Architectural transitions in Vibrio cholerae biofilms at single-cell resolution

Knut Drescher, Jörn Dunkel, Carey D. Nadell, Sven Van Teeffelen, Ivan Grnja, Ned S. Wingreen, Howard A. Stone, Bonnie Lynn Bassler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

152 Scopus citations


Many bacterial species colonize surfaces and form dense 3D structures, known as biofilms, which are highly tolerant to antibiotics and constitute one of the major forms of bacterial biomass on Earth. Bacterial biofilms display remarkable changes during their development from initial attachment to maturity, yet the cellular architecture that gives rise to collective biofilm morphology during growth is largely unknown. Here, we use high-resolution optical microscopy to image all individual cells in Vibrio cholerae biofilms at different stages of development, including colonies that range in size from 2 to 4,500 cells. From these data, we extracted the precise 3D cellular arrangements, cell shapes, sizes, and global morphological features during biofilm growth on submerged glass substrates under flow. We discovered several critical transitions of the internal and external biofilm architectures that separate the major phases of V. cholerae biofilm growth. Optical imaging of biofilms with single-cell resolution provides a new window into biofilm formation that will prove invaluable to understanding the mechanics underlying biofilm development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E2066-E2072
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number14
StatePublished - Apr 5 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


  • Biofilm
  • Community
  • Emergent order
  • Nematic order
  • Self-organization


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