Detection techniques for extracellular polymeric substances in biofilms: A review :: BioResources (2023)

Pan, M., Zhu, L., Chen, L., Qiu, Y., and Wang, J. (2016)."Detection techniques for extracellular polymeric substances in biofilms: A review"BioRes.11(3), 8092-8115.


Extracellular polymeric substances (EPS) are one of the main components of biofilm, prompting biofilm to form a cohesive three-dimensional framework. Numerous methods are available to help characterize the properties and the structural, chemical and physical organizations of EPS during the biofilm formation process. This review highlights key techniques from different disciplines that have been successfully applied in-situ and non-destructively to describe the complex composition and distribution of EPS in biofilm, especially microscopic, spectroscopic, and the combination of multi-disciplinary methods that can provide new insights into the complex structure/function correlations in biofilms. Among them, confocal laser scanning microscopy (CLSM) is emphasized, and its principles, applications, advantages, and limitations are summarized. Multidisciplinary techniques have been developed and recommended to study EPS during the biofilm formation process, providing more in-depth insights into the composition and spatial distributions of EPS, so as to improve our understanding of the role EPS plays in biofilms ultimately.

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Detection Techniques forExtracellular Polymeric Substances in Biofilms: A Review

Mei Pan,a,cLiang Zhu,a,b* Lin Chen,a,bYunpeng Qiu,a,band Jun Wanga,b

Extracellular polymeric substances (EPS) are one of the main components of biofilm, prompting biofilm to form a cohesive three-dimensional framework. Numerous methods are available to help characterize the properties and the structural, chemical and physical organizations of EPS during the biofilm formation process. This review highlights key techniques from different disciplines that have been successfully appliedin-situand non-destructively to describe the complex composition and distribution of EPS in biofilm, especially microscopic, spectroscopic, and the combination of multi-disciplinary methods that can provide new insights into the complex structure/function correlations in biofilms. Among them, confocal laser scanning microscopy (CLSM) is emphasized, and its principles, applications, advantages, and limitations are summarized. Multidisciplinary techniques have been developed and recommended to study EPS during the biofilm formation process, providing more in-depth insights into the composition and spatial distributions of EPS, so as to improve our understanding of the role EPS plays in biofilms ultimately.

Keywords: Biofilm; Extracellular polymeric substance; Detection technique; Multidisciplinary methods

Contact information: a: State Key Laboratory of Hydrology-Water Resources and Hydraulic Engineering, Hohai University, Nanjing 210098, China; b: College of Environment, Hohai University, Nanjing 210098, China; c: College of Environmental Science and Engineering, Yancheng Institute of Technology, Yancheng 224003, China; *Corresponding


As a dominant microbial lifestyle, biofilms are structured, highly dynamiccommunities of sessile microorganisms formed by cells embedded in a matrix of extracellular polymeric substances (EPS) produced by them (Watnick and Kolter 2000; Battinet al.2007). They can occur at nearly all interfaces (solid–liquid, solid–air, liquid–liquid, and liquid–air) (Ivlevaet al.2010). Among of them, growing appreciation of the importance of biofilms occurring at solid–liquid interface (such as stream and marine biofilm), has recently led to the recognition of an urgent need for an ecological theory that can contribute to our understanding of them (Battinet al.2016). In nature, they usually may be in the form of microbial mats as well as river sediment biofilms, aquifer, soil biofilms, or plant roots and foliage biofilms. In industrial systems, biofilms may be present as biofouling layers. In medicine systems, biofilms are an important issue on tissues as well as on biomaterials including invasive devices and implants (McDougaldet al.2012; Neuet al. 2015). Accordingly, Karunakaranet al. (2011) evolved the related studies of biofilm into an independent discipline. Biofilm has also been called “City of Microbes,” when Watnick compared it with a human city (Watnick and Kolter 2000). Then, the EPS matrix was hailed as the “House of Biofilm Cells” by Flemminget al.(2007), which can be attributed to the scaffold of the three-dimensional (3D) polymer network that accounts for more than 90% of biofilms (Ivlevaet al.2010; Kavitaet al.2013). The EPS is exported from the intracellular space, to form an extracellular polymeric matrix (Battinet al.2016). In fact, in an immobilized but dynamic microbial environment (Sutherland 2001b), EPS mediate the transition from reversible to irreversible adhesion of single cells, consequently forming a cohesive, 3D polymer network that interconnects and transiently immobilizes biofilm cells. EPS are also validated in the degradation and sorption of organic and inorganic compounds (Pal and Paul 2008) and barrier system of cells resistant to hostile environments, and serve as sources of carbon and energy for biofilm growth (Wuet al.2012).

Knowledge of the structure and functional properties of EPS is crucial for understanding the role of biofilms. Even though carbohydrates and proteins have been validated as the main components of EPS, the biochemical characteristics of these compounds remain obscure because of their complex structures and unique linkages (Jiaoet al.2010). Moreover, defining the composition of EPS is critical for the elucidation of structure–function relationships that can facilitate the development of chemical strategies to disrupt biofilms. Battinet al.(2007) summarized some new paths to biofilm research and concluded that the present is the best time for biofilm research. Accordingly, numerous analytical techniques have been advanced to help characterize the components and spatial distribution of EPS in biofilms. Currently, microscopic and spectroscopic techniques, which are devoted to the isolation and characterization of EPS from different systems, are the most widely used. Furthermore, an increasing number of researchers have devoted efforts to a comprehensive study of the mechanism of EPS interaction, resulting in a fixed structure and specific functional properties of biofilm. New approaches that are needed to convert biofilm descriptors into quantitative and qualitative parameters of chemical and molecular compositions require both morphological and chemical characterizations. Some studies have attained a more comprehensive understanding of biofilms by implementing different combinations of techniques (Wagneret al.2009; Yuet al.2011; Paquet-Mercieret al.2014). The aim of this review is to present a summary of recommended analytical technologies which help to acquire a better understanding of the complexity and structural, chemical and physical organizations of EPS. The advantages and limitations of such technologies are also presented. The investigation of EPS is beneficial to the implementation of methods that are appropriate to analyze. Gradually, the application of improved analytical methods will expand on our current, perhaps incomplete view of what biofilm structures really are and the extent to which they are affected by EPS. This review also highlights future areas of study, emphasizing the potential of further inter-disciplinary research.


EPS are situated at or around the bacterial cell surface and are often regarded as glycocalyx or slime, which facilitate and accelerate bacterial adherence to the substratum. EPS mostly contain bacterial secretions, shedding of materials from the cell surface, cell lysates and hydrolysates, and the adsorption of organic constituents from the survival environment (Sheng and Yu 2006; Pal and Paul 2008). EPS are a complex mixture of biomolecules (proteins, polysaccharides, nucleic acids, lipids, and other macromolecules) that are secreted by microorganisms and that hold microbial aggregates together (Wingenderet al.1999; Stewart and Franklin 2008). Proteins and exopolysaccharides represent the key components of macromolecules, accounting for 40% to 95% of EPS (Karunakaran and Biggs 2010). However, the composition and quantity of EPS vary depending on the type of microorganisms (Kavitaet al.2013), age of the biofilms (Zhanget al.2010), and environmental conditions under which the biofilms exist (Vuet al. 2009; Wagneret al. 2009; Villeneuveet al. 2011) and constantly mediate the adhesive and cohesive properties of the biofilms during biofilm formation. For instance, it has been shown that the highest productivity of EPS is observed during the early stages of biofilm formation (Zhanget al. 2010). Generally, the production of EPS is significantly increased under so-called adverse conditions. For example,Jiaoet al. (2010) found that substantially higher carbohydrate-to-protein ratios were observed for the acidophilic microbial biofilms than the previously reported ratios. And more than twice as much EPS was derived from a mature biofilm as from a mid-developmental-stage biofilm (approximately 340 and 150 mg of EPS per g [dry weight] for a mature biofilm and a mid-developmental-stage biofilm, respectively). Thus, EPS production can to some extent reflect the physiological state of the biofilms (Sabateret al. 2007).

