Surface-attached bacterial communities called biofilms display a diversity of morphologies. Although structural and regulatory components required for biofilm formation are known, it is not understood how these essential constituents promote biofilm surface morphology. Here, using Vibrio cholerae as our model system, we combine mechanical measurements, theory and simulation, quantitative image analyses, surface energy characterizations, and mutagenesis to show that mechanical instabilities, including wrinkling and delamination, underlie the morphogenesis program of growing biofilms. We also identify interfacial energy as a key driving force for mechanomorphogenesis because it dictates the generation of new and the annihilation of existing interfaces. Finally, we discover feedback between mechanomorphogenesis and biofilm expansion, which shapes the overall biofilm contour. The morphogenesis principles that we discover in bacterial biofilms, which rely on mechanical instabilities and interfacial energies, should be generally applicable to morphogenesis processes in tissues in higher organisms.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Immunology and Microbiology(all)
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)