Atomic force microscopy (AFM) has garnered much interest in recent years for its ability to probe the structure, function and cellular nanomechanics inherent to specific biological cells. In particular, we have used AFM to probe the important structure-function relationships of the bacterium Streptococcus mutans. S. mutans is the primary aetiological agent in human dental caries (tooth decay), and is of medical importance due to the virulence properties of these cells in biofilm initiation and formation, leading to increased tolerance to antibiotics. We have used AFM to characterize the unique surface structures of distinct mutants of S. mutans. These mutations are located in specific genes that encode surface proteins, thus using AFM we have resolved characteristic surface features for mutant strains compared to the wild type. Ultimately, our characterization of surface morphology has shown distinct differences in the local properties displayed by various S. mutans strains on the nanoscale, which is imperative for understanding the collective properties of these cells in biofilm formation.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Materials Science(all)
- Mechanics of Materials
- Mechanical Engineering
- Electrical and Electronic Engineering