Cellular and molecular investigations of the adhesion and mechanics of Listeria monocytogenes
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Atomic force microscopy has been used to quantify the adherence and mechanical properties of an array of L. monocytogenes strains and their surface biopolymers. First, eight L. monocytogenes strains that represented the two major lineages of the species were compared for their adherence and mechanics at cellular and molecular levels. Our results indicated that strains of lineage' II were characterized by higher adhesion and Young's moduli, longer and more rigid surface biopolymers and lower specific and nonspecific forces when compared to lineage' I strains. Additionally, adherence and mechanical properties of eight L. monocytogenes epidemic and environmental strains were probed. Our results pointed to that environmental and epidemic strains representative of a given lineage were similar in their adherence and mechanical properties when investigated at a cellular level. However, when the molecular properties of the strains were considered, epidemic strains were characterized by higher specific and nonspecific forces, shorter, denser and more flexible biopolymers compared to environmental strains. Second, the role of environmental pH conditions of growth on the adhesion and mechanics of a pathogenic L. monocytogenes EGDe was investigated. Our results pointed to a transition in the adhesion energies for cells cultured at pH 7. In addition, when the types of molecular forces that govern the adhesion were quantified using Poisson statistical approach and using a new proposed method, specific hydrogen-bond energies dominated the bacterial adhesion process. Such a finding is instrumental to researchers designing methods to control bacterial adhesion. Similarly, bacterial cells underwent a transition in their mechanical properties. We have shown that cells cultured at pH 7 were the most rigid compared to those cultured in lower or higher pH conditions of growth. Due to transitions observed in adherence and mechanics when cells were cultured at pH 7, we hypothesized that adhesion and mechanics are correlated. To test this hypothesis, nonadhesive and adhesive models of contact mechanics were used to estimate Young's moduli. Our results indicated that the nonadhesive model of contact mechanics estimated 18 % more rigid bacterial cells. Our results thus point to the importance of considering molecular details when investigating bacterial adhesion and mechanics.