Development of Spatial Distribution Patterns by Biofilm Cells

Janus Anders Juul Haagensen, Susse Kirkelund Hansen, Bjarke Bak Christensen, Sünje Johanna Pamp, Søren Molin

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Confined spatial patterns of microbial distribution are prevalent in nature, such as in microbial mats, soil communities, and water stream biofilms. The symbiotic two-species consortium of Pseudomonas putida and Acinetobacter sp. C6, originally isolated from a creosote-polluted aquifer, has evolved a distinct spatial organization in the laboratory that is characterized by an increased fitness and productivity. In this consortium, P. putida is reliant on microcolonies formed by Acinetobacter sp. C6 — to which it attaches. Here we describe the processes that lead to the microcolony-pattern by Acinetobacter sp. C6. Ecological spatial pattern analyses revealed that the microcolonies were not entirely randomly distributed, and instead arranged in a uniform pattern. Detailed time-lapse confocal microscopy at the single cell level demonstrated that the spatial pattern was the result of an intriguing self-organization: Small multicellular clusters moved along the surface to fuse with one another to form microcolonies. This active distribution capability was dependent on environmental factors (carbon source, oxygen) and historical contingency (formation of phenotypic variants). The findings of this study are discussed in the context of species distribution patterns observed in macroecology, and we summarize observations about the processes involved in co-adaptation between P. putida and Acinetobacter sp. C6. Our results contribute to an understanding of spatial species distribution patterns as they are observed in nature, as well as the ecology of engineered communities that have the potential for enhanced and sustainable bioprocessing capacity.
Original languageEnglish
JournalApplied and Environmental Microbiology
Issue number18
Pages (from-to)6120-6128
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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