Natural Microbial Communities Can Be Manipulated by Artificially Constructed Biofilms

Tomaž Rijavec, Jan Zrimec, Rob van Spanning, Aleš Lapanje*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Biofouling proceeds in successive steps where the primary colonizers affect the phylogenetic and functional structure of a future microbial consortium. Using microbiologically influenced corrosion (MIC) as a study case, a novel approach for material surface protection is described, which does not prevent biofouling, but rather shapes the process of natural biofilm development to exclude MIC-related microorganisms. This approach interferes with the early steps of natural biofilm formation affecting how the community is finally developed. It is based on a multilayer artificial biofilm, composed of electrostatically modified bacterial cells, producing antimicrobial compounds, extracellular antimicrobial polyelectrolyte matrix, and a water-proof rubber elastomer barrier. The artificial biofilm is constructed layer-by-layer (LBL) by manipulating the electrostatic interactions between microbial cells and material surfaces. Field testing on standard steel coupons exposed in the sea for more than 30 days followed by laboratory analyses using molecular-biology tools demonstrate that the preapplied artificial biofilm affects the phylogenetic structure of the developing natural biofilm, reducing phylogenetic diversity and excluding MIC-related bacteria. This sustainable solution for material protection showcases the usefulness of artificially guiding microbial evolutionary processes via the electrostatic modification and controlled delivery of bacterial cells and extracellular matrix to the exposed material surfaces.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1901408
JournalAdvanced Science
Issue number22
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019


  • 16S rRNA
  • bacteria
  • layer-by-layer (LBL)
  • metagenomic
  • nanolayers
  • polyelectrolytes


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