Insight into the mechanisms underlying bacterial adhesion is critical to the formulation of membrane biofouling control strategies. Using AFM-based single-cell force spectroscopy, we investigated the interaction between Pseudomonas fluorescens, a biofilm-forming bacterium, and polysulfone (PSF) ultrafiltration (UF) membranes to unravel the mechanisms underlying early stage membrane biofouling. We show that hydrophilic polydopamine (PDA) coatings decrease bacterial adhesion forces at short bacterium-membrane contact times. Further, we find that adhesion forces are weakened by the presence of natural organic matter (NOM) conditioning films, owing to the hydrophilicity of NOM. Investigation of the effect of adhesion contact time revealed that PDA coatings are less effective at preventing bioadhesion when the contact time is prolonged to 2–5 s, or when the membranes are exposed to bacterial suspensions under stirring. These results therefore challenge the notion that simple hydrophilic surface coatings are effective as a biofouling control strategy. Finally, we present evidence that adhesion to the UF membrane surface is mediated by cell-surface macromolecules (likely to be outer membrane proteins and pili) which, upon contacting the membrane, undergo surface-induced unfolding.
- Surface interactions
- cell physiology