops attaching less than smooth swimming cells with few stops. Tracking attaching cells and classifying their method of attachment revealed that flagellar tethering is not essential for R. sphaeroides attachment. Competition assays with fluorescently labelled strains showed that the initial imbalance between motile and non-motile cells remains as microcolonies develop over 48 hours,and the proportion of non-motile cells remains fairly constant. Development on a surface over 48 hours was similar for motile and non-motile strains, including aflagellate strains, once attached. Using parameters calculated by tracking swimming cells to calculate the effective diffusion coefficient in a simple model of cell movement suggested that motion alone could explain the differences in attachment without assuming different cell properties. In particular, aflagellate strains might be hindered from surface attachment by their reduced motility alone. This is interesting since some other bacterial species use the flagellum as a surface sensor.
Supervisor: Wadhams, George Sponsor: Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council ; Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Microbiology ; biofilm ; bacterial motility