Extracellular Polymeric Substance Production and Aggregated Bacteria Colonization Influence the Competition of Microbes in Biofilms

Pahala G. Jayathilake, Saikat Jana, Steve Rushton, David Swailes, Ben Bridgens, Tom Curtis, Jinju Chen

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57 Citations (Scopus)
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The production of extracellular polymeric substance (EPS) is important for the survival of biofilms. However, EPS production is costly for bacteria and the bacterial strains that produce EPS (EPS+) grow in the same environment as non-producers (EPS−) leading to competition between these strains for nutrients and space. The outcome of this competition is likely to be dependent on factors such as initial attachment, EPS production rate, ambient nutrient levels and quorum sensing. We use an Individual-based Model (IbM) to study the competition between EPS+ and EPS− strains by varying the nature of initial colonizers which can either be in the form of single cells or multicellular aggregates. The microbes with EPS+ characteristics obtain a competitive advantage if they initially colonize the surface as smaller aggregates and are widely spread-out between the cells of EPS−, when both are deposited on the substratum. Furthermore, the results show that quorum sensing-regulated EPS production may significantly reduce the fitness of EPS producers when they initially deposit as aggregates. The results provide insights into how the distribution of bacterial aggregates during initial colonization could be a deciding factor in the competition among different strains in biofilms.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages14
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 27 Sept 2017

Bibliographical note

The authors would like to thank the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) for funding this work as part of the Newcastle University Frontiers in Engineering Biology (NUFEB) project (EP/K039083/1). This work would not have been possible without the multi-disciplinary collaboration that has been enabled by this award.


  • individual-based model
  • biofilm
  • competition
  • EPS
  • aggregates
  • quorum sensing


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