Journal of Visualization

, Volume 16, Issue 2, pp 123–131 | Cite as

Live-cell imaging of swarming bacteria in a fluidic biofilm formed on a soft agar gel substrate

  • Seonghee Yoon
  • Kyunghoon Kim
  • Jung Kyung KimEmail author
Regular Paper


Flow visualization techniques, such as particle image velocimetry and particle tracking, have become very useful tools for analyzing the collective dynamics of swarming bacteria surrounded by a thin fluidic biofilm on a substrate. In this paper, we focus on long-term live-cell imaging of Bacillus subtilis cells grown on soft agar gel substrates of different agar concentrations to determine the effect of substrate stiffness on their swarming motility inside the fluidic biofilm. The number of viable cells and velocities of swarming bacteria in colonies were measured by phase contrast imaging and multiple particle tracking techniques. We found that bacteria in the fluidic biofilm have the ability to switch between the growth and swarming phases periodically. Agar concentration between 0.5 and 2.5 % did not affect the velocities of bacteria in the swarming phase significantly but 0.5 % agar shortened the switching period compared with agar concentrations above 1 %. Furthermore, vortical flow field generated by swarming bacteria in the fluidic biofilm was visualized in detail for the first time by a correlation-based velocimetry technique with submicron fluorescent beads. The ultimate aim of this research is to uncover a novel physical factor that regulates bacterial growth and swarming dynamics on soft gel substrates.

Graphical Abstract


Bacteria Swarming motility Bacillus subtilis Biofilm Biosurfactant Particle tracking Live-cell imaging 



This research was supported by grants from the Converging Research Center Program (2011K000764) and the Basic Science Research Program (2011-0014868) through the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) funded by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, Republic of Korea. This work was also supported by the Human Resources Development Program of the Korea Institute of Energy Technology Evaluation and Planning (KETEP) funded by the Ministry of Knowledge Economy, Republic of Korea (20114010100070). The authors thank Myoung-Ock Cho for her assistance in bacterial sample preparation.

Supplementary material

Supplementary material 1 (AVI 464 kb)

Supplementary material 2 (AVI 516 kb)

Supplementary material 3 (AVI 492 kb)


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Copyright information

© The Visualization Society of Japan 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Mechanical EngineeringGraduate School, Kookmin UniversitySeoulKorea
  2. 2.School of Mechanical Systems Engineering and Department of Integrative Biomedical Science and EngineeringGraduate School, Kookmin UniversitySeoulKorea

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