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In situ mesoscale imaging of live biofilm dynamics using SALVI

EMSL Project ID


We seek to understand how the dynamics of nutrients, metabolites and metals influence microbial processes in biofilm systems. Our approach will use axenic or heterogeneous microbial communities to test how microorganisms interact with their environment at the pore-scale. Our overarching hypothesis is that biophysical and biochemical changes at the molecular level translate to cellular biochemical and structural responses and ultimately determine functions of microbial systems in a specific environment (e.g., biofilms). Chemical and metabolic observations corresponding to structural data are needed for mesoscale studies. We aim to address the following science questions: 1) What are the important molecular processes that control ion/electron transport across biological interfaces? and 2) How does nutrient exchange in a complex ecosystem influence molecular processes and microbial functions? We will conduct an integrative analysis of communication among biological subcellular components and multicellular organisms at scales ranging from molecular to several micrometers relevant to ecosystem levels using the EMSL analytical instrument, SAVLI (system for analysis at the liquid vacuum interface) coupled with multiple chemical imaging techniques. The portable SALVI platform, developed in EMSL, is suitable for finely focused imaging tools such as time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectrometry (ToF-SIMS), nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), and super resolution fluorescence structure illumination microscopy (SIM). Using the SALVI microfluidic platform, we will examine how spatial heterogeneity in biofilm formation and EPS production influences biofilm dynamics in the mesoscale by imaging live biofilms using multimodal chemical imaging techniques. We will also investigate electron transfer reactions at the interface between the biofilm and the anode electrode to ascertain how potential-dependent current production varies at different development stages of biofilm from single attached cells to a mature, multicellular, three-dimensional structure. Computational simulation will be employed to understand how microscale fluxes impact the observed macroscale phenomena. These results will provide dynamic multiscale understanding of diverse microbial phenomic parameters from living biofilms and underpin integrative predications of dynamic cellular processes and interactions of real-world environments. The multimodal mesoscale imaging results will advance our fundamental understandings of molecular processes in terrestrial and subsurface environments and inform predicative understanding of biogeochemistry components of Earth System Models.

Project Details

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Principal Investigator

Xiao-Ying Yu
Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Team Members

Rachel Komorek
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Sandip Sabale
Jaysingpur College

Ryan Renslow
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Matthew Marshall
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory