Research is the first to unlock the secret of microbial slime

The slimy outer layer of fungi and bacteria known as the "extracellular matrix," or ECM, has the consistency of jelly and acts as a protective and envelope layer. But, according to a recent study in the journal iScience, ...

Life and death of an 'altruistic' bacterium

Biofilms, complex communities of bacteria, abound around us: on the surface of cheese where they give off flavors and aromas, in streams where they form the slimy substance on rocks, on our teeth where they form plaque.

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A biofilm is an aggregate of microorganisms in which cells are stuck to each other and/or to a surface. These adherent cells are frequently embedded within a self-produced matrix of extracellular polymeric substance (EPS). Biofilm EPS, which is also refered to as "slime," is a polymeric jumble of DNA, proteins and polysaccharides. Biofilms may form on living or non-living surfaces, and represent a prevalent mode of microbial life in natural, industrial and hospital settings . The cells of a microorganism growing in a biofilm are physiologically distinct from planktonic cells of the same organism, which by contrast, are single-cells that may float or swim in a liquid medium. Microbes form a biofilm in response to many factors, which may include cellular recognition of specific or non-specific attachment sites on a surface, nutritional cues, or in some cases, by exposure of planktonic cells to sub-inhibitory concentrations of antibiotics . When a cell switches to the biofilm mode of growth, it undergoes a phenotypic shift in behavior in which large suites of genes are differentially regulated .

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