Lineage dynamics in growing biofilms: Spatial patterns of standing vs. de novo diversity

Ellen Young, Rosalind J. Allen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Microbial biofilms show high phenotypic and genetic diversity, yet the
mechanisms underlying diversity generation and maintenance remain unclear.
Here, we investigate how spatial patterns of growth activity within a biofilm
lead to spatial patterns of genetic diversity. Using individual-based computer
simulations, we show that the active layer of growing cells at the biofilm
interface controls the distribution of lineages within the biofilm, and therefore
the patterns of standing and de novo diversity. Comparing biofilms of equal
size, those with a thick active layer retain more standing diversity, while de
novo diversity is more evenly distributed within the biofilm. In contrast, equal-
sized biofilms with a thin active layer retain less standing diversity, and their de
novo diversity is concentrated at the top of the biofilm, and in fewer lineages.
In the context of antimicrobial resistance, biofilms with a thin active layer may
be more prone to generate lineages with multiple resistance mutations, and
to seed new resistant biofilms via sloughing of resistant cells from the upper
layers. Our study reveals fundamental “baseline” mechanisms underlying the
patterning of diversity within biofilms.
Original languageEnglish
Article number13:915095
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jul 2022


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