How bacteria recognise and respond to surface contact

Tom E. P. Kimkes, Matthias Heinemann*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

98 Citations (Scopus)
177 Downloads (Pure)


Bacterial biofilms can cause medical problems and issues in technical systems. While a large body of knowledge exists on the phenotypes of planktonic and of sessile cells in mature biofilms, our understanding of what happens when bacteria change from the planktonic to the sessile state is still very incomplete. Fundamental questions are unanswered: for instance, how do bacteria sense that they are in contact with a surface, and what are the very initial cellular responses to surface contact. Here, we review the current knowledge on the signals that bacteria could perceive once they attach to a surface, the signal transduction systems that could be involved in sensing the surface contact and the cellular responses that are triggered as a consequence to surface contact ultimately leading to biofilm formation. Finally, as the main obstacle in investigating the initial responses to surface contact has been the difficulty to experimentally study the dynamic response of single cells upon surface attachment, we also review recent experimental approaches that could be employed to study bacterial surface sensing, which ultimately could lead to an improved understanding of how biofilm formation could be prevented.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)106-122
Number of pages17
JournalFEMS Microbiology Reviews
Issue number1
Early online date26-Nov-2019
Publication statusPublished - Jan-2020


  • Escherichia coli
  • adhesion
  • planktonic cells
  • sessile cells
  • signal transduction
  • surface sensing


Dive into the research topics of 'How bacteria recognise and respond to surface contact'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this