Logo of the Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt

Mathematical Modelling and Data Analysis

Department 8.4

Publication single view


Title: Pattern-formation mechanisms in motility mutants of Myxococcus xanthus
Author(s): J. Starruß, F. Peruani, V. Jakovljevic, L. Søgaard-Andersen, A. Deutsch and M. Bär
Journal: Interface focus
Year: 2012
Volume: 2
Issue: 6
Pages: 774--85
DOI: 10.1098/rsfs.2012.0034
ISSN: 2042-8901
Web URL: http://rsfs.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/2/6/774
Keywords: ,pattern formation
Tags: 8.41,SPP
Abstract: Formation of spatial patterns of cells is a recurring theme in biology and often depends on regulated cell motility. Motility of the rod-shaped cells of the bacterium Myxococcus xanthus depends on two motility machineries, type IV pili (giving rise to S-motility) and the gliding motility apparatus (giving rise to A-motility). Cell motility is regulated by occasional reversals. Moving M. xanthus cells can organize into spreading colonies or spore-filled fruiting bodies, depending on their nutritional status. To ultimately understand these two pattern-formation processes and the contributions by the two motility machineries, as well as the cell reversal machinery, we analyse spatial self-organization in three M. xanthus strains: (i) a mutant that moves unidirectionally without reversing by the A-motility system only, (ii) a unidirectional mutant that is also equipped with the S-motility system, and (iii) the wild-type that, in addition to the two motility systems, occasionally reverses its direction of movement. The mutant moving by means of the A-engine illustrates that collective motion in the form of large moving clusters can arise in gliding bacteria owing to steric interactions of the rod-shaped cells, without the need of invoking any biochemical signal regulation. The two-engine strain mutant reveals that the same phenomenon emerges when both motility systems are present, and as long as cells exhibit unidirectional motion only. From the study of these two strains, we conclude that unidirectional cell motion induces the formation of large moving clusters at low and intermediate densities, while it results in vortex formation at very high densities. These findings are consistent with what is known from self-propelled rod models, which strongly suggests that the combined effect of self-propulsion and volume exclusion interactions is the pattern-formation mechanism leading to the observed phenomena. On the other hand, we learn that when cells occasionally reverse their moving direction, as observed in the wild-type, cells form small but strongly elongated clusters and self-organize into a mesh-like structure at high enough densities. These results have been obtained from a careful analysis of the cluster statistics of ensembles of cells, and analysed in the light of a coagulation Smoluchowski equation with fragmentation.

Back to the list view