A Versatile Strategy for Characterization and Imaging of Drip Flow Microbial Biofilms

Bin Li, Sage J.B. Dunham, Joseph F. Ellis, Justin D. Lange, Justin R. Smith, Ning Yang, Travis L. King, Kensey R. Amaya, Clint M. Arnett, Jonathan V. Sweedler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The inherent architectural and chemical complexities of microbial biofilms mask our understanding of how these communities form, survive, propagate, and influence their surrounding environment. Here we describe a simple and versatile workflow for the cultivation and characterization of model flow-cell-based microbial ecosystems. A customized low-shear drip flow reactor was designed and employed to cultivate single and coculture flow-cell biofilms at the air-liquid interface of several metal surfaces. Pseudomonas putida F1 and Shewanella oneidensis MR-1 were selected as model organisms for this study. The utility and versatility of this platform was demonstrated via the application of several chemical and morphological imaging techniques - including matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization mass spectrometry imaging, secondary ion mass spectrometry imaging, and scanning electron microscopy - and through the examination of model systems grown on iron substrates of varying compositions. Implementation of these techniques in combination with tandem mass spectrometry and a two-step imaging principal component analysis strategy resulted in the identification and characterization of 23 lipids and 3 oligosaccharides in P. putida F1 biofilms, the discovery of interaction-specific analytes, and the observation of several variations in cell and substrate morphology present during microbially influenced corrosion. The presented workflow is well-suited for examination of both single and multispecies drip flow biofilms and offers a platform for fundamental inquiries into biofilm formation, microbe-microbe interactions, and microbially influenced corrosion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6725-6734
Number of pages10
JournalAnalytical Chemistry
Issue number11
StatePublished - Jun 5 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry


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