The mechanisms responsible for 2-dimensional pattern formation in bacterial macrofiber populations grown on solid surfaces: fiber joining and the creation of exclusion zones
AffiliationDepartment of Molecular and Cellular Biology, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721
Department of Mathematics, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721
Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge, CB2 1TA, U.K
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CitationBMC Microbiology 2002, 2:1 http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2180/2/1
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AbstractBACKGROUND:When Bacillus subtilis is cultured in a complex fluid medium under conditions where cell separation is suppressed, populations of multicellular macrofibers arise that mature into ball-like structures. The final sedentary forms are found distributed in patterns on the floor of the growth chamber although individual cells have no flagellar-driven motility. The nature of the patterns and their mode of formation are described in this communication.RESULTS:Time-lapse video films reveal that fiber-fiber contact in high density populations of macrofibers resulted in their joining either by entwining or supercoiling. Joining led to the production of aggregate structures that eventually contained all of the fibers located in an initial area. Fibers were brought into contact by convection currents and motions associated with macrofiber self-assembly such as walking, pivoting and supercoiling. Large sedentary aggregate structures cleared surrounding areas of other structures by dragging them into the aggregate using supercoiling of extended fibers to power dragging. The spatial distribution of aggregate structures in 6 mature patterns containing a total of 637 structures was compared to that expected in random theoretical populations of the same size distributed in the same surface area. Observed and expected patterns differ significantly. The distances separating all nearest neighbors from one another in observed populations were also measured. The average distance obtained from 1451 measurements involving 519 structures was 0.73 cm. These spacings were achieved without the use of flagella or other conventional bacterial motility mechanisms. A simple mathematical model based upon joining of all structures within an area defined by the minimum observed distance between structures in populations explains the observed distributions very well.CONCLUSIONS:Bacterial macrofibers are capable of colonizing a solid surface by forming large multicellular aggregate structures that are distributed in unique two-dimensional patterns. Cell growth geometry governs in an hierarchical way the formation of these patterns using forces associated with twisting and supercoiling to drive motions and the joining of structures together. Joining by entwining, supercoiling or dragging all require cell growth in a multicellular form, and all result in tightly fused aggregate structures.
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