Cell growth and protein expression of Shewanella oneidensis in biofilms and hydrogel-entrapped cultures†
The performance of biofilm-based bioprocesses is difficult to predict and control because of the intrinsic heterogeneous and dynamic properties of microbial biofilms. Biofilm mimics, such as microbial cells entrapped in polymeric scaffolds that are permeable for nutrients, have been proposed to replace real biofilms to achieve long-term robust performance in engineering applications. However, the physiological differences between cells that are physically entrapped in a synthetic polymeric matrix and biofilm cells that are encased in a self-produced polymeric matrix remain unknown. In this study, using Shewanella oneidensis as a model organism and alginate hydrogel as a model synthetic matrix, we compared the cell growth and protein expression in entrapped cultures and biofilms. The hydrogel-entrapped cultures were found to exhibit a growth rate comparable with biofilms. There was no substantial difference in cell viability, surface charge, as well as hydrophobicity between the cells grown in alginate hydrogel and those grown in biofilms. However, the gel-entrapped cultures were found to be physiologically different from biofilms. The gel-entrapped cultures had a higher demand for metabolic energy. The siderophore-mediated iron uptake was repressed in the gel-entrapped cells. The presence of the hydrogel matrix decreased the expression of proteins involved in biofilm formation, while inducing the production of extracellular DNA (eDNA) in the gel-entrapped cultures. These results advance the fundamental understanding of the physiology of hydrogel-entrapped cells, which can lead to more efficient biofilm mimic-based applications.