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Microbial colonization of surfaces represents the first step towards biofilm formation, which is a recurring phenomenon in nature with beneficial and detrimental implications in technological and medical settings. Consequently, there is interest in elucidating the fundamental aspects of the initial stages of biofilm formation of microorganisms on solid surfaces. While most of the research is oriented to understand bacterial surface colonization, the fundamental principles of surface colonization of motile, photosynthetic microbes remain largely unexplored so far. Recent single-cell studies showed that the flagellar adhesion of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii is switched on in blue light and switched off under red light [Kreis et al., Nat. Phys., 2018, 14, 45-49]. Here, we study this light-switchable surface association on the population level and measure the kinetics of adsorption and desorption of suspensions of motile C. reinhardtii cells on glass surfaces using bright-field optical microscopy. We observe that both processes exhibit a response lag relative to the time at which the blue- and red-light conditions are set and model this feature using time-delayed Langmuir-type kinetics. We find that cell adsorption occurs significantly faster than desorption, which we attribute to the protein-mediated molecular adhesion mechanism of the cells. Adsorption experiments using phototactically blind C. reinhardtii mutants demonstrate that phototaxis does not affect the cell adsorption kinetics. Hence, this framework can be used as an assay for characterizing the dynamics of the surface colonization of microbial species exhibiting light-regulated surface adhesion under precisely controlled environmental conditions.


Rodrigo E Catalan, Alexandros A Fragkopoulos, Nicolas von Trott, Simon Kelterborn, Olga Baidukova, Peter Hegemann, Oliver Bäumchen. Light-regulated adsorption and desorption of Chlamydomonas cells at surfaces. Soft matter. 2023 Jan 04;19(2):306-314

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PMID: 36520090

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