Resolving bio-nano interactions of E. coli bacteria-dragonfly wing interface with helium ion and 3D-structured illumination microscopy to understand bacterial death on nanotopography

Chaturanga D. Bandara, Giulia Ballerin, Miika Leppänen, Tuquabo Tesfamichael, Kostya Ken Ostrikov, Cynthia B. Whitchurch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Obtaining a comprehensive understanding of the bactericidal mechanisms of natural nanotextured surfaces is crucial for the development of fabricated nanotextured surfaces with efficient bactericidal activity. However, the scale, nature, and speed of bacteria-nanotextured surface interactions make the characterization of the interaction a challenging task. There are currently several different opinions regarding the possible mechanisms by which bacterial membrane damage occurs upon interacting with nanotextured surfaces. Advanced imaging methods could clarify this by enabling visualization of the interaction. Charged particle microscopes can achieve the required nanoscale resolution but are limited to dry samples. In contrast, light-based methods enable the characterization of living (hydrated) samples but are limited by the resolution achievable. Here we utilized both helium ion microscopy (HIM) and 3D structured illumination microscopy (3D-SIM) techniques to understand the interaction of Gram-negative bacterial membranes with nanopillars such as those found on dragonfly wings. Helium ion microscopy enables cutting and imaging at nanoscale resolution, while 3D-SIM is a super-resolution optical microscopy technique that allows visualization of live, unfixed bacteria at â100 nm resolution. Upon bacteria-nanopillar interaction, the energy stored due to the bending of natural nanopillars was estimated and compared with fabricated vertically aligned carbon nanotubes. With the same deflection, shorter dragonfly wing nanopillars store slightly higher energy compared to carbon nanotubes. This indicates that fabricated surfaces may achieve similar bactericidal efficiency as dragonfly wings. This study reports in situ characterization of bacteria-nanopillar interactions in real-time close to its natural state. These microscopic approaches will help further understanding of bacterial membrane interactions with nanotextured surfaces and the bactericidal mechanisms of nanotopographies so that more efficient bactericidal nanotextured surfaces can be designed and fabricated, and their bacteria-nanotopography interactions can be assessed in situ.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3925-3932
Number of pages8
JournalACS Biomaterials Science and Engineering
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jul 2020


  • 3D SIM
  • bactericidal topography
  • bio-nano interactions
  • dragonfly wing
  • helium ion microscopy
  • ion beam milling

Cite this