• adhesion;
  • Escherichia coli;
  • glycopolymers;
  • mannose;
  • micropatterning;
  • cells;
  • cell adhesion


The study of the adhesion mechanisms of pathogens to host tissues has gained increased interest as bacterial adhesion is involved in the early stages of surface colonization and infection. Here we describe a platform to study the specific binding of the bacterium Escherichia coli (E. coli) K-12 strain to molecularly well-defined surfaces mimicking cellular interfaces. This approach uses a poly(ethylene glycol) brush interface, which displays synthetic determinants of the high mannose N-linked glycans in a range of densities (3.8 × 104–1.6 × 105 mannosides µm−2) for the investigation of multivalent interactions with bacteria. The bacterial attachment is mediated by specific interactions between the adhesive protein FimH located on the tip of the bacterial type 1 pili and the mannosylated surfaces. With synthetically engineered mannoses, it is found that the number of strongly adhering bacteria is co-regulated by many structural physical parameters. Beyond the dependency on carbohydrate density, higher numbers of E. coli attach to the branched trimannose Man(α1–3)(Man(α1–6))Man compared to the monomannose, while larger oligomannoses exposing Man(α1–2) Man at their non reducing end show low binding capacity. The linker used between the mannose moiety and PEG is also affecting the binding efficacy of E. coli. The (hydrophobic) propyl linker results in higher bacteria numbers in comparison to the (hydrophilic) tri(EG), likely a consequence of additional stabilization of the binding complex by hydrophobic interactions. Furthermore, differences are observed in bacteria attachment between stagnant and flow conditions that depend on the type of mannose ligand. Finally, a photolithographic resist lift-off combined with site-selective assembly of the glycopolymers is used to produce micropatterns with bacteria colonies confined to defined areas and at controlled colony numbers.