Exopolysaccharides are high-molecular polymers with molecular masses of 500 to 2000 kDa (Sutherland 2001a; Denkhauset al. 2007). Microbial exopolysaccharides are long molecules that are either linear or branched (Flemming and Wingender 2010). They are either homopolysaccharides or heteropolysaccharides (Czaczyk and Myszka 2007); most are heteropolysaccharides. They are responsible for both adhesive and cohesive interactions (Ahimouet al. 2007a) andplay a key role in maintaining the structural integrity of biofilms (Sutherland 2001a; Chen and Stewart 2002; Denkhauset al. 2007; Wanget al. 2014); thus, they have been termed “adhesive polymers.”

Another main component of EPS, protein, is primarily classified into two types:enzymatic proteins and structural proteins. Enzymatic proteins have a significant role in metabolism and are even considered to function as an efficient external digestive system (Flemming and Wingender 2001, 2010). Proteins have also been shown to contribute to the anionic properties of EPS andeven act as the electron donor or acceptor in redox reactions in biofilms. The negative charge of proteins is ascribed to the presence of diacid amino acids, such as aspartic acid (Denkhauset al. 2007). Some studies have established that structural proteins determine the process of microbial attachment to different solid surfaces. Karunakaranet al. (2010), for example, suggested that attractive electrostatic forces between charged proteins in EPS could impart cohesive stability to the biofilm matrix. Similarly, Ahimouet al. (2007b) found that the calcium absorption of biofilms has a considerable effect on the cohesive energy of the EPS matrix, which may be attributed to the anionic properties of protein. Some scholars have even shown that the predominance of protein compositions rather than polysaccharides leads to greater biofilm stability (Shenget al. 2010). Proteins are of great nutritional value and directly participate in the chemical processes essential to life.

The high diversity ofpolysaccharide and protein components in the biofilm matrix is anemerging theme. Zhang and Bishop (2003) suggested that EPS polysaccharides can be utilized faster than EPS proteins if microorganisms are in a starved state. Chenet al. (2013) reported that the higher yield of EPS would promote the biofilm growth. Future studies will have to probe deeper into the molecular mechanisms that regulate the synthesis of the matrix (Brandaet al. 2005).

The distributions of various EPS components are also heterogeneous. According to their spatial distribution, EPS can be subdivided into soluble EPS (weakly bound with cells or dissolved into the solution) and bound EPS (closely bound with cells) (Nielsenet al. 1999; Barranguetet al. 2004; Shenget al. 2010). Furthermore, bound EPS have been shown to be a dynamic double-layered EPS structure that includes loosely bound EPS (LB-EPS) and tightly bound EPS (TB-EPS) (Poxon and Darby 1997; Yuet al. 2009; Chenet al.2013).

TB-EPS surround cells and are closely integrated with cell walls, whereas LB-EPS are distributed outside TB-EPS and have a loose structure and low density (Yuet al. 2009; Zhanget al. 2010). LB-EPS are sensitive to the environment, and such sensitivity is considered a protective response of bacteria under fluctuating conditions (Zhanget al. 2010). The response actually occurs in a coordinated fashion using cell-to-cell signaling known as quorum sensing (Vuet al. 2009; Shrout and Nerenberg 2012). The contents of LB-EPS and TB-EPS influence the bioflocculation, settleability, and de-waterability of sludge. Thus, most of the studies concerning LB-EPS and TB-EPS have focused on their characteristics in activated sludge. However, their contents in biofilms directly affect the migration and transformation of nutrients and pollutants; thus, further study is needed on the differences in their combination with nutrients and pollutants (Kanget al. 2009), which will help us to track the bioremediation process in biofilms and its role in biofilm biology.


The components, quantity, and function of EPS vary considerably, which further affects the structure and function of biofilm. Thus, an in-depth study of EPS is imperative. However, thein-situchemical analysis of EPS components remains a challenge because the different types of polymers cannot be analyzed using a simple and straightforward analytical approach. Accordingly, improved methods and techniques are continually being developed. These methods and techniques are generally classified into two types: nondestructivein-situtechniques for monitoring time-resolved biofilm EPS accumulation, and techniques that analyze the EPS extracted from disrupted biofilms (Karunakaranet al.2011). A summary of the advantages and limitations of both types of techniques are presented in the following sections to clarify when these methods are recommended.

EPS Extraction and Chemical Analysis Methods

Extraction methods

Extraction as a simple and feasible sample pre-treatment technique has been employed for the quantification of EPS in biofilm. A number of methods have been developed and applied to extract EPS from biofilms.

Methods of extracting EPS are important in the study of the physicochemical properties of EPS and their impact on contaminants in aquatic environments. The extraction of EPS from biofilms can be realized by employing appropriate physical or chemical extraction methods or their combinations. Physical extraction methods, such as low- and high-speed centrifugation, ultrasonication, steaming extraction, and heat treatment have often been applied to biofilms as well as activated sludge. Chemical extraction methods include the use of ethylene diamine tetraacetic acid (EDTA), cation exchange resins (CER) (Romaníet al. 2008), NaOH, and NaCl. However, a universal EPS isolation method is not yet available, and the extraction yield, composition, and physicochemical properties of EPS vary significantly with different extraction methods.

The efficiency of these methods is based on numerous factors, such as cell lysis, extraction yield, extraction specificity, and the chemical residuum from the extraction solution to the EPS extracts. The greatest problem with extracting EPS occurs when methods are too harsh, where intracellular materials are released into the extract (Flemming and Wingender 2010). Hence, this aspect is typically validated (or not) depending upon the confidence given by a measure of cell-lysis. Both DNA and ATP measurements have previously been used as indicators of lysis (Takahashiet al. 2010).However, it has been recently acknowledged that DNA is an integral component of the EPS matrix itself (Chenget al.2011).

Some of the advantages and limitations of representative extraction techniques are presented in Table 1. Generally, more EPS were extracted using chemical methods than using physical methods; however, the chemicals used for extraction possibly react with EPS and therefore affect their structure (D’Abzacet al. 2010; Shenget al. 2010). The optimal method should be selected carefully. Thus, the extraction procedure has to be adapted to the specific type of EPS under study. For example, for soluble EPS, centrifugation is most favored, whereas for bound EPS, various extraction methods have been developed.LB-EPS and TB-EPS may be extracted separately to study the compositions and functions of the two types of bound EPS in biofilms. In general, the original or modified CER method was still the most widely accepted EPS extraction method, because of its high efficiency and low cell lysis (D’Abzacet al. 2010).

