The Allison Lab tracks individual bacteria to understand antibiotic resistance and multicellular biofilms
Bacterial biofilms are multicellular communities that contribute to infections. Though their genetics have been studied, cellular-scale observations of their development are generally lacking. The above image depicts micrographs of a novel multicellular developmental process in E. coli (above; scale bar 10 μm) and the resulting biofilm grown from a mixture of red and green (cyan) cells (below; scale bar is 500 μm). Puri et. al., tracked the entirety of morphogenesis in Escherichia coli at the cellular-scale and report a novel multicellular developmental process, initiated by the formation of 4-cell rosettes that then grow into ~1,000 chain-like communities before attaching to surfaces as clonal units. The parallel-aligned accumulation generates biofilms. This process has multiple distinct stages each of which is genetically-regulated. This study establishes that E. coli, a unicellular bacterium, can follow a clonal, multi-stage, rosette-initiated multicellular life cycle, that unfolds at the microscopic scale.