Atomic force microscopy and theoretical considerations of surface properties and turgor pressures of bacteria

X. Yao, J. Walter, S. Burke, S. Stewart, M. H. Jericho, D. Pink, R. Hunter, T. J. Beveridge

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

154 Scopus citations


The properties of viable bacteria were investigated with the Atomic Force Microscope (AFM). By depositing bacteria on aluminum oxide filters, the adhesion of Si3N4 tips to the surfaces of Gram-negative bacterial strains possessing different lipopolysacharides (LPS) (i.e. Pseudomonas aeruginosa PAO1 and its isogenic mutants) was investigated without the use of surface modifying or bonding agents to adhere cells to the filter. Our measurements suggest that adhesion forces for Si3N4 to these bacteria were below our detection limit of 50-100 pN. Turgor pressures were also investigated for a spherical Gram-positive bacterium (Enterococcus hirae) as well as the rod-shaped Gram-negative P. aeruginosa. A simple relationship between bacterial indentation depth and turgor pressure for the spherical bacterium was first derived and gave a turgor pressure for E. hirae in deionized water of 4-6×105 Pa. This is the first such measurement for a spherical Gram-positive bacterium. AFM deformations of the cell envelope of P. aeruginosa gave turgor pressures in the range 0.1-0.2×105 Pa in growth medium and 1.5-4×105 Pa in distilled water. These pressure ranges compared well with previously published values derived by other means for Gram-negative rods. The imaging of bacteria under growth medium was only possible on aluminum-oxide filters. It is proposed that the 20 nm diameter pores of these filters might facilitate the attachment of bacteria. A Monte-Carlo study was carried out which showed that bacterial adhesion will be both encouraged and stronger if hydrogen bonding takes place between LPS O-sidechains and the inside surface of the filter's pores.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)213-230
Number of pages18
JournalColloids and Surfaces B: Biointerfaces
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - 2002

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
MHJ, DP and TJB are supported by a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC)-Collaborative Health Research Program (CHRP) grant. We are very grateful to Bonnie Quinn for her tireless effort with the computer simulations and to D. Dahn for help with some AFM problems.

Copyright 2007 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • AFM
  • Bacteria
  • LPS adhesion
  • Monte-Carlo hydrogen bonds
  • Turgor pressure


Dive into the research topics of 'Atomic force microscopy and theoretical considerations of surface properties and turgor pressures of bacteria'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this