Variable cell morphology approach for individual-based modeling of microbial communities

Tomas Storck, Cristian Picioreanu, Bernardino Virdis, Damien J. Batstone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


An individual-based, mass-spring modeling framework has been developed to investigate the effect of cell properties on the structure of biofilms and microbial aggregates through Lagrangian modeling. Key features that distinguish this model are variable cell morphology described by a collection of particles connected by springs and a mechanical representation of deformable intracellular, intercellular, and cell-substratum links. A first case study describes the colony formation of a rod-shaped species on a planar substratum. This case shows the importance of mechanical interactions in a community of growing and dividing rod-shaped cells (i.e.; bacilli). Cell-substratum links promote formation of mounds as opposed to single-layer biofilms, whereas filial links affect the roundness of the biofilm. A second case study describes the formation of flocs and development of external filaments in a mixed-culture activated sludge community. It is shown by modeling that distinct cell-cell links, microbial morphology, and growth kinetics can lead to excessive filamentous proliferation and interfloc bridging, possible causes for detrimental sludge bulking. This methodology has been extended to more advanced microbial morphologies such as filament branching and proves to be a very powerful tool in determining how fundamental controlling mechanisms determine diverse microbial colony architectures. © 2014 Biophysical Society.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2037-2048
Number of pages12
JournalBiophysical Journal
Issue number9
StatePublished - May 6 2014
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics


Dive into the research topics of 'Variable cell morphology approach for individual-based modeling of microbial communities'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this