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Application of fluorescently labelled lectins for the study of polysaccharides in biofilms with a focus on biofouling of nanofiltration membranes

Mohamed Amine Ben Mlouka Thomas Cousseau Patrick Di Martino

*Corresponding author: Patrick Di Martino Patrick.di-martino@u-cergy.fr


The biofilm state is the dominant microbial lifestyle in nature. A biofilm can be defined as cells organised as microcolonies embedded in an organic polymer matrix of microbial origin living at an interface between two different liquids, air and liquid, or solid and liquid. The biofilm matrix is made of extracellular polymeric substances, polysaccharides being considered as the major structural components of the matrix. Fluorescently labelled lectins have been widely used to stain microbial extracellular glycoconjugates in natural and artificial environments, and to study specific bacterial species or highly complex environments. Biofilm development at the membrane surface conducting to biofouling is one of the major problems encountered during drinking water production by filtration. Biofouling affects the durability and effectiveness of filtration membranes. Biofouling can be reduced by pretreatments in order to control two key parameters of water, the bioavailable organic matter concentration and the concentration of live bacteria. Nanofiltration (NF) is a high technology process particularly suited to the treatment of surface waters to produce drinking water that is highly sensitive to biofouling. The development of strategies for fouling prevention and control requires characterizing the fouling material composition and organisation before and after NF membrane cleaning. The aim of this review is to present basics of biofilm analyses after staining with fluorescently labelled lectins and to focus on the use of fluorescent lectins and confocal laser scanning microscopy to analyse NF membrane biofouling.

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