Differential equation-based minimal model describing metabolic oscillations in Bacillus subtilis biofilms

Ravindra Garde, Bashar Ibrahim, Ákos T. Kovács, Stefan Schuster*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Biofilms offer an excellent example of ecological interaction among bacteria. Temporal and spatial oscillations in biofilms are an emerging topic. In this paper, we describe the metabolic oscillations in Bacillus subtilis biofilms by applying the smallest theoretical chemical reaction system showing Hopf bifurcation proposed by Wilhelm and Heinrich in 1995. The system involves three differential equations and a single bilinear term. We specifically select parameters that are suitable for the biological scenario of biofilm oscillations. We perform computer simulations and a detailed analysis of the system including bifurcation analysis and quasi-steady-state approximation. We also discuss the feedback structure of the system and the correspondence of the simulations to biological observations. Our theoretical work suggests potential scenarios about the oscillatory behaviour of biofilms and also serves as an application of a previously described chemical oscillator to a biological system.
Original languageEnglish
Article number190810
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Issue number2
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • metabolic oscillations
  • Bacillus subtilis
  • Minimal model
  • Biofilm
  • Hopf bifurcation
  • Glutamate metabolism


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