The main approaches are presented in Table 1.

Table 1.Relevant Extraction Techniques for EPS in Biofilms and Their Respective Main Features

Detection techniques for extracellular polymeric substances in biofilms: A review :: BioResources (1)

The approaches listed in Table 1 have the following limitations: (i) the extraction techniques (e.g., CER) appear to be unsuitable for very thin films (three- and six-day-old biofilms) because of the lack of sufficient biomass (Barranguetet al. 2004); and (ii) no consensus exists on EPS extraction techniques, and the complete extraction of all EPS components from a biofilm remain a challenge due to the intracellular contamination and the extracellular contamination (Pal and Paul 2008;Takahashiet al.2010; Redmile-Gordonet al.2014). Thus, extraction techniques should be normalized.

Chemical analysis methods

A number of methods, such as conventional ultraviolet-visible spectrophotometry, mass spectrometry, chromatography, and combinations thereof, as well as Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) and three-dimensional excitation–emission matrix fluorescence spectroscopy (3D-EEM), have been applied to characterize the EPS extracted from biofilms (Sheng and Yu 2006). The characterization of polysaccharides and proteins is performed because of their importance in biofilm formation and metabolic and regulatory activities.

Theanthrone–sulfuric acid colorimetric method (Johnson and Fusaro 1966) and the phenol–sulfuric acid colorimetric method (DuBoiset al.1956) have been used for the determination of total polysaccharide contents extracted from biofilm. Chromatographic methods have been recognized as a vital technique for carbohydrate analysis (Denkhauset al.2007). High-performance liquid chromatography (Churms 1996) and combined gas chromatographic–mass spectrometry (GC–MS) (Domozychet al.2005) have been used to qualitatively and quantitatively analyze monosaccharides intensively.

Extracted protein contents can be determined by the Lowry Foline-phenol method using bovine serum albumin as the standard (Lowryet al. 1951), which was modified continually (Redmile-Gordonet al.2013). In many laboratories, the Bradford Coomassie brilliant blue dye method has become the recommended method for quantifying protein, mostly because it is simpler, faster, and more sensitive than the Lowry method (Bradford 1976). Moreover, the Bradford method introduces less interference by common reagents (Kruger 1994). However, if the protein content in an EPS sample is low, it is barely detected by the Bradford method. In such cases, 3D-EEM is a more sensitive method for detecting low contents of protein or protein-like substances (Panet al. 2010). Furthermore, 3D-EEM can be used to distinguish fluorescent compounds that may exist in the complex EPS mixtures (Sheng and Yu 2006); however, because of its insensitivity to polysaccharides, the fluorescence signals of EPS are primarily attributable to proteins or humic substances (Laspidou and Rittmann 2002). Furthermore, environmental factors, such as solvent effect, solution pH value, and temperature, can affect the fluorescence intensity of the EPS examined. Heret al. (2003) suggested that future studies employing other analytical techniques, such as pyrolysis GC–MS, should compare the results against 3D-EEM results to fully confirm their hypotheses.

In-situCharacterization of Extracellular Polymeric Substances in Biofilm Systems

An optimal method should allow for real-time analysis and make the best possible reflection of real-process conditions of interest. In this review, the more popular approaches used to investigate the EPS of biofilmsin-situnon-destructively are presented. Compared with the methods mentioned above, “in-situ” here means the characterization of EPS without extraction from biofilms and with no or limited other sample preparations. However, the term “in-situ” is not intended to imply that the biofilm is in exactly the same condition as was originally found, especially in the case of biofilms occurring in river sediments, hull bottoms, and drinking water pipes. However, in some indoor or outdoor experiments, samples that occur at some specific materials, such as microscope slides (Proiaet al.2012), metallic substrates (Ivlevaet al. 2010), or crystal surfaces (Bhargava 2012), can be directly observed by using the accordingly techniques. These approaches mostly originate from spectroscopy and microscopy, as well as combinative spectral microscopy techniques. Such materials each have their own advantages in the analysis of EPS. Spectroscopic techniques are well-established techniques for identifying functional groups in molecules. They are of outstanding importance for online, non-invasive biofilm monitoring, especially when coupled with for spectral calibration and pattern recognition (Reubenet al.2014). Furthermore, spectroscopic techniques could be used to qualitatively and quantitatively analyze EPS compositions. In contrast, microscopic techniques, coupled with image analysis, are especially advantageous in extracting biofilm structural and architectural parameters (Barranguetet al. 2004). Spectral microscopy can be used to attain a global understanding of structure–function relationships by requiring both morphological and chemical characterizations simultaneously (Paquet-Mercieret al. 2014).

Spectroscopic Technologies

Several spectroscopic methods suitable for biofilm monitoring, including infrared (IR) spectroscopy and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, are outlined in this subsection.

Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy

FTIR spectroscopy is a popular nondestructive technique for monitoring time-resolved EPS variation (Karunakaran and Biggs 2010; Chenet al.2013). This technique is used as a preliminary screening procedure to identify the nature of the EPS components. An IR spectrum provides a highly specific vibrational fingerprint of the sample under investigation. Infrared radiation is absorbed at frequencies at which the molecule can be promoted to an excited state. Spectral fingerprints are then obtained, with the contributions of the functional groups of all biochemical molecules in the sample combined. Samples must be dried before FTIR analysis because of the strong absorption of water in the mid-IR region (Reubenet al.2014).

Nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy

NMR is a technique based on the absorption of radio frequencies in the presence of magnetic fields (Wolfet al.2002). Slight variations in magnetic fields resulting from the electrons orbiting the nuclei induce a shift in energy level and appear as resonance signals, which is characteristic of the chemical bond of a given nucleus. The aforementioned chemical shift allows the chemical analysis and structure determination of large molecules (such as EPS). The1H nucleus (proton) is the most commonly used nucleus because of its high natural abundance and high MR sensitivity (Neuet al.2010b).

(Video) Matthew Fields - Biofilm Diversity and Ecology

Similar to FTIR, NMR spectroscopy is employed to generally distinguish and identify the types of chemical functionalities in biofilm samples,e.g., carbonyls, peptide bonds, and aromatics. NMR data provide the key quantitative parameters of the intact matrix, including the percentages of EPS components by mass. In order to provide more detailed characterization of the EPS functional groups, the exact chemical mechanism of metal binding should be revealed further (Jiaoet al.2010). To date, solid- and liquid-state NMR techniques have been applied to study the chemical composition and molecular mobility of biofilm EPS. This technology was particularly motivated by the demand for the fundamental transformation of biofilm descriptors into quantitative parameters of chemical and molecular composition. McCrateet al.(2013) determined the chemical composition of a bacterial biofilm using solid-state NMR and biochemical analysis. Reichhardt and Cegelski (2013) implemented solid-state NMR to deliver quantitative insights into the composition and structure of biofilm systems. Jiaoet al.(2010) applied solid-state NMR and linkage analysis to characterize the polysaccharide composition and yielded limited butpromising information, such as, they found that solid-state NMR cannot distinguish between the β-O-4 and β-O-3 linkages of glycosidic carbon atoms. Thus, a morein-depth analysis of purified EPS fractions is needed to illuminate the structures molecular distribution of polymers (Reichhardtet al.2015).

