A systematic investigation into the effect of surface chemistry on bacterial adhesion was carried out. In particular, a number of physicochemical factors important in defining the surface at the molecular level were assessed for their effect on the adhesion of Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella typhimurium, Staphylococcus aureus, and Escherichia coli. The primary experiments involved the grafting of groups varying in hydrophilicity, hydrophobicity, chain length, and chemical functionality onto glass substrates such that the surfaces were homogeneous and densely packed with functional groups. All of the surfaces were found to be chemically well defined, and their measured surface energies varied from 15 to 41 mJ · m−2. Protein adsorption experiments were performed with 3H-labelled bovine serum albumin and cytochrome c prior to bacterial attachment studies. Hydrophilic uncharged surfaces showed the greatest resistance to protein adsorption; however, our studies also showed that the effectiveness of poly(ethyleneoxide) (PEO) polymers was not simply a result of its hydrophilicity and molecular weight alone. The adsorption of the two proteins approximately correlated with short-term cell adhesion, and bacterial attachment for L. monocytogenes and E. coli also correlated with the chemistry of the underlying substrate. However, for S. aureus and S. typhimurium a different pattern of attachment occurred, suggesting a dissimilar mechanism of cell attachment, although high-molecular-weight PEO was still the least-cell-adsorbing surface. The implications of this for in vivo attachment of cells suggest that hydrophilic passivating groups may be the best method for preventing cell adsorption to synthetic substrates provided they can be grafted uniformly and in sufficient density at the surface
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