Molecular Forces in Bacterial Biofilms

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Central to the initiation and maturation of biofilms are the cell surface adhesion molecules (adhesins) that mediate initial attachment between the cell and a wide range of surfaces. We use Atomic force microscopy (AFM)-based single-molecule and single-cell force spectroscopy to quantify the binding forces of adhesins responsible in initial attachment and early microcolony formation. Our goal is to elucidate mechanisms of initial adhesion by addressing the nanoscale interplay between the properties of the bacterial surface and the underlying substrate.


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Rigidity Sensing

Rigidity sensing or how adherent cells respond to the stiffness of the underlying substrate is well-known in mammalian cells and is established to influence important biological processes such as stem cell differentiation and cancer cell metastasis. Discovery of rigidity sensing in bacteria however is still rather recent. By quantifying the mechanical forces that govern the interaction of key adhesins with substrates of varying stiffness, we aim to paint a more unified molecular picture of bacterial rigidity sensing.


Targeted Disruption of
Biofilms

We aim to develop a multi-functional and stimuli-responsive nanovehicles―for a spatially- and temporally-controlled delivery of formulations specific to biofilms. These nanocarriers will be loaded with antimicrobial agents, quorum sensing inhibitors, and EPS-degrading molecules―that will target, in a defined manner, the different major contributors of biofilms. This is in line with one of our primary goals—development of novel anti-adhesion therapy.


Nanomechanics of Biofilms

To understand how the properties of the underlying substrate influence the structure and nanomechanics of biofilms, we use Quantitative Imaging to correlate the structure of biofilms grown on substrates with different properties, with its nanomechanical properties (local stiffness, deformation, adhesive properties). This underscores the importance of nanoscale studies on bacterial biofilms. 

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