The advantages of NMR are its noninvasive and nondestructive qualities. Its drawbacks, however, include its low signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) and time-consuming data acquisition (Wolfet al. 2002; Kirklandet al. 2015). Given that the energies of these transitions are low compared with the thermal fluctuations, there is only a small amount difference among the populations in the excited and non-excited states. Therefore, NMR is considered a relatively insensitive method compared with optical methods. Furthermore, NMR for the proton resonance requires labelled substrates by using isotope or non-isotope, and the label-requiring technologies may affect the biofilm physiology (Reubenet al. 2014).

Microscopic Technologies

A range of microscopic technologies, which allow the imaging of labeled or unlabeled EPS at high spatial resolutions, have been developed over the last few decades. These technologies, including scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and environmental scanning electron microscopy (ESEM), confocal laser scanning microscopy (CLSM), and atomic force microscopy (AFM), have become highly regarded because of their high potential in the analysis of biofilms. This sectionprimarily focuses on the principles and applications of CLSM and summarizes its advantages and limitations.


The EPS and amorphous-phase surrounding cells in a biofilm can be directly observed from a two-dimensional image generated by using SEM technology. However, a high vacuum is needed to evaluate the samples. Due to the fact that biological samples have non-conductive properties, prior to SEM observation, biofilm samples must be subjected to rigorous processing steps including fixation, dehydration, and then sputter-coating with a conductive metal such as gold to ensure the electrical conductivity (Weberet al.2014). The intensive dehydration is carried out with a series of ascending concentrations of acetone and ethanol. In other words, the water is replaced by the organic solvents having lower surface tension and less or no hydrogen bonding ability (Hanniget al.2010). The morphology of the biofilm may even be altered by the dehydration process. Alternatively, the samples can be freeze-dried (FD), critical point–dried (CPD) using transitional fluid, such as liquid or solid carbon dioxide (Alhedeet al.2012), or hexamethyldisilazane dried (HMDS). Finally the specimens have to be coated with a kind of conductive material, for example sputtered with gold. Hazrin-Chong and Manefield (2012) proved that the use of HMDS drying was preferred over the more commonly used CPD method as the former is safer, cheaper, and more practical. Conversely, Ratnayakeet al.(2012) concluded that conventional glutaraldehyde fixation followed by CPD was superior to the non-fixed control, FD, and the glutaraldehyde fixation with HMDS drying methods in terms of preserving the EPS better.

An SEM image of an aquatic biofilm, which was subjected to the conventional chemical fixation followed by the intensive ethanol dehydration, is depicted in Fig. 1, and some fragments of algae and EPScan be clearly observed. The SEM resultscan provide good comparative information demonstrating clear differences in the structures of biofilms generated under different experimental conditions. Consequently, SEM images are useful for describing biofilm morphotypes (Simõeset al. 2007; Wanget al.2014). Although this technique presents a very detailed morphological image, it does not provide any chemical information and can analyze only dried samples (Sandtet al.2007;Hanniget al.2010).

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Fig. 1. SEM micrographs of a biofilm formed on glass slides in an urban river. Scale bar = 10 µm

To overcome the shortcomings of SEM, wet-mode ESEM can be performed under a moderate vacuum and without the prior fixation, dehydration, or conductive coating of the biofilm. If completely untreated, however, EPS are not electron-dense and thus do not resolve well in ESEM. Furthermore, the three-dimensional visualization of the structures is sometimes limited (Hanniget al.2010). Therefore, Priesteret al. (2007) introduced staining methods into ESEM analysis to map the EPS in biofilms. This combination allowed for increased image contrast; however, only the part of the EPS was well discriminated. Accordingly, subsequent staining, imaging, and image analysis procedures were added to this combination technology. However, time-resolved online and nondestructive biofilm visualization by ESEM is still infeasible during the process of biofilm formation.

Multiple fluorescence staining and CLSM

As a commonly applied analytical tool for biofilm investigations, CLSM can be performed in real time and in a nondestructive manner (Lerchneret al. 2008). CLSM allows the visualization and quantification of three-dimensional (3D) structures of living and fully hydrated biofilms (Neuet al.1997; Lawrenceet al.1998; Beyenalet al.2004). CLSM can be used in a multichannel mode, in which the different channels map individual biofilm components. The 3D reconstruction image of a biofilm is obtained by combining a series of optical sections taken at different depths in the biofilm by image analyses with software (Savidge and Pothoulakis 2004).

The multiple color staining technique and CLSM can together visualize the distribution of components of EPS in a biofilm. Based on staining with lectins and imaging with CLSM, the qualitative and quantitative analysis of various EPS components in a biofilm can be achieved, and said quantification is based on fluorescence intensities(Schlaferet al.2016). In particular, CLSM has been demonstrated to be more sensitive than the chemical extraction of EPS in young biofilms (< 1 week old, Barranguetet al.2004). However, a fluorescence labeling approach depends on the specificity of the selected stains and is constrained by a lack of understanding of EPS composition and structure.

In recent years, thesimultaneous use of multiple color stains has been increasingly adopted to characterize various EPS components in biofilms (Neuet al. 2002; Battinet al. 2003; Chenet al. 2006; Adavet al.2010). Accordingly, more and more fluorochromes (typically purchased from Sigma, Molecular Probe, and Life Technologies) have been tested and selected to probein-situthe corresponding content distribution of EPS. A list of vital dyes that many researchers have found to be the most useful for CLSM imaging are compiled in Table 2 together with their labeled objects and the associated parameters. Their selection mainly depends on the research need, sample pH, and excitation/emission properties (Adavet al. 2010). Clearly, there is a desire to have a single probe for EPS of the overall biofilm ( al. 2014).

Table 2.Stains Used in Sample Staining Schemes (One-Photon LSM)

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The general principles in designing a multicolor staining scheme should be continuously presented and developed in practice. First, the criteria for selecting fluorochromes should be established. Next, an appropriate pretreatment method for staining, which mainly includes fixation and immobilization, should be selected (Nosyket al. 2008; Adavet al. 2010). The specimens are then stained; in this step, the order of staining, selection of buffer, incubation time of staining, and washing steps need to be set optimally (Chenet al. 2007; Adavet al. 2010). Subsequently, the specimens are examined using CLSM. Finally, the recorded CLSM images are analyzed with the appropriate software, including three different aspects: visualization, quantification, and deconvolution (Neuet al.2015).

The key consideration in multiple fluorescent experiments is the use of highly specific fluorochromes with minimum spectral peak interference, as mentioned by Chenet al. (2007). The experiments should also meet at least one of the following conditions: (i) If there is no overlap of the excitation spectra of all the fluorochromes, then the fluorochromes will be excited one by one under an adequate light source; and (ii)If parts of the emission spectra of all the fluorochromes do not overlap, then the emitted spectra can be observed one by one using a limited observation wavelength band. For example, because of the overlapping excitation and emission wavelengths, Con A, Nile Red, and tetramethylrhodamine isothiocyanate (TRITC) cannot be applied to a sample simultaneously. In particular, the application of Nile Red has been shown to interfere with the application of many other stains (Adavet al. 2010). DAPI shows a very broad emission signal and thus should not be employed in multiple staining (Savidge and Pothoulakis 2004). In addition, the excitation of DAPI requires expensive UV or two-photon lasers, and the UV excitation wavelength can result in high autofluorescence (Fig. 2); therefore, simultaneous multichannel imaging using DAPI is challenging (Palmeret al. 2006). To detect the corresponding emission signals of multiple fluorochromes, CLSM usually has three channels: green, red, and far red (blue), which allows for the direct observation of the development of individual biofilm components (Neuet al. 2004). However, the drawback of applying multiple fluorochromes on the same specimen is that the simultaneous multiple color staining might cause serious channel interference.

