Although ubiquitous, the processes by which bacteria colonize surfaces remain poorly understood. Here we report results for the influence of the wall shear stress on the early-stage adhesion of Pseudomonas aeruginosa PA14 on glass and polydimethylsiloxane surfaces. We use image analysis to measure the residence time of each adhering bacterium under flow. Our main finding is that, on either surface, the characteristic residence time of bacteria increases approximately linearly as the shear stress increases (∼0-3.5 Pa). To investigate this phenomenon, we used mutant strains defective in surface organelles (type I pili, type IV pili, or the flagellum) or extracellular matrix production. Our results show that, although these bacterial surface features influence the frequency of adhesion events and the early-stage detachment probability, none of them is responsible for the trend in the shear-enhanced adhesion time. These observations bring what we believe are new insights into the mechanism of bacterial attachment in shear flows, and suggest a role for other intrinsic features of the cell surface, or a dynamic cell response to shear stress.
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