Bacterial-nanostructure interactions: The role of cell elasticity and adhesion forces

Aaron Elbourne, James Chapman, Amy Gelmi, Daniel Cozzolino, Russell J. Crawford, Vi Khanh Truong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

120 Citations (Scopus)


The attachment of single-celled organisms, namely bacteria and fungi, to abiotic surfaces is of great interest to both the scientific and medical communities. This is because the interaction of such cells has important implications in a range of areas, including biofilm formation, biofouling, antimicrobial surface technologies, and bio-nanotechnologies, as well as infection development, control, and mitigation. While central to many biological phenomena, the factors which govern microbial surface attachment are still not fully understood. This lack of understanding is a direct consequence of the complex nature of cell-surface interactions, which can involve both specific and non-specific interactions. For applications involving micro- and nano-structured surfaces, developing an understanding of such phenomenon is further complicated by the diverse nature of surface architectures, surface chemistry, variation in cellular physiology, and the intended technological output. These factors are extremely important to understand in the emerging field of antibacterial nanostructured surfaces. The aim of this perspective is to re-frame the discussion surrounding the mechanism of nanostructured-microbial surface interactions. Broadly, the article reviews our current understanding of these phenomena, while highlighting the knowledge gaps surrounding the adhesive forces which govern bacterial-nanostructure interactions and the role of cell membrane rigidity in modulating surface activity. The roles of surface charge, cell rigidity, and cell-surface adhesion force in bacterial-surface adsorption are discussed in detail. Presently, most studies have overlooked these areas, which has left many questions unanswered. Further, this perspective article highlights the numerous experimental issues and misinterpretations which surround current studies of antibacterial nanostructured surfaces.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)192-210
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Colloid and Interface Science
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jun 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Adhesion
  • AFM
  • Bacteria
  • Biofilm
  • Cell-surface interactions
  • Membrane rigidity
  • Microbial adsorption


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