Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 25054429
PLoS ONE 2014;9(7):e102049
Bacteria are ubiquitously distributed throughout our planet, mainly in the form of adherent communities in which cells exhibit specific traits. The mechanisms underpinning the physiological shift in surface-attached bacteria are complex, multifactorial and still partially unclear. Here we address the question of the existence of early surface sensing through implementation of a functional response to initial surface contact. For this purpose, we developed a new experimental approach enabling simultaneous monitoring of free-floating, aggregated and adherent cells via the use of dispersed surfaces as adhesive substrates and flow cytometry analysis. With this system, we analyzed, in parallel, the constitutively expressed GFP content of the cells and production of a respiration probe–a fluorescent reduced tetrazolium ion. In an Escherichia coli strain constitutively expressing curli, a major E. coli adhesin, we found that single cell surface contact induced a decrease in the cell respiration level compared to free-floating single cells present in the same sample. Moreover, we show here that cell surface contact with an artificial surface and with another cell caused reduction in respiration. We confirm the existence of a bacterial cell “sense of touch” ensuring early signalling of surface contact formation through respiration down modulation.