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Fluorescence Spectroscopy Analysis of the Bacteria–Mineral Interface: Adsorption of Lipopolysaccharides to Silica and Alumina

We’re delighted that we have just published an article in the journal Langmuir. This study, written by Fateh El-Taboni, Emily Caseley, Maria Katsikogianni, Linda Swanson, Thomas Swift and Maria E. Romero-González reports our work on studying Liposaccharide’s produced by bacteria in the formation of biofilms. The full paper can be read at the journal Langmuir


We present here a quantification of the sorption process and molecular conformation involved in the attachment of bacterial cell wall lipopolysaccharides (LPSs), extracted from Escherichia coli, to silica (SiO2) and alumina (Al2O3) particles. We propose that interfacial forces govern the physicochemical interactions of the bacterial cell wall with minerals in the natural environment, and the molecular conformation of LPS cell wall components depends on both the local charge at the point of binding and hydrogen bonding potential. This has an effect on bacterial adaptation to the host environment through adhesion, growth, function, and ability to form biofilms. Photophysical techniques were used to investigate adsorption of fluorescently labeled LPS onto mineral surfaces as model systems for bacterial attachment. Adsorption of macromolecules in dilute solutions was studied as a function of pH and ionic strength in the presence of alumina and silica via fluorescence, potentiometric, and mass spectrometry techniques. The effect of silica and alumina particles on bacterial growth as a function of pH was also investigated using spectrophotometry. The alumina and silica particles were used to mimic active sites on the surface of clay and soil particles, which serve as a point of attachment of bacteria in natural systems. It was found that LPS had a high adsorption affinity for Al2O3 while adsorbing weakly to SiO2 surfaces. Strong adsorption was observed at low pH for both minerals and varied with both pH and mineral concentration, likely in part due to conformational rearrangement of the LPS macromolecules. Bacterial growth was also enhanced in the presence of the particles at low pH values. This demonstrates that at a molecular level, bacterial cell wall components are able to adapt their conformation, depending on the solution pH, in order to maximize attachment to substrates and guarantee community survival.