This work presents in situ biosensing approaches to study the nanomechanical and electrochemical behaviour of Streptococcus mutans biofilms under different cultivation conditions and microenvironments. The surface characteristics and sub-surface electrochemistry of the cell wall of S. mutans were measured by atomic force microscopy (AFM) based techniques to monitor the in situ biophysical status of biofilms under common anti-pathogenic procedures such as ultraviolet (UV) radiation and alcohol treatment. The AFM nanoindentation suggested a positive correlation between nanomechanical strength and the level of UV radiation of S. mutans; scanning impedance spectroscopy of dehydrated biofilms revealed reduced electrical resistance that is distinctive from that of living biofilms, which can be explained by the discharge of cytoplasm after alcohol treatment. Furthermore, the localized elastic moduli of four regions of the biofilm were studied: septum (Z-ring), cell wall, the interconnecting area between two cells and extracellular polymeric substance (EPS) area. The results indicated that cell walls exhibit the highest elastic modulus, followed by Z-ring, interconnect and EPS. Our approach provides an effective alternative for the characterization of the viability of living cells without the use of biochemical labelling tools such as fluorescence dyeing, and does not rely on surface binding or immobilization for detection. These AFM-based techniques can be very promising approaches when the conventional methods fall short.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
- Condensed Matter Physics
- Acoustics and Ultrasonics
- Surfaces, Coatings and Films