Community biofilm-formation, stratification and productivity in serially-transferred microcosms

Robyn Jerdan, Scott Cameron, Emily Donaldson, Olga Iungin, Olena V. Moshynets, Andrew J. Spiers*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
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The establishment of O2 gradients in liquid columns by bacterial metabolic activity produces a spatially-structured environment. This produces a high-O2 region at the top that represents an un-occupied niche which could be colonised by biofilm-competent strains. We have used this to develop an experimental model system using soil-wash inocula and a serial-transfer approach to investigate changes in community-based biofilm-formation and productivity. This involved 10 transfers of mixed-community or biofilm-only samples over a total of 10–60 days incubation. In all final-transfer communities the ability to form biofilms was retained, though in longer incubations the build-up of toxic metabolites limited productivity. Measurements of microcosm productivity, biofilm-strength and attachment levels were used to assess community-aggregated traits which showed changes at both the community and individual-strain levels. Final-transfer communities were stratified with strains demonstrating a plastic phenotype when migrating between the high and low-O2 regions. The majority of community productivity came from the O2-depleted region rather than the top of the liquid column. This model system illustrates the complexity we expect to see in natural biofilm-forming communities. The connection between biofilms and the liquid column seen here has important implications for how these structures form and respond to selective pressure.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberfnaa187
Number of pages11
JournalFEMS Microbiology Letters
Issue number24
Early online date18 Nov 2020
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2020


  • Air-liquid (A-L) interface biofilm
  • Bacterial communities
  • Community-aggregated traits
  • Community change
  • Experimental microcosm
  • Productivity


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