Short-range guiding can result in the formation of circular aggregates in myxobacteria populations

Albertas Janulevicius, Mark van Loosdrecht, Cristian Picioreanu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Myxobacteria are social bacteria that upon starvation form multicellular fruiting bodies whose shape in different species can range from simple mounds to elaborate tree-like structures. The formation of fruiting bodies is a result of collective cell movement on a solid surface. In the course of development, groups of flexible rod-shaped cells form streams and move in circular or spiral patterns to form aggregation centers that can become sites of fruiting body formation. The mechanisms of such cell movement patterns are not well understood. It has been suggested that myxobacterial development depends on short-range contact-mediated interactions between individual cells, i.e. cell aggregation does not require long-range signaling in the population. In this study, by means of a computational mass-spring model, we investigate what types of short-range interactions between cells can result in the formation of streams and circular aggregates during myxobacterial development. We consider short-range head-to-tail guiding between individual cells, whereby movement direction of the head of one cell is affected by the nearby presence of the tail of another cell. We demonstrate that stable streams and circular aggregates can arise only when the trailing cell, in addition to being steered by the tail of the leading cell, is able to speed up to catch up with it. It is suggested that necessary head-to-tail interactions between cells can arise from physical adhesion, response to a diffusible substance or slime extruded by cells, or pulling by motility engine pili. Finally, we consider a case of long-range guiding between cells and show that circular aggregates are able to form without cells increasing speed. These findings present a possibility to discriminate between short-range and long-range guiding mechanisms in myxobacteria by experimentally measuring distribution of cell speeds in circular aggregates.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPLoS Computational Biology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2015
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics
  • Molecular Biology


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