A 3D computer model analysis of three hypothetical biofilm detachment mechanisms

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Three hypothetical mechanisms of detachment were incorporated into a three-dimensional computer model of biofilm development. The model integrated processes of substrate utilization, substrate diffusion, growth, cell advection, and detachment in a cellular automata framework. The purpose of this investigation was to characterize each of the mechanisms with respect to four criteria: the resulting biofilm structure, the existence of a steady state, the propensity for sloughing events, and the dynamics during starvation. The three detachment mechanisms analyzed represented various physical and biological influences hypothesized to affect biofilm detachment. The first invoked the concept of fluid shear removing biomass that protrudes far above the surface and is therefore subjected to relatively large drag forces. The second pathway linked detachment to changes in the local availability of a nutrient. The third pathway simulated an erosive process in which individual cells are lost from the surface of a biofilm cell cluster. The detachment mechanisms demonstrated diverse behaviors with respect to the four analysis criteria. The height dependant mechanism produced flat, steady state biofilms that lacked sloughing events. Detachment based on substrate limitation produced significant sloughing events. The resulting biofilm structures included distinct, hollow clusters separated by channels. The erosion mechanism produced neither a non-zero steady state nor sloughing events. A mechanism combining all three detachment mechanisms produced mushroom-like structures. The dynamics of biofilm decay during starvation were distinct for each detachment mechanism. These results show that detachment is a critical determinant of biofilm structure and of the dynamics of biofilm accumulation and loss.




Chambless JD, Stewart PS, "A 3D computer model analysis of three hypothetical biofilm detachment mechanisms," Biotechnol. Bioeng., 97(6):1573-1584 (2007)
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