The bacterium has landed

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Science  27 Oct 2017:
Vol. 358, Issue 6362, pp. 446-447
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaq0143

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Many microbes undergo transformations from planktonic swimmer cells to sessile surface-attached cells. This is the first step in bacterial biofilm formation. Biofilm-associated microorganisms are responsible for ∼80% of human bacterial infections according to the U.S. National Institutes of Heath and are associated with antibiotic resistance (1). Thus, methods to disrupt biofilms are actively pursued. Biofilm formation is initiated by the ability of bacteria to sense surfaces, resulting in metabolic responses that allow bacteria to adhere and colonize the surface. Yet, how bacteria sense surfaces at the onset of biofilm formation has remained elusive (2). Differentiation from swimmer to swarmer cells in Vibrio parahaemolyticus was shown to occur simply by increasing the viscosity of the liquid growth medium (3). This suggested that some kind of mechanosensing mechanism was involved in surface recognition, but how? On pages 535 and 531 of this issue, Ellison et al. (4) and Hug et al. (5), respectively, discover separate mechanisms that allow bacteria to recognize a surface by mechanosensation and initiate a cellular response that allows them to attach and multiply.