Single-Cell Adhesion Force Mapping of a Highly Sticky Bacterium in Liquid

18 March 2021, Version 1
This content is a preprint and has not undergone peer review at the time of posting.


The highly sticky bacterium Acinetobacter sp. Tol 5 adheres to various material surfaces via its cell surface nanofiber protein, AtaA. This adhesiveness has only been evaluated based on the amount of cells adhering to a surface. In this study, the adhesion force mapping of a single Tol 5 cell in liquid using the quantitative imaging mode of atomic force microscopy (AFM) revealed that the strong adhesion of Tol 5 was several nanonewtons, which was outstanding compared with other adhesive bacteria. The adhesion force of a cell became stronger with the increase in AtaA molecules present on the cell surface. Many fibers of peritrichate AtaA molecules simultaneously interact with a surface, strongly attaching the cell to the surface. The adhesion force of a Tol 5 cell was drastically reduced in the presence of 1% casamino acids but not in deionized water (DW), although both liquids decrease the adhesiveness of Tol 5 cells, suggesting that DW and casamino acids inhibit the cell approaching step and the subsequent direct interaction step of AtaA with surfaces, respectively. Heterologous production of AtaA provided non-adhesive Acinetobacter baylyi ADP1 cells with a strong adhesion force to AFM tip surfaces of silicon and gold.


single cell analysis
cell adhesion

Supplementary materials

Graphical abstract


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