Some studies have shown that the thickness and density of a biofilm are major influencing factors that can result in light attenuation and limited dye penetration (Barranguetet al. 2004; Wagneret al. 2009). The maximum observable depth in biofilms reaches up to hundreds of µm (Barranguetet al. 2004; Wagneret al. 2009; Halanet al. 2012). Nevertheless, CLSM can provide an accurate representation of EPS in young biofilms, assessing the qualitative and quantitative changes in the early stages of development. As a result, for dense or thicker biofilms, which have been embedded and physically sectioned, embedding may be done using nanoplast, epon, paraffin, or a so-called tissue freezing medium, and subsequent sectioning may be carried out using a normal microtome or a cryotome (Battinet al. 2003; Savidge and Pothoulakis 2004). Furthermore, obtaining higher-resolution images of thick biofilm samples by two-photon LSM instead of conventional single-photon laser microscopy has proven possible if appropriate excitation wavelengths and fluorochromes are used (Neuet al. 2004).Two-photon LSM, which is an emerging technique with real potential for examining biofilms (Lawrence and Neu 2003; Neuet al. 2010a), provides advantages over the conventional confocal microscopy with potentially increased resolution, reduced phototoxicity and photo-bleaching of the fluorescent probes (Choiet al. 2010), and also reveals the improved imaging performance of two-photon excitation in terms of the 3D point spread function and the 3D optical transfer function (Gu and Sheppard 1995; Neuet al. 2002; Garrido-Baserbaet al.2016). It is necessary to note that in the detection of EPS in biofilms in river or sea water, the autofluorescence of phototrophic organisms (cyanobacteria and green algae) results in strong signals in the entire excitation range (Neuet al. 2002; Zippel and Neu 2010), generally with imaging characterized by fluorescent green, which particularly interferes with extracellular proteins (Fig. 2). The minimal autofluorescence detected during scanning is used as a reference spectrum that is subtracted from the lambda spectra during linear unmixing (Bairdet al. 2012). Moreover, lambda scanning settings can be implemented to eliminate spectral cross-talk (Adavet al. 2010; Bairdet al. 2012).

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Fig. 2. The maximum intensity projection of a lotic biofilm examined by CLSM (one-photon excitation). (a) Blue (DAPI) total cells; (b) phase contrast image; (c) green (FITC) proteins; (d) red (ConA-TMR) α-mannopyranosyl and α-glucopyranosyl residues; (e) the resulting overlay. Scale bar = 50 µm

To obtain reproducible and reliable image data by CLSM multiple fluorophore staining, many challenging problems must be solved, including the selection and development of high-specificity stains to optimize the staining protocol, the expense, and the toxicity of some of the fluorochromes. Staining may be of low specificity, and given that some components of EPS cannot be stained, CLSM can only provide information on the distribution and amount of stainable EPS components. With the main components of EPS unknown, several issues, including whether the makers used can specifically bind to the target substances and whether the more comprehensive biomarkers are accessible to mark the various components of the EPS, remain unsettled (Yuet al. 2011). Particularly, the operator should be aware of such limitations and be able to collect the data in the most appropriate mode to minimize these effects.

Atomic force microscopy

The production of EPS by bacterial cells has been observed by electron microscopy, but this technique cannot provide information about samples in the hydrated state and often requires complicated preparation procedures. In contrast, AFM can be used in ultra-high vacuum, liquid phase, gas phase, and electrochemical environments. AFM imaging can be performed in contact, non-contact, or tapping modes. Scanning probe measurements of many biological samples have successfully been performed in air, but only in contact and not tapping mode. The tapping mode has obvious advantages in detecting biological samples (Jalili and Laxminarayana 2004). In consequence, tapping mode AFM has superiority in imaging the surface morphology of biofilms and unraveling the intermolecular forces at the nanoscale level both in air and fluid environments, without necessitating metal-coating or staining (Hansmaet al. 2000; Jalili and Laxminarayana 2004; Dufrene 2008). In particular, AFM can render 3D images with a nanoscale resolution (less than 1.0 nm) to clearly show the EPS secretion and the entrapment of bacteria cells within the EPS matrix (Beechet al. 2002; Pradhanet al. 2008). Van der Aa and Dufrêne (2002) used AFM to characterize the supramolecular organization of bacterial EPS attached to a solid substratum. AFM topographic images and force–distance curves were used to characterize the morphology and molecular interactions of the substratum during the formation of bacterial biofilms. They concluded that proteinaceous EPS accumulate at the solid substratum surface in the form of a thin, continuous layer from which supramolecular assemblages protrude. Meanwhile, AFM topographic images also reveal the nature of adsorbed EPS. Ahimouet al. (2007b) employed AFM to measurein-situEPS/EPS and cell/EPS interactions within a well-defined volume of biofilm. Thein-situmeasurement of the cohesive energy levels of moist biofilms revealed a stronger effect of calcium absorption on the cohesive energy of the EPS matrix and a weaker effect of calcium absorption near the microbial cell surface. This finding could indicate that outer EPS layers are more loosely associated with one another; then more opportunities will be provided for calcium absorption and crosslinking in outer layers. By contrast, deeper EPS layers are more tightly associated with cells and therefore contain less calcium. This phenomenon further verifies that LB-EPS and TB-EPS have different capabilities in combining with calcium.

AFM provides information about the morphological details, but little data on the chemical composition of biofilm. Other limitations of the technique include relatively long imaging time, expensive equipment, inability to obtain large-area survey scans before increasing the magnification,andlow-light efficiency. Furthermore, soft biofilm samples are easily damaged by the tip even when the forces used lie within the nano-Newton range (van der Aaet al.2002; Halanet al. 2012).

Spectral Microscopy Techniques

In this section, we review the use of spectral microscopy for the chemical and structural evaluation of biofilm EPS. Spectral microscopy extended the utility of standard spectroscopic tools to enable the collection of spatially resolved spectra, thus filling the information gap in pure microscopy. Each analyte has its own unique absorption spectrum; thus, spectral microscopy can be used to identify different absorbers at the molecular and atomic levels and visualize their distribution in space.

Raman microscopy

Raman microscopy (RM) is a nondestructive spectroscopic technique based on the Raman scattering of monochromatic laser light that provides fingerprint spectra with the spatial resolution of an optical microscope. The common integration of Raman spectroscopy with a microscope enables spectral analysis at a micrometer spatial resolution. Thus, RM can simultaneously reveal the chemical composition and the structure of EPS at diverse biofilm formation stages (Janissenet al. 2015). Specifically, RM has great advantage in detecting the analyte molecule with the symmetrical modes of molecular motion, which are not sensed by typical infra-red spectroscopy (Neugebaueret al.2002).

