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From a thin film model for passive suspensions towards the description of osmotic biofilm spreading

Sarah Trinschek Karin John Uwe Thiele

*Corresponding author: Uwe Thiele u.thiele@uni-muenster.de


Biofilms are ubiquitous macro-colonies of bacteria that develop at various interfaces (solid- liquid, solid-gas or liquid-gas). The formation of biofilms starts with the attachment of individual bac- teria to an interface, where they proliferate and produce a slimy polymeric matrix - two processes that result in colony growth and spreading. Recent experiments on the growth of biofilms on agar substrates under air have shown that for certain bacterial strains, the production of the extracellular matrix and the resulting osmotic influx of nutrient-rich water from the agar into the biofilm are more crucial for the spreading behaviour of a biofilm than the motility of individual bacteria. We present a model which de- scribes the biofilm evolution and the advancing biofilm edge for this spreading mechanism. The model is based on a gradient dynamics formulation for thin films of biologically passive liquid mixtures and suspensions, supplemented by bioactive processes which play a decisive role in the osmotic spreading of biofilms. It explicitly includes the wetting properties of the biofilm on the agar substrate via a dis- joining pressure and can therefore give insight into the interplay between passive surface forces and bioactive growth processes.

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