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Comparison of replica leaf surface materials for phyllosphere microbiology.

PloS one (2019-06-07)
Rebecca Soffe, Nicola Altenhuber, Michal Bernach, Mitja N P Remus-Emsermann, Volker Nock

Artificial surfaces are routinely used instead of leaves to enable a reductionist approach in phyllosphere microbiology, the study of microorganisms residing on plant leaf surfaces. Commonly used artificial surfaces include, flat surfaces, such as metal and nutrient agar, and microstructured surfaces, such as isolate leaf cuticles or reconstituted leaf waxes. However, interest in replica leaf surfaces as an artificial surface is growing, as replica surfaces provide an improved representation of the complex topography of leaf surfaces. To date, leaf surfaces have predominantly been replicated for their superhydrophobic properties. In contrast, in this paper we investigated the potential of agarose, the elastomer polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS), and gelatin as replica leaf surface materials for phyllosphere microbiology studies. Using a test pattern of pillars, we investigated the ability to replicate microstructures into the materials, as well as the degradation characteristics of the materials in environmental conditions. Pillars produced in PDMS were measured to be within 10% of the mold master and remained stable throughout the degradation experiments. In agarose and gelatin the pillars deviated by more than 10% and degraded considerably within 48 hours in environmental conditions. Furthermore, we investigated the surface energy of the materials, an important property of a leaf surface, which influences resource availability and microorganism attachment. We found that the surface energy and bacterial viability on PDMS was comparable to isolated Citrus × aurantium and Populus × canescens leaf cuticles. Hence indicating that PDMS is the most suitable material for replica leaf surfaces. In summary, our experiments highlight the importance of considering the inherent material properties when selecting a replica leaf surface for phyllosphere microbiology studies. As demonstrated, a PDMS replica leaf offers a control surface that can be used for investigating microbe-microbe and microbe-plant interactions in the phyllosphere, which will enable mitigation strategies against pathogens to be developed.

Product Number
Product Description

Phosphate buffered saline, tablet
Trichloro(1H,1H,2H,2H-perfluorooctyl)silane, 97%
Gelatin from porcine skin, gel strength 300, Type A
Agarose, Low EEO
(Hydroxypropyl)methyl cellulose, viscosity 40-60 cP, 2 % in H2O(20 °C)(lit.)
Sodium chloride, puriss. p.a., ≥99.5% (AT), powder or crystals
Scienceware® vacuum desiccator, flange O.D. × I.D. 230 mm × 197 mm