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Bacterial interaction forces shape biofilms

 Sorting of bacteria with respect to their interaction forces. Bacteria with lower interaction forces (orange) segregate to the front of an expanding microcolony.

Communities of bacterial cells can live together embedded within a slime-like molecular matrix as a biofilm. This allows the bacteria to hide from external stresses. A single bacterium can replicate itself and develop into a biofilm, and over time the bacterial cells in specific regions of the biofilm will start to interact with their neighbors in different ways. These interactions occur via structures on the surface of the bacterial cells, and the differences in these interactions resemble those that occur as cells specialize during the development of animal embryos. In this project, we address the question how differential interaction forces between bacteria govern the local structure and global morphology of the biofilm. In the long term, we want to understand how bacterial interaction forces impact on bacterial fitness under benign conditions and under external stress.