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Controlled Cultivation, Molecular Biology, and Advanced Imaging of Microbial Biofilms

Margie Romine and Jeff McLean, Principal Investigators

Three-dimensional (3-D) confocal laser scanning microscopy images
Three-dimensional (3-D) confocal laser scanning microscopy images of an actively growing biofilm of Shewanella oneidensis MR-1, which was engineered to constitutively express green fluorescent protein. Biofilms are complex 3-D bacterial communities that develop chemical and metabolite gradients with depth. Non-invasive technologies to follow these dynamic profiles as they relate to biological processes is a key capability that PNNL is developing.Researchers at PNNL are developing bioinformatic capabilities to integrate microarray and proteomic data sets. Click for a larger version.

Microbial biofilms are highly structured, matrix-enclosed communities whose cells express genes in patterns very different from their planktonic (free-swimming) counterparts. Biofilms exist in a wide range of environments, such as inside the human mouth, on rock surfaces in rivers, and in corroding steel pipes. Their heterogeneous, three-dimensional nature requires new, innovative approaches for their analysis. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory's (PNNL's) Controlled Cultivation, Molecular Biology, and Advanced Imaging of Microbial Biofilms project team is developing such approaches. Specifically, we are:

  • designing and evaluating a controlled-depth film fermentor to grow biofilms reproducibly with a constrained geometry for depth-resolved analysis
  • constructing a library of biofilm deficient/impaired Shewanella oneidensis MR-1 mutants through targeted gene knock-outs and random transposon mutagenesis to elucidate genetic control of biofilm development and lead to more detailed investigations of gene regulation and expression
  • using noninvasive or minimally invasive technologies to investigate single- and multiple-species interactions with reactive surfaces
  • providing well-defined, controlled samples for developing biofilm research capabilities at PNNL.

This project will provide the foundation for developing capabilities to investigate microbial biofilms, which will have applications in environmental, energy, and health sciences.

Systems Biology at PNNL

Research & Capabilities


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