Stiffness signatures along early stages of Xylella fastidiosa biofilm formation

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The pathogenicity of Xylella fastidiosa is associated with its systematic colonization of the plant xylem, forming bacterial biofilms. Mechanisms of bacterial transport among different xylem vessels, however, are not completely understood yet, but are strongly influenced by the presence of extracellular polymeric substances (EPS), which surrounds the assembly of cells forming the biofilm. In this work, we show quantitative measurements on the elastic properties of the system composed by EPS and bacterial cell. In order to investigate the mechanical properties of this system, force spectroscopy and confocal Raman measurements were carried out during Xylella fastidiosa subsp. pauca initial stages of adhesion and cluster formation. We show that stiffness progressively decreases with increasing culture growth time, from two to five days. For early adhesion samples, stiffness values are quite different at the bacterial polar and body regions. Lower stiffness values at the cell pole suggest a flexible mechanical, response at this region, associated with first cell adhesion to a surface. These results correlate very well with our observations of cell motion within microchannels, under conditions simulating xylem flow. Both the oscillatory movement of vertically attached single cells, as well as the transport of cell clusters within the biofilm matrix can be explained by the presence of softer materials at the cell pole and EPS matrix. Our results may thus add to a more detailed understanding of mechanisms used by cells to migrate among vessels in plant xylem. (C) 2017 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


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  • Xylella fastidiosa