Ivlevaet al. (2008) and Wagneret al. (2009) used RM to monitor the chemical composition of different types of EPS during the biofilm formation process at selected Raman bands, which confirmed that RM can effectively supplement CLSM analysis. It can reproducibly reveal changes in the chemical composition of the biofilm matrix, even changes that are not detectable by CLSM. It requires no or limited sample preparation, providing information about the label-free EPS components of fully hydrated biofilmsin-situ. Moreover, compared with CLSM, RM does not require a tunable excitation source, because the whole spectrum can be collected by excitation with a fixed laser wavelength (Ivlevaet al. 2008).

Raman spectra are characterized by a high specificity. However, Ivlevaet al. (2008) revealed that the binding of cations induced several changes in the Raman spectra of polysaccharides, and they applied algal alginate as a model polysaccharide to determine the frequency regions in the Raman spectra that can be used for the analysis of the influence of metal cations. Furthermore, the effect of photo bleaching should be handled (Wagneret al. 2009). RM is also time-consuming because it stays on a single point for a considerable time and then scans the sample point by point. To improve the speed of RM, confocal Raman microscopy (CRM), which allows for high-speed scanning, was developed. Compared with CLSM, CRM does not need to filter or eliminate the autofluorescence of the sample. Given its desirable characteristics, CRM is an ideal technique for investigating the effects of various environmental factors on biofilm growth (Sandtet al. 2007). Virdiset al. (2012) demonstrated that CRM allowed monitoring of biofilm development at different growth stages, without impacting its structural or metabolic activity. Liet al. (2015) presented CRM for in situ, real-time imaging of the biomineralization in biofilms, through which it was shown that Pseudomonas aeruginosa biofilms could produce morphologically distinct carbonate deposits that substantially modified biofilm structures.

FTIR and ATR microscopy

Coupling FTIR and attenuated total reflection microscopy (ATR-FTIR) extends internal reflection spectroscopy to the microscopic scale (Buffeteauet al. 1996). ATR-FTIR has been successfully applied to thein-situnondestructive study of biofilms in real time and under fully hydrated conditions (Ojedaet al. 2008). In this technique, the accumulation of various EPS-associated functional groups and the structural changes in EPS polymers can be monitored by growing the biofilms directly on the ATR crystal (Humbert and Quilès 2011). Because of the high refractive index of the ATR crystal, ATR-FTIR imaging typically uses multichannel detectors to achieve spatial localization (Bhargava 2012) and provides a high numerical aperture, resulting in a higher spatial resolution (Chan and Kazarian 2003).However,ATR-FTIR is not suitable for thick biofilms because the penetration depth of the evanescent wave is below 1.0 µm (Kavitaet al. 2013), and is a zero-dimensional measurement technique that captures only information from the molecules near the surface (Paquet-Mercieret al. 2014). Furthermore, some questions have yet to be addressed, for example, what part or which layers of the biofilm contribute to the recorded ATR spectrum? The individual spectral features of FTIR often overlap because of the extreme heterogeneity of biofilm constituents. Consequently, ATR-FTIR is suitable for analyzing the EPS extracted from biofilms (Reubenet al.2014). Notably, the interpretation of spectral changes measured at the molecular level is sometimes subtle and complex, requiring knowledge and experience of ATR-FTIR bacterial fingerprints to be able to identify and differentiate the spectral changes induced by changes in environmental conditions (Humbert and Quilès 2011).

The quality of images obtained with an IR microscope is traditionally constrained by throughput and SNR (Reddyet al. 2013).In a review, Bhargava (2012) focused on the science of IR microspectrometry, especially on recent developments in the mid-2000s that can potentially transform imaging spectroscopy. He pointed out that a microscope based onplanar array infrared (PA-IR) spectrometers could rapidly examine small regions with exceptionally small signals,e.g., mapping of monolayers, a capability that is not easily achievable by FTIR microscopes. Such spectrometers can hopefully detect EPS in biofilms.


The production and distribution of EPS reflect the attachment and aggregation process, provide an optimal environment for the exchange of genetic material between cells, and maintain a spatial arrangement for microorganism consortia, which dramatically influence the structure of biofilm over a prolonged period. An increasing number of studies have focused on the specific components of biofilm EPS, as well as their spatial differentiation and stability at different growth stages. To gain a chemical and structural evaluation of biofilm EPS, this article has extensively reviewed studies using techniques from various fields such as microscopy, spectroscopy, biochemistry, and their combination. However, some of these promising techniques, such as AFM or ESEM, require costly equipment, while for others, such as SEM and CLSM, extensive preparation of the samples is necessary. And all the techniques mentioned above have not been fully utilized to date.

However, much is yet to be learned regarding the roles of EPS in the functions and characteristics of biofilm to systematically elucidate the effects of EPS on biofilm growth, structure, and function. Further efforts should also be devoted to the integration of multidisciplinary technologies to study the behavior of EPS in the biofilm growth phase. A theoretical framework, which can perfect the “biofilmology” discipline, should also be established. Moreover, with such high expectations, hardware developments are likely to spur the development of faster algorithms and signal-processing strategies to store data, improve spectral corrections, and extract information with high-definition imaging.

The existing research methods to date may provide new knowledge about the structure–function correlations in biofilm. Overall, integrated technologies must be developed to overcome the multidimensional challenges in understanding EPS in biofilms at different growth phases, including the initial attached bacteria, colonies, and mature biofilm. Multidisciplinary approaches should be developed to study EPS during biofilm formation, provide more in-depth insights into the composition and spatial distribution of EPS, and ultimately improve our understanding of the role EPS play in biofilms.


The authors appreciate the support of the National Natural Science Fund of China (51508153), the Natural Science Fund of Jiangsu (BK20150813), the industry-university-research institute cooperation project of Jiangsu Province (BY2016065-61), andthe University Students Innovative Undertaking Practice and Training Fund of Jiangsu (2015009), The authors also want to thank those who provided helpful suggestions and corrections on the earlier draft of our study, according to which we improved its content.

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Nosyk, O., ter Haseborg, E., Metzger, U., and Frimmel, F. H. (2008). “A standardized pretreatment method of biofilm flocs for fluorescence microscopic characterization,”J. Microbiol. Methods75(3), 449-456. DOI: 10.1016/j.mimet.2008.07.024

Ojeda, J. J., Romero-Gonzalez, M. E., Pouran, H. M., and Banwart, S. A. (2008). “In situmonitoring of the biofilm formation ofPseudomonas putidaon hematite using flow-cell ATR-FTIR spectroscopy to investigate the formation of inner-sphere bonds between the bacteria and the mineral,”Mineral. Mag.72(1), 101-106. DOI: 10.1180/minmag.2008.072.1.101

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(Video) Integrating Emerging Research into Biofilm Management

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Redmile-Gordon, M. A., Brookes, P. C., Evershed, R. P., Goulding, K. W. T., and Hirsch, P. R. (2014). “Measuring the soil-microbial interface: Extraction of extracellular polymeric substances (EPS) from soil biofilms,”Soil. Biol. Biochem. 72, 163-171. DOI:10.1016/j.soilbio.2014.01.025

Reichhardt, C., and Cegelski, L. (2013). “Solid-state NMR for bacterial biofilms,”Mol. Phys.112(7), 887-894. DOI: 10.1080/00268976.2013.837983

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(Video) Biofilm (contd)

Zippel, B., and Neu, T. R. (2010). “Characterization of glycoconjugates of extracellular polymeric substances in tufa-associated biofilms by using fluorescence lectin-binding analysis,”Appl. Environ. Microbiol.77(2), 505-516. DOI: 10.1128/AEM.01660-10

Article submitted: March 21, 2016; Peer review completed: June 4, 2016; Revised version received: July 23, 2016; Accepted: July 24, 2016; Published: August 4, 2016.

