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


The authors thank Dr. Carlos Barreiro Méndez and Dr. Ricardo Vicente Ullán from Inbiotec: Instituto de Biotecnología de León for providing the strain DEV1. The authors thank Valentina James and Loredana Napolano from Sviluppo Tecnologie e Ricerca per l'Edilizia Sismicamente Sicura ed ecoSostenibile (STRESS for help at the Napoli, Italy environmental test site. The authors thank Dr. Alenka Malej and Dr. Tinkara Tinta from Marine Biology Station Piran for help at the Piran, Slovenia environmental test site. This work was supported by Slovenian Research Agency [Grant Numbers J1-6746, J4-7640, and J1-9194]; the Government of the Russian Federation [Grant Number 14.Z50.31.0004], the European Regional Development Fund [Grant Number UIA02-228] and the European Commission [Grant Numbers 282881 and 826312].

FundersFunder number
Instituto de Biotecnología de León
Sviluppo Tecnologie e Ricerca per l'Edilizia Sismicamente Sicura
Seventh Framework Programme826312, 952379, 282881
European Commission
Javna Agencija za Raziskovalno Dejavnost RSJ4-7640, J1-9194, J1-6746
European Regional Development FundUIA02-228
Government Council on Grants, Russian Federation


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


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