The quartz crystal microbalance: A new tool for the investigation of the bioadhesion of diatoms to surfaces of differing surface energies

Paul J. Molino, Oliver M. Hodson, John F. Quinn, Richard Wetherbee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


Diatoms are a major component of the biofoul layer found on modern low-surface-energy, 'foul release' coatings. While diatoms adhere more strongly to hydrophobic, as opposed to hydrophilic, surfaces, surprisingly little is known of the chemical composition of their adhesives. Even less is known about the underlying processes that characterize the interaction between the adhesive and a given surface, including those of differing wettability. Using the quartz crystal microbalance with dissipation monitoring (QCM-D), we examined differences in the viscoelastic properties of the extracellular adhesives produced by the marine diatoms Amphora coffeaeformis Cleve and Craspedostauros australis Cox interacting with surfaces of differing wettability; 11-mercaptoundecanoic acid (MUA) that is hydrophilic and 1-undecanethiol (UDT) that is hydrophobic. While the overall Δf/ΔD ratios were slightly different, the trends were the same for both diatom species, with the layer secreted upon UDT to be more viscoelastic and far more consistent over several experiments, compared to that on MUA which was less viscoelastic and demonstrated far more variability between experiments. While the nature of the parameter shifts for C. australis were the same for both surfaces, A. coffeaeformis cells settling upon UDT illustrated significant positive/and D shifts during the initial stages of cell settlement and adhesion to the surface. Further experiments revealed the parameter shifts to occur only during the initial adhesion of cells upon the pristine virgin UDT surface. The mechanism behind these parameter responses was isolated to the actin-myosin/adhesion complex (AC), using the myosin inhibitor 2,3-butanedione 2-monoxime (BDM) to remove the cells ability to 'pull' on adhesive strands emanating from the cell raphe. The observations made herein have revealed that adhesives secreted by fouling diatoms differ significantly in their interaction with surfaces depending on their wettability, as well as illustrating the unique mechanics behind the adhesion of A. coffeaeformis upon hydrophobic surfaces, a mechanism that may contribute significantly to the cells success in colonizing hydrophobic surfaces.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6731-6737
Number of pages7
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2008
Externally publishedYes

Cite this