Experimental evolution in biofilm populations.
Steenackers HP., Parijs I., Dubey A., Foster KR., Vanderleyden J.
Biofilms are a major form of microbial life in which cells form dense surface associated communities that can persist for many generations. The long-life of biofilm communities means that they can be strongly shaped by evolutionary processes. Here, we review the experimental study of evolution in biofilm communities. We first provide an overview of the different experimental models used to study biofilm evolution and their associated advantages and disadvantages. We then illustrate the vast amount of diversification observed during biofilm evolution, and we discuss (i) potential ecological and evolutionary processes behind the observed diversification, (ii) recent insights into the genetics of adaptive diversification, (iii) the striking degree of parallelism between evolution experiments and real-life biofilms and (iv) potential consequences of diversification. In the second part, we discuss the insights provided by evolution experiments in how biofilm growth and structure can promote cooperative phenotypes. Overall, our analysis points to an important role of biofilm diversification and cooperation in bacterial survival and productivity. Deeper understanding of both processes is of key importance to design improved antimicrobial strategies and diagnostic techniques.