PHYSICAL REVIEW E
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We study the surface diffusion of the model cyanobacterium Synechocystis sp. PCC6803 during the incipient stages of cell contact with a glass surface in the dilute regime. We observe a twitching motility with alternating immobile tumble and mobile run periods, resulting in a normal diffusion described by a continuous-time random walk with a coefficient of diffusion D. Surprisingly, D is found to decrease with time down to a plateau. This is observed only when the cyanobacterial cells are able to produce released extracellular polysaccharides, as shown by a comparative study between the wild-type strain and various polysaccharides-depleted mutants. The analysis of the trajectories taken by the bacterial cells shows that the temporal characteristics of their intermittent motion depend on the instantaneous fraction of visited sites during diffusion. This describes quantitatively the time dependence of D, related to the progressive surface coverage by the polysaccharides. The observed slowdown of the surface diffusion may constitute a basic precursor mechanism for microcolony formation and provides clues for controlling biofilm formation.