Microbial biofilms

In most natural, clinical and industrial settings, microorganisms exist in biofilms that associate with biotic and abiotic surfaces. These three-dimensional single-species or polymicrobial communities are embedded in a self-produced matrix that enables the intercellular exchange of metabolites, genetic material and signalling molecules. In addition, these microbial consortia provide protection against predators and antimicrobial agents, and they are widely studied owing to their clinical relevance, their ubiquitous nature and the functional insights that they provide into microbial ecology. Although most natural biofilms are polymicrobial, much has been learned about the basic biology of these communities through the study of single-species biofilms using model bacteria; however, the field is currently experiencing a paradigm shift and is moving towards the study of multi-species communities in an effort to learn more about competitive and cooperative microbial behaviour.

In this series of articles, Nature Reviews Microbiology explores the fascinating insights into biofilm ecology, the molecular mechanisms and regulation of biofilm formation, and the emerging physiological properties of this universal microbial lifestyle.

Bacterial biofilm forming