Cell-gel interactions of in-gel propagating bacteria

Philip Serwer, Barbara Hunter, Elena T. Wright

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Objective: Our immediate objective is to test the data-suggested possibility that in-agarose gel bacterial propagation causes gel fiber dislocation and alteration of cell distribution. We also test the further effect of lowering water activity. We perform these tests with both Gram-negative and Gram-positive bacteria. Data are obtained via electron microscopy of thin sections, which provides the first images of both bacteria and gel fibers in gel-supported bacterial lawns. The long-term objective is analysis of the effects of in-gel propagation on the DNA packaging of phages. Results: We find that agarose gel-supported cells in lawns of Escherichia coli and Lysinibacillus (1) are primarily in clusters that increase in size with time and are surrounded by gel fibers, and (2) sometimes undergo gel-induced, post-duplication rotation and translation. Bacterial growth-induced dislocation of gel fibers is observed. One reason for clustering is that clustering promotes growth by increasing the growth-derived force applied to the gel fibers. Reactive force exerted by gel on cells explains cell movement. Finally, addition to growth medium of 0.94 M sucrose causes cluster-associated E. coli cells to become more densely packed and polymorphic. Shape is determined, in part, by neighboring cells, a novel observation to our knowledge.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number699
JournalBMC Research Notes
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 4 2018


  • Bacterial clustering
  • Bacterial plasticity
  • Electron microscopy
  • In-gel bacterial propagation
  • Thin sections

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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