Electromagnetic Signaling in Bacterial Biofilms

The vast majority of bacteria in our ecosystem exist in a biofilm.  Biofilms are communities of organisms surrounded by an extracellular polymeric matrix.  Coordination of actions (e.g., cell growth or dispersal) among members of the biofilm community has previously be explained through diffusion of small chemical mediators (a.k.a. quorum sensing).  However, evidence is mounting that additional forms of signaling may be present.  Furthermore, the synthesis and diffuse of chemical mediators may be an energy intensive process.  Signally via electromagnetic fields may be a more efficient mechanism and provide more nuanced communication within a biofilm.  As part of a large multidisciplinary research team the VanEpps Lab is exploring alternative communication within bacterial biofilms, namely electromagnetic signally.  This work involves generating bacterial biofilms under unique conditions to allow for precise detection of and stimulation by electromagnetic fields.  In addition, we our focused on discovery of the mechanism of emission and reception of electromagnetic signals as well as the downstream regulatory pathways.    

Background: Confocal microscope sample, showing stained (fiabrinogen) network