How fast is a collective bacterial state established?

Mikkel Lindstrøm Sørensen, Peter Dahl, Thomas Sams

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Abstract

Bacteria in a biofilm colony have the capacity to monitor the size and growth conditions for the colony and modify their phenotypical behaviour to optimise attacks, defence, migration, etc. The quorum sensing systems controlling this involve production and sensing of diffusive signal molecules. Frequently, quorum sensing systems carry a positive feedback loop which produces a switch at a threshold size of the colony. This all-or-none switch can be beneficial to create a sudden attack, leaving a host little time to establish a defence. The reaction-diffusion system describing a basal quorum sensing loop involves production of signal molecules, diffusion of signal molecules, and detection of signal molecules. We study the ignition process in a numerical solution for a basal quorum sensor and demonstrate that even in a large colony the ignition travels through the whole colony in a less than a minute. The ignition of the positive feedback loop was examined in different approximations. As expected, in the exact calculation the ignition was found to be delayed compared to a calculation where the binding of signal molecules was quasistatic. The buffering of signal molecules is found to have little effect on the ignition process. Contrary to expectation, we find that the ignition does not start when the threshold is reached at the center-instead it allows for the threshold to be approached in the whole colony followed by an almost simultaneous ignition of the whole biofilm aggregate.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0180199
JournalP L o S One
Volume12
Issue number6
Number of pages10
ISSN1932-6203
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Bibliographical note

© 2017 Sørensen et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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