DOI: 10.15376/biores.11.3.8092-8115


What are the methods for biofilm detection? ›

Biofilm-associated gene is amplified by PCR such as qualitative real-time PCR, multiplex and conventional PCR that is used to detect whether biofilm-associated gene is present or not in microorganism.

How do you measure extracellular polymeric substances? ›

EPS can be obtained by determining total protein and poli sacaride in sludge of the centrifuged. EPS = Protein +Polisacaride. Simply put, EPS comprises of dead bacterial cells in sludge, which is nothing but the waste sludge, that is not used in an Activated Sludge Process (ASP).

What are extracellular polymeric substances in biofilm? ›

Bacteria-bacteria, bacteria-extracellular polymer, and bacteria-surface interactions drive the formation and behavior of a biofilm. Extracellular polymeric substances (EPS) are organic polymers of microbial origin involved in bacterial cells' interactions with their environment [1].

How do you test for bacterial biofilms? ›

Currently, a limited number of methods are available to detect biofilm formation by bacteria. The conventional methods are usually quantification by staining (e.g., crystal violet [CV] test) or observation by microscopy (9,–14).

What is single tube method for biofilm detection? ›

The Single Tube Method (ASTM E2871) is a standard method that measures the efficacy of antimicrobials against biofilm bacteria that has been shown to be reproducible, responsive and rugged.

What is the stain used to detect biofilm production in the lab? ›

Conclusion Hematoxylin-eosin staining of surgical specimens is a reliable and available method for the detection of bacterial biofilm in chronic infectious disease.

Which of the following best describes extracellular polymeric substances? ›

Which of the following best describes why extracellular polymeric substances are important? They are components of a biofilm secreted by the microbes present.

Why is EPS important in biofilm? ›

EPSs establish the functional and structural integrity of biofilms, and are considered the fundamental component that determines the physicochemical properties of a biofilm. EPS in the matrix of biofilms provides compositional support and protection of microbial communities from the harsh environments.

What are the applications of extracellular polymeric substances? ›

The EPS chemical composition and physical properties are different between species that influence their functional properties. The microbial EPS are utilized in various application such as wastewater treatment, cosmetic, pharmaceutical, and food industry mostly as flocculant, thickener, and emulsifier.

What are the 3 main extracellular materials? ›

Extracellular matrix is composed of three main proteins, namely, collagen, non-collagen and proteoglycan.

What are the major components of the biofilm extracellular matrix? ›

Biofilms are multicellular aggregates, held together by an extracellular matrix, which is composed of biological polymers. Three principal components of the biofilm matrix are exopolysaccharides (EPS), proteins, and nucleic acids.

What is the extracellular matrix of biofilm? ›

The extracellular matrix of bacterial biofilms is commonly composed of proteins, exopolysaccharides, nucleic acids, lipids and other minor biomolecules such as secondary metabolites.

Why is it so hard to diagnose biofilms? ›

Detrimental biofilms are responsible for a variety of problems ranging from food and water contamination, bio-corrosion, to drug resistant infections. Besides the challenges in control, biofilms are also difficult to detect due to the lack of biofilm-specific biomarkers and methods for non-destructive imaging.

Why are biofilms hard to diagnose? ›

Abstract. Biofilms associated with the human body, particularly in typically sterile locations, are difficult to diagnose and treat effectively because of their recalcitrance to conventional antibiotic therapy and host immune responses.

Can PCR detect biofilm? ›

Our study has shown for the first time that the frequency of biofilm-related genes can be accurately determined using the Multiplex Colony PCR method.

How do you isolate bacteria from biofilms? ›

Biofilm bacteria were isolated by standard spread plate method using Zobell marine agar4 after two days incubation at 28+/-2°c11. Inoculated serially diluted samples in sterile Zobell marine agar plate12 and kept for incubation at 28+/-2°c.

Which is the most effective way to remove a biofilm? ›

Incorporating an alkaline cleaner or detergent improves the effectiveness of biofilm removal compared to cleaning with bleach alone. Bleach used at concentrations suitable for food contact surfaces does have some efficacy on thermophilic bacilli and similar biofilms, although efficacy may be intermittent.

What are the methods of studying biofilm formation? ›

Confocal laser scanning microscopy (CLSM), scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and atomic force microscopy (AFM) are the three most important techniques.

What are the commonly identified bacteria in biofilms? ›

Both gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria can form biofilms on medical devices, but the most common forms are Enterococcus faecalis, Staphylococcus aureus, Staphylococcus epidermidis, Streptococcus viridans, E. coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Proteus mirabilis and Pseudomonas aeruginosa [7].

Which staining reagent is used to stain biofilms? ›

The FilmTracer FM 1-43 dye (Figure 1) stains the cells in a biofilm, whereas FilmTracer SYPRO Ruby reagent stains the matrix.

What is the best way to remove biofilm from proximal surfaces? ›

First, tooth brushing with fluoridated toothpaste performed twice daily, using a soft brush to scrub the occlusal surfaces of the emerging teeth can remove the biofilm. Daily rinsing with 0.2 percent fluoride solution will further decrease the caries risk.

What are the types of polymeric substance? ›

Polymers make up many of the materials in living organisms, including, for example, proteins, cellulose, and nucleic acids. Moreover, they constitute the basis of such minerals as diamond, quartz, and feldspar and such man-made materials as concrete, glass, paper, plastics, and rubbers.

Which of the following are components of extracellular fluid quizlet? ›

Water will move out of the cell. What are components of extracellular fluid? Plasma, lymph, and interstitial fluid. The fluid contained within a cell is also called...

What is the role of extracellular DNA in biofilms? ›

Extracellular DNA (eDNA) is a ubiquitous and pivotal structural component of biofilms that protects the resident bacteria from the host immune system and antimicrobial agents. It is of the highest priority to characterize the structure of the eDNA to understand the development of bacterial biofilm communities.

What is the importance of this polymeric matrix for the biofilm microbes? ›

The polysaccharide component of the matrix can provide many diverse benefits to the cells in the biofilm, including adhesion, protection, and structure. Aggregative polysaccharides act as molecular glue, allowing the bacterial cells to adhere to each other as well as surfaces.

Why is it important to investigate biofilms and their control in the food processing industry? ›

Biofilms imply major challenges for the food industry because they allow bacteria to bind to a range of surfaces, including rubber, polypropylene, plastic, glass, stainless steel, and even food products, within just a few minutes, which is followed by mature biofilms developing within a few days (or even hours) [3].

Where are extracellular substances found? ›

Extracellular polymeric substances are generally present at the exterior of cells, generated through active secretion, cell lysis, shedding of cell surface material, and also adsorption from the environment [53,54].

