Distinct bacterial population dynamics and disease dissemination after biofilm dispersal and disassembly

Yeping Ma, Yanlin Deng, Haojun Hua, Bee Luan Khoo, Song Lin Chua (Corresponding Author)

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Microbial communities that form surface-attached biofilms must release and disperse their constituent cells into the environment to colonize fresh sites for continued survival of their species. For pathogens, biofilm dispersal is crucial for microbial transmission from environmental reservoirs to hosts, cross-host transmission, and dissemination of infections across tissues within the host. However, research on biofilm dispersal and its consequences in colonization of fresh sites remain poorly understood. Bacterial cells can depart from biofilms via stimuli-induced dispersal or disassembly due to direct degradation of the biofilm matrix, but the complex heterogeneity of bacterial populations released from biofilms rendered their study difficult. Using a novel 3D-bacterial “biofilm-dispersal-then-recolonization” (BDR) microfluidic model, we demonstrated that Pseudomonas aeruginosa biofilms undergo distinct spatiotemporal dynamics during chemical-induced dispersal (CID) and enzymatic disassembly (EDA), with contrasting consequences in recolonization and disease dissemination. Active CID required bacteria to employ bdlA dispersal gene and flagella to depart from biofilms as single cells at consistent velocities but could not recolonize fresh surfaces. This prevented the disseminated bacteria cells from infecting lung spheroids and Caenorhabditis elegans in on-chip coculture experiments. In contrast, EDA by degradation of a major biofilm exopolysaccharide (Psl) released immotile aggregates at high initial velocities, enabling the bacteria to recolonize fresh surfaces and cause infections in the hosts efficiently. Hence, biofilm dispersal is more complex than previously thought, where bacterial populations adopting distinct behavior after biofilm departure may be the key to survival of bacterial species and dissemination of diseases.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1290-1302
Number of pages13
JournalISME Journal
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023


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