Structural cell biology of bacterial biofilm formation

Year of award: 2016


  • Dr Tanmay Bharat

    University of Oxford

Project summary

Bacterial cells can attach to surfaces and form large communities known as biofilms. Cells in a biofilm community are tolerant to a wide variety of environmental stresses. Most notably they can become tolerant to antibiotics. Two such bacteria are Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Both of these bacteria can enter the human body, form a biofilm in the infected tissue and lead to disease. Understanding how bacterial biofilms are built is therefore important to understand the infection process of these pathogenic bacteria. 

Recent developments in microscopic imaging methods, that use electrons rather than light, have provided an important alternative method for researchers to investigate biological material. It is Tanmay’s goal to apply the latest electron microscopy imaging technology to study bacterial biofilms. 

I will use electron microscopy imaging to produce high-resolution pictures of bacterial biofilms in 3D. I will use these pictures to work out where key molecules that mediate biofilm formation are located. I will use electron microscopy methods to solve the atomic structures of these key molecules in order to understand how they influence biofilm formation. Together, these experiments may lead to ideas on how to disrupt bacterial biofilms and help infected individuals.