Skip to main content

Egalitarianism in Biofilms

We’re sorry, something doesn't seem to be working properly.

Please try refreshing the page. If that doesn't work, please contact support so we can address the problem.


Microbial biofilms are multicellular communities of sessile microorganisms encased by the hydrated polymeric matrix. They have significant influences on both aquatic/terrestrial ecosystem and anthropogenic activities. Taking advantage of the governing features of selective stress (Tan and Ng in Water Res 42:1122–1132, 2008; Wei in Water Res 45:863–871, 2011; Dereli in Water Res 59C:11–22, 2014), the evenness of microbial communities in a membrane-centered mesocosm was successfully manipulated. By measuring the biofilm growing rates under different evenness levels of communities, an evenly distributed community favors the formation of biofilms was observed. This finding is not only a new evidence linking biofilm diversity to its functionality but also a clear suggestion on controlling a biofilm-based process via a simple and smart way.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3


  1. Balvanera P, Kremen C, Martinez-Ramos M (2005) Applying community structure analysis to ecosystem function: examples from pollination and carbon storage. Ecol Appl 15:360–375

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Battin TJ, Kaplan LA, Newbold JD, Hansen CME (2003) Contributions of microbial biofilms to ecosystem processes in stream mesocosms. Nature 426:439–442

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  3. Battin TJ, Besemer K, Bengtsson MM, Romani AM, Packmann AI (2016) The ecology and biogeochemistry of stream biofilms. Nat Rev Microbiol 14:251–263

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  4. Borisy GG, Valm AM, Welch JLM, Rieken CW, Hasegawa Y, Sogin ML et al (2011) Systems-level analysis of microbial community organization through combinatorial labeling and spectral imaging. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 108:4152–4157

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  5. Dereli RK, Grelot A, Heffernan B, van der Zee FP, van Lier JB (2014) Implications of changes in solids retention time on long term evolution of sludge filterability in anaerobic membrane bioreactors treating high strength industrial wastewater. Water Res 59C:11–22

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  6. Dicksved J, Halfvarson J, Rosenquist M, Järnerot G, Tysk C, Apajalahti J et al (2008) Molecular analysis of the gut microbiota of identical twins with Crohn’s disease. ISME J 2:716–727

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  7. Ersahin ME, Tao Y, Ozgun H, Spanjers H, van Lier JB (2016) Characteristics and role of dynamic membrane layer in anaerobic membrane bioreactors. Biotechnol Bioeng 113:761–771

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  8. Feazel LM, Baumgartner LK, Peterson KL, Frank DN, Harris JK, Pace NR (2009) Opportunistic pathogens enriched in showerhead biofilms. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 106:16393–16399

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  9. Fu Y, Li C, Lu S, Zhou W, Tang F, Xie XS et al (2015) Uniform and accurate single-cell sequencing based on emulsion whole-genome amplification. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 112:11923–11928

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  CAS  Google Scholar 

  10. Hill MO (1973) Diversity and evenness: a unifying notation and its consequences. Ecology 54:427–432

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Hsu SF, Buckley DH (2009) Evidence for the functional significance of diazotroph community structure in soil. ISME J 3:124–136

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  12. Humphries J, Xiong L, Liu J, Prindle A, Yuan F, Arjes HA et al (2017) Species-independent attraction to biofilms through electrical signaling. Cell 168:200–209

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  CAS  Google Scholar 

  13. Iwase T, Uehara Y, Shinji H, Tajima A, Seo H, Takada K et al (2010) Staphylococcus epidermidis Esp inhibits Staphylococcus aureus biofilm formation and nasal colonization. Nature 465:346–349

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  14. Jennings LK, Storek KM, Ledvina HE, Coulon C, Marmont LS, Sadovskaya I et al (2015) Pel is a cationic exopolysaccharide that cross-links extracellular DNA in the Pseudomonas aeruginosa biofilm matrix. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 112:11353–11358

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  CAS  Google Scholar 

  15. Nadell CD, Drescher K, Foster KR (2016) Spatial structure, cooperation and competition in biofilms. Nat Rev Microbiol 14:589–600

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  16. Niederdorfer R, Peter H, Battin TJ (2016) Attached biofilms and suspended aggregates are distinct microbial lifestyles emanating from differing hydraulics. Nat Microbiol 1:16178

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  17. Pointing SB, Chan Y, Lacap DC, Lau MC, Jurgens JA, Farrell RL (2009) Highly specialized microbial diversity in hyper-arid polar desert. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 106:19964–19969

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  18. Shannon MA, Bohn PW, Elimelech M, Georgiadis JG, Marinas BJ, Mayes AM (2008) Science and technology for water purification in the coming decades. Nature 452:301–310

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  19. Tan TW, Ng HY (2008) Influence of mixed liquor recycle ratio and dissolved oxygen on performance of pre-denitrification submerged membrane bioreactors. Water Res 42:1122–1132

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  20. Wei CH, Huang X, Ben Aim R, Yamamoto K, Amy G (2011) Critical flux and chemical cleaning-in-place during the long-term operation of a pilot-scale submerged membrane bioreactor for municipal wastewater treatment. Water Res 45:863–871

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  21. Wittebolle L, Marzorati M, Clement L, Balloi A, Daffonchio D, Heylen K et al (2009) Initial community evenness favours functionality under selective stress. Nature 458:623–626

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

Download references


This research was supported by the Natural Science Foundation of Heilongjiang Province (No. ZD201412) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 21177033).

Author information

Authors and Affiliations



D.G. designed the experiments. Y.F. performed the experiments. D.G., Y.T., Y.F., and H.L. analyzed the data. D.G. and Y.T. wrote the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Dawen Gao.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Gao, D., Tao, Y., Fu, Y. et al. Egalitarianism in Biofilms. Microb Ecol 76, 49–51 (2018).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


  • Biofouling
  • Biofilm
  • Microbial ecology
  • Community evenness