Behavior of E. coli with Variable Surface Morphology Changes on Charged Semiconductor Interfaces

Bacterial behavior is often controlled by structural and composition elements of their cell wall. Using genetic mutant strains that change specific aspects of their surface structure, we modified bacterial behavior in response to semiconductor surfaces. We monitored the adhesion, membrane potential, and catalase activity of the Gram-negative bacterium Escherichia coli (E. coli) that were mutant for genes encoding components of their surface architecture, specifically flagella, fimbriae, curli, and components of the lipopolysaccharide membrane, while on gallium nitride (GaN) surfaces with different surface potentials. The bacteria and the semiconductor surface properties were recorded prior to the biofilm studies. The data from the materials and bioassays characterization supports the notion that alteration of the surface structure of the E. coli bacterium resulted in changes to bacterium behavior on the GaN medium. Loss of specific surface structure on the E. coli bacterium reduced its sensitivity to the semiconductor interfaces, while other mutations increase bacterial adhesion when compared to the wild-type control E. coli bacteria. These results demonstrate that bacterial behavior and responses to GaN semiconductor materials can be controlled genetically and can be utilized to tune the fate of living bacteria on GaN surfaces.