What do the extracellular polymeric substances EPS do for the bacteria in a biofilm community? ›

Microbial cells (i.e., bacteria, archaea, microeukaryotes) in oceans secrete a diverse array of large molecules, collectively called extracellular polymeric substances (EPSs) or simply exopolymers. These secretions facilitate attachment to surfaces that lead to the formation of structured 'biofilm' communities.

Which of the following are examples of biofilms? ›

Examples of biofilms you might have seen include plaque that grows on our teeth, slime that forms on shower tiles, and the slippery coating on pond rocks. In a biofilm, bacteria stick to surfaces and to each other.

What are 5 examples of extracellular fluids? ›

The extracellular fluid, in turn, is composed of blood plasma, interstitial fluid, lymph and transcellular fluid (e.g. cerebrospinal fluid, synovial fluid, aqueous humour, serous fluid, gut fluid, etc.). The interstitial fluid and the blood plasma are the major components of the extracellular fluid.

What two components are commonly found in the extracellular? ›

Two main classes of extracellular macromolecules make up the matrix: (1) polysaccharide chains of the class called glycosaminoglycans (GAGs), which are usually found covalently linked to protein in the form of proteoglycans, and (2) fibrous proteins, including collagen, elastin, fibronectin, and laminin, which have ...

What is the most common form of extracellular material? ›

Collagen. Collagens are the major structural component of the ECM1. They are the most prevalent protein in the skin and bone, making up 25% of the total protein mass2.

What are the constituents of biofilms? ›

Biofilms are composed primarily of microbial cells and EPS. EPS may account for 50% to 90% of the total organic carbon of biofilms (38) and can be considered the primary matrix material of the biofilm. EPS may vary in chemical and physical properties, but it is primarily composed of polysaccharides.

What are the three faces of biofilm? ›

Three faces of biofilms: a microbial lifestyle, a nascent multicellular organism, and an incubator for diversity.

What are the 2 main components of the extracellular matrix in connective tissue? ›

Collagens are the most abundant components of the extracellular matrix and many types of soft tissues. Elastin is another major component of certain soft tissues, such as arterial walls and ligaments.

What are the 4 proteins of the extracellular matrix? ›

Extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins such as collagen, fibrin, fibronectin, gelatin, etc. are frequently used to along with biomaterials for tissue engineering to enhance their capacity for cell attachment, proliferation, and differentiation.

How are biofilms diagnosed? ›

aeruginosa biofilm infection can be diagnosed by microscopy of lung tissue, sputum and mucus from the paranasal sinuses, where aggregates of the bacteria are found surrounded by the abundant alginate matrix.

How do you detect biofilm production? ›

Tissue Culture Plate (TCP) assay as described by Christensen's et al., 1995 is the most widely used method and is considered as the standard method for detection of biofilm formation.

Why are biofilms an issue? ›

Biofilms pose a serious problem for public health because of the increased resistance of biofilm-associated organisms to antimicrobial agents and the potential for these organisms to cause infections in patients with indwelling medical devices.

Why are biofilms difficult for antibiotics to penetrate? ›

The biofilm structure's complexity, which is composed of exopolysaccharide, DNA and protein, makes it challenging for antibiotics to work their way through the matrix and reach the bacterial target within.

Why it is difficult and strong for biofilm to destroy? ›

Established biofilms can tolerate antimicrobial agents at concentrations of 10–1000-times that needed to kill genetically equivalent planktonic bacteria, and are also extraordinarily resistant to phagocytosis, making biofilms extremely difficult to eradicate from living hosts [3].

Can you see biofilm on surfaces? ›

Although biofilms can go undetected for a period of time because they are not visible to the naked eye, when a biofilm gets disrupted or when food comes into contact with it, it can cause an unwanted outbreak.

What is PCR and how is it used to identify bacteria? ›

PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests are a fast, highly accurate way to diagnose certain infectious diseases and genetic changes. The tests work by finding the DNA or RNA of a pathogen (disease-causing organism) or abnormal cells in a sample.

Can biofilm show antibiotic resistance? ›

Bacterial biofilm has increased antibiotic resistance and involved in many persistent diseases. Inside biofilm, several mechanisms confer the multi-factorial resistance to antibiotics.

What is the method for detection of bacteria? ›

Conventional methods used to detect and quantify bacteria are plate culturing, polymerase chain reaction (PCR), enzyme linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and chemical sensors based detection strategies. Plate culturing is the “Gold Standard” for bacteria detection.

What are the 4 steps of biofilm formation? ›

Biofilm formation is commonly considered to occur in four main stages: (1) bacterial attachment to a surface, (2) microcolony formation, (3) biofilm maturation and (4) detachment (also termed dispersal) of bacteria which may then colonize new areas [2].

What are the 5 stages of biofilm development with description? ›

Biofilm formation can be divided into five stages: Initial reversible attachment (1), irreversible attachment (2-3), maturation (4) and dispersion (5) as shown in Figure 2. The initial contact of the moving planktonic bacteria with the surface is the starting point, which is still reversible at this stage.

What are 3 methods to detect antibiotic resistance in bacteria? ›

These include PCR, DNA microarray, whole-genome sequencing and metagenomics, and matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization-time of flight mass spectrometry.

What are the three methods of bacterial identification? ›

The three methods used for microbial identification are genotypic, proteotypic, and phenotypic. Genotypic identification analyzes the sequences in the rRNA regions of bacteria and fungi, whereas proteotypic methods analyzes the ribosomal proteins expressed.

What methods are used to detect and measure bacterial growth? ›

Growth curve measurement based on optical density (OD) is one of the most commonly used methods in microbiology for monitoring the growth and proliferation of microbes in time, which provides a simple, reliable and routine way to understand various aspects of the microbes [1–4].

What is the most accurate bacterial identification method? ›

DNA sequencing is the gold standard for microorganism identification. The 16S ribosomal RNA (rRNA) gene is the most common sequencing target for bacteria and is 1542 base pairs (bp) in length.

What five basic techniques are used to identify a microorganism in the laboratory? ›

There are five basic microbiology lab procedures (Five “I's”) that are utilized by the microbiologists to examine and characterize microbes namely Inoculation, Incubation, Isolation, Inspection (Observation), and Identification.

What methods can be used to investigate the effectiveness of antibiotics on bacteria? ›

Scientists can test out the effectiveness of antibiotics and antiseptics on bacterial growth. Bacteria will grow easily on an agar plate . By adding filter paper soaked in a variety of anti-microbial solutions to the pre-prepared agar plate scientists can find out how good the solutions are at killing bacteria.

Which method is used to detect antibiotic sensitivity test? ›

The test is done by taking a sample from the infected site. The most common types of tests are listed below. A health care professional will take a blood sample from a vein in your arm, using a small needle. After the needle is inserted, a small amount of blood will be collected into a test tube or vial.

What is the most common method in testing for antimicrobial susceptibility testing? ›

The Kirby-Bauer agar diffusion method is well documented and is the standardized method for determining antimicrobial susceptibility. White filter paper disks (6 mm in diameter) are impregnated with known amounts of antimicrobial agents. Each disk is coded with the name and concentration of the agent.


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